Brown leaves on houseplants

Brown Leaves On Houseplants: Caring For Houseplants With Brown Leaves

Houseplants are a fabulous thing to have around. They brighten the room, they purify the air, and they can even provide a little bit of company. That’s why it can be so distressing to find that your houseplant leaves are turning brown. Keep reading to learn more about why houseplants turn brown and what to do if you have houseplants with brown leaves.

Reasons for Brown Leaves on Houseplants

Houseplants are special because they’re kept in an unnatural environment. They depend upon you for everything nature would normally give them, and they let you know when you slip up. Brown leaves on indoor plants almost always means that the plants are getting too much or too little of something important.

Light – One very common problem with indoor plants is a lack of light. If your plant isn’t getting enough light, its leaves will start to turn brown. If the brown leaves are on the side of the plant facing away from the light source, you can be pretty sure this is the problem.

Water – Too little water is another frequent reason for brown leaves on indoor plants. In this case, the browning and curling usually starts at the base of the plant and moves up.

Humidity – Lack of humidity is another common problem, and one people don’t usually think of. Tropical plants, especially, need more humidity than a home is likely to give them. This usually causes the leaves to brown just at the tips. Try misting your plant with water, or setting the pot in a dish of small stones and water.

Heat – Too much heat can also be a problem, and it tends to lead to leaves that brown, curl, and fall off. This problem tends to come with too little water or too much sun, so try making those changes first. You can also move the plant to a spot where it receives better air circulation.

Caring for Houseplants with Brown Leaves

So what do you do when leaves on houseplant turn brown? Simple. In most cases, pinpointing the cause and remedying it will correct the issue. In the meantime, you can cut away the brown foliage and discard it. Once the causal agent has been fixed, new healthier foliage should begin to take its place.

While running some errands recently, I noticed a Chlorophytum – “spider plant” in a hanging basket.

From a distance it looked great. Lots of foliage and “pups” hanging down. Looking at it closer I noticed a lot of spider plant brown tips on the leaves.

Why Do Plant Leaves Turn Brown?

Growers don’t seem to have the same problem with brown leaf tips while growing the plants.

What is different from the growing end and moving indoors?

Yes, the plant does move inside and there is some stress from reduced lighting (using addition indoor lighting helps) and the plant acclimating. But, one answer may not seem quite so obvious.

What is it? – Water

Water is water – right?

Not so fast. Let’s take a quick look at the differences in the water a grower uses and the water most people use on their plants at home.

Growers Water

Most growers (producing indoor houseplants) have wells with electric or diesel pumps. The pumps draw water directly from the ground or soil.

Unlike the water that is found in most cities, this water hasn’t been treated by the local water treatment plant.

Some growers are beginning to collect and “clean” water before using it on their plants.

I didn’t say add chemicals but clean the water. They are doing this through REVERSE OSMOSIS.

Water is pumped through a screen that is fine enough to allow water molecules to pass, but stops dissolved solids, such as salts (fertilizer) and other chemicals.

This “clean” water helps growers produce plants that have less problems with disease and they have cleaner foliage.

Homeowner or City Water

Tap water or city water is different. The water that comes out of your kitchen faucet has most likely been treated.

Years ago cities began to add chlorine and fluoride to the water supply. Fluoride may be fine for your teeth but many indoor plants are not fond of it.

Lynn Griffith from A & L Labs states:

“Fluoridated city water usually has 1 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride, four times the amount considered safe for sensitive plants.”

His book is a MUST HAVE and MUST READ for any commercial grower of plants.

Don’t get the idea that if you water your plants with water from the kitchen they are going to die. What does this have to do with brown edges on leaves on your plants anyway?

Over time some of these minor chemicals such as boron and fluoride build up in the leaves.

This buildup shows itself in the form of brown plants leaves on plants or tip burn on Dracaenas, and spider plants. Spathiphyllums – the Peace Lily plant show distorted or yellow leaves with high boron.

There are other reasons for brown tips on indoor plants:

  • Plant pests such as spider mites and other pests
  • Too much fertilizer
  • Too much water leading to plant root rot
  • Not enough water
  • Chemical burn
  • Plant diseases such as powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spot, and fungal diseases.
  • Too much of direct sunlight
  • Bad air circulation
  • Not having enough nutrients (calcium deficiency, magnesium deficiency, iron deficiency, phosphorus deficiency

Using good water on your plants is a great way to start.

How Can You Get Good Water?

The easiest way to help yourself get “good” or “better” water for your plants, is by filling up a container with water from the sink, and let it sit overnight. This will allow at least the chlorine to dissipate.

Many people use distilled water because it lacks the chemicals found in tap water.

Professional plantscapers must deal with using and moving water around all the time. Some of them have no problems and others it’s a battle.

If you face browning tips on your plants, try setting out some water the night before you water.

Helping to stop the possible headache of brown spots caused by chlorine and fluoride is just one more way for you to enjoy your plants more.

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

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So you brought home that beautiful dream plant of yours, and at some point you noticed the dreaded brown and crispy edges on the leaves. There are actually several reasons why this happens. In this post, I will talk about 6 different reasons why your plant leaf edges are turning brown and crispy!

As with any diagnosis, I will provide you with some information and you will have to determine the cause based off of your houseplant practices.

1. Underwatering

Underwatering is one cause of why your houseplants may be exhibiting dry and crispy leaves.

Often times, if you let your houseplant’s soil get bone dry, especially for extended periods, the lower leaves will typically turn brown and crispy. Either just the edges, or even the whole leaf.

You can also just have brown leaf lips if you are not properly watering. If you are not thoroughly soaking your soil when you water, the presence of dry soil pockets in your pot will be problematic.

If you routinely continue this type of treatment, the roots in the dry pockets of soil will eventually die and contribute to brown leaf tips, or worse!

How Not to Underwater

Always throughly soak your soil! If you need to, take your plant to the sink and thoroughly soak it. Let all the water drain away, and then place your plant back in its growing location.

Try not to let your houseplant’s soil go too dry for too long. Of course, it depends on the plant. Some plants like to go completely dry, such as cactus and succulents.

But even they have their limits! You can easily deflate and dehydrate succulents by keeping them dry for too long.

For most leafy, tropical plants that are native to jungles, a good rule of thumb is to soak the soil, and then wait until the top 1/2 inch or inch of the potting mix is dry before watering again.

Get to know the growing needs of your specific plant.

2. Overwatering

Overwatering is a tricky term. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post on what overwatering really means. Be sure to check it out. It is important because the term is often misused and the incorrect interpretation can cause a lot of issues!

If you have “overwatered” your houseplant, this can cause the roots to rot. Ironically, by the roots rotting, this means that the plant is not able to take moisture from the roots to the stems and leaves. In the end, this essentially is “dehydrating” the leaves and causing brown tips!

How Not to Overwater

Never let your houseplant sit in standing water for an extended period of time. This can cause root rot!

Don’t water by a calendar. Water when your plant needs to be watered! If you tend to water weekly, but you find that the surface of the soil is still moist, then don’t water!

3. Tap Water Quality and Houseplants

Depending on the tap water in your area, unless it is particularly hard, it will be fine in many cases! I have been using tap water my whole life for my plants and haven’t had any major issues at all.

There are some things to avoid though. If you have a water softener system that uses sodium, this is toxic to plants, so please avoid this!

When I went through the master gardener’s online program from the Oregon State University extension, I learned some interesting things about water quality. According to this program, chlorine in tap water won’t do much harm to your plant.

However, the fluoride found in tap water in many areas will be problematic for some plants. Spider plants (Chlorophytum), corn plants (Dracaena) and some palms are sensitive and will get brown tips from fluoride.

How to Improve Water Quality for Your Plants

If you have ultra-hard tap water, or you use a water softener system, you will need an alternate source of water. Consider maybe installing a rain barrel to collect water.

Or if you don’t have that many plants, you can use a water filtration system or buy gallons of filtered water.

4. Your Plant May Need Repotting!

Have you ever had a plant that looked great and had no brown tips. Nothing changed with your routine care and your conditions. But suddenly the brown tips seem to appear out of nowhere?

Your plant may desperately need to be repotted! When you have a plant that is severely potbound, it will be difficult to keep up with watering it effectively.

You will find that it is hard to keep up with watering needs of a potbound plant. In addition, for a plant that is REALLY potbound, there will be little room for water if the roots are in tight quarters.

As a result of this, the plant roots will take in the water that they can, and essentially when the water “runs out” on its way as its traveling from the roots to the stems and leaves, there won’t be enough water to travel to the leaf tips, and thus they will turn brown.

This phenomenon happened in quite a dramatic fashion with my cast iron plant. It was a gorgeous, full specimen, and then suddenly I noticed the dreaded brown leaf tips!

I should have heeded my grandmother’s warning. She told me to repot it every single year. Now, she may have done overboard by doing it every year, but she had a valid point!

I’ve had my plant in the same pot for a few years, and it is definitely time to repot. I have also noticed this phenomenon with my peace lilies. One was perfectly green and beautiful, and then suddenly the brown leaf tips happened.

Tips on Repotting Houseplants

There are many signs that your houseplant needs to be repotted. One is that roots are coming out of the drainage holes.

But there are many other indications that your plant is pot bound. Check out my blog post on exactly that topic. I also talk about how to repot.

I also have another blog post where I demonstrate exactly how to repot a peace lily. These tips can be applied to the majority of houseplants.

5. Overfertilizing Your Houseplants

If you overfertilize, what happens is your plant roots will become damaged. And if your plant roots are damaged, they won’t be able to take water up effectively to distribute to the leaves, and therefore causing brown edges on leaves.

It’s as simple as that.

How Not to Overfertilize Your Plants

This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen people (and also MYSELF) make this same mistake. Not because I don’t know better, but because I’m sometimes lazy!

Make sure you measure whatever fertilizer you are using accurately. It can be easy to overadd fertilizer or create a solution that has a higher concentration than your plant likes!

I have my own measuring spoons that I use to measure out any fertilizer I use.

Also, if you are using fertilizer that you dissolve in water, make sure you accurately measure the amount of water. I use plastic jugs to make this easy.

Check out my fertilizer blog post for more information on types of fertilizers and how to use them.

6. Humidity is Too Low

Many plants like ferns, Calathea, Maranta, Anthurium, and many others like high humidity. You may get occasional brown leaf tips if your indoor humidity is too low in your home.

However, before you go after humidity, make sure that you have good watering practices. This will go a much longer way in the health of your plant! Good watering practices = healthy roots. And healthy roots = healthy plants.

Check out my watering myths blog post to be enlightened on the topic of watering!

So after you have your watering practices down pat, you can focus on humidity.

Tips to Increase Humidity

You guessed it. I do have a humidity blog post. But before you go read it, finish reading this post.

Here are some ways to increase humidity:

Group plants together. Plants transpire water and will create their own micro climate.

Set small plants on top of a tray with pebbles and water. The evaporating water will add humidity.

Get a humidifier! My favorite humidifier of all time is in the humidity blog post. Be sure to check it out if you have been looking for an amazing humidifier.

I can’t get by without it anymore during our winters where we have bone dry air. (My skin hates low humidity more than my plants hate it!)

Also, be careful not to have your plants next to a heating vent! This will just scorch and dry your plants unnecessarily.

Did you notice that I didn’t include misting as ways to increase humidity? You’ll have to read the humidity blog post to see why. It just doesn’t do anything for humidity.

I hope you found this blog post helpful. Have you discovered anything you’ve been doing to make your plants have brown and crispy edges?

Comment below!

Indoor plants not only act as a quick decorating tool, they also help clean the environment and air around them. But if you’re worried you have a black thumb, fret not! TODAY Home found the best 15 indoor houseplants that anyone can keep alive and thriving.

Note: If you’ve got kids or pets, be sure to check if the plant is toxic before purchasing.

Pothos Ivy

Getty Images

Why you want it: First of all, this indoor plant has an air-purifying quality that can absorb and strip toxins (like formaldehyde) from materials in the home (like carpet). How neat is that? It has trailing stems and works well in a hanging basket or as a climbing plant with some training onto a trellis or whatever object that will support it.

How to care for it: This indoor houseplant can produce stems that trail 8 feet or longer, so just cut them back when they get too long and your plant will continue to look full and healthy. It can thrive in an array of lighting conditions, but low light may diminish the leaves’ variegation. Allow soil to dry somewhat between watering. Pothos does well in an array of normal room temperatures.

Where to buy it:

Aloe Plant

Jeremy Hopley/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Why you want it: This succulent with long, pointed leaves has medicinal properties, as you probably well know. It can also grow 3-feet high to make a big impact indoors. Smaller varieties, like the popular aloe vera, work great in small, sunny indoor spaces.

How to care for it: Aloe likes room temperatures around 70 degrees and a lot of sunlight. As you might expect for a succulent, this indoor houseplant prefers dry soil, so avoid frequent watering for the best results.

Where to buy it:

Spider Plant

Lynne Brotchie/Garden Picture Library/Getty Images

Why you want it: These unusual-looking indoor plants add visual interest to a room, and they haven’t fallen out of fashion after years of popularity. Spider plants come in a number of varieties and work well as hanging plants.

How to care for it: Spider plants do well with evenly moist soil and bright or medium lighting conditions. Room temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees keep them thriving.

Where to buy it:

English Ivy

Getty Images

Why you want it: There’s a real timeless elegance to ivy, and it trails down furniture for a pretty effect. Plus, it’s easy to start a new plant for yourself or a friend by cutting off a section of the stem. Think instant hostess gift! (OK, not completely instant. It takes about two weeks or so to start growing.)

How to care for it: English ivy likes moist soil and cooler room temperature conditions, ranging from the mid-50s to about 70 degrees.

Where to buy it:

Jade Plant

Brick House Pictures/Iconica/Getty Images

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Why you want it: For those who love the look of a succulent — not to mention, the ease of care — a jade plant offers thick, lush leaves and visually interesting branches. It grows slowly and has the potential to live from the day your kids are born until their high school graduations … at the least! It also looks great in a pretty pot when paired with other succulent varieties.

How to care for it: Jade plants don’t require a lot of water, so keep soil somewhat dry. It prefers bright light and ordinary room temperatures.

Where to buy it:

Rubber Tree

Alexander Walter/Stone/Getty Images

Why you want it: This easy-to-grow indoor houseplant will grow into an 8-foot-tall tree for a major pop of greenery in a room. If you prefer a smaller plant, make your rubber tree into a shrub shape by pruning any long stems. Extra bonus: The dark green leaves have an attractive shiny finish.

How to care for it: Allow the surface of the rubber tree’s soil to dry out in between watering. It thrives in lighting conditions from medium to bright, and a range of room temperatures between about 60 and 80 degrees.

Where to buy it:


De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

Why you want it: The leaves of this pretty indoor plant can grow up to a foot long, and provide a tropical-looking accent to home decor. The whole plant can grow 6-feet high for a cheery room focal point.

How to care for it: Dieffenbachia thrives in normal room temperature not colder than the mid-60s. Keep the soil evenly moist, and provide medium or low-lighting conditions for the best result.

Where to buy it:

Peace Lily

Tom Dobbie/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Why you want it: Surely you’ve seen this indoor houseplant in many homes, since it has such pretty, curving white blooms and dark leaves and it’s easy to grow.

How to care for it: This houseplant favors low humidity and also low light, making it great for rooms with few windows. It prefers moist soil throughout the pot and tolerates standard temperatures to about 85 degrees.

Where to buy it:

Snake Plant

Verity Welstead/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Why you want it: It doesn’t get much easier than this indoor houseplant — also known as mother-in-law’s tongue. It has variegated leaves that grow upright, and some varieties have yellow or white edges. It has small, white flowers that bloom only rarely.

How to care for it: This indoor plant grows well in a whole range of lighting conditions. The air should be somewhat dry, as should the soil. Any normal room temperature should suit it just fine.

Where to buy it:

Ficus Plant

Sian Irvine/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Why you want it: This indoor tree has shiny leaves to add cheer to any indoor space. Its stems can be braided for a tidy topiary effect we love.

How to care for it: This tree likes full sun or at least bright, filtered light. Most varieties (there are about 800!) prefer several days of dry soil in between thorough watering. Room temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees work best.

Where to buy it:

Heartleaf Philodendron

Dave King/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Why you want it: This is a trailing indoor houseplant that loves to make its way down mantles or bookshelves. Its perky, dark green leaves come to a heart shape where they meet the stems.

How to care for it: This may be the quintessentially easy indoor plant. It thrives in a range of lighting conditions, from low to sunny, preferring indirect light. It does well anywhere close to standard room temperature. Let the surface of the soil dry between watering; it should not be constantly wet.

Where to buy it:


Matthew Ward/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Why you want it: A whole array of small indoor houseplants with textured, shiny, often colorful leaves fit into this category. Some popular, attractive and easy-to-manage indoor varieties include watermelon, red-edge and ripple peperomias.

How to care for it: Peperomias favor indoor temperatures from about 60 to 75 degrees and medium or low-lighting conditions. The surface of the soil should dry out between watering.

Where to buy it:

Shamrock Plant

Flickr/Life Through My Lens/Getty Images

Why you want it: This jaunty indoor houseplant has bright green leaves that look like shamrocks, plus sweet white flowers on tall stems.

How to care for it: This houseplant loves bright but indirect or filtered light. Allow the soil to dry out a bit between watering thoroughly about once per week.

Where to buy it:

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree

Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Why you want it: This lovely indoor tree (actually a species of ficus) has large, dark green leaves that seem to form the vague outline of a fiddle or violin — that’s how it got its name.

How to care for it: This indoor plant likes room temperatures between about 65 and 75 degrees, and exposure to bright to medium light. The surface of the soil should dry out slightly between watering. If it starts to look a bit pale, try moving it to somewhere less bright.

Where to buy it:

Areca Palm

Why you want it: This pretty indoor house palm is a great inspiration if you’re dreaming of tropical climates — or just trying to conjure the look in your home decor. It can grow to about 7-feet tall for a dramatic touch in a room, but a smaller pot will keep it contained if you’d like it to stay smaller

How to care for it: The areca palm does well in indirect light. Keep the soil somewhat dry, only watering on alternate weeks or so.

Where to buy it:

See this NYC apartment with more than 600 plants

Oct. 12, 201701:43

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer, Village’s chief lifestyle blogger and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter.

This article was originally published on Feb 12, 2016.

Not much can cause your shoebox of an apartment to feel like a lush, tropical paradise than indoor trees. A few things are non-negotiable to keep so grand a specimen alive and well—namely, tall enough ceilings to house it comfortably and enough natural light to make it feel like home (home being its native habitat, of course). So no, the dark interior corner of a room isn’t probably the best place for it. And yes, you’re probably better off buying a young tree and letting it grow and adapt to your home’s conditions (which will be cheaper than buying a huge tree, anyway). It is doable! Many trees and tropical indoor plants can thrive indoors if cared for properly. Read through to discover 17 of the best indoor trees and tropical plants that will thrive inside your living room.

1. Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia)

“For jungle vibes,” says The Sill’s Eliza Blank. “Indoors, these usually max out around 6 feet tall and the leaves naturally split as they mature.” Needs: Bright sunlight and high humidity.

2. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

“For that mid-century modern feel,” Eliza recommends these tall, spindly plants. “Indoors, they can grow to well over 10 feet, but it won’t be straight vertical growth.” Needs: Medium to bright, indirect sun (“it will drop leaves if it doesn’t get enough sunlight,” she cautions).

Photo: Courtesy of The Sill

3. Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

Though they somewhat resemble Christmas trees (and are sometimes used in their stead), this tropical plant has much softer, more delicate needles. Needs: Full sun and acidic soil.

4. Fishtail Palm (Caryota)

Featuring lush, jagged-edge leaves, this bushy palm varietal will transport any room to the tropics. Needs: Abundant bright light and lots of water.

5. European Olive (Olea europea)

So long as you’re wiling to move them outside eventually (or regularly, during summer months) olive trees in containers can be very happy indoors for short periods of time. Needs: Good drainage and ample direct sun.

Before we get started, let’s address an uncomfortable truth: there is no such thing as an indoor plant.

The combination of dry, still air, irregular watering and limited light isn’t something any plants are naturally suited to. Simply put, they all prefer to live outdoors.

But some tough plants are more tolerant of these unnatural conditions and make a great choice for beginners, those who are forgetful, or to boost the confidence of “black thumbs”.

“Plant whisperer” Jason Chongue has been passing on his knowledge to ABC Life for a series on indoor plants.

While Jason is an expert with literally hundreds of plants in his home, he grows a lot of these “easy” plants himself, which he calls “icebreakers”. Despite being tried-and-tested old favourites, these beauties can still strut their stuff on Instagram and look fabulous.

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1. ZZ is the tops

Close-up of a Zanzibar Gem plant stem against a white background.(Unsplash: Pawe Czerwiski)

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, otherwise known as the ZZ plant or Zanzibar Gem, has pairs of dark glossy leaves along its stiff, upright stems that are great for showing off your most stylish container.

While they tolerate low light, they will do best in brighter conditions, but out of full sun. If they’re looking a bit long and lanky, they’re not getting enough light.

The plant has thick, fleshy roots that store water so are very forgiving; they’re more likely to die of drowning than drought.

Allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings and keep leaves shiny by wiping with a damp cloth occasionally.

2. Keep the aspidistra flying

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume. Watch Jane profiles a plant that’s an indestructible old favourite, the Aspidistra elatior.

The nickname of Aspidistra elatior — the cast iron plant — says it all, really.

A favourite of the Victorian era, they tolerated being stuck in a pot in the corner of a drawing room with little natural light (in their natural habitat across Asia, they grow in the shade of other trees).

Aspidistra also cope with a wide temperature range.

The tall, upright, blade-like leaves grow directly from the rhizome — an underground stem that stores food and water, and which allows the plant to tolerate neglect. Look out for striped or spotted variations for added interest.

3. The Devil cares for his own

Pothos is a popular indoor plant option.()

Epipremnum aureum earned its common name, Devil’s Ivy, from its reputation for being hard to kill — it can become a weed in tropical areas.

It was once classified in the genus Pothos, and this name has also stuck. It is often confused with Philodendron hederaceum, as they look very similar and enjoy similar conditions.

In the wild, Devil’s Ivy climbs other trees using aerial roots, which can be encouraged indoors by growing near a thick pole.

More often its trailing vines are allowed to drape gracefully as a hanging plant.

It is easy to propagate from cuttings, only needs watering when the soil feels dry, and tolerates a range of conditions but prefers bright (though indirect) light.

There are varieties with speckled leaves.

4. Working in peace

Be aware: Peace lily plants can be poisonous to pets.(Unsplash: Mitch Lensink)

Native to tropical rainforests in South and Central America, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp) has become an office favourite because of its hardiness in the face of air-conditioning, heating, low light and neglect.

Its leaves will start drooping when it needs a drink, but it will look its best — and start producing the white flowering stems — if watered when the surface of the potting mix is still just moist.

It’s high on the list of air-cleaning plants.

However, it is also on the list of toxic plants, so keep them out of reach of pets and toddlers.

5. The delicious monster

Don’t forget to clean your plants and remove any dust.(Unsplash: Bart Zimny)

Also called the Swiss cheese plant (for the unusual holes in the leaves) or the fruit salad plant (for the taste of its edible fruit) Monstera deliciosa has been a favourite with interior decorators for years.

Its huge, glossy green leaves epitomise the lush tropical aesthetic, and its unusual variegated versions can fetch high prices online.

They can get big quite quickly but are easy to prune and propagate.

Native to Central America rainforests, they like to be kept humid, and prefer bright, indirect light.

6. Snake plant

Native to tropical West Africa, Sansevieria trifasciata forms dense stands of architectural, upright leaves in open woodland.

It spreads via rhizomes, which store nutrients and help the plant survive tough conditions.

Another fascinating drought adaptation is that it closes the pores on its leaves during the heat of the day to preserve moisture, and ‘breathes’ at night when it’s cooler.

Using well-drained potting mix and allowing it to dry out between waterings is a key to its survival indoors.

It will cope with (but not thrive in) dark corners or full sun but prefers bright light and warm conditions away from draughts.

There are mottled and striped variations.

7. An over-frondly fern

The trouble with many tough, hardy plants is that they can become weeds.

This has happened with this highly attractive fern — commonly known as the fishbone fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) which is often confused with its American cousin the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’).

The fishbone fern is native to northern NSW but has become a weed around Sydney, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of Queensland — an important reminder to dispose of unwanted plants responsibly.

However, kept indoors, Nephrolepis does no harm.

Both fern species have long, lacy fronds and like a cool, well-lit spot away from direct sun, with good humidity, tolerating drought better than wet feet.

They look great in a hanging basket but can get quite large.

8. Super-powered spider plant

The Chlorophytum comosum makes a great hanging plant.

With long, thin leaves arching gracefully over containers, the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) makes a great hanging plant.

It produces little white flowers on long stems that also carry plantlets, and these will eventually grow roots and fall off as a new plant. It is also really tough, can go a long time between waterings, and tolerates dark conditions or bright light.

They are a bit of a ‘granny’ plant that were overused in the 1970s but are now enjoying a comeback, along with macrame pot hangers from the same era.

An air-cleaning plant that is non-toxic to pets. Winning!

9. A cutie with lots of heart

Only water your chain of hearts when the soil is dry.(Supplied: Alice Crowe)

While large, lush leaves may conjure up the tropics, few plants can cascade down a bookshelf as sweetly and delicately as the cute little chain of hearts (Ceropegia woodii).

Native to southern Africa, it is a succulent vine whose trailing stems produce pairs of heart-shaped leaves and pretty, tubular pink flowers.

It needs excellent drainage, as do all succulents, and should only be watered when dry.

It likes a bright position (the leaves will fade if it’s too dark) and will produce a woody water-storing swelling at its base as it ages.

10. Forever green


Aglaonemas (ag-li-o’-knee-ma), aka Chinese evergreens, are so easy to grow and propagate that there is now a vast range of variations that all share the basic glossy, spear-shaped leaves (reminiscent of peace lilies, which are related) but patterned in silver, green, yellow, cream, red or pink.

Native to subtropical forests in Asia and New Guinea, they are attractive plants that will thrive even in the shadiest spots.

All they ask is to be kept warm (above 15°C), away from full sun, and to be watered when the potting mix is dry to the touch.

11. On a wing and a prayer

Prayer plants — members of the Ctenanthe genus — are hardy, tropical understorey plants from South America that have a range of colours and patterns with attractive stripes and variegation on the leaves; many have purplish undersides.

They are called prayer plants because some species fold up their leaves at night, like hands in prayer.

Indoors they prefer a well-lit, warm spot (above 13-15°C) and don’t like to be waterlogged; allow soil to dry out between waterings.

12. Straight as an arrow

The leaf shape changes as the plant matures, so some cut off the climbing stems to keep the plant bushy and the leaves arrow-shaped.(Supplied: Alice Crowe)

Commonly called arrowhead, Syngonium podophyllum is a groundcover from tropical America, related to philodendrons. The best-known form has large, heart-shaped white and green leaves but there are loads of new cultivars being bred.

All like temperatures above 16°C and prefer a well-lit, humid spot away from direct sun, although they will cope with some shade.

Let the top of the potting mix dry out a little between waterings.

The leaf shape changes as the plant matures, so some cut off the climbing stems to keep the plant bushy and the leaves arrow-shaped. Look for the cultivar Moonlight, which tends to climb less than Pink Neon and White Butterfly.

Another toxic plant to keep away from toddlers and pets.

Note: Many plants can become weeds outside; always dispose of unwanted plants responsibly and check with your local council or state environment department for any restrictions.

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