If you are looking for a low-maintenance houseplant, consider these options, says Luke Rix-Standing.
Whether you’re stuck in a high rise flat, have a grass-free backyard, or just don’t fancy the outdoorsy earthiness of traditional gardening, there are plenty of pot plants that are quite happy to share your view. These plants will help you garden from the comfort of your front room…
1. ZZ Plant (zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Variously known as the Zanzibar gem, zuzu plant, eternity plant and a whole host of other things, the ZZ plant is known for its smooth, shiny leaves and extremely easy care requirements.
Commonly grown in offices, this feisty foliage is as close as plants get to indestructible, and watering too often is a far more common problem than not watering enough.
A stalwart of the many houseplant collections on Instagram, the plant is highly tolerant of low light and most soil types, but is unfortunately also mildly toxic. Wash your hands after prolonged contact, and do not eat or cuddle.
2. Aloe Vera
A species that has long outgrown its status as simple houseplant, the gel extracted from aloe vera plants is widely used to soothe lesions, bites and burns, while the plant itself is known to purify the air of chemical pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.
A succulent that enjoys relatively dry conditions, be sure not to overwater your aloe vera and place it in a sunny spot like a south-facing sill.
You probably couldn’t fit one of those trident-shaped monsters from the Atacama Desert into your living room, but there is a whole host of alternatives, ranging from small, ball-shaped cactuses to mid-sized prickly pears, that make perfect housemates.
Contrary to their reputation, cactuses do still need a teensy bit of TLC – a light water here, the occasional repot there – but overall they’re low maintenance for owners low on time or energy.
4. Madagascar Dragon Tree (dracaena marginata)
If you fancy some more formidable foliage for your home, the Madagascar Dragon Tree is a large, attractive, and realistic option. Growing (slowly) up to six feet tall, its dark, evergreen leaves, often edged with red, fan out from stems that fork from the smooth, grey-brown trunk.
A low maintenance option, it thrives in sunny spots or places that are lightly shaded but will also tolerate lower light levels. Similarly, while it likes its compost to be moist, it will put up with erratic watering and so will probably be just fine with being left alone while you’re on holiday. Cats and dog owners beware – the tree is mildly toxic to pets, and if ingested may result in an upset stomach.
5. Busy Lizzie (impatiens walleriana)
Though perhaps not the hardiest of houseplants, these floral favourites are fun for all the family because they’re beautifully bright and colourful.
You can take an eight to 12 centimetre cutting from a non-flowering stem at any time of year. After pinching off any lower leaves, pop it into a new tray filled with potting soil and, with adequate sunlight and watering, you’ll soon have a second busy lizzie. And a third, and a fourth should you wish – so they make very sustainable gifts.
6. Snake Plant (sansevieria trifasciata)
Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or St George’s Sword, the upright, pointed leaves of this hardy indoor favourite are its main attraction – variegated with dark stripes and sometimes a yellow outline.
Growing up to a metre and a half in height (though they max out at 50 centimetres across), those with smaller homes can rest easy that they take several years to grow. Able to thrive in full sun or partial shade, and by windows facing any compass direction, sansevieria trifasciata is described by the Royal Horticultural Society as “tolerant of neglect”. Definitely our kind of plant.