If you are looking for a plant to give as a gift this season, step away from the poinsettias — these days it’s far cooler to give foliage rather than flowers. A plant such as a succulent or those with thick, waxy or glossy leaves will not only make it through the holiday without wilting, but will also be the most stylish houseplant in the room.
With large leaves, the robust giant fiddle-leaf figs are a great choice for a statement houseplant and very popular at the moment. A budget of about £200 will buy you a good quality, tall plant that will soon dwarf you in scale. You can save money by growing and training your plant from a less expensive younger one, but you will be looking at an investment of years rather than months because it grows very slowly. Growing slightly faster, but with potential to reach the same String gigantic dimensions, is the Swiss cheese plant. Another great choice for drama and impact.
Here is my pick of the best houseplants — and tips on how to look after them.
My top houseplants Snake plant Sansevieria bacularis ‘Mikado’ This almost unkillable succulent has tall, narrow, pointed shoots and a compact minimalist appearance. It will grow to about 1m from a 30cm-wide pot and thrives on a degree of neglect. Choose a bright position with some direct sunlight and water only when the soil gets dry.
Chinese money plant Pilea peperomioides Round leaves up to 8cm in diameter grow on long stems, mounding up to form a gentle hummock of glossy green leaves that will rarely grow larger than a football. Happy in bright, indirect sunlight, they will also grow in a little shade and will often do well in a humid bathroom. Try to get hold of a specimen that has been planted in a pot that is ready to hang as soon as you get it home.
Variegated snake plant Sansevieria trifasciata var.
laurentii This rough, tough foliage plant is virtually indestructible, hence the common name “mother-in-law’s tongue”. The thick, fleshy leaves have a striking snake-print pattern, and on this particular variety additional bright yellow bands on the outer edge of each leaf. This upright plant will never loll about or sprawl, and will grow to beads about 120cm in a bright spot with some direct sunshine.
Fiddle-leaf fig Ficus lyrata Large, glossy, but irregularly sized leaves draw comparisons with the shape of a violin.
This highly adaptable plant will do well in bright, indirect light to bright shade, with a weak liquid feed every month or so and the occasional misting of its leaves. It can take more than 15 years to reach its mature height of 2m, so buy as big as you can afford. (It is toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.) Swiss cheese plant Monstera deliciosa Ultra-glossy, heart-shaped leaves the size of dinner plates make this a striking plant. As it matures, the leaves it produces become increasingly perforated, and it can reach several metres in height if regularly repotted to a larger container. Choose a bright spot with indirect light and keep the soil moist. (Toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.) String of beads Curio rowleyanus Thin, wiry stems adorned with fleshy spheres as if threaded with peas, cascade out of the pot. This easy-to-grow, unusual succulent needs bright, indirect light to thrive, and very little in the way of watering. The trailing stems are particularly easy to admire when this plant is suspended from a hook, giving a waterfall effect. (Can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.) Air plant Tillandsia argentea These unusual plants do not root in soil, but use special water-absorbing cells to obtain moisture from fog and rain in the air. As a houseplant they can also be grown without soil, as long as they get to enjoy a humid environment, such as a steamy bathroom or kitchen, or are misted a couple of times a week. They are often grown in a glass dome or terrarium, or on a piece of bark or rock.
Moulded-wax succulent Echeveria These succulent rosettes come in an array of unusual colours and look fantastic when they are arranged in clusters, either widely spaced in a shallow bowl or planted individually and grouped together along the length of a shallow windowsill. They are very easy to care for, needing only infrequent watering.
Elephant’s ear Alocasia ‘Dragon Scale’ The marbled markings on the large, deeply veined leaves of this houseplant are spectacular, and are enhanced by the deep veining that gives a crinkled effect to each leaf. Grow in a warm spot in indirect light and stand on a bed of pebbles to help to create the humidity it craves. (This plant is toxic to animals if ingested.)
A plant such as a succulent, or one with waxy or glossy leaves, will make it through the holiday without wilting
CREDIT: Alice Bowe
Copyright News International Trading Limited. Dec 23, 2017