A guide to virtually indestructible house plants
Do house plants come home with you to die? Maybe it isn’t your terrible neglect, perhaps it’s actually down to the type of plant you’re choosing…
Most house plants are not notoriously hard to grow, indeed some might suggest that most are pretty easy. So why do so many of us amateur growers end up with a plant graveyard instead of a flourishing indoor display? It could be because you’re choosing plants that need a lot of care and attention rather than ones which are quite happy to endure the occasional bout of neglect. Indoor garden guru Ian Drummond and Kara O’Reilly, editor of lifestyle magazine Resident, have teamed up to write At Home with Plants a guide to growing and styling your own indoor garden. Their list of easy plants ranging from ’tolerant’ to ’virtually indestructible’ is the shopping we’ve been waiting for:
Top 3 Succulent Plants
Happy to be neglected and best kept on the dry side, they are suitable in most locations in the home. They are also highly adaptable, and many of them can survive in lower light levels.
- Crassula ovata (money tree). Also known as the ’money plant’, these exotic hardies require good light and little water. They have beautifully plump, glossy green leaves that are tinged with red, and they retain a bush-like appearance.
- Kalanchoe tomentosa (panda plant). The green leaves are covered with small silver hairs, giving this plant a blue-grey appearance. It should be placed by a bright window. Be careful not to over-water, and do cut off dead flower stems and pinch back leggy growth to keep plants looking their best.
- Sempervivum tectorum (common houseleek). This succulent is sometimes called ’hens and chicks’ because it produces ’chicks’ – miniature plants that are offset from the mother ’hen’. There are many varieties available and all of them seem to thrive on neglect. They work really well planted up as part of a ’living wall’ design.
Top 3 Tolerant Plants
- Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen). The 21 species of Aglaonema all have attractive, oval-shaped leaves growing from a stalk in a variety of leaf colours, many of them with pretty variegated white markings. All of them need moderate watering, and while the all-green varieties, such as A. modestum, don’t mind lower light levels, the variegated ones, like the silvery-grey A. ’Silver Queen’, need brighter light, though not direct sunlight. They are slow-growing and look particularly good when grouped together.
- Dracaena fragrans (corn plant). These plants need good light levels, but they should be kept out of direct sunlight. You only need to water them moderately, and reduce this in winter. Any pruning should be done in spring. They can reach 2m tall but their spread is fairly compact, which makes them ideal for corners and tight spaces.
- Spathiphyllum wallisii (peace lily). Of all the flowering houseplants, the peace lily is perhaps the easiest to care for. They prefer bright, indirect sunlight, but can tolerate lower light levels. However, for the plants to bloom, they do require brighter light. The attractive white flowers appear in early summer and can last for weeks.
Top Three (Virtually) Indestructible Plants
- Zamioculcas zamiifolia (fern arum). These compact plants are happy to dry out and can take a dark location.
- Aloe. While these succulents need bright light, they can be allowed to dry out between waterings. They also grow slowly, so you won’t have to keep repotting them.
- Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant). As long as you give spider plants reasonable levels of light, you can then pretty much forget about them.
At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond & Kara O’Reilly (£20, Mitchell Beazley) is available from 6th April