Return of the Spider Plant

House plants are back in vogue. Here’s how to get growing...

Remember those glossy cheese plants and prolific spider plants of the 1970s? No stylish home was complete without them. Now, after decades of fresh flowers and streamlined minimalism, house plants are back in fashion. Millennials and hipsters can’t get enough of them. Fiddle-leaf fig trees are trending on Instagram, and there’s even an indoor plant shop in Brighton called Spiderplant.

It’s a welcome return. Adding greenery is an easy way to personalise your home. There are other bonuses, too. The health benefits of indoor plants are  physical, improving air quality,  and psychological, reducing stress and improving moods. Research has even shown people are quicker at computer tasks in rooms with plants. 

And if you’ve recently moved house and no longer have a garden, bringing the outside in with a beautiful new palm or a spectacular fern will give your green fingers something to nurture.

Growing house plants gives you the chance to make a style statement with contemporary containers. In the 1970s, your spider plants  nestled in a macramé holder hanging from the ceiling (yes, macramé is back, too), but now your plants could look fantastic in sleek aluminium or zinc pots or industrial-chic concrete containers.

‘House plants look good clustered together in the corner of a room or next to a fireplace,’ says gardening author Stephanie Donaldson, whose blog, The Enduring Gardener, has a keen following. ‘Choose plants with leaves of different shapes and sizes, combining one large plant with two or three smaller ones. They’ll create their own humid micro-climate and keep each other healthy.’

Alice Sharville, owner of Spiderplant, recommends a large floor-standing plant to give a room the wow factor. ‘You can make a big impact by spending £50 on a mature cheese plant or philodendron. Mature plants are also easier to look after as they’re well established.’

One plant species that’s had a massive resurgence is the cactus. ‘Cacti are all over social media,’ says Alice. ‘To make your home individual, choose a statement Euphorbia ingens – the cowboy cactus – or one of the blue cacti, which are popular now. They’ll look great with smaller cacti.’

Their popularity is partly due to their easy-going nature. Cacti need little care, so appeal to people who go away a lot. They need watering only once a week in summer and hardly at all in winter. They like light but need to dry out in between watering. And since they release oxygen at night, they’re ideal for a bedroom.       

Most house plants need plenty of light to thrive, so McCarthy Stone apartments  with large windows or balconies suit them well. Remember that the direction your windows face can affect how happy your plants will be. South-facing windows can mean too much direct sunlight in summer, scorching those shiny leaves. ‘For a south-facing window, choose a cactus, yucca or bird of paradise, which don’t mind the heat,’ says Alice. ‘East- and west-facing windows should be fine for most plants, and north-facing, too, if there’s good light.’

Plants vary in their need for water. If in doubt, under-water rather than over-water. Wilting through a lack of water is reversible; root rot caused by waterlogging may not be.     

Hanging and trailing plants are also bang on trend. ‘If you don’t want to take up floor space, these are a great way to bring greenery into your home,’ says Alice. ‘Place them in corners, near windows or on shelving units.’

Good plants for trailing include the spider plant; rhipsalis, which has pencil-thin stems like green hair; heart-leaf philodendron; and Ceropegia woodii, with heart-shaped leaves that grow in a string like a natural necklace.

Finally, let’s not forget the dual pleasures of growing plants on a sunny kitchen windowsill to spice up your cooking. ‘Chilli plants are so easy to grow from seed,’ says Stephanie. And the bright red peppers against the dark green leaves add a burst of colour.  

Need more inspiration?

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Which houseplants to choose? 

Spider plants are among the easiest, and fastest, indoor plants to grow. Their long, curved ‘spider leg’ leaves make them ideal hanging plants and they don’t need much light, so you can put them almost anywhere.  

Ferns have had a major comeback . The Boston fern is one of the easiest to grow, and its graceful arching fronds look good in a hanging container. The delicate maidenhair fern is pretty but craves humidity, so is best in bathrooms or on kitchen windowsills.

Mother-in-law’s tongue is a vigorous and very low-maintenance succulent with erect, sword-like leaves. 

Monstera obliqua is an unusual relative of the cheese plant, with heart-shaped leaves dotted with oval holes. It’s fast-growing and works as a hanging plant, or you can grow it up a pole.

Air plants (Tillandsia) are small plants with curving, tendril-like leaves that don’t have conventional roots but produce a small root system to anchor themselves onto rocks and trees. They absorb water and nutrients directly from the air. They look attractive and unusual hanging in wire baskets.

Banana trees have architectural leaves, and the smaller versions can make striking house plants. They like warmth, light and water, but don’t expect any fruit – just enjoy them for their dramatic good looks.

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You might also like this article on  creating a balcony garden. This one with advice for creating an indoor garden. Or this one on attracting garden birds  - even if you don't have a garden.

Image credits: Gap Photos, Getty, iStock