Are you a plant murderer? Try your luck with the best indoor plants for beginners
Thriving despite your best efforts
I have to confess. I am guilty of planticide. Years ago, in the pre-Instagram era, a succulent christened Shanaya met an untimely demise. The petulant pot was photographed in different angles and splashed across Flickr, a documentation that will live on the interwebs till the end of time. Shanaya, may she thrive in the compost pit, was deftly overwatered and oversheltered by me till she collapsed into a sludgy heap of chlorophyll. Appropriately mourned, I replaced her with one from my list of best indoor plants, a hardy spider plant, which thrived in a pot the size of a Mumbai studio apartment.
For those born with no green thumbs, maintaining a house plant in harsh weather conditions, exacerbated with sloppy care can be the stuff of nightmares. But once you have the basics in place: healthy soil enriched with natural fertilisers, water and some TLC, (and a watering and sun schedule tacked up on your refrigerator) you can fake it till you can grow it.
Ekta Chaudhary, founder of the Garden Up Store and popular gardening blogger, knows the best indoor plants suited for Indian homes and the ‘gram. She recommends you steer clear of the high maintenance divas and stick to the hardier worker bees.
The best indoor plants for beginners
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Day 3 of #springintoplants –Good morning 😁 another day without seeing the sun come up but rather the skies are grey and it's rainy but looking at this little planter and this baby ZZ cutting from my momma plant thriving and I can't help but smile!
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The ZZ plant: The tongue-twister Zamioculcas Zamiifolia or the Zanzibar Gem is a fleshy tough guy that can survive vicious plant neglect. It flourishes in bright light, but keep it away from direct sunlight, and you may just be lucky to see little flowers sprouting. Don’t water it too frequently, twice a week is good for this plant that’s native to East Africa. Its waxy leaves have an almost unreal quality, and can be mistaken as artificial. The ZZ plant thrives in shade and indirect sunlight, and has air purifying qualities, so stick it beside your desk or bed for the extra lungfuls of oxygen.
The money plant: Like a bad penny, the epipremnum aureum has shown up in odd-sized bottles and pots in the weirdest locations for years: think the washroom, the odd bookshelf, that soil-less pot, and other nooks and crannies where it can dangle gracefully. As per vastu, the money plant brings in wealth and prosperity, even more reason to stick this indoor perennial in your empty wine bottle to spread the good vibes. Easy to propagate, they grow wonderfully in shade, while harsh sunlight can bleach its leaves. Requiring no special care, you just remove the dead, yellowing leaves, and nip the ends to prevent it from growing taller, and rather bushier. It’s the easiest to grow in water, where you take a cutting, remove the lower leaves, stick the stem in a bottle of water and watch it bloom.
Rubber plant: The broad, waxy ficus elastica grows best in a pot with bright, indirect light. If the lower leaves start shedding, you know it has been relegated to the darkness like Vlad Dracula. The water-draining soil needs to be damp but not soggy. During hot summers, mist the leaves with water. If it’s getting too long and lanky, prune the tops and see it thrive horizontally. Be careful not to let the pets around the sap, as it can irritate their skin.
Aloe Vera: While the succulent plant species of the genus aloe will not win any medals for beauty, this stocky, thick-leaved plant scores high on the benefits barometer. Not only is it easy to maintain, you can use the leaf gel for a laundry list of benefits, such as healing burns, soothing insect bites, reducing dental plaque and reducing wrinkles. The succulent requires a well-drained soil and plenty of light. Show it some TLC and see what it gives you in return.
Marigold: The tagetes erecta or genda phool, the plump russet, orange and gold flowers that hold sway in every big, fat Indian wedding. The annual plant starts flowering from June till October. One of the few plants that thrives on direct sunlight for a couple of hours each day, overwatering can lead to mouldy plants and fungus. Natural insect repellents, enjoy the fat bottle bees and butterflies that come buzzing to the blossoms.
Desi gulab: The rosa damascene or the local rose variety is the one you should keep in your home. Petite and perfumed, the rose petals can be made into a preserve or gulkund. But to reach there first, do add a lot of compost or manure as the flowers need nutrient rich soil. Loosen the top soil ever so often as it needs aeration and if you spot any mealy bugs or the ilk, spray it with an organic pesticide. Roses love sunlight, so make sure you expose it to a couple of hours of light during the day, and whenever possible, whisper a few sweet nothings to it.
Snake plant: Aptly known as Mother-in-Law’s tongue, sansevieria are stiff upright plants with leaves yearning for the ceiling. In Chinese traditions, it’s a revered houseplant. The hardy perennial can thrive in the sun and the shade. You can forget it for a long time and it will still be alive and kicking, like well, you know who. They grow rapidly, and can quickly overrun your house, a preferable alternative to its snaking moniker.
Spider plant: The clumpy chlorophytum comosum with dangling stems are my favourite, the prettiest and easiest to maintain house plants. Growing quickly through repotting, you can have a house full of these spidery plants in no time. They grow in shade and moist soil, and perfect for those with brown thumbs.
Even the best plants need the right care
- Bright morning sunlight suits most plants, but avoid the harsh afternoon sun.
- Less is more when it comes to watering these hardy plants, so look at every other day to soak them.
- Also, go easy with the fertiliser, you don’t exactly want to overfeed the plant and grow Jack’s beanstalk right into another universe.
- If you compost at home, use the soil to fertilise your plants.
- Also, choose the right sized pot for the greens: too small and the roots won’t spread, too large and the excess water will lead it to rot.
- You can invest in a spade and gloves, else just engage the local mali to help you.