Fashionable, affordable and green: eight of the best plants for 2020
Plants: we quite simply can’t live without them. They release oxygen for us to breathe, provide animals with food and habitat, improve air quality and humidity levels in the home, and have been shown to reduce stress, making us calmer and happier.
To celebrate our chlorophyll-full companions, we’ve selected eight fabulous plants – for inside and out – that we should all get to know.
1. Hoya kerrii
This succulent, native to south-east Asia, also goes by the name of “Hoya heart”, “wax heart” or “lucky heart” because of its love-heart shaped leaves.
It’s often sold as a single leaf, planted to look like a heart sprouting out of the soil, but left to grow the plant forms tropical vines. The good news is that the Hoya kerrii is extremely easy to look after. It likes bright sun, a well-drained pot, and watering every two to three weeks.
2. Fiddle-leaf fig
Searching for an indoor tree? Look no further than the fiddle-leaf fig. Officially titled the Ficus Lyrata, this is one of today's “it” plants. Native to the tropical rainforests of western Africa, it’s now popping up in trendy homes, luxurious hotels and the pages of interiors magazines. (Although it’s unlikely to produce its green fruit in a temperate climate.)
It gets its name from the shape of its leaf: broad, with a narrow middle, just like a fiddle. It likes its roots to be kept moist (but doesn’t appreciate being over-watered) and is a fan of the warm – so avoid placing in front of a drafty window.
There are around 70 species of Sansevieria, which are native to Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia. Classed within the Asparagaceae family they are cousins to the asparagus! Common names for the plant – which has upright, spikey leaves – include “mother-in-law's tongue”, “devil's tongue” and “snake plant”, perhaps due to its stripy, snakeskin-like pattern.
The plant has air-purifying qualities: it has been found to remove toxins like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere. If you are away from home a lot (or just forgetful) then a Sansevieria could be the plant for you as they only need to be watered every few weeks.
4. Aloe vera
This stemless plant has bright green, thick, fleshy leaves with serrated edges.
Aloe vera is an incredibly useful plant to have around the house. It helps to relieve sunburn and heal wounds.
Not only does it look fun, it’s also an incredibly useful plant to have around the house, especially if you’re prone to the odd oven burn.
The medicinal properties of Aloe vera have been recognised for thousands of years. With its flesh rich in antioxidants and antibacterial agents, it helps to relieve sunburn and heal wounds. It likes bright, indirect sunlight, and watering every three weeks or so.
If you’re after a classic cottage garden vibe, then add foxgloves to your wish list. The striking, spire-like wildflower with purple, pink or white bell-shaped flowers are found scattered amongst British hedgerows in mid-summer.
They can grow up to two metres tall, so present a good option for planting at the back of garden borders and against walls and fences that need a spot of jazzing up. Don’t be tempted to have a nibble – all parts of the plant are poisonous and potentially deadly!
Lavandula – better known as Lavender – is a genus of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean it’s a staple of the English herb garden, prized for its richly fragrant flowers – not least by bees.
Dried lavender petals make an extremely effective moth repellent.
It’s easy to grow and thrives in a sunny spot, in the ground or a container, and makes a wonderful edition to a window box. Lavender likes well-draining soil so mix some gravel into your compost when potting. Top tip: when the plant needs a prune, keep the off-cuts. Those dried petals make an extremely effective moth repellent.
Magnolias (named after French botanist Pierre Magnol) have been around a while. In fact, there are fossils of the plant that date back 20 million years!
There are fossils of the magnolia plant that date back 20 million years!
In existence before bees, it is thought that the flowers evolved to attract beetles to help it pollinate, which is why the carpels within the magnolia’s flowers are so tough.
Its flowers are what make it so well-loved among us humans too: when the large, white, pink or purple star-shaped blossom emerges in Spring the tree is utterly transformed.
8. Wild garlic
Many of us are prioritising locally grown and sourced produce, to reduce our carbon footprint. Well, what better way to do that than foraging for your dinner. From as early as February through to June, Allium ursinum, or wild garlic to you and me, can turn our woodland floors green and white.
The whole plant can be eaten raw or cooked and its strong garlicy taste is a wonderful addition to pestos, soups, stews and salads. Because it can usually be found in abundance, and its pungent smell makes it easy to identify, its quick to harvest too. Just take care not to grab the leaves of other inedible plants at the same time!
If you fancy your own supply, in order to play it safe, you can buy bulbs for planting. (It’s extremely invasive so a pot is the way to go.)