The Zamioculcas zamifolia, or ZZ PLANT, may fall at the end of an alphabetical list of houseplants, but it's at the top of the roster of those that are lovely and hard to annihilate. The East African import grows to a height of about 3 feet, thrives in bright to low light, requires only barely-moist soil, and puts up with average indoor humidity and 60-75 degree heat. Any good potting soil and feeding it every 3 months will keep it happy and lushly in the land of the living.
The CAST IRON PLANT, a.k.a. Aspidistra elatior, could not be more appropriately named. My 15-year-old specimen has survived blindness-inducing dimness, ridiculously infrequent waterings, and extremes of hot and cold that would have wilted its owner several times over. In fact, about the only thing you can do to desperately injure this varietal is overwater it. It also gets finicky if frequently disturbed or shuffled about. Otherwise, it can reach heights of over 3 feet, and is content with normal potting mix and monthly feedings in spring and summer.
The shiny, heart-shaped leaves of POTHOS, Epipremnum aureum, can be solid green or streaked with yellow or white, and its stems, which grow to lengths of 8 feet, can be allowed to go long and trailing for hanging pots or trimmed twice a year for a bushier look. Satisfied with low to bright light, Pothos doesn't fare well in direct sun, and allowing normal potting soil to dry slightly between waterings is best for this breed. Feed yours every couple weeks spring through fall, and monthly in winter.
Like Mao on "the long march" the CHINESE EVERGREEN, Aglaonema, is willing to put up with some unfavorable conditions. The 2-3 ft. high transplant from Southeast Asian subtropical forests will tolerate low light and dry air, but won't put up with cold drafts. Available in a number of varieties with solid green and variegated leaves, keep this baby evenly moistened in any good potting soil, feed monthly in summer and spring, and fertilize every six weeks in winter.
The tree-like silhouette and potential 6 ft. height of the CORN PLANT, Dracaena fragrans, makes it a great decor option. Provided with bright to low light, the lower tiers of the plant's sword-shaped foliage will shed as it grows, leaving a cluster of leaves at the top of each stem. A total trouper, this lanky East African native will tolerate much, but overfeeding and overwatering are no-nos. Don't be afraid to lop off the plant's head if it gets too tall. The trimmed cane will sprout new growth from where it was cut. Normal, well-drained potting soil is good. Feed monthly spring through fall.
The CROTON PLANT, Aspidistra elatior, is also known as JOSEPH'S COAT, which might be explained by its envy-inducing "amazing technicolor dream" foliage. It's bunches of glossy, leathery leaves that flaunt pops of yellows, oranges, pinks, and greens, require a healthy amount of sunlight to flourish. Also needed for this slightly more demanding beauty is moist soil, a warm spot away from drafts, and humid air. As with many lovelies in life, there's an unexpected caveat to Croton ownership. Its sap is poisonous so keep kids, cats, and canines clear. Use a peat moss based potting soil, and feed every couple weeks from early spring through the summer.
A retro favorite, there may not have been an office or abode in the 1950s that didn't sport a distinctively spiky SNAKE PLANT. The Sanseveria trifasciata can sustain itself in low light, but is most often offed by overwatering- let about 1/3 of the plant's potting soil mass dry between waterings. The Snake is also comfy when slightly pot bound, so keep its quarters tight for best results, and fertilize twice a month. Also known as the ultra-flattering MOTHER-IN-LAW'S TONGUE, note that the plant's leaves are poisonous, so anything that nibbles should be kept away from this in-law.
I must confess to a bit of anti-SPIDER PLANT, Chlorophylum comosum, prejudice. Not because it isn't easy to grow, but because of its ubiquity in the dorm and first apartment rooms of my youth. Show me a Spider Plant and I flash back to thwarted efforts to get bread to rise and that nasty break-up with former beau, Randy Acker. But for those of you not burdened with such memories, Spider Plants are dandy greenery options. The Spider's slender, plantlet-tipped runners make it a hanging fave, and though it needs bright light and prefers un-flouridated distilled water, it withstands average indoor conditions. Feed your web-ful ever 2 weeks spring through summer.
Perhaps a bit of an anachronism, the HEART LEAF PHILODENDRON, Philodendron scandens, has earned its place in the pantheon of potted plants. Its cheerful, glossy leaves and sturdy nature have made it an indoor favorite for decades. Tolerant of dry air, it prefers humidity, so be kind and provide an occasional misting. Peat moss based potting soil is best, and pinching back stems before they get leggy will keep the plant full. If your Philo starts to look feeble, it probably wants more light- long stems with few or small leaves are evidence thereof. Feed your plant monthly spring through fall.
The name WANDERING JEW, is actually applied to two different plants, one with green and white leaves, (Tradescantia abliflora), and another with purple and silver foliage, (Zebrina pendula). Happily, both plants prefer bright to moderate light and evenly peat moss based moist soil that's allowed to become just a bit drier in winter. A great hanging plant, pinching its stems back often will keep it full and healthy. Feed every couple weeks spring through fall, and mist occasionally if leaf tips turn brown.