I am often asked about house plants that one cannot kill. I am reminded of a horticulturalist who said 'I never feel that I've gotten to know a plant until I kill it'. Growing plants is like having a relationship with another person. You give them a bit of attention and they thrive.
So what are some of those hardy plants? Philodendron selloum which is commonly called Elephant Ear Philodendron is a personal favorite. I bought a small one in the supermarket many years ago. It sits in a pot overlooking a north window. Elephant ear philodendron is grown for its beautiful leaves. I turn it weekly and water it deeply about every week or so. Over time the plant becomes pot bound and gets smaller leaves which turn yellow. I remove the plant from the pot, divide it into several pieces using a sharp knife. I add fresh soil to the pot. I then spread out the roots of the pieces I want to replant in the pot followed by a gentle watering. The extra pieces are used to fill more pots or to give as gifts to friends.
Birds-Nest Sansevieria trifasciata is a type of snakeplant or mother-in-law's-tongue. I got a rosette from a pot of my mother's and have grown and shared it ever since. The leaves are elliptic and arranged in spirals. In spring several of the rosettes send up spikes of greenish flowers. This is a great plant for those of you who forget to water!
Many of you have Aloe vera somewhere in your home. Aloe vera is famous for its use as a topical skin treatment for burns, sunburn, or scratches. It is also used in anti-wrinkle creams and in some cosmetics. A leaf is broken and the gelatinous contents are used. Since aloe vera is a succulent it holds a large amount of water. This makes it a great plant for folks who don't water very often.
How about the Euphorbia milli commonly known as Crown of Thorns This is a real favorite plant for those of us who want a plant for a sunny place who don't want to move it to a cold place later on to get the plant to flower. You can neglect it. You don't ever have to mist it. It does take a rest and may lose some leaves but soon you will see new buds have formed. You can take stem cuttings to share with your friends. Just watch out for the thorns! The flowers of Crown of Thorns are actually rather small. It is the bracts (modified leaves) which are a bright red and extremely showy. By the way these are considered to be lucky plants in Thailand.
Then there are the Tillandsia. Although there are many species you needn't worry about it because the ones sold in most nurseries are simply called Air plants or Tillandsia without the species name. It is common to see several placed together to form a ball which can be hung in a window. Frequently Tillandsia are sold already mounted on a piece of bark which is also a convenience for the buyer. The plants don't need to be fertilized as they pick up particles which fall out of the air although I have to confess that once in a while I soak mine in water taken from the fish tank. Their care? Simply soak them in water periodically. If you are really lucky they will flower.