It’s always as a great time to invest in a new house plant or two, particularly when the garden is yet to feel the warmth of spring. So why not turn your home into an oasis of greenery? House plants are more popular than ever and many are easy to keep with a little care, adding colour and style to your rooms. They may even have health benefits, potentially improving air quality. Read below to find out about each of the most popular house plants to help you find the right one for your home.
Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)
A Swiss cheese plant is a 1970s favourite and is popular once more for its dramatic, perforated and lacerated foliage that gets bigger and better as it matures. The leaves can be up to around 1m long. It is a climbing plant, in the wild growing up trunks of jungle trees, and needs the support of a moss pole. Thick aerial roots are produced from stems and these should be fed into the plant’s pot. Monstera do best in a reasonably bright position out of direct sun; in deeper shade, leaves will be smaller and less impressive. Keep compost moist but not wet and also feed fortnightly in summer. Winter temperatures should be above 12C. This plant enjoys humidity, so stand on a pebble tray andalso keep away from radiators. Look out for desirable variegated selections and newly popular, miniature M. ‘Monkey Mask’.
Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
A rubber plant is an old school favourite. The rubber plant is again popular for its handsome, glossy, dark green leaves. These are held on upright stems which emerge at the tips from a red sheath. Plants initially will be unbranched but as they mature side shoots appear. Give the plant a bright position – they will stand some indirect sun – and allow soil to dry slightly between waterings. Additionally, you should feed monthly with Houseplant Feed. Plants usually need tying to a cane as they get taller and make sure to repot regularly to stop them becoming top heavy. Winter temperatures should be above 12C – this plant enjoys humidity so stand on a pebble tray. There are some attractive variegated selections to try growing.
Elephant’s Ear (Alocasia macrorrhizos)
Elephant’s Ear has spectacular foliage and is a plant that brings a touch of the tropics to your home. It forms a clump of huge, heart-shaped leaves 60cm or more across, held atop tall fleshy stems to 1.5m tall. It needs plenty of space and a really bright position away from the hottest summer sun. Keep the compost moist but not wet and feed fortnightly in summer. Winter temperatures should be above 12C and this plant enjoys humidity so stand on a pebble tray and keep away from radiators. Look out for other impressive species such as A. amazonica, with its near black leaves and silver veins, or A. zebrina with its spectacular spotted leaf stems.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
Among the most popular and easy going of houseplants. This clump forming plant with handsome, lance-shaped green leaves is famed for its long-lasting white, arum-lily-like flowers which are held on stems above the foliage through summer. To flower well it must be fed regularly (every fortnight in summer) and kept moist. They dislike drying out so stand on a pebble tray. Keep plants in a bright place near a window but out of direct sun and maintain temperatures above 15C in winter. Look out for supersized S. ‘Mauna Loa’ with huge leaves and flowers, reaching 1.2m or tall or higher.
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis selections)
The most popular of house plants, these beautiful orchids are loved for their long-lasting flowers in a dazzling range of colours (although some such as those in blue have actually been dyed). Once the first flush of flowers fades, cut the flower spike back to a side shoot to ensure a further display. If the whole flower stem dies, remove it and wait for another to arise. The key to success with these plants is good light. A warm window sill out of direct summer sun is ideal. Maintain temperatures above 15C in winter. Orchids are grown in bark chips (Orchid Potting Mix) so water drains shaply from pots. Do not let your orchid stand in water for longer than an hour as roots will rot, and also avoid getting water in the crown of the plant. Feed plants regularly in summer with a good orchid feed.
Moth orchids will produce masses of grey/green aerial roots – these should be kept and allowed to do their thing. Look out for other orchids such as Oncidium and Zygopetalum.
Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana)
Kentia Palm an old favourite. This elegant and easy-to-please palm has been popular since Victorian times. With its robust constitution and elegant, slow-growing habit it has remained a desirable choice. Plants are sold as a clump of young plants with upright leaf stems topped by graceful arching foliage. New leaves become ever taller and larger in time, forming a big plant that will reach the ceiling. Kentia palm will grow in quite shady rooms but it prefers some bright light, although not full sun. Allow the compost to dry on the surface between waterings and keep plants away from radiators. Winter temperatures should be above 10C and this plant enjoys humidity, so stand on a pebble tray. Feed fortnightly in summer. Although grown around the world, this palm is native to just one tiny place: Lord Howe Island in the Pacific.
Another one of the most popular house plants is also one of the easiest to grow. A snake plant is a great choice for anyone likely to forget to water their plants occasionally as its succulent nature means it is tolerant of dry conditions. A clump-forming plant, its stiff, bolt-upright, grey-green marbled leaves are margined with yellow and can be 1m tall. Plants are best on a sunny window sill although they will survive in quite shaded positions; they also revel in centrally-heated rooms. The key is to never overwater – they will not tolerate being waterlogged. Keep above 10C in winter and feed monthly with a cacti and succulent feed. Occasionally, plants send up a spike of scented, greenish white flowers. There are many other species and selections to look for: Sansevieria cylindrica with its pointed cylindrical leaves is also one to try.
Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)
This little plant is a relative newcomer on the houseplant scene and has become highly popular due it its unusual, almost circular, rather succulent-green leaves that look a bit like coins. Each leaf has a yellow dot where the leaf joins its stalk. These radiate from a central stem, which in time reaches around 30cm high. Chinese money plants are easy to grow: they are best on or near a bright windowsill away from direct summer sun. Plants like to dry out a bit between waterings so allow the compost surface to dry first, but water before leaves go floppy. Feed your plant every fortnight and keep above 12C in winter.
String of Hearts (Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii)
Charming for its slender, tumbling thread-like stems bearing little silvery-green, heart-shaped leaves, this curious house plant is best grown in a little hanging basket. It is a succulent plant: the stems emerge from tuberous roots which indicate it will stand hot, dry conditions and won’t mind the odd missed watering. Allow the compost surface to dry first before watering. It must have good light so hang it in a sunny window, protected from the hottest sun and keep above 12C in winter. During summer, little pink pipe-shaped flowers appear along its stems. Feed string of hearts monthly in summer.
Cactus (various genera)
This huge group of house plants are the most popular and well known. They are also the most easily available. Many cacti are among the simplest of plants to keep, although they do need a sunny, south-facing window sill. In winter, care could not be simpler. They need almost no watering- just an occasional drop to keep them from shrivelling and in most cases temperatures above 7C. In summer, watering should be increased so that they are kept just moist. Feed plants monthly.
Look out for cacti that will flower in the home such as Rebutia and Echinopsis. If you don’t have a sunny window sill, try forest cacti such as Schlumbergera and Epiphyllum which have leaf-like stems and dazzling blooms.