If your spider plant has lost its lustre, you’re done with your devil’s ivy and have lost your appetite for your Swiss cheese plant, it’s time to seek out some more unusual houseplants.
You could go for a tropical look with parrot-shaped flowers, or something architecturally on-point, or even a plant that grows coffee beans.
So, what’s out there that you probably haven’t tried?
1. Take a breath of fresh air
Move over cacti because air plants are on the rise. They don’t need soil, just a humid environment, so a bathroom or steamy kitchen would be ideal and you just need to mist them a couple of times a week. They can be used to trail or just form part of a display in a glass container, provided there’s plenty of air circulation around their base. Crocus offers air plants in quirky upside-down sea urchin shells to give a jellyfish effect.
2. Find a rainforest favourite
The parrot plant, also known as the Congo cockatoo (but officially Impatiens niamniamensis), is a striking plant which produces unusual red and yellow flattened tubular flowers with a green hooded mouth, dangling below leaves to provide an eye-catching display. Originally a stalwart in the African rainforest, it prefers a humid environment and is ideal in a heated greenhouse or frost-free room but keep it away from central heating because it needs moist air. It will sit happily outside in summer in a shady spot.
3. Go Hawaiian tropical
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It may be rare, but the Hawaiian palm can bring a dash of the exotic into your home with its rich green leaves and sweet-scented jasmine-like flowers which bloom in October. This succulent, which doesn’t need much watering, makes its main growth in the winter months and is easy to grow indoors. Give it a light position inside in winter and a sheltered position in the house or garden in the summer, when it is dormant. When the lower leaves turn yellow, snap them off to emphasise the characteristic of the trunk.
4. Leaf through spots
Variegated leaves are nothing new in the plant world – but what about spots? There’s a begonia out there to give you spots before your eyes. The Begonia maculata ‘Wightii’ has a white dotted upper leaf and deep red underbelly and will do well in bright light but not direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist, watering once the top two inches of soil have dried out, but don’t let the plant dry out completely, and give the plant good humidity.
5. Explore elephant ears
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Alocasia are proving popular at the moment, thanks to their tropical-looking veined leaves in a variety of colours and leaf markings. Try the Amazonian elephant’s ear (Alocasia x amazonica), a dramatic addition to any room, with its arrow-shaped evergreen leaves which reach up to 60cm (24in) long. They do well in a warm, lightly shaded room or conservatory.
6. Go batty
The bat flower (Tacca chantrieri), so called because it mimics a bat in flight, is a striking houseplant whose large, rich leaves surround an almost black bloom with long ‘whiskers’ during summer. Plant it in well-drained soil, positioned in a shady spot with high humidity, so place the pot in a tray of wet gravel to keep the air around it humid. It will need repotting annually as it doesn’t like to be pot-bound. It’s a great alternative to an orchid. If you’re growing it from seed, soak the seeds for 24 hours before sowing.
7. Fancy a coffee?
Ever thought of bringing your own taste of heaven into your home with a coffee plant? The Barista has luscious green leaves to add a tropical touch to a shady spot in your home. Its attractive clusters of sweetly scented white flowers are followed by glorious red berries, which are in fact coffee beans. Sow seeds from January to December but you’ll need to be patient as they are slow-growing.