Sunroom full of houseplants

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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