There is nothing like a green plant to make a house “homey.’ But you say, “I kill plants.” Guess what? There are a group of plants that almost anyone can grow. They are called succulents — think hen and chicks that are a mainstay in many gardens.
Start with an aloe vera plant. This spiky plant on your window sill will be the first thing to grab if you have a burn. Not, of course if it is a third-degree burn but one of those “oops, that pan was hot” burns. Just break a leaf off and rub it on the burn. The aloe will get about a foot tall in most households but can reach 2 feet if she is really, really happy. They like light and warmth but not direct sun. They don’t get too wide for most windowsills and only need to be watered every three weeks. It needs well drained soil so don’t plant her in a pot without a drain hole.
If you like the look of hen and chicks, there is a succulent that looks like a white version. It’s called ghost echeveria. This is a little girl, only about 6-12 inches tall and about that wide. It can bloom with pink or coral flowers if she is really happy. She looks great in a pot with other succulents as it brings out the gray color of her leaves. She likes full to part sun.
If you want a big succulent, plant a jade plant. This big girl can get 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. She doesn’t want a lot of water but requires full sun. Don’t house this plant if you have cats or a dog that like to eat plants as it is mildly toxic. Better get a spider plant for these guys.
Spider plants aren’t succulents but are very easy to grow. They can go without water for a week or so. If it is getting droopy, it’s yelling for a drink. This girl looks best where her baby spiders can hang. Cats love to play with the babies and chew on the leaves. If you do have a green eating cat, be sure to anchor this plant well. Plant in well-drained soil and in full to part sun.
One plant your pets will stay well away from is a succulent well named tiger jaws, or shark jaws. The leaves are equipped with serrated edges that look just like teeth. This is a little girl, only about 3-6 inches tall and 6 inches wide. It is a real slow grower so it won’t need potting very often. She likes a bit more water than the others. In the winter, let the soil dry out completely between watering.
There are two zebra plants. You want howothiopis facicata (HF), not aphelandra squarrosa. Hf is a succulent, green with white stripes, thus zebra plant. This is the plant to get if succulents are a new hobby. She’s not fussy. She likes part sun, little water, grows slowly and stays in the 3- to 8-inch range. She will bloom with white or pink flowers on top of a very long stem. She also “pups.” That is a small plant pop up under the main plant. Eventually you will need a wider pot if you let them grow or you can replant the pups in another pot to give away.
All these plants want well-drained soil so a pot with a drain hole. If overwatered in a drainless pot they will rot.
Have fun growing these “forget about me” plants. You too may become green thumbed.
Some info from an article by Samantha Johnson’s Northern Gardener magazine.