House plants with staying power


The holiday feeling quickly evaporates when you arrive home to drooping houseplants. Not to worry because here are some simple steps that will perk them up again.

  • Give them a good soak. Put them into the bath filled with about 5cm of water and leave them in there until the potting soil is completely moist. You can speed up the process by moistening the topsoil.
  • Another option is to use a hand-held shower and gently soak the plants. This also washes off the dust that may have accumulated on the leaves.
  • If the rain is falling put the pots outside to soak.
  • Wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to get rid of dust.
  • Allow the plants to drain well after soaking. Cut away dead foliage and flowers and trim into shape.
  • When you next water the plants, feed a liquid fertiliser at half strength and repeat every two weeks until you see new growth, then reduce feeding to once a month.


Next time around, try these forgiving plants that survive neglect:

ZZ Plant.

ZZ plant (Zamioculcas) is one of the hardiest plants around and stylish into the bargain. A stunning new variation is Raven ZZ which has almost black leaves. Plants grow in low to medium light and although they prefer regular watering, they can survive a month without it. In fact, the worst thing you can do is to over water a ZZ plant. The thick stems are a water-storage mechanism to help it get through seasonally dry times.

Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid)

Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) are not what they seem. You’d think such a beautiful plant needs pampering but quite the opposite is true. It’s a low maintenance plant that only needs a dribble of water once a week. If you are going away place the pot on a tray of pebbles (to catch the run-off). This also improves humidity. Place it in a position that receives bright indirect light. The humidity of a bathroom is a perfect environment for them.

Sansevieria (Mother-in-law’s tongue)

Sansevieria (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue) has upright, sword shaped leaves that are marbled dark green with a yellow border (Golden Futura) or grey green. There is even a white-leaved variety, Sansevieria Hahnii. Plants grow best in medium to bright light, but if you plan to be away for any length of time, move it to a position that receives lower light. If you give it a good soak before going away, it will survive a month without water.


Anthurium is such a common houseplant and the reason is simple. It is almost impossible to kill, unless you make the mistake of giving it too much water or let it stand in water. These colourful plants like good light and a warm room. Look out for the mini’s that are great novelty plants. Wipe the leaves to keep them glossy and snip off the dead flowers to encourage them to re-bloom.

Mini philodendron ‘Shangri La’

The split leaf Philodendron and Monstera (Delicious monsters) are both big-leaved tropical plants that stand on their own as feature plants and are great space fillers. They like a warm room and medium light but will survive with lower light. They are surprisingly drought tolerant but if you are going away for some time, put the pot on a gravel or bark filled saucer so that any water that drains through can be drawn up again by osmosis while you are away. It also improves humidity around the plant.


Succulents like Kalanchoe and Calandiva,  Echeveria, and Senecio ‘String of Pearls’ are able to survive periods of drought because they hold the water in their leaves. All like bright indirect light and should only be watered when the soil has almost dried out.  Both Kalanchoe and Calandiva are long flowering plants that re-flower throughout the year if old flowers are cut off. Feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month.


Hoya carnosa (picture) and Philodendron scandens are bothy easy-care vining plants with green or variegated waxy leaves that are at home in a pot or hanging basket. These are among the most forgiving plants that are hard to kill, even if you forget to water them. They grow in medium light and doesn’t mind a lack of  humidity. Trim every now and then to keep the plants in shape.


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TEXT: Alice Coetzee.