Green means go: the best plants to have at home
As we celebrate all things green this summer, we’re talking about how a touch of greenery can bring your home to life. We’ve asked Stephen, our in-house houseplant expert, to take us through the best plants to bring home with you – and where to put them.
Parsley, thyme, basil – all kitchen staples, all very content to sit on a sheltered windowsill until they’re called upon. Mint is a chef’s friend year-round – mint and pea soup in winter, mojitos in summer. Keep it away from your other kitchen herbs though, as mint loves to spread out and can quickly swamp your slower-growing plants.
Chili peppers – a no-brainer for your kitchen windowsill – some types can grow several metres tall, while the very hottest varieties tend to be very slow growing. Choose an ornamental variety like Masquerade or Twilight for compact, colourful plants that still can pack a punch in a salsa.
A lush little bush with beautiful white flowers. If you can bring yourself to tug off a few leaves, you’ll have your own ready supply of green tea. Just add water. It can take a few years for a plant to mature enough to be harvested, so you’re better off buying a semi-mature plant rather than growing it from seed.
It’s a classic – easy to care for, flourishes in low light, and great at keeping the air in your room fresh. It helps remove all kinds of nasties – toluene, formaldehyde, xylene – from the air, which is why NASA have identified it as a plant they want onboard spaceships (as well as to give astronauts a bit of greenery). It also throws out little clones of itself if you can keep it happy – so you’ll never need to buy a housewarming present again!
You don’t tend to think of vines when you think of indoor plants – but with jasmine, it’s worth making an exception. You can train it around a little frame on a windowsill or on top of a wardrobe, it releases plenty of oxygen at night, its scent is thought to promote relaxation – and it looks really pretty too.
Used for hundreds of years for its soothing scent, a pinch of lavender under the pillow is supposed to help you drift off. I prefer to use a sprig or two in a lavender Old Fashioned, but it’s a lovely plant to have in the home – and incredibly easy to keep alive.
An elegant addition to any sitting room, a lemon tree can bring a lovely Mediterranean feel. Growing them from seed is pretty straightforward, but if you’re after a source of citrus slices for your G and T, you’ll need to be patient (or buy an already-fruiting tree) as lemon trees can take up to ten years to grow old enough to produce fruit.
These come in many shapes and sizes, some like little green fans, all the way through to massive coconut palm trees. My favourite is the butterfly palm – I just think they look wonderful beside an armchair or in a sunny corner. They’re also very forgiving, and won’t fall to pieces if you forget about them for a couple of weeks.
Cacti have become hugely popular in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Eye-catching, low maintenance plants that even the least green-fingered person can grow. Whether it’s a great big saguaro in a conservatory corner or a cute little cluster of barrel cacti on a windowsill, they’re a wonderful family of plants that can live for decades in an indoor pot.
Ferns are some of the oldest plants in the world, they’ve been around for millennia. They’re not just a favourite food of dinosaurs, they’re a great addition to your bathroom! Well-suited to low light and high humidity, it’s another handy plant for removing formaldehyde from the atmosphere.
The first houseplant I bought (and the first I killed). The gel from the aloe vera plant is used for everything from treating sunburn to conditioning hair. I prefer to leave my little aloes intact, as they brighten up a bathroom with their chunky leaves. They don’t need much water at all, too much and they’ll burst – as I found out firsthand.
Jade plants (crassula ovata), also called money plants, are symbols of good luck and prosperity, and are often given as housewarming gifts. They’re incredibly easy to grow, and are a less prickly option for homes with little ones. They’re also easy to propagate – just pull off a leaf and place it on the soil, and soon you’ll have another little plant on the way.
Most of the plants I’ve mentioned are useful for one thing or another, but it’s equally important that the plants you go for are the ones you’ll enjoy having in the home. So whether you’re making hot sauce or hand moisturiser from your plants – or simply enjoying a bit of colour, I hope they bring you lots of happiness.