Over the past few years interior design has seen something of a 1970s revival, when houseplants, terrariums and macramé adorned every nook, cranny and windowsill of our homes.
Our newfound love of foliage has only been compounded by the recent pandemic. After a year of quarantining (on and off) and spending more time indoors, we’re left longing to love and nurture our leafy friends and bring a little outdoors into our homes.
With this in mind, I’ve enlisted the help of gardening expert and plant enthusiast, Lark Foster, who talks us through her top houseplant picks. There’s something for every plant parent out there with a number of low maintenance options for those of you who, like me, sometimes struggle to keep their plants alive!
The joyous Jade plant
Kicking off our leafy list is the joyous Jade plant, which first sparked Lark’s love of all things horticulture as a young teenager.
“This clean, beautiful plant has lush deep-green foliage, which looks lovely on its own but also contrasts well alongside other plants,” Lark explains.
“Anyone can grow it and its pretty low maintenance. It doesn’t need a lot of care when it comes to moisture and likes to become bone-dry between waterings before enjoying a good soaking – perfect if you go away a lot or are prone to forgetting to water your plants.
“It would benefit from a liquid fertilizer every couple of months in order to really thrive, but overall it’s very forgiving.
“Jades love to be in a bright environment so no shady spots please. They even enjoy direct sunlight during the winter when the sun is less harsh. I’d always recommend opting for natural light where possible – purchasing special lights for plants can be a hassle.
“When Jades begin to shed their lower leaves – they’re either getting way too dry between watering or they may need a bigger pot as they can grow quite large.
When re-potting your Jade plant, always choose a good loose soil perfect for succulents and cacti.”
The beautiful Bird’s-nest fern
Next up is this beautiful fern! “Ferns lend such an elegant and romantic feel to a room,” says Lark. “However, they can be a little challenging because they love moisture, they love humidity and they need bright light.
“With this in mind, I’m avoiding the traditional frilly, lacy ferns that you may be familiar with in favor of the Bird’s-nest, which is a little workhorse. I also adore my birds so it’s an endearing nod to our feathered friends.
“The Bird’s-nest fern is native in Hawaii and Australia and is very easy compared to most ferns. It gets its name from the brown, almost furry, little ‘nest’ at its base where the new leaves emerge.
“The foliage is stiff and boasts a glossy look a little like the Jade plant. These plants make a great statement alone or in a combination of other plants.
“Bird’s-nests enjoy a bright spot in your home and like to get just a little dry between watering. They prefer moisture but don’t want to be sopping wet! However, they will tolerate dryness if you forget or go on holiday – they’re tough little troopers.”
The playful Ponytail palm
Despite the name, the Ponytail plant isn’t part of the palm family at all and is actually related to the Agave family – little fact of the day for you there!
“Like the Jade plant, the Ponytail plant also takes me back to my teenage years, when I really started to get excited about plants and getting to know my love for horticulture,” says Lark. “I loved the look of the Ponytail palm with its flowing, curled leaves, which drape down like a ponytail. It’s also very clever as it uses the base of its trunk to store water like a camel would a hump. When the base gets really huge it’s called the Elephant’s Foot palm, which I think is pretty cool.
“This plant is ideal if you’re a regular traveler or have a tendency to neglect your house plants (naughty, naughty). All they really require is bright, direct light, even in summer – though not in the very harsh heat – and it likes to get really dry between watering.”
The characterful Kentia palm
The Kentia is a floor plant so a little larger than the ones we’ve covered so far and it’s fair to say it’s not your average palm – this one really is the cream of the crop (if you’ll pardon the pun!).
“The Kentia is the most popular in terms of its elegance,” says Lark. “People tend to shy away from palms indoors as they are often unsuccessful. Palms in general love light and humidity and you can’t seem to grow them indoors successfully. However, the Kentia does really well inside.
“It can get pretty huge, which makes it a popular choice for commercial premises, such as restaurants, offices and shops.
“It’s fairly expensive but there’s a reason for this… it lasts! There are cheaper palms out there, but you may have to replace them more frequently as they just don’t last inside.
“The Kentia loves low light; in fact it cannot cope with really bright, direct sunlight as it’ll burn the foliage. It likes to get just a little dry between watering, but don’t let it get bone-dry then soak it like the Jade. It does not like soggy soil. Other than that, it’s a breeze!”
The trusty Phothos plant
This indoor vine is a pretty common houseplant – it’s touted as being a tried and true ‘can’t be killed’ kind of plant that’ll put up with any level of neglect. However, this is not always so true as Lark explains. “The Phothos needs a little care – you can’t just forget it’s there, but it is very forgiving,” she explains.
“It thrives in low light or direct bright light. It’s wonderful at allowing you to let it dry right out between watering, but it will let you know when it’s too dry and it will start to wilt. Once you water it, it will perk right back up. If it gets too dry the lower foliage will go yellow or brown, so try not to let it get that bad.
“It’s a fantastic ‘pass it on’ plant, meaning it’s easy to share and propagate. Simply give a trimming to a friend and it can grow and root in water.”
The dreamy Rex Begonia
The show stopping Rex Begonia has gorgeous foliage and comes in a plethora of varieties, including one known as ‘Stained Glass’ with beautiful dark veining.
These plants ooze drama and really capture your imagination.
“This is a plant loves the limelight… sorry, bright light,” says Lark. “A morning sun window spot is ideal for it. It loves a loose, loamy soil and likes to get slightly dry between watering. These plants love humidity, so a little spritz from time-to-time is great, though humidity can be hard to replicate in a home. I sometimes pop mine in the shower under a lukewarm water and let them drip dry, before putting them back in their spot.
“You don’t want to over fertilize a Rex Begonia, like all houseplants, they all enjoy a little fertility plan but don’t overdo it.
“This beautiful plant with its show stopping foliage may even have some small pink and/or white blooms as a little added bonus and pop of color to your collection.”
Lark’s top tips:
- For plants that like a little soaking, allow the water to run through onto the tray or saucer beneath and give them a good few hours to soak it up. What they don’t manage, simply sponge away the excess.
- When selecting plants, it’s tempting to pick them up at the grocery store, but I believe it’s best to introduce quality healthy plants from the very beginning and would always recommend a reputable local garden centre or nursery. You want to introduce good, clean plants that are free from disease or insects to avoid any cross contamination.