Beautify your home and improve your health with a selection of the best indoor plants for Australian conditions. You might even bring some luck into your home.
Best Low-Maintenance Indoor Plants
When you don't have a lot of time, some low-maintenance indoor plants are the way to go. Here are some great choices that don't require much fertiliser.
Bromeliads are subtropical leafy plants that often produce stunning flowers. They're epiphytic, which means in nature they grow on tree trunks and fallen logs rather than in soil. So when grown indoors, you can mount them on a piece of wood or bark, or you can grow them in an epiphyte potting mix made from wood chips and peat moss or coir fibre. Bromeliads like shade and even though they're flowering plants, they just need water once a week. Don't put them too close to a window if your house gets cold in winter.
Yuccas are generally tall, spiky plants, though they grow slowly so it can take a while for them to start to fill a space. Their leaves grow in whorls either on trunks or from ground level. They do well in a sunny location with minimal water and will cope well in cooler areas.
Golden pothos produces beautiful variegated leaves. It prefers bright, indirect sunlight but can tolerate low, indirect light. These plants need little water and grow quickly, which means they do need to be pruned once a fortnight, but you can also easily propagate them from cuttings, so you've got lots of them. Keep them one out of reach of kids and pets, though. To do so, consider growing them in hanging baskets.
The orchid is another type of flowering plant that needs very little care. It just needs a few tablespoons of water every couple of weeks. All orchids produce beautiful flowers, and cymbidium or phalaenopsis orchids are a great choice when you're looking for something low maintenance. Choose a low-light spot that doesn't get too cold.
Dracaena produce upright, strappy foliage and the plants can eventually grow to 2 m tall. They need a sunny indoor spot and won't do well if you position them too close to a window in a cold climate. These lovely plants featured heavily in clean air studies and just need watering whenever their soil is dry.
Air plants look a little like green anemones, grow without soil, and just need a spritz of water with a spray bottle once a month, so they're great low-maintenance plants. They look great in a glass terrarium, especially in a hanging terrarium, or attached to a cute figurine, which makes them popular gifts. They're tropical plants, so they're a good choice if your indoor space doesn't get too cold.
Zanzibar gems feature thick stems and broad, glossy green foliage. These hardy plants look great and need little water, just a warm position out of direct sunlight.
Moreton Bay Chestnuts
These are an Australian native species often sold as 'magic beans'. In the wild, Moreton Bay chestnuts can grow to 40 m tall, but when several plants are grown in a single pot, they can be grown as desk plants. The leaves are broad and a dark, glossy green. They'll grow in sunny or low light conditions as long as you don't suddenly change their light levels when you first bring them home. They are not, however, frost tolerant, so keep them away from cold windows if you have cold windows.
Easiest Indoor Plants to Grow in Low Light
Some people confuse low-maintenance plants with easy to grow plants. But some low-maintenance plants are easy to kill with too much love. So, here are some great easy to grow plants:
These are a great choice if you're not a confident gardener as they don't mind inconsistent watering (just don't let them sit for too long with too much water). They won't like excessively cold conditions though. The best specimens produce variegated leaves and pale green flowers.
Sometimes called the ZZ plant (it's the same species as, but a different variety to, Zanzibar gems), this is a great indoor plant if you've had trouble keeping plants alive in the past, because it thrives on neglect. The glossy, dark green leaves will add character to any room. And like the Chinese evergreen, it will produce pale green flowers that look a lot like the lords and ladies flower.
The snake plant is a popular variegated species of Dracaena. This is a really hardy plant that was included in a NASA clean air study, and it'll cope well with little water, low light levels and pesky bugs. It's also easily propagated.
This species thrives on neglect and produces beautiful bright red or pink flowers. As its name suggests, the zygocactus is a type of cactus. But its lack of spikes and the presence of flat, fleshy leaves, hints at its very different origins - zygocacti are rainforest plants rather than desert plants. Keep your specimen away from windows, draughts, and direct sunlight, and water it weekly, and that's pretty much all you need to do. And if you're looking for plants to hang, zygocacti work really well in hanging basics.
With large leaves that bend gracefully to resemble an umbrella, it's easy to understand how this plant got its name. Provided they're not in a cold room, umbrella plants will be at home on a desk or in a large pot on the floor. This plant is so easy to grow it's become a weed in some parts of Queensland (even though it's indigenous to that state).
Best Indoor Flowering Plants
There are a few flowering plants here already. But some other great choices that are a bit higher maintenance or less beginner-friendly include:
Cyclamens flower for long periods and have attractive leaf patterns to provide interest when they're not flowering. They're happy in bright or dim rooms and tolerate cold spots. The flowers are available in white or pink.
Provided you live in a warm area, and you've got a sunny indoor spot, the amaryllis is an excellent choice for a stunning flower display. With huge flowers in every shade from red through white and featuring eye-catching patterns, the amaryllis makes a wonderful desk plant.
This native lily produces enormous, broad leaves and huge white flowers that give off a lovely scent. They prefer filtered light and a warm spot.
These are a very traditional indoor plant that can live for years and years. As the name suggests, the flowers of the African violet are often purple, though they can come in blue or white. The leaves are slightly furry, adding additional interest and the plants are compact, making them perfect for a desk or mantelpiece. These plants like lots of indirect or dappled sunlight and prefer a little humidity.
If you've got a bright spot, like a sun room, a hibiscus will give you short-lived flowers from spring to autumn. And what flowers they are! These huge, brightly coloured gems look a little like a frilly satellite dish and will brighten even the dreariest of spaces. They come in everything from red through orange and white, to purple and blue. You can even find varieties with double flowers. These plants need plenty of bright light and warm temperatures, but they're well worth the effort. Just be aware that the Chinese hibiscus is the only variety that makes a good indoor plant.
Primulas produce some truly unique flowers that make a great indoor display. Primula flowers come in many shapes and sizes and are frequently bi- or tri-coloured (some even have more colours). They prefer bright, direct or indirect light and don't like to dry out, but they're cold tolerant. You may want to plant yours in your garden after it flowers indoors as it can be tricky to get them to repeat flower inside.
Lucky Indoor Plants
There's no way to prove whether plants bring luck, but the following varieties are purported to be lucky:
The money plant, or feng shui money tree, has shiny green leaves and can grow to around 1 m wide by 2 m tall, so is best grown in a large space.
Lucky bamboo can grow in potting mix or water. It resembles bamboo (hence its name) and is often trained into interesting patterns.
With thick, fleshy leaves that are usually green, the jade plant would work well with other succulents and with a layer of decorative white pebbles on the potting mix surface.
Tips for Growing Beautiful, Healthy Indoor Plants
Apart from choosing the right plant for the conditions in your home (or office), here are some tips for growing beautiful indoor plants that will keep your environment clean and your mind health:
- Choose the right sized pot for your plant so it doesn't get root-bound.
- Choose the right pot material (plastic is good for plants that like moisture, while terracotta is good for plants that need well-drained soil).
- Use good quality potting mix, rather than garden soil otherwise it can compact and starve your plant's roots of oxygen.
- Don't forget to keep an eye out for pests as they don't just attack outdoor plants (spider mites are particularly problematic in some areas of Australia).
- Clean leaves at least once a year to remove dust that prevents plants from breathing and accessing the available sunlight.
Reasons to Grow Indoor Plants
Many magazines and nurseries tout the benefits of indoor plants as air purifiers based on a 1989 study performed by NASA. Now, while the study did show that plants can remove several toxic chemicals from the air, it was performed in a lab, so the results may not translate into air purification in the average home or office. However, it does appear plants can purify indoor air if there are high levels of toxic chemicals, which is more common in well-sealed buildings during winter when people keep windows and doors shut to keep in warmth.
But that's not the only way indoor plants can help you out. A raft of studies show plants deliver huge benefits to human health. For instance, they can:
- Reduce your anxiety and stress, especially if you're female
- Improve your attention and symptoms of attention deficit disorders (ADD and ADHD)
- Help you get a better score on intelligence tests
- Improve your mood and decrease symptoms of depression
- Improve your memory
- Help you feel happier
- Improve your self-esteem
- Lead to you feeling more satisfied with your life overall
- Mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress
- Increase your creativity
- Increase your productivity
- Reduce effects of dementia
- Improve your self-esteem
And in addition to that, indoor plants look great! Some people even believe some species can bring you luck.
The Best Indoor Plants to Clean the Air
According to the original NASA clean air study, these are the best indoor plants for removing toxic airborne chemicals:
- Bamboo palm - Chamaedorea seifritzii
- Chinese evergreen - Aglaonema modestum
- English ivy - Hedera helix
- Ficus - Ficus benjamina
- Gerbera daisy - Gerbera jamesonii
- Janet Craig - Dracaena deremensis "Janet Craig"
- Marginata - Dracaena marginata
- Mass cane/Corn cane - Dracaena massangeana
- Mother-in-law's tongue - Sansevieria laurentii
- Peace lily - Spathiphyllum "Mauna Loa"
- Pot mum - Chrysanthemum morifolium
- Warneckei - Dracaena deremensis "Warneckei"
An Australian study that explored the effects of indoor plants on high concentrations of toxic airborne chemicals also shows Spathiphyllum 'Sweet Chico' is a good species to choose.
Brighten Your Home With Indoor Plants
Indoor plants could brighten your home or office, remove harmful toxins, and improve your overall health and wellbeing. So, which species will you grow?