Houseplants can do a lot for your home. They’re serious mood boosters. They purify indoor air. And if you’re a little design-challenged, a trusty potted plant is a cheap and easy way to fill space beautifully without having to get too creative.
The problem is, unlike that framed vintage print or the lamp you got free when you bought your sofa, plants actually need you to stay alive. And somehow—try as we might—some of us just weren’t born with that green thumb.
If that’s you, we’re not here to judge. No matter how many plants you’ve murdered in the past, you can make this work. We believe in you! But here’s the thing: You need to go for plants with some durability. A lot of durability, actually.
Check out these varieties that are practically indestructible, no matter how black your thumbs.
If you’re into the forest look…
1. Ponytail palm
Despite the name and appearance, ponytail palms aren’t actually palm trees (the plant falls somewhere in the bonsai variety). What these miniature trees are is hardy. A ponytail palm can live for years in the same pot and doesn’t want a lot of your time. It just needs bright light and a weekly watering when the soil is dry.
2. Norfolk Island pine tree
When potted, these tiny pine trees won’t grow big, but a few grouped together can make your home look like a forest. Bonus: These plants can tolerate full sun, any type of soil, and occasional water. Rarely, if ever, will they need a new pot.
Essentially the official houseplant of the ’70s, the ficus has been out of favor for a while, but it is making a comeback. That’s a good thing for you, because these plants can live through almost anything. Aim for medium to bright light, and water when you can tell the soil is dry.
If you’re into a tropical look…
Dracaenas have a tropical feel and an easy approach to maintenance. Some sunlight is best (but many survive in low-light offices); that and regular potting soil and the occasional watering are all you need to keep this hardy plant growing.
Sansevieria, aka the snake plant, has a modern look with long green leaves that shoot up and look great in pots. They’re also basically the perfect variety for plant-killers. Neglect it, forget to water it, put it in the wrong soil—heck, take a machete to it—this plant can take it.
6. Bird’s nest fern
This fern doesn’t look like your typical feathery houseplant. The bird’s nest fern has thick, wavy leaves and a sturdy appearance. The plant will grow best in dimmer, indirect light and can tolerate a few missed water sessions, but you will need to fertilize the soil a couple of times a year to get the best results.
If you’re into flowers…
7. African violet
The tiny flowers make this plant look delicate, but it’s as hardy as they come. African violets do best in north-facing windows with bright but indirect light. And if you have a humidifier, place it nearby to help the plant grow quickly.
8. Phalaenopsis orchid
Most gardening newbies steer clear of orchids. But you shouldn’t! Phalaenopsis orchids are the easiest of the bunch to grow. Most come preplanted in bark or moss and don’t need to be fertilized. Water once a week by sticking the plant under the tap and letting the water drain through the pot. Put the orchid in a low light area, and you’re good to go!
If you’re into the desert look…
Aloe has a ton of uses (namely, soothing the pain after we accidentally grab a hot pan), but this medical aid can double as a beautiful decor addition. Potted and left to grow, aloe will get huge and look really cool. Pot in cacti-specific soil (available at any gardening center), aim for indirect light, and water infrequently (the soil should be completely dry before you water again).
10. Panda plant
Panda plants are succulents that have thick, water-retaining, velvety leaves, making them perfect for indoor gardeners who forget to water. They thrive in pots and will mix well with other succulents, but you’ll need a very sunny spot for them to grow well.
11. Sedum morganianum
Better known as a burro’s tail, these succulents have long, wiry stems that trail out, making this the perfect succulent for those macramé hanging baskets you’ve been eyeing. Hang the planter near a window (but away from direct sunlight), and water once every two weeks or when the soil feels dry.