ISSUE 97  |  Love Letter to the Houseplant

Expert Advice: 10 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants

November 15, 2013 8:00 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

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When we asked landscape designers and gardeners about their favorite houseplants, or the plants they thought were easiest to grow indoors, we quickly realized they were one in the same. (Nobody needs a needy plant.)

We appreciated seeing our favorite standbys on the experts’ list and loved hearing about new plants we should try next. (For me, that will be the gorgeous purple shamrock below.) From members of our Architect/Designer Directory, here are the experts’ favorite, easiest-to-grow houseplants: 

Above: Allison Koll at Gunn Landscape Architecture recommends oxalis triangularis, or purple shamrock. She loves its beautiful triangular leaves and deep purple shade, and because it stays alive while her other plants have not. She suggests keeping oxalis in indirect sunlight—its leaves open and close to the sun—and watering every few days or if the soil is dry. It becomes dormant during winter, she says, “So just when it seems like you’ve killed it, it comes back to life.” Photograph via Easy to Grow Bulbs.

A packet of 25 bulbs of Oxalis Triangularis is $9.95 from Easy to Grow Bulbs.  

Above: Neither Leslie Bennett nor Stefani Bittner of Star Apple Edible Gardens is an admirer of houseplants in general, but both have grown fond of the Fiddle Leaf Fig for its big, beautiful leaves and retro-chic look. They’ve also found that it’s hard to kill. “If things go wrong,” says Bennett, “I just cut mine way back and it comes back beautifully.”  Photograph via The Marion House Book.

Want your own? See The Fig and I: Tips for Buying and Caring for a Fiddle Leaf Fig.

Above: Beth Mullins of Growsgreen Landscape Design is fond of sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s tongue, especially the cylindrica variety. Says Mullins, “They are retro and easy and can handle dark corners with very little water.” Photograph via The Simple Green Frugal Co-op.

For more information and sources, see A Houseplant You Can’t Kill: Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.

Above: Gunn Landscape Architecture senior designer Aaron McIntire recommends kalanchoe, or magic bells plant, for its striking shapes, color, and texture. He notes that it blooms from late fall into winter, and as a member of the succulent family, it’s resilient and easy to care for. McIntire says, “I like this plant because after it blooms, you only have to cut it back and the process of growth starts again.” Photograph via Das Pflanzen Forum.

A Magic Bells Kalanchoe Plant in a 6-inch pot is $11.99 from Amazon.

Above: Gunn Landscapes designer Cat Rha recommends Platycerium bifurcatum, or staghorn fern, “as a great sculptural centerpiece for mounting onto a wall. I love the idea of using plants as a piece of living art.” She notes that they can be finicky to care for, since they prefer tropical environments—high humidity and indirect sunlight. She suggests soaking them in water once a week and misting in between waterings. Photograph via Terrain.

Have you ever considered hanging a staghorn fern in your shower? See Steal This Look: Hooked on Houseplants.

Above: Pedersen Associates in San Francisco recommends Aspidistra elatior, or the castiron plant, for enduring hardiness. Photograph via Jacksonville

A Starry Night Castiron Plant is $7.99 from Hirt’s.

Above: Gunn Landscapes horticulturist Lauren Pucciarelli recommends the ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, for its beautiful foliage that is highly resistant to pests and can tolerate low light. However, she warns that “all parts of the plant are toxic so be careful around children and pets.” Photograph by Helen McCauslin.

A Rare ZZ Plant in a 6-inch pot is $14.99 from Hirt’s.

Above: Along with the ZZ plant, Joel Lichtenwalter of Grow Outdoor Design recommends aglaonema ‘Silver Queen,’ or Chinese evergreen. He says that despite minimal watering, “These are the two plants that have survived at least a decade in medium/low light exposure in my condo in West Hollywood.” Just as easy, he says, is “a centerpiece of three different tillandsias arranged on a metal base on the dining room table.” Photograph via Eco|Stems.

A Silver Queen Chinese Evergreen Plant in a 4-inch pot is $7.99 from Amazon.

Above: Pedersen Associates also recommends echeveria—a flowering succulent native to Central America—planted in groups on a sunny windowsill. Photograph via Floradania.

We recently discovered just how hardy echeveria is; see Must-Have Bouquet: Needs No Water, Lasts a Month.

Above: Star Apple gardeners Bittner and Bennett also like ficus elastica ‘Burgundy,’ or the red rubber plant. They would love to grow one indoors but admit they’ve only grown them in the garden. (If you’ve grown this at home, we’d love to hear.) A Burgundy Rubber Plant in a 6-inch pot is $12.99 from Hirt’s. Photograph via Butterfly Blooms Garden Centre.

Discover The New “It” Houseplant; our favorite Mini Houseplants for Apartments;, and the houseplants I’m learning to love, in Houseplants for a Hater