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These hardy plants don't require a green thumb

If you're green at heart but have a black thumb, don't give up on gardening just yet. There are some easy-care plants for indoors and out; in fact, some, including these 10 suggested by local experts, are so foolproof you simply can't kill them.

Before you buy one, heed this advice. There's a popular saying that the surest way to kill a plant is through kindness — as in too much watering, chemicals, pruning and unnecessary TLC. The good news about these 10 is that they don't give a hoot about attention. A little water now and then is nice, especially for indoor plants that can't count on rain. Otherwise, just let them do their thing.

The other rule of thumb is known as "right plant, right place." In other words, don't stick an indoor plant in a dark closet or plant a shade-loving one where it gets full sun from sunrise to sundown.

Follow those two mantras and check on your plants now and then, and you'll be in the green in no time. Try your thumb at one of these expert picks.

Mother-in-law's tongue | Sansevieria trifasciata

This is one tough broad of a plant for indoors and out. It tolerates low light indoors and full sun outside, and doesn't wither in even the worst soil. Also known as snake plant, it has long, sharp leaves that can grow up to 5 feet outdoors. Neglect it all you want; this plant's like a houseguest, or mother-in-law, who never leaves.

Pothos | Epipremnum aureum

This plant is so hardy you can keep cuttings in water for years. Indoors and out, pothos doesn't ask for much — some light and water, of course — but once it's established, it's practically foolproof. Grow it in a pot or hanging basket, as a ground cover or as a fast-growing vine with stems so thick Tarzan could swing from them.

Oleander | Nerium oleander

It's a good bet that the plants growing in highway medians are durable. Fast-growing, evergreen oleander is a favorite with its beautiful flowers in white, red, pink, salmon and yellow. It's highly toxic, so don't plant it if children or pets are a concern. This tough plant survives drought, scorching sun, heat and exhaust fumes along the highway — just imagine what it can do in your yard.

Spider plant | Chlorophytum comosum

Start with one plant and soon you'll have dozens. The fast-growing spider plant produces baby plantlets on its long stems, which can be cut and transplanted to create new potted plants, hanging baskets and ground cover. Indoors or out, spider plants like all types of light except full sun. Water as needed, but don't overdo. Neglect is the spider plant's best friend.

Ficus | Ficus sp.

There are many species of ficus, but they all come with an important warning: Don't plant them in the ground unless you have a lot of property! They are best used as shade trees in large containers because of their aggressive growth and invasive roots. Indoors or out, neglect them without guilt. They do just fine in any soil, even in drought conditions. Just make sure your ficus gets adequate light; full shade is a no-no.

Saw palmetto | Serenoa repens

No list would be complete without a Florida native, those stalwart plants at home in our environment. You'll find groves of this slow-growing native palm in nature and in naturalized landscapes, where it pays no attention to salt, drought or pests. It grows up to 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall.

Podocarpus | Podocarpus macrophyllus

This evergreen shrub or tree is ever hardy, from full sun to shade, acid to alkaline soil, dry times to wet. Also called Japanese yew, it is slow growing but can reach 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide. You often see it in parking lots and street medians — proof that this hardy plant is up to the job.

Schefflera | Schefflera arboricola

Landscapers routinely use this glossy green plant in the landscape as a foundation or accent plant, and it's easy to see why. It takes sun or shade, water or drought and any soil. It's so darn hardy, you can start new plants simply by placing cuttings in the ground and providing moisture until they're rooted. Schefflera also grows well in patio containers and indoors.

Yaupon holly | Ilex vomitoria

Another hardy native, this fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree grows just about anywhere in your yard regardless of sun exposure, soil, watering or salt exposure. Even better, birds love to nest in its multiple branches with small leaves and feast on its red berries.

Mother of thousands | Kalanchoe daigremontiana

This spreading succulent is the kind of plant that's determined to live, no matter what you do. You can even drop a cutting on the ground and forget to plant it and still end up with a thriving, healthy plant. It produces hat-shaped flowers in shades of pink, orange and magenta.

Yvonne Swanson is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg and a Pinellas County master gardener. Contact her at yvonnesgarden@gmail.com.

These hardy plants don't require a green thumb 06/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 5:03pm]

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