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You may have enjoyed a real Christmas tree over the festive season in your hall or living room and found some of the magic that comes from sharing your living space with something green. My earliest memories are the plants from my grandma's house, an echo back to late Victorian times; the mother-in-laws tongue (Sanseveria) on the jardinière by the cast iron fireplace and the large Maidenhair fern set in the centre of the table in the dappled sun of the front parlour. The range and choice in houseplants has grown substantially since.
An interesting desktop plant, and a long-term friend, could well be the Ponytail Palm or Elephant Foot (Beaucarnea recurvata). With its bulbous water reservoir in the stem it needs watering with care – little water in the winter, but good light. Feed monthly in the summer months but never allow to stand with its feet in water. It will appreciate 18-24°C. and can live to a good 30 years.
If you are after a softer look, the Dwarf tree fern, Blechnum Silver Lady, will grow to about 3 feet eventually, with a small trunk. Give good light and keep the compost evenly moist, watering less in winter.
They say money doesn't grow on trees but there is always the money tree (Pachira aquatica). You might think it was April 1st when this plant got its nickname, but the story goes that a poor man prayed for money and found this plant instead. Keeping it as a sign of good luck, he found he could eventually make money from selling the plants, which grew from its seed. In their home climate they can grow to a massive 60 feet (that is a lot of good luck!) but they do make an unusual houseplant in good light (not too direct) and good humidity.
Mark Curtis, Plant Area Manager, Tates of Sussex Garden Centres