How to Be a Good Houseplant Parent by Expert Isabelle Palmer

Houseplants have become the ultimate home accessory, putting ‘houseplant parenting’ firmly into the vernacular. But how to keep them alive and well? Houseplant expert and author Isabelle Palmer reveals her six golden rules for houseplant care…

1 Choose a plant that suits your parenting style
Are you a hands-on or hands-off plant parent? How much time do you have to give to your plants? Are you up for a challenge? These are the questions you should be asking before you enter into the houseplant world. Some, such as Elephant Ear (which needs constant watering) or Calathea (which are sensitive to cold) can require lots of time and attention, but others need less. Do your research before you go to the garden centre as it’s easy to get carried away with a pretty plant that needs a lot of nurturing.

2 Too much attention may not be a good thing
Some plants want to be left alone. That may sound like a blessing, but it’s actually harder than it sounds. The plants that people often start with such as cacti and succulents can easily turn to a mushy mess with overwatering, so water sparsely and only give them a small amount once a month.

3 Remember, every plant is different
Do you live in a north-facing flat or a bright, airy loft? Different plants will thrive in different spaces, for example succulents such as Kalanchoes and Echerveria favour a bright, sunny spot such as a kitchen windowsill or a south-facing balcony, whereas snake plants, Pothos or Ivy work really well in bathrooms with low light levels.

4 Talk to them
Research has found that flowers can act as a plant’s ‘ears’ to help them detect the sound of approaching insects. So while it may seem a bit odd, if you want your plants to bloom brightly then a little pep talk now and then will not only ensure your plants know you love them, but will also help them grow… And the best bit? They don’t answer back!

5 Have fun with your plants
Green has been on trend, but colourful houseplants are set to make a comeback in 2020, and there are many colourful plants to choose from – African Violets can add a zingy purple tone to your scheme, and Kalanchoes come in a number of mood-boosting hues such as pinks, yellows and oranges to enliven the soul. If you want something a bit more subdued, the peace Lily has calming white flowers.

6 Get the plant-sitters in
The conundrum for every plant parent is what to do with your treasured plants when you go away. How will you keep them alive? Can you rely on the neighbours? The good news is that plant-sitting services are now on hand and can be included with house sitting services, so there’s no excuse for leaving them unattended.

Isabelle Palmer is founder of, experts in small space gardening who have been transforming outdoor and indoor spaces throughout London since 2009


Most Read