Happy Houseplants—No Green Thumb Required!

Most folks have at least a few houseplants sitting around their homes, and for good reason! Our potted pals purify the air we breathe and add color and interest to any room. I can’t imagine living without them. But some folks tell me that they avoid bringing houseplants home because they forget to take care of them, and end up killing the poor things. Well, you can stop that noise. I have a whole list of plants that love to be ignored. This dream team can survive — and even thrive — in dark and dry conditions, making them ideal for dark winter rooms and dry indoor air. Here are my Top 5 choices:

Bromeliad. This long-living beauty prefers indirect light. The flower only blooms once, but the plant produces side shoots (or “pups”) that can eventually replace the original plant.

Jade plant. This succulent grows well in dry conditions and retains water better than most houseplants. It can easily go a month without watering.

Kalanchoe. The bright, cheerful blooms of this succulent brighten up any room. It tolerates temperature swings (perfect if you program your thermostat to lower the heat while you’re away from home), and likes dry conditions.

Philodendron. With glossy leaves and leggy stems, these plants like low light and do just fine when they’re kept on the dry side.

Schefflera. Also known as umbrella plants, when you grow them outside they’ll reach heights of 15 feet. Grown indoors with very little care, they’ll grow slowly and live a long time.

When you’re in a green-thumb mood, treat your green pals to my Indoor Clean-Up Tonic. Houseplants are exposed to all sorts of indoor pollutants, and grimy leaves can keep ‘em from growing their best. This tonic will unblock leaf pores and get plant squeaky clean and growing strong:

Mix 1 tablespoon each of dishwashing liquid and antiseptic mouthwash with 1 teaspoon each of ammonia and instant tea granules in a bucket with 1 quart of warm water. Pour the tonic into a handheld sprayer, mist-spray your plants, and wipe off any excess with a clean, dry cloth.