I'm not an expert on plants, but would like to add some plant life to my apartment. I'm looking for good choices that:

  • don't require direct sunlight
  • require minimal watering
  • survive for at least a few months at a time
  • have low risk of attracting pests

Bonus points for "interesting to look at". Cacti seem low maintenance and resilient, yes? What other choices are there that I might consider?

  • 4
    You also should consider the toxicity of the plants if you have pets or small children. Commented Jul 13, 2011 at 15:38
  • Polyester, pretty trouble free. Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 21:22

12 Answers 12


Many houseplants can withstand low light intensity. You can google "houseplant". Some of them can clean the air too, according to a research done by NASA. I have a copy of that research in google doc here.

Here is a shortlist of houseplants:

  • Hedera helix English ivy
  • Chlorophytum comosum spider plant
  • Epipiremnum aureum golden pothos
  • Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa' peace lily
  • Aglaonema modestum Chinese evergreen
  • Chamaedorea sefritzii bamboo or reed palm
  • Sansevieria trifasciata snake plant
  • Philodendron scandens `oxycardium' heartleaf philodendron
  • Philodendron selloum selloum philodendron
  • Philodendron domesticum elephant ear philodendron
  • Dracaena marginata red-edged dracaena
  • Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana' cornstalk dracaena
  • Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig' Janet Craig dracaena
  • Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii' Warneck dracaena
  • Ficus benjamina weeping fig

I recommend Snake Plant, Golden Pothos and Spider Plant myself. Golden Pothos is very hard to kill because they are pretty good at different environment. You can also plant Golden Pothos in water within a glass container which is beautiful. Among all of them, snake plant require minimum attention. You can water once a month.

On the other hand, cacti require good sunlight and prefer hot, dry environment. In low light environment they don't look very good.

  • To add to that list, I've had good experience with the Madagascar Dragontree. It's an interesting plant in that its leaves will fall off and where they connected to the trunk becomes the bark. They're a mid-level/diffused light plant that works well indoors and as long as you keep the soil moist, they should be happy. It is a mild toxin to dogs (my large dog would just throw up after eating it), though, so that is something to consider in general if you have pets.
    – Shauna
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 18:06
  • It should be noted that these plants actually "clean" the air in negligible rates, according to some more recent research: To reduce VOCs enough to impact air quality would require around 10 plants per square foot. In a small 500-square foot apartment, that’s 5,000 plants, a veritable forest. However, plants in indoor spaces can still have other benefits.
    – Puco4
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 17:05

We've had a Christmas Cactus (A.K.A. Holiday Cactus) in our bathroom window for over ten years now, with very little watering. I have a picture of the same young plant (in bloom) from the 90's.

Christmas Cactus with bloomed flowers

The name of the plant comes from the bright flowers that bloom during Christmas. It's remarkably unlike traditional cacti and from a distance it doesn't look like one.


Regarding low maintenance, one of the things to bear in mind is choice of compost: in my experience, a peat-based compost dries out much more quickly than a soil-based one (however much moisture-retaining additive the first contains); this involves more frequent watering which, if you have a number of indoor plants, can be fairly time-consuming. Sooner or later, if you have a busy schedule and fail to water your plants often enough, the tip of their leaves will turn brown and curl up or wilt; instead of contributing to the amenity of your apartment, they will detract from it; so, if you buy quite a few plants, and are very busy, a soil-based compost would be a better choice.

Of the plants already suggested, the one that will withstand the most neglect - a real ironclad - is almost certainly the Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum). I've had one for over twenty years and I can vouch for its tolerant nature!

enter image description here enter image description here Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you opt for a palm (another ironclad that I've had for many years), given that you live in an apartment, height will be an important consideration. Indoor palms do well in low and filtered light. There is some useful information on the different varieties here.

  • If you want the plant to look vigorous, these will require more light (and in my experience, more water) than some of the other suggestions, but over all, it's a great houseplant, and one of my favorites that I've ever had. Mine preferred a south window for best growth. They'll survive in lower light, but they don't look as happy, or grow very fast in it by comparison. Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 7:19

As well as cacti, I'd look more generally at succulents. When I was a kid, I loved growing lithops (living stones) just because they were so visually interesting. And, they positively reward neglect, as over-watering will cause too many leaves to form, which spoils their camouflage.

I also had a number of different forms of crassula, whose geometrical leaf patterns I loved (I always found a certain beauty in nature's expression of math!).

Finally, if the spines on cacti might make them unsuitable in places, how about something like euphorbia obesa? Suitably bizarre to look at and, again, nicely drought tolerant.


Dieffenbachia species tend to make good house plants. They don't need much water or sunlight and tend to be really hardy indoors. A brand name of one of our Dieffenbachia is "indoorstructable"!

enter image description here

  • 4
    I wouldn't get one of these if you have cats that like to eat plants.
    – lemontwist
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 1:12

I have a Jade plant sitting near an East window that I've had for years. I only water when its very dry and it takes care of itself. It started as a table plant and now sits on the floor and is roughly 4 feet wide and tall. A great plant that requires very little care.


Philodendron Cordatum: Champion of Houseplants

Philodendron Cordatum and Philodendron Hederaceum.

  • Massively leafy.
  • Small footprint (pot size relative to amount of leaves).
  • Great for cleaning air in city apartments.
  • Thrive in diffused (indirect but near) sunlight.
  • Resist the urge to untangle its cords. Those "tangles" provide support while the plant winds its way to the best light it can find. Left undisturbed, they'll link into woven waves.
  • Start with a small one and transplant it into a pot with plenty of room to grow. Keep the soil moist, but never flooded. Use standard 4-4-4 houseplant fertilizer. After a year of consistently good care, it'll be huge.
  • These are perfect in hanging pots near the top corner of a window. Don't hang it too high-- it'll be difficult/dangerous/messy to water, and it won't be happy if its base foliage is in the dark (above the diffused window light).
  • Every "node" of the plant has the ability to shoot down roots if it hits soil. Thus, a piece can easily be snipped and re-planted to start a new plant.
  • Give trimmings to all your buddies (before the apartment is overrun by your massive plant)!
  • Clippings will even grow in jars of water- but they want some root support to thrive.
  • This same species grows wild in Caribbean (Hederaceum) and tropical (Cordatum) climates, booming on the forest floor with stalks as thick as a baseball bat and leaves the size of a table!

Most ferns and ivies work well indoors. We use these mainly in our vertical gardens when planting them indoors. Pothos is a great plant for indoors as well.

  • I've had a really hard time with ferns. I think they're too high maintenance for me.
    – lemontwist
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 1:14

I have a beautiful rubber tree that's been living indoors with indirect sunlight for a while, and just can't stop thriving. It's a peaceful and oxygen-adding addition to an apartment.

  • quick update: I would at this point in my life describe a rubber plant as "medium-low sunlight." Doesn't want to be directly in the sun, nor in total shade. Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 21:03

I've had good luck with hoya plants. They have a variety of leaf shapes and colors and require little water. They need good light but not direct sun.


Aspidistra elatior, commonly called the Cast-Iron Plant; this plant lives up to its name!

  • 1
    Thank you Niall C.! I appreciate the restructuring! Non-Americans speak and write English better than Americans! I had a friend from South Africa teach me a lot about our language...and I am a little rusty!
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 18:11

I am surprised not to see the ZZ plant or Zamioculcas zamiifolia in the other answers. This plant is a very very low maintenance one:

  • It can tolerate the lowest light conditions. Mine is about 3-4 meters away from a North facing window, which is pretty low light.
  • It does not need to be watered very often, it is enough when the soil gets completely dry. I water mine once a month roughly. Everything You Need to Know About ZZ Plants:

    Typically you can even forget a watering…or three…and it will still thrive

  • Lastly it is very resilient when it comes to pests and diseases. I never had any pests on mine in the last 4-5 years, since I have it.

On the top of all of from above, I think it is a really nice looking plant, so here is a picture:

enter image description here

  • 1
    @DuckMaestro There is an almost black variety as well ZZ Raven which just as easy as the regular one. The new leaves come in bright green and will fade back to almost black over time. Also there is a dwarf variety called ZZ Zenzi. Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 9:52

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