The defining gardening trend of the past decade has been a resurgence of interest in house plants. With the fascination for indoor gardening showing no sign of dying down, and certain varieties of tropical and arid plants commanding high sums and social media cache, here are five of my favourite indoor plants to try growing yourself.
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Maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum)
Ah, the Maidenhair Fern - a plant I love so much that I literally have the delicate leaves of one tattooed on my arm. For me, this was a love-at-first-sight plant. There’s something impossibly elegant about the fine filigree of its arching branches, the way the pale green leaves collide with the stark black stalks.
The price for such beauty? A notorious reputation for fussiness. I’ve kept and killed several maidenhair ferns in my time, but one has outlasted the rest: Princess Maidenhair Fern V (that should tell you how many preceded her). Why bother? Because they have a timeless quality that doesn't date, compared to some other house plants. Give them more light than you might expect, drench the soil, and cut away any crispy bits and you’ll be rewarded.
Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus Lyrata)
After Monstera deliciosa, the fiddle leaf fig is probably the house plant that will come to define the millennial houseplant trend. Why do we love it? I suspect it's those gorgeous crinkly leaves, that rustic structural shape and the fact they elevate a minimalist interior. I have a five-foot one at the end of the bed called Christopher Figgins. As with the maidenhair ferns, their reputation for truculence precedes them. Put them somewhere too dark or too cold, or keep the soil overly moist, and fiddle leaf figs can drop their leaves in a deuce. Mild abandonment in a bright spot, though, will see them flourish.
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
I always feel a little sorry for Ficus elastica, eternally overlooked for its more glamorous sister and frequently plonked in dark corners of offices. Rubber plants, though, can offer a stunning structural focus to a room if given the right treatment: namely, plenty of light and not too much water. They will tolerate neglect but a little assiduous pruning (between two leaf nodes, and on an established plant) and a bright spot will provide you with a swift-growing, easy-going beauty that will last far longer than the house plant trend.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’)
The spider plant took a while to work its way into my heart but now I’m smitten, with one sprawling over my desk and another elegantly arching over a mantlepiece. They’ll put up with shadier spots but thrive in brighter ones, are drought-tolerant (if you’re unsure, they wilt and recover admirably) and have a restrained elegance that looks particularly good in a hanging planter. They also propagate effortlessly, sprouting new plants from the ends of leaves.
Philodendrons are great options for straightforward, low-light spots. The heart-leafed vine (Philodendron hederaceum) looks pretty tumbling over bookshelves and has a deeper colour and more handsome leaf than the more commonly spotted pothos. Philodendron xanadu, however, will put up with similar situations but offers a far snazzier leaf, which has the structure and the pizazz of Monstera deliciosa foliage but less of the uncontrollable sprawl. It’s a brilliant choice for something a little more unusual - if, that is, you can track one down. Philodendron scandens is a trailing plant with large, heart-shaped leaves.