Plant power: Update your home with flowers and foliage

The perfect accessory for any room, houseplants will refresh a tired scheme with a splash of cool foliage or a sprinkling of colourful flowers. But did you also know that many plants actually improve your health and wellbeing, as well as your decor?

A study by NASA showed that plants not only pump oxygen into the air, but some also remove pollutants, such as formaldehyde, which is released by many household products. And a 2008 study by Dutch researchers showed that hospital patients with indoor plants in their rooms suffered lower stress levels than those without. So, if you’re suffering from the January blues, perk up your home and your spirits with a few of these gorgeous plants...

Spider plant
This plant seems to thrive on neglect, so if you've not had much success with houseplants in the past, give it a go. Happy in a dark or bright room, it needs watering only when the compost feels dry. Baby plants appear on long stems and resemble spiders, which explains its common name. The spider plant also helps  filter out bad toxins from the air.

Parlour palm
Tough and easy to grow, the parlour palm makes a striking focal point, lending height and a tropical look to a lounge or hallway. It grows well in most positions, except direct sunlight, which may cause the leaves to turn brown, and best of all, you can pop it outside in the summer, too. Like the spider plant, it's also great at improving indoor air quality.

Weeping fig (Ficus)
A little more exacting in its needs than some other plants here, but well worth the effort. Weeping figs can grow up to 1.8m in height and thrive in a bright position, and are great for adding life to an empty corner of the home. Water when the top of the compost feels dry but avoid over watering which can cause the leaves to drop. Feed regularly in spring and summer.

Aloe vera
A must for any home, this sun-loving succulent not only filters air pollutants, it also has antiseptic properties and helps to heal burns and cuts. It is one of the easiest plants to care for – just provide a sunny position so great for any sunny window sill but water sparingly

Fabulous flowers
These blooming beauties may not clean the air, but their glorious flowers certainly raise the spirits and they'll put on a show even in the depths of winter.

Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis)
Universally available, these elegant plants can flower for many months, and come in a range of colours to suit your style. Place plants in a bright position out of direct sun on a tray of pebbles and water, which provides the humid atmosphere orchids need. Water weekly in winter, and don’t be tempted to trim off the roots on the soil surface – they help to feed the plant.

Eternal flame (Calathea crocata)
This plant’s bright blooms make an eye-catching feature and look fantastic en masse in a large pot. Set them in a light position out of direct sunlight on a tray of pebbles and water to raise humidity levels, or spray plants with cooled, boiled water. The leaves fold up at night as though the plant is praying, giving rise to its other name, ‘The Prayer Plant’.

Flamingo Flower (Anthurium)
The blooms on this plant are actually petal-like spathes that surround a flower spike. Also available in white and pink, flamingo flowers puts on a performance throughout the year and bloom for long periods. Place in a bright, warm room, away from draughts, and water regularly, but ensure the compost isn’t waterlogged.

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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert

View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert

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