Wouldn’t it be awesome if the lovely pink violets you received as a graduation gift were still alive? Damn, right it would! But sadly, they’re long gone and the only thing that’s left for you to do is to remember them dearly and find an adequate replacement.
Seriously, can houseplants live forever? Is there a way to have them around for more than just a season, two, or ten? I am sorry to disappoint you, but the answer you are about to get is not the one you want to hear. No; your houseplants cannot last forever.
On the other hand, did you know there are things you can do to make your plants live longer? Also, did you know that I am going to tell you what is it that will prolong the life of your plants? No? Then stick here and find out!
Namely, I know there are some clingy souls out there reading this who like to have their plants around for as long as possible. So, here comes a list (details coming up later!) with some ideas of which long-living house plants to grow right now and enjoy their beauty for years.
- Nerium Oleander Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera)
- Sempervivum (tectorum)
- Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
- Cacti (Cactaceae)
- Marginata plant (Dracaena Margianta)
- Palm trees
- Rubber plant (Ficus Elastica)
- Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Of course, this is not all. However, I’d prefer to stick to these for the time being.
How Long do Houseplants Live?
I would truly love it if I could say “Yes, your houseplants will live forever”. They will outlive you and you’ll have to leave them for posterity to be properly taken care of after you have perished.
I am sorry to disappoint you, but typically, the above is NOT the case.
Bear in mind that plants, just like humans, come with an expiry date. Every time you go to a florist to buy a new houseplant, what do you think will be the suggested life expectancy they tell you?
Trust me, you do not want to go into that!
Liabilities, liabilities, liabilities!
Florists will typically give you a shorter life expectancy for the houseplant you’ve just bought. Still, bear in mind that this will happen with random florists you bump into.
Why is that so?
They do not know you and they do not want to bear the burden of being responsible for a house plant that just died.
They don’t trust you s being competent to take proper care of a houseplant.
If you were to ask the question “do houseplants live forever?” every single reasonable being will tell you that they don’t.
Still, to answer the seemingly simple question of “how long do houseplants live?” is not easy at all.
The reason is that this question is a generalization. You cannot expect gerbera and jade plant to have the same life span.
Houseplants do have one thing in common, though; they can be kept inside. More often than not, this is where all resemblance ends.
Some houseplants will require shadier places, some will thrive in full sun exclusively.
Naturally, this will all affect the life cycle and the overall life span of your plant.
So, the answer to the question of “how long do houseplants live?” can be found in closely observing all the details and particularities of your green darling.
For example, the houseplants that grow at a slower pace will last longer. Those that grow at a faster rate, blossom, and flower, are more likely to die out soon enough (i.e. gerbera).
Still, these are not the only things to bear in mind when we talk about the issue of whether houseplants live forever or not.
Let’s take a look at these!
It is the truth universally acknowledged that plants make your living space warmer and more pleasant to stay in.
It is also true that they need attention, just like any other living being. You need to care for them and you need to make sure they have all the proper living conditions.
And, when your babies don’t thrive, you can’t help but feel helpless.
I remember how sad I was watching my Alocasia die just before my eyes. When I repotted one for my friend and one for myself (pruned the one my mum has had for ages), and my friend’s was thriving by large, while mine was stunted.
I thought I had tried everything, but it was still in pretty bad shape. Finally, I put it on a windowsill just before I finally mustered the strength to throw it away.
And, guess what?
Two days later, it showed new leaves! Oh, how happy I was!
Now, what does this story of mine tell you?
Yes, you are right. It tells you that you can always do more and you can always try harder.
So, to put the answer to the question of “how long do plants live?”quite bluntly – well, they live until we kill them.
There, I said it!
So, what is it that helps your houseplants live not forever, but longer than usual?
These would be the answers.
Or, the conditions in which you keep your plant.
Under the relevant conditions here we can consider the following points.
1.1 Orientation and/or Position
In practice, this means where you actually keep your houseplant. Is it by the window, on a windowsill, by the stairs with not much light?
If you want to have live-forever houseplants, or at least, achieve the second best thing – a prolonged life span, then you must pay attention to where exactly indoors you keep the plant.
The place you choose must perfectly encompass each of the following points. Moreover, the place you choose must be protected from external factors (more on that later).
Remember the Alocasias I planted for me and my friend?
Well, I kept mine at the partial shade and it showed no signs of progress for months. She kept hers at a bright space, but without direct exposure and was rewarded with 5 new leaves during the same period mine was slowly dying.
Do you see now why the light requirement is crucial?
Just like humans, plants need light; and, how much of it will strongly depend on which houseplant we are talking about.
For example, some palm trees, such as needle palm, require partial shade and some plants, such as oleander will require plenty of sunlight.
Pro Tip: Plenty of sunlight often does not mean direct exposure. Make sure to avoid scorching the leaves by exposing the plant to direct sunlight for too long.
The crucial thing is that you know which plant you are dealing with.
The majority of houseplants, with the exception of cacti, shall require the space they’re in to have good humidity.
They need water in multiple ways, so make sure that you give it to them.
Avoid placing your houseplants in spaces with insufficient humidity since your leaves may start drying out and withering soon enough.
You will know it’s insufficient humidity when you notice paper-like leaves on your plant.
Pro Tip: Mist the entire plant occasionally so as to improve the general humidity.
1.4 Draft & Heat Sources
Tightly linked with the previous heading is the negative impact of draft and heat sources on the well-being of your plant.
In most cases, plants do not like a draft. The violent swaying of leaves caused by strong gushes of air is usually not recommended.
Similarly, make sure to keep your houseplants away from heat sources.
How would you like it if someone made you sit by a blowing heater for hours on end?
Not at all, am I right?
Furthermore, if you are a smoker, I already feel sorry for your houseplants. Cigarette smoke is detrimental to human lungs, so can you only imagine the damage it causes to your plants after a long-term exposure?
Finally, we’ve come to the soil.
There are so many types of houseplant soil to choose from these days that you simply don’t know what to choose.
Frankly speaking, we all go for the ready-made organic mixes, without further ado.
Whichever the case, the most important thing is that the soil we chose provides the required nutrients and that it either retains or drains the water, depending on what your plant needs.
Everything else is irrelevant.
As an example, the Jade plant will require well-draining soil since it doesn’t require much water, while Yucca Palm will need you to plant it in a water-retaining soil.
Observe your plant and see what suits it best.
2. Proper Care of Live-Forever Houseplants
Yes, yes, you get the chills every time someone says this phrase.
But, what does this mean in practice?
First off, you need to understand that proper care for any houseplant includes a set of actions you must do on a regular basis if you want your plant to thrive. Or in other words, to know what does a plant need to grow.
Proper care does not mean that you pay attention to your houseplants once a month and then just forget all about them.
No, it’s more than that.
This notion includes some further steps that I am going to mention one by one.
Let’s see what this means in practice.
If you are a proud cactus owner, and a cactus owner only, then you can skip this point.
But, I don’t think that’s the case.
I know you like to grow a little bit of everything.
Obviously, this jungle of yours will require watering.
Water abundantly during the active season (spring and summer) and cut back on water during the dormant period (i.e. winter.)
Again, you can’t use the same amount of water on every plant. Oleander and violets will need more water (if you want to have nice and shiny flowers) while aloe, for example, will require way less water.
Every once in a while, the soil itself won’t be enough for your plant.
It will need more than that.
Naturally, you are the one that needs to secure the well-being of your plant. So, if you want a plant that lives forever, then fertilize it.
Not too often, though.
Bear in mind that fertilizing is best done in the plant’s active season and the fertilizing process can be forsaken in the wintertime.
This is when the plant consumes less and the addition of the fertilizer will do more harm than good.
If we talk about growing long-lasting houseplants that can live almost forever, pruning is a step that shall by no means be omitted.
Pruning is done in order to help your plant grow faster and stay healthier for a long time.
How do you know which leaves/ferns/twigs to prune?
To begin with, you can pinch out the new growth coming out of the soil and use it as a completely new plant.
This is a totally legitimate option.
Next, when you notice your leaves or ferns turning yellow or brown, you can cut them all the way to the stem.
This will prevent the infection from spreading to the surrounding leaves and you will have a lovely indoor plant all set to grow and develop further.
How long can houseplants stay indoors? Can houseplants live indoors forever?
Yes, as long as you maintain them properly!
One step to take into account here is to report the plant every once in a while.
Repotting will bring multiple benefits, such as more space for the roots to grow, more (new) soil with a higher level of nutrients, etc.
As a consequence, you get to enjoy a healthy plant that will only thrive in the years to come.
There are, though, some additional points to consider when repotting your plant.
For starters, you need to think about the size. Typically, you can go a size up, but don’t let this be your limitation.
If it seems that the plant needs more space, then feel free to go for an even larger pot.
A cool thing about the pots is that you get to choose from a variety of materials, colors, and/or sizes so your living space can be turned into a picturesque forest with a variety of colors.
Or, you can stick to one or two colors depending on your preferences.
Pro Tip: Check what your plant exactly needs and then choose the pot accordingly. Plants that don’t like too much moisture will require a pot with holes at the bottom.
So, choose wisely if you want your plant to live eternally!
3. Cherish It
Believe it or not, plants know.
Plants are “aware” of what is happening around them.
Remember, it’s living beings we are talking about.
Accordingly, the plant knows when you truly care about its well-being and when you’re just messing around.
So, what you need to do is to lavish it with bountiful love.
Talk to them.
Plants need encouragement. They need to feel loved and wanted.
Did you know that IKEA sponsored a study where they placed two identical plants in a school and had kids talk only the good stuff to one plant and only the bad stuff (i.e. bullying) to the other plant?
The end result is that the houseplant that only “listened” to praise and positive encouragement kept thriving and growing at a faster rate while the plant that was constantly bullied died out soon.
To be honest with you, the point of the study was to teach the kids the negative effects of bullying, but I believe it perfectly sums up what I wanted to prove here.
Moreover, the Royal Horticultural Society did something similar and the result was the same.
The plants that hear praise and words of kindness and affection will be more rewarding. On the other hand, bullying, or neglect in our case will have a detrimental impact.
So, show kindness to your plant and it will reward you bountifully with its beauty and health.
4. Other (External) Factors
Besides neglect, improper care, or storing conditions, other things can kill your plant.
All indoor plants that live long, just like any other plants, need to be kept safe from multiple other factors that can negatively affect their general health.
I know this might sound a bit strange, but kids can cause quite the damage to the plants.
They (the kids) are curious by nature and they like to pinch and pluck the leaves, which is their natural way of exploring or just plain mischief.
This is why the houseplant needs to be kept safe; and of course, not just the plants. Kids should also be protected since some houseplants, such as cacti, can have small sharp needles, sometimes even barely visible, that can cause injuries.
Moreover, some plants may even be toxic.
This is why you need to keep the plant away from the reach of children.
There’s an increasing trend recently of people buying plants instead of pets.
Probably they think plants are low maintenance compared to cats or dogs, let’s say.
I will not go into whether it’s right or wrong, let’s leave that for some other occasion.
However, what I can surely say is that pets and houseplants don’t get along. Especially so if you keep the plants on the floor.
Pets run around, pets chew, knock things down, or turn them over. Pets can kill your plant.
And, a dead plant is not a plant that lives forever, obviously.
Don’t be fooled, though; some plants fight back by releasing toxins that can cause poisoning.
Keep the plants away from pets if you want them all safe and sound.
Other typical pests that can attack your plant (sorry, kids and pets; but when the chance for a good joke presents itself, I simply have to use it), are pests and insects.
These can cause serious issues with the plant starting from the color change or pierced leaves. As a consequence, your plant will start losing its edge.
Try to avoid this at all costs, if you want that your houseplants live forever, or at list long. If this should still happen, check which insect you are dealing with and look for an appropriate pesticide.
Having read all of the above, you must be feeling like I didn’t tell you much.
However, I did tell you the most important thing – each plant is a plant on its own.
To make sure you grow long-life indoor plants, you need to listen and observe your plant carefully.
This is the best way to secure that your beloved houseplant sticks around for years, even decades!
Remember, longevity starts with good habits. So, make them when it comes to your houseplants’ keeping routine.
The Long Living Houseplants
Now that I told you all there is to know about how not to kill your houseplant, finally, the time has come to introduce you to some of the houseplants you can grow in your home or office.
While there are some typical plants to grow indoors on my list, there might also be a few surprises.
1. Nerium Oleander
Or, just Nerium. Or, just oleander. Call it whichever you want.
This is my surprise No. 1.
You typically would not think of oleander as a houseplant. It’s more of a garden type. However, I remember back at my parents we had potted oleander for as far back as my memory reaches.
Oleander is great since it is a proper tree growing in your house. And, the best thing of all – it flowers!
Each year without a miss.
It is highly decorative with its white, red, yellow, or pink flowers (just like the one my mum still has).
Moreover, once you plant it, you can expect it to live for some 20 years on average, which is great if you ask me.
2. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
I remember that as a kid I hated Christmas cactus. Though not sure why, it somehow always looked so dull. I wasn’t even amazed by its pink flowers showing up in December.
I can’t remember when or why, but I remember I stumbled upon the fact that in some parts of Europe they even call it December.
Anyways, I am now figuring out which stem to pinch out from my mum’s to propagate it.
As for life expectancy, let’s just say we’ve had ours for 15 years already and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. We are probably looking at 15 more since its average lifespan is 30 years.
Low maintenance and long life.
What more could you want in a plant?
Sempervivum is an excellent choice if you are the type that forgets to water regularly.
It is great as a decoration due to its clustered leaves that grow in circles.
Sempervivum is great for another reason – it produces offspring regularly, so even if the “main” plant dies, there is this new growth that develops further.
In a way, we can say that Sempervivum will indeed live eternally, as its name suggests.
4. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
Oh, what trouble I had with this one!
I pinched off a new stem from a plant that my co-worker brought when he joined the company.
(I guess he really believes in the good luck and money they say it brings.)
Anyways, I was too anxious to wait for this pinchling to produce proper stems, so I kept it in water for three days only and decided to pot it.
What happened then was that I accidentally pulled it out of the soil thinking that was the end of it.
But, as stubborn as I was (am!), I put it back in the water until it eventually developed stems long enough for planting and now I have a lovely jade plant growing by my window.
5. Cacti (Cactaceae)
Or, cactuses, as my little niece prefers to call them.
Although repellent, at first sight, they get you to like them soon enough.
Especially when no matter how prickly they are, they produce lovely round flowers with petals.
Then you just can’t resist these water-retaining tender beasts.
When stored and cared for in proper condition, any of the cacti can last 10 years or so, which makes it one of the houseplants that can live almost forever.
6. Marginata Plant (Dracaena Margianta)
Is it a bush (wannabe)? Or is it a tree? Perhaps a dragon?
This one will soon become one of your favorite plants that live forever.
It doesn’t flower and typically you will find the one with green leaves.
However, go for Colorama, Bicolour, or Tricolour instead.
This will spice it up especially when you know you can have it around for more than 30 years.
7. Palm Trees
Palm trees are a welcome addition to any home.
Having these in closed spaces will give a chill tropical vibe no matter where you are.
Palm trees can grow quite large even when grown indoors so they will create a true little forest in your home.
The best thing of all – low maintenance and long life. With proper care, you are looking into decades.
Or, at least until they outgrow the space they’re in.
8. Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)
Imagine that a rubber plant originates from India!
Anyways, this one works quite well as a tree kept inside.
Even better if you acquire a fully established plant since you’ll get to enjoy its beauty sooner.
I mean, you don’t have to use it to produce any rubber, but know that it will stick around for even 30 years.
9. Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
Mother-in-law’s tongue or Saint Goerge’s sword.
What extremes in the name!
Evergreen, perennial, grows in cultivars, and no, it does not bite or have scales.
Also, there are multiple varieties each more lovely than the other.
In proper conditions and with proper care it can last for about 20 to 25 years, which puts it into the category of live-forever houseplants.
10. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
My last plant on the list of long-life houseplants is the spider plant.
No, it does not produce a web!
It got the name since it resembles a spider when properly grown.
Lots of indirect sunlight, well-draining soil, generally low maintenance, and you’re looking into a beautiful houseplant that can live for more than 50 years.
11. Bonus Plant: African Violet (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia)
Ah, the African violet with its lovely pink or purple flowers.
Give it plenty of water, give it bright light, and enjoy its flowers throughout the year.
As for life expectancy, believe it or not, you’re looking into 50 years or longer.
As for me, I’ve only had it for a couple of years, but it’s fully blooming and flowering even during the winter.
Pro Tip: Prune the leaves regularly so they don’t consume all the nutrients. In this way, you will get more vivid flowers of an intense hue.
As I am wrapping up, there is just one more thing I feel the obligation to help you out with. I know you still have so many questions going around in your head, so I will try to answer to the most interesting and relevant ones.
Here we go!
1. Do plants ever die of old age?
Definitely a thought we all had at some point.
Just like I tried to explain, given the right conditions, houseplants can live almost forever and last for quite some time.
However, eventually, it will no longer be able to grow and develop further. However, chances are you won’t get to see this, since the majority of your houseplants can easily outlive you.
Only the annual plants will die on you of old age soon enough.
2. Do plants feel pain?
I would love to know the precise answer to that.
The plants do not have brains, or nerves, or pain receptors, so they probably don’t feel pain.
But, can we say it for sure?
3. I have a black thumb. Should I give up houseplants?
Losing your plants is a natural process.
More often than not, it has nothing to do with you.
If you feel like you have a black thumb, don’t quit completely.
Maybe make a small break from potting houseplants and then carry on after a while as if nothing happened.
And, that would be all!
I know that every time you plant a new houseplant, you can’t but wonder can plants live forever?
We would all wish if they did, but, sadly, this is not possible.
What is possible, though, is to have some of the houseplants around for as long as you are at least.
Here we’ve seen all the lovely houseplants that can live for decades and are not high maintenance.
Moreover, you got all the guidelines on how not to kill your houseplant; because the main reason for a houseplant dying is because you did something to it or you didn’t do what you were supposed to.
That is, you didn’t care for it properly.
So, take proper care of your plants and share with us the photos of your gorgeous houseplants that you’ve had for years!Follow us on: