Tricky Houseplants: The 6 Most Difficult Houseplants To Grow

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For the brown-thumbs of us out there, we finally have an excuse; six of them in fact! If you have had plants die on you before, don’t be too quick to blame your skills, it might just have been an adverse selection. And no matter where you’re living, adding houseplants will always beautify the ambiance!

Houseplants are generally a breeze to take care of if you know what you’re doing. This includes knowing the different types of soil plants like. Some plants will enjoy fast-draining sandy soil, while others are happiest in peaty soils that retain moisture.

But whilst most endeavors pose a challenge, there are those that stand out as the more difficult of the bunch. Here are six of the most difficult houseplants to grow.


Azalea (Rhododendron)

It is only fitting that we start this topic with a bright and beautiful tone, as is with this plant. When planted outdoors, azalea’s elegance is magnified, and it shines with vibrantly colorful blooms in a spring spectacle that makes the shrub a forever favorite. So it’s only natural that shoppers feel tempted by the indoor, florist’s azalea for sale at local stores.

Unless you take extra careful care of the plant, however, its presence won’t last too long. Indoor azalea likes it humid and cool. You can already begin to imagine how tricky it is to create this artificially. Also, keep in mind that, ideally, azaleas shouldn’t be in a temperature above 65 degrees Fahrenheit — ever.

Indoor azalea needs slightly acidic soil. This means that when you re-pot it, vinegar must be added to all the water you give the plant. Note that indoors, azalea insists on damp (not soggy) soil at all times. Do all of the above, and you can keep azalea going strong indoors. But getting it to perk up again next year? That’s a whole other story.

If there’s one thing this flower will teach you, it’s patience. But do not fret. After all, as far as inspirational garden quotes go, Gertrude Jekyll masterfully said,


“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness.”


Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

The basil makes for a beautiful houseplant. It’s looks, especially in a small and neat pot, gives a sort of calmness and it exudes serenity.

The best technique for growing basil is to give it full sun and moist, but well-drained soil. Growing basil in the winter can be challenging because of its preference for hot, humid, sunny days. It is much easier to meet its needs in the summer.

If this trusty herb keeps dying before you get a chance to make your homemade Caprese salad, it could be because of the location. These plants need at least six hours of direct sun each day. The challenge is; there is no exception for overcast days.

Basil, A.K.A. the great basil or Saint-Joseph’s-wort, is a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae. Basil is native to tropical regions from central Africa to Southeast Asia. It is a tender plant and is used in cuisines worldwide.


Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea Ornata)

Calathea ornata, A.K.A. “pinstripe calathea”, comes from a genus of tropical plants. The plants are known for their large leaves. These can be green, deep purple, or red.

Because it’s super sensitive to cold and temperature fluctuations and grows best in warm, humid, bright conditions, this one is known as a greenhouse plant. Finding the best spot for it in your home is your challenge. This is especially true in the winter season!

The plant requires a fair amount of care and attention and won’t thrive in dry conditions or when its soil is too wet. Especially at the beginning, it might be well worth using an indoor plant grower to avoid any early problems. Although it doesn’t have many pest problems, spider mites can quickly cause a considerable amount of damage to the plant. The tiny red spiders enjoy sucking out the sap of leaves, which can then fall off. It can be enough to kill the plant.

If you plan on picking a pinstripe calathea up from a nursery, make sure it is healthy before buying it! This will give you the best head start in successfully keeping it alive. Check the roots, leaves, and for any spider mites that may already be present.


Banana Plant

Because of their large leaves, the banana plant makes for an attractive choice for decor, but it’s a fussy green to maintain. Along with 12 hours of sunlight, humidity is everything for this tropical plant and should be at 50% or more as much as possible. Keep the room at an even and warm temperature, but not too hot or else the leaves will scorch.

A generous amount of water is needed by this rainforest plant. Once a week to every two days would most likely suffice. A few inches of mulch layered on top of the soil will help lock in moisture and keep the plant hydrated. A deep plant pot would work best for this guy because it has a more extensive root system than some houseplants.

Be prepared to re-pot it when it becomes pot-bound, but don’t upgrade to a larger pot too hastily because the plant performs best when its roots are somewhat tight in the pot. Lastly, keep your expectations low about your banana plant bearing fruit. This requires ten to fifteen months of uninterrupted growth to achieve, and another four to eight for the fruit to mature.


Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

While this plant is able to tolerate the dry air and shade of our homes, and can even live decades under such conditions, this is only true if you acclimatize it thoroughly beforehand. A preemptive-care of sorts.

Otherwise, the leaves begin to fall almost as soon as you bring it home. This will make it look dreadful. Many more people manage to kill their weeping fig than succeed in keeping it healthy.


Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’)

If you can successfully mimic the growing conditions of its first home; the tropical and subtropical rainforests, this lush, leafy plant can give your home some serious jungle vibes.

Even though this fern tolerates dry air better than most other ferns, it is very intolerant of shade. In fact, it really only does well when put in a pretty sunny location. If you’re up to the challenge though, there are ways to satisfy the plant’s needs without sacrificing your home’s comfort.

Following these few steps will give you excellent guidance:

First, set your fern by an east or west-facing window that receives plenty of indirect sunlight. If possible, choose a location near a heat vent that can be closed and opened as needed: While the plant grows in a moderate 65 to 75 degrees during the day, a 10-degree dip in the evening prevents fungus growth.

Finally, run a humidifier nearby to keep the air around the fern from drying out (especially in winter).

If you can grow it successfully, you’ll find it’s one of the best hanging houseplants out there.


There will always be ways

While it is true that we were able to enumerate a number of challenges that have the potential to discourage us from planting indoors, if you have the right knowledge, there will always be ways. In this case, choosing which plant to take under your care, and acquiring knowledge about their needs beforehand, is the key to growing them inside your home.

Though the challenges might not be omitted, as with many other things in life, if you equip yourself with the right resources and knowledge, you can overcome these obstacles and go on to create a bountiful array of beautiful, beautiful houseplants. Or, you know, you could just avoid choosing any of the above six. That works too!


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