Alocasia x amazonica

Houseplants with large leaves

Liven up indoor spaces by growing plants with large, dramatic foliage.

Houseplants come in many shapes and sizes, from the tiniest cacti  to mammoth species that dominate their space. These large-leaved varieties, well placed, can make a fine addition to a living room, dining area or conservatory.

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Many are native to tropical rainforests and therefore require similar conditions indoors i.e. plenty of light (but not direct sunlight) and high humidity. These conditions can easily be created in the bathroom or kitchen, but in other areas you may need to maintain humidity by misting the leaves or sitting the pot in a tray of moist pebbles.

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Browse our choice of striking and architectural houseplants, below.


Fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus lyrata

Rubber plant, Ficus elastica 'Robusta'

Fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus lyrata

Native to the tropical rainforests of West Africa, the fiddle-leaf fig grows best in light, humid environments out of direct sunlight. It bears large, tear-drop shaped glossy leaves with prominent veining. Eventually it grows into a tall plant with an open structure, which you can ‘underplant’ with a number of other large-leaved plants, such as rubber plant, pictured. For best results, water sparingly, mist the leaves and wipe them regularly to keep them looking their best. Keep temperatures as even as possible throughout the year, and don’t let them fall below 12ºC.


Calathea

Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa
Calathea

There are several plants in the Calathea genus, all of which have glossy, oval, patterned leaves. Some grow to 60cm tall. Foliage typically emerges a paler shade of green, with less patterning than mature leaves. They look fantastic in a pot on their own or placed among other foliage plants. Native to tropical regions of South America, they require a humid environment out of direct sunlight, and plenty of water during the growing season. Mist the leaves to maintain humidity.


Heart-leaf, Philodendron scandens

Philodendron scandens growing in a hanging pot
Heart-leaf, Philodendron scandens growing in a hanging pot

Heart-leaf is a climbing or trailing plant, which can be tied to a moss pole or grown in a pot, from which its leaves can tumble over the sides and trail down. It has attractive, heart-shaped leaves that grow as the plant matures – leaves can reach 30cm in size. Native to Central America and the Caribbean, it requires a humid environment in partial shade. Water freely during the growing season and mist the leaves if necessary.


Elephant’s ear Alocasia x amazonica

Alocasia x amazonica

Alocasia x amazonica

With dark, prominently veined, shield-shaped leaves, Amazonian elephant’s ear is a gorgeous foliage plant. Given the right growing conditions it may flower, although the flowers are far less dramatic than the foliage. Native to tropical southeast Asia, it requires a good degree of humidity, so grow in the bathroom. Alternatively stand the pot in a tray of damp pebbles or mist leaves regularly to maintain humidity.


Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa

Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa

Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa

The Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa, is a well-loved houseplant. Its large, glossy heart-shaped leaves develop cuts and perforations as they mature, not dissimilar to the holes made in Swiss cheese – hence the common name. Native to tropical rainforests of Central America, it has aerial roots, so needs to be grown up a moss pole, which its roots can penetrate. Grow in moist but well-drained compost and mist regularly to maintain humidity levels.


Mini Swiss cheese plant, Monstera sp.

Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa
Mini Swiss cheese plant, Monstera ‘Monkey Mask’

The mini Swiss cheese plant is much like the original version, except it’s smaller and can be grown as a climber or a trailing plant. It has light- to medium green leaves, dotted with holes of different shapes and sizes. Water regularly in the growing season and mist leaves to boost humidity if necessary.


Begonia rex

Begonia rex
Begonia rex
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Fancy leaf or rex begonias have particularly large leaves and come in a range of colours. The textured, hairy leaves can make a dramatic statement. Some varieties bear flowers but these are often insignificant and many growers remove them as they spoil the look of the foliage display. Grow in moist but well-drained compost and water sparingly – never allow the soil to become waterlogged. While a humid environment is desired, avoid misting as this can cause powdery mildew.


Toxic sap

Alocasia, Philodendron and Monstera are all members of the aroid family, Araceae. These splendid plants also have toxic and irritant sap, which provokes a very strong allergic reaction in many people. Be sure to avoid direct contact with the sap – long sleeves and gloves are the order of the day if cutting back any stems.

Gardening gloves. Photo: Getty Images.