London’s gone crazy for indoor plants. A recent survey by house plant store Patch found that 67 per cent of Londoners had bought a house plant in the last year, and the brand revealed it’s on track to sell 300,000 of them in 2019, more than double last year’s number.
The reasons for this huge uptick in indoor plant ownership are manifold: it’s partly due to the recent interiors trend for decorativ plants, and partly because of the lack of outdoor space of many flat-dwelling Londoners. There’s also the factor that house plants are an easy, non-permanent way to decorate rented accommodation.
As the statistics show, buying an indoor plant is easy. However, as the non-green fingered people out there know all too well, it’s not so easy keeping one alive. To help you choose the best house plant for different types of rooms, we spoke to Isabelle Palmer, city garden designer, author of three books on small space gardening, and founder of The Balcony Gardener, which helps to make Londoners’ indoor and outdoor spaces greener. For each type of room – sunny, dark or wet and humid – she’s suggested a beginner plant and a challenge plant, for more experienced urban gardeners.
The best indoor plants for sunny rooms
‘Unfortunately, most house plants don’t like full sunlight,’ explains Palmer. ‘But there are a few exceptions to the rule.’
‘A great beginner plant is Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana, otherwise known as Flaming Katy. It’s a wonderfully easy-to-grow house plant with long-lasting flowers. It’s part of the succulent family, and blooms small tubular flowers in various colours including red, yellow, lilac and orange. Two of my favourite varieties are Lucky Bells (above) and Kalanchoe Tubiflora, otherwise known as Mother of Millions’.
All a Flaming Katy needs is a sunny spot to sit in, and a little water every week. Most house plants die from overwatering, so refrain from being overly generous with the watering can.
‘If you’re a little more experienced then try a citrus house plant,’ advises Palmer. ‘I love Fortunella japonica syn. Citrus japonica, more commonly known as the Kumquat plant (below). Its aroma when it is in flower, as well as the potential fruit harvest, is something to behold.’
Kumquats are easy to grow in sunny rooms, as they require full sunlight and can tolerate any soil type. Water them just enough to keep the soil moist, but don’t drown them. Treat them to plant fertiliser after the first two or three months to keep them happy.
The best indoor plants for dark rooms
‘One of the easiest-to-grow house plants in rooms with little sunlight is the Hendera Helix or English Ivy (below), as it can withstand little watering and low light levels,’ explains Palmer. ‘The pretty twisty leaves also make a lovely focal point.’
As English Ivy can take a lot of moisture, you can water them freely. Fluctuating temperatures, however, affect them badly, so ensure your dark room is kept at a consistent level of warmth. ‘I like to keep them small as a great accent plant, so trim off any straggly lengths once they’ve started to grow,’ adds Palmer.
‘For indoor gardeners with a bit more experience try Calathea Roseopicta, of the ‘Dottie’ variety (above). They are popular as indoor plants because they are relatively easy to care for, but they do suffer from under or over-watering, so bare that in mind.’
With deep green and burgundy leaves with a central pink stroke, this plant is a beautiful choice. However, direct sunlight will cause the leaves to fade and lose their markings, so place it away from any windows. Plus, ensure you keep the soil moist at all times. Calathea Roseopicta also likes a bit of humidity, so mist it frequently and place it in the shower from time to time for an extra boost.
The best house plants for bathrooms
Warm and damp, bathrooms require specific plants that thrive in this semi-tropical environment.
‘Ficus Elastica, or the Rubber Plant (above) is among the most common Ficus plants used as a house plant and is easy to care for,’ explains Palmer. ‘It requires moderate attention but most of all needs a very moist but well-drained environment.’
For gardeners looking for more of a challenge, there’s always the Peperomi Polybotrya, otherwise known as the Raindrop Plant or the Chinese Money Plant (below). ‘These waxy plants do best in more humid conditions and are great for those with a little more houseplant experience,’ says Palmer.
£24 with pot, waitrosegarden.com
Native to the tropical regions of South America, these plants require moist conditions to succeed. That said, as Peperomi Polybotrya stores water in its leaves, it’s best to avoid over watering it. A simple way to test if it needs watering is to check whether the soil is dry – if it is, it needs a drink. The steam from your bathroom should also work to recreate the humid conditions the Raindrop plant is used to.
Isabelle Palmer is an indoor and small space gardening expert, thebalconygardener.com