Houseplant Doctor : Answers to Top Houseplant Questions

A stethoscope, pencil and notepad and some leaves on a table

Image: Shutterstock

From crispy leaves to soggy succulents, our Houseplant Doctor gives expert answers to your top houseplant questions.

How often should I water my houseplant?

Brass watering can with Peperomia houseplant

Image: Thompson & Morgan

There is no fixed rule because how often you need to water your houseplant depends on a host of environmental factors (light, temperature, time of year) and the individual species. Bear in mind that overwatering is often more fatal than underwatering as most plants have natural strategies to cope with short periods of drought but are less able to survive flooding. If you find watering a chore there are plenty of dry loving plants which cope well with neglect. For more information on watering see our Houseplant Watering Guide.

Why have the leaves of my houseplant gone yellow?

Dracaena houseplant with yellowing leaves

Leaf yellowing can often be caused by overwatering
Image: Dracaena from Thompson and Morgan

Observe whether it is the leaves at the top or bottom which are showing signs of yellowing.

The lower leaves of your plant may occasionally go yellow and drop and this is quite a normal part of the plant growth process. However, if a lot of the leaves are affected then environmental factors are to blame. Often, lower leaf yellowing is a sign of incorrect watering, most frequently overwatering. Tip your plant out of its pot and check the root ball. If necessary, dry it out thoroughly by standing it on a bed of newspaper.

When the upper leaves of a houseplant go yellow this can be an indication of nutrient deficiency caused by watering with hard water or by lack of nitrogen in the compost. Nutrient deficiencies are often indicated by a distinct pattern of discolouration known as ‘interveinal chlorosis.’ This means that the leaf veins remain dark green whilst the tissue between the veins yellows or becomes pale. Treat your houseplant to a liquid feed and see if the problem improves.

If the leaves have gone yellow on the side which is away from the window, then lack of light could be the issue. Turn your plants regularly or find them a brighter spot.

How do I choose the right plant?

An arrangement of lots of different houseplants

There are so many different houseplants to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Firstly, decide on where you are going to put your houseplant. If you have a bright room which is south or west facing, then your choice is unrestricted. But if you want a plant for a north-facing room which doesn’t get direct sunlight, you will need to be more careful and choose plants which can cope with lower light levels. For more information see our Houseplant Lighting Guide.

Secondly, make a realistic assessment of your level of gardening experience and how much time you have. There are a vast number of easy to maintain plants, see our Top Ten Easiest Houseplants. Once you have decided on the environment and level of maintenance then you can get creative about decorating with plants.

Should I water my plant from above or below?

Close up of a lilac and white African Violet

Some houseplants, such as this African Violet, are happier being watered from below
Image: Saintpaulia ‘Anthoflores Edith’ from Thompson & Morgan

There are some houseplants which are much happier with bottom watering. This includes dry loving species which are prone to root and stem rots such as cacti and succulents. Other plants do not like water on their leaves or crowns including Saintpaulia (African Violet), Gloxinia (Sinninga speciosa) and Cyclamen.

With these plants you should always seat the pot in a saucer. After filling the saucer with water leave the plant for about half an hour to absorb the water. Don’t leave them to sit in water for long periods and allow the plant to drain fully after watering.

The majority of other houseplants are fine with watering from above.

Which houseplant can I put in a dark room?

Aspidistra plant in white pot on table in living room

Aspidistra are able to cope with low light levels
Image: Thompson & Morgan

Plants can’t survive without light but Aspidistra elatior (Cast Iron Plant) is especially tolerant of low light levels as its natural habitat is the deep, dry shade of the forest floor. Low light levels will slow down plant growth so you can compensate for this by treating your plant to a lighter spot for at least some of the growing season.

What are the easiest houseplants to grow?

A mixed arrangement of houseplants

Low maintenance houseplants back row from left: Zamioculcas zamiifolia and Monstera deliciosa
Front from left: Aloe vera, Aloe zebrina, Echeveria, Sansevieria trifasciata, Spathiphyllum ‘Torelli’
Image from Thompson & Morgan

The three top bombproof houseplants are Aspidistra elatior (Cast Iron Plant), Sansevieria (Mother in Law’s Tongue) and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant). All of these will tolerate a substantial amount of neglect and you can read more about them and other low maintenance plants in my Top 10 Easiest Houseplants.

7. How do I know if a plant needs repotting?

Person potting up a Sansevieria on a table

Image: Thompson & Morgan

It’s important not to repot your houseplant unnecessarily as it could result in plants becoming overwatered. Generally, houseplants enjoy being quite snug in their pots. Be especially careful with dry loving species such as cacti and succulents and plants which have naturally shallow root systems. If your plant is growing happily, leave it alone!

When repotting is needed, it will become difficult to water your plant. The root ball will be so congested that water and liquid fertiliser fails to penetrate. Roots will also poke out of the drainage holes which might make it difficult for you to release the plant from its pot. Growth is slowed down or halted.

Tip your plant out of its pot and examine the root ball. The plant is pot bound if the root ball is very dense, with roots circling round and round the pot so that there is little compost visible in the bottom third.

Do any potting up early in the growing season when your plant is in active growth and will have time to expand into its new pot long before winter dormancy. Bear in mind that potting up will cause your plant to grow larger. If this isn’t wanted, then lightly trim the bottom of the roots instead. When you do pot up don’t reach for an extra-large pot. Choose a container which is only 1-2cm in diameter larger than the existing pot. Moderate your watering regime afterwards as until the plant roots have expanded into their new pot they will be surrounded by a layer of wet compost. Be sure to use the correct compost for your plant type; most houseplants enjoy a free-draining medium.

Why has my houseplant grown tall and spindly?

This is most likely a problem with lack of light. Other tell-tale signs are uneven growth, with the plant stretching towards the light and small pale leaves. It is a common problem in the winter when your home remains warm due to central heating which encourages active growth at a time when there isn’t enough light to support it.

Where possible, move your plant into a lighter position. In the winter, you can encourage your plant to go into a resting phase by watering it less and keeping it in a cool spot. For more answers to houseplant questions on lighting see our Houseplant Lighting Guide.

Why have are the leaves of my houseplant gone brown at the edges?

Houseplant with brown leaf margins

Image: Thompson & Morgan

If just the edges or tips of the leaves have gone brown, this is normally a problem with dry air or draughts. Move your plants away from radiators and mist them regularly or stand them on a bed of pebbles in a tray full of water.

Also check for any watering issues. See Overwatering or Underwatering below.

Why is my houseplant suddenly dropping leaves?

Person shovelling up leaves which have dropped from Ficus benjamina plant

Ficus benjamina can sometimes drop their leaves
Image: Ficus benjamina from Thompson & Morgan

This quite often happens when you bring a new houseplant home or when you move a plant from one room to another. Ficus benjamina are especially prone to leaf drop.

It indicates a sudden change of conditions, the most common being variations in watering, light and temperature.

Overwatering or Underwatering

Firstly, check the potting compost and if necessary, tip the root ball out of its pot to have a good look at it. Feel the compost and assess the moisture level. If the root ball is soggy then you have overwatered, it. Quickly remedy this by standing the bare root ball on some newspapers. Keep refreshing the damp newspaper until the root ball has sufficiently dried out. Unfortunately, overwatering can cause irreversible damage. In future, avoid leaving your plant to sit in water. Take care to ease off watering during the winter months when the plant is not actively growing.

If the root ball is very dry it may be that you have underwatered it. Try to maintain a consistent level of water during the growing season whilst allowing the top few centimetres of compost to dry out between waterings.

Changes in Light

Too little light can cause the lower leaves to drop and is a common cause of leaf drop in Ficus benjamina. Try to provide as much light for your plant as possible, particularly during the winter. For more answers to houseplant questions on lighting, see our Houseplant Lighting Guide.

Changes in Temperature

A change in position, room, seasons or temperature can cause leaf drop. This frequently happens with new plants which have transferred from a warm and humid greenhouse environment to a cool, dry home. Other stressors include turning on the heating in winter, placing plants near radiators or in drafts.

Try to find a position for your houseplants where the environment is consistent. Newly bought plants may take a while to acclimatise and should gradually recover by themselves providing their other needs are met.

Why has my succulent/cacti gone rotten at the base and keeled over?

Rotten cactus in a pot

Image: Shutterstock

This is normally caused by overwatering. Unfortunately, it indicates that the roots have rotten and the damage is irreversible. However, with succulents you may be able to trim the stem back to healthy material and repot it to grow new roots.

Vine weevil grub

Vine weevil grub
Image from Thompson & Morgan

Another frequent cause of this problem with succulents is vine weevil grubs – particularly if you have left your plants to stand outside in the summer months and then brought them back under cover for the winter. These grubs eat all the roots leaving a hollow stem and the whole rosette becomes detached from the soil. When you remove the rosette, you should be able to spot C shaped, creamy bugs about 10mm long with brown heads. As above, trim off all the dead and damaged parts and a few of the leaves so you have enough of a stem to re-anchor the plant and pot it up into a new container. The rosette will grow new roots. If vine weevil is a frequent problem, avoid the use of pesticides and treat your plants with biological nematodes which parasitise the vine weevil grubs.

We hope we have answered your houseplant questions, if you would like more information on houseplant care, view our other Houseplant Blogs.

To find the perfect houseplant for your space, and plenty of top growing advice, head over to our houseplant hub page.

 

Plants for Pets: A Guide to Pet-Friendly Houseplants

Pets and plants don’t always go together. My ‘Border Terrorists’, Ogmore and Dylan, are notorious for chomping foliage. Whilst they mainly graze on Dog Mercury and other outdoor weeds, they have also unleashed their rasping tongues on my once elegant Bamboo Palm ( Dypsis lutescens), leaving it looking as though it has been attacked by a giant slug. Fortunately, Bamboo Palm is entirely non-toxic to pets, but other plants are best kept away from your furry friends. Our panel of Thompson & Morgan pooches and pussycats have put aside their differences and got together to guide you through the best pet-friendly plants.

Non-Toxic Houseplants for Pets

Palms

The arching stems of palms look elegant in any setting and are non-toxic to pets

Hello! My name is Hamish. I’m two and a half years old and my favourite hobbies include shredding cardboard, having my ears groomed and stealing people’s seats as soon as they stand up.

Being a graceful Cocker Spaniel, I like to luxuriate amongst elegant palms. Bamboo Palm (Dypsis lutescens), Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana) and Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) are all pet friendly houseplants. With gracefully arching stems and slender foliage, these palms make striking specimen plants as well as functioning as tall backdrops in group arrangements. They bring a tropical ambience and relaxing mood into the home. All enjoy bright light but will tolerate some shade.

Do avoid Cycas revoluta, the Sago Palm, as it can be lethally poisonous to dogs.

Ferns

Hello I’m Buddy. I’m one and a half years old. My favourite hobbies include stealing clothes from the laundry basket, playing on the beach and cuddling under my blanket on cold days.

I love the soft, lush foliage of ferns. But do make sure you select true ferns and beware of plants pretending to be them such as ‘Asparagus fern’ which is not a fern at all but a member of the highly toxic lily family. Ferns like The Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), Birds Nest Fern (Asplenium) and Maidenhair (Adiantum raddianum) are great for bathrooms as they will tolerate lower light levels whilst benefitting from the additional humidity. I love lounging beside the radiator but ferns won’t. Place them in a cool spot out of strong, direct sunlight and keep the compost moist but not wet.

Calathea

Hello, my name is Dylan. I’m a sophisticated canine with an appetite for country pursuits such as fox-chasing and tug-o-war. I spend my leisure hours in deep meditation whilst having my tummy scratched.

My houseplant recommendation is Calathea. Perfectly safe for pets, they are stylish and exotic foliage plants which come in a wide choice of sophisticated patterns and colouring. They will also tolerate lower light levels.

Succulents

Hello, my name is Ogmore, but my friends call me Ogg. My chief pastime is looking for food and the rest of the day is spent eating it. Also known as The Omnivorous Ogmore, I have successfully eaten giant holes in all my owner’s pockets thus rendering them useless. I can’t say as I’m terribly interested in plants, unless they’re edible, but I’m drawn to succulents as they sound edible to me.

The majority of succulents are pet-friendly but there are a few toxic species to avoid.  The most common are : Aloe, Jade Plant (Crassula ovata), Kalanchoe, Sanseviera, Senecio and Euphorbia.

The rest are great plants for households with pets. Easy-going and tolerant of neglect, their neat, sculptural forms are always crowd-pleasers and they look especially good when grown as collections.

Pilea and Polka Dots


Hello, I’m Teddy. I’m six months old. Whilst I look like a little angel, I’m anything but! My favourite hobbies include constantly crying for food, not listening and giving sass. I like cheeky little plants and my favourites are the Chinese Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides) and the Pink Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) which unlike me, are very well-behaved. Both have fun foliage which will add cheer to a bright window sill.

 

Spider Plant

Hello, my name is Dougie, I’m nearly 3 years old. My favourite hobbies include destroying soft toys, cuddling with humans and going on walks with my doggy friends.

I like the deservedly popular Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum). Like me, it’s easy-going and very friendly, so friendly that it will readily produce numerous little plantlets which you can pot up and give as gifts to your friends.

 

A-Z of Pet Friendly Houseplants

African Violet (Saintpaulia)
Aspidistra elatior
Bamboo Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
Pony Tail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Birds Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Bromeliad
Calathea
Chinese Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides)
Echeveria
Haworthia
Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum raddianum)
Maranta
Orchid
Pachira aquatica
Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
Peperomia Pilea (all species)
Pink Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’)
Tillandsia
Venus fly trap

Houseplants which are toxic to pets

Hello I’m Zippy.  As an indoor tortoise and a dedicated vegetarian, I’m an expert on houseplants. I don’t hibernate, but just get particularly grumpy and lazy at this time of year. Just for you, I have accumulated my many years of wisdom to compile this curmudgeonly list of poisonous plants.

A-Z List of Houseplants Toxic to Pets

Aloe vera
Amaryllis
Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum)
Asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus)
Begonia
Cordyline fruticosa
Devils Ivy/Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Dracaena
Elephants Ear (Alocasia)
Geranium
Ivy
Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
Kalanchoe
Lilles
Ornamental Pepper Plant
Pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)
Philodendron
Poinsettia
Rubber plant (Ficus all species)
Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
Senecio species
Snake plant (Sanseviera)

Top 10 Houseplants : The Best of the Bunch and How to Grow Them

Sunroom full of houseplants

Image: Shutterstock

From Monkey Leaves to Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, houseplants offer a dazzling variety of leaf shapes, forms, and colours. And from bright, warm window sills, to cool humid bathrooms, they each have their own preferences for where and how they like to live. In case you are feeling bewildered, we have narrowed down the very best. Here is an introduction to our Top Ten Houseplants, answering all your questions on why grow it, where to grow it, how to grow it and even, how (not) to kill it!

1. Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii)

Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Sansevieria?

Spiky leaves which create vertical accents and contrast beautifully with softer-leaved plants. These punky plants are also excellent air-purifiers. NASA research into cleaning air in space stations found that they remove a host of common air pollutants.

Where to grow Sanseviera?

Anywhere! Sansevieras are born survivors and although they do best in bright light, (but not direct summer sun), they will also tolerant partial light.

How to grow Sansevieria?

Neglect it! Treat it mean and it will grow keen. Water it only once every few weeks. Over-water it and it will rot. Don’t bother potting it on unless the pot is about to break! And if you do, use a very gravelly, free draining compost. 

How (not) to kill it

Don’t water it too much, stand on it or throw it under a bus. Otherwise, practically bomb-proof!

2. Monstera deliciosa

Large Monstera deliciosa

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Monstera deliciosa?

A monster with a big heart, this huge, heart-shaped-leaved jungle dweller really channels the tropical vibe. Deservedly popular, plants can slowly grow into impressive specimens. An iconic houseplant.

Where to grow Monstera deliciosa?

Hall, bedroom, bathroom, or office – Monstera isn’t fussy. Native to the tropical forests of South America, this gentle giant is tolerant of a wide range of conditions and any room with medium to bright indirect light will do. Naturally dwelling in the lower canopy, it can tolerate lower light levels, but if too low, growth will become leggy and unsightly.

How to grow Monstera deliciosa?

Monsteras are vining plants and can be trained to climb a pole or trellis. If it’s in a pot against the wall just be careful it doesn’t ruin the wall paper with its self-clinging stem roots! Water every one to two weeks allowing the compost to dry out between waterings. Feed these moderately hungry plants once a month in Spring and Summer.

How (not) to kill it!

Avoid putting your Monstera in strong, direct sunlight. The glossy leaves benefit from an annual clean but if you decide to hose it down outdoors choose a shady spot as plants will scorch very quickly in outdoor sunlight. Ensure that it has a free draining compost containing some perlite. Don’t saturate it or leave it soaking in a saucer full of water. Every watering should be allowed to drain freely through the compost.

3. Elephant’s Ear (Alocasia cucullata)

Elephant’s Ear leaves

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Elephant’s Ear?

A perfect partner to Monstera, Alocasia cucullata continues the tropical theme with its glossy, prominently veined, heart-shaped leaves which taper down to fine points. Nicknamed ‘Buddha’s Palm’, their elegant leaves, held gracefully on stems which flare at the base, exude an aura of meditative calm.

Where to grow Elephant’s Ear?

Any well-lit room near a window where it will get bright, indirect sunlight. But avoid a south-facing window if it’s positioned where strong sunlight hits the leaves directly. They will scorch!  

How to grow Elephant’s Ear?

Regular but moderate watering is the key. Little and often. Poke your finger into the top of the compost and if it’s drying out give it a splash. Once a month, through spring and summer, add soluble houseplant fertiliser to the water to give it some nutrients.   

How (not) to kill it

Don’t leave it in a dark corner soaking in a saucerful of water. Don’t saturate the compost – there needs to be some air in there for the plant roots to breathe. The trick is to keep the compost continually moist but not soaking wet.

4. Money Tree (Pachira aquatica )

Money tree in brown pot with shadow

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Money Tree?

This ‘houseplant’ is actually a fast-growing tree, which in the wild can grow up to 20 metres. Its fast growth means that it can quickly make a large feature plant, showing off its swollen, plaited stems which are actually several young trees braided together. The bare stems are crowned by a jungle canopy of five-palmed leaves. All that’s missing is a swinging monkey!

Where to grow Money Tree?

Near a window with bright, indirect light or even in the office under fluorescent strip lights.

How to grow Money Tree?

Like the Alocasia, only water it when the top of the compost is dry. Pinch out the growing tips to keep it bushy. Pachira’s quick growth is one of its assets but if it’s obscuring the view, prune it back in spring, feed it, and it will rapidly grow a new crown of leaves.

How (not) to kill it!

Pachira trees are adapted to tolerate periods of drought, the swollen stems act as a water reservoir. If you constantly saturate your Money Tree the stems and roots will rot.

5. Asparagus Fern (Asparagus setaceus)

Asparagus fern in white pot

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Asparagus Fern?

The asparagus fern radiates an ambience of oriental calm. Lacy foliage, lightly held in tiers of horizontal fronds, this is green therapy at its best. Relax in its soft caress (but be careful of its unexpected thorns!).

Where to grow Asparagus Fern?

A position with bright but soft, filtered light. Like most houseplants, do not place it in spots of strong direct sun.

How to grow Asparagus Fern?

Asparagus fern isn’t really a fern, it’s a lily. This is good news, because unlike most ferns it adapts well to indoor container growing and is easy to look after. Water regularly, keeping the compost moist.

How (not) to kill it!

Leave it in hot sun and it will quickly frazzle. Overwater it and the plant will turn brown.

6. Indian Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica ‘Robusta’)

Collection of three Indian Rubber Plants

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Indian Rubber Plant?

High performing but low maintenance, the Indian Rubber is possibly the perfect houseplant. With its broad and simple leaves, it cuts a stylish silhouette against a plain wall. A fast grower, it quickly makes a strong focal plant in a mixed houseplant display.

Where to grow Indian Rubber Plant?

If you have a corner with lower light, the Rubber Plant will cope. Although in brighter, indirect light it will grow faster, with bigger and better leaves.

How to grow Indian Rubber Plant?

This is a toughie which is good for beginners. Water when the compost is dry and boost growth with a monthly feed during the growing season. Polish the shine on its lovely leaves by cleaning off dust with a soft, moist cloth.

How (not) to kill it!

Fuss and spoil it with excessive water and your Ficus elastica will sulk, turn yellow and drop leaves. Check the compost regularly to judge the moisture content and ensure that the water can drain freely from the pot. Allow it to dry out between waterings.

7. Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)

Collection of houseplants including Money plant and Aloe Vera

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Chinese Money Plant?

Full-Moons floating above stems attached from underneath like lily pads make Pilea peperomioides a distinctive and quirky looking houseplant which is rapidly becoming an Instagram star. Its spherical shapes contrast beautifully with upright plants like Aloes and Sansevieria. Better still, it sprouts lots of ‘pups’ from around the base. Pot them up and give them to your friends!

Where to grow Chinese Money Plant?

Looks dinky on a bright windowsill in a well-chosen pot and arranged with other short plants.

How to grow Chinese Money Plant?

Water it regularly but only when the compost feels dry. Pilea will tolerate lower light, but the leaves may curl inwards, the stems lengthen and bend towards the light and flop. In lighter conditions growth will be compact and perky. Regular monthly feeding when in active growth will keep its leaves looking bright green and healthy.

How (not) to kill it!

Most dead houseplants are killed by overwatering. If the pert leaves collapse this is a sign that it needs a drink. If the compost is already damp, don’t water it!

8. Flamingo Flower (Anthurium andraeanum)

Anthurium Aqua in Sierglass (House Plant)

Image: Thompson & Morgan

Why grow Anthurium?

This RHS award-winner is the longest flowering houseplant, providing a year-round pop of colour amongst the greenery. The ‘flowers’ are actually modified leaves, with the central ‘spadix’ containing the real, tiny flowers. Their sculptured, waxy spathes come in exotic shades of salmon pink, carmine red or dusky purple. But if you are more purist in your tastes, plump for the pure white form.  

Where to grow Anthurium?

In the wild Anthuriums are epiphytes, growing off the branches of other host plants rather than rooting in the ground. The plants trap debris around their roots, rainwater drips through and high aerial humidity keeps everything just moist. Your Anthurium will enjoy the humidity of a bathroom, provided it gets bright, indirect light. Don’t place it near radiators, heating vents or in draughts.

How to grow Anthurium?

Anthuriums can be grown ‘epiphytically’ like orchids, without any soil! If you do grow them in compost it should be very gritty and free draining. To increase humidity, mist them regularly or sit the pot on top of pebbles in a saucer of water. Pull off spent flowers, which are usually produced at 3-month intervals with a rest in between. Every couple of months treat your anthurium with a tomato fertiliser.

How (not) to kill it!

As epiphytes, Anthuriums have minimal need for soil whilst their roots require high aerial humidity. If you grow them in a big clod of soggy compost, they will turn their toes up!   

9. String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii)

String of hearts plant

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow String of Hearts?

Ceropegia woodii or String of Hearts is one of my personal favourites. Once difficult to find, it is fast becoming highly popular and for good reason. A tumble of fine stems decorated with heart-shaped leaves and round bead-like stem-bulbils, this RHS award winner will win your heart over!

Where to grow String of Hearts?

Dangling in front of or beside a window with bright, indirect light, Ceropegia looks fabulous. But don’t dangle it directly above a radiator! Alternatively, trailing from a high shelf or table will show it off to advantage.

How to grow String of Hearts?

String of Hearts is a succulent and likes to be kept dry. Treat it like a cactus and grow it in gritty cactus compost. Water it moderately, preferably from below. Feed it with cactus and succulent fertiliser every couple of months in the growing season.

How (not) to kill it!

Kill it with kindness! This is a plant which prefers neglect. Over-watering and over-feeding with high nitrogen fertiliser will be its downfall.

10. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum species)

Peace lily

Image: Shutterstock

Why grow Peace Lily?

With elegant white spathes sailing above slender dark green leaves, the Peace Lily is a long-flowering beauty but also unfussy and easy to care for.

Where to grow Peace Lily?

Peace lilies will tolerate lower light levels than many houseplants but too dark and it won’t flower. Site it on a shelf or table where it will receive moderate to bright indirect light. Spathiphyllum is a highly effective air purifier so it’s great at home or in the office for removing air pollutants.

How to care for Peace Lily?

Water regularly but wait until the top few centimetres of compost has dried out and the pot feels lighter. If you leave it longer the leaves will droop with thirst. Soak it for 10 minutes, leave it to drain and your Peace Lily will quickly revive.

How (not) to kill it!

This is an unfussy plant but is most likely to be killed by overwatering. Only water your Peace Lily when it tells you that it needs it!

If our Top Ten has whetted your appetite, look in our Houseplant section for more inspiration and watch our video for additional growing tips. Find all of our top houseplant resources and growing guides in one place at our houseplant hub page.

Christmas Colour: The 10 Best Plants for Christmas Gifts and Decorations

Add some festive colour to the dark winter months this Christmas.

Our winter-flowering houseplants make growing gifts which everyone will love. A gift of brightly coloured flowers raises Christmas spirits and what’s more, green gifts are not just for Christmas, but continue to give pleasure through coming seasons.

Christmas houseplants also make great festive decorations. Beautiful plants themed in red, green, and white look stylish and bring natural winter beauty into your home.

The Top 5 Best Christmas Houseplant Gifts

Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’

The vivid yellow of these miniature daffodils will brighten up gloomy winter days. One of the most popular dwarf daffodils, Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ is also delightfully fragrant. Our specially prepared and timed bulbs are delivered just sprouting, ready to burst into flower once in the warmth of your home. Put them outside after flowering and they will continue to bloom year after year. Give these cheeky little daffs to someone and they are bound to put a smile on their face.  

Christmas Cactus ‘Tricolour’

Image: Visions BV, Netherlands

Arguably the best Christmas-flowering houseplant, this Christmas cactus bursts into a tropical mix of pinks which will banish winter chills. Putting on a phenomenal two-month flowering display from late November into January, Christmas Cactus Tricolour is also one of the easiest houseplants to grow. Rest it after flowering and this bumper bloomer will put on a stunning performance every winter.

Hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’ and ‘White Pearl’

One of the most intensely scented flowers, Hyacinths will quickly fill a whole room with their exquisite fragrance. Their pearly, starry blooms are perfect for a touch of Christmas twinkle. Choose pretty-in-pink Hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’, or snowy white Hyacinth ‘White Pearl’. Both varieties have been specially coaxed to flower over Christmas and will re-flower outdoors each spring

Begonia ‘Borias Rosebud’

Producing masses of miniature rose-like double blooms from winter into spring, Begonia ‘Borias Rosebud’ is a real stunner. This living bouquet is the ideal gift for someone you love.

The Top 5 Best Christmas Houseplant Decorations

Hibiscus ‘Festive Flair’

This red-hot hibiscus will turn up the heat on cold Christmas nights. Its luscious, trumpet-shaped flowers make a wonderfully festive welcome to the home. In the warmest months of the new year, it can be moved to a sunny patio to bloom again.

Single Snowdrops

Create a charming New Year’s display with these dainty snowdrops which promise the coming spring. After flowering, plant them outside in the garden to enjoy their honey-scented, nodding blooms the following year.

Amaryllis

A stylish decoration for the Christmas home, the sculptural blooms of the red amaryllis create a striking statement. Deep, velvety red, they also make romantic gifts. And if you like your Christmas to sparkle, our Amaryllis Pot with LED lights will do the trick.

Anthurium ‘Million Flower’

The ‘Flamingo Flower’ will bring cheer not just at Christmas but for many months. Anthurium ‘Million Flower’ produces exotic red blooms intermittently throughout the year, each one lasting for up to three months. The bright red spathes and glossy green leaves bring a jungle vibe into the home.

Princettia ‘White’

The most popular Christmas plant is undoubtedly the Poinsettia. But instead of traditional red, this one comes in classic, frosty white. Princettia ‘White’ brings brightness on short winter days, its simple green and white colour scheme looks perfect on its own or pair it with a traditional red Poinsettia for an effective contrast.

 

Houseplants are a green gift which everyone will enjoy. Look in our Christmas section for more festive greenery and inspiring gifts.  

Moving abroad with plants – how to make it work

Every plant lover would agree that plants make a house feels like home. Therefore, it’s only natural to want to bring them with you when you’re moving abroad. You’ve put so much effort into growing them, and you have them for months, maybe even years, so it doesn’t seem right to leave them behind. Moving abroad with plants might seem complicated, but don’t worry. We’ve prepared tips that will help you go through this process as stress-free as possible.

Plants packed for mocing house

©Shutterstock: Before you start preparing and packing your plants, you need to check if you are legally allowed to move all of them with you to another country.

Get informed

Before you start preparing and packing your plants, you need to check if you are legally allowed to move all of them with you to another country. Many countries have specific regulations and laws concerning importing plants. Therefore, make sure to verify all information before trying to cross the border.

The main reason why countries don’t allow for certain plants to be imported is their impact on the ecosystem. It might seem like a good idea to sneak a couple of seeds of that beautiful flower you have growing in your garden. However, if the plant is non-native to a particular ecosystem, it can cause issues.

In the worst case, a non-native plant can take over the natural habitat of a native plant and go as far as making it extinct. Plants that don’t naturally grow in a specific area can attract pests which can be deadly to native plants. With no natural population controls, the issue spirals out of control.

Also, you need to check the growing conditions in the country you’re moving to. Not all vegetation thrives in every single environment, so it’s essential to consider the climate. Even house plants can be significantly affected by weather, so it’s crucial to do your research. After you move, you need to help your houseplants acclimatise to your new home.

The process of moving abroad with plants

Let’s be honest – international moving won’t be easy, especially if you plan on bringing your botanical friends with you. Besides doing your research, you will need to properly pack and hire the right kind of assistance. All the chances are you won’t be able to do it on your own.

To help you relocate internationally, we strongly recommend hiring a reliable moving company. However, due to liability issues, many moving companies won’t transfer plants, but they can help you make the rest of your moving process as easy as possible. That way, you can focus on your plants’ well-being.

packing plants into boxes

©Shutterstock: Try to find small boxes so that your plant doesn’t move around.

Preparing plants for your international relocation

The first thing you need to do when moving abroad with plants is to gather necessary supplies and prepare them for the move. Here is a list of things you’ll need:

  • A moving box for each pot. Try to find small boxes so that your plant doesn’t move around.
  • Plastic pots as you need to replace clay pots while in transit
  • Newspaper or packing paper
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Plastic ties and bags
 

You will need all these things in order to get your plants ready for an international move. First, you should re-pot plants in plastic containers. It would be best if you did this a few weeks before the move with sterile soil, as your plant needs some time to settle. Pack the clay pots and hanging baskets so you can re-pot your plants after you move into your new place.

Make sure the roots stay damp during the move. To achieve this, water your plants a couple of days before moving. It’s also important to check for bugs. If the country you’re moving to requires specific certifications, you will want to hire an authorized examiner.

water plants
©Shutterstock. Water your plants a couple of days before moving.

Packing and moving potted plants

Given that house plants are living, breathing organisms, you want to ensure they arrive intact and healthy to your new country. You can either move the whole plant or just a cutting. In any case, make sure to pack them last and unpack them first. This way, they will stay safe and healthy.

Packing a potted plant is relatively easy. First, you need to put a plastic bag over the pot. You should tie the bag at the base so that the soil is contained. Make sure that the bottom of the moving box is taped well before placing your plant inside.

If there is extra space in the box, fill it with newspaper or packing paper. This way, your plant will be secure and able to breathe. To allow for air to flow, you should poke holes in the box. Don’t exaggerate – a few holes on each side will do the trick.

If your plants are going to be transported by a third party (a moving or shipping company), make sure to label the boxes with “fragile” and “live plant”. This way, whoever is moving your plant will know to handle them with special care.

The best and safest way to transport your plants is in a temperature-controlled environment such as your car. If your plants are near you during the move, you can be confident they are well taken care of. If you plan on sleeping over anywhere during your transit, make sure to bring your plants inside. This is especially important if the weather outside is too hot or too cold.

moving plants in a car

©Shutterstock: The best and safest way to transport your plants is in a temperature-controlled environment such as your car. 

Packing and moving a cutting plant

Things are a little bit different and easier when moving a cutting plant. If your plant is too big to carry, it is a great way to bring it with you. Usually, this is concerning outdoor plants. No matter how low maintenance your outdoor plant is, if it’s too big, it’s too big of a hassle to move it.

On the morning of your move, you should take a clean, sharp cut on an area of the bush or flower you want to bring with you. It should be 3-6 inches long, and you have to make sure that it’s healthy growth. Otherwise, it won’t survive the trip.

You need to properly pack the cutting to move it with you. Packing is simple – the most important is to make sure that the end is kept moist. You can do this by wrapping it in wet paper towels, which you will secure with rubber bands or plastic ties. You should keep your cuttings in a plastic stem holder, which you can buy at a local florist.

In conclusion

It’s completely understandable if you feel intimidated and overwhelmed before your big international move. Moving abroad with plants isn’t the easiest thing, but if you follow the advice from this article, you will make the process as smooth as possible.

We wish you and your botanical friends the best of luck with moving to a new country!

How to Help Houseplants Acclimatise to Your New Home

We are well aware of the stress that comes with moving home. Well, plants are just like people in this regard. They acclimate to their environment, and even the subtlest shifts in temperature and light can upset their balance. It will take some time before they finally adapt to their new digs. Even more importantly – it will take a little extra love and care on your part. Let us have a look at how you can help houseplants acclimate to your new home.

Moving house plants to your new home

©Shutterstock

Keep things similar to what they’re used to

Your houseplants will be going through a process of acclimatization to their novel environment. This period can be very stressful for them, especially during the winter months. However, keeping things as similar as possible to what they were used to in your former abode may ease their transition to your new home. But precisely what do we mean by that? No two homes are identical, that’s true. But you’ll want to do your best to pay attention to draughty windows and heaters, observe general light and humidity levels, etc. For instance, you’d probably kept your cacti and succulents on a bright, sunny spot in your old home. So, find south or west-facing windows in your new home and place them there.

plants on a sunny windowsill

©Shutterstock

Inspect for damage

As to the moving damage, it’s next to impossible to keep everything pristine. You may be looking at an odd snapped leaf or two, plant wilting, off-colour foliage, leaf drop, and some of your hanging plants may need untangling. In any event, you should start examining your greens closely to determine the extent of the damage.

Salvage any injured plants

Plants are incredibly fragile, as you may know. For this reason, moving them to a new home requires some forethought and some know-how. To help houseplants acclimatize to your new home, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure they don’t need a lot of salvaging to begin with. Make sure to properly prepare your plants before the move, and be careful during the process itself. However, if things are looking a bit droopy and unkempt when you arrive at your new home, there are things you can do to perk up a stress-damaged plant.

By nipping off any broken or dead leaves and stem ends, you will make sure that there’s room for new parts to grow. If stems or branches aren’t broken but only a bit damaged, grab a string or a piece of soft fabric. Next, stake the damaged area and tie it. Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee this will work. If not, you’ll want to prune the broken branch.

A few days after unwrapping your houseplants, you’ll see them slowly starting to adjust. Now it’s time to shift your attention to their watering needs. If any of your babies seem dry from the move, try filling your bathtub with a few centimetres of water. Next, let the pots have a little soak for about thirty minutes, give or take.

Watering house plants

©Shutterstock

Check over your plants

Now that you’re done with the basics, you’ll want to keep tabs on them and see if you notice any changes. Do not think about giving any of your plants a re-pot immediately after the move. Adding another source of stress is by no means a way to help houseplants acclimate to your new home. They will be ready in a month or two. If it’s in the middle of the winter, however, it is best to hold off that decision until springtime. Right now, love, care, and some time to acclimatise are all they need.

 

Find out more about creating your own healthy indoor plant display at our dedicated houseplant hub page.

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