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Originally published February 14, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Page modified February 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM

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Bad luck with houseplants? Try these hardy ones

Generally, the best household plants are those well-suited to the natural light in your home, and that require little effort beyond watering and occasional fertilization.

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Q: I have a brown thumb. What are some hardy houseplants?

A: Generally, the best household plants are those well-suited to the natural light in your home, and that require little effort beyond watering and occasional fertilization. You will want to make sure the plants you choose are not poisonous, especially if you have small children or pets in the home.

There are many durable indoor options — here are a few to consider.

Norfolk Island pine. For rooms with abundant natural light, the Norfolk Island pine is a great accent piece with its cozy, soft texture. This tree, which can grow to be 200 feet tall in its natural habitat, seldom grows taller than 10 feet indoors and is perfect for decorating at Christmas time.

Peperomia. If you have low or medium light, this is a strong choice. Peperomias are a diverse group of small houseplants with waxy, highly texture leaves. Also in this family are ripple Peperomia and watermelon Peperomia, as well as a silver-leaf variety. Peperomia can add a delightful splash of color without taking up a lot of space in the room. But beware: These plants are poisonous if chewed or eaten by dogs or cats.

Scented geranium. This is a great choice for your kitchen counter or windowsill. The hardy plant puts scents of lemon, lime, rose, cinnamon and even chocolate at your fingertips. Just pinch a leaf to release the relaxing and inviting fragrances.

Grape ivy. If you’ve been tempted to try hanging baskets in your home, consider grape ivy. All varieties are vines with tendrils that readily cling to a trellis or stake. And because of its mounding habit, grape ivy is a perfect choice for lush but tidy-looking hanging baskets. It can tolerate moderate light and likes evenly moist soil.

Snake plant. If you’ve had bad luck in the past with houseplants, try this nearly indestructible option. Sometimes called mother-in-law’s tongue, this succulent plant tolerates neglect extremely well. While it likes bright conditions, it can withstand low light. Its sword-shape leaves and substantial size (up to 4 feet tall) add a striking accent to any room. Just be sure to let the soil surface dry out each time before you water.

Boston fern. Speaking of hardy and nearly indestructible, that certainly describes the venerable Boston fern. With its lacy, arching fronds, it is both delicate and substantial. But don’t be fooled by its delicate appearance — this plant is one tough cookie and can live for decades if kept moist and given moderate light and enough humidity.

The Boston fern is best-suited for a hanging basket, but it’s also stunning on a pedestal or draped elegantly over tall tables or bookshelves. A Boston fern can grow to be 4 feet tall and wide.

Jade plant. If you tend to forget to water your plants, this is a great choice. Jade plants are slow growers, but they can thrive for years if given bright light and kept dry. They like normal room temperatures during the growing season, but in the winter they prefer to be kept on the cool side and just moist enough to prevent the leaves from shriveling.

With its gnarly branches and succulent, fleshy leaves, the jade plant creates interest in any room and can grow up to 10 feet tall and 2 feet wide.


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