15 Favourites – Houseplants

Continuing the series of ’15 Favourites’, this time it is the turn of the houseplant. A veritable Jules Vernes ‘around the world’ tour, with tropical and desert dwellers from several continents, these are plants that we do our very best to accommodate in our homes, trying to give them an environment as close to their needs and requirements as we can.

Not always easy, in centrally heated, dry, overbright or too dimly lit, draughty – well our homes are not their natural homes but understanding where they come from, and the conditions they like, we we can go some way to making them as happy a house guest as possible.

Yet again a very subjective list – with particular favourites as well as big families to choose from. Maybe the Medinilla should top the list, or the Streptocarpus, or the Begonia rex’s, or the Orchid (but which one) . what do you think?

Calathea –  a family of dramatic, leafy tropical plants that love lower light levels, making them perfect house guests in a cooler, shadier spot, and humidity – and we love to mist our house plants to make them feel at home.  With dramatic, often graphic leaves, silver, white, with chevrons and stripes and splashes many of which have a deep dark purple reverse, these are happy house guests . Maranta, Strobilanthese and Calathea are all related, hailing from the Americas.

Streptocarpus – South African, these dramatically leafy and very floriferous houseplants can give an extraordinarily display, up to six months of the year, with architecturally strong leaves and heads of tubular flowers, in pinks, blues, purples, lemons and whites, held on strong wiry stems. They like bright, but indirect light, making them perfect fo northwest and east facing windows and there is not much than can beat their sheer flower-power.

Medinilla magnifica – a titan of the houseplant world, hailing from tropical forests in the Philippines. Dramatic flower heads hang beneath the umbrella of thick, architectural leathery leaves, and appear off tired, hanging pink bracts throughout Spring and Summer. Shade from direct sunlight and mist regularly for the happiest of houseplants.

Begonia rex– a large family of tropical and subtropical plants hailing from South and Central America, Africa and Asia, requiring bright shade – they grow typically in the understory of warm forests. With dramatic leaves, in silvers, reds and rusts, metallic many, puckered, ruffled and textured, the variety is endless. Flowers, which are edible (sour and lemony) are a bonus but can’t usually compete with the variety of foliage forms and colours.

Monstera deliciosa – the archetypal 70’s house guest, the Swiss Cheese Plant. With large, lobed glossy green leaves, with holes resembling Gruyere cheese, this can be a substantial and very architectural addition to the home, though it is native to the tropical rainforests of Mexico and Panama. It likes to climb, so if effect for skylights and stairwells. it fruits – our in the Garden Shop has two developing now but it will take up to 12 months for them to ripen. We’ll let you know.

Orchids – a huge family, this, one of the most prolific and extensive of all plant families in the world, many of which make perfect house guests, with an often dazzling display of flowers over many months. The Moth Orchid, Phaelaenopsis, is perhaps the best know, with big sprays of elegant showy flowers in a huge variety of colour, pattern and shading. Once hooked, though Orchids can become a real passion, as you explore the multitude of shapes, forms, and colours of this extraordinary family.

Ficus lyrata – the Fiddle Leaf Fig – an architectural star, hailing from tropical West Africa, with huge paddle-shaped, deeply-veined, deep-green leaves, enjoying bright light, but out of direct sunshine. Pinch out the growing tips to encourage branching and enjoy this superstar plant in your home.

Maidenhair Fern – we love our ferns in all their variety, the blue-green of Phlebodium, the finery of the Asparagus Fern, the near-Tarantula-like roots of the Humata … but we have a special love for the delicate tracery of the Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum. For a cool spot, with a little humidity provided by regular misting, this is a real classic beauty.

Succuments and Cacti – if you love your plants but struggle to keep them happy and healthy, this group of plants will forgive quite a lot of neglect, and might even thrive in your home. Bright light, and infrequent watering, plus a little plant food now and again, and these desert-denizens will be happy house guests. Many flower quite extravagantly too, and look wonderful grouped together on a bright windowsill.

Ceropegia woodii – also known as String of Hearts, you can see why, with heart-spaced, delicately variegated grey-green leaves held on fine wiry trailing stems. Tiny flowers and fruit are insignificant. Easy to look after, in bright but indirect light, it will trail indefinitely, and is easy to propagate from cuttings too. Hailing from South Africa, is was brought back from an expedition from Kew Gardens to the Natal Mountains in 1896 and has been a firm favourite since then.

Oxalis triangularis – deep dark plum and liquorice shamrock-like leaves, held on fine stems, set off the pale pink flurry of flowerhead held above the dark mass of leaves. The leaves and flowers are edible, but contain oxalic acid, so consume in moderation.

Citrus – what’s not to love – incredibly fragrant flowers, beautiful foliage and the promise of bright, colourful and abundant fruit – we love our Kumquats, Calamondins, Lupos and Lemons, the eery Buddha’s Hand, Seville oranges and Mandarins. For a bright space, a conservatory as a preference, these make great house guests and can enjoy a summer in the garden too.

Fittonia – enjoying damp, moist cooler spots, these attractive foliage plants are perfect for a terrarium, or a cooler shadier space in our home. With green, pink and red foliage colours, they look great together, and forma  dense, low-growing matt of bold, patterned foliage. Mist regularly and they will repay you with a beautiful year-round display.

Pilea peperomoides – these succulent, round, glossy green leaves are held on a long stalks, plants that have their home in Southern China, but love our houses just as much – somewhere bright but out of full sun; water sparingly, allowing the compost to almost dry out between watering. Also known as the Chinese Money Plant, or Missionary Plant.

Soleiroila soleirolii, ‘Mind your own Business’, if you’ll pardon me, for this is a garden plant with world domination on its mind, as well as a useful evergreen house plant. Moss-like, it forms a neat dome of tiny tiny leaves, enjoying low-light levels and high humidity – misting is your best friend for this creature. Various forms are deep green, blue-grey or lime. Let loose in the garden, for it is hardy, it will climb over rocks and stones, making a very attractive mossy feature. Also known as Baby’s Tears.


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