It’s at this time just about every year that I invite a little mid-winter color back in to our lives by adopting another new plant. This year, I settled on two new orchids and a bunch of tulips. They won’t last forever, but *spoiler alert* we will be moving at an undisclosed date sometime this year and so I don’t want to commit too long-term. Even on years we aren’t moving, we are frequently gone for extended periods of time. This always presents a problem for me, because I love having plants in the house, but I need them to survive without me.
Another problem I seem to have, is that I’m kind of a neglectful plant mother. I love my little plant children, but even when I am home, I forget to show it. I’ve gone through my fair share of plant tragedies and triumphs over the years, (I thought succulents were supposed to be easy?) but I now know definitely which plants will and will not survive without regular TLC. So today, I have for you, a list of highly tolerant, highly forgiving houseplants for people who who are always traveling and never home to water them. I’ll also tell you exactly what I do (or don’t) to keep them alive. Crazy plant ladies (and gentlemen), or black thumb enthusiasts with the best intentions. This one’s for you.
A disclaimer. I’m not a botanist, and if you do some searching you might find that these care techniques are totally wrong for these plants. This is just whats worked for me. I have left all of these plants alone for multiple weeks and each of them has greeted me alive upon return.
Hard to Kill Houseplants:
This is my snake plant. I inherited it as soon as we moved in. Not only have I not been able to kill it, it thrives on the lack of love and attention. If you look closely to the right, peep a baby sprout, growing off the mother plant. If we turned the pot 180 degrees, you would see five other sprouts growing behind. I don’t even know what to do with them at this point. See the main post photo? Mother plant gave birth to those at various times over the last year. Miles calls the one in the yellow pot his “friendly little plant” after requesting a plant in his room during lockdown last March. We were lonely.
Anyway, I don’t do much for this plant and her babies, other than place a handful of ice cubes on top of the soil every 10 days to a month. The slow-melt of the ice seeps in to the soil better than if I were to straight-up water it. Like the dry desert runoff in a downpour, vs. a light sprinkle. Sometimes she lives in the sunlight, sometimes she is up on a shelf where sun is limited. She is too busy growing babies to care where she is, or what’s going on.
This is my beloved peace lily. Gifted to me by my British friend on American Independence Day. I love this plant for two reasons, one: Poland has a bad coal-smog problem and peace lilies are known for their air-purifying power. I don’t know how much purifying this little plant actually does in my home, but I like to think she is taking care of us and our lungs. Two: she is a drama queen, and I appreciate that about her.
Peace Lily gets a little sad and droopy every so often, and when she does, this is how I cheer her up. I take her out of the planter pot (she still lives in the plastic planter), add about an inch or so of water to the bottom of the pot, and place her back in. She absorbs the water up through the soil and as she does, she perks right up. Who doesn’t love a dramatic before and after transformation?
I always have an african violet. This one has been around long enough to have gone through two bloom cycles. She has also outgrown her prior home and has had to be repotted. I always feel like I’m doing something right when that day comes. Sometimes the leaves can look a little wilted, and when they do I take the same strategy as with the snake plant, and place a handful of ice cubes around the soil. This slow waters the plant, but also keeps water drops from getting on the leaves, which actually damages the plant’s leaves. Sometimes a leaf will die and I just pinch them off as they do. Easy. This plant likes some indirect sunlight, so I keep it on a shelf near a large window.
Bilobata Wax Plant
I had to re-home this one when we moved to Poland, but it was such a trusty companion for years. It now lives at my sister’s house, where as you can see, it continues to thrive! This was one of my late- January adoptions and I chose it because it was on clearance at Home Depot. Little did I know it would become my favorite plant of all time. It is a slow-growing vine plant with thick, almost succulent leaves, that start to look unruly. I watered it sometimes and kept it on a sunny windowsill. Sometimes I would have to trim its vines, and sometimes I would have to gently separate its roots and re-pot part of the plant. No matter what I did, or didn’t do for it, it would keep growing. I left it for six weeks one time when we were gone on an extended stay and it was totally fine when we returned. A highly tolerant plant that will make you look like you know what you’re doing.
Ok, I admit, these die on me all the time. But I like to think that when they do its because their life cycle is over. When the blooms drop, I cut the stems and let the broad leaves live on in the house somewhere, until they too, eventually die. My mom has gotten them to grow and re-bloom, but she has an actual green thumb. They bloom for about 4 months or so. I just bought my last one in this house. Boo.
In Poland they are super inexpensive, and always placed conveniently at store entrances where they get me every time. We have these really great, wide window sills in our house that just scream for more plants and cause me to practic restraint in not filling every blank space with a new one. Much like my peace lily, I just carefully lift the plastic planter pot out of the ceramic one every other week-ish and fill the ceramic pot with a half-ish inch of water. The soil absorbs the water and keeps the plant happy.
Madagascar Dragon Tree
I almost did kill this one over the summer. Its resiliency is a testimony to its abilities to stay alive. Last spring, I brought it out from a corner in my bedroom where it had been living all fall and winter. I placed it in a sunny spot out on my warm patio, thinking I was doing it a favor, because who isn’t happy to see the sun after a long winter? Instead, what happened is that the sudden bright outdoor light literally gave it a sunburn. Almost every single frond turned brown and died. Realizing my mistake too late, I gave it resuscitation measures by moving it in to a shaded area with pleasantly filtered lighting and then didn’t touch it from about June to August. It was so ugly. When I noticed a little regrowth peeking out from the main stem, I cut all the brown dead fronds away and started giving it small amounts of water. It is making a slow recovery, but I think its gonna make it. This plant is nothing short of a miracle. The end.
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What plants have you had success with while spending a lot of time away? Let me know in the comments! And always tag me on Instagram in any ExploreMoreCo inspired adventures @exploremore.co
See ya out there!