The Best Plants for the Neglectful (And Why You Should Have Them)

I come by my plant lady status honestly. I grew up in a house of plants. My mom is a great gardener and has always had tons of plants crowding out all of the windows. Even when I was in college, she would frequently bring a potted plant for me to take care of. I have no idea how many of them I killed, but I’m pretty sure it was all of them.

I used to find plants extremely challenging. If I was up for taking care of them, they usually died in under a week. It was quite discouraging. However, plants like my Moon Cactus Mel and my rather tempestuous Jade lasted throughout my college years. These plants thrived on subtle neglect.

I would put them in a window and forget about them for weeks. Then, they would get a good soak. Lather, rinse, repeat. Or rather forget, water, forget.

When Mark and I got married my mom started gifting me cuttings of her old stand-bys: spider plants and goosefoot (also known as arrow) plants. My husband and I took these to Minnesota with us, along with a Christmas cactus.

Low these many years later, 16 to be exact (!), the descendants of these plants still create fresh air in our house.

Spiderplants, Goosefoot Plants, and Christmas Cactus

All three of these plants are easy to propagate and should be very inexpensive to come by, especially if you know anyone that has any of them.

They can all be propagated by the water method, which is by far the easiest method there is.

In the case of a spider plant, you remove a “baby” plant. Sometimes this plant will have roots already growing on it, sometimes it won’t, but you just stick it in some water until roots do grow.

For the goosefoot plant, the process is even easier. Just take a leaf with a stem and stick it in water.

For a Christmas cactus you just take a couple of flat sections and stick those in water.

I always leave my propagating plants on the window ledge above the kitchen sink, (or on the closest ledge to the sink) that way it is super easy to keep the water level up.

Air Cleaners

One of the reasons that I love plants is that they are known to clean the air in your home. Indoor air quality is abysmal, especially if you have recently bought new furniture or renovated your home. Plants have been proven to clean the air of the harmful chemicals that are off-gassed by furniture, paint, or construction materials.

Ok, I should not have just done a search for that NASA study, now I have a couple more plants that I may have to buy soon!

Anyway, plants clean your air. Spider plants, which are easy to grow and easy to multiply, are always high on the list of plants that clean the air. If you are willing, you could shell out for a $15 hanging plant at any big box store and create enough baby spiders to fill every room in your house and then some.

The other plant that is extremely good for air quality is the Christmas Cactus. These little guys not only clean the air, but they do so at night. So while you are sleeping the plant is working hard converting CO2 to O2.

That indescribable quality

One thing that I love the most about my plants is just the sheer joy that I get from looking at them.

Sure, when one of them is on a slow march to death like my little Rex, I get sad, but most of them are healthy, or at least hanging on to the illusion of being so.

And, that touch of green. That joy of knowing that something is growing. Cleaning.

It brings me happiness.

My plants ask for so little and give me so much. But, sometimes, even that little bit has been too much for me.

But what if you don’t have time or you kill everything you touch?

First, I’m going to say what no one ever says.

You are normal.

Everyone kills plants.

Lots of them.

Even those of us who have a lot of plants have killed even more.

But, not only that.

So many of us “don’t have time.”

Really, what it is is that we don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with even one more thing.

I spent years in that place. Sometimes, when I had extremely young children brushing my teeth seemed like a bridge too far.

I’ve been there.

And, sometimes plants don’t bring joy. Sometimes they spark guilt.

And, it is ok in those times to let the plants go.

After my youngest child was born I had two plants that sat on our kitchen floor. One was a spider plant. One was a goosefoot plant. Neither of these plants got optimal sunlight. Really, let’s be honest, I don’t know if they got any sunlight. Most of the time when I actually remembered to water them it went right through because the soil was so dry and compacted.

Somehow, those plants held on.

I think they lived on the floor for over a year, I don’t remember. I just know I kept thinking that I should throw them out, but then, about a month later I would water them.

And, now cuttings that I took from those plants are thriving in my house.

It was a long road for those two.

And they didn’t even survive it. In the end, I did toss them.

Plants can give you life

Sure, it is possible to kill plants by not watering them enough. (I think I killed an “indestructible” Snake Plant that way last year) But, it is more likely that if you have a black thumb or the kiss of death that you are taking care of your plants too much. That you are giving them too much water. That you are loving them, because you are afraid of failing.

And, I hear you.

There is no more tangible evidence of your “failure” than black leaves and rotting stems and a plant literally falling over and out of the pot when you water it (Snake plant, last year, see above).

Plant death does not equal failure, it equals progress. It means you tried.

It means that you were willing to go out on a limb (ha!) in order to find beauty.

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