Air plants

Unusual houseplants to grow

We pick some of the more unusual houseplants you can grow.

Nowadays, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to houseplants to grow. While many are familiar favourites there are other, more unusual varieties that are well worth considering.

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Some, such as the fishbone cactus, are sold as they would appear in their natural habitats. Others, such as cristate cacti, display odd growth forms that have been selected for cultivation.

If you’re ever unsure about how to grow a certain houseplant, spend a bit of time researching it to find out where it’s native to and the conditions it enjoys. Try to recreate the conditions in your own home by growing them in the right soil and with the right amount of light. Most houseplants enjoy a regular misting, too.

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Check out some of the most unusual houseplants you can grow, below.

We're spoilt for choice when it comes to houseplants to grow, but it's the more unusual ones that really draw the eye.

String-of-beads

Senecio rowleyanus. Photo: Getty Images.
Senecio rowleyanus. Photo: Getty Images.

Through evolution, each leaf on the string-of-beads plant, Senecio rowleyanus, is almost perfectly spherical. They function as water storage organs and have a smaller surface area to volume ratio than ‘normal’ leaves, so lose less water. Grow in hanging containers to make the most of the the beads.


Cristate cacti

Cristate mammillaria
Cristate mammillaria

There are lots of cacti that display crested or cristate growth forms. It’s a form of fasciation, which for some plants can have some unsightly results, but in many cacti leads to a beautiful, undulating effect like this Mammillaria geminispina variation (pictured).


Air plants

Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides
Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides

Air plants (Tillandsia) are some of the easiest but most unusual plants you can grow. They’re epiphytes, which means they don’t require soil to grow – instead they live attached to other plants. Species include Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) that are iconic in the deep south of the United States, draping the branches of great oak trees.


Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’

Crassula 'Buddha's Temple'
Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’

Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’ is a hybrid of Crassula falcata and Crassula pyramidalis. This slow-growing variety will look good for years. Grow it in a bright, airy spot in cactus compost.


Fishbone cactus

Epiphyllum anguliger. Photo: Getty Images.
Epiphyllum anguliger. Photo: Getty Images.

The fishbone cactus, Epiphyllum anguliger, has distinctive zig zag leaves. As an epiphyte it looks great in a hanging container, which mimics its natural environment. A bright spot out of hot sun is best, though it’ll benefit from extra sunlight towards the end of summer to aid the production of the stunning, fragrant flowers.


Crassula ‘Hottentot’

Crassula 'Hottentot'
Crassula ‘Hottentot’

Crassula ‘Hottentot’ is a fantastic hybrid, with small, succulent leaves that lie close to the stem, giving them a stacked appearance. It’s a great trailing houseplant and will also produce clusters of small creamy flowers.


Haworthiopsis attenuata

Haworthiopsis attenuata
Haworthiopsis attenuata with a crassula

Haworthiopsis are a group of generally small, succulent plants, many of which possess white, striated tubercles on their leaf surfaces. Haworthiopsis attenuata (shown left and back) is one such species – it’s easy to grow expanding fairly quickly by producing offsets and enjoys growing in bright, indirect sunlight.


Staghorn fern

Platycerium bifurcatum. Photo: Getty Images.
Platycerium bifurcatum. Photo: Getty Images.

As the name suggests, the staghorn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, has large, branching fronds. They’re epiphytes, so don’t require soil and can be secured to wooden boards. They’ll happily grow in soil, too, and look lovely in hanging containers.


More eye-catching houseplants to grow

Aechmea fasciata
Aechmea fasciata
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  • Pony tail palm, Beaucarnea recurvata – the base of the stem is swollen and stores water
  • Bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae – lush, tropical appearance with bright orange, beaked flowers
  • Pineapple, Ananas comosus – needs little explanation – enjoy watching your own pineapple fruit grow and mature
  • Urn plant, Aechmea fasciata – beautiful grey-green leaves with a dramatic, hot pink bloom
  • Codiaeum ‘Iceton’ – fabulous foliage plant, enjoying a sunny spot to bring out the pink, yellow, green and orange leaf colouring