The key to success with houseplants is to match the right plant to the right spot, and to provide appropriate growing conditions.
Some plants will thrive in the dry air of a centrally heated living room, whereas others will soon look withered and sickly. Others might perform well in the humidity of a bathroom, or on a bright, sunny windowsill.
Use our guide, below, to find the best houseplants for your home.
Mother-in-law’s-tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii), spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) and wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina) are all suitable for a shady spot, such as a hallway or a corner. Keep away from cold draughts.
Hot, bright windowsill
Desert cacti and succulents are perfect for windowsills where the sun shines for part of the day. They love dry air and can cope with direct sunlight – conditions that wouldn’t suit many houseplants. Don’t overwater – let the compost dry out between watering. In this pot we’ve used mixed cacti and (from right to left) Haworthia ‘Big Band’, watch chain plant (Crassula muscosa), Pachyphytum hookeri, Graptopetalum purpureum, and trumpet jade (Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’).
Shady and humid
Indoor ferns, such as the Boston fern, (Nephrolepsis exaltata) and Delta maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum, pictured) are perfect for bathrooms and shady kitchens, as they like humidity and some shade. Keep them away from windows and radiators, as cold draughts and hot, dry air will cause the leaves to go brown and shrivel. They need moist soil, so water every week or so and allow the excess to drain away. Fill a saucer with gravel and top with water. Place the pot on top, making sure its base isn’t submerged in the water. This raises the humidity around the plant.
Bright and warm
Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are prolific and spectacular flowerers. They need a slightly tricky balance of lots of light, but not direct sun. In winter particularly, they need plenty of light to encourage flowering. Place on or near a north-, east-, or west-facing window, avoiding draughts and fluctuating temperatures.
Video: Guide to caring for moth orchids, featuring Alan Titchmarsh
Wild cape primroses (Streptocarpus) grow in dappled wooded valleys in South Africa. To grow them indoors they need bright light but not hot sun – an east- or west-facing windowsill is ideal. Don’t overwater – wait until the compost feels dry – and feed every couple of weeks with a high potash fertiliser, at quarter of the recommended dilution.
Tips on caring for houseplants
- Remove dust from the leaves of houseplants to keep them looking good and to help them to photosynthesise properly, especially in winter when light levels are low. Use a damp cloth on larger leaved plants, or use an artist’s paintbrush on cacti and succulents
- Reduce feeding and watering in late autumn and winter, increasing again in spring
- Always let water drain away when watering – don’t allow plants to stand in water
- Raise the humidity around plants, especially those that hail originally from tropical climates, such as ferns, palms and prayer plants. Mist regularly or place a tray of moist pebbles beneath the plant. Find out how to raise humidity for houseplants
- Pot up into a larger pot if necessary in spring, as the plant grows. Choose a pot that is just a few centimetres bigger and use houseplant compost