Colorful Autumn Houseplants

Enjoy the shades of the season with easy plants.
Ellen Ruoff Riley / Photography Jean Allsopp

In fall, brilliant yellows, reds, and oranges dot the landscape, enticing us to bring that same look indoors. While branches of autumn leaves make wonderful short-lived arrangements, you can have sensational long-lasting color with a host of houseplants. Put together a great-looking assortment--it's simple.

Cast of Players
Peruse the garden shop's houseplant selection with a seasonal eye, and you'll be surprised by how many options exist. Here are a few plant choices and tips for their care.

  • Crotons contain the full spectrum of fall color within each leaf. This heat-loving plant requires bright light and flourishes with a few hours of direct sun in early morning. Keep the soil moist--dryness causes leaves to drop. There are numerous pot and plant sizes available; petite 4-inch containers combine easily with other houseplants in a basket, while 6- or 8-inch pots can stand alone as colorful specimens. A reminder: Small pots dry out quickly and require more attention than larger ones.
  • Bromeliads are easy to arrange and grow. Their long-lasting, sculptural blooms range from brilliant yellows to sunset shades of orange, red, and burgundy. Numerous selections are available, so choose an assortment of flowers along with different pot sizes. These plants require bright light but not direct sun. Keep the soil moist, and avoid the popular practice of filling the plants' cups, or centers, with water.
  • Dracaenas bring slender, pointy foliage to the mix, with leaves ranging from colorful stripes to deep-hued burgundy. Bright light is sufficient; moisten the soil when it is dry. Add dracaenas to an arrangement for loose, light texture. Choose 2- or 3-inch pots to fill in between broad-leaved plants, or use a large, brightly colored specimen as a focal point.

 

The Latest Great Plant
It's always fun to find a new introduction, and 'Fire Flash' (Chlorophytum amaniense 'Fire Flash') sports color in a surprising way. This plant produces brilliant orange stems virtually glowing with sensational fall color. It is a distant relative of spider plant, which offers clues to its easy care. Provide bright light, and keep the soil slightly damp, although it can adapt to very dry conditions if you forget to water. It's pretty enough to enjoy in a container all by itself.

Put It Together
Resist the temptation to buy one of every neat plant you see. Choose no more than three different types, and purchase multiples of these. Vary pot size, leaf shape, and color for an artful balance of scale and texture.

In a large container, place one or two 6-inch pots and numerous 4-inch ones. Center the big pots as a focal point, and surround them with the smaller ones, clustering plants of like kinds. Angle a few pots toward the outer edge, so leaves extend beyond the container. Add green sphagnum moss or silvery Spanish moss to cover edges and soil. Arrange small bowls and baskets in the same manner using 2-, 3-, and 4-inch potted plants.

The plants mentioned here don't need frequent care--a weekly watering should be sufficient. Remove pots from their decorative container, place them in the sink, and water them well. When they have drained, reconstruct the arrangement as it was, or experiment and give it a slightly different look.

"Colorful Autumn Houseplants" is from the November 2003 issue of Southern Living.