If a houseplant has ever drowned you are not alone. Also seasoned plant parents get a little heavy hand with watering occasionally, and sadly that can be a death sentence for many plants. But don’t worry — some plants do want soil that never dries out.
Planting and watering notes
For plants that tolerate, and even welcome, an overabundance of water, planting them in well-drained potting soil in a pot with drainage holes is still important to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged. Terracotta pots are a great choice because they allow water to evaporate through the porous clay. You might also see wet patches on the pot where excess water has been soaked up by the clay. This is a sign for holding off for one or two days before watering again.
With the exception of cyperus, the plants below all prefer soil to be consistently and evenly damp, though not sopping wet. It’s best to test the soil daily with your finger to see if it shows signs of drying out before watering again.
Baby’s tears (Helxine soleirolii) is a bright green creeping plant with tiny little teardrop shaped leaves. These plants are often used in terrariums because they love moisture and form a dense carpet of foliage over the soil. When planted in a pot, the vines trail down the sides, making baby’s tears an excellent choice for small hanging planters. Keep the soil constantly moist and remember to pinch back vines frequently to prevent legginess.
If your houseplants repeatedly succumb to root rot, get yourself a cyperus. Cyperus plants have tall grass-like shoots topped with slender bracts that droop downward in an umbrella shape. Cyperus are natives of tropical swamps, so it’s virtually impossible to overwater them. The soil must be kept constantly damp and some varieties will survive standing water. These plants also prefer high humidity, so mist daily. There are many varieties of cyperus, but Cyperus albostriatus and Cyperus alternifolius ‘Variegatus’ are both popular and easy to find.
Another great choice for terrariums is the moisture-loving selaginellas. Such low-growing plants come in hundreds of species and have an ancient lineage connected with the family of ferns. They are often used as ground coverings, but they make indoor plants attractive and look nice in hanging baskets. Soil should be kept humid at all times, and the plant should be frequently misted. There are many selaginella species with distinctive appearances — Selaginella kraussiana ‘ Aurea ‘ has light green feathery leaves, and is widely available.
Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) have upright shamrock-green fronds that droop gracefully. Most ferns do well in damp environments that mimic their native forest floor habitat, and this classic houseplant is very easy to grow provided you never allow the roots to dry out. The leaves will turn yellow if there is not enough humidity in the room, so mist the plant daily or keep the pot in a shallow saucer of water.
Pitcher plants (Saccacenia) are carnivorous plants with leaves forming long tubes for insect trapping. They grow native in bogs, and they like ever-wet soil. Yet you should only give distilled water or rainwater to pitcher plants. We are adapted to low soils with nutrients, and the minerals present in spring and tap water can build up in the soil and allow the plant to die. The best results, keep your pitcher plant lined with an inch of water in a tray to keep the roots moist at all times, and periodically watering from top.