Are there any houseplants you can use?

Houseplants are a fabulous addition to the home, but imagine if some of them were also useful, edible or offered some other extra benefit to you. Jean Vernon suggests five houseplants with benefits

Lemon scented pelargoniums Image: Suttons Seeds
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Just having living plants in your home has a range of benefits. The plants improve the atmosphere and ambience of the space and add aesthetics too. During daylight hours as they photosynthesise they use up carbon dioxide and actually raise the oxygen levels in your home. Plants absorb pollutants and just enhance the living space with their green presence. Whether you live in studio flat, a bedsit or an apartment, making room for houseplants is an easy way to accessorise your home and add your own style and taste to the décor. Here are five houseplants that offer more than just looks and aesthetics.

Aloe vera

You’ve probably heard of aloe vera as an after sun gel, but did you know that it is a plant. It’s actually a succulent that hails from hot climates such as North Africa, Sudan and South America. It’s an easy houseplant to care for because it likes drier compost so will tolerate a little forgetfulness and as long as it gets plenty of light it will thrive in the warm home environment and add a tropical feel to your room. And if you lightly burn yourself, you can break open a leaf and apply the inner gel to small burns for instant relief.

Herbs

Grow basil as a houseplant and add the leaves to your menus
Image: AdobeStock_c.Olesia

I don’t know why more people don’t grow herbs at home. Not only can you buy potted herbs in just about every supermarket, but if you pot them into larger pots with a decent compost they will keep on growing and providing really tasty fresh herbs for your meals and menus. There is nothing zingier than fresh coriander buzzed in the food processor with some garlic and ginger to create an instant Thai-like curry paste that you can mix into a variety of dishes. Or why not grow your own basil for a rich homemade pesto. Pot up your supermarket plant as soon as you have bought it, and keep it warm and not too wet. But whatever herb is your flavour saviour you can grow it on a windowsill for fresh leaves, or plant it into a larger pot for a balcony or terrace.

 

Chilli pepper

Chilli plants are pretty and productive
Image: AdobeStock_c.Margret T Hoang

Here’s a plant that looks good and packs a powerful punch in the kitchen too. You can literally get hooked on chilli and there are even clubs to join for chilli aficionados. You only need a plant or two to assuage your chilli addiction and keep your menus hot and spicy, but at the same time you get an attractive, colourful houseplant that will fruit over the summer and into autumn. It’s an annual so it will die before the winter, but you can preserve any gluts by freezing or drying and grow chilies again next year.

 

Ginger

Image: AdobeStock/c. pattarastock

What about growing a plant that will fruit underground and produce fresh zingy tubers. Ginger is a lily and forms fat, underground stems called tubers. It actually an attractive plant too and while I wouldn’t suggest you could be self sufficient in ginger if you have a small living space, it’s kinda fun to be able to harvest the odd piece of ginger for a party trick or two. Imagine not having to venture out when ginger is on the menu or wowing your friends with your amazing GYO skills. Once you’ve got your plant growing they will all want one, so that’s Christmas and birthday pressies sorted for next year at least.

 

Scented pellies

Lemon scented pelargoniums
Image: Suttons Seeds

You might be surprised to find scented pelargoniums on this list of incredible edibles. But not only do these amazing plants have fantastic fragrance, it can also be used as a flavouring for ice-creams, cakes, liquors, teas and jellies. Yes really.

Smellie pellies can be used to flavour icecream
Image: Jean Vernon

And these plants have attractive flowers too, so that’s another great reason to grow them. My first encounter with pelargonium-flavoured ice cream was at Petersham Nurseries. You can read more and grab the recipe here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean Vernon

About Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is a slightly quirky, bee friendly, alternative gardener. She doesn’t follow the rules and likes to push the boundaries a bit just to see what happens. She has a fascination for odd plants, especially edibles and a keen interest in growing for pollinators especially bees. She’s rather obsessed with the little buzzers. Telegraph Gardening Correspondent, mostly testing and trialing products and Editor-In-Chief for Richard Jackson’s Garden.
@TheGreenJeanie
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