What kind of plant parent are you? How to choose a plant you’ll actually keep alive

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7 July 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Are you a nurturer or a “love ’em in the garden centre then leave them to die” plant parent? Our houseplant profiles will help you find your perfect match.

1 Some like it hot

Vying for your nearest sun-soaked windowsill or north-facing room, hotty houseplants are all about catching rays. Desert darlings most at home in dryish, well-drained soil include succulents, such as aloe vera and jade plants, and prickly cacti. For a splash of colour, hibiscus and flaming katies (kalanchoe) are uplifting with their bright flowers, and croton have brilliantly striped leaves. Or, for height, consider ponytail palms, bird of paradise or, for a true taste of the tropics, grow a pineapple. Simply cut off the leafy top, peel off the lower short leaves so you’re left with a core 2cm long, then press the core into a pot of soil. Water it often, lavish it with sunshine, and one day a flower will emerge that will grow into a fruit. Make a pina colada!

2 A little bit noir

If your living space is more cosy grotto than airy suntrap, this gothic crew will happily lurk in the shadows with you. Shade lovers that can cope with vampiric quantities of light include Boston ferns, African violets, asparagus ferns and calatheas. Give them a dark, humid bathroom any day. Then there are the shade-tolerant that can cope with dappled light, such as the plant du jour, monstera. Peace lilies also enjoy filtered light coming through a curtain or blind.

3 The Goldilocks set

Not too hot and not too cold, not too wet and not too dry. Everything has to be just right for these divas to reach their full flourishing potential. If you’re a nurturer by nature, even, dare I say it, a helicopter plant parent, then you are up to the challenge. With your mister at the ready (of course you’ve owned one for years), you adore recreating the rainforest-like humidity beloved by your phalaenopsis orchid and the very specific “barely moist” soil-moisture requirements of the fittonia, and never would you ever forget to water a maidenhair fern or place your fiddle leaf fig in a draft. For you, it’s about getting the reward of beauty through hard work rather than instant gratification.

4 The (almost) immortals

I’d like to think we’ve moved on from “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen” but this group of toughies negates this theory, because despite not being watered for weeks and cloaked in dust, they thrive in the face of neglect. If high-maintenance is anathema to you (my nice way of saying you’ve got a rep for having fingers of death), or you’re busy or often away, then rubber plants, ZZ plants, spider plants and mother-in-law’s tongues are your crew. They’re so tough, they could almost be fake.

5 Social climbers

Maybe you have no floor space left because you have too many houseplants already, perhaps your toddler or pet has developed a taste for them, or you’d simply like to peer through the vines to locate your kitchen. There’s something romantic about plants that trail, twist and cling, from hardy devil’s ivy, which will hang about pretty much anywhere, to seaweed-like string- of-pearls or rhipsalis, or charming wee chain of hearts you can grow in a pot the size of a teacup. Elevate them by suspending them from ceiling hooks or letting them cascade down bookshelves.

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