A GROWING CONCERN: Some exotic houseplants to snazz up your space

GROUNDHOG DAY WAS but a mere 10 days ago, and regardless of the presence of a shadow, winter is here until March 20 — at 3:28 a.m., to be precise — and with all the snow and closures, anyone could believe it.

This week, I want to touch on more ideal and unusual foliage plants for the home or office.

1. Croton.

My favorite, so let’s start with the best. Crotons are those magnificent yellow, red, green, bronze, orange, waxy, large and compact plants.

I have witnessed gorgeous examples of natural hedges around the world made entirely of crotons.

It is unbeatable as a summer plant in summer pots and bright as a button inside the house.

The most colorful of houseplants, crotons need humidity and sun to stay nice, healthy and colorful.

2. Prayer plant.

Another foliage plant that doubles as a science project.

Many prayer plants’ leaves are photoperiodic, meaning they respond to light and dark by closing their hand-shaped leaves, emulating one praying.

They then open up in the morning light. Like zebra plants, they have beautiful markings unique to the plant.

Mostly smaller plants, they are wonderful for window sills and window tables.

Bright light burns them, but they adore humidity.

Never let temperatures go below 60 degrees, and re-pot and fertilize every April.

3. Fittonia (snakeskin plant).

A very interesting compact, flowering plant from the jungle floors of Peru.

This plant derives its name from its striking marks and the texture of its leaves.

This plant grows evenly all year and can tolerate damp and dark conditions but must have high temperatures (70 to 80 degrees) and high humidity. Use a pan of wet gravel.

4. Schefflera (umbrella tree).

This New Zealand/Australian foliage plant has gained great popularity because of its dark, glossy, luxuriant leaves that are arranged in an umbrella-like manner.

This large and wide floor plant is perfect as a standalone or for use in a grouping.

It will lose numerous leaves if not provided with light, warmth and humidity, especially in the winter months.

5. Polka dot plant.

This houseplant sports little dots over its leaves.

Many new varieties with new colors or dot sizes have entered the market.

The plant is now being used as a bedding plant, ideal as a border or accent plant.

The polka dot plant needs a lot of pinching to keep vivid color, and it loves to drink water. It is perfect to place outside in pots, then indoors during inclement weather.

6. Palms.

The palm family is huge and very diverse in size, texture and look.

They all share a nice slender or fan-type leaf structure.

They can be miniature terrarium types or nice large, hardy outside trees. I really like their dual usage as a gorgeous houseplant and then as an exotic centerpiece in a large summer container.

Their leaves, however, produce brown edges if given too much fertilizer or if they are in drafty conditions or drying heat.

They also love porous potting soil, but be sure to watch for bugs.

7. Calathea (zebra plant).

With a name like that, I am sure you can visualize the very bold striping on their leaves.

An amazing range of contrasting colors is available on new varieties, even chocolate.

The banding on the leaves can be in several layers.

Bright, direct light can brown the leaf edges, but high light can keep variegation intense.

Zebra plants must have humidity, so mingle them with other plants to create a miniature jungle.

Also, keep this plant warm.

8. Ti plant.

A drop-dead-gorgeous tropical paradise plant, the ti plant symbolizes good luck and fortune in Hawaii.

Super bright and intense deep-pink and purple shades streak the lovely, long narrow-to-broad leaves.

It will truly be a color spot in your indoor garden as long as year-round bright light is provided.

Trim lower old, less colorful leaves away as they develop.

9. Aralias/polyscias.

Aralias are from a beautiful and large family of houseplants.

They start off as nice herbaceous plants but develop into nice woody plants with nice branches.

They are great for bonsai treatment, grow nicely and continue to produce new leaves year-round.

Noted types are the fern and feather aralias with likewise leaf shape. Balfour is a very attractive, variegated aralia, especially marginata.

An east or west window with high humidity and temperatures is required.

That’s the list. Go get some houseplants and prepare, oil and sharpen your pruning tools.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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