A wide variety of tender exotics can be grown as houseplants.
To grow them successfully indoors, it’s important to understand a little about their native habitats. For example, a plant that is native to wet, dark forests will thrive in a steamy bathroom, while a plant from hot deserts would be better placed on a sunny windowsill.
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Discover 10 varieties to try, and learn how to care for them, below. All plants featured should be readily available from nurseries in the UK.
Delicate fronds of maidenhair fern
This delicate fern benefits from free-draining compost, and frequent watering. As it has a seasonal growth pattern, you’ll need to trim off old or brown fronds in the spring, then feed with a balanced fertiliser in the summer.
Aechmea ‘Blue Rain’
Spiky blue and red aechmea bloom
Aechmeas are related to pineapples and have similarly hard, spiky foliage. The rosette of leaves forms a ‘cup’, for watering into. Regular misting and applications of foliar feed will help keep aechmeas healthy. Grow them in bright light, but not full sun.
Begonia ‘Princess of Hanover’
Green, grey and bronze begonia leaves
This begonia holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit. As with other begonias, it can be propagated by pinning a leaf to compost and slitting the leaf surface. Keep it warm, in a shady spot, to encourage bright leaf colouring, and water when the compost is dry.
Brugmansia suaveolens ‘Weinstrasse’ (angel’s trumpet)
Large white trumpet-bell flowers of angel’s trumpet
Angel’s trumpet can be kept outside over summer, but needs a well-lit, cool conservatory in winter. Water plentifully and mist regularly, to keep red spider mite at bay and produce a show of spectacular flowers.
Ficus benjamina ‘Golden King’
Variegated foliage of ficus “Golden King’
‘Golden King’ is an elegant ficus bearing gently drooping, shiny leaves. Some people are allergic to its rubbery sap, but you’re unlikely to need to prune it. Keep it warm and water frequently, letting the compost start to dry out before watering.
Rosette of guzmania leaves, with striking central red flower
Guzmania ‘Tempo’ produces an evergreen rosette of foliage, and a spectacular red inflorescence, which lasts for approximately six weeks. Provide it with warmth, day and night, keep the leaf ‘cup’ filled with water and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Nepenthes ‘Rebecca Soper’
Bronze insect-catching pitchers of carnivorous nepenthes
Nepenthes ‘Rebecca Soper’ is a carnivorous plant, which drowns insects in its liquid-filled ‘pitchers’. Keep it indoors, in a humid, shady spot and water frequently with rainwater, rather than tap water.
Pelargonium ‘Dark Secret’
Deep-red bloom of pelargonium ‘Dark Secret’
One of the regal pelargoniums, ‘Dark Secret’ is a handsome variety with very large flowers. It should be grown in a non-draughty spot, with good airflow. Water it more in summer than winter, but only when the compost is becoming dry, and cut back in autumn.
Streptocarpus ‘Roulette Azur’
Blue fringed white flowers of Streptocarpus ‘Roulette Azur’
Summer-flowering streptocarpus perform best in a shady spot. Mist plants and water the soil, allowing it to dry out before watering again. You can generate new plants from old by planting leaf slices in compost.
Pink bromeliad flower stalk with mauve/blue flower
This bromeliad is native to Ecuador, where it grows on tree trunks. Its pink flower stalk is the perfect foil for the blue flowers, which are produced intermittently. Tillandsia cyanea should be grown in free-draining but moist compost, away from direct sunlight.
Thanks to the following house plant specialists who provided information on the plants in this feature: