Even if you only have one or two houseplants, you have taken the first few baby steps as a gardener. Ask any ‘experienced’ gardener and they will quickly reveal their gateway plant that got them hooked on gardening and often it’s a houseplant or two that got them started.
Today’s new generation of gardeners have a few additional barriers to starting their hobbies that were barely a consideration before. First time buyers rarely have the luxury of a garden, many having to make do with a small courtyard, terrace or tiny patio. Those in flats and apartments turn their attention to growing indoors, investing in houseplants of all shapes and sizes to assuage their need to grow.
Whether it’s herbs on the kitchen windowsill, air plants in the bathroom or orchids in the living room, every room of the house has potential for growing and there are some great on-trend plants to get you hooked. Here are five plant groups that might get you hooked.
One of my first plant purchases as a teenager was a Venus flytrap. I was already hooked on plants, but a plant that could move fascinated me. I saved up my pocket money for a few weeks to invest in my very own plant and then fretted as it didn’t seem to catch any ‘food’ and I was worried it would starve. Eventually I fed it some corned beef and it wasn’t much long after that that it died. I suspect I watered it with tap water, which is the biggest no-no for these plants, which need rainwater to keep them healthy. Insectivorous plants are great plants for anyone to grow and there’s a fabulous range available that can be grown indoors. From the tall pitcher plants that will keep your home free of houseflies, to the sticky leaved sundews that actually grow wild in some places in the UK.
If you want a plant that doesn’t need messy compost or too much attention then the tillandsias are a good choice. In their native environment these silver, blue grey leaved plants grow from nooks and crannies in the treetops, where they absorb moisture and nutrients from the humid atmosphere of the cloud forest. They are a fascinating group of plants that can be glued onto a range of stands and supports and allowed to grow inside our homes. A bathroom is a good place, but beware of using aerosols that will pollute the atmosphere. Instead a light mist of water with a very dilute plant food will let them thrive and in time they will flower, many with spectacular shaped flamboyant coloured flowers.
Cacti are a gateway plant for many young horticulturalists. There’s a quite amazing diversity and they are fairly low maintenance requiring minimal watering and feeding. In fact the biggest killer of these tough plants is too much water and wet compost. For the best results pot them into a cacti compost that drains well and dried out and let them almost dry out for the duration of winter and then water and feed a little from spring. There is a cactus society that you can join to explore your hobby and several nurseries specialising in these exotic plants. Grow them well and they will reward you with their spectacular flowers. And there’s such a varied and huge diversity of these plants you can quickly create a collection and become addicted to your new hobby.
If you are a bit of a control freak, or like attention to detail then a bonsai tree may be just the right gateway plant for you. Of course there are hundreds of different trees that you can choose to grow using the bonsai technique because the name alludes to the way it is grown rather than the type of plant. It’s a fine-art and a time consuming hobby, so your best bet it to sign up for a class and talk to an expert or two where you can learn the basics and get the support you need. These plants generally won’t thrive in a household atmosphere, and are best nurtured and grown outdoors, you won’t need too much space, so a balcony or stairwell would suffice.
Grow your own
Whether you start out just growing a sprig of mint for herbal teas or some chives to add to your sandwiches, you have already taken the first steps on your journey into gardening. Congratulations. You can grow a pot or two on the kitchen windowsill but if you’ve got access to an outdoor space, even a wall or a fence then you can expand your plant repertoire outside. An herb planter or window box is a great place to start growing a few ingredients and you will be hooked on herbs in no time. Or you can start out with a growing bag for salads or French beans and progress to strawberries and courgettes grown in planters. By choosing to grow something that you love to eat and then adding a pot to grow something else, your grow your own adventure will start in earnest and very soon you will be creating menus around your harvest rather than just adding a few sprigs as a garnish.