It’s a short story. If you’re not willing to pay some minimal attention to your indoor plants at least every couple weeks or so, they will die. I don’t care what kind of plants they are or how foolproof they are supposed to be. Even with maintenance, some of them will falter, get buggy, or just die for no apparent reason. Like any plant, indoor or out.
However, there are (almost)foolproof houseplants. Some of them (draecaena, phalaenopsis, spathiphyllum, aspidistra) were mentioned in a NYTimes article Thursday, but many were not. And some of the ones that were listed in the piece are not exactly foolproof—I'd consider them intermediate-level plants at best. I would be hesitant to recommend hoya carnosa or asplundia to the beginner, for example, and frequent Rant commenter Mr. Subjunctive, who is featured in the article, agrees. “I wasn't told that the aim was to come up with ‘hard to kill’ plants. Any plant is easy to kill if you're trying hard enough,” he comments in a post aimed at visitors from the Times.
I can completely understand why the Times piece did not mention such obvious choices as sansevieria, saintpaulia (African violet), or any of the philodendron or pothos. I can see where these would be considered too commonplace or too frequently mentioned. But they’re that way for a reason. Sansevieria is really difficult to kill. I don’t even think I could compost it unless I ran it through a chipper, which it might break.
As for the philodendron and pothos varieties, these are handsome plants, resistant to everything, and easy to propagate. I would also have mentioned the zygocactus, one example of which I have had for over 20 years; saintpaulia, which flower all year-round; and cyclamen, which flower profusely in season, but whose foliage is almost as pretty. Pedestrian or not, they’ll work hard for little return in the way of maintenance. They’ll also improve your indoor air quality, an important fact the Times writer does not mention.
And that alone ought to be enough for houseplants to cease being a punchline in so much of the gardening world and start being a necessity.
The images here are from last year's houseplant census, except for the African violet, which I took today.