I friend has recently become unable to live independently and moved into a care home. She was interested in her former garden, though other people have been doing most of the actual gardening for several years.

Her current physical disabilities are poor vision, confined to a wheelchair, and one hand almost paralysed. Her mental capacity hasn't been affected and she needs "something to do" to keep her mind occupied. Looking after some house plants could be one way to help with that.

She has her own relatively large room, though the window is rather small and most of the room is therefore quite dark apart from artificial light.

I'm looking for plants that would meet the following criteria:

  • Relatively fast growing - the care home has an outdoor garden which is designed to be low maintenance (mainly lawns and rather uninteresting trees) and after 6 months in the home she has commented that "nothing ever changes" in it.
  • Big enough so that visual impairment isn't an issue - or possibly tactile and/or scented foliage
  • Tolerates low light levels well.
  • Flowers (preferably big and bold colours) would be a bonus.
  • Not necessarily perennial plants - bulbs or annuals would be fine.

Assume she can get some help looking after the plants from visiting friends say once a month, but will be looking after them on her own in between those visits.

  • 1
    A question - does she keep a window open a bit for air circulation at night. If she doesn't , are the windows double glazed, sealed units?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 21:12
  • @Bamboo I'm not sure, but it's unlikely the windows will be open unless it gets very hot in summer. Since these homes are designed for residents with dementia (which she doesn't have!) windows that open are probably an "elf and safety" hazard. I would expect they are double glazed for energy efficiency, as well.
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 22:46
  • That would restrict how many plants she has in her room, since she sleeps in it too.... with ventilation, more plants would be fine saps.org.uk/saps-associates/browse-q-and-a/…. The other drawback is, houseplants don't change much either, unless you ring the changes every 3 months with seasonal flowering plants.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 23:04
  • It's a relatively huge room - there's enough space for at least two double beds, not just one single! (Plus a TV and some pieces of furniture from her former home). Given its size I doubt there is a real issue over oxygen levels overnight, and she doesn't have any respiratory problems. "The other drawback is, houseplants don't change much either" - well, that's why I'm asking for ideas here!
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 0:02
  • Which of her hands is almost paralyzed? Is it her non-dominant or her dominant hand? Have you asked her what indoor plants she likes the most?
    – Rob
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


Project #1: imagine a medium size aquarium with no water. Sit it on a coffee table and put it as close to the window as possible. Partly fill with soil and provide some herbs such as basil, lemon balm, mint of various flavours and a geranium at each end. The mint will try to take over and will need to be boxed in their own pot inside. The plants won't like the lower light much which will make them leggy and will need a lot of attention to keep them under control. They will be easy to trim with small scissors/pruner. Good choice of plant compost will eliminate weeds (add garden soil for the extra challenge if appropriate) and the sides of the box will help conserve moisture.

Project #2: put a Pothos in a large pot and get it growing. Pothos will like bright indirect light but tolerate lower light and is an easy plant to maintain. They will grow all over the place if allowed and the vines can be moved about a bit (keeping the pot in the same place) without suffering damage and will be constantly in need of change, move to here, there, back again, over the chair, bookcase.

Your call.

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