Ages ago I wrote a post on reinventing the houseplant. I promised part two would list five of my favourite unkillable houseplants... at last, here it is. This is an edited-down version of a feature I wrote for the magazine Your Perfect Garden, available from all good newsagents now!
ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia, above) This plant will shrug off deep shade, direct sun, no water for months on end and desert-dry air without any sign of distress. If you want to treat it right, water when the compost surface feels dry and put it in a bright spot. It won't mind the dry air and warm temperatures common to modern homes. If it's happy, it will grow fast and will need repotting once the roots start to break out of the pot: repot one size up in cactus compost. Also try: Jade plant (Crassula ovata) (Photograph by Artesaniaflorae on Flickr)
Wax plant (Hoya carnosa) Most easy-care houseplants don't offer flowers as part of their repertoire. But this is a glorious exception, although you may have to wait a while for the clusters of fragrant, waxy white flowers to appear. Put it somewhere high so you can enjoy watching the fleshy oval leaves on red stems snake around: or train it up a trellis or some wires to make a living screen. Also try: Rosary vine (Ceropegia woodii)
Umbrella papyrus (Cyperus alterniflolius) If you like to play fast and loose with the watering can, this is the plant for you. This stately plant likes its feet in the wet. It's an ideal plant for the bathroom, where it won't mind being splashed with water - in fact the extra humidity will do it good. It isn't overly fussy about light, but avoid direct sunlight. Also try: Pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) (Photograph by Artep ^_^ on Flickr)
The Victorians really were onto something when they championed the appropriately-named cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). If you give this plant the modern treatment by putting it into an imposing pot the result is stunning.
Aspidistra can tolerate those dingy spots other houseplants hate, too. Again, ease off on the watering can: the only thing that will challenge its cast iron constitution is too much wet. Pictured here is A. 'Big Bang'. Also try: Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans); Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) (Photograph by MeganEHansen on Flickr) African spear (Sansevieria cylindrica) Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieriatrifasciata) may be a 70s cliche, but its kookier relative the African spear is the ideal plant for the minimalist look. The leaves are curious round fleshy grey-green spikes and look great planted en masse in a zinc trough. Sansevierias cope with a wide range of conditions, just make sure they have free-draining compost and the occasional drop of water. Also try: Haworthia; Aloe vera