Some houseplants are notoriously finicky. There’s nothing you can do to make a fiddle leaf fig easier to care for, or to keep alocasia leaves from crisping on you. Instead of putting yourself through the wringer, and worrying about any black thumbs, make life easier with an equally beautiful, yet less challenging alternative to the most popular and demanding plants. Most of all: Don’t give up, because there’s a plant out there for everyone.
Here are seven trendy, yet difficult, plants to keep alive, along with some great substitutes.
Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)
Easier Option: Ficus Audrey (Ficus benghalensis)
It’s easy to recommend a parlor palm or a dracaena in place of a fiddle leaf fig, but those options are too tropical to be a true replacement. Instead, try a Ficus benghalensis, also called Ficus “Audrey.” The plant is a close cousin of the Ficus lyrata. It’s also a real stunner with soft, velvety and elegant leaves. Also, the Ficus Audrey bounces back from looking crummy faster than the fiddle leaf fig.
Easier Option: Lemon Button Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia)
Lemon button ferns look delicate, but are much more hardy than maidenhair ferns. They can tolerate a less stable environment and watering schedule. Like maidenhair ferns, however, they also look stellar on a fireplace mantle, or tucked onto a bookcase.
Green Velvet Alocasia (Alocasia micholitziana ‘Frydek’)
Easier Option: Swiss Cheese Vine (Monstera adansonii)
Monstera Deliciosa’s cousin, the swiss cheese vine, looks both structural and dramatic— its lacy perforated leaves make a large statement. It’s just as gorgeous as an alocasia plant, but much easier to manage. Swiss cheese vines look best in a hanging basket or in a pot on a high shelf near bright, indirect light, where its trailing leaves can be shown off to advantage.
String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
Easier Option: Donkey or Burrow’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
Burrow’s tail is a very hardy type of sedum that has a similar drape as the string of pearls. Give them bright light and water every seven days or so and you’ll have a happy plant. It’s okay if you knock a few of the little leaves off as they’ll grow back. This is a heavier plant, so make sure you plant it in a sturdy pot.
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
Easier Option: Meyer Lemon
A lot of nurseries and plant shops sell a gardenia cultivar bred for being a houseplant. That being said, they are notoriously finicky. Want a houseplant that produces an amazing smell without the fuss? Get a Meyer Lemon. Stick it in a spot with bright light, water it when the soil gets dry and let it do its thing. The blooms smell delicious and you’ll have lemons before you know it.
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Easier Option: Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Regardless of what people say, English ivy is a very difficult plant to have indoors. If you’ve had problems with these cascading plants, try a hardy pothos instead. They come in many different varieties, colors and textures and are also very forgiving. If you neglect it for awhile, just give it a solid dose of water and it will perk right back up.
Easier Option: Mint
It’s always wonderful to cook with herbs grown in your own house. While basil is difficult to keep alive indoors, you’ll find mint is much easier to please and keep alive. Give it some bright light and water it every once in a while and watch it thrive.