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Climate and Environment

11 Houseplants That Thrive On Neglect

A person speaks on the phone, uses a tv remote, exercises with weights, and cooks at a pot in different scenarios that surround a large potted plant.
Have too much to do? These plants don't mind.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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What’s a plant that’s easy to grow? Super simple to care for? Something that would be perfect for a first-time plant parent. A no-fail gift for any occasion.

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We turned to some of our favorite plant experts for answers to those questions. With few exceptions, all the plants here can tolerate low-light and indirect sun (great for windowsill farmers) and watering only after they fully dry out.

In other words, these plants aren’t just easy to grow, they’re actually hard to kill!

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1. Snake Plant

A potted snake plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

When someone is buying a gift for a new plant parent, Andi Xoch, owner of Latinx with Plants, takes them to the darkest corner of her plant shop in Boyle Heights to meet the sansevieria: The location is proof that these hardy plants — with their striped leaves in all hues of green, reaching for the sky — can thrive in low light conditions.

Snake plants only need water after the soil’s gone dry, she said. Xoch particularly loves the Moonshine snake plant, and its “grayish, blueish green” leaves. “To me, it’s the most beautiful one,” she said.

2. Chinese Evergreen

A potted Chinese evergreen plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

This is another sturdy plant that all but guarantees success for the beginner, Xoch said. Algoenemas are noted for its lush, decorative leaves, Chinese evergreens do best in a spot that gets filtered, natural light. She cautions: Watch the soil, and then “under water them a little bit, rather than overwater.” Too much water, of course, causes root rot, a common killer of houseplants.

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3. Golden Pothos

A potted golden pathos plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

With large, lush leaves that are a vibrant green, the pothos is a classic beginner plant, said Sasha Pace, owner of Vida Plant Shop. “They’re vine-y, they trail and cascade,” she said, “If you grow them long, it can wrap around your whole room.”

Even better? “It’s so easy to propagate.” That means one plant can multiply and become many, so more bang for the buck. Let the soil dry out before watering it thoroughly, she advised. The plant can survive low light, medium, or bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, though, which will burn the leaves. In particular, Pace likes the Golden Pothos.

It sells for around $15 for a 6-inch plant at her shop, which just moved to a larger, new location at 324 Elm Ave. in Long Beach, where she will share the space with a record store. “It will be vinyl and plants,” she said. The shop celebrated its grand opening on June 4 with wine, oysters and a D.J.

4. Hoya Tricolor

A potted hoya tricolor plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

If you want a plant that is a bit of a show-stopper, try the Hoya Tricolor. “It’s a trailing plant,” said Pace, so it would look lovely suspended in a macrame hanger. “It has different colors within the leaf — cream, green and pink — and it creates a really pretty pattern.”

While it may look a bit delicate, the Hoya’s waxy leaves are quite hardy and drought tolerant. Care is typical of succulents, so “the soil can really dry out before you water it, which is good for beginners, because they don’t have to worry so much about watering,” Pace said. The plant prefers medium to indirect light, but can also tolerate low light.

5. ZZ plant

A potted zz plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

“This plant is very regal in stature,” said Anthony Diaz, who, along with Kevin Alcaraz, co-owns Plantiitas in Long Beach. “It’s a classy look, if you’re looking for something that’s going to up the style of your space, the ZZ plant is it.”

Lest you think that all reads as b-o-r-i-n-g, the ZZ plant also has a wild side: As it grows, “It kinda looks like Sideshow Bob’s hair in ‘The Simpsons.’ I very much identify with this plant.” Care couldn’t be easier, because the plant stores water, like a cactus. “They are plants that thrive with moderate light to low light,” Diaz said. “You just water every three to four weeks,” giving the plant a good soaking and then allow it to dry out before watering again.

6. Philodendron Birkin

A potted philodendron birkin plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

With its creamy, elegant stripes, this plant is perfect for gifting to a beginner, Diaz said: It’s largely hands off care.

“This plant is very hardy, and can hang out OK in lower light. It’s very easy going.”

Water when it dries out. If possible, position it near a window, but not in direct sun, which can scorch it. Diaz said this plant does well in office environments, which tend to be dry and cool, so it would be perfect for someone trudging back to the office — or heading off to their first-ever office job. (In case you were wondering, the plant shares its name with the luxury handbag, but, thankfully, not the eye-watering pricetag: They are sold in the $20ish range at Diaz’ shop.)

7. Haworthia Zebra plant

A potted haworthia zebra plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

Speaking of white stripes: The Zebra plant is “a really cool choice” for a gift, Diaz said. They’re compact, and their white bumps, stripes and veins are mesmerizing. Diaz said their care is “kinda like having a teenager. You check in on them, make sure they’re alive, and then check out after that. They want their space.”

Water every two to four weeks or so: Give the plant a full soaking, and then let it dry out fully before watering again. These plants can handle lower light, but they really thrive in a well-lit space. However, too much harsh, direct sun can stress them.

8. Silver Splash

A potted silver splash plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

Do not be put off by this plant’s formal name, Scindapsus Pictus ‘Exotica’. Christian Beasley, the general manager at Greenwood Shop in Studio City, said this is one of the easiest houseplants you can care for, and the payoff is immense: Lush, heart-shaped leaves brushed with silver accents that just grow and grow. Water when dry, or when the leaves curl, he said, and give it a home where it can enjoy bright to medium indirect light — but avoid direct sunlight. These sell for around $15-$38 at Greenwood, depending on size.

9. Heartleaf philodendron

A potted heartleaf philodendron plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

“This is one of my favorites,” said Filipa Oreskovic, owner of Laganini Co., the plant shop inside Rooted, a collective of women-owned, eco-conscious businesses on Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach. (Laganini is Croatian for “take it easy,” and an homage to her upbringing, Oreskovic said.) The heartleaf philodendron is a sturdy plant that is great for beginners, it grows in mounding cascades of those sweet heart-shaped leaves! It’s not the least bit needy, either: “I only give it very low light,” she said, and water when the soil dries out.

10. Spider plant

A potted spider plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

“For easy care, I love a spider plant,” said Katie Tilford, a certified horticulturist, and owner of @Tinyplants in Los Angeles. It’s “a really cool way to get that 70s, retro vibe.”

Spider plants are almost unkillable, too, she said. “Just make sure you don’t overwater them.” Bright light is great for these plants, but direct sunlight will fry them.

11. Sunset Jade

A potted sunset jade plant, illustrated with vibrant colors.

“So easy,” said author Debra Lee Baldwin, a.k.a., the Succulent Queen. Her easy go-to plant is the Jade plant. She particularly likes Sunset Jade, with all its yellow and orange hues. Jade plants are also “very easy to propagate,” Baldwin adds. “They’re low maintenance.” This plant can do well on a sunny windowsill, and needs watering every two weeks or so, or just as the soil is starting to dry out. (You can get her list of other no-fail succulents when you sign up for her newsletter.)

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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