It doesn't get much easier than one you're likely familiar with... Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law Tongue, or Sanseveria, a sweetheart of a plant by any of it's names. This standard is a known quantity: Sansevieria trifasciata, Bird's Nest Snake Plant, first image. The picture shows my easy to grow dwarf Sansevieria, a succulent most people are familiar with in a longer variegated form. Water well weekly, but don't leave water collecting in the saucer. They take a lot of neglect and propagate easily, spreading out from the center and by cuttings rooted from 2" sections cut cleanly across the leaf, dipped into a rooting hormone and stuck into the soil in the same direction as they were growing.
So, what makes a collection or grouping of easy to grow plants? Is it the soil, the water requirements, the need (or lack of need) for human intervention? In most cases, the answer is, "yes". Most plants grow best in well drained soil, when allowed to dry between watering, watered deeply when doing so, and relieved of excess water rather than leaving roots sitting in soggy soil overnight, over days or over forever.
Like most gardeners, I have more houseplants than I have space for because it helps to pass the time when snow pens me inside. Just because I garden, doesn't mean I'm any interested in growing fussy plants. I have a collection of absolute favorites and they're equally beautiful AND easy to grow in their own ways...
- First Collection. Is it the Soil... Three samples that show, not necessarily.
- Second Collection. Fleshy Succulents Suck, Water... Seven samples of sucking succulents, just because there is such an array of colors and textures.
- Third Collection. Frail Looking Plants, Anything But... Three fragile looking, fascinating examples of freakishly awesome plants.
Step 1: Is It the Soil...
Is it the soil? Yes and No... Some of my favorite easy to grow plants aren't tied to the soil at all.
Tillandsiacyaneaanita, planted in my largest head planter, is an air plant bromeliad. Its bright pink bracts persist, long after its purple flowers drop. Deep green leathery lanceolate leaves arch gracefully, making a lovely feather-like fascinate for my blue haired girl. I almost don't miss that fuchsia bract tha lasted almost all year! This plant grows well potted in loosely packed bark, like an orchid, or tucked into a shell. Water this plant once per week, but avoid wetting the crown and do not let this plant sit in water. I typically go back over my plants after,an hour and dump,any water remaining in saucers, just to be on the safe side. More plants have died from drowning in excess water than have been killed by neglect, I think...
TillandsiaCreation hangs out in a variety of places, on a shelf with an elf, in a cup as a pup or on a board tied with cord. There, from a central bud, surrounded by burgundy tipped lanceolate leaves, will put out fuschia pink lance-like spikes and leaves like hair in the '80s, long, stiff & spiked.
Be warned, once you have one, you'll want a dozen!
TillandsiaXerographica is one of the largest airplants (not mine in the picture, but eventually and in general). Its grey-green leaves curl tightly, making a silvery rosette. The grey touched tendrils remind me of long curly hair ... or an octopus.
Water most airplants kept as houseplants once every 10 days or so by placing them gently into a tub of lukewarm water for 20 minutes (it isn't that critical that you need to set a timer!) Remove them from the tub and let them drain upside down until the crown is dry. They will have absorbed all of the moisture they need for the next 10 days. Tillandsia mounted in a manner that makes it difficult or impractical to soak may be misted lightly every week, but be careful not to let water collect in the center. Tillandsiaare very drought tolerant, but the crown willrot and you'll lose a really cool plant if you flood the center. Now, before You decide that this isn't easy, just remember -- you bathe and dry -- Right?
Step 2: Fleshy Succulents Suck, Water...
Vertical Planter Box, first image. I consider these succulents easy to grow because they exist outside with absolute and complete neglect and I am able to overwinter them inside with a little babying. How many plants that thrive outside can you say that about?
Sedums are also succulents you very likely have planted in your yard. The vertical succulent planting is usually kept outside, but I bring it inside for the duration of the cold Chicago winters. In addition to three different kinds of sedums, the other succulents put on quite a show in the summer, especially when their ability to store water is most critical. The bright green sedum is, Sedum sarmentosum. The variegated sedum is Sedum lineare. They are teeny, tiny sedums and very drought tolerant. They make a better filler for the vertical bed than moss does (moss repels water trying to get in and prevents drainage -- not a good thing). Give this planting as much sun as you can muster in your home. I water weekly using a generous mister and a globe type ball that drips,water out over time by wicking action. You can mist every few days as needed to keep the leaves perky. These plants lose volume as the dry, so you can actually SEE when they need a drink and that is the main reason they I find them to be so easy to grow. They actually look sharper, thinner, less fleshy.
Aeonium (Two types) -- rosettes just visible at the lower left corner and in the upper right corner of the vertical garden (they are burgundy and pink tipped in the summer sun, due to a lack of sufficient sunlight they are green in this situation). The worm-like tendrils growing wider at the tips where thet indent with age, an evolution designed to capture water, I call "ET Fingers", are the Succulent Spoon Jade or Gollum Jade Crassula Portulacea.
Paddle Plant, Paddle Kalanchoe, Red Pancakes, Desert Cabbage Kalanchoe luciae, second image, easy to grow. It need a bright, sunny, warm and airy spot. Water when leaves lose their shiny, flesh looks, even showing light pinhole sized dimples. Allow soil to dry between watering. In Winter, cut back on water since they essentially stop growing. The leaves Of Pancake kalancoe turn red with cool nights, but they need protection from the cold during hardfreezes.
Cactus are great if you're willing to leave them alone, third image. Cactus are basically used to getting inundated with rain once or twice a year. It's best to give them similar in the home -- not rain, but rarely and thoroughly soaked through. Once a month (heart worm pill day, payday or some other way to remember to limit watering frequency) I soak them well and pour off any excellent liquid so the cactus isn't sitting in water for long.
Step 3: Fraile Looking Plants, Anything But...
Rosary Vine (Ceropegia linearis woodii) is perfect for hanging baskets with heart-shaped leaves mottled with white on thread-like vines spilling over the edge. Odd little bottle-shaped flowers are fairly inconspicuous. I decided to train mine up small trellis because -- I can. The lovely and delicate looking Rosary Vine is so easy to grow its ridiculous. I took a dozen or so cuttings gifted to me and twisted them together and stuck them in soil to start this very plant. They are that easy to start; a friend plucked off a few of the white spherical fruiting bodies and planted them with great success. They can survive long periods of benign neglect, rarely showing any signs of stress.
Oxalis triangularis, commonly called False Shamrock, is an easy to grow, edible species. False Shamrocks prefer cool temps, so they don't mind a window seat in winter! They can tolerate warmer indoor temperatures but will go into dormancy if you heat your home to 80°F. Allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. When dormant, they can be cut back and divided if they are crowded, producing morE to share and so impressive.
Rabbits Foot Fern, Davallia fejeensis, is much easier to please than other indoor ferns, thriving with indirect light and average room temperatures. Ferny fronds top furry spider legs that in no way resemble rabbit feet. My plant was recently divided into six new plants and is not currently displaying its usual lush mound of evergreen foliage. The furry rhizomes that hang over the side of the container can grow up to 2' long, and they absorb moisture. Mist them with lukewarm water every day, cutting back on water in Winter, when it is best to move into a cool spot, away from registers and drafts.
Step 4: Houseplants Are Easier When You Quit Killing Them With Kindness
As mentioned in each of the sections, the quickest way to kill any plant is to overwater it and leave roots in soggy soil. That doesn't mean they don't need water, it just means that a little less attention will give you better results. These observations are by no means comprehensive. Google to your hearts content and you will find more information then you could soak up in a month of Sundays. Have fun and enjoy your easy to grow and fascinating houseplants.