Houseplants I Haven’t Killed

By Kate Riley March 17, 2020

I took a walk around my neighborhood and downtown this morning, it was eerie seeing all the streets mostly empty. Many of the local stores have closed, and the bars and restaurants and gyms. Residents are staying indoors with the exception of walks around town for fresh air. I was at Kohl’s yesterday returning a sweater and the entire store was empty. I went to Target to pick up a few toiletries and people were hushed, moving quickly, and all standing far apart from each other. This situation has changed dramatically in the past few days.

I’m a social creature, so this lockdown will be challenging. It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I always go to the local Irish pub to celebrate, but not this year. I’m trying to stay positive. The sun is shining, the trees are in bloom, and we have food to survive two weeks, so for now, everything is fine. My heart is hurting for all the small businesses that will suffer in the upcoming weeks and months. I see this situation is an opportunity for us all to show more kindness, compassion, and generosity, right?

I was thinking, what do I write about in the coming weeks? Obviously, all things home related. Our homes are our sanctuaries, or at least they should be, so I’ll keep the content focused on that for the month of March. So I was looking around and thought hey, why not share the indoor plants that have survived and thrived under my care for at least a year. That’s a pretty good measure of success. Here are the houseplants that I haven’t killed. ;)


I’m a big believer in having a plant or two in every space. I find the more green leafy plants I add to a room, the more serene it feels. And we could all use more serenity now right? “Serenity Now!” I have had no luck with ferns. Every fern I buy dies. But these guys below are totally low maintenance, very forgiving, they even survive a few days without water, because I’m irregular with it and sometimes I’m just out of town.

Two large leaf plants I’ve had success with are Bird’s Eye Fern and Philodendron Selloum. I care for three Bird’s Nest Fern plants, they have beautiful curly long green leaves and is impossible to kill (in my opinion). Visitors always ask about them! I brought back a Philodendron Selloum from Las Vegas when we sold those properties, I’ve had it for at least four years. It has giant green leaves and thrives indoors in partial sun, and it doesn’t require a lot of water.

My sweet ZZ plant can live anywhere. I move it around all the time and it doesn’t care. It’s slow growing and low maintenance. So is my Dracaena Marginata, which does really well with low light.

‘Crasula Ovata’ Jade or Hobbit Jade has tubular finger like leaves and is also slow growing but worth the wait! I’ve had mine for about four years and it’s not even 2 feet tall yet. Jade does well in sunlight and with minimal water. (Another favorite jade plant I like is ripple jade.) No doubt you’ve noticed Snake Plant (also referred to as Mother In Law’s Tongue), it’s trending as an indoor plant for good reason, it’s tall spiky leaves fill vertical space nicely!


On the left is a mystery plant, I think it’s a Bird’s Nest Snake plant and I’ve had it for a few years, but I’m not 100% sure. Correct me if I’m wrong! On the right is a Dracaena White Bird with really pretty white stripes down the sides of each leaf.

The indoor plant I’ve had great success with is Schefflera, or Umbrella Tree. I have few varieties of this plant, some with variegated leaves. I have a Schefflera tree in my studio that I’ve grown for 7 years, it’s started at 12” and now it’s almost 8 feet tall!! I wrapped twinkle lights around it and it’s magical when lit up in the evening. :)

Schefflera never fails me, they thrive indoors even with the heater on in winter, and are so tolerant of irregular watering.

If you’d like to add any of the ones I mentioned to your collection, keep them in mind next time you’re at the garden center. Below are online sources to have them shipped to your home. One thing, if you have pets, before investing in any new plants, check the ASPCA list of plants that are toxic to pets!

zz plant  / schefflera

dracaena white bird / bird’s nest fern

hobbit jade / dracaena marginata

philodendron selloum / snake plant

The one plant I always kill is the Maidenhair Fern. I just can’t seem to keep it alive! I’ve failed so many times. There are so many plants that do well indoors, which ones have you had success with? I’d love to know, I’m always adding to my collection!


  1. Thanks, Kate. We are all in the same boat right now and will be so for awhile. Post what you feel and if you don’t want to post anything, don’t feel guilty. These are strange and difficult times and holding ourselves and our families together is the top priority. Best to you and your family!

    • These are really strange times, thank you for your comment, I believe if we all keep sharing at home activities, recipes, and encouraging words, this will be an era we look back on as one of love and compassion and when we were all united in a common goal.

  2. Kate, you’re doing it exactly right. I have some experience in social upheaval after the Chch quakes, and I can tell you that it’s important to keep getting outside in the fresh air, and to keep to some of your routines. If you can, organise some specific things that require all the family members to take part in the preparation. For example, a family picnic at the end of the week where one person plans and makes dessert, another is in charge of decoration etcetc, with the aim of surprising the other family members. Have little things to look forward to, and get kids especially involved and focused on small, fun tasks. Good luck. This isn’t going to be easy for anyone, anywhere.

    • This is a major life shift for us all. We must all adapt and reprogram our lives for the greater good. I love your suggestions, thank you.

  3. I come here to escape the news, everything now is doom and gloom. I read last night that my girls’ school (San Diego) may be closed the rest of the year (all of CA, actually). There are no words for that – I am not teacher material, yet now I have to add that to my ever-growing title right now of Woman/Wife/Mom/Cook/HouseCleaner/Teacher……’s surreal. A local garden nursery sent an email about their operations right now, said they’d be open for the next few days and how gardening is great activity right now…they even noted the “growing your own food” idea which is true, but not something Americans should be worried about (running out of food at the stores). For now, I think “regular content” sprinkled with “home survival, including sanity” posts are what we need :)

    • thank you Karen, we’re all in this together. Wow, it is surreal.
      be safe and well.

  4. I love houseplants. My favorite new one is an Angel Vine. I do have luck with Ferns but not so much Maiden Hair Ferns. You should read How to Care For Maiden Hair on A Storied Life Blog….very amusing! Stay well!

  5. Thank you for sharing. I feel guilty that I left my money tree and succulent at work on Friday, because I thought I would have the opportunity to water and care for it when I returned in two weeks, It seems like a small insignificant thing, but seeing your plants and those that are in my apartment remind me of how precious life is, when we take time to nurture all living things. I hope that the kindness towards others will continue and not end once this pandemic is over.

  6. I have a peace lily from my Granny’s funeral in 1989. I’ve divided it over the years, and I have three now. Honestly, that plant was with me in college, and it survived. That tells you it’s very hardy!!! I also love philodendron; it’s very forgiving as well. Love your plants!

    Wishing your peace and health during this challenging time.

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