10 Forgiving Houseplants That Don't Ask for Much

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

Four houseplants in ceramic pots

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

Nobody wants to kill their houseplants, but sometimes our fussier friends from the plant world refuse to thrive inside and wind up worse for the wear. Luckily, not every houseplant has such a finicky nature — there are plenty of options for beginners or people on the go that will thrive with only the slightest bit of attention. From water-sipping succulents to unique air plants, some houseplants are so forgiving that anyone can grow them.

Here are 10 houseplants that don't ask for much out of their owners.

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)

chinese evergreen plant in gray pot against neutral background

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

The Chinese evergreen is proof that attractive, interesting plants can be tough as well. This hardy houseplant tolerates low light and mild drought, and has unique variegated leaves that range from dark green to yellow and even silver. It prefers partial sunlight and regular watering, but can tolerate less than that, including artificial light environments and getting a drink only once or twice a month. All of this combines to make an easy roommate that's well-suited to beginners or those too busy to devote their houseplants much attention.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Indirect light, partial shade; can tolerate fluorescent lighting.
  • Water: Prefers regular watering, tolerates mild drought.
  • Soil: Rich, fertile potting mix with peat moss.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

closeup of ponytail palm plant in terra cotta

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

The ponytail palm is a native of eastern Mexico, where outdoor examples of the species have been found that are more than 350 years old. Despite its common name, it's not actually a palm, but a member of the agave family and a succulent. It makes a forgiving houseplant, with an expanded basal stem structure that makes it very drought tolerant. Though its natural habitat is very sunny, it tolerates partial shade as well. 

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Prefers full, direct sun, but can tolerate indirect and partial light.
  • Water: Allow soil to dry between watering; very drought tolerant.
  • Soil: Accepts most types but must be well-draining, prefers rocky.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

hands with gloves pot a sago palm in terra cotta pot

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

The sago palm is another popular houseplant with an inaccurate common name — it is not a palm tree but actually a member of the genus Cycas, a lineage of ancient plants that dates to the Jurassic period. As an indoor plant, it grows very slowly, and it's best to buy a mature plant because propagation can take years. It rarely needs to be repotted and is quite drought-tolerant. It's also extremely toxic to both humans and animals, and is not a good choice in houses with young children or pets. 

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Indirect light; too much shade leads to sparse foliage.
  • Water: Drought tolerant, but prefers moderate moisture in soil.
  • Soil: Well-draining sandy mix, rich in organic matter.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

model steaming a snake plant in pot

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

The snake plant is a popular houseplant with striking vertical leaves that looks imposing but is easy to care for. While it prefers bright light, it can stand partial shade and is adaptable to most indoor living situations. A member of the succulent family, it stores water in its thick leaves, and would rather be neglected than overwatered. One thing to know, however, is that they can be invasive, so be mindful if you move it outdoors in the summer.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Medium, indirect light; tolerates sun and shade.
  • Water: Water regularly, allowing soil to dry well before re-watering.
  • Soil: Rich, well-draining potting mix.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

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

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

The ZZ plant is a great choice as anyone's very first houseplant, with attractive, glossy leaves and an easy care regimen. It thrives in less than perfect conditions and won't be bothered by the occasional oversight from its owner. It needs little water and low to medium light, and can exist happily even in rooms with mostly artificial lighting. It's still best to water it, but since it prefers its soil to dry completely between doses, this can be as little as once a month.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Indirect bright light is best; tolerates low light and direct light.
  • Water: When soil is completely dry (in some cases, as little as once monthly).
  • Soil: Well-draining potting soil.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.

Air Plant (Tillandsia spp.)

gray-green spiral air plant against grey tile wall

Treehugger / Allison Berler

If you're sure that you really have no time to devote to plant care, consider an air plant, which will coexist in your house with almost no human input. As an epiphyte, it collects the nutrients it needs from the air, and requires no soil — and hardly any water. It can live happily in glasses, on a bed of rocks, or even just sitting on a table. In a misty environment, like a bathroom, you can ignore it entirely. For the most part, though, it's best to mist or dunk it in water occasionally to ensure it remains hydrated.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Indirect light and shade.
  • Water: A humid environment and misting can replace watering.
  • Soil: Not needed.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.

Aloe (aloe vera)

overhead shot of person writing on work desk with mini aloe vera plant near computer

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The aloe plant is a favorite houseplant that thrives with little water. It's well known for its medicinal uses, like treating burns and cuts, and a small cutting can be taken from a plant for this purpose without harming it. As a succulent, it can hold onto moisture efficiently, and it prefers to grow in sandy, dry soil. It does prefer direct sunlight, and will thrive in the brightest window in your house.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Full sun.
  • Water: When the top two inches of soil are dry.
  • Soil: Sandy and well-drained.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

Parlor palm plant in woven basket pot on stool in white house

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The parlor palm has a long history as a popular houseplant, and it's easy to see why. This shade-tolerant native of Central and South America is tolerant of low light and a less-than-perfect watering schedule. It also can grow bigger than most other easy houseplants, reaching heights in excess of three feet at maturity, making it a great choice for a first-time floor plant

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Ideally moderate-bright indirect light, can tolerate low light; avoid direct sun.
  • Water: Important not to overwater; wait one or two weeks depending on plant location.
  • Soil: Peat-based potting mix; does not tolerate salt.
  • Pet Safety: Nontoxic to cats and dogs.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy plant in white container with large flat screen TV in background

Treehugger / Preeya Manoorasada-Marsden

English ivy is a vining species that grows easily in a variety of conditions. It prefers moist, shady conditions, and can even thrive in a bathroom. It grows quickly and is easy to train, and can be an interesting addition to shelves or mantles. It's worth noting that it's also an aggressive invasive species in the United States, and shouldn't be grown outdoors or tossed in a compost pile.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Indirect light to mostly shade.
  • Water: Keep soil moist but ensure drainage. Spritz with a mister.
  • Soil: Regular, well-draining potting mix.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.

Jade Plant (Crassula argentea)

jade plant in blue pot sits on shelf against wall of hats

Treehugger/ Lesly Junieth

The jade plant is a large succulent with a woody stem that resembles a tree once it grows tall enough. Like many succulents, it's happy to be watered only occasionally, since its thick, waxy leaves are excellent at holding on to water. It's better to be conservative than to overwater it. To train it to grow vertically and reveal it's unique stem, trim its heavy, fleshy leaves regularly so their weight doesn't cause the plant to sag.

Plant Care Tips

  • Light: Bright, indirect light.
  • Water: Regular watering, but let top of soil dry completely between waterings.
  • Soil: Regular potting soil mixed with some sand.
  • Pet Safety: Toxic to cats and dogs.