The Quest for Immortality… in Houseplants

I am plagued with very little natural light at home and very little natural light at work, so, through a many-years-long series of trial-and-error experiments, none of which were mad. NONE OF WHICH WERE MAD I TELL YOU.  I have divined a very VERY short list of the Absolutely Impossible to Kill NIGH-IMMORTAL HOUSEPLANTS.

 

Croton – this is a lovely plant that often has shades of red and yellow on the leaves.
Not to be confused with cubes of crunchy bread, or Cybermen. I can’t say much about it, but there was one that my mother got in a get well arrangement that hung around for months and months with very little care, so I expect they fall into the category of “thrives on neglect”.

 

ZZ Plant – it looks like a Cycad but it isn’t! I named mine Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander for obvious reasons (and also I name most of my plants after wizards. My [not very healthy] Hawthoria is named Howl.). Ok I’ll get botanical for a second.I really like Cycads, ever since I read The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks. So I sort of wanted a cycad. This is, as I said, not a cycad, but it is called ZZ which stands for Zamioculcas zamiifolia because it has leaves (foliage) that look so much like a Cycad of the genus Zamia – hence “zamiifolia“. And that’s how you decipher plant names, for the record. Anyway I give mine a good soak only once a month, and not much light, and it’s growing like gangbusters!

 

Snake Plant (also called Mother In Law’s Tongue) – several species of Sansevieria –  this thing “thrives on neglect” they say. And they are right! You can throw it in the dark corner and water it once every few months and it will probably still not die. My cat has knocked mine over twice, though, and attempted to bite the tough leaves. They also seem to have their own international society where they do… something. Most likely involving Death Eaters. I mean hey, it’s SNAKE PLANTS.

 

Dumb Cane – Dieffenbachia –  this one is so easy to grow you often see it in offices/get-well-soon planters. But don’t eat it! This one’s poisonous in a particularly painful way. Did you see the disgusting episode (or two) of House where the guy’s tongue was all swollen? Yeah don’t eat this. It has Calcium Oxalate crystals in it that form needle-like crystals right into the moisture in the tongue (throat, etc.). So does skunk cabbage and just about anything in Araceae. Don’t eat any of them. But I’m probably the only one around here that sticks wild plants in my mouth so I’m preaching to the choir. Since it is an arum it has flowers that look “like calla lilies”, with a spathe in the middle, and the ones in the office here have little red berries. Don’t eat those either.

 

Dracaena – these come in many forms and so I can’t tell you how to identify one, exactly. But some other person with a lot of time on his or her hands made a whole domain dedicated to them and so I shall link you.

 

All of these plants are easy to find anywhere from a nursery, to a hardware store, to a WalMart. So if you have no green in your thumb, take heart – some plants will grow anyway!

 

NOTE: If you Google “#1 houseplant” you will get Golden Pothos (Devil’s Ivy).

This is, in fact, living in my cubicle right now, but it isn’t mine – it’s the company’s plant. It was invading my cube so I cut a bunch off and made it into a “laurel wreath” to put on the IT guy’s head yesterday. So I will say it’s certainly another good, healthy plant, but I haven’t raised any myself to know how to care for it.