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Any reformed house plant killers out there?


KathyBC
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Go succulents.

Tokyo sedum is technically a succulent, grows in regular potting soil, and is stunningly resilient. You'll find it at a landscaping store. 

I got my dad a snake plant (tall poky thing), a christmas cactus, and an orchid. He's doing well with all of them, or at least I haven't heard of any plant funerals for the last year, lol. He waters them with ice cubes. The orchid is supposed to be watered that way so he just continued with the rest. You can find these at Walmart if you watch. Walmart will also have a section of small succulents occasionally. Repot them slightly larger and don't water too much. Put them in a window or location with "bright shade."

Edited by PeterPan
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I gave up on the usual houseplants and bought an Aerogarden to grow herbs and greens. I also grow micro greens from a kit I bought from Hamama. They auto ship new seed mats every 6 weeks and they are easy to grow. All of this goes in my smoothies and salads, but it looks nice when it’s growing so a definite win win!

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7 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Go succulents

I can't do those, even though my thumb is a fairly vibrant shade of green. 😉 My house doesn't get nearly enough sunlight in the winter to keep them going, and I don't want to hassle with a plant light. (ETA: I guess technically snake plants are succulents? But they're not typically what I think of when I think succulent.)

Edited by Pawz4me
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3 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

You need plants that fight back. 

I saw a meme'ed tweet the other day that said something like, "You have to be impressed by the Venus Fly Trap. It could make food from the sun, but instead it chooses violence every time."

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5 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Y'all, we seriously need some plant therapy around here. 

The cloth plants also don't expect me to talk to them! 🤣 And I feel less guilt because I'm no longer killing the real plants.

I seem to do fine with outdoor plants - I actually had a very nice garden last summer.  But indoors... um....

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2 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

You're supposed to?? 😲

 

If they get dusty and you don’t, they clog and can’t breathe. Transpiration occurs through the leaves. You can put them in the shower or use a rain head to water, but yeah you don’t want them clogged. My dh uses a rain head for most of our watering. 
 

Have you thought about succulents? Walmart usually has them and they’re a cheap way to build your confidence. Just try a bright spot with indirect light. So a north facing window, a corner in a sunny room, whatever. Most houseplants don’t want a lot of direct light.

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53 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

If they get dusty and you don’t, they clog and can’t breathe. Transpiration occurs through the leaves. You can put them in the shower or use a rain head to water, but yeah you don’t want them clogged. My dh uses a rain head for most of our watering. 

Another good thing about pothos and snake plants are the large leaves. They're easy to dust, although it can take a bit of time for a full, healthy pothos. Those I stick in the shower occasionally. Snake plants are easy to gently wipe off with a damp paper towel.

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I THINK I've reformed ...  I chose easy-care plants (especially at first).  I water on a set schedule -- Wednesdays and Sundays (dry, hot environment); some plants won't need watering that often, but I at least check on them.   I use a terra cotta plant watering spike for plants that are supposed to be kept evenly moist and then water sparingly otherwise. I use a foliar spray for diluted fertilizer, which also helps keep dust off the leaves. I checked the pH of my tap water adjust as needed with pH Down drops.  

So far I'm doing better than I ever have, but I haven't got my Miracle Berry  or coffee plants to set fruit, so I'm sure I have room for improvement.  At least they are alive!

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1 hour ago, Kebo said:

I THINK I've reformed ...  I chose easy-care plants (especially at first).  I water on a set schedule -- Wednesdays and Sundays (dry, hot environment); some plants won't need watering that often, but I at least check on them.   I use a terra cotta plant watering spike for plants that are supposed to be kept evenly moist and then water sparingly otherwise. I use a foliar spray for diluted fertilizer, which also helps keep dust off the leaves. I checked the pH of my tap water adjust as needed with pH Down drops.  

So far I'm doing better than I ever have, but I haven't got my Miracle Berry  or coffee plants to set fruit, so I'm sure I have room for improvement.  At least they are alive!

So there's hope? That is good news. Thank you!
Watering spike? Yeah, I have a timer set on my phone for Sunday afternoons. After I water, they still seem too dry yet they also seem to be sitting in too much water. I bought a spray bottle for misting. I use either bottled water or outside tap water, not our softened water because I'm certain that is way too salty. I will persist with the two still clinging to life, fingers crossed.
Any other tips welcome!!

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5 hours ago, KathyBC said:

Are there any reformed house plant killers here?
Do you have any tips or tricks, advice on how to successfully change?
🌿

I no longer kill plants, but my strategies might not work for you.  They are 

a) don't buy plants

b) make sure everyone knows not to buy me plants

c) if a student gives me a plant for a gift, wait until they leave and find the nearest colleague ask "do you like plants?"  If they say "Yes" say "Happy holidays, this is for you."  

With these 3 strategies I have a 100% success rate for not killing plants.  

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5 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

After I water, they still seem too dry yet they also seem to be sitting in too much water.

Do you mean the water is draining out of the pot's drain holes but the soil in the pot still seems dry?

If so, what type of potting soil are you using? Water will drain through soil meant for cactus and succulents very quickly. Regular potting soil will hold more water.

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6 hours ago, Pawz4me said:

(ETA: I guess technically snake plants are succulents? But they're not typically what I think of when I think succulent.)

I was surprised to see snake plants growing in the wild, as landscaping, etc. on the caribbean islands we went to cruising. And when we did Fort Myers, they had them in the landscaping too. But those are places that get enough rain that yeah you don't think of them as "cactus" lol. But they're definitely quite *hardy* and they're tolerant of lots of different conditions. 

 

6 hours ago, Pawz4me said:

My house doesn't get nearly enough sunlight in the winter to keep them going

I have a sunroom that we intended specifically for plants when we finished the house, so I was kind of embarrassed when I put plants in there and realized they kept DYING! That's when I started looking at all the tags on all the plants in Home Depot, Walmart, landscaping shops, etc. and realized most house plants actually prefer pretty low light. I was killing them with TOO much light! Hahaha. 

We had someone here say she found a snake plant in a relative's basement and it had been there 3 years with only basement dim light and minimal water or none, if you can imagine. And the thing was fine! Hahaha, quite the plant. I was blanching and stressing mine in the sun room, so now I keep him in corners, away from the light. Not too far away, just not anything direct at all. I read the term "bright shade" and that really fits what a lot of house plants seem to do fine with. If they get more sun than they prefer, they need a lot of water to cope.

3 hours ago, athena1277 said:

I’ve killed an aloe vera.  More than once.  But then I’ve also had them survive for a long time while I completely forgot I had them.

Yeah, mainly forget about them, stop watering them, stop trying so hard. I have one hanging from the ceiling. He gets watered (at most) once a week and literally just a few seconds of whatever dh does with the watering wand. (not thorough, not anything, just count to 7 and stop) It overflows and drips on the floor and then is done. The plant loves and has been breeding and reproducing in that stupid small pot so that now there's a 2nd (or 3rd?) plant hanging over the edge like a mountain plant.

1 hour ago, KathyBC said:

After I water, they still seem too dry yet they also seem to be sitting in too much water.

Are these regular plants or succulents? And are they in the right kind of dirt for their type of plant? Was it a moisture retaining soil? Potting soil needs to be redone. If you read the bag, they specify something rather frequent. If you want to be hack, at least every couple years. We have tremendous luck with african violents here. I would say african violets, but the key is the violence. I brutally pull them out of the pot, rip off the excess crowns, dump all the dirt into the yard, and start over with fresh, fluffy, fully fertilized dirt. 

You can rejuvenate plants just by starting over. Happier pot (more appropriate depth or width) and fresh dirt. Couple that with happy light and see what happens. The fillers and things in the soil break down, so you really do need to replace it once in a while, just when you remember, like every 3 years or something. Or don't, but I do. It's kind of cathartic. I buy huge bags and make a BIG MESS digging out the plants and putting new dirt in the pots. It may be the part I really like, lol.

Actually I know what I like. Shh, I like dead heading and pulling off the dead and spent leaves. I have funeral plants (you know, the kind that show up when you have a funeral in the family) and they get watered at the frequency for succulents, which is NOT what they are, lol. Maybe they're peace lilies? I don't know. they have big leaves and these white things appear at the top and make messy dust. 

So anyways, I pull out those dead things, redo or top off dirt. If you don't want to change it, maybe just top it off. Both ways work. But if it has been a few years, some good brutal dirt changing, root loosening, etc. might do the trick. 

2 hours ago, Kebo said:

I checked the pH of my tap water adjust as needed with pH Down drops.

Oh dear, could water be op's problem? We're on well water and the water we're using for the plants is *not softened*. So if you're on city water, at the very least you might want to draw a gallon and let it sit a few days to let the chlorine offgas. I don't think my mother (who has city water) does, but then her christmas cactus is stunted. I couldn't figure out why hers wasn't growing like mine, because she received one at the same time as I bought three (all different colors, I went wild) a couple years ago. Hers is puny and mine are all quite nice. So yeah maybe the water? Hadn't thought about that.

So I'm googling just to see, and they're saying you can let the water sit out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate and then use. So there you go, maybe that's op's issue?

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I've been growing houseplants for over a year.  So far I've been successful and I think it's because I'm a cold hard realist. I have mostly low lighting situations because there are covered porches on the outside of several of my windows.  I only buy plants with a reputation for being easy to grow that thrive in low, indirect light in most of my house.  It should say something about that on the tag. No matter how much I like plants that require medium or bright/direct light, I don't buy them for most rooms.  Ever. I've got lucky bamboo, pothos, and Juanita (Fittonia argyroneneura.)One room upstairs has bright indirect light and I have an Anthurium in it.

The tag should also tell you when and how to water it-put it on your calendar for the rest of the year like appointments.  Get the little slow release plant food spikes that go in the pot with the plant. Write on your calendar when you put them in and schedule replacing them on your calendar (every 2-3 months) according to the package directions. People more knowledgeable than me figured out those schedules, I just follow them.

I suggest starting with Pothos, which thrive in every lighting condition and deep watering it every 2 weeks.  They're amazingly easy to propagate from cuttings or by sprouting in a glass of water. I bought 2, now I have 10 more at no cost to me.

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8 hours ago, Matryoshka said:

I seem to do fine with outdoor plants - I actually had a very nice garden last summer.  But indoors... um....

 

2 hours ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

The tag should also tell you when and how to water it-put it on your calendar for the rest of the year like appointments.  Get the little slow release plant food spikes that go in the pot with the plant. Write on your calendar when you put them in and schedule replacing them on your calendar (every 2-3 months) according to the package directions. People more knowledgeable than me figured out those schedules, I just follow them.

 

I've had outdoor flowers for the past three summers and done pretty well! I think I need to stop buying (or getting gifted) houseplants with no tags. I can't even search for help since I have no idea what they are. Well wait actually, with today's technology I probably could. Huh.

Edited by KathyBC
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3 hours ago, Pawz4me said:

Do you mean the water is draining out of the pot's drain holes but the soil in the pot still seems dry?

If so, what type of potting soil are you using? Water will drain through soil meant for cactus and succulents very quickly. Regular potting soil will hold more water.

You know those cute little plants you buy at the grocery store/gift shop/craft fair? They are in a plastic tub inside a cute little metal container. I just kill those. They don't really drain. The plant still looks dry, but the soil is submerged with the least amount of water. So I bought the spray bottle, but I don't know. I think I've tortured my latest victim beyond recovery.

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3 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

You know those cute little plants you buy at the grocery store/gift shop/craft fair? They are in a plastic tub inside a cute little metal container.

Yes, that was the plant's coffin, the place it goes to die if you leave it there. They put it in there to make it look cute so you'd buy it or be gifted it. Reality is, if you want the plant to live, you take it out, save that pot for the next thing you by (a succulent that is smaller and not going to outgrow it, something from the $2 section of Walmart) and you put that plant into a NEW pot that is BIGGER. Then it will drain and live and have room to grow and get happy.

So you can keep the cute pot, sure! Just put something else into it that is smaller. 

 

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7 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

I think I've tortured my latest victim beyond recovery.

Plants are surprisingly resilient. You might try repotting and seeing what happens. Do you have dirt? Couldn't get worse than dying, lol. You could take a milk jug and cut it down, cut some holes in the bottom, throw dirt in, if that would be bigger than what it is in now. Some more space, fresh dirt, appropriate light, it might surprise you.

Wanna share a pic? 

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8 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

But truly, it's about the cute pots!! Okay, I will try repotting, thank you for the encouragement.

https://www.thespruce.com/most-popular-succulent-varieties-4153419  If you scroll to #4 at this link, it's zebra plant or Haworthiopsis. It's a really attractive, smaller succulent that might fit in your cute pot, hehe. I got mine at Walmart for crazy cheap, maybe $2, and I moved him into a slightly bigger pot (4"? in diameter). Then I reused the pot the Haworthiopsis came in to do the next thing. I think I maybe started some donkey's tails with it, hehe. 

But yeah, try Walmart. For $2 you can put something in the pot and have a little fun and still get to use it. Just make sure you're using succulent/cactus dirt if it's a succulent. 

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13 minutes ago, Terabith said:

Have you guys read about the spinach that scientists taught to send emails?  My plants need that.  Water me!  No, not that much!  Too much sun!  Stop looking at me!

With my luck, I'd get kale and it would send me chain letters "Forward this to 10 vegetables you know or you will be salad!"

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17 minutes ago, Terabith said:

Have you guys read about the spinach that scientists taught to send emails?  My plants need that.  Water me!  No, not that much!  Too much sun!  Stop looking at me!

@BaseballandHockey tells me people will think I'm lying about the spinach if I don't include a link.  This seems like the kind of things scientists should watch more movies to learn about why their folly will destroy the world.  https://www.euronews.com/living/2021/02/01/scientists-have-taught-spinach-to-send-emails-and-it-could-warn-us-about-climate-change

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KNOCK ON WOOD 🤞🏼

I am a reformed houseplant killer, and my collection is growing. The other day, I bought 6 small exotics and a huge Monstera. (She is beautiful.) I did start with pothos and succulents, because they both do ok with neglect.

I highly recommend New Plant Parent. It was slightly repetitive in places, but was super useful in moving me on to a bigger variety of more interesting plants. One super useful tip was to use something to poke holes in the soil before watering. Plants in their natural environments have insects reworking and aerating the soil under them, so it helps to replicate that with houseplants. He also talked about people being afraid of overwatering but not understanding that the real problem is watering too frequently, not too deeply. Anyway, good stuff on the very basic way plants function and how your care meets their needs. 

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FWIW, I don't trust plant tags, at least not at the big box stores. I've seen too many plants that are incorrectly tagged (wrong plant) or tags that didn't exactly have correct care instructions. The big box stores are also prone to having plants divided into low light and bright light sections and for the wrong plant(s) to be in the wrong section. If I'm not already familiar with a plant I whip out my phone and search before buying. Make sure the pictures you see match the plant you're looking at and the care instructions on the tag. Even when they match I do a deeper dive at home into the care of the plant.

I rarely (okay, I don't remember ever) buying a plant or multi-plant arrangement in a cutsie pot. They're always overcrowded, the soil usually seems poor, way overpriced, etc. Buy a plant and then buy an appropriate pot and soil (if you don't already have a stash of those) and repot.

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10 hours ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

a huge Monstera. (She is beautiful.

Looks amazing!!! Where did you buy it? I'm under orders not to buy any *more* plants, but I could *remove* one and *add* another and have it not be more... :biggrin:  

10 hours ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

One super useful tip was to use something to poke holes in the soil before watering. Plants in their natural environments have insects reworking and aerating the soil under them, so it helps to replicate that with houseplants.

How smart! 

10 hours ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

I highly recommend New Plant Parent.

I'll see if my library has this. I've worked out things for my current plants the hard way. I keep pots on casters and move them around, trying different locations to see where they look happy, kind of working backward on what "bright indirect light" means, etc.

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2 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Looks amazing!!! Where did you buy it? I'm under orders not to buy any *more* plants, but I could *remove* one and *add* another and have it not be more... :biggrin:  

How smart! 

I'll see if my library has this. I've worked out things for my current plants the hard way. I keep pots on casters and move them around, trying different locations to see where they look happy, kind of working backward on what "bright indirect light" means, etc.

I bought the monstera and other plants at a local plant store. 

He recommends a light meter (even if just on a phone app) so you can see how much light plants are actually getting. One of the things I took home was to look at light from a plant's perspective. How is their view of the sky? That changed my placement a lot. He said a lot of plants labeled low light don't actually thrive in low light. They just tolerate it. "If plants had eyes, they would roll them every time someone said the phrase, 'thrives in low light.' This is simply a justification for using plants purely for decor. I prefer to say of the plant that it 'starves gracefully at 50 foot-candles.' Specifically, this means the plant will remain relatively good-looking even though it is hanging on for dear life. When horticulturalists use the expression 'low light,' they are referring to the area under a forest canopy, which is not completely opaque to the sky." 

I will say I live in the desert, with lots of windows and an overabundance of sunlight. So I'm lucky that way.

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1 hour ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

I bought the monstera and other plants at a local plant store. 

He recommends a light meter (even if just on a phone app) so you can see how much light plants are actually getting. One of the things I took home was to look at light from a plant's perspective. How is their view of the sky? That changed my placement a lot. He said a lot of plants labeled low light don't actually thrive in low light. They just tolerate it. "If plants had eyes, they would roll them every time someone said the phrase, 'thrives in low light.' This is simply a justification for using plants purely for decor. I prefer to say of the plant that it 'starves gracefully at 50 foot-candles.' Specifically, this means the plant will remain relatively good-looking even though it is hanging on for dear life. When horticulturalists use the expression 'low light,' they are referring to the area under a forest canopy, which is not completely opaque to the sky." 

I will say I live in the desert, with lots of windows and an overabundance of sunlight. So I'm lucky that way.

Just what I am looking for? lol

 Now that all the kids have moved out, as of 2 weeks ago, I have access to windows with light. Of course, no one goes up there for long periods of time, until we start repurposing the space.
I would love plants that can survive down in our actual living space which, with a covered deck to the east, no south facing windows, just north and west windows (the west under a steep rock bluff) sunlight is at a premium. So actual low light.

You guys have given some good advice on that front, so thank you.

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12 hours ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

KNOCK ON WOOD 🤞🏼

I am a reformed houseplant killer, and my collection is growing. The other day, I bought 6 small exotics and a huge Monstera. (She is beautiful.) I did start with pothos and succulents, because they both do ok with neglect.

I highly recommend New Plant Parent. It was slightly repetitive in places, but was super useful in moving me on to a bigger variety of more interesting plants. One super useful tip was to use something to poke holes in the soil before watering. Plants in their natural environments have insects reworking and aerating the soil under them, so it helps to replicate that with houseplants. He also talked about people being afraid of overwatering but not understanding that the real problem is watering too frequently, not too deeply. Anyway, good stuff on the very basic way plants function and how your care meets their needs. 

My library has that one! I've requested it, along with Indoor Plant Gardening for Canada, 37 Houseplants Even You Can't Kill, and How Not to Kill Your Houseplant: survival tips for the horticulturaly challenged. ☺️

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3 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

Just what I am looking for? lol

 Now that all the kids have moved out, as of 2 weeks ago, I have access to windows with light. Of course, no one goes up there for long periods of time, until we start repurposing the space.
I would love plants that can survive down in our actual living space which, with a covered deck to the east, no south facing windows, just north and west windows (the west under a steep rock bluff) sunlight is at a premium. So actual low light.

You guys have given some good advice on that front, so thank you.

 

1 minute ago, KathyBC said:

My library has that one! I've requested it, along with Indoor Plant Gardening for Canada, 37 Houseplants Even You Can't Kill, and How Not to Kill Your Houseplant: survival tips for the horticulturaly challenged. ☺️

Aw, I feel for you with that light situation! I hope that second book will be helpful for your lower light areas. The first book will still be a good read, since it has great information. It was a real education for me, but you definitely need advice specific to your low light situation. I wouldn't bother putting any plants in the areas with good light until you do repurpose the space, because "out of sight, out of mind" is a huge issue with black thumb. Been there! When my kids leave, their plants (still just pothos for them) are going with them, or they are moving to my areas. 

I am not a huge fan of the color of plant lights, but I wonder if they could be turned on at night so that the bluish cast won't affect me but would benefit the plants. Might need to look into that for my one lower light space. (And lest you start to feel envious of my light situation, just think of my 110+ degree temps for months and months in the summer! 🥵 🤣)

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Yes, I've often thought this house was built and situated with summer in mind. It is nice and shady then. But winter can be long and ideally it would have been placed a little differently for light, other than pesky things like geography and services.

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1 hour ago, KathyBC said:

I would love plants that can survive down in our actual living space which, with a covered deck to the east, no south facing windows, just north and west windows (the west under a steep rock bluff) sunlight is at a premium. So actual low light.

I like the suggestion on using a light meter app on your phone. In our house (not covered windows), the northeast window is GREAT for plants and the northwest is TERRIBLE. Like it works, but the plants are spindley and don't really appreciate it. But northeast, you can kick some serious plant butt there. A south facing window is more like full sun (assuming not covered), so that's really a lot of light. You'll stress some plants out so much they just get shocked and stop blooming.

So I think you're wise to start thinking about the light what fits the light you have. 

1 hour ago, KathyBC said:

How Not to Kill Your Houseplant: survival tips for the horticulturaly challenged. ☺️

Hahaha

1 hour ago, KathyBC said:

Indoor Plant Gardening for Canada,

I'm having a slow moment. You're in Canada? No wonder you have trouble!! 

https://www.readersdigest.ca/home-garden/gardening/hardy-indoor-plants/  On this list you'll notice snake plant and aloe, which several have mentioned here. The show a peace plant, which is what I was saying earlier I have.

As far as lights, you can buy "grow lights" on amazon. They plug into a regular light socket and make the correct color spectrum. Don't ask what they're meant to "grow"... 

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54 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

https://www.readersdigest.ca/home-garden/gardening/hardy-indoor-plants/  On this list you'll notice snake plant and aloe, which several have mentioned here. The show a peace plant, which is what I was saying earlier I have.

As far as lights, you can buy "grow lights" on amazon. They plug into a regular light socket and make the correct color spectrum. Don't ask what they're meant to "grow"... 

I believe it is a spider plant that I am currently murdering but I've moved it upstairs and will repot. Fingers crossed.

Yes about the grow lights. It is now legal here, up to four plants per household for personal use. I'd probably kill that, too, though.

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4 hours ago, KathyBC said:

I believe it is a spider plant that I am currently murdering but I've moved it upstairs and will repot. Fingers crossed.

Yes about the grow lights. It is now legal here, up to four plants per household for personal use. I'd probably kill that, too, though.

Have you thought about pulling a start off it to put in water? I think spider plants can, check. That way if the main plant dies, you'll still have it and won't feel so guilty. You can try it again later in a different spot, maybe just with a cute little pot for the little start.

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/spider-plant/spider-plants-in-water.htm

I have a christmas cactus that was my grandma's. She gave it to my mother (presumably as starts) many years ago as a housewarming present. I think maybe 1992? LOL So would that make it 30 years old now? Oh my. And it flowered a lot and has had a hard life. I gave it too much sun (in that sunny sunroom!) and it didn't appreciate it, so I repotted it to something smaller and have been moving it around every few months, looking for its happy spot. I *think* I've got it in a really good place now, in that window facing northeast. 

But it will never be as good as before, so I have made starts off it, on and off. That way the legacy lives on, even if I do something and the plant doesn't survive. 

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Herbs are good for retraining habits. Most of them are pretty resistant to rookie errors involving too much or too little water, you'll probably snip the leaves off before they need dusting and if you fail, you can immediately replace them with some more seeds because they're cheap and seed packs tend to have loads.

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