Our Top 5 Houseplants… And How To Not Kill Them.

Our Top 5 Houseplants… And How To Not Kill Them.
  • Written by
  • Erin Harrison

From string of turtles, to variegated monsteras and philodendron minimas, there’s a whole new language to learn if you want to be ‘in the know’ in the world of houseplants.

Are you just starting out (or switching from the never-fail faux variety)? Best to take this slowly. You want to choose plants that will be with you for the long haul, not those that simply curl up and die because you moved them two inches to the right – we’re looking at you maidenhair ferns!

We spoke to Sandy Cleland, from Palmers Garden Centre in Rotorua, to get her pick of the bunch, as well as some handy hints on how to give your new leafy friends the right TLC to not only survive – but thrive.

“Houseplants have exploded in popularity over the last few years, I think this has a lot to do with our busy lifestyles and smaller indoor habitats that make owning and tending to larger outdoor gardens less convenient.

“Most people are looking for easy care plants and there’s certainly plenty to choose from. Here are the top five that I get asked for, and they are ones that everyone can grow at home.”

1. Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe)

These succulents will reward you with vibrant coloured flowers that range from yellow, orange, pink and red. Originating from Madagascar and the tropics of Africa, they prefer warmer temperatures between 18- 27 degrees and bright indirect light. Normal room humidity should be fine, so misting of the leaves is not required.

Allow the top half of the plant to dry out before watering as overwatering can result in the leaves wilting.

They don’t need much fertiliser, just a couple of liquid feeds per year, particularly during flowering. They can be pruned back after flowering to keep them in shape and bushy and prefer a free draining soil with plenty of coarse sand or pumice.

2. ZZ Plants (Zamioculcas zamilfolia).

These plants also hail from Africa with shiny, dark green leaves. The variety ‘Black Knight’ is very showy with its lime green new leaves that darken to black over time.

Mature plants are very drought tolerant, having fat rhizomes on the roots which act as a water reservoir. Having these potato-like rhizomes means that as they grow, they take up room in the pot and will be susceptible to root rot and fungus disease if they are not re-potted into the next size pot every couple of years.

They tolerate low to bright indirect light and temperatures between 15- 24 degrees are ideal. Mist the leaves with water if the air in the room is dry and feed with a half-strength liquid fertiliser once a month in the growing seasons of spring and summer.

3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

The elegant peace lily is a classic indoor plant and very easy care. They will tell you when they’re thirsty by wilting but, bounce right back after a drink. Give a good soaking but allow it to drain fully.

Leaves will brown at the tips if too dry and yellow if too much light. Cut off any yellowing or dead leaves. Feed fortnightly in spring and summer and clean leaves with a damp cloth. Plants can be repotted annually and divided if required.

4. Philodendron

With numerous species, leaf shapes and climbing or branching habits, there’s plenty of Philodendron to go around. They do well in average room temperatures (not dropping below 12 degrees). Keep soil evenly moist and mist leaves for humidity.

They tolerate low light levels with leaves turning yellow in too-bright light. Repot every 2-3 years and keep leaves clean with a damp cloth. Liquid feed once a month in spring/ summer.

5. Prayer Plant – (Calathea)

Grown for their stunning patterned foliage, Calathea are ideal for a low- medium light situation. As a rule, the darker the foliage, the lower the light requirements.

They like to have moist roots but not waterlogged and high humidity, so mist leaves regularly. Liquid feed fortnightly in spring/summer and repot every 2 years.

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