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Five hard-to-kill plants for people missing their green thumb

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When looking for suggestions for resilient plants, a quick Facebook survey of friends and colleagues returned a few interesting comments.

“A Honeysuckle hedge,” remarked one.

“One day people will appreciate the true beauty of onion weed. And then my garden will come into its own”, said another.

Both plants started off as ornamental garden plants, but have “jumped the fence” and are now frowned upon.

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Professor Tim Entwistle, Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Garden Victoria, remarked: “Kept thinking of plants then deciding they were weedy … But rosemary, (non-weedy) lavender for starters….”

Tim Pickles, owner of Pickles Garden centre and voted many times retail nursery winner of the state, suggested Euphorbia milii, otherwise known as Crown of Thorns. “Love it”, he said, “Had one flowering in a pot for 30 years. I must be getting old!”

Another response is Tiny Tom tomatoes, and I have to admit, growing cherry tomatoes is probably the easiest of all edibles. And a great kitchen gardener, Tim Robson, who won the Gardening Australia (NSW) competition for his edible garden a few years back, added Chicory and Asparagus to the “set and forget friends” in the patch.

So what are my favourite plants that are hard to kill, and not listed as noxious? My votes go to these stalwarts, though I too am a big fan of Lavender and Rosemary!

1. The cast iron plant

The name says it all! Also know as Aspidistra, the dark green foliage and tough-as-boots nature of these have made them popular as house plants for many decades. They can also be planted in the shade outdoors, and some varieties have an interesting white variegation.


2. Zygocactus

Another “oldie but goodie” is the Zygocactus (syn. Slumbergia). It flowers in winter, normally around Mothers Day, and has succulent, spineless leaves that don’t easily dry out. Its pendulous habit makes it perfect for hanging baskets and pots on pedestals.


3. Mother-in-law’s tongue

Sansevieria trifasciata has a sharp point and can hurt if you get at the wrong end of it. It is also a succulent and different cultivars come in a range of leaf tonings. It looks great in pots and is so hard to kill, even pubs and restaurants can keep them alive on dregs of beer and the odd shower of rain.

mother in laws tongue

4. Roses

Wander through any cemetery and the hardiness of roses is evident as they often are the only thing surviving, sometimes even after the head stone has crumbled. Old fashioned climbing roses and briar roses are some of the toughest, but even modern day shrub types like ‘Flower Carpet’ are great survivors.


5. Bougainvillea

These climbers flower in spring but it is actually the showy bract which colours up and looks great for so many weeks. They will grow in pots, up pergolas, over frames and some dwarf types, known as ‘Bambinos’ happily cascade in baskets or tubs. Treat these guys too well though and you will not get the colourful display.


Tips and tricks

• Succulent leaves and silver foliage generally are drought tolerant.

• Natives to the area (or areas similar in climate overseas) will naturally acclimatise better and be easier to grow.

• Using water storing crystals prior to planting, and mulching well, especially before summer, will help plants survive the summer. Once they have coped with their first summer they normally will survive for years.


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