It isn’t often you find a home accessory that looks good, boosts your mood and cleans your living space. We are, of course, talking about plants. With so many varieties, however, and with such confusion about indoor plant care, it isn’t always easy to know which to buy. That’s where our cheat sheet comes in: with help from award-winning garden and landscape designer, writer, radio and television broadcaster, Matthew Wilson, find out which plants work in the home, how to look after them and even how to accessorise them.
View and save our Indoor Plant Care cheat sheet below, and scroll down to read our written guide to caring for some of the UK’s most popular house plants below.
Broadleaf Palm / Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
Lady Palm care
The Broadleaf, or Lady Palm, is a striking, humidity-loving plant that originates from China. The Lady Palm thrives in low light conditions and loves water, making it ideal for the humid conditions of your bathroom. Water it every two to three days, even in winter. Its rich green leaves bring bathrooms to life, but as it can grow quite large, make sure it has plenty of space on the floor. Broadleaf lady palm also filters ammonia from the air – particularly useful after a big bathroom clean!
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
Chinese evergreen care
If you aren’t sure how to care for a Chinese evergreen, remember that, as a tropical plant, it thrives in low light and humidity. Being positioned next to a shower or given a daily misting will help prevent browning leaves. Water every few days, but less so during the winter months: particularly at the end of winter. Chinese evergreen is great at filtering out formaldehyde, a common ingredient in cosmetic products.
English ivy / Common ivy / European ivy (Hedera helix)
English Ivy care
Its cascading tendrils make English ivy a sought after houseplant, and the good news is that ivy care is simpler than you might think. This plant’s ideal environment is a bathroom windowsill. Not only will the ivy’s long stems be on full display, but it can make the most of the sunlight. English ivy needs at least four hours of direct sunlight per day, so south-facing bathrooms work best. Water every two to three days, but less frequently during winter, particularly at the end of the season.
Bathrooms tend to be perfect for humidity-loving plants, but if you’re still unsure about light and temperature requirements, Matthew Wilson has some advice:
“Most house plants come from sub-tropical or tropical countries where the atmosphere is moist, so a centrally heated home isn’t the ideal environment for most plants. Misting the leaves regularly with a hand-held sprayer really helps this. The best place for most house plants is in a light room but not in direct sunlight.”
Accessorise bathroom blooms with… a hard-wearing cotton rug. Zesty yellow geometric patterns contrast brilliantly with bathroom greenery – blue bathrooms are so ten years ago!
Snake plant / Mother in law’s tongue / Saint George’s sword (Sansevieria)
Mother in law’s tongue care
Also known as ‘mother in law’s tongue’, or ‘Saint George’s Sword’, the snake plant is a striking piece of greenery with large, upright leaves. As it gives out oxygen at night, it’s the perfect addition to bedrooms, helping you sleep more soundly as well as brightening up your space. Keep out of direct sunlight, and water only once or twice a month, and even less in winter. If proper attention is given to mother in law’s tongue care, the plant can also help filter toxins from the air.
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
Peace Lily care
There’s barely a plant more elegant than the peace lily, care of which couldn’t be simpler. Thriving in low light and tropical humidity, keep it out of direct sunlight but water almost daily in the height of summer. During winter, switch to weekly watering, while being careful not to let it become waterlogged. The peace lily also features on NASA’s list of the best plants for air purity.
Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis spp.)
Phalaenopsis orchid care
Also known as the phalaenopsis orchid, care of this plant is essential to optimising its health-giving benefits. As well as having stunning flowers, it gives out an abundance of oxygen at night time, and can filter things like toluene (found in shoe polish) from the air. Moth orchids like bright, but not direct, sunshine, plus humidity, so be sure to mist them once a day. Water moth orchids twice a week during summer and around once a week in winter.
Matthew Wilson says:“Moth orchids are surprisingly easy to look after and will flower well every year with a little care,” says Matthew Wilson. “Dracaena (Dragon Plant) are also fairly bullet proof, and the brilliantly named mother-in-laws-tongue is a dramatic structural plant in variegated form”.
Accessorise bedroom favourites with… a neutral, patterned rug. Soft grey is the perfect way to let vibrant snake plants and moth orchids take centre-stage.
Living room Blooms
Red-edged dracaena / Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata)
Dracaena Marginata care
Don’t be fooled by red-edged dracaena: it might grow slowly, but with the right care, can reach up to eight feet in height! This impressive plant makes a big impact in living rooms, where it also works to remove chemicals like formaldehyde (found in paints and wallpaper) and benzene (found in dyes and synthetic fibres) from the air. It thrives in moderate sunlight, and should be watered once a week during the warmer months, but much less in winter.
Spider plant / St. Bernard’s lily / Spider ivy / Ribbon plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider Plant care
If you love throwing open your living room windows, invest in a spider plant. As well as combatting the formaldehyde emitted from vehicle exhausts, they look great on windowsills or coffee tables. If you’ve been carrying out proper spider plant care, then, after about a year, your plant will produce delicate white flowers. They prefer moderate indirect sunlight and need watering every two to three days in summer, but much less in the winter.
Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
Ficus Benjamina care
This large houseplant needs a little room to spread out, but is otherwise easy to care for. Thriving in fuller light (bright, but preferably indirect), weeping fig trees have similar requirements to the impressive rubber plant. This includes high humidity, so water it every few days in summer but simply keep mildly moist in winter.
Matthew Wilson has some great advice about keeping an eye on how thirsty your plants are:
“Aside from orchids, which need only occasional watering (and have see-through inner pots so you can check to see when the roots turn silver/grey, which is when they need to be watered), the rule for most house plants is to make sure the soil is always moist and never dries out. But don’t overwater either!”
Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
Aloe Vera plant care
If your kitchen’s in need of some potted greenery, invest in an aloe vera plant. Care of this tough and appealing specimen will reward you with a delicately-spiked plant that can remove benzene (found in detergents) and formaldehyde (found in varnishes and floor finishes) from the atmosphere. They thrive in bright sunlight, (think south-facing windowsills) but only need watering once or twice a month, and much less in winter.
Madagascar jasmine / Waxflower / Hawaiian wedding flower / Bridal wreath (Stephanotis floribunda)
Jasmine plant care
Though its flowers look similar, Madagascar jasmine is a different plant to its delicate cousin. The Madagascar variety prefers something close to a tropical climate, with plenty of indirect sunlight and moist soil, so water thoroughly every two or three days, and keep slightly moist in winter. Grown in optimum conditions, you can enjoy the beautiful white flowers of Madagascar jasmine all year round.
African violet (Saintpaulia)
African Violet care
Its velvety petals and shades of purple make the African violet a very popular houseplant indeed. They can be delicate little flowers, though, so make sure you don’t overwater them. Use water at room temperature (re-watering once the soil becomes slightly dry) to prevent leaf spots. They love bright, indirect sunlight and require watering every couple of days in summer, but be careful not to waterlog the plant in winter.
“Rooms with the highest humidity, such as bathrooms and kitchens, will suit some house plants better than others,” says Matthew Wilson. “Some of the ferns, for example, really thrive in bathrooms, as do orchids.”
Accessorise this kitchen essential with… a washable, natural fibre rug. The delicate pattern and light colour of the Passion Cream 153 rugs contrast beautifully with green aloe vera, and will help make your kitchen feel light and airy.