Aug 292017

7 Indoor Plants That Are Hard To Kill By Neglect

So my primary hobby is growing plants, traveling is actually second and travel blogging, in all honesty, is at third place in my hobbies and this I say again on my hobby travel blog. Wife Jee likes to correct me, ” Your primary hobby is to Kill Indoor Plants”, she gives a big emphasis on ” KILL”. Well, what can I say I have been growing some plants and killing others. Many of my plants have died when we were traveling and there was nobody to take care of them especially during summer months. Many other plants have died due to over indulgence by giving them too much water and fertilizers, just like our desi Moms who like to feed their kids 24*7.  A big challenge one faces when writing a blog is that you are ” Slotted”, suddenly you are a Blogger and other aspects of your life take a back seat. One may be a Doctor, Engineer, Chef, Mother, Executive all those things are ignored and people start addressing you as ” blogger.  Any ways one of the challenges of travel is that when you come back home many of your plants are dead. For this very reason, I started growing cacti and succulents a long time ago, as they required very less water. But the challenge with most Cacti is that many of them have very sharp thorns and not everybody is comfortable growing them.  So I have been looking out for other plants to grow that will be happy to be neglected and will not die on you if you are traveling outside for a week or even two in some cases.

So dear travelers who may also have the hobby of gardening or dear gardeners who also have the travel bug here I give you 7 indoor plants that are tough to kill and will survive without you when you are gone away on your travel. Some of them like the cactus may actually welcome you with a flower or two when you come back.


  1.  Cactus Plants: Well my number one choice still remains the thorny  Cacti but before you discard them as too thorny, or too sun loving or too inauspicious due to superstition let me inform  you there are more than 2000 different species of Cacti out there some of them as small as a coin others growing as tall as a multi story house. Some of them grow in true deserts while others grow in tropical rain forests along with Orchids.  What do they want in return? A sunny corner with a few hours of sun, well-drained soil and water may be once in every 10 -15 days if grown indoors in a sunny place. You can choose from very prickly pear types to totally spineless varieties like Astrophytum myriostigma
    Astrophytum myriostigma in flower

    Astrophytum myriostigma in flower – There are no thorns on this cactus and the flowers produced every year

    Christmas cactus in flowers

    Believe it or not, this is also a cactus but looks and behaves like an Orchid from tropical jungles

  2.  Snake Plant: Well snake plant is their common name, besides also being called ” Mother In Laws Tongue” while the botanists call them Sansevieria. The most common of the varieties that you will find in local nurseries is Sansevieria Trifasciata Laurentii ( yes that is a single plant). Within Sansevierias that come from Africa you have more than 70 species and hundreds of cultivars to choose from. This is one plant that is very tough to kill unless you over water it. When in doubt whether to water your Snake plant or not the right choice is not to water. They will survive long periods of without watering and even thrive in low light areas like darker corners of the room and even bathroom.  The best part? NASA has done some research on plants and found that Snake plants remove toxins from your home air and purify the air more than any other plant in the study.

  3. Zamioculcas Zamifolia (ZZ Plant): Remember those lines from the movie Madagascar? A name so nice, you have to say it twice, same is the case with the ZZ plant. I got introduced to the ZZ in February this year and we have 2 of them in our living room. That is about 6 months in our home, and believe it or not we have watered them so far a total of about 10 times in 6 months, as they require so less water. In fact, till the soil dries out completely you should never water the ZZ or the Cacti or the Snake plant. The ZZs are not only happy with the neglect they have actually added new leaves. Still not convinced well the Chinese consider them to be a lucky charm and one of the plants that are considered lucky by the Chinese, though I have found them growing in hotel lobbies and airport in Dubai also like this one below that I clicked in a hotel in Dubai.
    ZZ Plant new growth

    ZZ Plants are practically indestructible and kind of enjoy the neglect by you  

  4. Crasulla Ovata or Jade Plant: This is one succulent you may be familiar with already as it is another of the plants considered lucky or money bringing plant by Chinese. I am not sure how they reached this conclusion as the Jade is actually a native of South Africa. There is another very different plant that looks very similar called Portulacaria afra that is also called mini Jade by many people. Both the plants come from South Africa and are similar in their cultivation needs. The Mini Jade has smaller leaves and tends to grow less upright the true Jadeor Crasulla Ovata has larger more oval leaves and grows upright. Both are good material for making Bonsai and both need very little water to grow considering their succulent stems and leaves.

    You can grow any one of them and leave them unattended when you are going on a vacation. Just make sure you move them to a shady area inside and not in the direct harsh sun when leaving them unattended.

  5. Adenium obesum:  Is a stem succulent found naturally in many parts of Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula. They are rightly called desert rose as the true wild species have beautiful pink flowers that appear on the tips of bare stems. Plant lovers have bread 100s of varieties of Adenium now and you can pick from white, pink, red, and a combination of many other shades of flowers. All the Adenium varieties have the same need as other plants mentioned in this post – Well drained soil, watering only when the pot is completely dry and leave them alone most of the time.  But unlike Snake plants that can be OK in even less light, Adeniums will need the brightest spot in your home where it can get a few hours of direct sun to bloom to its full potential. The oddly shaped caudex of Adenium ( stem ) is a thing of beauty in its own right and this is one of those plants that look beautiful both in bloom as well as with bare branches.

    Adenium plant in flower

    An Adenium in flower is rightly called Desert Rose

  6. Aloe Vera: A leaf succulent from dry parts of Africa, Aloe vera is one of those plants that is totally domesticated and no true wild populations are found in the world, though it grows wild in many parts of the world. It is believed that it was introduced there due to human activities and has gone wild. Well, that kind of tells us that how easy it is to grow and take care of. Same rules that apply to other succulents apply to Aloe Vera and other Aloes that you may want to grow. Aloe vera leaves produce a kind of gel that can be used to rub on minor skin burns etc. and it is an active ingredient in many skin moisturizing lotions. So this is one plant Wife Jee is happy to have at home :). Many ayurvedic medicines also use Aloe vera gel and to the best of my knowledge at-least one shop in Old Delhi even sells a kind of Sweet made from Aloe gel it is called – Aloe Halwa and you need to go to Hauz Qazi and look for Sheeren Bhawan to find it. But this is a blog post about Easy To Grow Indoor Plants for a Traveler so we will stick to the horticultural requirement of Aloe, which remains simple – a bright spot, well-drained soil and some light dosage of fertilizer during the active growing period. If you are doing everything right you may be rewarded by a large inflorescence of pink flowers that can grow more than a foot in length and totally dwarf the plant.  Over period Aloe vera can get very large, but then you can simply divide the plant from its base and make more plants to gift. If you are looking for a smaller Aloe you should check out the dainty Aloe jacunda that is much smaller and does not takes too much space.
  7.  Lucky Bamboo:  Another of the  Feng Shui plant that most houses now want to keep for the luck factor. The reason I have lucky bamboo in this list is very simple. Lucky bamboo can be easily grown in water, so when you are gone for a week or two, just make sure that the container of the Lucky Bamboo is full of fresh water and that is all the care you need to do for the Lucky Bamboo, which is technically not actually a bamboo but known as Dracaena braunii botanically. Though you can grow lucky bamboo in the soil also, it may not survive without water for long period in soil and the general feng shui practice is to grow the Lucky Bamboo in a glass vase. So you can do the same and enjoy this beautiful plant that requires minimum care and will continue to grow in just plain water. Only one precaution you need to take that don’t add direct tap water to the Lucky bamboo as the chlorine in the water may harm the plants. Best is to keep the water in a container overnight and next day you can add this water to Lucky Bamboo, as overnight the chlorine from water will get released into the air.

So dear  Traveler cum gardener or gardener cum traveler above are my favorite 7 indoor plants that will continue to thrive with minimum care and will not die when you leave them alone when going on a trip.  Just make sure that they are not in direct sun when you are gone and you water them before leaving. Trust me most of them will be in a better shape when you come back than when you left them. Just make sure your trips are no longer than a month during the summers or longer than 2 months during winter as then even these plants will struggle. The ideal period without water would be 10-15 days in most cases for a healthy plant kept indoors in the shade when you are away.


NOTE TO READERS:  All Instagram images in this post are thanks to Darryl Cheng, a highly accomplished plant whisperer based in Toronto Canada. If you love plants you should follow him on Instagram at houseplantjournal.  



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  12 Responses to “7 Plants For A Frequent Traveler That Won’t Die When You Are Away”

Comments (12)
  1. We faced this problem with our Tulsi plant, almost always dried up when we returned home which was really very very disappointing to see. Sometimes it revived, sometimes it didn’t. We have now started leaving it under the care of the neighbour or the society gardener who can take care of them while we are away. I loved knowing about all these plants, so enriching, thanks for sharing dT.

    • Tulasi is actually pretty drought resistant and will be OK if you move it indoors in shade after watering before you go out for 2 to 3 days. Beyond that, in summer it will struggle. Definitely not to be left alone for a week-long vacation.

  2. After reading your post I remember long back, I “Killed” my Adenium with excess water. Nowadays for short trip, I try to some homemade watering system for my plants. Though they are not sufficient for longer trips. Most of the flowering plants shrivel and some dry and die. Your post is so insightful as well as informative. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. That’s a very informative blog 🙂 Keep writing !!!

  4. interesting and informative 🙂

  5. Even when I’m not travelling, my plants fair badly; I say I just have a black thumb. For the first time, I’ve managed to keep some of them alive and a good percentage of the plants I have now, are succulents.
    The month before last we had an ugly heat wave ( and two more after that) and I was surprised to see that some of those succulent leaves had burnt tips. They didn’t dry up; they were still plump with the water they store but the tips got brown and black. They are on the repair route now and doing well. But I’d never seen that before.

    I like the look of that Jade plant. I’d like to see if I can find one of those. Thank you, Prasad.

    • thanks, I am glad you like the article. What most successful growers tell me is always water to the side of caution as most house plants die due to excess water rather than lack of water in homes.

  6. I can add one more here. Ajwain. Spreads like. Wild fire, needs very little water or maintenance and has succulent leaves that can be used to make pakoras 🙂

  7. The best way to keep your plants alive is to yell at your family to water them while you are traveling! However, I dread longer trips in May/June because it is a guarantee that when I come back I will have less plants!

    • haha… kash that worked here.. plus the worry is when all of us travel together so these ones should survive those periods when nobody is home. I can vouch for most of them personally as every year in June we take our vacations with kids and leave the plants alone….

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