Having plants in your house is a total must. Not only is it great to have some pretty greenery around, it is also so important for your mental well-being to have something, living and growing around you. Some houseplants even help to purify the air that we breathe. If you find yourself working from home then it might boost your mood.
Now more than ever, it’s important to be in touch with nature. If you can’t go out and don’t have the luxury of your own outside space, make friends with your houseplants. I’ll divide this blog into what plants to get to start you off and then some tips on looking after the plants you already have.
Bomb proof house plants you can’t kill
People often say I can’t keep houseplants, I always kill them. Well, here’s our top list of robust, easy to look after plants that are very hard to kill. This is not to be taken as a challenge!
Zamioculcas zamiifolia – hard to pronounce but an awesome houseplant. These have only recently become popular in the UK, you certainly didn’t see them when we were growing up in the 70’s. Glossy almost tropical leaves, needs very little water and will grow very happily in dark shady places as well as taking sun. If you are only going to get one then this is the one.
Sansevieria (mother-in-laws tongue) – These you are probably more familiar with. Great variegated sword like leaves. Very hard to kill and some great colours.
Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant) – absolutely fabulous for low light leaves. A Victorian favourite, elegant long leaves and easy to look after. Great plant to start with as it will definitely cope with neglect.
Ficus elastica (rubber plant) – One of the most well known houseplants that’s been around for years. Another reasonably straight forward plant that likes bright but not direct sunlight, although it will tolerate a little bit of full sun. Only water once the compost has dried out.
Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) – A favourite for many years, give it a bright spot but not in direct sun and water regularly. Likes slightly moist soil but not waterlogged and watch it grow.
Crassula ovata (Jade plant) – very easy care succulent that will grow and grow. This is what you see in the windows of most Chinese restaurants. It’s also called the money tree and supposed to bring you luck.
Schlumbergera cactus (Christmas cactus) – Great for winter colour
These may need a little more attention than the list above but are definitely worth the effort.
Streptocarpus wallisii (Cape primrose) – popular and easy to grow but don’t over water it, stunning bright flowers in vivid pinks and purples. We had a group of three in the bathroom and they flowered for months. Also liked the humidity.
Spathiphyllum (peace lily) – This is probably the most killed houseplant of all time. A lovely plant with gorgeous green leaves and white spathe flowers. This does prefer part shade but you do need to keep an eye on it. Don’t over water but if it is dry it will wilt and collapse so can’t be neglected for too long.
Pilea peperomoides (Chinese money plant) – a smaller houseplant with round fleshy leaves. Water regularly and mist occasionally. This has become a bit of a trendy houseplant in the last couple of years, it looks a bit ‘designery’, if that’s a word, and looks great in a contemporary home with a nice grey pot.
Looking after your house plants
The biggest reason for why houseplants die is overwatering so wait until the compost has almost dried out before watering again and apply from the top of plants & allow excess liquid to drain away.
Most house plants will thrive in a draught-free, well-lit spot, out of direct
sunlight. Don’t put them on top of the telly. The amount of light and type of light is also very important.
-When in flower, feed the plants weekly with a liquid fertiliser high in potash.
-Spray ferns and bromeliads with water daily because they like it humid.
-Keep plants looking good by deadheading & cutting off yellow leaves.
-Plants will grow better with clean leaves so remove dust with damp cotton
-If growth is pale and spindly, put the plants in a lighter spot.
-Control pests, such as mealy bug, woolly aphid & scale insects by rubbing off with
damp cotton wool. Cut off growth damaged by red spider mite and deter them by
regularly misting plants with water to raise humidity.
A bit about orchids
Lots of people have orchids on their window sills so we just wanted to give you a bit of info. The two most common ones grown in the UK are moth orchids and boat orchids.
Phalaenopsis orchids – The Moth orchid
This is probably the one most people have, the one they sell the most of in the supermarkets, with rounded leaves and lovely flowers that go on for weeks sometimes months.
Position: Requiring bright, but not harsh sunlight – as this can cause scorch – Phalaenopsis are best placed on an east- or west-facing windowsill. Move them into a shadier spot during summer.
Watering: Regularly check the compost and when it starts to feel dry, run tepid water through the pot until it runs out of the bottom. Too little water can result in leaves withering whereas too much water will lead to bud drop, yellow leaves that fall away, and root rot.
Nutrients: To encourage growth, add liquid orchid feed to every fourth watering between late March and September. Increase humidity around plants by placing the pot on a tray of damp pebbles, and mist the leaves (but not the flowers) regularly.
Prolonging blooms: A flower spike can continue to bloom for up to three months. Once faded, cut the spike just above the second node (joint) beneath the spent flowers, and a flowering sideshoot may develop.
Repotting: Moth orchids only need repotting occasionally, when they have outgrown their container or when the compost has started to disintegrate. Being epiphytes (plants that in the wild cling to trees and rocks rather than grow in soil) they will usually sprout aerial roots. Always use specialist orchid compost (usually bark-based) which is available from most garden centres.
Cymbidium orchids – Boat orchids
These are slightly less common and probably one of the least demanding orchids.
Temperature: A minimum night temperature of 10-14ºC (50-57ºF) is required. It helps if the plants have a spell outdoors from June to September to encourage flower-bud initiation
Flowering: This can occur from November to May with flower spikes lasting roughly eight weeks.
Watering and feeding: From spring to autumn, water from above and allow excess water to drain away; compost should just dry out between waterings. Moderate feeding during the growing season is beneficial. Use a general purpose liquid feed at half strength every third watering. In winter, reduce the watering and allow plants to dry out for a time.
Re-potting: Re-pot congested plants after flowering in spring. Don’t overpot plants. Use a specially formulated orchid compost.
I hope this gives you a quick taste and a little bit of information to get you on the road to houseplant heaven.