In cold places, like the miserable one I inhabit, winter is a season of solitude. Leaving your apartment becomes a near impossible chore, and seasonal affective disorder (with the all too appropriate acronym “SAD”) takes on a feeling of permanence. Escaping my cramped apartment and experiencing life with other breathing humans could help alleviate my winter despair. Alas, I am too cold to move and also very lazy.
So, this winter, I decided to bring life to me instead. No, I didn’t invite friends over for dinner or start a speakeasy in my kitchen. I just bought some plants.
The inspiration to fill my apartment with plants came after I visited my friend in Baltimore. At least five plants energized each room in her home. I realized the key to making my home and myself feel more alive this winter was adopting a bunch of green, oxygen-releasing pets. Not to mention that adding a plant to any room makes that room look a million times more thoughtfully decorated.
However, since, as mentioned, I am lazy and often too cold to move (my heat has been sluggish), I needed to populate my apartment with exclusively low maintenance plants. Also, my place is railroad style, so the two middle rooms only get indirect sunlight. Luckily, there are plenty of plants that require minimal sunlight and care. If you find yourself in a similar predicament to my own this winter (or really whenever), here are some of the most badass low maintenance plants I came across in my research:
Also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue,” “viper’s bowstring hemp” (names too good not to mention), and more technically, sansevieria trifasciata, these plants want you to leave them alone. This is ideal for people who often forget to water themselves, let alone the living creatures in their care. It’s especially important that you don’t overwater the snake plant in winter — aka, try even less hard when it’s cold outside and you are sad.
They can do well in most levels of light, though indirect is preferable, and they’re not even that into soil. In fact, too much soil might make them rot. I’ve read that “soilless potting mixtures” are best (whatever that means — I’ll ask the person who works at my local plant store, which is luckily just three blocks from my home).
Added bonus: You can easily make more of them. If you cut off just three inches of one of its leaves and plant that an inch or so deep in soil (or soilless potting mix), you can grow another mother-in-law’s tongue!
Another plant with a fabulous name, dragon fingers is a different sansevieria variety — cylindrica, to be exact. It’s appropriately named, as each protrusion is cylindrical. Spiky and deep green in color, my brand new dragon fingers plant is named Blaine, because that felt right. They’re okay with any amount of sunlight, very little water, and you can braid them. Enough said.
Great for hanging, spider plants (Latin name: chlorophytum comosum) grow with ease. They’re good with indirect light, a wide range of temperatures (anywhere from around 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit), and steam.
So put one in or near your bathroom. Dress it up in macramé! NASA also says they help get formaldehyde out of the air. And Bed Bath & Beyond says they “will add a carefree touch to any spot.” What better endorsements could you ask for?
My freshman year of college, I brought some African violets (saintpaulia — guessing this somehow harkens back to Saint Paul) to live with me in my dorm room. They were a gift from my boyfriend at the time, with whom I’d just parted ways. The gift represented longevity for our relationship, as African violets have a long lifespan. Our relationship, it turns out, did not. The violets outlasted it by years.
During winter break that first year, I realized I had to take the plant back to my parents’ house with me, as my roommate would also be vacating our shared room for two weeks. These furry-leafed flowers couldn’t live for that long unattended. However, they did survive a trek through the snow, a taxi, and two different trains to arrive safely at my parents’ home three states away. Before that, I’d managed to keep them alive during my first few months at college.
Long story short, African violets are extremely easy to care for as long as they get some light and lukewarm water.
These guys, aka bromeliaceae, live in the same temperature range as spider plants (and most humans), so you guys can all be neighbors. Bromeliads look kind of like royalty, with their colorful, yellow-topped crowns, but they only need water once a week. If you forget one week, they’ll probably still live.
I’ve managed to kill succulents, so we’re currently in a fight. “We” being me and all succulents. They get a spot on this list because they require next to zero care. I must have cared too much.
Of this category, though, aloe plants are useful for mild natural disasters like sunburns, and jade plants are both adorable and exceptionally low key.
If you want more color in your drab, winter world, an amaryllis is a great option. This flower grows from a bulb, and you can often buy this bulb as part of a comprehensive growing kit. You get a little box that comes with clear instructions, the bulb, a compacted disk of soil, and a pot. You throw the soil and the bulb in the pot, add water, and voila! A flower! (There’s slightly more to it, but that’s for the instructions to tell you, not me.)
Though these plants, being annuals, only bloom for a short period of time, they thrive indoors and during winter. That’s why people end up giving/getting them as winter holiday presents. They’re usually white, red, pink, or purple, and they require watering about twice a week, or whenever the soil gets dry.
What? Why are these here? Aren’t they extremely high maintenance?
Well, sort of. But if you think of them as long-lasting alternatives to bringing home a bouquet, they make sense.
Orchids can be a bit pricey, especially because they don’t live very long, but while they’re alive they require little care. Also, they’re gorgeous. In that sense, orchids are like the prettiest girl in high school. Their beauty is impressive but fleeting.
This means these plants aren’t long-term commitments. Under-watering them is better than the alternative. If their roots are constantly swimming in damp, they might rot. Some websites say you should fertilize them frequently, but I don’t know anyone who does that. (If you decide to put forth the effort, balanced fertilizer is the way to go.)
A Single, Wooden Rose
I currently have one sitting in a pot of dead cilantro I killed a while back. It will never die.
Header image by Stefanie Shank.