Temperamental houseplants: The divas of the houseplant world

temperamental houseplants

Some plants are stoic and undemanding, taking over your living space without so much as a glance in their direction. 

Then there are the divas of the indoor plant world. They cry out for attention and whither at the slightest neglect. The reward however is the satisfaction of keeping these sensitive and beautiful creatures alive. If you want to step up your gardening game with challenging houseplant species, this list is for you. 

Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula)

Venus fly trapMokkie https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Venus_Fly_Trap_(Dionaea_muscipula)_5.jpg

Most insect eating plants are difficult to keep alive. The Venus fly trap will need bright sun and moist soil. Tending to their contradictory needs might become a full-time job. Carnivorous species also cannot survive on tapwater, so you'll need to collect rainwater or use distilled water.

Elephant ears (alocasia)

Elephant ears planthttps://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-xxgpi

A tricky species that reward you with large, tropical fronds if you get its watering right. You need to constantly water them without water-logging the soil. This moisture-loving species is ill-suited to centrally heated homes so greenhouses are a better environment for them, particularly as they can take up a lot of space.

Flamingo flower (Anthurium scherzerianum)

Anthurium scherzerianum
JJ Harrison https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anthurium_scherzerianum_2.jpg

This impressive flowering plant is as difficult to grow as it looks. It needs high humidity and constantly moist soil. They cannot be planted any deeper than 5 cm into the soil because this can cause root rot.  



This culinary staple is difficult to grow indoors because it needs a deep container, the soil must be constantly moist, and needs full sun. It also needs regular feeding and must be grown from seed. They also have very specific soil requirements. Low-nutrient sandy mixes work best, but because sandy soils drain very easily you need to balance it with perlite, vermiculate, or peat moss to retain water.  

Stone plants (lithops)

yellowcloud https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellowcloud/5313517069

Succulents have a reputation for being relatively easy to grow, but not this genus. There are 37 species of lithops. They all look like small pebbles and act  like them too, with little need for moisture or nutrients.

They need direct sun, dry air, and a mineral-heavy medium (perlite, coarse sand, gravel, pumice, or lava rocks) that lets water run straight through. Aside from simply keeping them alive, it is even harder to get lithops to flower indoors. Only plants older than three years will blossom at all. They are also difficult to propagate since they only have two leaves and need both of them to stay alive. 

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum)

maidenhair fern

Leanne and David Kesler, Floral Design Institute, Inc., in Portland, Oregon https://www.flickr.com/photos/flowerfactor/35018815675
This ethereal-looking plant will need extremely high levels of air and soil moisture to stay alive. Being the fair maiden that it is, the maidenhair fern will wilt if exposed to direct or bright sunlight. Draughts are also a killer and partial shade is best (though too much shade will kill it too).

Maidenhair ferns are best kept in closed terrariums which in itself is not an easy gardening project for beginners. To create a closed terrarium micro-biome that will keep your delicate humid-lovers happy, it’ll need a potting medium that retains enough moisture but won’t mold or get waterlogged. You’ll also need to check that the soil moisture is just right.

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