Houseplants fall roughly into three categories: flowering plants such as phalaenopsis orchids, clivias, African violets (saintpaulia) and cyclamen; succulents like Christmas cactus (schlumbergera), the money plant (Crassula ovata) and echeverias; and foliage plants like shiny leaved Ficus benjamina, pattern-leaved dieffenbachia, scented-leaf pelargoniums, or the statuesque mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata).
If you are not a seasoned houseplant grower, start with reliable types such as those mentioned above. As with garden plants, there are some real fusspots with particular growing needs, so it pays to learn the basics with reliable plants before spending money on drama queens. It’s also worth noting that the pollen of clivia flowers (and others, including lilies) is poisonous to cats, so if you are feline-friendly, choose carefully!
Getting the light right
Many houseplants will not thrive in full, direct sunlight. Some will tolerate it briefly, but most do best in a lightly shaded position such as a north or eastfacing windowsill offering bright but not direct sunlight. Exceptions to this rule include the scented-leaf pelargoniums, which do best in full sun. Read the plant label carefully. That said, labels are not always clear or sufficiently informative. It’s best to buy a houseplant book that includes the plants you’re interested in. Good starter volumes might include the RHS Practical House Plant Book by Zia Allaway, or for something more easygoing, How Not To Kill Your Houseplant by Veronica Peerless.
Siting the plant
Finding the right position for a houseplant is the most important factor in its success. Keep them away from radiators; avoid windowsills where the temperature changes a lot between night and day; avoid draughts; and if they like a moist atmosphere, keep them near the kitchen sink or in a bathroom.
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October 10, 2020