indoor gardening:
survivor plants for every personality

Indoor gardening is like a marriage. You have to find the right one for you - a plant that matches your personality, lifestyle, and skill.

Whether you're a busy body always on the go, a nurturer who tends to go overboard on nurturing, a neat freak who can't stomach fallen leaves or a green-thumb gardener living in a home with little natural night, some plants can thrive in your home.

Use this indoor gardening guide to compatible plants to find your personality type, and which house plants are a life-match for you - and which you should avoid. 

1.  Indoor Gardening Best Bets for Busy Bodies

You're always on the go. You're hardly ever home. Chances are that weeks will go by before you even remember that you have plants. 

Variety of houseplants on shelves.

You can still sustain life. (Really.) Try these hardy plants:

  • Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)OK. This one's not going to win any beauty awards - consider it more a conversation piece. Mostly, it's a big bulb that sticks up out of the ground with long leaves coming out of the top like a colossal ponytail. All it needs is a spot with bright light. Water it, then leave it alone until dry. Warning: If it likes you, it can grow up to six feet.
  • Jade plant (Crassula argentea): This is a member of the succulent family, which means it stores water in its fleshy leaves. This plant has a sturdy, treelike trunk, and increases to three feet tall. Place it in a window or glass door where it gets some direct sun. It only needs watering about once a month during the winter; weekly the rest of the year.
  • Sweetheart plant (Philodendron scandens): These vining plants with heart-shaped leaves do well in bright, indirect light. Just put the pot on top of a bookshelf in a bright room and forget about it. Water it every other week. Fertilize in spring and summer. Sparingly.

Avoid: Most flowering plants.

2.  The Earth Mother

You're a nurturer with a capital N. You love everything to death - literally. You over water, over fertilize, over fuss. Here are some of the indoor plants that can best withstand the love you have to give (and don't mind being over watered):

  • Acorus: This grassy plant loves water - lots of water. The only trick to keeping it happy is to place it in an unheated room where it can stay cool.
  • Azalea (Rhodendron simsii): This dwarf shrub only grows to about 18 inches. To keep it blooming, keep the soil wet and put the plant in a window that has bright but not direct sun. It also needs a cool room. Remove faded blooms if you want it to rebloom.
  • Umbrella plant (Cyperus): This plant has long, floppy, grassy leaves that radiate from a central point in the shape of an umbrella. Put it in a bright spot that does not get direct sun and water and mist it frequently. With love (and lots of water), it will grow to be about three feet tall.

Avoid: Cacti and succulents.

3.  The Neatnik

We like everything nice and tidy, don't we? No messy leaves in your hallway. No dust on your stalks. Here are the house plants least likely to offend:

  • Air plants (Grey tillandsias): No, they're not a joke. (See photo, right.) They're not the botanical equivalent of pet rocks. These are plants that live on air. They have furry scales that absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. No soil. No fertilizer. No muss.
  • Rubber tree (Ficus elastica): This plant has thick, broad, five-to-10-inch leathery leaves that are easy to wipe clean. The sturdy leaves don't easily fall off - and if they do, they're easy to pick up — only water when soil is parched.
  • Cactus: These come in all sizes and shapes. They don't grow too much. They don't shed. They don't need dusting. And they make visiting kids keep their pesky fingers to themselves.

Avoid: Flowering plants, ficus, scheffelera.

4.  The Cave Dweller

You're an indoor gardener confined in a house with little or no natural light. All your plants do great for a while, then grow tall and spindly and then keel over. Short of moving, here are some solutions:

  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema): This low-maintenance shade lover has broad, dark green leaves that grow in clumps up to 3 feet tall. It likes warm air and indirect light. It's touted as a good air purifier.
  • Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior): Any plant with a name like that has to be easy, right? And this plant (photo, right), which boasts glossy, dark green leaves, does have a strong capacity for neglect. It can tolerate low light and little water. Put it in a corner and watch it grow up to three feet tall. Repot every five years.
  • Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans): This leafy palm can thrive in low light if you water sparingly. It also likes cool nights.

Avoid: Most flowering plants.

Have at it! Pick your dream plant, and have fun with indoor gardening. And if you turn out to be incompatible after all, remember what your mama said: There's more than one fish in the sea. Don't give up: try another.