5 Forgiving Houseplants That Don't Ask for Much

Perfect for beginners, brown thumbs, or people on the go.

shot of four forgiving house plants

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

Nobody wants to kill their houseplants, yet sometimes our fussier friends from the plant world refuse to thrive inside and wind up worse for the wear. And sometimes, ugh, they die. It's so sad! (I am still mourning my beautiful string of pearls who had a bad experience with my skylight, may she rest in peace.)

Some plants suffer from not being in the right environment, others fail to thrive from what we will call user errors. And the truth is that understanding all the nuances of what a plant needs can be challenging unless of course you are a plant whisperer.

For the rest of us – whether new to plant parenthood, a busy traveler, or simply lacking a green thumb – thankfully there are some wonderful, beautiful, stalwart varieties that do not demand too much. Among them are these five Plants of Steel®, introduced as a collection by the Miami-based horticultural grower, Costa Farms. They call them some of the easiest to grow of all houseplants, ones that "don't mind low light, low humidity, or irregular watering." Knowing about my love of all things houseplants, they sent me three of them for a test drive. And while I have been kind to my new babies, I can tell that they are tough as nails.

1. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

chinese evergreen plant in gray pot against neutral background

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

Proving that tough plants can also be beautiful, Chinese evergreen varieties have rich green leaves with variegated shimmers of silver, and sweet little blooms.

Light: Can tolerate low light, does well in bright light, will even persist in offices with fluorescent lighting.
Water: You can water it regularly, or you can water it every few weeks. How's that for agreeable?

2. Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

closeup of ponytail palm plant in terra cotta

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

Meanwhile, the ponytail palm proves that tough plants can be cute! Sassy and a bit Seussian, the ponytail palm is supremely easy to grow; "Basically, you can grow this houseplant anywhere," notes Costa Farms.

Light: Ponytails will grow the best with bright light, but will do just fine in medium- and low-light spots.
Water: These plants store water in those groovy trunks, so they can go for long periods without water; even if they do grow better with regular watering, they do not at all require it.

3. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

hands with gloves pot a sago palm in terra cotta pot

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

If this plant looks a little "Land of the Lost," it could be because it dates back to prehistoric times. And as Costa Farms points out, "If sago palm has survived thousands of years relatively unchanged in nature, it should be a good candidate for your living room..."

Light: While sago palms do best in bright light, they can handle medium light as well.
Water: These guys are drought-tolerant houseplant and don't need a lot of water, in fact, overwatering is usually what kills them.

4. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

model steaming a snake plant in pot

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

Pretty for those striking vertical leaves and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, it is little wonder that snake plants are so popular. One thing to know, however, is that they can be invasive in some areas, so if you get one, do not release it into the wild (your garden) without checking if it is OK first.

Light: Tolerates low light; grows fastest in bright conditions. Can live in just about any room.
Water: As long as they get water from time to time, it's tough to underwater these guys; the only concern is overwatering.

5. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

closeup man in t-shirt using trowels in zz plant pot

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

The ZZ plant was my first "trainer" plant as an adult; I had a "water plant" reminder twice a month on my calendar, and she thrived! And so pretty, with those geometrically unfurling leaves that are deep and glossy – and they can grow big and beautiful. I love this plant.

Light: Can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, even thrives in office lighting.
Water: You can water ZZ every few weeks, though it grows best when watered when the top inch or two of soil feels dry.

(Note: Remember that some houseplants can be toxic to children and/or pets.)