We all want our plants to stay with us for as long as possible. However, that’s going to need quite a bit of TLC from our side! In this guide, I’ve brought together some of my favourite longest living houseplants that should endure years – if not decades – to come.
Who knows – you may be able to pass a cactus or two down to the generations to come! Let’s take a look at some golden oldies and how you can keep them thriving.
1. Bonsai Trees
The best bonsai can survive for generations! They prefer stable atmospheres with good light and regular but not extreme watering and fertilising. These eastern wonders normally need a good soak if you feel its topsoil is too dry. One a week should be more than enough.
Typically, bonsai trees are supplied in shallow and often quite small containers. This means they use up nutrients quickly and can dry out quickly, too! Like their taller cousins, bonsai trees have thirsty root systems.
I recommend regular checks on your bonsai’s roots to keep its leaves and branches healthy – they often suffer and die from root rot. This is due to overcompensating with water when they need a larger container – but less water!
Depending on the species, some prefer moist soil for longer periods. Others are best left to almost dry out before re-watering. Always check with your garden centre before you buy!
You should also keep bonsai in temperatures of at least 12 and up to 30 degrees C. They’re not too fussy in this regard.
Life expectancy for Bonsai trees is entirely dependent on our own parenting – an Italian ficus out there, for example, is thought to be around 1,000 years old!
To keep bonsai in good shape, prune it annually. Turn your specimen in its container, so you get a good look at it from all angles, and use sharp, clean cutters to nip off any leggy bits.
2. Umbrella Plants (Schefflera)
These plants have attractively shaped leaves which span in cluster form, developing along slender stems. They thrive in well-lit areas but not in direct sunlight – and they tend to enjoy temperatures anywhere between 16 and 23 degrees C. That makes them perfect for room temperature setups!
Umbrella Plants have been known to live indoors from 25 to 30 years and beyond – and you normally won’t need to do much to encourage growth! Succeeding generations are easily propagated by taking cuttings in spring – so you can just keep your umbrellas growing!
You’ll likely need to keep your umbrella plant happy by watering once every one to two weeks. If its leaves are yellowing, it needs a drink – otherwise, check for dry soil.
Take caution, as umbrella plants attract aphids in their droves. I recommend you thoroughly check for signs of infestation on a regular basis – you may need to use an insecticide to rid your plant of this problem.
Umbrellas can also succumb to ‘Leaf Spot’. This bacterial problem can be avoided by changing the way the plant is watered! Avoid watering in the evening and apply water to the surface of the growth medium in the container rather than watering from overhead. They do great as east-facing plants in the long term.
3. Sago Palms (Cycas revdeta)
This hardy palm originates from Japan, and several specimens have been officially recorded to have survived over 230 years in their native homes!
As houseplants overseas, sago palms can survive 50 years or more with the correct care. This includes being kept mostly moist and at an average temperature of 21 degrees Centigrade. Again, that’s pretty much room temperature during the summer, so you shouldn’t have to invest in any fancy heaters.
These super-hardy plants are thick and fluffy, and give a fantastic exotic look to your home. They date back to prehistoric times, too – they’re some of the toughest plants in the world. However, you may not be so hardy – these plants are toxic to you and your pets.
Sago palms love a moist growth medium, and shouldn’t need watering more than a couple of times a week in summer. In winter, cut this back to once or twice a month. Don’t put your palms in full sun, either – and fertilise at the start of spring, and the middle and end of summer.
4. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Ivy is a robust and versatile trailing or climbing plant which is easy to care for. You’ve probably seen quite a bit of it growing outdoors – it doesn’t need much encouragement!
It can be variegated with white or yellow colouring to compliment various shades of green.
A prolific grower, it can expand by up to three metres annually!
Ivy thrives in well-lit areas but out of direct sunlight. Some humidity is welcome, even if only occasionally via misting.
Ideal temperatures for this interesting plant are between 16 and 21 degrees C – meaning you shouldn’t have to alter your ambient temperature too much.
Ivy is something of a tricky customer. It’s toxic to both you and your pets, and it can be a nuisance for other plants.
In shared containers, and left to spread, ivy can choke its neighbours. It can wind its own strong stem(s) around companion plants.
What’s more, air roots along its stem can set themselves if they are allowed to spread across a container. If this doesn’t sound like a great idea, simply ease out the recently rooted section and replant the ivy in moist compost to create a separate new plant.
Ivy tends to do well in moist soil, and it can potentially live for hundreds of years! Keep it in indirect light and water it twice a week. It’ll grow amazingly well in your bathroom – it adores humidity.
5. Air Plants (Tillandsia)
Ideally kept at temperatures between 10 and 32 degrees C – it’s really not too fussy – tillandsia is an exotic beauty which, while small to begin with, can grow slowly over several years.
This plant does not like change and may become stressed if moved often, however. It’s ideally placed in strong light but out of direct sun – and tillandsia will reward you with striking flowers which can last for months!
The plant itself will likely live for up to five years. Maybe not as ancient as some of the other specimens on this list, but it’s the enduring flowers that earn its spot here.
Tillandsia has gorgeous grey-green foliage and is a super-stylish plant. Air plants have become trendy in recent years – collecting a group of these curious beauties will add a modern twist to your botanical space.
In groups, it is easy to mist them, but be careful, as tillandsia often do best alone in a container when not competing for light, moisture or nutrients.
As air plants, you won’t need to water tillandsia in quite the same way as your other greens. You’ll need to submerge them for a couple of hours around twice a month.
6. Snake Plants (Sansevieria)
These beauties are always easy to identify, with their super-tall, slender leaves and sharp points! Their leaves grow upwards in a simple, elegant form with the potential for some to reach four feet tall! Sometimes variegated, the leaves grow fastest in well-lit areas.
In optimum growing conditions, these statuesque plants can easily live for a decade within the home. They can be propagated, too – meaning generations and generations of these plants can live on, providing they’re cared for well.
Snake plants tend to grow very slowly, so don’t immediately assume that yours is stunted! In fact, try moving your plants towards a sunnier spot if they’re in the shade. They’ll tolerate some low light but don’t tend to thrive in it.
If you get settings just right for these plants, you might even get a couple of decades out of them! Ideally, they like temperatures between 16 and 24 degrees C, meaning cold rooms really are a no-no. They tend to be great bathroom plants, however!
You won’t need to do much to maintain them healthily, so try and give them a little fertiliser once a month during the growing season. Water them once a fortnight, too – they won’t demand much more.
7. Rubber Plants (Ficus elastica)
Rubber plants are pretty imposing – with simple, large and glossy leaves and strong stems. These plants make good focal points and are easy to nurture!
Depending on their size and location, water yours weekly or fortnightly. These leaves look stunning when not collecting dust, too – meaning your plant will appreciate having leaves cleaned periodically!
Requiring a temperature between 18 and 30 degrees C, rubber plants can be trained to climb or guided to create a bushier form. They will benefit from a dose of fertiliser approximately once every three months. I recommend a mix of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
When it comes to watering, you’ll only need to give a rubber plant a dose of H2O once a week or even once every two weeks at most.
With active care in good conditions, rubber plants can live for more than 100 years! They’re not overly demanding, but the best plant parents will have their own specimens to hand down to great-grandchildren – as amazing as that sounds!
However, you’ll need to be pretty lucky – they tend to only (!) thrive for a decade or two indoors. Make the most of them!
Be prepared to guide developing rubber plants with strong supports as the plants can become heavy – bamboo canes or metal supports are ideal!
Don’t tie them too tightly, however, as the plants need a little flexibility for stems to thicken. Do also remember that leaves may move towards the light, so allow some flexibility for the plant to select some directional change. Keep an eye on how it turns and resets itself, and you can choose its ideal spot.
8. Never Die (Kalanchoe integra)
A native of the tropical Himalayas, this plant is rare to find and has been recorded endangered in some regions. Preserving it has become a serious task for those who value unusual species.
This super-rare yet enduring plant demands an ambient temperature of around 10 to 21 degrees C during the day, and from 7 to 18 degrees at night. These plants benefit from misting and prefer draught-free zones. It is traditionally used as a medicinal plant – and some believe it may even have medicinal qualities!
Despite its name, sadly, the Never Die will give up the ghost towards the end of a decade with you. Therefore, timing and gentle care are everything!
This plant’s leaves are bright green, and flowers vary in colour from yellow to orange and red. It can grow 10mm petals that are sweet-smelling. In the wild, while rare to spot, this plant can become invasive.
As an indoor plant, the Never Die’s roots are restricted in containers, so development is easier to control. It’s an unusual plant to add to a collection – and thankfully, as a perennial succulent, its care is straightforward.
This plant can be a slow starter when arriving to new surroundings. Once established, it can pick up the pace and fill a container – if sharing with other plants, it may overwhelm its neighbour! It’s probably better suited to being the only occupant of a pot!
These plants will likely need watering once the soil dries up to around four inches in depth. Generally, I’d expect to give this specimen a drink every week or two. Keep them around a foot from a window so it gets some healthy light.
9. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)
These plants are robust,easy to care for and can become show stoppers when they flower! Bearing flowers of deep fluorescent pink, pale pink, red or white, flowers are shaped like large prawns and cascade from the tips of mid-green stems.
As cacti, yes – these are seriously undemanding plants, and they’re some of my absolute favourites. They’re ideal for busy people or those who may travel away from time to time. They can tolerate some time without water, though a little sprinkle here and there is preferable.
These cacti fare well in well-lit spaces but not in direct sunlight for too many hours per day. Try and keep them in a bright room – but just not up against the window.
Schlumbergera make good companion plants and – as their cascading shape bulks up in a downward fashion – they make fantastic neighbours for many different species with upright leaves.
Should you wish to put this plant in a container with others, I recommend choosing another cactus or succulent, as they will require similar amounts of water and the odd dose of fertiliser.
Now for the exciting part – if you care well enough for your Christmas cactus, it’ll live for decades to come. In fact, it can potentially thrive for up to a century!
To propagate Christmas cacti, they can be rooted from limbs. Young plants may not flower in their first year, however, and will need a little more attention. Turning the pot to balance the light is advisable, as if you do not move the plant, it can begin to lean in relation to the light source.
Flowers on this plant can last for up to two weeks at a time, so make the most of them once they emerge!
These plants are pretty tolerant at room temperature, though the sweet spot is always likely to be somewhere between 21 and 27 C. Keep it in any room below 10 C, and it’ll likely start to suffer irreversible damage.
I recommend giving older Christmas cacti a quick shot of fertiliser during the growing season to help it put on a good floral display.
As you can see, there are plenty of plants out there that will stick with you through thick and thin. All they ask from you in return is a little water and plenty of sunlight. That said, you should always do well not to scorch your plants!
These long-lasting greens will go on for years providing you stick to a schedule. Like pets, long-lasting plants love routine, and if you change things around too much, they can go into shock.
The best part about growing long-lasting plants is that you won’t have to deal with the heartache of a withered specimen too often. You also won’t be out of pocket trying to replace your displays every five minutes!
Take a look out for the nine long-runners listed above at your local garden centre, and as always, ask for their advice on care and attention. While I’ve given you all the tips I possibly can from my experience, it’s always good to get second and third opinions from horticulturists in the know.
Who knows – you could have a green display that endures generations to come!