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Plants for Black Thumb Gardeners

Plants for Black Thumb Gardeners

Do plants tremble in fear when you walk by? Is your aspiring garden less like the perfection of Martha Stewart and more like selling point of a weed killer commercial? You are not alone in sending plants to their untimely demise. “Black thumb” gardeners love Mother Nature yet manage to kill everything from Uncle Bob’s funeral ivy to the dandelion patch by the sidewalk. However, there are several types of houseplants, besides cacti, which can survive your overwatering, forgetfulness, and bad karma.

Plants You Can Forget About

Mother-In-Law's Tongue, Jade Plant, and Monstera Deliciosa, a type of Philodendron

Forget about a full scale garden of veggies. Let’s begin with Plants 101: the indoor houseplant. For those of us who own a new plant about every six weeks, success can be found with various succulent plants. Succulents are defined as any plant whose cells store water. Characterized by thicker leaves, succulents can outlive the acute amnesia of the most forgetful owner. The Snake plant, also known as Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, is from the hardy Sansevierias family and can go up to a month without water. The Jade plant goes dormant when it becomes parched but perks up, continuing its growth cycle, after some H2O. Aloe vera and the many eye-catching species of Philodendron like to dry out between waterings, only requiring a drink every two to three weeks.

Top: Kalanchoe, Bottom: California Poppy
Top: Kalanchoe, Bottom: California Poppy

If you want something more colorful, try the bell-shaped flowers of a Kalanchoe succulent or a robustly cheerful California Poppy. Gardeners with more eccentric tastes will appreciate the pale beauty of the Graptoptalum Paraguayense, known as the Ghost Plant, or the quirky String of Pearls succulent. Victorious growth with the majority of these houseplants is dependent upon bright light, slightly sandy soil, and infrequent watering. To get the UV rays your plant deserves, brighten up a dim apartment with an incandescent or CFL grow light; you can also add a simple plug-in timer to ensure every day is mostly sunny. Most of these plants don’t like to be moved either, so locate a quiet windowsill or corner for your new addition and forget about it—at least for a few weeks.

Plants You Can Drown

Umbrella Papyrus Plant
Umbrella Papyrus Plant

If you find yourself at the other end of the spectrum, hovering over your greenery with a spray bottle in reach, there are a few plants that will soak up the attention. Bamboo is a go-to plant for the apprehensive gardener, boosting self-confidence due to its quick-growing nature. Many plants in the Cyperus family, like the Umbrella Papyrus, are mostly aquatic and wouldn’t say no to a pool party at their roots. The more challenging yet still easy-to-grow Phalaenopsis Orchid likes to stay moist and in low light, but it will forgive you if you forget to give it a drink before your weekend getaway. These houseplants thrive in humid climates and enjoy some misting or a shallow tray of water-covered pebbles nearby.

"Dirt-Free" Plants

tillandsia-798636_1280

Plants from the Tillandsia family are the ideal houseplants for a no-mess solution. Neat freaks rejoice because the Tillandsia species is all airplants. Humidity is a friend for these arid beauties that desire no soil and take in nutrients through their leaves as opposed to through the roots. Airplants require a little more fuss-in dryer climates and indoors environments, it is suggested that you soak your Tillandsia in water for a half an hour every seven to ten days. The exciting part about Tillandsia is the enormous number of mounting possibilities. The roots will take hold of moss, tree branches, even clay pottery or rocks; some soilless options include rockwool, Perilite, or Growstone. You can literally glue your airplant to anything that doesn’t hold water. Driftwood is a fun choice, as long as it is soaked first to remove the salts that are poisonous to this class of bromeliads.

The Indestructibles

Aspidistra elatior or Cast Iron Plant
Aspidistra elatior or Cast Iron Plant

There may be some lingering doubts about the tenacity of the plants mentioned above. Shrinking violets with lingering wounds from their last disastrous affair with Mother Nature may want to try one of these seriously hard-to-kill houseplants. This final trifecta can handle the utmost abuse. The Golden Pothos, the ZZ plant, and the “Cast Iron” plant—or Latin-titled Aspidistra Elatior—can all survive sporadic watering, poor soil quality, and low light. The Pothos is a trailing houseplant, a little less tolerant of drought, but great for hanging baskets with vines cascading down to 10 feet in length. The ZZ plant, “ZZ” stands for Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, is native to East Africa and can grow over a foot tall while indoors due to the succulent bulb at its base. The reclusive Cast Iron plant prefers full shade for its slow flourish, growing up to two feet high in near-dark or low UV light (i.e. at the office) conditions. You will find these three staples of indoor vegetation listed under "indestructible" in a thesaurus.

Aside from the tank-like qualities of the plants themselves, there are a few other factors you can control while growing indoors. It varies from plant to plant, but it is recommended that you add some liquid nutrients to your watering can every few weeks. Check the label because each supplement is different, although usually a tablespoon or two will suffice for every gallon of water. The temperature of your home can make or break your indoor gardening foray and plants generally do better in warmth, anything below 72 degrees Fahrenheit is asking for a slow wither.

Do you have any tips for resurrecting plants or know of a houseplant that is practically invincible? You are highly encouraged to write your comments or suggestions below and save a petunia. When you feel ready to take on a full-scale gardening project, check out our articles on the basics of hydroponics. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedIn, or Pinterest where we post new article and content updates weekly.

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