Indoor Plants for the Lazy Gardener

Outside the trees are bare. A cold wind blows relentlessly from grey skies. Right about now something green and alive sounds awfully appealing. An indoor plant might be just what you need. But wait. Are you lacking that proverbial green thumb? Fear not. There are numerous plants that can survive the most extreme lack of attention. You just need to find the right plant. The following ranks the top performers from low-maintenance to moderate care.

Cacti are extremely hardy and actually prefer to be watered infrequently. You can water them once every five weeks in winter when growth is minimal and once every two weeks in the summer. The only requirement of these prickly desert plants is strong, direct sunlight. A south-facing window is fine. Choose a light soil with good drainage so that the roots do not become waterlogged. Now just sit back and watch your cactus grow…very slowly.

Spider Plant

Don't let the name scare you away. This houseplant got its name from the shape of trailing shoots that hang down from the main part of the plant. These shoots can be placed in shallow water and within a week you will see roots forming. (It's a good idea to change the water every other day.) Within another week, the root system should be large enough for the shoot to be planted in soil. Although this plant requires moderate sunlight and regular watering at least you can grow new plants in case one dies!

Not even the gloomy window ledges of George Orwell's novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying were enough to kill this plant. Aspidistra refers to any of several Asiatic plants of the lily family. The dark green leaves are broad and taper to a point. The dull purple flowers have been graciously described as 'inconspicuous'. Despite the lacklustre reputation, this plant is quite striking and is certainly very hardy. It can thrive in dark nooks or direct sunlight as well as a wide range of temperatures-from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius.

African Violets

This is the perennial favourite of indoor plants. Basic watering and moderate light will result in a steady production of blooms. Even fertilising this plant has been made simple-just push a fertiliser spike, formulated especially for African Violets, into the soil. The spikes slowly release fertiliser over a period of one to two months. The blooms are usually intense pink, purple or yellow. Check out your local garden store to find the perfect colour of flower to complement your décor.

Weeping Fig
This plant bears little resemblance to the fruit-producing varieties found in orchards and back yards. The weeping fig has small, shiny leaves that droop down like water droplets hanging off the branches. The trunk is complex and attractive. Moderate light and moisture are all that's required to keep this plant healthy. Position it beside any window except one with a northern exposure. Typically, this plant reaches a maximum height of two metres, which makes it ideal for creating a dramatic impact in the limited space of most apartments. One warning however: pets seem to like chewing on the leaves of this plant so you may want to place it on a platform until the tree is tall enough that leaves are out of reach.

If you really want winter to seem more tropical, consider adding a palm to your home. You may be most familiar with the spindly-stemmed variety with the large spiky crown that was popular in the 1980s! Fortunately, florists have begun importing a selection with a wider range of heights and shapes. Generally, palms need natural filtered light and water every five to seven days. You can put your palm on a balcony or patio in the summer as long as it does not receive direct, hot sunlight. Fertiliser is beneficial but not essential. Growth is slow in this plant which may or may not be a desired quality.

Purple Passion Plant

This plant is named for the tiny purplish hairs that cover abundant small, pointed, green leaves. Hanging pots are a great way to showcase the downward leaf growth as well as reducing the likelihood of mealy bug infestation, which is common in this species. This plant requires direct sunlight from a south-facing window. Passion plants should not be over-watered. Either use a moisture metre available from garden stores or dig down about an inch into the soil using your fingertip to assess moisture levels before watering.

Whichever plant you decide to feel "passionate" about is sure to add a touch of summer's vitality to your home!