If you’re a beginner or registered plant killer, resist the exotic rarity everyone is bidding for online, and instead visit a church or school fete to see what locals are growing. Not only do old favourites exude retro cool, you know they’re bulletproof – and if you can talk to the person growing them, you can learn a lot too.
The most common cause of Death by Owner is overwatering – so test the soil with a finger (buried to the first knuckle) and, if it’s damp, don’t water. Use good potting mix and a ‘Goldilocks’ pot that’s neither too big (the mix will stay too wet) nor small (the roots will get pot-bound). Boost with a liquid fertiliser in spring and autumn.
Here are some hardy suggestions:
String of hearts (Ceropegia woodii)
The cute string of hearts – named for the heart-shaped leaves paired along its trailing stems – is tough and will cascade over cabinets, occasionally producing tubular pink flowers. It isn’t a succulent but you can treat it like one.
Care: Grow in bright shade and add sand to the potting mix to improve drainage; let it dry out between waterings.
Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
The parlour palm copes with low light and humidity, and its elegant fronds bring a tropical look. They’re also slow growing and don’t get as big as other palms. They’re non-toxic to pets and an air-cleaning plant.
Care: Direct sun may scorch the leaves. Allow the soil surface to dry before watering.
English ivy (Hedera helix)
This elegant vine can become weedy (so be careful how you dispose of it) but its toughness is a bonus indoors – plus it was rated 9/10 for air-cleaning by NASA scientists. It’s poisonous to eat, so keep pets and toddlers away. The variegated form is especially pretty and it will cope with quite deep shade.
Care: Allow surface soil to dry out between waterings and mist occasionally if in a heated room.