We all know that awful feeling of looking at a plant that’s on its way out. It may look sad and droopy or it may show small, brown marks from too much sunlight. Either way, it doesn’t feel great! Many of us love the look of plants, plus the air-purifying benefits they bring, but maintaining a leafy family doesn’t always fit into our busy lifestyles!
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the hardest houseplants plants to keep alive and some artificial alternatives you can keep instead to achieve a similar look.
7 of the Most Difficult Houseplants to Keep Alive & Artificial Alternatives
Some houseplants are “easy”, others, not so. They require daily or weekly maintenance, they may not like where you put them, they don’t like temperature swings, they need a certain amount of light and humidity, they may not like your tap water or the food you give them, they outgrow their pots if you do keep them alive, and some of the easier plants can grow extremely fast so you constantly have to prune or find homes for baby plants.
In short, they’re a lot of work, and if you lack a green thumb or desire to care for plants but still want to keep them in your home, artificial plants are the perfect solution. Below, we’ll cover some of the most difficult houseplants and artificial alternatives you can use to get the same look in your home.
Difficult Plant: Peace Lily
These beautiful plants look amazing when they’re doing well. But they’re also extremely communicative, and if they’re not happy, they will begin to droop. And fast. Peace lilies need indirect sunlight and just the right amount of water and to be away from drafty windows and anything containing chemicals. Poor, sensitive peace lilies! If you’ve been gifted them in the past and killed every single one, you certainly aren’t alone!
Artificial Alternatives for Peace Lilies
To get the same gorgeous plant in your home without the difficulties of keeping it alive, look for artificial peace lilies (sometimes called its scientific name, spathiphyllum) or artificial calla lilies, which have a similar look but with slightly more space between the foliage and taller, champagne flute-like flowers. Place them on side tables or in plant stands to make the most of their voluminous foliage and beautiful flowers.
Difficult Plant: Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees
These gorgeous plants are extremely popular but famously difficult to keep alive. This is due to their sensitivity to sunlight: too much sunlight will cause brown spots to appear on their leaves, but not enough will stop them from growing. To make matters worse, they also struggle with sudden environmental changes, so even bringing them into your home can upset them. Taking care of a fiddle leaf fig tree involves finding space in your home that sees partial sunlight during the day, and gradually moving your plant towards that area. Fiddle leaf figs also need misting every so often, especially if the air in your home feels a little dry.
Artificial Alternatives for Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees
Sounds like a ton of work, doesn’t it? If you want the look but aren’t a houseplant maven, you can get the same look with an artificial fiddle leaf fig tree. You can often find a few different looks, some are short with large, broader leaves, while others are tall with shorter leaves. Another good option is artificial ficus plants, as they have a similar style of leaf and colouring.
Difficult Plant: Boston Fern
These plants are popular because they’re relatively cheap and pretty easy to find but notoriously difficult to keep. They require consistent humidity and moisture, which means you need to spritz them every day or keep them next to a humidifier. Not great if you don’t want to feel like you’re living in a greenhouse. They’re even often happy with their roots partially submerged, so do well in terrariums and paludariums.
The Boston Fern's fronds tend to burn if they’re exposed to excessive direct sunlight, and they also don’t adapt well to environmental change. This means you may notice that the leaves turn yellow if you migrate to a different room.
Artificial Alternatives for a Boston Fern
There are plenty of artificial options if you want the look of a fern in your home but don’t want to make your home swampy. Boston ferns don’t look much different from other types of ferns, so choose an artificial fern with the right look for your space. They work beautifully in hanging pots, pot stands, and small artificial ferns are a great way to bring a sense of the forest and nature to your shelves or your desk.
Difficult Plant: African Violets
So many people lament how difficult these flowers are to keep alive. Wet soil is the primary reason people end up killing their African violets. To avoid this fate, you’ll need to plant your violet in a self-watering pot designed specifically for violets. Yep, these exist! If you can’t find one of those, place your pot on a plate or saucer filled with water. You need to keep a close eye on that topsoil as if it’s too wet or too dry, you’re going to see those violets die.
Artificial Alternatives to African Violets
Artificial African violets aren’t common, simply because African violets are not currently on-trend. You may remember them from the windowsills in your grandparents’ house, so if you love the dark, velvety look of them but can’t keep them alive like your green-fingered grandparents, opt for artificial versions. So if you can’t find an artificial African violet, try artificial pansies or other artificial violets instead. These little plants are the perfect way to add a splash of deep green and purple to a neutral room or to emphasise a purple theme in your room with a different texture.
Difficult Plant: Crotons
These sensitive plants are infamous for their diva-like qualities. Much like all of the plants we mentioned above, crotons do not appreciate change. Something as subtle as being moved from one end of the room to another can cause their leaves to turn yellow. Crotons also need regular watering, so if your croton’s leaves start to drop off, it's probably too dry. But don’t overwater it! These plants are absolute divas.
Artificial Alternatives for Crotons
Despite their difficult nature, there’s no denying that these fiery plants are beautiful to look at! They’ve got deep reds and oranges mixed in with the green, so if you want a brightly coloured plant with a little less stress, opt for an artificial croton. A couple of other plants that may satisfy your itch are artificial bird of paradise plant, artificial rubber plant, or artificial calathea.
Difficult Plant: Succulents
These lovely little plants are hugely popular right now, but it’s a good job we can find them in most supermarkets because most of us can only keep them alive for a short time! These plants don’t like being too wet, or they’ll rot, too dry, and they’ll fall apart, and many varieties need direct sunlight or they’ll get leggy. What makes things worse, is that the types we find in supermarkets rarely label them with what kind of succulent they are, which means you’re just guessing as to what they like. The way one succulent likes to be treated is completely different from another, so it’s no wonder the average person can’t keep them looking good!
Artificial Alternative for Succulents
Fortunately, you can use artificial succulents for the same look, and you can even embrace those succulents that aren’t typically sold in supermarkets because they are seriously difficult to keep. String of Pearls is one that has come into fashion in a big way, but unless you’re a serious plant mum, opt for the artificial version. Artificial succulents are a great way to add a splash of colour and visual interest to small areas on desks, side tables, on shelves, or use multiple for the centre of your dining table.
Difficult Plant: Herbs
Unless you have a special sun window or a sunroom, there’s a high chance you’ve become extremely frustrated trying to grow herbs. Herbs do not enjoy being inside because they need a lot of sun exposure, not to mention well-drained soil. Growing herbs indoors also opens your kitchen up to mealybugs and spider mites, which is never worth it. If you’ve tried growing fresh herbs inside for the aesthetic look and ended up with limp and dying twigs instead, it’s time to stop buying new ones.
Artificial Alternatives for Herbs
You can find artificial herbs, but if you can’t find any you like or want to opt for something a little prettier for your kitchen windowsill, try some artificial lavender. Real lavender can be tricky to keep inside, or grows like crazy, but you can find small artificial lavender plants that will add a touch of that country-kitchen feel.
3 More Difficult Plants
Now we’ve covered all the plants you’re likely to kill, let’s cover a couple more that you may be able to keep alive, but will still prove to be difficult.
Difficult Plant: Yucca Plant
There are a few different varieties of yucca plant that may end up in your home, and they have a relaxing, tropical look that’s easy to style in almost any home. However, they’re not easy to keep. Yucca plants need full sunlight, which can be difficult in British homes and through the winter, they like sandy soil and hot temperatures, and don’t need a lot of watering.
Life with a live yucca plant can either go one of two ways:
- You’ll kill it because you’ll over-nurture it or put it in a room that’s too dark or too cold.
- You’ll pick the right spot, and it will explode.
A huge problem with yucca plants is that they’ll just keep growing. All yucca plants will outgrow your home eventually. They’ll eventually turn into a small tree, and then need to go elsewhere. While one variety grows relatively slowly, another grows quickly and has leaves that grow up to 20 inches long with sharp ends, so isn’t one to keep in a hallway or anywhere near young children or pets.
You also need to note that yucca plants are toxic and poisonous to animals. It’s not likely that your mature pet will take a nibble, but there are cases of young animals and horses becoming seriously ill after taking a nibble, so it’s not a great one for pet owners.
Artificial Alternatives to Yucca Plant
If you love the relaxed style of yucca plants, don’t fear! Simply choose an artificial yucca plant instead. You can place your artificial yucca plant anywhere you like, regardless of lighting, and they won’t have sharp edges or be toxic for pets. What your yucca plant looks like on day one will be the same in years to come, and you won’t have to continuously pull off the dead leaves as it grows to keep it looking good, as you do with the real thing.
Difficult Plant: Palm Plants
Palm plants are another plant that you’ll either just barely keep alive or will grow until you no longer have room for it in your home. Parlour palms are beautiful statement plants, but get big. You also have to make sure you care for your palm plants, as while they aren’t often picky about how much light they get, their leaves are sensitive and you’ll get a lot of brown edges if you keep it in a high-traffic area or if it grows close to the wall.
Artificial Alternatives to Palm Plants
To avoid brown leaves or exploding plants, opt for artificial palm plants instead. They’ll look the same and work perfectly in almost any style of home with any other colours. Alternatively, try an artificial ficus or artificial yucca plant for a similar look, or to compliment a statement artificial palm plant.
Difficult Plant: Spider Plants
These plants are relatively easy to keep alive, but if you do hit the sweet spot so they thrive, you will be overrun! These plants like a lot of water, and thrive in high-light but do well in low light. This makes them a great houseplant for beginners, but if you keep them happy and well-watered and fed, they will quickly flower and start producing dozens of baby plants. You’ve either got to be willing to cut the flowers off shortly after they flower, find homes for all those baby plants, or be willing to throw them in the bin.
Artificial Alternatives for Spider Plants
If you haven’t had success or don’t want to be bothered with their incredible ability to propagate, look for another small artificial grass or artificial aloe vera or artificial snake plant, depending on the look you prefer.
Choosing artificial plants in place of these difficult houseplants allows you to fill or accent your home with beautiful foliage that offers all the styling and mood-boosting benefits of real plants, but without the trial and error or time investment it takes to become a competent plant parent. You’ll also be able to keep your artificial plants indefinitely, as they won’t die or need passing on in the future, and can be stored away if you decide to try a different look for a while! To browse our range of artificial plants, click here.