Our Plant Growing Difficulty Explained – Easy to Very Challenging Plants


If you’ve been poking around BackyardDigs, you might have noticed our plant-growing guides come with a little something extra—a growing difficulty rating.

This rating gives you a quick snapshot of how much effort and expertise it’ll take to get your plants thriving indoors or in your backyard. Of course, these are subjective, but they will help you gauge if a plant is more of a ‘weekend project’ or a ‘green thumb guru’ level challenge.

Growing Difficulty 1: Very Easy

Plants that fall into the “Very Easy” category are resilient, low-maintenance, and can handle a bit of neglect without throwing a tantrum. Think of them as the chill friends who don’t need constant attention to thrive.

These hardy plants typically have a few things in common:

  • They can endure less-than-ideal conditions, like irregular watering or imperfect light.
  • They’re usually quite resistant to pests and diseases.
  • Their growth isn’t fussy, meaning they don’t need frequent fertilizing or pruning.

Here are a few forgiving plants that won’t give you grief:

  • Cherry Tomatoes: Give them sun and water, and they’ll reward you with delicious bitesize treats.
  • Basil: Aromatic, delicious, and happy with just some sun and occasional watering.
  • Aloe Vera: Loves sunny spots and occasional watering. Plus, it’s handy for healing cuts and scrapes.
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): Grows in various lighting conditions and doesn’t fuss over water.
  • Marigolds: Bright blooms that keep pests away. They’re practically set-it-and-forget-it flowers.
  • Jade Plant (Crassula ovata): A succulent friend that stores water in its leaves for drought days.
  • Sunflowers: They grow tall and proud with basic care.
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria): Practically thrives on neglect and improves indoor air quality.
  • ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): Survives with low light and needs water only when dry.
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Very adaptable and sprouts baby plants you can share with friends.

Growing Difficulty 2: Easy

Easy-level plants are generally low-fuss, but appreciate your attention to some basic needs. They won’t mind if you’re not spot-on with their care routine as long as you keep it consistent.

Basic care for these plants usually involves:

  • Regular watering schedules allow the soil to dry out slightly between drinks.
  • A good amount of sunlight, although they won’t mind cloudy days.
  • Occasional fertilizing, especially during their growing seasons.
  • Some pruning or deadheading to encourage growth and flowering.

Here are easy-going plants that will reward your modest efforts:

  • Potatoes: Plant them in a sunny spot with well-draining soil and watch them flourish with just basic care.
  • Impatiens: Bright and cheerful flowers that bloom even in partial shade. Keep them moist for best results.
  • Carrots: Root veggies that need deep soil and regular moisture. Spacing between carrots helps them grow better.
  • Lettuce: Give it cool weather and consistent moisture and you’ll have salads straight from your garden.
  • Cucumbers: Keep them watered, provide support for climbing, and they’ll produce a crunchy crop.
  • Mint: This aromatic herb spreads quickly. Give it water and harvest often to keep it under control.
  • Calendula: These sunny flowers aren’t picky about soil and can handle the occasional drought.
  • Geraniums: They love the sun and can manage without water for a bit. Deadhead for continuous blooms.
  • Peppers: From sweet bells to fiery chilies, peppers need sun and steady watering.
  • Zinnias: Plant these in warm soil, give them sunshine, and they’ll give you tons of color.

Growing Difficulty 3: Moderate

Stepping up to moderate-difficulty plants means that they need regular care and specific conditions to show off their best. They’re not high-maintenance, but they’ll need a bit more of your gardening savvy.

To keep these plants happy, you’ll want to pay attention to:

  • Their thirst for consistent and precise watering. Too much or too little can lead to problems.
  • The right balance of sunlight and shade as per their preference.
  • Specific soil types or pH levels.
  • Protection from pests and diseases since they might not have the same resilience as easier plants.

Ready for the challenge? Here are moderately demanding plants that are well worth the effort:

  • Roses: Queens of the garden that demand good soil, proper pruning, and defense against pests.
  • Regular Orchids: Exotic beauties need the right humidity, temperature, and indirect light to bloom.
  • Blueberries: Acidic soil lovers that crave sun but need netting to protect their fruit from birds.
  • Tomatoes (heirloom varieties): They love the sun and need staking, pruning, and consistent watering.
  • Gardenias: Fragrant flowers that require acidic soil, regular feeding, and protection from cold snaps.
  • Rhododendrons: They thrive in well-draining, acidic soil. Prone to root rot!
  • Eggplants: Warmth-loving veggies that need steady moisture and staking as they grow taller.
  • Dahlias: Tubers that demand rich soil and deadheading. Don’t forget to dig them up before frost!
  • Asparagus: A long-term commitment requiring patience for establishment but rewarding you year after year.
  • Fuchsias: Hanging beauties prefer cooler temperatures with lots of blooms when watered correctly.

Growing Difficulty 4: Challenging

When you step into the realm of challenging plants, you’re committing to a bit more than just your average watering can routine.

These are the plants that make you flex your green muscles, requiring close attention to watering, precise feeding schedules, and just the right soil conditions.

Caring for these demanding plants involves:

  • Monitoring water levels meticulously. These plants often have a narrow comfort zone between too dry and waterlogged.
  • Providing them with specific nutrients at key stages of their growth cycle.
  • Ensuring soil conditions are optimal, whether it’s the pH level or the type of compost used.

Here are challenging plants that’ll test your gardening skills:

  • Cauliflower: This veggie is finicky about temperatures and requires consistent moisture and rich soil.
  • Celosia: With its vibrant plumes, it needs high fertility and warm temperatures to really shine.
  • Delphiniums: Towering spires that demand well-drained soil, regular feeding, and staking against winds.
  • Carnivorous Plants (like Venus Flytraps): They require distilled water, special soil mixes, and lots of patience.
  • Sweet Peas: Fragrant climbers that need cool weather to start but plenty of sun and diligent support as they grow.
  • Melons: Craving warm soil, ample space to sprawl, and precise watering to avoid splitting their sweet fruits.
  • Garden Lilies: Bulbous beauties requiring well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Watch for lily beetles!
  • Hellebores: These winter bloomers need rich soil and careful pruning to prevent disease in their dense foliage.
  • Artichokes: These architectural plants need room to grow, fertile soil, and protection from harsh weather.

Growing Difficulty 5: Very Challenging

Now, if you’re the type who loves a good gardening challenge and doesn’t shy away from some serious plant pampering, then “Very Challenging” plants are your arena.

Caring for these ultra-demanding plants involves:

  • Keeping just the right conditions to flourish. They won’t hesitate to wilt if something’s amiss.
  • Very demanding in terms of light, water, soil, and nutrition.
  • You’ll constantly look for pests and diseases that love these high-maintenance plants as much as you do.

Here are ultra-demanding plants that will put your green thumb to the test:

  • Black Orchids: These rare gems require precise humidity, temperature control, and special potting mix to thrive.
  • Wasabi: Yes, the real deal is notoriously tricky to grow with its need for a very specific cool and humid climate.
  • Saffron Crocus: To harvest saffron spice, you need patience and precision in watering and harvesting the delicate stigmas.
  • Bonsai Trees: Miniature yet mighty demanding. Bonsai care involves meticulous pruning, wiring, and watering.
  • English Roses: They offer stunning blooms but require perfect pruning, feeding schedules, and disease prevention.
  • Cypripedium Orchids (Lady’s Slipper): A rare beauty that needs a specific soil fungus just to germinate properly.
  • Ghost Peppers (Bhut Jolokia): These fiery fruits need controlled heat and consistent moisture levels to set your mouth on fire.
  • Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha): Once thought extinct in the wild. This tree requires exact soil pH and drainage.
  • Living Stones (Lithops): These succulent oddities can rot with just one overzealous watering at the wrong time.
  • Greenhouse Cacti (like Astrophytum): They may seem tough but demand precise temperatures and humidity levels.

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