Easygoing Houseplants

You don't need a green thumb to grow these beauties.

Warm your spirits during the cold days of winter with an assortment of carefree plants. Their leaves come in every imaginable shape and color, and many plants boast blossoms that can accent any room. Thoughtful placement and a little bit of love are all you need to have a bright indoor garden.

Follow the Light
One of the best ways to be successful with houseplants is to give them light conditions they prefer. This isn't hard because most can grow in a range of situations. Remember, as the seasons change, so does the light. You may need to adjust the locations of your houseplants during the year. Most do not prefer direct light. Near a window, they get bright, indirect light. Farther into a room plants receive moderate light that can be supplemented with artificial sources. Away from all windows and lamps, plants are in low light. Match your plants to the conditions in which they will grow best.


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Simple Care
Most houseplants die from overwatering, especially during winter. Generally, they need less moisture this time of year because they are not actively growing. An easy remedy for this problem is a moisture meter, which will tell you when the soil is too dry and your plant needs water.

Feeding is easy. Liquid fertilizers work well because they immediately supply your plants with the nutrients they need. Try Schultz All Purpose Liquid Plant Food 10-15-10. Some plants prefer a liquid fertilizer to a granular, slow-release one, but if you have trouble remembering to feed your plants, use a product such as Osmocote Outdoor & Indoor Slow Release Plant Food 19-6-12. One application can last nine months.

Flamingo Flower (Anthurium hybrids)
Who wouldn't want the bright pink, red, white, or purple blossoms of this plant in their home? Flamingo flower's heart-shaped glossy leaves and waxy blooms are attractive. It loves bright, indirect light and likes to be warm. A bit of humidity is also appreciated, so it works well in bathrooms with bright light. The mist from the shower will give it the moisture it prefers. If you want to place a flamingo flower in another room in your home, add humidity by setting the pot on a plastic tray filled with decorative gravel, or simply water it in the shower, which also keeps the leaves clean. This plant is best fed with a liquid fertilizer.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
If you routinely neglect houseplants, this may be the one you should try first. Its shiny, heart-shaped leaves can be green or marbled with white or yellow patterns. A new selection called 'Neon' has beautiful chartreuse foliage. Pothos is very adaptable and can be used almost anywhere in your home with moderate light. In light that's too low, it may lose some of the color in its leaves. Too bright, and the foliage may burn. Pothos also grows well in supplemental light from lamps and fixtures. It's happy in a hanging basket, where you will like its trailing habit, or growing in a pot on a side table. Pothos can also be trained to grow upright onto a piece of wood.

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Mother-in-law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
The common name of this houseplant might scare you. It may even make you want to walk in the opposite direction. Its other common name is snake plant, which you may not like either. Don't focus on the names, however; think about its forgiving nature. Neglect it, forget about it, or just plain ignore it, and it will still be there for you and looking good. Medium light is best, but it can take anything from bright to low. In low light conditions, water it less. Take advantage of this plant's very sculptural leaves by grouping several containers in a row.

Nerve Plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii)
If you lack confidence in growing houseplants, try this one. Place it where you can enjoy its richly veined foliage up close. The white-and-green selections look great in white glazed pots, while the pink-and-green ones stand out in black glazed pots. Nerve plant prefers moderate light and soil that is moist but not wet. Top-dress potting soil with damp decorative sheet moss to help retain moisture. Allow soil to dry slightly between waterings. Nerve plant likes a little humidity, so keep it in the kitchen near the sink or in the bathroom on a shelf for easy watering. It also makes a great plant for terrariums. For a carefree combination, mix arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum) and 'Luna Red' peperomia (Peperomia caperata 'Luna Red') with nerve plant for a beautiful garden in glass.

10 Easy Houseplants

  • Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum)
  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum)
  • Clivia (Clivia miniata)
  • Dracaena (Dracaena sp.)
  • Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia maculata)
  • Grape ivy (Cissus rhombifolia)
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
  • Philodendron (Philodendron sp.)
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Wax flower (Hoya carnosa)

 

"Easygoing Houseplants" is from the January 2005 issue of Southern Living.

 

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