Houseplants are really having their moment in the sun right now (even if they’re often relegated to a dark corner). As more and more of us move to urban living, houseplants can help to bring a healthy dose of nature to our daily lives. Whether you’re looking for the best indoor plant for a dark room, or a small indoor plant for a sunny kitchen, we're here to help you find it.
The exotic orchid
Many people think orchids are difficult to grow, but they tend to be killed through kindness (aka overwatering and direct sun). They’re used to long spells without water, so only need watering when they’re pretty dry (which could take a week or more). Orchids hate getting their roots too wet, so it’s important to water them from above and let them drain completely. If they stand in water for long, their roots will rot. Most also need light to reach their roots, which is why you’ll usually see them sold in a clear plastic pot. Keep them somewhere bright but not in direct light, like on a shelf in your bedroom.
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The unusual air plant
These brazen little plants like naked roots, so don’t plant them in soil. Instead, pop them in a hanging planter or glue them to a piece of wood with air plant adhesive to hang from the ceiling. Air plants need a well-ventilated spot, that’s light but not in direct sun. They have short roots and absorb water through their leaves, so will need immersing in rainwater two or three times a week. In colder, wetter weather, they may need immersing less frequently, but in the heat of summer, you may need to dunk them more often and mist them with water most days. That being said, they’re contrary plants that don’t like to stay wet for long periods of time and need to dry out between drinks. So they’re not exactly low-maintenance.
The low-maintenance cactus
Need a small indoor plant that needs virtually no looking after? Meet the cactus. There are more than a thousand varieties to choose from, most of which only need watering sporadically. Some can easily go through the winter without any water at all. They prefer to keep their stems dry, so when you do water your cactus, pop the pot on a saucer, add water to the saucer and let the cactus suck it up over half an hour or so. As you’d expect, cacti like the sun so are perfect for a sunny conservatory.
The distinctive rattlesnake plant
This plant loves high levels of humidity and hates direct sunlight. Yep, you guessed it, the rattlesnake plant is perfect for the bathroom. It gets its name from the unusual leaves. They’re light green on top, and have distinctive dark green markings. Turn them over and you’ll find the underside is a deep purple. If you want to admire them throughout the day, pop the plant in your living room and mist it regularly to keep the humidity levels up.
The happy, easy-going spider plant
Don’t be put off just because it’s one of the most common house plants, the spider plant is popular for a reason. For one thing, it’ll thrive in most places, from the bathroom to a kitchen windowsill. As long as you remember to water them occasionally (but make sure they’re not standing in water for long), they’ll be happy. Even better, they’re the rabbit version of the plant world – reproducing at a rapid rate. Pot up the little spiderettes (that really is their actual name), and you have free plants to spread around your home.
The purifying peace lily
Another common houseplant, the peace lily is one of the best at sucking pollution and toxins out of the air. Perfect for newbie gardeners, peace lilies will take a fair bit of neglect. They’re one of the best indoor plants for low light and dark rooms, although they’re more likely to flower in brighter spots.
Caring for your houseplants
Most of the plants we’ve mentioned above are pretty easy to care for. As they’re in pots, rather than the ground, they’ll use up the nutrients in the soil eventually so may benefit from a splash of liquid plant food every few weeks. You’ll also want to move them to a bigger pot when they outgrow their current one, with plenty of fresh compost to keep them happy. Ask at your garden centre for the compost that’s right for your particular type of indoor plant. Cacti, for example, like a very open, free-draining compost. Most plants need regular watering but don’t like to get too soggy. So wait until the soil feels fairly dry then pop your plant in the sink, water from the top and leave it to drain. When there’s no more water coming out, move the plant back into its ornamental pot.
One thing to bear in mind is that houseplants can be poisonous to pets, so do keep them out of reach of your furry friends. Or check out our guide to pet-friendly plants.