1. Pilea peperomioides - this was last year’s must-have indoor plant and the doyenne of Instagram, but I’ve always been a little bit bemused by the popularity of this plant. I mean, it’s ok but it’s no stunner. I’m a big fan of foliage but once you get over the fact that the leaves are circular, there’s not much else remarkable about it. Pileas do produce offsets meaning you’ll be able to gift away baby plants or pot them up and grow them on for yourself. Contrary to popular belief though, it doesn’t produce offsets as prolifically as you might think and you’re unlikely to be that inundated with baby plants that you won’t know what to do with them all.
It’s a fairly bombproof indoor plant in terms of not minding neglect and it doesn’t seem prone to pests and diseases. Beware, it will get straggly in low light levels or lopsided if one side gets more light than the other. If yours blooms, you’ll be rewarded with fairly long-lived sprays of white flowers, not unlike those you’d see on a Bergenia, so there’s that. On the whole, it’s a low maintenance, solid addition to your indoor plant collection, but an Instagram supermodel? I’m still unconvinced.
2. Ficus lyrata - ah, the fickle, finicky fiddle-leaf fig. This plant is a proper pain in the proverbial. Again, it looks quite nice when it’s grown as a standard (i.e. grown with a clear trunk with a the leafy growth at the top, making it look like a tree) but it’s not the most wow plant. It enjoyed some fame as the go to plant for interior designers for a while, until everyone realised it was actually a bit high maintenance. In truth, it will cope with a fair bit of neglect and is particularly tolerant of underwatering. What it’s not keen on is being moved. Those who invested in a chunky specimen discovered this to their cost when upon getting it home it shed its leaves at a rate of knots, the result being that it looked nothing like the lovely bushy plant they purchased. It is also incredibly sniffy about low temperatures and drafts, so forget positioning it in a hallway, door to the outside, gappy window, unheated room, conservatory, or going on holiday and switching your heating off, etc.
3. String of Pearls – or beads, depending on your persuasion. This plant, Senecio rowleyanus, is a bit of a nuisance to look after. Don’t even think about buying one in the winter, the chances are that between leaving its lovely greenhouse somewhere on the continent and getting to your retailer its already caught enough cold to finish it off and dying is just a matter of when and not if. The problem is, it’s sooo photogenic you can’t really fail to be won over by its aesthetic charms. If you must succumb, be sure to water it from below without exception, it can’t cope with water on its crown or pearls. Keep it warm at all times and watch out for grey mould. If you see any mouldy bits remove them immediately before they infect the whole plant. Surprisingly, the only thing it does tolerate is less light than you might expect, it can survive in the middle of a fairly bright room well away from the window for example. However, if you buy one that ends up more Pile of Mush than String of Pearls, I did try and warn you…
4. Bonsai Trees – they look really cool and even though you probably owned and killed at least one during childhood, there’s something about these plants that draws us in time after time. After the initial expense of buying the tree (they’re generally not cheap), if you’re the sort of person who likes to throw themselves into things with gusto you’ve probably also bought a book on bonsai, the proper bonsai tree feed and have immersed yourself in bonsai pruning and training tutorials on YouTube. After all that effort, within a couple of weeks your bonsai has shed all its leaves and is on the compost heap and the bonsai paraphernalia gets consigned to the cupboard under the sink. Bonsai trees make the best of us want to channel our inner Mr Miyagi and it’s fine to try out the discipline with a cheap starter plant; you may love it and find your lifelong hobby. But these plants can be tricky and need far more watering than you might expect due to the nature of their shallow pots so if I can’t dissuade you, please start small and cheap to see if bonsai growing is for you.
5. Succulents – 2016 was probably the height of the succulent craze but since then every retailer has jumped on the bandwagon looking to cash in on the trend and they still feature among the ranks of indoor plants for sale in many shops and nurseries. Succulents really want to be growing outdoors. Even the fancy ones survive quite well over winter here in the South East of the UK, as long as they’re placed under cover and out of the rain, such as in the rain shadow of the house or under an open sided porch. Houses are ok for them in terms of warmth and shelter but often we can’t produce the sort of light levels they need to be truly happy. Chances are if you’ve grown a succulent as an indoor plant you’ve seen it end up with a tall central stem and leaves spaced out along that stem at overly wide intervals giving the whole plant a straggly look. Another problem trend probably started by our pals on Instagram is to pot up beautiful bowls and concrete pots with succulents which often have no drainage holes. It’s not impossible to grow succulents in these types of containers but it’s imperative to get your watering levels spot on as these plants don’t like to be over-watered. Like the String of Pearls they prefer to be watered from underneath; they are prone to rotting if watered incorrectly or too frequently. In the right growing conditions they are amazing plants; tough, beautiful, no-maintenance. I just think perhaps they’re not going to reach their full potential in a living room. As always, please join in and let me know if you think I've given any of these plants a bad rap by commenting below.