Indoor plants are a great way to bring nature into the home. But when thinking about which plant to choose, do you consider whether or not it is local, and how it was grown? If you do, you will have discovered that it is not easy to find organically-grown, indigenous indoor plants. However, situated at the top of Kloof Nek Road, behind a yellow brick wall and an old mini is an oasis of locally-sourced, organically-grown, indigenous plants.
Founded by veterinarian Jimmy Symmonds and neuro-psychologist Cara Harris, HAPPY BY NATURE is an indigenous nursery and botanical studio that creates with nature to nurture wellbeing. They offer beneficial, organically-grown, indigenous plants and natural products for urban homes and businesses. All sourced from a small selection of trusted organic growers, ethical social enterprises, and talented local artists doing great things for our communities, our economy, and for nature.
Following advice from the team at HAPPY BY NATURE we have curated a list of 6 of their favourite, low maintenance, indoor indigenous plants; the benefits and uses of each, and why we should be asking for organically-grown when looking to green our spaces.
Benefits of organically-grown indigenous plants
Many of our local plants can be harvested for flavourful foods, health-promoting tonics, delicious teas and other beverages, fragrant crafts, and first-aid remedies. But they all play a role in biodiversity conservation, helping to restore local ecosystems and provide habitats for wildlife. They support the local wellbeing economy, helping to create meaningful nature-friendly employment and create opportunities for children (and adults) to engage with nature. Motivated to truly green your space? Here are HAPPY BY NATURE’s top 6 indoor, proudly South African plants:
1. Hen-and-chicken plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
A popular indoor plant worldwide, hen-and-chicken is a South African success story. She is also known as the Spider plant and is evergreen with star-shaped flowers that are replaced by buds that root and reproduce. Often found on shady forest floors, she makes for an easy-care indoor plant.
Enjoy this plant in a hanging planter in bright, indirect light. Water well when her soil is dry until water drains freely and feed once a month during growing season – Spring and Summer. When bottom leaves brown, trim off and allow new growth from the center to flourish.
Hen-and-chicken has been used by the Nguni as a charm to protect mother and child. With such beautiful story-telling around her, choose a special spot in your baby’s nursery or your bedroom and let her do her magic.
2. Zebra plant (Haworthiopsis attenuata)
With white leaf bands that give this plant her common name, this attractive, dwarf succulent is a must for the succulent collector. She is found widespread in the Eastern Cape and is perfect for small rockeries or as an indoor plant.
The Zebra plant can tolerate full sun, but flourishes in the shade, and as such she thrives indoors – even in the darkest of spaces. Water well when her soil is dry, until water drains freely, and feed once a month during growing season.
This succulent is under threat in the wild due to medicinal plant harvesting, harvesting for the succulent plant trade, habitat destruction, overgrazing and competition from alien invasive species. Be a responsible plant owner and question whether or not she was grown by an ethical local grower without harmful pesticides and not wild harvested.
Traditionally, this plant was used in cleansing washes before warriors would go off to war for protection as an intelezi and in love spells, mathithibala.
3. Ox tongue (Gasteria maculata)
An easy-care succulent that rewards with edible pink/orange flowers that resemble flamingo heads or stomachs during Spring and Summer. This succulent is vulnerable due to wild harvesting, so purchase responsibly in a manner that promotes her conservation.
She is at her happiest in semi-shade and so is happy indoors in bright light areas or on sunny window-sills. Water well when her soil is dry, until water drains freely, and feed once a month during growing season.
Traditionally, ox tongues would be placed on the roofs of dwellings because it was believed that they could prevent lightning from striking during storms. Enjoy her in your home and you too may benefit from her protective powers. Alternatively, the flowers are nectar-rich and edible. Nibble on a few as a sweet treat or use as a garnish in your culinary and beverage creations. They pair particularly well with salads and gintails!
4. Cape ivy (Senecio macroglossus)
Cape Ivy is an indigenous, easy care climber that attracts birds and local wildlife. However, she is not an ivy. While her spade-like foliage may suggest she’s an ivy, you have to wait for her to flower to learn her true identity – an evergreen daisy! This indigenous gem is another popular indoor plant that is fast-growing and doesn’t stick to the walls like its alien counterpart.
Find this plant a home atop a bookshelf or suspend it from the ceiling in a locally made hanging basket or planter and allow her to cascade. She likes medium to bright indirect light and will tolerate some sun. Let the soil dry out, then water well until water drains freely, and feed once a month during growing season.
We spend a considerable amount of our lives tucked up in our beds, and quality sleep is vital for our wellbeing. Plants can play an important role in creating a peaceful space that encourages relaxation and calmness, and is conducive to deep restorative sleep. This indigenous plant is a favourite to add a soft and calming interest to bedrooms.
5. Spatula-leaf Crassula (Crassula spathulata)
A drought tolerant succulent with evergreen carpeting leaves and star-shaped flowers from Spring to Summer. Naturally found on forest margins, she attracts bees and butterflies and is one of HAPPY BY NATURE’s most popular easy-care indoor plants.
Wait until soil dries out, then water well until water drains freely, and feed once a month during growing season.
By using this plant to create a miniature world, this plant offers a great way to connect with children and nature. Choose an eco-friendly container and plant your Spatula-leaf Crassula as a ground cover to build upon. Add tiny accessories, and more indigenous plants of various scents and heights for extra magic.
6. Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
This list would not be complete without mentioning the proudly South African Spekboom. HAPPY BY NATURE offers a wide variety of Spekboom including; small leaf, large leaf, variegated and prostrate (or trailing). All make striking ornamental indoor or outdoor container plants that can also be bonsai-ed.
Also known as “Porkbush”, spekboom is somewhat of a miracle plant used to offset carbon emissions, as a skin first-aid remedy, and in culinary dishes. Spekboom can grow in full sun or low-light conditions. But please note, this plant is endemic to the Eastern Cape and should be grown in controlled environments when cultivated out of its original habitat, as it can overtake and endanger other floral kingdoms.
Spekboom leaves are edible, medicinal and water-wise. Add the zesty Vitamin C-rich leaves to salads, a sprig to your G&T / mocktail, or a twig to stews toward the end of cooking. Spekboom was traditionally used to treat dehydration and used today by hikers to help ease exhaustion. Soothing and mildly antiseptic, crushed spekboom leaves are useful to help heal minor burns and cuts, corns and hiking blisters, and even mouth sores.
Tip! Harvest your spekboom leaves early in the morning when the leaf’s malic acid is at its height for the tartest taste.
Plants add softness to the home and help create a green haven to which to return. They’re fun to share with family and friends and offer a means to connect with each other and nature. Owning organically-grown indigenous plants takes this wellbeing-promoting ability to a whole new level – from conserving local biodiversity to first-aid, all while doing no harm.
Pop into HAPPY BY NATURE and immerse yourself in its ever-growing range of interesting and lesser-known indigenous indoor plants.