Almost a year ago I wrote a blogpost about propagating saxifraga stolonifera where I mentioned that an aspect of keeping plants I find fascinating is how our ‘plant preferences’ can change + develop over time. A number of factors influence this for me personally; from having a hefty collection at home, selling plants for work, running this website + seeing my instagram feed full of plants too!
For today’s post, I thought I’d reflect on this + share an update on houseplants that fall into this category for me — in short, 5 houseplants I’ve grown to love that I didn’t like (that much) last year! I think it’s important to note that environmental conditions can definitely sway how I feel about certain plants over the seasons. I’ll also be sharing some of the plants I’m lusting after right now. I find it useful to keep a wish list I think as it keeps me more focused when plant shopping. Gosh, it’s been a long time since I did that! Saying that, I’m much more restrained these days + take a more mindful approach to keeping plants, which is better on my bank balance + on my well being too — I’ve written a blogpost about it here.
If you have got into plants recently (maybe your hobby flourished over lockdown) + aren’t too confident in choosing plants, my three pieces of preliminary advice are:
- KNOW YOUR SPACE: As I’ve said many times before, knowing your space + the conditions you are able to provide will go a long way to keeping your houseplants happy — if you are new to plants + just starting to build a collection, consider this first! Avoid fussy, tropical plants for starters unless you are equipped to create the right environment for them with humidifiers etc. Don’t put cacti in dark corners + maidenhair ferns will likely be a source of stress! I joke — but there is an element of truth in that last point unless your have some fern experience under your belt.
- KNOW YOUR STYLE: As with any type of personal style, it takes time to figure out what you like! Choosing plants is as personal as knowing what you like to listen to, how you like to dress or how you decorate your home. Avoid bunching your ‘houseplants’ into one vast/vague category + split them into groups — foliage plants, cacti + succulents are basic but a good place to start. This will allow you to identify what plants you enjoy growing, but also (relating to the point above) what plants enjoy growing in your home! Also, resist the social media pressure of buying certain popular ‘plants of the moment’ — trends in the houseplant world pass quickly… plants are for the long-term + not just for instagram photos!
- YOU DON’T HAVE TO ‘COLLECT THEM ALL’: It’s ok to appreciate plants from afar — even though you might love the rare, difficult plants, they often come with a hefty price tag, so start with easier-care varieties to build up your plant-care confidence. Also, you can save photos of plants you like on instagram or pinterest; you don’t necessarily have to own them all. There are quite a few plants I love but my space right now is just not suitable. I’d rather admire them in my saved photos on a social media board! Side note: I know quite a few people are new to the idea of saving photos on instagram — in case you didn’t know, its the flag shaped icon to the bottom right of the image. This is private + nobody else can see what you save FYI; it’s more like a digital mood board. It’s where I create my plant wish-list too!
Ok, ok, don’t shout begonia lovers! But I must admit, it has taken a few years for me to get on board the begonia bandwagon. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly didn’t appeal to me about this genus; perhaps a mixture of perceiving them as a bit of an ‘old-fashioned’ plant, mixed with their (somewhat) finicky care requirements. I’ve grown begonias outdoors a little in the past but they’ve never really wowed me if I’m honest. I have a pink begonia rex ‘inca flame’ that I quite like but at the moment it just sits on the sideboard looking a bit ‘meh’.
But things changed last year when I received some cuttings in a plant swap + after rooting them successfully + potting them up, they started to grow. Yes, this might sound obvious but watching plants grow from cuttings is a sure-fire way of getting me to appreciate them — it’s sort of like figuring out how they work. When the new leaves started to appear like a crumpled up ball of paper, I was immediately won over. They looked all wrinkled + a bit funny, but if that wasn’t enough… they also then opened up to reveal the most captivating shiny dots all over the leaves. Incredible!
The plants are a begonia lucerna/angel wing begonia (left) + a polka dot/begonia maculata (right). Here’s a photo of how the plants looked in June this year (which reminds me… I must take an updated photo soon!):
My two pots of saxifraga stolonifera/strawberry begonia (FYI not a begonia!) are what prompted me to write this post because ‘things with fuzzy leaves’ are definitely a category of houseplants that I have a newfound fascination with. I grew the two in my collection from tiny plantlets + they’ve been pretty steady growers but this summer, one of the plants bloomed for me! This was a highly exciting moment at HPH because 1) it was over lockdown + as I was at home every day, I got obsessed with photographing it as the flowers gradually opened up + 2) the process was incredibly beautiful to watch — it was slow + happened over around two weeks, with almost a new flower opening up every day! How lovely…
*whispers* it might be a controversial opinion but I’ve never really been that into peperomias. I’ve had a couple over the years but I remember seeing a watermelon pep (that is so popular on insta) in real life in a plant shop + I was quite underwhelmed. Those perfect leaves are hard to maintain + in terms of style, I think I prefer my pileas! I had a pixie lime peperomia that was cute for a while but took a drastic downward turn one winter + collapsed over a few days. The plant that turned my opinion around and piqued my interest in this group of plants again however was the peperomia hope, which is a cultivar that is actually a hybrid between Peperomia deppeana + Peperomia quadrifolia. I just love the round, matt leaves which are thick + a lovely shade of green.
I’ve got a blogpost on how I care for my pep hope which I will link here if you want to read more as mine have really been doing well for me this growing season.
Out of all the plants in this post, this has to be the most dramatic turn of events because it is the group of houseplants I am really liking this year! Who would have thought it! It’s precisely why I want to show how our collective plant preferences really can vary quite considerably over time. This can be really enjoyable as it feels like you are getting to know a whole new type of plant, which keeps things fresh + interesting! It’s why it can be a lifelong hobby as there are always new things to discover. I can distinctly remember when I saw this houseplant in a new light after selling little pots of hoya carnosa tricolor a few christmases ago + sending them to some friends in the post. The wax-like, glossy leaves are similar to the pep hope above in some respects + I think this gave me an entry point into this succulent type of foliage. I’ve since got into the fuzzy textures of my linearis which I’ve been enjoying this Spring/Summer!
Fast forward a few months from my hoya carnosa tricolour + I received a cutting of a hoya pubicalyx in some lovely plant mail + the same thing happened as with the begonia cuttings I mentioned earlier in this post. I started rooting it in water + was amazed at the woody stem producing these white roots before my eyes over a number of weeks. The photo on the left shows it as it arrived + on the right, when it was ready for planting (it also grew two new leaves whilst in water!) I fell for the speckled patterning on the slender foliage.
Another confession time as caladiums are so hyped online, but it took me a while to get over all the colour + start to dabble in growing them myself. I think I’ve come to the realisation that I generally like my plants green, so splashes of bright patterned leaves felt quite busy in comparison… it’s hard to articulate but I was slightly reticent to begin with. This season I got two bulbs; carolyn whorton (left) + florida moonlight (right) + have actually really enjoyed growing them! I’ve had a few bulbs in the past too, but the bulbs I ordered in Spring were really much bigger + produced a lot more leaves for me. I like carolyn whorton but it feels a bit colourful for me if I’m being critical. Florida moonlight has won me over with is translucent tissue-paper foliage + the light colour is quite magical!
Part of the fun of keeping houseplants is figuring out what suits your style + I think I’ll stick to caladiums with green/white patterning or lighter foliage moving forward. Even though I’m not a ‘girly girl’ I do have a penchant for light pink leaves (hence my tradescantia fascination) + there are some really nice varieties available — they are just harder to get hold of.
The only plant group I’ve not really felt much of a connection with (…yet!) is orchids. I’ve got a ludisia discolor I really like + I’d quite like to get hold of a macodes petola — both jewel orchids, but those typical tall phalaenopsis plants that are often given as gifts still don’t catch my breath like foliage plants. I can appreciate the beauty of them of course, especially some of the more unusual varieties, like the vanda orchid genus.
Other plants that are on my ‘plant interests for the future’ list include Streptocarpus + Saintpaulia — both plants that my grandma used to grow on her kitchen windowsill. Variegated African violets are so beautiful but I will start off with a non-variegated one first I think!
I hope you enjoyed reading my honest opinions about some of my plant collection + that it shows that tastes are not fixed but always in flux. It’s ok to develop your own personal plant style + know what you like (+ what you don’t!) — it’s all part of self-expression + will help to curate a collection that is uniquely yours. The plants won’t mind, theres a plethora of plant lovers around the world to show them some love!