Houseplants for the Forgetful Gardener
Love houseplants but often forget to water them? If so, here's a collection of great indoor plants that can take neglect.
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Indoor conditions can be tough on plants, especially during winter when low humidity dries out potting soil quickly. To ensure success, look for houseplants that can take periods of drought. And try potting them in large containers; the smaller the pot, the more quickly it dries out.
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Most commonly grown outdoors as bedding plants, geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) are great houseplants that flower all year in a sunny window. Look for varieties with red, pink, white, orange, or multicolored blooms. Or choose a scented type with wonderfully fragrant foliage. Regardless, most types hold up well if you miss a watering or two. They do best in bright light and can grow or trail several feet.
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Golden Barrel Cactus
Popular in landscapes in warm-winter climates, golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is also a good houseplant. It shows off sharp golden-yellow spines and a fuzzy woollike cap on top of the plant. It's a slow grower to 1 foot tall that prefers bright light.
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Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) produces long, narrow leaves that come from a single point on top of the thick, fleshy stems. These stems store moisture, making this plant an especially good bet if you forget to water from time to time. Ponytail palm can eventually grow 10 feet tall and tolerates low to bright light.
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Silver Jade Plant
Silver jade plant (Crassula atropurpurea) is a little showier than its traditional cousin, bearing bigger silver-green leaves often edged in reddish purple. It does best in bright light, eventually becoming a small tree to 6 feet tall.
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Among the most spectacular flowering succulents, desert rose (Adenium obesum) shows off thick gray stems, leathery dark green leaves, and bold red, pink, or white flowers in spring. It does best in bright light and can grow 5 feet tall.
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A spiky succulent with toothed leaves, gray-green aloe (Aloe vera) has earned its place in many homes for its ability to soothe skin and help burns heal. It's a slow-growing plant that eventually gets 3 feet tall and wide. Aloe prefers bright light.
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Distinctive burro's tail (Sedum morganianum) bears succulent gray-green leaves that overlap on trailing stems to create a taillike effect. The leaves easily drop off; you can pot them to start new plants. Burro's tail can hang couple of feet and prefers bright light.
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This slow-growing cycad (Cycas revoluta) has become a popular houseplant because it's so easy to care for and it fits a wide variety of decor styles. It features leathery dark green fronds that can reach 3 feet long on a mature plant. It grows best in medium to bright light and can grow 5 feet tall.
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Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is one of the most common houseplants around -- and there is no wonder why. This quick-growing vine features colorful leaves, tolerates low light, and doesn't mind drying out a bit. Its stems reach 8 feet or more. Pothos grows in low to bright light.
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A beautiful succulent with dark green foliage striped in bright white, Hawthoria fasciata is a small plant perfect for a windowsill. Its unique form and coloring makes it a top pick for modern decorating styles. This easy plant usually stays under a foot tall and wide.
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Often mean sold as a short-lived gift plant because it can be difficult to get to reflower profusely, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana features attractive scalloped dark green foliage. When it does bloom, it bears bright clusters of white, pink, red, yellow, or orange flowers. It can get a foot tall and prefers bright light.
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Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is almost indestructable, tolerating low levels of light, humidity, and water. The leaves are strappy and dark green, but you can find interesting varieties with variegated foliage. Cast-iron plant grows 2 feet tall and wide in low to medium light.
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A great plant with an unfortunate common name, ox tongue (Gasteria bicolor) offers rough-textured gray-green leaves and spikes of pinkish-red flowers in spring if it gets enough light. Ox tongue can go for weeks without watering in the cool, dim winter months. It grows 3 feet tall and prefers bright light.
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Give zeezee plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) a quick glance and you might think it's plastic because the thick leaves are so shiny. Happily, it requires only a little more care than its fake counterparts -- just an occasional watering. Zeezee plant can grow 3 feet tall and wide and prefers bright light but tolerates low-light conditions.
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Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), also sometimes called mother-in-law's tongue, has leaves that look like swords. They're often attractively variegated with shades of silver, white, or cream. Its strong vertical appearance makes it perfect for using in contemporary-designed rooms. Snake plant can grow 4 feet tall and grows in low to bright light.
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With its silvery lavender-blue foliage it's easy to see where ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) gets its common name. This lovely foliage plant is easy to grow and propagate; simply snip off a leaf or the end of a shoot and pot it in barely moist soil. Ghost plant likes a bright spot and the stems can grow a foot or more long.
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A wonderful tree, fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) has large shiny leaves that look like they've been lacquered. It's perfect for adding a vertical accent to rooms. It does best in medium to bright light and can eventually grow 15 feet tall unless you keep it pruned shorter.
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Old-fashioned jade plant (Crassula ovata) can live for years, growing slowly into a small tree. It bears small, shiny olive-green leaves and often develops a sculptural gnarled form. It grows best in bright light and may grow 6 feet tall or more.
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Bunny-ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is a good choice for growing indoors because it's thornless. However, it does have hairy barbs on the pads that can irritate your skin if you brush against them. In bright situations, the cactus often produces lemon-yellow flowers in spring. It prefers bright light and grows 2 feet tall.
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An easy-care houseplant with a great texture, silverleaf peperomia (Peperomia griseoargentea) has metallic silvery-green leaves with a unique rippling. It tolerates low light, but thrives in medium to bright spots. It grows about 8 inches tall.
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Bishop's Cap Cactus
With its interesting star shape and blue-green color, bishop's cap cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma) stands out on a windowsill. This slow grower does best in high light and may eventually grow 4 feet tall.
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You'll love touching panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) because the silvery leaves have a soft, felty texture. It's an easy-growing choice that gets about 3 feet tall and prefers bright light.
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A bold plant that will create an architectural statement, Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) has a spine-covered trunk topped with a cluster of long, narrow leaves. It prefers bright light and can become a 5-foot-tall specimen.
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Living stones (Lithops spp.) are unique succulents that look like large pebbles. They bear a pair of fleshy, gray-green leaves often mottled with other colors. They need bright light to grow well and require almost no water during winter dormancy. Living stones do best in a large pot, even though they grow only 2 inches tall.
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Perfect for hanging baskets, rosary vine (Ceropegia linearis woodii) is a trailing succulent with heart-shaped silver and green leaves. It may produce greenish flowers when happy. Rosary vine does best in bright light and can trail to 12 inches.
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Also called yucca or corn plant, Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon Lime' is an easy-growing houseplant amazingly tolerant of a little neglect. Its colorful dark green leaves bear bands of silver and chartreuse. It grows best in bright light and can reach 3 feet tall.
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Lovely to look at but not to touch, crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii) bears spiny stems and colorful bracts in spring and summer. It's a sculptural plant that grows 3 feet tall. Crown-of-thorns performs best in bright light.
Note: This plant's milky sap may irritate your skin if you touch it.