Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Best Houseplants For You

Care for Your Houseplants                                                    

Right Plant, Right Place

Picking the Best Houseplant is as easy as knowing yourself and your space. We all have lifestyles specific to us, and the best houseplant is kind of like picking the right pet for your home.  Do you travel?  Do you like color?  How much light is in the room?  Will you need to rearrange furniture to put the plant in a window?
Do you have a sun room with sun streaming in most of the day, or maybe you have a skylight that brightens your space. Do you need a plant that can live on your desk in a cubby at work where no light of day is ever seen?
Do you have a fist full of ‘brown thumbs’, and have never been able to enjoy an indoor plant? 
I think I can help you choose the best houseplants and help you care for them. 

ZZ Plant
On my list of ‘best’ is the ZZ plant – Zamioculcas zamiifolia. The ZZ plant is tolerant of neglect.  Forget to water – OK.  Very low light – no south windows or any windows at all – OK   Have a bright window or sun room – OK.  zz plants
The thick stems and glossy leaves make this plant very attractive.  It is a slow grower so it won’t outgrow its space readily.  All parts of this plant are poisonous, so children and pets should not have access to it.  Water regularly and allow it to dry out between watering.  Over watering will kill the ZZ – which is a common cause of death among all indoor plants.  There is no need to fertilize this plant either.  More benefits of this easy care houseplant!

The Chinese Evergreen, Aglaonema, is another ‘Best Houseplant’ pick of mine.
Chinese Evergreen
  chinese evergreen
The Chinese Evergreen can tolerate low light from an east or north facing window.  It will do well at the office too.  I like the leaves of this plant and it has several varieties that each are pretty.  The ‘Emerald Star’ has spotted leaves, and the ‘Silver King’ or ‘Silver Queen’ have silver markings. Drafts are not tolerated by this plant, and moderate watering – not soggy and not dry – will allow this large leafed plant to be quite striking.

cast iron plant
Cast Iron Plant
'Starry Night - cast iron plant
The Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra, loves to be neglected. Low-light, and infrequent watering, a little, if any, fertilizer  gets my ‘Best Houseplant’ label. The glossy dark leaves grow to about 3 feet high. Some varieties have gold or white variegation.
The sun room can house a vast variety of houseplants that wouldn't work well in low light situations.  Many of these bright light plants are themselves bright.  Croton has beautiful foliage of  gold, orange, and red.
croton colorful

I take this Croton outside in summer.  It is more difficult to over winter indoors than some other houseplants, but the bright color is worth the effort. The sun-room temperature should not go below 60 degrees, and Croton does not like drafts.  Over-watering can cause leaves to drop, but it does not like to low humidity.  Setting the pot on a tray of gravel filled with water can raise the humidity around this plant.

Other sun-room plants for bright light are cactus and succulents.  Hens and chicks, (Sempervivum) are good choices as well. 
Cactus Dish Garden
succulents terrarium
Succulent Terrarium

One flashy plant that likes bright but filtered light, is the Purple Velvet Plant, Gynura aurantiaca.  The green leaves have fussy purple hairs, and is quite striking.  Brighter light, the deeper the purple. Too much light may allow the color to fade, and even moisture is required to care for this houseplant. The Purple Velvet plant can vine to about 9 feet, so give it some room. The fruit, a orange color, is edible, but the rest of the plant is poisonous.
Purple  Velvet plant
Purple Velvet Plant

One other 'bright light' houseplant is the Flowering Maple or Abutilon. I have over-wintered mine in a west facing window, and was thrilled when it bloomed for me.  
flowering maple
Flowering Maple
flowering maple abutilon
This plants is not a maple, but it’s leaves resemble maple trees.  The plant will bloom if fed a 15-30-15 liquid fertilizer each month when it is growing.  Leaf drop will occur if Abutilon is under fed.  Mist occasionally.

arrowhead plants
Arrowhead Plant
For the ‘fist of brown thumbs’ gardener, I have a couple of suggestions. One is the Arrowhead plant – Syngonium podophyllum.    arrowhead in water
This plant can grow directly in water.  Gently remove plant from its pot and remove all soil.  Wash off  roots.  In a clear container and filtered water, this Arrowhead will thrive.Use a water soluble fertilizer in the water, and replace the water every month.
Heart Leaf Philodendron
Another easy care houseplant is the heart-leaf philodendron.
Bright to moderate light and allowing the plant to dry out between watering, is the only care this houseplant needs.  I fertilize with a 1/2 strength water soluble fertilizer twice a year in late winter, and in mid-summer.  This plant can go outside during summer if it is in shade. 

I hope I have given you a couple of houseplants that you can care for in your home or office.  The best houseplant is the one that fits your lifestyle and your home. Gardening, even on the windowsill, is a year round hobby.  Enjoy.

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