It should be no surprise that my house is full of plants. They jostle for the best spot on the windowsill, hang from railings, gather together in pools of light on the floor and take over the kitchen countertops. I am not alone. Houseplants are having a moment because micropropagation has made them fast and relatively cheap to grow, and as we are increasingly apartment dwellers: the only growing many urbanites get to do is indoors.
Houseplants make a house a home; someone lives here, someone cares, they say. They are not merely decorative: they respond, they bloom, they let the seasons into your house. A well-cared-for and healthy houseplant improves your indoor life, filtering out pollutants in the air.
But your plants do not want to live with you. They want to live in a tropical rainforest, cool desert or mountain ravine, to feel the breeze, taste soft rain, sleep when the sun goes The best plantsdown. A few would like to be in touch with their friends, rather than in a pot on their own. So they sulk.
The trick is to keep your plants healthy, which means observing them closely and being consistent. Erratic watering kills more houseplants than anything else: no plant wants to sit in a saucer of water for days, nor go through a drought. Your houseplants were grown in greenhouses with good light levels, then shipped, often to a store, so there is often a necessary period of adjustment, particularly to the lower light levels in your home. As a result, your plant may drop leaves soon after moving in. But it’s not dying, it’s adapting.
Water regularly and evenly, and all will be well. The compost should be saturated after watering and not watered again until the surface is dry to touch. It is easy to overwater a plant in a pot with no drainage. If your plant is in a pot with no holes at the bottom, repot it.
Here are six plant types to grow at home. Get them to thrive, and you’ll find that you will, too.
The best plants for
A basement flat: Fittonia albivenis, also called nerve plant or mosaic plant. This looks as if someone has drawn all over the leaves. It doesn’t like full sun; it likes moisture but not wet. Easy to look after.
A central-heated room: Haworthia form rosettes and are mostly stemless with firm, fleshy leaves. Water generously in summer. In winter, water every other month.
A bathroom: Delta maidenhair fern(Adiantum raddianum) is delicate and high-maintenance, so the minute you get it home, re-pot in compost-rich soil. It must never dry out; if it does, sit it in water until fully soaked. Avoid draughts.
Those with time on their hands: Rhizomatous begonia cultivars. Plant-lovers adore begonias because they are a joy to propagate. Most are perfect for north- and east-facing windows. They like constant temperatures. For best growth, they need a minimum temperature of 15C. Keep moist but never wet.
A beginner gardener: Pilea peperomias, the Chinese money plant. This has become an Instagram star. The leaves reach up to 10cm across. They can become straggly with age as the leaves crowd the top, so propagate to keep them looking tidy. They don’t mind a bit of the cold, so they are ideal for porches and chilly windowsills.
Deep Shade: Aglaonema ‘Red’, or Chinese Evergreen. Part of the Araceae family, it’s easily scorched by the sun, so is perfect for a room with filtered light, say, from Roman blinds. A saucer filled with pebbles will counteract central heating. In spring, cut back old, untidy plants to about 5cm of the base, and they will resprout.