The hardest indoor plants to keep alive (it’s not you, it’s them)

Kangaroo fern, dieffenbachia and a fiddle leaf fig

Looking to avoid the hardest indoor plants to keep alive? From the overexposed Fiddle Leaf Fig to the finicky Maiden Hair Fern (and all ferns for that matter)—it is a truth universally acknowledged, that some of the most popular indoor plants are also the hardest to keep alive. 

(If they weren’t, we probably wouldn’t have the greatest service offering!). 

So, if you’ve decided to DIY your office plants or are in charge of your plant babies are home, think twice before purchasing the following foliage.

But first, did you know there is no such thing as an indoor plant? 

Yep, you read that right. Ask most horticulturists what the hardest indoor plants to keep alive are and they will tell you: all. 

All? Surely, not all. Well, yes it’s true the Internet (and even us) are obsessed with list articles about low maintenance, easy-care, impossible to kill indoor plants. However, the truth is most of us are just making the best of an imperfect situation. 

Why? Because all plants are outdoor plants. Born and raised on jungle floors with no pot to restrain them. Some plants just tolerate the indoors more than others. 

The history of potted indoor plants traces back to approximately 500 BC, as a luxury enjoyed by wealthy Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Today, with most of us spending upwards of 90 per cent of our time indoors and the rise of the Millennial “plant parent”, people can and will continue to bring the outdoors in. 

With that in mind, here’s what our horticulturists said are their greatest foe: the hardest indoor plants to keep alive (outside of “all”). 

1. Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig)

Reason to hate: Fiddle Leaf Figs love to be in indirect lightspecifically, in corners near the window. They also don’t like having wet feet so are often over-watered and hate to be moved. 

Described as “dramatic” and “temperamental”, they prefer to be shaken for approximately 1-2 minutes day … This is because shaking mimics the wind movement in their natural environment. In short “they’re a pain in the ass” says horticulturist Christie Briggs (pictured), “like a pedigree cat with giant whiskers.” 

“So neglect it, throw a cup of water on it every now and then, wiggle it, give it a polish and don’t take none of its lip,” jokes Christie in her thick Yorkshire accent.

2. Maidenhair Fern/all ferns

Reason to hate: Ferns like to be watered, a lot (daily even) so people often let them dry out too much. They’re also delicate and require high humidity, so constantly need to be misted. Making them ideal for a bathroom with filtered light.

So unless it’s your full time job to look after them or you enjoy their fussy nature, leave it to the professionals. 

3. Orchid


Reason to hate: Often bought for the foliage, it’s little known that orchids are forced to flower before being sent to retailers. This is because they only bloom once a year for approximately 6-10 weeks. 

So if you want an orchid in bloom all year you will need approximately 12 purchased at monthly intervals throughout the year. But don’t throw them away once they lose their petals! If looked after, orchids can last up to 20 years. 

4. Strelitzia Nicolai (Giant White Bird of Paradise)

Reason to hate: Loved for their size and drama, the Bird of Paradise is a full sun plant that is technically classified as a tree. Yet despite not being being well suited for the indoors at all, nothing can stop plant lovers spotlighting the Strelitzia Nicolai. However the truth is, as a stubborn outdoor plant, it will have a shelf life wherever you install it. 

One exception to that may be under a skylight, in high humidity and with no drafts. So in other words, another princess with no peas, thank you.

5. Kentia Palm

Reason to hate: Also temperamental, the Kentia Palm is often overwatered but can easily be under-watered at the same time. Therefore, walking a fine line of survival. Add to this a distinct preference for a temperature that mimics its natural environment (18-23°C). 

In short, the Kentia Palm is particularly sensitive and one wrong step could kill it dead, as Southerns say.

And there you have it! From the fussy to the fussier to the fussiest indoor plants, don’t be disheartened by our list. Rather, enter into your plant guardianship with the knowledge it’s definitely not you. It’s them. 

Looking for long term plants for hire in South East Queensland? Rent indoor plant and pot combinations from just $25 a week (including fuss-free plant maintenance and free replacements) or find them at your local nursery. 

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