10 Common Houseplants That Are Difficult to Take Care Of

Indoor plants can make a room feel fresher—but some are more temperamental than others.

Plants bring a wealth of benefits to your home: They refresh the air, introduce a welcome touch of nature, and straight-up look pretty. But depending on your space and habits, keeping up with a finicky plant can be downright frustrating! My husband and I had a Madagascar Dragon Tree that the plant store assured us would be easy to take care of. Sadly, it withered from a peppy piece of greenery to a single, sad, skinny trunk with about three leaves. Was it us…or the dragon tree?

I interviewed gardening expert Melinda Myers, author and host of The Great Courses How to Grow Anything series, and the first thing she told me was that perhaps the plant just wasn't my perfect match. "Trust me, there's somebody out there killing the same thing as you," she laughed. "There are the over-waterers, who kill a plant with kindness, or the ones who can never remember. The difficulty is matching the plant to the person who will take care of it."

Myers emphasizes that houseplants can be difficult to take care of because the environment isn't right, particularly the amount of light and humidity in the area where you place it. And when we head into the colder months—and want to bring a little greenery indoors—dry heated air and low winter light can be tough on houseplants. In brief: It's not exactly your fault if those houseplants die!

That said, a few houseplants are surprisingly temperamental, despite how frequently they pop up at the grocery store or on social media. Here are 10 common ones that are difficult to take care of.

01 of 10

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Difficult to Care for House Plants, Fiddle Leaf Fig
Popular on social media, Myers wishes any post that shows a fiddle leaf fig include this disclaimer: “And after this photo shoot, they moved the plant back in front of the window.” All kinds of ficus, including rubber plants and weeping fig, need bright, even light to be successful. “And with any kind of change, they drop their leaves,” says Myers, which can be discouraging. Fiddle leaf figs also like humidity and moist soil, but not too much watering. Tricky!. Getty Images / Bogdan Kurylo

Myers wishes that social media posts about the popular fiddle leaf fig would include this disclaimer: "After this photoshoot, they moved the plant back in front of the window." All kinds of ficus, including rubber plants and weeping figs, need bright, even light to be successful. "With any kind of change, they drop their leaves," says Myers, and this can be discouraging. Fiddle leaf figs also like humidity and moist soil, but not too much watering. Tricky!

02 of 10

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Plants That Clean the Air, Boston Fern
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"These hanging plants like moisture, which is why they're popular in the summertime, but "they suffer in the dry winter air," says Myers. Unless you like keeping your home warm and humid—and have a spot where a Boston fern can get frequent but indirect sunlight—it will be tough to keep it alive. "And when Boston ferns drop leaves, they're a mess," she adds. If you love the look but not the maintenance, a new varietal of the fern, the Austral Gem, is more tolerant of low humidity.

RELATED: 6 Plants That Can Clean the Air in Your Home

03 of 10

Norfolk Island Pine

Difficult House Plant, Norfolk Island Pine
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These fluffy conifers are popular around the holidays, but their compact size and unique branches make them attractive year-round. "These are hard to kill," says Myers. But they end up looking ugly when the lower branches start to brown and drop, and the new growth comes in uneven. These plants like bright, even light and humidity, so they can be tough to maintain over the winter.

04 of 10

Peace Lily

Difficult House Plant, Peace Lily
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These are a favorite in indoor commercial spaces, like shopping malls, for their broad leaves and attractive flowers. But they're not for you if you're an under-waterer. "Peace lilies wilt quickly, perk up with water, and wilt again," says Myers. "But one day, they will not perk up." Peace lilies don't like drafty windows, and chemicals like chlorine and fluoride in your water can cause browning on the leaves.

05 of 10

Miniature Roses

Difficult House Plant, miniature pink Roses
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These perky potted plants show up in grocery stores over the winter, and they're tempting with all that color. "But miniature roses suffer in lower light and low humidity, and they get spider mites if they're too dry," says Myers. "They struggle, and then you feel bad." Set these in a spot with high humidity and several hours of direct sunlight for your best chances.

06 of 10

Madagascar Dragon Tree

Madagascar Dragon Tree
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Tall but compact, dracaenas and yuccas are popular for interiors. But they're also finicky. "They need the right conditions—slightly moist soil and humidity—or they'll lose their leaves and get brown tips on the ends," says Myers. Dragon trees like light shade (direct sunlight may scorch the leaves) and an occasional misting to stay moist but not too wet.

07 of 10

Venus Flytrap

Venus Flytrap house plant
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"These are popular plants to get kids interested in gardening…then they die!" says Myers. Venus flytraps like the high humidity that's best created in a terrarium, but they struggle in dry, cool environments like our homes. Plus, they eat bugs, so caring for Venus flytraps includes catching insects and "feeding" them to the carnivorous plants. (Ew!)

08 of 10


Difficult House Plant, Croton
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These pop up in grocery stores in the fall, and the orange, yellow, and red veins in their leaves seem like a nice complement to autumnal decor. But croton plants are sensitive to low light and drafts, and picky about watering, too, says Myers. In a dark corner, they'll lose their dazzling color. However, moving them to new conditions can cause their leaves to drop. Lose-lose.

09 of 10


Difficult House Plant, Gardenia with white flower
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With their heady scent and bright-green leaves, gardenias are lovely, but they're notoriously fickle. "They want to be in California, not in your house," says Myers. She says that these are some of the hardest plants to keep alive and get to bloom. They like bright light and acidic soil, and in the winter when our homes are dry and the light is low, they fail to thrive. They're also prone to all kinds of pests, including mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites.

10 of 10

Baby's Tears

Baby's Tears plant with green leaves
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This ground cover is popular for its vibrant green, round, delicate leaves, and in the right conditions, it can spread so quickly that it's invasive. But it's tough to get those perfect growing conditions indoors. "It's hard to keep baby's tears plants moist, but not so wet that they rot," says Myers, who suggests that a terrarium, versus an open planter, is a better environment for the plant.

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