Oddly, These 9 Plants Thrive on Neglect

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It's not a myth that some plants thrive on neglect. Most experienced gardeners have at least one super low-maintenance houseplant that they rely on for its forgiving ways. Trust us: these plants are not ​just​ for those with brown thumbs. This doesn't mean that you won't have to water them from time to time, but it can mean no pruning, no fertilizer, few pests and diseases, and less water.

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You may be amazed at the range of plants in the easy-care/very resilient category — they come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Spider Plant

Nobody could blame you if you thought that this houseplant — with its cascading mound of innumerable long, thin leaves — is something of a prima donna. But it's actually one of the toughest, easiest houseplants you can buy. You can find spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) with all-green leaves but we particularly love the ones with a thin white stripe down the middle of each long leaf. In time the plant will have babies — little spiderettes dangling on the end of long stems. You can clip these off and plant them.

Care: Spiders like indirect light, well-drained soil and only occasional watering. Let the soil dry out before you give it more to drink.

Buy now: Bloomscape Spider Plant, $35

2. Golden Pothos

With large, gold-striated leaves on graceful vines, the pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is one botanical charmer. You can send the vine climbing up, if you offer support, or just put it in a pot and let gravity have its way. Climbing up or cascading down, golden pothos is a cheerful and elegant plant for any room.

Care: Don't have many windows in your home? No problem. Pothos loves a shady location and needs water only very occasionally — like once every two weeks or so.

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Buy now: West Elm Golden Pothos, $22

3. ZZ Plant

The botanical name of this gorgeous plant sounds complex, but don't worry. Call it a ZZ and shrug off any onerous duties. ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) thrive in almost any situation, offering shiny emerald leaves that guests may think you polished. ZZs are notorious for being low-maintenance, easy-care houseplants, perfect for brown-thumb or beginning gardeners. They require adequate light and a drink every so often, but don't sweat the drink. ZZ plants grow from thick roots called rhizomes which help them to store water under the soil.

Care: Low light is fine but so is dappled sun. Try to water every two or three weeks.

Buy now: The Sill ZZ Plant, $63

4. Jade Plant

Are you dreaming of a houseplant you can pass on to your grandkids? The jade plant (Crassula ovata) lives many years and requires almost no effort. Its thick, woody stems and glossy, oval leaves make the plant look like a tiny tree. Jade plant thrives in sun, shade or artificial light, but prefers a few hours of sunlight — direct or indirect — every day. It is a succulent and will doesn't make may demands. It stores water in its leaves which means it can survive weeks without water.

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Care: Here's a plant that can live in the same pot and soil for years. A tad of water when the soil is bone dry is pretty much all it requires.

Buy now: The Longevity Garden (@Etsy) Jade Plant, starting at $31.75

5. Snake Plant

This architectural plant is an upright succulent, presenting as a grouping of leaves that look like pointed green-and-yellow tongues of different lengths. It's effortlessly cool, utterly resilient, and very attractive. Put it in bright light, low light or no light and it remains vibrant.

Care: The snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) requires excellent drainage and little water. It may be impossible to kill one — we've never seen it happen. Plus this is one of those plants noted for cleaning the air of toxins.

Buy now: The Sill Snake Plant, $57

6. Peace Lily

The peace lily plant (Spathiphyllum spp.) gets its name from the spoon-shaped white flowers that look like little flags of peace. But beyond that, there is something supremely serene about this houseplant, perhaps stemming from the large, deep green glossy leaves that manage to appear both calming and vibrant at the same time. The candle-shaped blooms add to its lovely appearance. According to NASA, the peace lily purifies the air wherever it is placed.

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Care: No blazing sunlight or dramatic temperature extremes for this low-key plant. It prefers a shady site and weekly water to keep the soil moist.

Buy now: West Elm Peace Lily, $59.95

7. Heartleaf Philodendron

Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) look and act like pothos, but you can identify them by their heart shaped leaves. These philodendron are known for their extremely easy-going ways. They offer elegantly cascading green foliage and ask for very little in return. Left to their own devices, the stems will grow to four feet long, but you can pinch them back to make them fuller. Pop the pruned section into a vase of water and it will root.

Care: Heartleaf philodendron need moderate to bright light and occasional watering. Provide well-draining soil and a pot with drain holes.Yellow leaves mean you are watering too much.

Buy now: Bloomscape Philodendron Heartleaf, $35

8. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera (Aloe vera) — those leggy succulents — are known as living first aid kits since their gel can cool burns and soothe scrapes. But they are also simple, appealing and low maintenance houseplants. The plant is virtually stemless and has pointed, fleshy, upright leaves that fan out from the plant's center. The leaf margins are serrated with small teeth and the leaves themselves are often decorated with white dots. Pot up aloes in sandy soil or cactus potting mix in a terra cotta container. Be sure to give the plant excellent drainage.

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Care: Don't water very often.The soil should dry out completely before getting another drink. Same with repotting: don't do it until roots push their way out of the current pot's drain holes.

Buy now: West Elm Aloe Vera, $22

9. Ponytail Palm

Ignore the common name! Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is not in the palm family. It's a succulent, a relative of the yucca and a dramatic houseplant. It has a thick, bottle-shaped stem topped by a rosette of graceful drooping foliage. The ponytail is a plant sure to attract attention but requiring very little care or attention.

Care: Give the ponytail palm a site with bright indirect light or even some direct sun. It doesn't need a humid atmosphere, in fact it thrives in the dry air of heated homes. Don't repot unless it cracks out of the first container since it loves being root-bound. Only water when the soil is totally dry.

Buy now: Bloomscape Ponytail Palm, $65

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references

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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