Master Class in House Plants
This story is found in the Winter 2019 edition of Park City Home.
It’s easy to fall in love with houseplants,” says Heather Rodino, author of the recently published “How to Houseplant” (Sterling, 2019). Houseplants are good companions, Rodino says, because not only do they help relieve stress, improve your mood, and have a positive effect on your health, they can also make a house feel more like your own.
The feeling can be so strong, she says, that many people dote on their plants as “plant parents.”
Rodino says that bringing a plant into a home should start with a bit of self-examination: “How is this plant going to fit in my home and my lifestyle? Is the light, and the humidity appropriate? Is it safe for my pets? What kind of pot am I going to plant it in? Does it make the right design statement?”
They are questions worth asking, says Rodino, because just as with human companions, it is important to choose your plants carefully and to pay attention to how they respond to you and your home.
She shared a brief selection of which plants go well in which conditions and with which lifestyles. “It’s far from an exhaustive list,” she says, “but it may start you toward making and keeping new plant friends.”
For design impact
Its large, fiddle-shaped leaves and commanding presence has long helped the tropical native Ficus lyrata serve as a popular design statement, even though in temperate climates it can be a little tricky to grow. As an alternative, more and more people seem to prefer the similar Ficus Audrey, which is harder to find in large specimens but is a bit sturdier and easier to care for.
Another long-time favorite, especially on Instagram and design blogs, Monstera deliciosa is notable for its unusual split-leaf pattern. Help it out in low humidity by using a pebble tray. Find a saucer much larger than your pot, fill it with pebbles or river rocks, and add about ½ inch of water (it shouldn’t completely cover the pebbles). The plant sits on top. Variegated monsteras, such as Thai Constellation, are particularly popular right now. They can be hard to find, but the hunt is part of the satisfaction.
For winter color
Amaryliss bulbs can be fun for winter and give you a holiday project that offers quick results, with blooms in a range of colors. And because they are bulbs, they can rebloom the following year.
The long-living Christmas cactus can be counted on to bloom around the holidays year after year. Considered a rainforest cactus, it likes more humidity than the average desert cactus, so you may need to use a pebble tray.
For homes with pets
Like most succulents, the rosette-shaped echeveria is safe for pets. Just keep in mind that ingesting any plant may cause issues, so it’s best to teach pets not to nibble them.
Not only is the feathery-leaved parlor palm pet-safe, it adds a sense of the tropics to a room, and can grow in relatively low light.
For purifying the air
Studies by NASA have proven that the snake plant is among the houseplants that can improve air quality by reducing volatile organic compounds found in indoor air. Noted for its long, spikey leaves and its resistance to drought, it is very easy to grow.
With slender leaves that hang down as if tumbling out of a fountain, the spider plant is so common that the thought of it can elicit yawns in some plant people. Like the snake plant, however, it’s terrific at purifying air.
For low light
Cast iron plant
Low light is just one of the conditions this nearly indestructible beauty tolerates without complaint. One drawback is that it can be surprisingly hard to find, so a good alternative is the peace lily, which has many of the same hardy qualities. Whichever you choose, keep in mind that while many plants will tolerate low light, they may not thrive in it.
A climbing or trailing plant, pothos is easy to care for and doesn’t require a lot of light. Another benefit is that it is high on NASA’s list of air-purifying plants.
For low humidity
Because of its indestructability, the wax plant, or Hoya carnosa, has long been a favorite houseplant. And hoyas in general are very popular now, especially Hoya compacta (which looks like a twisted rope), Hoya kerrii (which has heart-shaped leaves), and Hoya obovata, which has oval leaves that are slightly speckled.
Another succulent not requiring much water, the long-lived jade plant grows to look like a miniature tree.
For neglectful owners
The zebra plant, with its distinctive white stripes, may be tiny and slow growing, but is a favorite among people whose watering habits can best be described as relaxed.
Almost the best thing you can do to a ZZ plant is leave it alone. Low light, dry air, and weeks without watering affect its glossy green leaves hardly at all.
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