Emma Sibley's Favourite Five House Plants

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We asked The Little Book of House Plants author Emma Sibley for her Favourite Five Indoor Plants

28 Jun 2018 |

 Emma Sibley, Little Book of House plants

The Little Book of House Plants and Cacti author Emma Sibley's 

Favourite Five Indoor Plants


Create your own indoor jungle with Emma’s top tips on caring for five of her favourite houseplants from the book. With details on size, growth, sunlight and watering she’ll cover everything you need to know about nurturing and growing your own. From dramatic palms and tropical leafy wonders to beautiful ferns and flowering potted plants – this is the perfect book for every plant lover.


Monstera Delicosa, Swiss Cheese Plant, the little book of house plants by emma sibley

Monstera Delicosa aka Swiss Cheese Plant

Perhaps one of the most favoured house plants, this is called Monstera for a reason. Originating from the Mexican and Colombian forests, the Monstera is a born climber, known for its outrageous growing potential, so make sure you have enough room for your plant to thrive.

Often seen supported by a trusty moss stick, the Monstera, aka Swiss Cheese Plant, will grow aerial roots from its stems that try to latch on to the moss stick both for support and to take up any excess moisture.


The Swiss Cheese Plant is very easy to look after and is one of the hardiest house plant giants to take on. Although it will enjoy large amounts of dappled sunlight, make sure the plant is never in direct sunshine, as this can burn the leaves.


Watering this plant is relatively straightforward. Water thoroughly once a week during the warmer months, then once every two to three weeks during the cooler winter months, allowing the top 2.5cm (1in) of soil to dry between watering. Due to its tropical heritage this plant will also appreciate regular misting to increase the humidity around its leaves.


One of the easiest plants to propagate: simply slice off a young stem at the base and place in a cup of water to root. When you notice a substantial number of roots at the end of the stem, plant into a sandy soil mixture.

 The little book of house plants by emma sibley

Aspidistra elatoir aka Cast Iron Plant

Known as the Cast Iron Plant due to its hardiness and tolerance of neglect, the Aspidistra has been a household foliage favourite since the 1970s. It can withstand extremes of light as well as periods of drought.


Although it is tolerant of most lighting conditions, try to keep your plant out of indirect sunlight as this can scorch the beautiful ribbed leaves.


Water roughly once a week throughout the summer, and once every two weeks during the cooler winter months, do not allow the roots to sit on soggy compost as this can be a cause of root rot. The Aspidistra does not crave the humidity of most house plants, but it will appreciate having its leaves wiped once in a while.


This plant will grow quite happily in the same pot for 4–5 years without any need for repotting. It is always good to check the Aspidistra in the spring for overcrowding. If you find this to be the case, then remove any new shoots. Make sure the roots are still attached and repot them separately into moist compost.

Oxalis Triangularis, False Shamrock, the little book of house plants by emma sibley

Oxalis Triangularis aka False Shamrock

This dainty purple plant reacts to dull light or the evening drawing in by bowing the three petals on each of its stems. Throughout the summer months you will notice a scattering of white tubular flowers, which only last a few days before dying back and making way for the next round. It is a good idea to pull out any dead stems and flowers to keep your Oxalis looking fresh.


Enjoying indirect sunshine and partial shade, Oxalis will appreciate a bright room with plenty of natural light. Be careful not to leave it in direct sunshine though as this may burn and scar the leaves.


Your Oxalis will need regular watering once a week. Keep the compost damp and make sure the pot isn’t sitting in a pool of water as this can promote root rot.


Oxalis can be easily propagated through separation. Be gentle as you ease the plant apart and carefully separate it so as not to damage the roots.


As the Oxalis grows quite compactly, you will rarely need to repot it. When new growth occurs it is rapid but once the plant is established or when there is no space for it to grow into, it’s growth will slow down, at which point you can repot.

Dracaena Marginata, Flaming Dragon Tree, the little book of house plants by emma sibley

Dracaena Marginata aka Flaming Dragon Tree

With a tall, thin trunk that branches with age, the Dracaena marginata is a favourite among house plants. It is also known as a false palm because of its top crown of long, thin leaves. This plant is tolerant to neglect, which is why you may regularly see it in the corners of offices and doctors’ waiting rooms; but be assured only the best care will ensure that it reaches its full potential growing height of up to 3m (10ft) tall.


A slightly shady spot with regular intervals of indirect sunlight is the perfect environment for your Flaming Dragon Tree. It is relatively hardy so it can tolerate low light, but if it has long periods of low light then it can become leggy and the leaves quite spindly.


Keep the compost moist at all times and do not allow it to dry out completely, especially during summer, as this can cause the leaves to turn brown and dry. You can decrease watering in winter to once every few weeks and only water once the compost starts to dry out.


The Flaming Dragon tree is an air-filtering plant and is part of Nasa’s Clean Air Study. This plant naturally reduces benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene in the air. But keep away from cats and dogs as it can be poisonous to pets.

Schefflera Arboricola, Umbrella Plant, the little book of house plants by emma sibley

Schefflera Arboricola aka Umbrella Plant

Growing to heights of up to 2.5m (8ft), this tall, elegant house plant has finger-like glossy leaflets radiating out like umbrella spokes — it is clear how Schefflera came to be named Umbrella Plant. You can find two varieties of Umbrella Plant: one with all green leaves and one with variegated patterns. Both can be let to tower from floor to ceiling or trimmed and tamed to stay small as a coffee table plant.


As it enjoys bright light but not direct sunshine, the more light a Schefflera receives the more growth is seen. If there is not enough light then it may become quite ‘leggy’ and the distance between stems can increase, making the plant look like it is balding.


Ample watering will promote a healthy plant, so the compost should be kept moist at all times. This plant, however, can be rather forgiving and if you leave the compost to dry out for a week or two it shouldn’t give you too many problems in the long run. In this case it is much better to underwater than overwater as that can lead to root rot and sometimes even death.


This plant is quite tricky to propagate. The best way is to take about 5cm (2in) from the growing tip in spring and place in a growing solution. This may take a few attempts though.

 Meet the Maker

We caught up with Emma Sibley to talk about her very first house plant and how she set up her successful business, London Terrariums. Find out more here

 The Little Book of House Plants by Emma Sibley is available now from good shops that sell books and online from Amazon and Waterstones

Emma's first book, The Little Book of Cacti is also available.

Photography by Adam Laycock