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African Houseplants

If your home is filled with houseplant favourites like monsteras and fiddle leaf figs, you may be looking for something a little different to add to your collection. No need to look beyond the borders of our continent – there are many proudly African houseplants great for growing indoors for complete newbies or experienced plant parents.

Haworthiopsis

Formerly named Haworthia, the succulent genus Haworthiopsis is native to regions in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Although succulents are not typically considered great houseplants due to their need for higher light levels, Haworthiopsis will be perfectly happy in front of a sunny north-facing window in your home. They are also slightly more tolerant of lower light than other geometric succulent species that quickly lose their shape, making them ideal for beginners.

Haworthiopsis attenuata is one of the most widely grown species. But you can also look for the slightly rarer Haworthiopsis fasciata for something a little different. Water sparingly, only when the soil is completely dry. Be careful not to overwater as this can lead to root rot. Use a well-draining potting mix designed for succulents and cacti, especially when repotting.

Streptocarpus

Commonly known as Cape primrose, Streptocarpus plants have a captivating woodland look and adorable blooms in a range of colours. They were first discovered in Knysna in the 1800s but are spread across many parts of South Africa where they are appreciated for their adaptive nature and vigorous flowering. Genetically related to the ever-popular African violet, they make wonderful houseplants that can flower almost all year round with the right care.

Streptocarpus likes to be kept moist, but never wet. Water when the top layer of soil feels dry and make sure the pot has drainage holes to avoid waterlogging. They grow and flower best when given plenty of bright indirect light indoors to match conditions in their native habitats. Apply a water-soluble fertiliser every 2-4 weeks during the growing season for the strongest possible flowering and propagate from individual leaf cuttings to expand your collection.

Strelitzia

Strelitzia is one of the most recognisable South African indigenous plants. In recent years, it has gained popularity around the world as a popular houseplant, grown for its massive tropical leaves and impressive height. Their unique orange and blue flowers are also sought after (giving them the common name crane flower), but with lower light levels indoors they are unlikely to produce blooms.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow them as houseplants, especially in bright empty corners where they can add a touch of the tropics to your interiors. It’s important to choose a large pot to support the large root system as the plant grows. Fertilise regularly during the growing season and water when half the soil in the container has dried out.

READ MORE: Take a look at these must-have striking houseplants!

Pelargonium sidoides

Commonly known as the African geranium, Pelargonium sidoides is a wonderful garden plant perfectly suited to South African conditions. The velvety leaves are fluffy and heart-shaped, topped with delicate purple-black flowers that add a light but dramatic touch to gardens. It is also well-known as a medicinal plant, used to treat respiratory conditions in traditional medicine for centuries.

Although they may not be the first plant to come to mind when thinking of houseplants, they do thrive in containers and can be placed in areas that receive a few hours of direct sunlight per day. Keep your African geranium in a warm area and water moderately to keep the leaves plump and happy. Propagate from cuttings in autumn to increase your stock.

Dracaena

The Dracaena genus is another tough and tolerant indoor option for those who tend to kill their houseplants. With thick stems that store plenty of water and arching strappy leaves, they have a structural but soft look that suits many different interior styles. Dracaena aletriformis is our indigenous species and features bright green leaves that cascade over strong stems.

Dracaena plants are tolerant of a wide range of light levels. Indoors, they are happy in bright indirect sunlight for most of the day, but can also handle some direct sun or low light well. As they are drought tolerant and store water in their stems, the pots can be left to dry out almost completely before watering again. Avoid overwatering and maintain drainage levels as these plants are prone to rotting in soggy conditions.

ZZ Plants

For those who believe they have black thumbs, this is the houseplant you should be looking for. Zamioculcas zamiifolia – ZZ plant for short – is a unique and easy-to-grow plant native to east Africa. While they can be grown outdoors in this country, they are far more common as houseplants, not only in Africa but also around the world. Needing little attention and adapting to a wide range of environmental conditions, ZZ plants are often considered almost impossible to kill.

The ZZ plant tolerates low to bright indirect light, making it ideal for the darker areas of your home. Avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the leaves. These plants are drought-tolerant and prefer to dry out between waterings. Don’t overwater. Propagate by division to continue expanding your stock, especially if you have a more unique cultivar like the ‘Black Raven’ with its black leaves.

Crassula Ovata

Another succulent plant commonly grown indoors, Crassula ovata is known as the jade plant in the houseplant community, or the money plant for its perceived ability to bring its owners financial prosperity. Found across gardens in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, jade plants happily thrive in containers both indoors and out. Their strong branches and thick leaves retain tons of moisture – great for those who tend to forget to water their houseplants.

Although they grow best with small doses of direct sun, they are also happy to grow in shadier spots without showing too many signs of struggle. Best of all, you can propagate these plants from just a single leaf, allowing you to grow even more of these low-maintenance indigenous staples.

Chlorophytum

Chlorophytum comosum is well-known in South African gardens. Thanks to its ease of care and rapid growth, these southern African indigenous plants have spread around the world, most often grown indoors as low-maintenance houseplants. They look wonderful in hanging baskets where the leaves and tiny spiderettes can cascade over the sides, but they look equally as good on a shelf or desktop. As an added bonus, they are also one of the few houseplants safe to keep around curious pets.

Spider plants are remarkably tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. They prefer bright indirect light for the strongest growth and plenty of pups, but they will also grow well in lower light areas. With moderate watering and the occasional dose of liquid fertiliser, your Chlorophytum comosum will be happy season after season.

Trichina emetica

Commonly known as the Natal mahogany, this indigenous tree is native to KwaZulu-Natal. Although not as well-known as some other trees grown indoors, particularly those from the Ficus genus, Trichilia emetica is just as adaptive and has great ornamental foliage. It’s tolerant of a range of environment conditions and some errors in care, making it a great tree for beginner houseplant growers.

With a large enough pot and plenty of light, your Natal mahogany will reach up to 3m inside your home. Leave the soil to dry out slightly before watering again, but don’t leave to dry out completely to avoid yellowing and leaf drop. Make sure you place your plant in a brightly lit area for the strongest growth and to allow the glossy leaves to truly shine.

READ MORE: Read more about the Chlorophytum saundersiae here!

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