Pretty, but a total pain: houseplants worth avoiding
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Pretty, but a total pain: houseplants worth avoiding

Looks aren’t everything. Granted, many exotic houseplants are head-turners, but they’re also demanding and susceptible to disease. Marie Henze from the online plant shop Mary & Plants has easy-care alternatives for you – and they’re just as attractive.

Popping colours, patterned stems, twisted leaves: unusual houseplants are in demand. Especially with plantfluencers who share pictures of their plant babies on social media. It seems the more colourful your plant, the better. My workmate Maike wrote about the trend a while ago:

  • Background information

    Welcome to the (urban) jungle: the hype surrounding houseplants

    by Maike Jensen

In early modern times, gardens were the pride of kings. They’d boast about owning palm trees from other continents, for example. But that’s about all they shared. Today’s plantfluencers are happy to reveal hacks regarding location, light, watering and fertilising to their large follower bases.

Marie Henze from the online plant shop Mary & Plants confirms this development. «Things really kicked off with the pandemic,» she says. «Many people in isolation were bored, but not about to take on the responsibility of getting a pet. Instead, they drew inspiration from plantfluencers and got themselves trendy houseplants, the challenge being to make the exotic plants thrive. But many underestimate the care some of them require.»

When you don’t have the know-how

The result? The plants don’t thrive; they get sick, are returned or disposed of. Marie Henze knows why this happens: «Many people simply lack the know-how. They place their plants in spots with no daylight, put tropical plants in the blazing sun or want to grow a cherry blossom tree in the living room.»

Sometimes, the problem is also a lack of infrastructure. Many people are unaware of the fact that plantfluencers construct entire terrariums and greenhouses to create the perfect conditions for their plants. «The majority of unusual plants stem from tropical regions and need high humidity. In a dry room, they’ll never thrive as well as in a greenhouse.»

According to Marie Henze, the effort you need to put in to make a Monstera Variegata happy is often underestimated. That’s the plant with the white spots on its leaves, which has been hyped for years. «The spotted one requires more care than the green version. You need a lot of knowledge and experience to keep those white spots going.» A lack of knowledge is also often the issue with the Aglaonema, Alocasia and the Pink Princess. They all need a lot of moisture, are susceptible to pests and need to be fertilised on a regular basis. «Unlike cactuses, these plants die if you neglect them,» says Marie Henze.

Pretty but sensitive: Aglaonema, Pink Princess (front) and Alocasia.
Pretty but sensitive: Aglaonema, Pink Princess (front) and Alocasia.
Source: Darina Schweizer

According to various plant platforms, the following are also princesses on the pea:

  • Calathea
  • Fiddle-leaf fig
  • Umbrella plant
  • Arrowroot
  • Ficus
Mary and Plants Cherry Baby (30 cm)
Plants
59.51 CHF

Mary and Plants Cherry Baby

30 cm

Mary and Plants Alocasia Yucatan Princess (70 cm)
Plants
89.26 CHF

Mary and Plants Alocasia Yucatan Princess

70 cm

Mary and Plants Pink Princess Terracotta (30 cm)
Plants
69.77 CHF

Mary and Plants Pink Princess Terracotta

30 cm

Mary and Plants Cherry Baby (30 cm)
59.51 CHF

Mary and Plants Cherry Baby

30 cm

Mary and Plants Alocasia Yucatan Princess (70 cm)
89.26 CHF

Mary and Plants Alocasia Yucatan Princess

70 cm

Mary and Plants Pink Princess Terracotta (30 cm)
69.77 CHF

Mary and Plants Pink Princess Terracotta

30 cm

Four fancy, but undemanding plants

Thankfully, there are alternatives out there; low-maintenance plants that are beautiful nonetheless. Marie Henze recommends the following four houseplants:

Low-maintenance and lovely to look at: Moonshine Snake, Desert Candle (back), Mikado Snake and Black Raven are simply a joy to behold.
Low-maintenance and lovely to look at: Moonshine Snake, Desert Candle (back), Mikado Snake and Black Raven are simply a joy to behold.
Source: Darina Schweizer

Moonshine Snake

She’s the hip, glowy make-up-wearing sister of the mother-in-law’s tongue. The leaves of this houseplant, which is also known as bow hemp, shimmer mysteriously – as if they were reflecting moonlight. The plant only needs to be watered about once a month and is quite forgiving if you make mistakes.

Mary and Plants Sansevieria Moonshine (55 cm)
61.56 CHF

Mary and Plants Sansevieria Moonshine

55 cm

Mary and Plants Sansevieria Moonshine (55 cm)
Plants
61.56 CHF

Mary and Plants Sansevieria Moonshine

55 cm

Desert Candle

The Desert Candle isn’t just a standard cactus. Its unusual shape and size make it a total eye-catcher, but it’s still easy to care for. It hardly needs any water. After all, it’s still (just) a cactus.

Mary and Plants Spurge Cactus Variegata (70 cm)
169.29 CHF

Mary and Plants Spurge Cactus Variegata

70 cm

Mary and Plants Spurge Cactus Variegata (70 cm)
Plants
169.29 CHF

Mary and Plants Spurge Cactus Variegata

70 cm

Mikado Snake

Here’s another snake (a subspecies of the bowstring hemp) for you. One that’s reminiscent of Mikado sticks. This houseplant’s a real jack-of-all-trades: not only can it be placed anywhere in your home – even in places with hardly any daylight – but it also only needs water about once a month. What’s more, it’s said to absorb and neutralise pollutants in the air.

Mary and Plants Mikado Snake (35 cm)
49.25 CHF

Mary and Plants Mikado Snake

35 cm

Mary and Plants Mikado Snake (35 cm)
Plants
49.25 CHF

Mary and Plants Mikado Snake

35 cm

Black Raven

The Black Raven, ZZ plant or Zansibar gem is, just as one of its many names suggests, a true gem. With its shiny leaves, it looks classy and can also cope with almost any lighting conditions. Black Raven is perfect for you if you don’t have green fingers.

Mary and Plants Black Raven (60 cm)
73.87 CHF

Mary and Plants Black Raven

60 cm

Mary and Plants Black Raven (60 cm)
Plants
73.87 CHF

Mary and Plants Black Raven

60 cm

From high maintenance to easy care

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting a Pink Princess or Monstera. If you’ve read up on them, have time and patience, these plants have a great chance of thriving. I just wanted to point out that there are unusual houseplants out there that aren’t as needy.

The landscape architect Marie Henze spent several years working in greening parks, city squares and cultural sites. in 2018, she created a plant concept for the Berlin-based café The Greens. As she was regularly asked for tips on houseplants, she founded her first online plant shop Bosque in 2019. In 2020, she took the concept with her to Switzerland and founded the online plant shop Mary & Plants. She and her business partner Sarah Liebtag use an app to tell their customers how to care for their plants and when to water and repot them.

Do you have houseplants you look after? Which ones have been a success and which ones a disaster?

Header image: Darina Schweizer

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I like anything that has four legs or roots. The books I enjoy let me peer into the abyss of the human psyche. Unlike those wretched mountains that are forever blocking the view – especially of the sea. Lighthouses are a great place for getting some fresh air too, you know? 


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