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12 Hard-To-Kill House Plants for Light Rooms, Shady Rooms and Everything In Between

Updated on March 17, 2011

Hardy Houseplants for People with Black Thumbs

For years, I was the kind of person who managed to kill my houseplants in record time — one African violet made it 3 weeks; another time a ficus tree survived just over a year, but only because a roommate with a green thumb ministered to the tree. Yet a house with healthy, thriving plants is so much more welcoming and warm than a house devoid of anything living or green.

Once I finally learned to keep my plants alive, I became the person whose houseplants were only barely alive. All held on, but were one skipped watering away from death. 

I simply am not attuned enough to whether my plants like sun or shade, heat or cold, lots of water or very little water. I also am an irregular plant waterer at best, which means the only houseplants I can keep alive are the hardy kind, those breeds of houseplant that are difficult or impossible to kill. I will surely keep trying to see just how hardy these plants are, but here is a round-up of the hardiest, strongest, most difficult-to-kill houseplants you can find.

Hen and chicks
Hen and chicks
Spider Plant
Spider Plant

4 Hardy House Plants That Like To Live in the Light

  • Spider Plant: A native of South Africa, the spider plant has long, spiky leaves that cascade and droop out of the pot like a weeping willow's branches droop. It does flower, and those flowers then become new spider plants. It needs extra water in the summer months, and can grow quite long.
  • Croton: A non-flowering plant with brilliant colored stripes (pink or orange or lime green) on its leaves, the croton can jazz up any room.It's tropical, so it likes its light and it likes its water, but it is hard to kill and cheery.
  • Hen and Chicks: This plant's Latin name, Sempervivium (semper = always; vivium = live), should give you some sense of how tough this little plant with the sweet name can be. It somewhat resembles an artichoke, the way its leaves form a concentric nest. It gets its lay name because it sprouts little babies around the main plant.
  • Phalaenopsis Orchid: This is like an Orchid 101, it's such a common variety. Those inexpensive orchids you can buy at Kmart or Safeway? That's the Phalaenopsis, which comes in white and red and magenta and other hues. Most people throw them away once their flowers fall off, but if you keep them near to a sunny window and continue to water them, they will live for years.

Peace Lily
Peace Lily

5 Hard-To-Kill Houseplants That Like Shade

  • Peace Lily: This plant has beautiful white flowers that grow nestled among the peace lily's dark, shiny leaves. Those leaves wilt when it needs water, and this plant does well in low light.
  • Pothos: A classic houseplant vine that is incredibly difficult to kill. If you hang a pothos in a basket or place it atop a bookcase, its trailing vines could grow all the way to the ground. It doesn't like direct sun, but once the top layer of soil is dry, it likes to be drenched in water and well-drained.
  • Chinese Evergreen: Think of the most common leafy houseplant you can imagine, the sort found in doctors' offices and dry cleaners. That's the CHinese evergreen. It's great because it doesn't need to be near a light source, can tolerate cold and doesn't need regular watering. When  you do water it, though, be sure not to over water it and that you have it in a well-draining pot.
  • Cast Iron Plant: A hardy leafy plant originally from Asia, the cast iron plant is almost indestructible — hence its name. It can survive dust, heat, cold, dark — it's like the mailman of the houseplant work, making it through no matter what comes its way. It does do best ina warm room, though, and in those conditions, its tough leaves can grow as long as two feet.
  • Birds Nest Fern: This fern looks like an upside down cone. It prefers shade.

A Philodendron leave.
A Philodendron leave.
Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

3 Easy Indirect Light-Loving Houseplants

  • Philodendron: A classic, the philodendron has beautiful, architectural leaves and is hard to kill; it's good-looking and sturdy. What a combo! It likes to be warm and moist, but only needs to be watered every week or week-and-a-half.
  • Christmas Cactus: Not the prickly sort of a cactus, the pretty Christmas cactus is a succulent that flowers with red or pink buds around Christmas time. It only needs to be watered about once a week, though more in spring and summer than in the winter.
  • African Violet: A pretty flower that adds a splash of color to the room, the African violet is hard to kill so long as you do not over water it. Let it dry out between waterings and at maximum, water it once a week.


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    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      I too have caused many a plant to meet its untimely demise. These are great ideas and I will refer back to this time and time again. Thanks!

    • liesl5858 profile image

      Linda Bryen 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a useful hub you got on houseplants too. I love houseplants especially when they flower but I will only have houseplants that don't need much of my time. Thanks for sharing.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      These are hard to kill plants..I have had them all including the peace lily that lived for probably over ten years!

    • rwelton profile image

      rwelton 6 years ago from Sacramento CA

      Love the hens and chickens - about twice a year I pass on the hens to others and stat fresh with the "chickens"...


    • Boomer60 profile image

      Boomer60 6 years ago

      These are some great tips for these plants. I have and have had most of these plants and have killed them. Perhaps now the surviving plants will have a chance.

    • sunforged profile image

      sunforged 6 years ago from

      You know I thought I had a bit of a green thumb - but three of the plants that are thriving in my house right now ...are on this list.

      Actually, last week ,someone gave me a Christmas cactus , but I had no idea what it was (they called it a "plant") until I saw the above photo while writing this comment.

      If it lives, you deserve some credit.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      HOW did you know that there were other people like you existed? (black-thumbed) These are GREAT suggestions for people who love plants but who aren't really all that good at taking care of them...