It can be heartbreaking to discover that those beautiful plants in which we have invested money and time simply refuse to thrive, through no fault of their owners. Rather the plants chosen may not have been the optimum choices for the required position, sunlight (or lack of) or drought tolerance.
Thankfully, there are many wonderful plant species on the market that still have the ability to ensure we can all have a green environment, both in and outside the home, minus the heartache. Here are just a few that can help you on the road to a successful garden.
Modern & Contemporary
For a modern look in the garden or for those with limited space, the choice of succulents should be high on your list. Succulent style plants offer so much more than a few leaves in a pot. Many form amazing colours during the cooler times of year, plus dazzling flowers that attract insects and bring incredible colour to any situation. All succulents perform well with a specialised potting mix suited for succulents and cacti that provides excellent drainage. Searles Cacti & Succulent Mix contains a 9 month fertiliser and the right nutrients and soil composition for growing cacti & succulents.
Snake plant: Sansevieria sp. Some may view Sansevieria with contempt and disregard, yet they are a worthy choice for anyone wanting a modern style of plant at home that requires minimal care or attention. There are over seventy species of snake plants (AKA Mother in laws tongue) with each of them being prized by avid plant collectors on a global scale. Collectable as they are, ninety nine percent of them do not have the reputation of being a weed and make worthy additions as a potted plant. Sansevieras look simply eye-catching when planted into modern style planters or combined with smaller succulent species and can thrive in less than optimum conditions. For those with balconies or small spaces, they are truly wonderful with their architectural foliage that showcases intricate patterning.
Crassula and sedum species also offer a wide variety of texture and visual interest. These humble plants have become common to many people over recent years but they are often overlooked for their willingness to grow strongly and easily and can be highly dependable as garden acquisitions. They can be easily grown as features in pots or in the ground and can be combined with other plants to provide a point of textural difference. Like all succulents species, they are happiest where strong drainage is provided and can grow in full sun to light shade. It’s not uncommon to find yourself starting out with one or two interesting specimens, then suddenly finding that you have acquired many more along your garden path to enjoy as part of your collection!
Members of the Mesembryanthemum (Ice Plant or pig face) family bring a beauty of their own that is difficult not to recognise. This ground covering succulent will easily carpet parts of the garden in hot, sunny locations and smother themselves in vibrant coloured blooms throughout spring and summer. The vibrant blooms attract insect life such as bees and butterflies from all over the neighbourhood while providing a rich neon colour palette to any garden. Although low growing, they can accentuate bolder textures of larger plants such as Gymea lilies, Yuccas and Agaves while providing a much needed softening effect to a contemporary or low water use style garden.
To bring out the child in all of us, one of the easiest of all flowering annuals to grace our gardens from mid-winter right through until after Christmas would have to be the Nasturtium. Planting nasturtiums is easy for anyone entering gardening. Simply choose a site in open ground, hanging baskets or pots to provide a splash of colour with an edible twist. Simply start with seeds scattered over the ground, lightly rake into place and water in, then stand back and watch the magic happen! Nasturtiums detest wet feet so a well-drained hot spot in the garden will provide many months of delightful blooms that can be picked and brought indoors for further enjoyment.
Gardens come alive during spring and summer and there are some invaluable and strong choices to be made for strong plants in many locations.
Agapanthus are an exciting sight to witness when in bloom from mid spring until late summer (depending on the cultivar). They are an easy clumping perennial that enjoys sunny sites with good drainage. Many forms are widely available on the market these days with dwarf strains being of great interest to the home gardener. Agapanthus enjoy a soil that has had some composted manure incorporated into it and once established, can be trouble free for many years. Avoid planting them under trees as flowering will be greatly reduced and plants become weak and easily targeted by pests. An open, sunny site will encourage strong basal development and healthy plants capable of withstanding extreme garden conditions including heat, wind and cold.
Euphorbia hypericifolia ‘Diamond Frost’ has firmly cemented its place as one of the most dependable plants anyone can acquire for their gardens. Producing small white flowering bracts virtually all year, this amazing hybrid euphorbia can be used equally in the garden if mixed with agapanthus, and many other perennials as well as being used as potted features for an air of elegance and delicate beauty. Pruning is usually required by the end of winter and again late summer to retain a compact, bushy shape. Diamond frost relishes a full sun position in the garden that does not become waterlogged, but will equally handle some light afternoon shade. Being a member of the notorious euphorbia family, it does produce a white sticky sap within its stems, so strict care should be taken when pruning to avoid the sap from getting on your skin, your mouth or eyes by wearing long sleeves and glasses as a precaution.
One of the strongest tree species anyone can begin with is the lagerstroemia or Crepe Myrtle. Witnessing the many forms of lagerstroemia put on their flower show during intense summer days and standing strong against drought conditions truly has to place them close to the top of my list of indestructible plants. Growing to a height between one metre and eight metres (depending on the cultivar) Crepe myrtles easily grace many garden spaces with beauty and charm. Plant them on their own without a garden around their base, this will reduce root damage while weeding or digging thus reducing the plants response to sprout suckers. For taller specimen cultivars allow ample room for the canopy to develop and simply stand back and admire its handsome stature. Keep a keen eye open for the stunningly beautiful burgundy foliaged forms of the ‘Diamonds in the dark’ series. This series offers three distinct (true) red flowering forms and will not reach heights over three metres yet can be kept as smaller shrubs if desired.
Choosing the right plant for growing in an indoor environment can be trickier than it seems. There is no such thing as a ‘true’ indoor plant, these are species that have naturally adapted to lower light environments and have the ability to grow best even without optimal conditions.
Cast iron plant: Aspidistra elata. This amazing plant is one of the best choices to have as an indoor plant, its large evergreen leaves make a stunning statement in decorative modern style pots in even the gloomiest of corners and is very tolerant of air-conditioning while also being a great water wise choice. As a garden plant, Aspidistras are wonderful if mass planted in shady areas such as under trees and have amazing longevity and resilience to heat and cold.
Swiss cheese plant: Monstera deliciosa. This old fashioned plant is making a great comeback. With its large rounded leaves and incredible presence, it’s difficult not to notice this species taking pride of place either inside the home or as a potted feature on a veranda or patio. Monstera came into vogue during the seventies and proved they can handle difficult positions. These are a climbing epiphytic shrub species that require a sturdy structure such as a pole or timber totem onto which their aerial roots naturally grip. As they mature the leaves become large and pitted with interesting holes that in their natural rainforest environment allow strong wind to pass through without damaging the leaves. Allow a generous space for these majestic plants to develop and provide them with a filtered, but well-lit position out of intense sun.
Treasure fern: Zamioculcas zamiifolia. This species of aroid is an amazing choice for anyone wanting an easy to care for plant indoors or outdoors in a protected site. The shiny green fronds seem to mirror light effortlessly and provide the plant with a quality unlike many other plants. Each frond develops a swelling at its base where it stores moisture lowering the need to water on a regular basis. Treasure ferns can be easily grown in large pots or troughs and can also be used outdoors in warmer localities.
A great potting mix which will feed indoor plants for 18 months is Searles Platinum Peat 80 Potting Mix. This mix contains water saving technology and produces strong healthy foliage growth.