Apart from beach trips, merry-go-rounds, and refreshing frozen drinks, one of the great joys of summer for me is visiting Home Depot and wandering around the gardening section. Seeing those colorful annual flowers and pots of herbs and veggies is an instant mood-booster, and it's not hard to understand why people love to fill their homes and offices with greenery. I also happen to be something of a dud when it comes to keeping leafy things alive, so I'm also glad that there are so many kinds of hardy plants that are hard to kill.
Science agrees: Studies have shown that having plants in your house or workplace offers both mental and physical benefits. A famous NASA study from 1989 found that common indoor plants, such as English ivy and ficus, can remove the carcinogenic chemicals benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Furthermore, one of the NASA scientists who headed the study told Time that plants with big, broad leaves are the best at removing toxins (we're looking at you, elephant ear). Another study, from Washington State University's horticulture department, showed that rooms with plants collected 20 percent less dust than rooms without plants — a definite benefit for families with allergies, asthma, or other dust-sensitive health conditions.
As if that weren't enough, other research confirms that having or caring for plants can increase your focus, improve your mood, and even make you a better worker. A Norwegian study published by HortScience showed that employees who kept plants near their desks showed more productivity and took fewer sick days.
So if you're looking to brighten up your home or desk, but don't have lots of time or talent to devote to pruning, watering, and fertilizing, put these hardy plant varieties on your list when you're at the garden center. (But be sure to keep your potted pals away from pets and small children; some plant varieties are toxic if eaten.)
You've seen this familiar spiky-tipped plant in any number of offices and homes before, and there's a good reason for that. The snake plant, also known as "mother-in-law tongue," is a succulent, like a cactus, which means it needs very little water. In fact, noted HGTV, the snake plant will stay healthy and green for weeks even if you ignore it completely.
This "leggy" plant is not only easy to grow, it also pays you back for that minimal care by giving you "babies" (offshoots of the main plant), which can be cut and rooted in separate pots. The Spruce said that the spider plant can grow two to three feet wide, so it will need a bigger pot periodically.
Pretty as well as practical, the peace lily will add a nice touch to your workspace or coffee table. Greatist recommended keeping this plant in a shady area and maintaining moist soil for best results.
Plants in the Dracaena family are frequently cited among the easiest-to-care-for room-cleaning greens. Not to be confused with the plant that gives us corn on the cob, this variety of Dracaena will "tolerate many abuses," according to guidetohouseplants.com. Corn plants, which are tree-like with large leaves, will live a good long time if kept out of direct sunlight and not overwatered.
This glossy-leaved plant gets high marks from Guide to Houseplants for its ease of care. All it needs to thrive is a little water now and then and a spot that gets indirect sunlight.
Short for the tongue-twisting name Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, this attractive houseplant "practically thrives on neglect," assures Guide to Houseplants. The ZZ's minimal watering needs mean that you can go on vacation without having to ask a neighbor to watch your plant.
Any list of easy-maintenance plants has to include cacti; how can you go wrong with a plant that thrives in the arid desert? The Texas A&M College of Agriculture, which knows a little something about southwestern plants, recommended repotting your cactus when you get it home, since it may have absorbed all the nutrients from the old soil. Transfer it to a larger pot and fill with a mix of one part cactus potting mix and one part coarse gravel. Keep it in a sunny spot of the house, water about once a month, and feed with a dilute plant food three times a year.
Famous for its medicinal powers — the gel-like inside of the leaves can be applied to minor burns and rashes — the aloe plant is also a resilient addition to your home decor. It's another succulent that should be kept in cactus potting mix and placed in a pot with lots of drainage holes, explains the website Gardening Know How. Keep the pot in a sunny south- or west-facing window, and water only when the soil is absolutely dry, making sure that excess water drains out of the pot holes.
If you only know this variety from the old song "High Hopes" ("Just what makes that little old ant/Think he'll move a rubber tree plant?"), then you're missing out. DIY Network's garden experts put the rubber plant, or ficus elastica, on their list of hard-to-kill greenery. They recommended putting it in indirect sunlight (the brighter the room, the darker the leaves become), and watering only after the soil is dry.
Another Dracaena variety, the dragon plant is "good for the young and modern" family, plant expert Debra Prinzing told Apartment Therapy. She added that the dragon comes in a variety of colors, and that it does best in indirect sunlight with consistent watering.
With its dramatic leaves, the prayer plant will make a statement in whatever space it occupies. It gets its unusual name for the way its leaves fold up at night, resembling a pair of praying hands. The Spruce website advises keeping your prayer plant in a sunny spot in a warm environment; Gardening Know How adds that it needs high humidity and moist-but-not-soggy soil to keep the leaves from browning. Inspect it periodically for spider mites and other pests.
Better Homes & Gardens notes that peperomias are famously easy to grow, and depending on the variety (there are more than 1,000 types!), they can thrive either in low light or indirect sun. It prefers a humid environment, but your peperomia will probably be forgiving if your home is less than tropical. The key to successful growing is to avoid overwatering and to keep the soil well drained.