The market for hard-to-kill plants is rife with promises of plant varieties that can survive life in an apocalyptic fall-out shelter. Similar to low-light, the term hard-to-kill reads as a challenge for newbie plant parents: "Do your worst, this plant will bounce back.”
Pothos, Hoya and Snake plants often top the charts in easiest houseplants because they can live in dim lighting and can endure long stretches of time without water. But even the hardiest plant needs attention. They require water as well as sunlight to make food, support their cell walls and stay alive, even if they can rebound from chronic neglect. Just because they can doesn’t mean they should have to.
Like us, plants are mostly water
Just like human beings, plants are composed primarily of water. Their pliable cells help to hold up their shape, and the size of their leaves largely depends on how much water they get during their initial growth.
Some drought-resistant species like palms, succulents, and ZZ plants store extra water in their leaves for dry periods of time. They are the camels of houseplants. There are tactics that plants use to sustain their lives in the worst of times, like dropping leaves and rerouting their water when resources are dwindling. But this is not an ideal long-term scenario for any plant, no matter how much they can take it.
Good care doesn’t have to equal a big time investment. Most plants only need one big gulp of water each week. If you are unsure how much water to give your plant, it’s better to err on the side of more water in once-weekly intervals than haphazard miniscule waterings.
You can run the plant under lukewarm or room temperature water in the sink, allowing the water to pass completely through the soil and out of the drainage hole for about ten seconds. This will ensure the soil is fully saturated and save time in the long-run.
Plants want to grow, not suffer
Consider the language used to describe supposedly unkillable plants: Easy, forgiving, low-maintenance, tolerant, won’t hold a grudge, survives neglect, etc… It’s essentially marketing how much suffering your houseplant can endure before death so you can guiltlessly forget about them. We think you can do so much better than that approach to plantcare.
Instead of slow plant torture, you can avoid neglect with simple habits. Share the watering chores with your partner or housemates, ask friends or neighbors to water your plants if you travel frequently, and (again) consider not embarking on the houseplant journey until you can dedicate time to weekly watering.
When bringing a new plant home, your first question shouldn’t be, “How little care can I get away with?” but instead, “What will make an ideal home for this specific plant? What room will they be happiest in? How much attention do they need to thrive?” If you truly do not have time to provide basic care for a plant or you live in a glorified dungeon, reconsider if living houseplants are right for you.