If booming indoor plants sales over the past seven months are anything to go by, the sector has risen in popularity as a result of increased isolation, social media-led design trends and, as many experts suggest, a new-found millennial desire to have something to nurture and care for.
Google searches for ‘house plants’ increased by an astonishing 84 per cent between February and April last year, rising from 360,080 to 663,980 monthly searches, while Flower Card, an online card business specialising in floral design, reports that several houseplants have reached more than 400,000 tags on social media in 2021, namely the Swiss cheese plant and Chinese money plant.
Some businesses like Rocket Gardens in Helston saw sales increase by 600 per cent since the first lockdown began and has been posting plants to destinations across the UK; that's a total of 20,000 gardens, vegetable patches, allotments and window boxes in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London.
"I'm not surprised that houseplants are popular throughout this time," says Ian Drummond, creative director at Indoor Garden Design. "I grew up in a flat and was given a houseplant as a child, it gave me so much joy and I was obsessed from the moment it landed on my shelf."
The award-winning interior landscape designer and RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal-winner wrote a book on the subject, At Home with Plants, which takes a look at houseplants and the practicalities of looking after them.
Which, it seems, is more difficult than first thought; searches for 'how not to kill my houseplant', 'why is my houseplant dying', and 'houseplant dead' have also increased by more than 100 per cent on search engines.
According to a survey by online plant retailer Blooming Artificial, roughly one in five people (out of 1000) have bought a houseplant since the beginning of March 2020, a number that continues to grow.
Sturdy and resilient though plants may be, they can be tricky to look after (and keep healthy) if you lack proper information on watering, light exposure and temperatures.
This article was originally published in 2020.
At Home with Plants by Ian Drummond and Kara O'Reilly (£20, Octopus Publishing) is available from books.telegraph. uk.
Chlorophytum (Spider Plant)
“The spider plant has made a comeback due to its scientifically proven air purifying properties,” says Drummond. “ Its ability to remove 95 per cent of benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and nitrates from the air in the room is a real health benefit.” Spider plants prefer temperatures between 13-27C.
Keep spider plants in bright to moderate indirect sunlight; direct sunlight can burn the leaves, causing brown tips and spots.
Grow in a soil-based, well-drained potting mix with even moisture.
Plan to repot a spider plant every once to two years.
During initial growth, the plant will need water occasionally (every three-four days); however, once fully developed (one year), water moderately every two days. Maintain average room temperature and humidity.
Feed up to twice a month in spring and summer, but do not over-feed.
Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant)
This popular plant is reckoned to be the most popular in the UK at the moment, racking up more than 300,000 tags on Instagram. An ideal temperature for Swiss cheese plants is between 18-27C; any lower than 18C and the plant will have stunted growth, any higher and growth will stop altogether.
Plant in a bright room or bright with plenty of shade, but keep out of direct sunlight as this can damage the leaves. Too little light will also slow growth down.
Plant in a well-drained soil mix with sand, if possible.
If overwatered, the plant can be susceptible to root rot, so do not allow it to sit in water or water so that its soil become saturated. Allow the soil to become completely dry to the touch within the top couple of inches.
Monstera are native to the rainforests of Central and South America, so average to high room humidity is needed. To increase humidity levels, mist your plant in the morning so it evaporates with the sun.
Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant)
Rising in popularity since 2017, the Chinese money plant, or 'pancake plant' has risen to fame on social media (take a peek at #pileababy hashtags and you'll see what we mean). Luckily, this modern looking houseplant is relatively easy to care for and grows fast. Ideal temperature for this plant is 13C and up, though it prefers warmer climes.
This easygoing plant does not like over-watering and should only be watered when the soil is dry to touch in the top 1 inch. Check the pot every 1-2 days to test the soil. You'll know when it needs a drink as the leaves will start to droop; check frequently if you want the plant to live a long time.
Plant in a bright sunny spot with lots of light but keep away from windowsills. Harsh direct sunlight can harm leaves and stunt growth, while light shade might encourage large leaf growth.
Once a month, treat the plant to some liquid plant food.
Sansevieria (Snake Plant)
Drummond says: “There are more than 70 species of Sansevieria on the market, so you’ll be sure to find a variety that suits your tastes; the plants are great natural filters and require infrequent watering, while remaining tolerant of lower light levels.” They prefer temperatures of 16-24C.
Despite being one of the most resilient houseplants on the market, root rot can be a common issue for snake plants, plant in well-draining soil to avoid this.
Sansevieria prefers medium light, perhaps a side table near a window, for optimum growth; however, they will also tolerate low light.
Planting in direct sunlight will burn leaves so avoid.
Watering correctly is key: in summer, water every two to three weeks; in winter when temperatures are lower, watering every seven weeks will be fine.
To reduce the chance of overwatering, check whether the soil is completely dry before topping up, if not then do not water.
Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)
“With crisp white bracts above deep green foliage, a peace lily will let you know exactly when it needs watering by drooping its leaves and perking up again an hour after you’ve given it a drink," says Drummond. Peace lily is a tropical plant and thrives in temperatures between 15 and 23C.
Plant in a well-drained, all-purpose potting soil and keep away from chilly windows.
Repotting annually in the spring is good for the peace lily, as the plant will appreciate the refreshed soil.
If the plant grows too big for its pot, it can be divided. Do this by removing the plant from its pot and split it into smaller plants, leaving several leaves per clump.
Keep the soil moist, but do not overwater. Peace lilies can tolerate short periods of dry soil, but their leaves will start to brown if neglected for too long. Misting the leaves can help to increase humidity.
Peace lilies are sensitive to fluoride, a chemical commonly found in tap water, and this may cause brown leaf tips. Use rainwater or filtered, room-temperature water, if possible.
Fertilise every six weeks with a good quality houseplant fertiliser. If you want your lily to flower, move the plant to a brighter location, where it will receive bright, indirect light.
Calathea roseopicta (Peacock plant)
“Calathea provide entertainment by moving their leaves throughout the course of a day to capture as much light as possible - this will boost your mood and really create a lush, jungle feel in your space – a benefit to mental wellbeing you have to agree,” says Ian Drummond. The ideal temperature range for this plant is 18.3 to 26.7C.
Keep the soil moist using filtered water - if the top 2 per cent of the soil is dry, then top up. Do not let the plant sit in water.
Plants in bright, but not direct, sunlight for maximum growth. Being a tropical plant, higher temperatures are preferred, first evidence of the damage caused by the wrong temperature is curling of the leaves.
This plant will flower with standard houseplant fertilizer during spring, summer and autumn.
Ficus (Weeping fig)
“From the mulberry genus of over 750 species; the Ficus family is one of the most popular indoor plants to date.” Ficus needs temperatures above 16C; however, the plant prefers temperatures above 21 C.
Plant in a fast draining soil-less mix.
An easy to care for choice, providing they are regularly watered and kept out of cold draughts. Try not to move the ficus around the home, doing so creates a kind of shock and the plant promptly drops its leaves.
Plant in a bright spot with indirect sunlight.
Water once a week with filtered water, and only when the soil is dry. Over-watering and under-watering can cause the leaves to drop. To check whether the plant is in need of more or less water check the leaves: if they fold then you could be over-watering, while if crispy the tree could be under-watered.
Crassula (Jade plant)
Drummond says: "Practically indestructible, these plants can survive long periods of neglect as they store water in their thick, fleshy leaves. As they mature, their trunk thickens and the plant can take on a miniature tree like form – perfect for structure and interest." Jade plants grow best at room temperatures between 18 and 24C. Plant in a sunny, well-lit spot with some areas of shade.
Jade plants are particularly sensitive to watering, so bear in mind the following tips:
Watering will entirely depend on the season: in spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing, it will require more water than at other times of the year. In winter, the plant may not be in growth, so it won’t need much water. Water when the soil is dry (once a week or once a month) depending on how dry the soil is. As a general rule of thumb, if the plant starts to curl and crinkle then it is not getting enough water, while if leaves become waterlogged, it is getting too much.
Be careful not to splash water on the leaves while watering because this can cause leaf rot.
Feed sparingly: use a diluted mix of a standard liquid houseplant fertilizer.
Move the plants away from cold windows and keep them out of draughts.
Dracaena marginata (Dragon tree)
"Dracaena marginata is an ideal choice if you go away for prolonged periods or are simply a forgetful waterer. The narrow leaves of this plant are also proven to purify the air around them, therefore increasing air quality in your room." Keep dragon plants at 18-32C, and make sure that the temperature doesn’t drop below 15C in winter.
Plant in bright, indirect light. These plants work well in a bathroom or kitchen.
Preferring little water, let the top few centimetres of soil dry out and test with your finger before considering a top up - these plants do not like to be overwatered. Check every couple of days.
Use free-draining potting compost with added grit.
Keep your dragon plant healthy by feeding fortnightly using a balanced liquid feed at half strength.
Read more: The best indoor plants