Houseplants bring us joy and make our indoor surroundings prettier, fresher, more interesting and definitely more relaxing. To thrive and look their best we must look to their native habitats and try to reproduce their natural growing conditions in terms of light, soil and water. In this post we look at a few of the houseplants/houseplant families we currently have in stock so you can select what is most suitable for the conditions you can provide.
Many UK houseplants are natives of tropical rainforests and require a humid atmosphere. This can be achieved by misting or placing them on a tray or saucer filled with damp gravel. Remember that grouping plants together creates a humid micro-climate which will also be beneficial. Over-watering is a common cause of houseplant death – the roots need oxygen and can easily rot if constantly waterlogged or standing in water.
Many houseplants require a brightly lit space but not direct sunlight, as this may scorch the leaves. Light levels will obviously be lower the further away from a window your houseplant is positioned. Plants may need to be moved to make up for seasonal light changes – for example, you could move a plant closer to a window during the winter to try to maintain sufficient light.
In general, feed plants with a liquid fertiliser when they’re actively growing (usually spring to summer). Specialist feeds are available for some types of plant eg. cactus & succulents, palms, orchids etc.
An even temperature is ideal for most houseplants. Avoid excessive heat (don’t place them near open fires/woodburners/radiators) and excessive cold (keep them away from cold draughts and freezing night time windowsills).
MONSTERA DELICIOSA (Swiss cheese plant) Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (RHS AGM)
Spectacular, easy-to-grow climbing houseplant with bold, striking leaves. A native of Central and South American rainforests, it makes an ideal specimen for the living room in a light position, out of direct sunlight. Water moderately during the growing season but wait until the soil is dry to touch before watering again. Give a liquid feed once a month from spring to summer. Mist frequently to maintain humidity. Larger plants may need a moss/coco pole for support. Don’t repot it too often – unless you want it to grow into a monster! If required, large plants may be pruned – you can place the cut leaves in a vase of water – they look great! Harmful if eaten.
CEROPEGIA WOODII (String of hearts vine)
A wonderful semi-succulent, trailing houseplant that’s very tolerant of neglect. The stems can grow to be 2m (6′) long or more – just trim them when necessary. Native of S.W. Africa, it requires well-drained soil which should be allowed to dry out completely between waterings. Feed in spring a summer. Ideal for a brightly lit position, will tolerate direct morning/late afternoon sun and heat. Will also survive in lower light conditions but leaves will be more spaced out on the stems. Bears tube-like, pinkish flowers. Little tuber-like balls (‘tubercles’) may form on the stems. Just cut these off and place them (and any attached stem/leaves) in a little water and they will grow roots. Pot them up and grow on to form new plants.
A bold, architectural houseplant for a bright position – a south-facing window is ideal. A native of hot and dry areas in North and South America and the Caribbean. Tolerates a little shade but spin it round every once in a while to stop the branches leaning towards the light. Older leaves gradually die and fall off, to slowly form a trunk as it gets taller. Water well during the growing season but allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Feed once a month from spring to summer with a liquid fertiliser.
SENECIO ROWLEYANUS (String of pearls)
A much-admired trailing houseplant with hanging stems (up to 60-90cm/2′ – 3′ long) with succulent leaves like little pearls – or rather little peas! Needs a bright position – will tolerate some direct morning or late afternoon sun and dry air. Native of S.W. Africa. Requires well-drained soil – let the top part dry out before watering again. Has small roots so doesn’t need frequent repotting. Feed once a month during the growing season with a cactus/succulent feed. Quite fast growing – trim the stems if required. May be harmful if eaten.
EPIPREMNUM AUREUM / SCINDAPSUS AUREUS (Devil’s Ivy)
An easy to grow trailing/climbing houseplant with heart-shaped, variegated leaves, that helps improve the air quality in your home. A native of tropical rainforests, where it climbs up trees. Prefers bright but indirect sunlight and a humid atmosphere away from draughts. If placed in low light the leaf variegation will be reduced. Water well during the growing season but let it become dry to touch between waterings. Loves being misted regularly to maintain humidity. Feed monthly from spring to summer. If you want it to become bushier then cut out the tips to encourage fuller growth. Harmful if eaten.
FICUS ELASTICA (Rubber plant)
Popular houseplant with handsome leaves. Native of Southeast Asia but now naturalised in many tropical areas. Good to grow into a large statement plant for the living room. Prefers bright light, out of direct sun. Will tolerate a shadier spot but should be watered less and is likely to become rather tall and lanky & lose the lower leaves. In light positions, water well (with water at room temperature) and then wait for the top of the soil to dry out before watering again. Take care not to overwater – the roots will easily rot and the leaves will turn yellow/brown and fall. As usual, reduce watering in winter. Clean the leaves as necessary with a damp cloth or leaf shine. Feed when in active growth. May be harmful if eaten.
Highly decorative foliage houseplants which are thought to have air-purifying properties. Leaves open during the day and close up at night – if it’s quiet enough you can sometimes hear them rustling as they move! Natives of South American jungles – they like a warm, humid environment – ideal for the kitchen or bathroom. Small varieties are also great for terrariums and bottle gardens. They enjoy a light position, away from direct sunlight. Will tolerate low light levels – especially forms with red undersides to the leaves. In general, if positioned in a rather dark spot the leaves don’t move. Keep moist (but not wet) in the growing season and give less water during the winter – definitely don’t place them near radiators etc – the air will be too dry! Ideal temperature 15 – 23°C. Minimum temperature 10°C (50°F). Clean the leaves with a damp cloth when necessary.
Superb foliage houseplants with colourful leaves. Natives of South American tropical forests. Require a light position but protect them from hot sun to avoid scorching the delicate leaves. North or east-facing windowsills are ideal but avoid draughts. Ideal temperature is 18°C (65°F). They need high humidity so mist frequently or place in a damp pebble tray. Water when the soil is dry. Caladiums are tuberous plants which die back in autumn as they enter dormancy. Once the leaves have fully died back, cut them off and keep the soil dry until the growing season begins again in spring. Harmful if eaten.
KALANCHOE “FLAPJACK’ (Flapjack paddle plant)
This juicy little succulent is native to South Africa. It’s ideal in a brightly lit position though it does tolerate a little shade. In summer it can be placed outside in a sunny, sheltered site, but avoid placing it in hot, direct sun when indoors or the leaves may become scorched. ‘Flapjack’ needs well-drained soil – only water when the soil is dry to touch. Give it less water during the winter. If you need to repot it use a specialist cactus/succulent mix or add a generous amount of grit/perlite to a loam-based or multipurpose compost. In winter or full sun the leaves develop decorative red tinges at the edges. Harmful if eaten.
Stunning houseplants with striking leaves. Another native of tropical rainforests, so prefers a humid environment and a well-lit position out of direct sunlight to avoid scorching the leaves. Ideal placed on a saucer of damp gravel and misted regularly – or take it with you to the bathroom when you have a shower! Compost should be moist but not sitting in water. Feed during the growing season. When it enters dormancy during the winter and leaves begin to fade, reduce watering and place it in a warm position (but don’t let it dry out completely). Definitely don’t throw it away or give it lots of water to try and revive it – during the dormant period it doesn’t need it! Increase watering once again when it enters a new growing season in spring. Harmful if eaten.
CHLOROPHYTUM COMOSUM (Spider plant)
One of the most familiar and easy to grow houseplants, said to have air purifying properties. Spider plants are natives of tropical and southern Africa. They prefer bright but indirect sunlight although they will tolerate darker spots in the home. Keep moist (and feed) during the growing season but allow to dry out between waterings in autumn and winter. The tips of leaves may sometimes turn brown – this could be due to being too dry or tap water chemicals. Misting will help to maintain humidity but they will put up with lower humidity. Repot using a well-drained compost when it becomes pot-bound. Very easy to propagate – just cut off some of the baby spider plantlets it produces, place them in water until roots grow and then pot them up!