There is a whole generation of people who know their Pilea peperomioides from their Monstera deliciosa and the Royal Horticultural Society has its sights set on them. The houseplant trend among millennials, who nurture their succulents as if they were offspring, has made it through the rarefied gates of the Chelsea flower show. This year, there is a “house plant studios” category – rooms (posh sheds) created to look like a bathroom, living room or kitchen, for instance, and filled with houseplants. Judging criteria will include design, plant condition and overall impression. Here is how to get your plant babies Chelsea-ready (without even entering).
Put down roots
“People often think: ‘Let’s start simple with a cactus,’” says Judith de Graaf, the co-founder of Urban Jungle Bloggers and author of the forthcoming book Plant Tribe. “They’re easy to care for but people overwater them easily so cacti are not the best option.” For beginners, she recommends succulents, tradescantia and philodendron.
“In winter it’s difficult with the light, and plants need light,” she says. “Move plants towards the windows, but avoid drafts and hot radiators.” Don’t overwater them. “Some only need misting. One of the most important things is to have a pot with drainage.” Aerate with chopsticks by gently wiggling them in the soil “before watering your plants to allow the water to run through more easily”.
Help! My overpriced flat is dark
Sansevieria (also known as the snake plant) “can handle lower light conditions so you can place them in darker areas of your home, for example in a hallway”, says De Graaf. “Use grow lights if your plants suffer from the lack of light.”
Plants for the neglectful
If you are a forgetful waterer, go for succulents or cacti that you place on a windowsill, advises De Graaff. “Pothos is easy-going and thrives on neglect,” she says of the vinelike plant, also known as devil’s ivy.
“I think plants really thrive in groups,” she says. “It looks good when you put plants of different shapes and colours together, and it raises the humidity around your plants when you water them – most plants thrive in a little bit of humidity.” If you’re not allowed to drill holes in ceilings and walls of your rented flat, hang plant holders from door hooks or curtain poles.
Choose the unusual
Any Chelsea judge who knows their plantfluencers won’t be wowed by a ubiquitous spider plant. “Caladium come in incredible colours, and the leaves are heart-shaped, but they don’t grow in the winter so it’s not the ideal time right now,” says De Graaf. “One of the things that is trending is variegated plants [those with different colours in the leaves].” She recommends the variegated Monstera deliciosa and the stripy-leaved Musa aeae. The long-leaved Philodendron spiritus-sancti is dramatic.