10 fail-safe plants to keep indoors

Create some sunshine space in your home with these 10 low-maintenance indoor plants. Designer Beci Orpin compiles a list of her favourite plants that she's successfully kept alive for over a year - try them in your home!

1. Chain of hearts - also known as string of hearts and rosary vine (Ceropegia woodii)
These are possibly my most favourite indoor plant - I love the delicate trailing leaves so much! I have three at home - one in my bedroom (good light), hallway (low-moderate light) and sunroom (moderate light) - and they are all thriving. I pay them very little attention (apart from admiring their cuteness as I walk past), water them occasionally, and they just keep going. 

Loves: Any light it can get, but will grow faster with more light.
Hates: Overwatering, so make sure it’s in a pot that has good drainage.

2. Devil's ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
I have a few of these around my studio; one particularly huge one is growing up a stump and is slowly taking over everything. The studio has relatively low natural light but good artificial light, and these guys just keep on growing. I have occasionally forgotten to water them too, and it’s only when the leaves start to sag that I remember they might need a drink. But give them a good soak and they bounce back easily.

Loves: Low-medium light, moderate watering, leaves being wiped down with a wet cloth.
Hates: Nothing. This plant is very easygoing.

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3. Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans)
This is one of those plants that you can literally forget about for months and it will be okay. I know this because we have one in our warehouse in the staff bathroom, which is not used very often. I go to this bathroom once a month and there it is, still going strong. I’ll give it a little water, it gives me some ‘thank you’ plant vibes, and then I won’t see it for another month. Our relationship works out great with this set-up.

Loves: All round neglect. Does best in bright light, but will tolerate any conditions.
Hates: Overwatering, direct sunlight, attention.

4. Hoya - also known as wax plant
My gran’s house had one of those old-school sunrooms, like a covered porch that wrapped around the house. From memory it was full of the best ‘70s décor: large cane chairs, frilly cushions and lots of plants. This is where I came across my first hoya plant. Hers was a decent size and was covered in pink waxy flowers, and my four-year-old self just could not get my head around how those flowers were actually real, because they looked so fake! Years later, my head still boggles with this thought, but it’s part of the reason why I love hoyas. They come in lots of different varieties, often distinguished by numbers. I have a no. 12 hoya in my bathroom, which is growing rapidly, and a Curly Rope hoya in my lounge, which is growing very slowly but looks incredible.

Loves: You can find a hoya for almost any condition, so each will have its individual needs. Research before you buy.
Hates: Will not flower in low-light conditions.

5. Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
These guys are known for their indestructible nature, BUT I have killed a few. Now I know this is from overcrowding – this guy loves a lot of space in the pot. We currently have one in the windowless bathroom of our doughnut shop and it’s going great, so obviously can deal well with artificial light. We also have one on our warehouse landing and it’s doing okay too, though I think I’ll move him to the warmer surrounds of the office soon. These plants are also great air purifiers.

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Loves: Will do okay in any moderate temperature, but it is a desert plant so it thrives where it’s warm, but never in the direct sun.
Hates: Too much water – let it dry out in between waters; overcrowded pots.

6. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
I’ve had many of these guys over the years and they have always fared well. Currently, I have one at home, which has lived in many different locations: our freezing cold front room, our sunroom and our bedroom. Basically I just put it anywhere and then when it looks unhappy I move it to a different location. It seems to cope with this peripatetic lifestyle pretty well. It does like to be watered though, but it will tell you if it’s thirsty with droopy leaves.

Loves: Weekly watering. Most places, but will do best in slightly warmer areas (but not too hot). Will flower in warmer temperatures.
Hates: Not being watered.

7. Philodendron 
These guys come in many different shapes and sizes. I have a medium-sized one on my studio table, which seems to be getting bigger every time I look at it. So far it seems to love the artificial light it gets. I also have a large one in our warehouse, which was very sad and neglected, but after some intensive care it looks like it’s going to make it through. I have one in my lounge (Philodendron maximum), which is doing okay, but not loving life that much. I might have to move it.

Loves: Low-medium indirect light (but will do well in artificial light), moderate watering, leaves being wiped down with a wet cloth.
Hates: Direct sunlight.

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8. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
During my plant-shopping adventures, I never gave the rubber plant a second look until I was given one in a pale pink pot; the combination of the dark green leaves against the pretty pot had me positively salivating. Now it’s one of my faves. At first I put my rubber plant in our low-light lounge room, but after a while the leaves seemed to be dropping off a bit too quickly. I moved it to a spot in our sunroom, which was warm but with no direct light, and now it’s sprouting new leaves like there’s no tomorrow!

Loves: Bright indirect light and moderate watering (TIP: you’re watering it too much if the leaves start to turn yellow and drop off). These guys can be fickle, but find the right spot and they will thrive. Leaves need to be wiped down with a wet cloth.
Hates: Being moved around, colder temperatures, draughts.

9. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Another plant that thrives on neglect and is very easy to grow. We have one in our doughnut shop; it doesn’t get a whole lot of loving, yet it keeps on growing. I had the same plant in my studio for a while, and the lack of light in there almost killed it, but once it was moved into the brighter light downstairs it soon returned to full health.

Loves: Well-drained soil, bright light, cooler temperatures.
Hates: Heat and overwatering.

10. Succulents/small cactus
I have a bunch of different varieties on my lounge room windowsill; I love them because they look like a group of sculptures. They grow slowly (if at all) and ask for very little in life. You will need to experiment with different varieties to see which ones best work indoors. Most of them need some kind of sunlight and warmth, but overall they are pretty hardy.

Loves: Good drainage and warmer temperatures.
Hates: Overwatering.

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Let it be known:
There are lots of other great indoor plants out there. These are just the ones that have worked best for me. Also, be aware that some plants are toxic to pets. If this concerns you, or if your pets are particularly partial to eating plants, make sure you do some research first to check what indoor plants are the most pet-friendly.

This is an edited extract from Sunshine Spaces by Beci Orpin (Hardie Grant Books, RRP $39.99), which is available in stores nationally.

Photography: © Chris Middleton

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