Optimal Indoor Plants And How To Let Them Thrive – by Lucy Drane

The choices we make about what we invite to live alongside us is a personal one. Each object we select to keep in our home, a chair, a rug, a fern, has earned its keep and is an extension of ourselves, a statement about our personal taste and interests.  As many of us tire of ploughing through a world of daily consumer excesses, of gathering more and more and more, we seek solace in more mindful selection, surrounding ourselves with fewer but richer, more meaningful possessions.


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Image Source, Pinterest

There is no denying indoor plants have long been associated with desirable decor or as a useful tool for those who care to design and decorate. The basic aesthetic pleasure we find in house plants is reflected through the endless flood of images we happily consume of covetable green interiors. But a more recent bout of houseplant appreciation appears to be cultivating a genuine interest in indoor gardening, rather than just a ride on the wave of another interior trend.  A broader and more sustained interest in plant keeping is arising, with renewed recognition of the positive effects plants have on our wellbeing and the soul nurturing daily rituals that caring for plants can provide.

The efficacy of plants as air filters has long been documented; a pivotal study by NASA in the 1980s revealed how highly polluted the air in our homes and work places is often proven to be.  As we seek to conserve energy by tightly sealing our buildings, the pollutants from synthetic building materials become trapped inside, and has been closely linked to the rise in asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems. The study concluded that certain houseplants were very adept at removing indoor air pollutants since plants naturally absorb these harmful chemicals through their leaves, breaking them down in their root systems and consequently using them as a source of energy. It is unsurprising to note that interior landscaping and the rise indoor planting, specifically in office spaces and public buildings, first came to prominence as a means to counteract what became known as ‘Sick Building Syndrome’, a term coined to describe the detrimental effect certain buildings were seen to have on our health, which plants were found to help counteract.

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Perhaps you are already one of the many plant enthusiasts out there,  lovingly tending to an indoor jungle, a more reserved potted plant keeper,  or still to be converted; either way, make time to enjoy the indoor green around you and its quiet and subtle everyday activity. House plants make for noble companions and a plant collection can be a life long endeavour. But just like us, no two days are the same. Plants are a snapshot of a moment in time that provide us with an enduring connection to nature and the cycle of life. Plants bring the life and energy of outside in.

Image Source, Own Photos


Different plants appeal to different personalities but everyone has a green thumb – it’s just about getting to know your plants, having the right information about what keeps them happy and responding intuitively to how they behave.


Most effective air purifying plants include:

–     Devils ivy / Epipremnum aureum

–     Peace lily / Spathiphyllum wallisii

–     Lady palm / Rhapis excelsa

–     Rubber plant / Ficus elastica

–     Snake plant / Sansevieria trifasciata

–     Areca Palm / Dypsis lutescens
What else to consider when choosing an indoor plant:


No plants were created indoors, they are creatures of the outside world so it is always helpful to consider the natural environment of your particular plant, where it naturally thrives and recreating that as best you can in your home. Consider the microclimate of your space – the light, temperature, drafts and airflow will all have an impact on your plant and if it is the wrong plant for the wrong place, it’s probably not going to thrive!

Plants for bright positions:

–     Palm varieties

–     Sedum varieties

–     Cacti varieties

–     Aloe vera

–     Strelitzia reginae / Bird of paradise

Cactus Varieties, Own Photo and Pinterest


Plants for indirect light positions:

–     Rubber Plant / Ficus elastica

–     Fishbone cactus / Epiphyllum anguliger

–     Swiss cheese plant / Monstera delicious

–     Devil’s Ivy / Epipremnum aureum

–     Airplant / Tillandsia xerographica

Swiss Cheese Plant and Rubber TreeSwiss Cheese Plant and Rubber Tree, Image Source, Pinterest


Plants for darker positions:

–     Mother in law’s tongue / Sansevieria trifasciata

–     Cast iron plant / Aspidistra

–     Calathea

–     Parlour Palm / Chamaedorea elegans

–     ZZ plant / Zamioculcas zamifolia

Mother in Law's Tongue and Calathea Indoor Greenery. Image Source Pinterest

Mother in Law’s Tongue and Calathea Indoor Greenery. Image Source Pinterest



Unfortunately, there is no set instruction manual to successful watering! Each plant has different watering requirements, dependent on the season, light and temperature of the room. Overwatering can often be the cause of plant death so water with caution!


–     Get to know your plant and become familiar with changes to the soil.

–     Before watering, test the soil with your finger. If it is dry and crumbly to touch, it is usually a good time to water.

–     If you feel moisture below the surface, allow a little longer for the soil to dry out.

–     Water plants deeply by allowing the water to run through the pot and into a drainage tray below.

–     Allow the plant to drink as much water as it needs from the tray but be sure to remove it after 10 minutes – plants hate having wet feet and too much water can cause root rot.

–     Allow the roots to breathe by letting plants dry out fully in-between watering.

–     Reduce watering in the winter.

–     Ensure you use a good potting soil which is compatible with your plant and adequate drainage in the pot.



Unlike outdoor plants, plants in containers cannot use their roots to source food so when they have consumed the nutrients in the soil, they will need supplementary food, especially in the growing season [Spring and Summer].


–     Over feeding can harm to your plant so feed cautiously and follow feeding guidelines for specific varieties.

–     Feed your plant with a dilution of suitable plant feed.

–     Reduce feed completely in the autumn and winter months.



Some house plants are more sensitive to temperature changes than others, some enjoy higher humidity but most cope well with temperatures between 15 – 25°C. Most plants will not cope well if temperatures drop much lower than 10 °C.  Many houseplants originate from tropical or sub-tropical climates and will prefer relatively humid conditions.

–     Try and keep room temperatures consistent.

–     Be mindful of placing plants in drafty positions, next to radiators or air conditioning.

–     Keep plants away from hot windows in summer and cold windows in winter.

–     Increase humidity by grouping plants together – they will create their own microclimate.

–     Regular misting, spraying or placing plants in pebble trays will also help increase humidity.

Further Reading, Springs Greens by Alice Roberton

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