Houseplants make a home. Of course, we need the practical stuff like a kitchen and bathroom and things to sit on, and then there are the personal touches - the paintings, objects brought back from holidays and the items that make a home cosy – but houseplants are the final flourish; the finishing touch.
Houseplants have waxed and waned in popularity since the Victorians took them to their heart and filled their homes with flowers and foliage. In recent years they’ve been the subject of a huge resurgence in interest driven by a desire for a greater connection with nature, particularly for those who live in flats with no access to an outdoor space.
Studies have shown that houseplants bring all manner of benefits including cleaning the air we breathe and helping to calm us and relieve stress. I’ve killed a fair few houseplants over the years, and I’ve learnt that the key to success is to find the ones that can cope with the level of attention you can give them. Start off with easy-going plants like spider plants, sansevieria and the jade plant, all of which can go a couple of weeks without water if you’re away or forget.
I love having flowers in the house, but because cut flowers are so short-lived I now prefer to have flowering houseplants. My favourites are moth orchids (phalaenopsis) which bring a splash of exotic beauty to a windowsill or shelf. They’re really easy to find at supermarkets and garden centres which is why they’re often treated as disposable plants and are thrown away after they’ve finished flowering. However, if you hold on to them it’s very easy to get them to flower again and again. When the last of the flowers on a stem has withered and died cut back the stem to just above the next leaf node and this should encourage a new flowering stem to grow. Orchids love bright but not harsh sunlight and I’ve found an east-facing windowsill is the best spot to grow them. Feeding with a specialist orchid feed will help too. Growing orchids in clear plastic pots allows you to see when they need a water as you can see the colour of the roots and these indicate whether to water or not – grey roots need water and green roots are moist enough. I bought this orchid about 3 years ago and it has flowered almost non-stop since, including throughout winter.
Sansevieria is another favourite. I love its stylish long, slender, upright leaf blades that are a mix of yellow and green. It has to be one of the toughest indoor plants, largely to do with it being a succulent which means it stores water in its leaves, so it can put up with a bit of neglect now and again. But I also like how it’s equally happy growing on a hot sunny windowsill as it is in a shady and cool north-facing position.
And my New Year’s resolution for 2022 is to add a few more plants to the indoors collection. There’s space on my desk for a streptocarpus, which produces colourful flowers for months on end and I’d love a few more orchids.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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