7 low maintenance plants you can leave for days

These pretty plants are so easy to take care of, they practically water themselves.

Cloud Studio | Stocksy United

There’s nothing I love more than a good weekend getaway. The chance to leave my little apartment and all of its to-do lists, and head for the great outdoors. I visit with friends who live elsewhere, have dinner with my future in-laws in the next state over, or escape for a quiet weekend of beach napping. I come back well-rested, glowy and ready to appreciate my New York City abode once more. But there’s one thing that always takes the shine off my happy post-getaway vibe: the dead plant I’ve killed in my absence.

It’s sad but true. Every summer, I turn into a serial plant killer. It’s a vicious cycle for me, and one that starts with the ironic fact that I love plants. I find them calming and familiar, a nice way to add a little green to the concrete jungle I live in. So I keep buying them in all shapes and sizes. And watching them die. And then starting all over again.

With summer approaching again, I’ve decided to do everything I can to break the cycle, so I researched a few plants that promise to be so easy to take care of, that a forgetful waterer and frequent traveler like myself should have no trouble keeping them alive. I’m going to start with bamboo (#7 on this list), but in the meantime, I’m sharing my finds with anyone else who suffers from having regular-colored thumbs:

Cacti

Cactus

Nan Palmero | Flickr

This prickly plant seems like an obvious choice for those of us who have trouble remembering to water. Rough and tough, cacti only need your attention once a week, but look beautiful and colorful all year round if you put them somewhere that they can soak up bright light. If you want your cactus indoors, Prickly Pear (which flowers with pretty yellow buds), Rose Pincushion (similar in shape to the photo above), Euphorbia and Rebutia are all good-looking choices that won’t take up too much space. Just be mindful to put them out of reach if you have young children in the house, or a dog that gets into mischief. Those spikes aren’t just for show.

Anthuriums

anthurium

David Dixon | Getty Images

Also known as Painted Tongue, or Flamingo Flower, this cheery, waxy looking plant is hearty and will add a welcome splash of color to your home. The Flower Expert recommends using a peat moss base and giving it indirect sunlight. It’s so not very demanding. In fact, you should be careful not to over water anthuriums (yes, all you fellow plant killers out there, that’s a thing, too!), as it causes their roots to die. In the winter, these plants need even less care, as they go through a six week rest period with little water, saving up energy so it can flower again next season.

Bromeliads

Toni Scott | Getty Images

Heralding from the tropics, this spiky plant is a relative to the pineapple, and no stranger to drought. Ones with thicker leaves actually like dry climates, and typically retain any water you give it for about a week, so it won’t miss you if you head out of town for a few days.

The other beautiful thing about bromeliads is that they’re colorful, flowering plants that feel very tropical—perfect for a friendly summer vibe on your porch (or even inside, as the plants are indoor and outdoor friendly). Want to get extra beachy for summer? Bring home these adorable Pink Murex Sea Shells with colorful Tillandsia air plants (a type of Bromeliad) tucked inside. They’re great for decorating your doorstep, or just a few shelves in your home ($14).

Peace lily

Peace lily flower

Atiger | Shutterstock

What could be more inviting and, well, peaceful than a peace lily in your foyer? The large white petals on this indoor plant are serene, and, according to NASA, they even help clean the air in your home. But the real reason the peace lily made it on this list, is that most people agree that they’re pretty impossible to kill. It only really needs watering once a week, and as a visual reminder to bring out the watering can, you’ll see the plant begin to droop slightly. Don’t worry though, a thorough watering will perk it right back up. Originating from the rain forest floor, the lily can also cope well with poor lighting indoors (which means it’s great for urban apartment dwellers like me), so you don’t need to worry about giving it the sunniest spot in the house. Near a window is fine too, just keep it out of too much hot direct sunlight.

One important note: cat owners should not have lily flowers in the home. This type of flower is toxic to felines, as is Pothos below.

Pothos

Pothos plant

Yangchao | Shutterstock

You might pause for a moment when you learn that this one is nicknamed the “Devil’s Ivy,” but, rest assured, you have nothing to fear—these plants are actually very well behaved. Native to French Polynesia, their green leafy cascades do well in bright, but indirect light indoors, or even low lit spaces (much like the peace lily). They’re so hearty, that they do well in a large variety of conditions, from dry soil to wet, and even in nutrient poor soil. Pothos is so easy to care for, that many growers even recommend it as a beginner’s indoor house plant. Don’t believe me? Check out the product description before buying it on Amazon, which even notes in the product name “very easy to grow.” Talk about a user-friendly plant. ($5, Amazon)

Aloe

Aloe plant

Kai Schreiber | Flickr

These green succulents are 95% water and accustomed to desert climates, which makes them excellent outdoor porch plants in the dry months. When you do water them, the soil should be completely soaked, but then doesn’t need to be watered again until dry. The best part? Aloe vera has many medicinal uses, the most commonly known of course, is as an all-natural skin soothing agent. So in addition to still being alive when you get home from your beach getaway, your aloe vera plant should also be able to help heal your sunburn. Just crack open one of its thick leaves and use the gel inside.

Bamboo

Plants Growing In Pot

Nicola Ayer | Eye Em | Getty Images

This hearty, flowering perennial is actually a type of grass. They’re known for being incredibly vigorous plants, which can survive for long periods of time in adverse conditions. If planted in the ground, certain types of bamboo like Phyllostachys nigra can grow to be thirty feet tall, which is why many people like to plant them in fence-like formations outside called “bamboo screens.” But if your goal is to put them in a pot by your front door, then you’ll want to start with a small indoor bamboo plant, like this one, which comes in a pretty glass jar from Eastern Leaf, and won’t grow much past a foot or two. (And at $25, it’s also not a bad idea for a Mother’s Day gift).

Natalie van der Meer
Natalie van der Meer
Senior Editor Natalie van der Meer is a former editor for Redbook, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest and Allure, covering fashion, beauty, travel, family, book reviews, and much more. She lives in New York City.