By Jenny White

Living decor: a guide to houseplants

You want to fill your home with greenery, but where to begin? We outline the best plants for each room – and how to look after them.

Houseplants bring an interior to life. From cacti and succulents to luxuriant ferns and exotic orchids, a trip to a garden centre offers up seemingly endless ways to add interest to your home.

Whatever the room, there is a plant to suit. Balconies, for example, can be prettified with hanging plants such as a Boston fern; bathrooms can be decorated with ivy; and spacious hallways can accommodate the drama of a big-leaved cheese plant or yucca.

Andy Baxter, managing director of online garden retailer Internet Gardener, advises that oversized plants can work well in otherwise minimalist interiors. “They can make a bold statement without making the room feel overcrowded,” he says.

Look good, feel better

And the benefits of plants don’t stop at aesthetics. Some plants help to detoxify homes from the airborne toxins, dusts and germs that may be found in household furniture and products.

“Not only do plants add texture and colour to a room, they also help with health,” says Baxter. “By ‘breathing in’ the air in your home, plants can help remove toxins that may contribute to respiratory problems. Common air purifiers include spider plants, which help reduce carbon monoxide and xylene, while weeping figs can help tackle levels of indoor air pollutants formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.”

Nurturing and caring for another living organism has been proven to be beneficial to mental health. Having a plant in a family home can also help teach children about the importance of caring for nature.

Green fingers

Houseplants may look beautiful, but many find keeping them alive a challenge.

“Not everyone understands how to best take care of them,” says Baxter. “For example, indoor plants are often overwatered, effectively drowning them in the process. Another common mistake is poor plant placement. In order to thrive, plants need to be placed somewhere with enough light and away from draughty windows.”

Every plant is different when it comes to the temperature and the amount of natural light, humidity and water they need, so be sure to look up this information for each specific plant you have or are thinking of buying.

It is also important to give your plants space to grow. If an indoor plant looks to be filling its pot, purchase a bigger pot as soon as possible, fill it with fresh compost and repot your plant to help its roots grow and prevent it from dying. You should also invest in a little all-purpose houseplant food to keep it nourished.

Ten houseplants for your home

Even the least green-fingered homeowner can succeed with houseplants – it’s all a matter of choosing your plants wisely. Here are 10 recommendations from the experts.

  1. Peace lily: “The Spathiphyllum is one of the best low-maintenance plants anyone can have,” says Gena Lorainne, plants expert from gardening services provider Fantastic Gardeners. “What makes it special is its ability to purify the air from toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene, which are usually found in rugs and carpets. All you have to do to keep your peace lily healthy and thriving is to water it once a week and protect it from direct sunlight exposure. It can be the perfect touch of greenery to your living room, bedroom or even bathroom.”
  2. Spider plants: “The spider plant is among the best air purifiers, and they’re also safe for children and pets,” says Lorainne. “They can adapt to the conditions that any room suggests, so feel free to decorate a higher shelf in your living room or put it in a hanging basket.”
  3. Orchids: “Despite the bad press, they are easy to look after and will look good for weeks,” says Mike Lind, chairman of the Garden Centre Association. “They like good humidity and light but not direct sun.” Lorainne adds that their love of humidity makes them perfect for bathrooms. “You don’t have to do much to keep your orchid plant alive: just water it regularly but beware of overwatering,” she says.
  4. Snake plant: This is another low-maintenance option for your home, which can also improve your sleep and reduce stress by eliminating formaldehyde and benzene. “It can withstand irregular watering and low levels of light, which makes it perfect for that corner in your living room or even in your bedroom,” says Lorainne. “It’s ideal for growing in offices, too.”
  5. Indoor cyclamen: “They are perfect for brightening up the home during the winter months,” says Lind. They like plenty of natural light but dislike draughts and are prone to rot, so when you water them water the soil, not the foliage.
  6. Boston fern: “It prefers humidity and indirect sunlight exposure for proper growth, which makes Boston fern perfect for growing in bathrooms,” says Lorainne. “Don’t forget to keep its soil moist.”
  7. Azaleas: “These are another good one for enhancing the home with a dramatic splash of colour,” says Lind. “They need lots of light, and make sure they’re kept away from heaters and radiators.”
  8. Lavender: Scented plants will add a touch of perfume to any room – with the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom particularly benefiting from this. Lavender’s scent is known to promote sleep – and is also believed to repel rodents – so it’s great for the bedroom.
  9. Yucca: This is a cool feature for your hall as well as sitting and dining rooms, which are ideal spots for something a little more dramatic.
  10. Ivy: “This can thrive in rooms without much natural light, such as bathrooms,” says Baxter.