The Handbook
17th October 2019

If you’re anything like me then your average houseplant has the lifespan of a mayfly. I simply can’t keep a plant alive, I’m like a houseplant Harold Shipman, leaving a forest of dead and withered brownery (it was greenery) trailing in my wake. Which is why I sought the expert advice of London florist Emma Thomas to tell me a thing or two about which plants cope best with neglect.

Kenyan Emma quit her corporate job in the city four years ago to be a full time florist and can be found selling her plants and advising customers alongside her right-hand-man Koda, a three year old Cavachon, from her shop in Wandsworth Town. Conveniently located about 25 yards from The Handbook’s office, we summed up the energy to wander over and ask her which plants are the hardest to kill, and how not to murder my greens.


It’s a well known fact that the Devil has all the best music, but turns out he’s also hogging all the best pot plants too. Also known as the Devil’s Ivy, Pothos is a hanging plant, with broad leaves spilling over the top of your terracotta. And the great news is that it’s dead simple to not make dead. According to Emma “It’s probably the easiest plant to keep alive, I once went away for a month and it was totally happy when I came back”.

The trailing vines can run to 10 feet long and, like most houseplants, it’s great for purifying the air. Keep it on a shelf (it’s not pet friendly so presumably you don’t want the toxins it’s removing from the atmosphere inserted into your cat) and then… just forget about it.

Snake Plant

“The snake plant is super low maintenance” Emma explains “again it’s not great if you’ve got pets, but it thrives in bright light” (which discounts the The Handbook’s office – though Emma points out that it can be troglodyte-friendly too as with a little more maintenance then it can survive in lower light environments). Also going by the moniker ‘Mother-in-law’s tongue’ (I’ve never seen my M-I-L’s tongue close-to, you’ll understand, but recommend she calls 111 if it turns this green), the sharp leaves survive in places of drought, making it ideal for the house of any wayward plant owners. It’s also ideal if you’re keen to cleanse your home as it’s also known for filtering chemicals.

Rubber Tree

“Rubber trees are great if you’re forgetful because you can pretty much ignore it” Emma says, recommending a rubber tree, “although this one actually prefers less watering than most, plus it’s a fan of light, a good rule of thumb (literally) is to press your fingers into the soil and if there’s any moisture then don’t water it”. Although this might sound a little unintuitive, like when people say it’s ‘too cold to snow’, Emma explains that the biggest threat to houseplants is often over-watering. Top tip!

Aloe Vera

‘Allo Vera! “I use Aloe Vera on wounds and sunburn all the time” Emma (AKA Nightingale) tells us “it’s really easy to look after, which is great, but also it’s got healing properties”. The plant is well known to help with anti-inflammatory issues and it’s anti bacterial to boot. Break off a leaf and clean your kitchen… The plant likes the sun, but the soil is fine to completely dry out while it gently purifies the air.

Peace Lily

Place one of these bad boys in your bedroom and exhale. A lot. The Peace Lily’s party trick is that it’s one of the few plants that works a night shift, meaning that throughout the wee hours, when mere ‘mortal’ plants are fast asleep the Peace Lily is hard at work cleansing the air for us. It likes indirect sunlight and needs a bit more moisture than it’s more hardy compatriots, but will more than make up for it in it’s effective toxin removal techniques.

According to Emma, “houseplants have undergone something of a renaissance of late, over 50% of my business is houseplants right now, and it seems to be going up. I think it’s as people are more concerned about toxins in the air that they look for their own remedies, and houseplants are well known for it” And will people notice any real difference in the air quality if they do? “Er, no, probably not. But they look pretty…”

545 Old York Road, Wandsworth Town, SW18 1TQ