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The best houseplants that you can grow inside the home

The Swiss Cheese Plant is coming back into fashion (c) Carpenter's Nursery
The Swiss Cheese Plant is coming back into fashion (c) Carpenter's Nursery

Specialists in Hertfordshire share their top growing tips.

Whether you have a large or small garden, a courtyard or a terrace, or no garden space at all, we can all grow plants inside our homes. From a few plants here and there for decoration to having a mass of exotic plants that creates an indoor jungle, houseplants bring an extra dimension of design and interest to your home.

Growing up, I remember my mother having Spider plants, Chlorophytum comosum, all over the house. A well-known houseplant, it is easy to grow, tolerant of neglect, and able to thrive in nearly any type of condition. It gets its common name from the small plantlets produced on long trailing stems that vaguely resemble spiders. As a youngster, I was delighted at how quick and easy it was to propagate these plantlets. My mother also had a treasured and huge Swiss Cheese Plant’ Monstera deliciosa, taking pride of place in the lounge. Now back in fashion and Claire Wills at family-run Carpenter’s Nursery, Sandridge has no doubt why.

Great British Life: Calathea have a beautiful leaf pattern (c) Carpenter's NurseryCalathea have a beautiful leaf pattern (c) Carpenter's Nursery

‘They are elegant climbing plants that make a statement in any room,’ says Claire ‘and they have large strong glossy leaves which on more mature plants have holes and slits which in nature allow the light and water to reach the lower leaves and roots. They need support to climb by a moss/coir pole, and the occasional dust with a soft cloth. A recent addition to the Monstera family is the Monstera obliqua ‘Monkey Mask’ which is a smaller plant with more unusual delicate leaves and is happy to climb or trail. Both enjoy a humid atmosphere in bright but indirect light and make a real feature in your home.’ Other favourite houseplants at Carpenter’s Nursery include ferns, cacti and succulents, and Calathea. ‘Their foliage is stunning, their leaves have beautiful colours and veins, and the undersides are often burgundy. They originate from tropical regions so don’t like draughts, and are happy in indirect light and a humid atmosphere.’ Claire advises.

Great British Life: Venus Fly Traps are very popular (c) Carpenter's NurseryVenus Fly Traps are very popular (c) Carpenter's Nursery

Some popular and easy to keep houseplant suggestions from Lyn Clifford, Plant Area Manager at The Hertfordshire Garden Centre in Redbourn are Zanzibar Gem, Autograph Tree, Peace Lily and Venus Fly Trap. The latter is ‘an absolute favourite of children, looking quite monstrous with leaves resembling jaws with sharp teeth!’, says Lyn and advises that it is easy to look after: ‘Just give it a spot in direct sunlight and some rainwater and if it hasn’t managed to trap a fly on its own, feed it fortnightly with some live flies or insects,’ Lyn continues. The Peace Lily, Spathiphylum, is the perfect plant for low to medium light levels whilst the Autograph Tree, Clusia rosea, has very tough leaves that can be carved with your initials that grow as the plant grows. Zanzibar Gem, Zamioculcas zamifolia, is an exotic-looking plant that thrives in any aspect, including shade.

Great British Life: Terrariums are miniature gardens (c) Plantiful TerrariumsTerrariums are miniature gardens (c) Plantiful Terrariums

Four years ago, Marina Hartley North was living in London with no access to an outdoor garden. She started to create some terrariums and soon her home was filled with miniature indoor gardens. Her passion grew from a hobby into a business, Plantiful Terrariums, and now living in Hitchin, Marina sells terrariums in all shapes, sizes and styles at Hitchin Market and from her online shop. A mini garden encased in glass, terrariums were once used by Victorian plant hunters to transport their living specimens home from other countries. Nowadays, they make eye-catching displays and are the perfect choice if you lack space and time for a real garden as they are easy to look after. ‘My best sellers are the closed terrariums,’ says Marina. ‘These are best situated in a room with bright to indirect sunlight however they need little to no water as they are essentially miniature ecosystems: they have their very own rain cycle taking place! This happens as the water evaporates from the plants, building condensation onto the inside of the glass which then falls back onto the leaves.’

Also try orchids with the Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis, is one of the most popular to try. You’ll need a little bit more care with these as they grow all year round and need a liquid feed frequently, every other watering. If properly cared for, these orchids can last and reflower for years.

Top Houseplant Tips

Claire Wills, Lyn Clifford and Marina Hartley North share their tried and tested tips for looking after houseplants.

Great British Life: Keep Poinsettias away from draughts (c) Aylett Nurseries Keep Poinsettias away from draughts (c) Aylett Nurseries


All plants are different, so take time to gauge your own plant’s needs. Without doubt, over-watering will eventually kill a plant. To check if it needs more water, Claire Wills recommends pushing your finger in to the first inch of soil and feel if it actually needs to be watered. Never leave house plants sitting in water as this leads to root rot.


Plants need to get enough optimal light to photosynthesise, make food, and use up all the water you give them. A question Marina Hartley North is asked frequently is the difference between bright- indirect sunlight and bright-direct sunlight. ‘Cacti and succulents thrive off bright sunlight and placing them in a room (typically south facing) which receives a lot of natural light and as close to a window as possible (direct) would be ideal for these plants,’ Marina advises, but ferns and air plants require bright but indirect sunlight: ‘Put these in a room with filtered natural light but placed a couple of feet away from the window.’


Try not to place your plants anywhere too cold, too hot or in draughts. This particularly applies to Poinsettias bought for the Christmas season as they dislike draughts from cold windows, open doors and heat from a radiator.


Most houseplants don’t observe winter like our garden plants. If your home remains above 10C-15C in the winter and plants are receiving enough light, they will still continue to grow and need water and food.

Visit Hertfordshire’s houseplant specialists


Carpenter’s Nursery

106 St Albans Road


St Albans



The Hertfordshire Garden Centre

Redding Lane


St Albans



Plantiful Terrariums

Buy at Hitchin Market on Saturdays, and shop online. Workshops also available.


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