Some plants make a house feel welcoming and lived-in while others add instant glamour.
There’s no doubt which camp the bird-of-paradise plant, Strelitzia reginae, belongs to.
It is one of the most dramatic, yet least-demanding plants that you can grow indoors.
Just keep it warm, water regularly and give those great, paddle-shaped leaves an occasional dust, and it won’t complain.
To keep it performing at its peak, repot it in spring and feed fortnightly throughout the growing season and you’ll have the pleasure of its elegant company for many years.
When it gets too large – and it will – divide it and give away any excess segments. You won’t be short of takers because it’s the sort of plant that is as much at home in contemporary as in traditional interiors.
However don’t expect a new Strelitzia to start performing immediately. Usually it takes around five years for a plant to reach maturity and start flowering, but it is definitely worth the wait because the blooms, when they appear, are startlingly beautiful.
Another houseplant that enjoys the same conditions is Cordyline terminalis, or the “Ti” plant. Tis are grown, not for their flowers, but for their red and green foliage and they are among a large group of tropical plants that has colourful leaves.
Another is the Croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum) which turns red, orange and purple as it ages, and the Painted Nettle (Coleus blumei) whose soft leaves develop in shades of cream, bronze and purple.
The Painted Nettle is usually grown as an annual but, like the other plants here, it will grow better when grouped together.
And that’s the thing about plants, most of them are highly sociable, preferring to grow in a community rather than in splendid isolation. So if you have plants scattered around the house, sort them into groups according to what kind of conditions they like and you should see them perk up almost instantly.
This is especially true of tropical species, which need a humid climate. In a warm house they are at risk of suffering from a lack of moisture in the air, but if you arrange them close together then they will form their own microclimate. It’s a bit like tending a mini jungle and it lets you mix together all those bold leaf shapes and colours to create a living artwork in your lounge.
What’s in bloom?
The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is a large and unremarkable shrub, except in late winter when every inch of its stems is studded with tiny, bright yellow flowers. It’s the sort of plant that you wouldn’t look twice at for most of the year, but when in flower it turns heads. Place it where it can grow unchecked.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe