So what makes a plant a good “house plant?” My criteria is: 1. The plant does not go dormant (or semi dormant) in winter, so it provides foliage year round. 2. It can survive indoors with winter’s lower light levels. 3. It can tolerate the arid conditions our heated homes provide, and 4. It should be fun to look at.
One of the easiest, and most forgiving (if you forget to water), is the Baby Spider Plant, Chlorophytum ‘Bonnie’. This form has smaller spiders with tightly curled variegated foliage. ‘Bonnie’ freely produces arching manilla colored stems with many offsets.
At a connoisseur plant auction last winter, I bid on and won a beautiful variegated Boston Fern, Nephrolepsis exaltata ‘Tiger’. Alas, I quickly learned that this beauty disliked our home’s dry heat as well as my neglectfulness about watering…After watching it go downhill, it was banished to the greenhouse for recovery. It didn’t regain its original lushness until summer finally settled in.
But there are other choice ferns available which are not so persnickety indoors, for example the Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern, Phlebodium pseudoaureum (formerly Polypodium areolatum), pictured above. Phlebodium pseudoaureum has an almost prehistoric thing happening, with it’s wide lobed blue foliage. It spreads by stolons led by fuzzy amber brown “rabbit’s feet”. Grows 12-20″ tall, and is hardy in zones 8b-11.
Not a fern, really, despite its common name, Asparagus Fern is a member of the lily family. Still, you can say this group of plants offers fernlike foliage, and there are few plants which can match their sturdiness. Asparagus densiflorus ‘Cwebe’ is a form that is vigorous and boasts tawny amber new growth, a perfect color for autumn. The arching stems spill 18″ or so, and plants will expand with age.
Ming Fern, Asparagus macowanii, has a delicate Bamboo like presence. Starburst clusters of medium green fine foliage are borne on sturdy wiry stems. Ming Fern can get tall if you have a plant for some time, but it can easily be kept in a smaller pot where you can clip off any far reaching stems if they are not wanted.
And there’s yet another Aspargus fern that is tres forgiving …Asparagus setaceus plumosa. Such a valiant and durable little fern, it has become a mainstay in the cut floral trade…which means you can have a lovely cut green to add to your arrangements. This fern can get quite tall in its native habitat, but for those of us growing indoors in smaller pots, it usually grows 18-24″.
More plants which are good candidates indoors: Snake Plants, (Sansevieria) the Ivies, (Hedera) and the aroid trailer Devil’s Ivy, (Epipremnum). These are all attractive, tolerate the low light requirement and are forgiving if you forget to water.
Which indoor plants would you recommend for good looks and ease of care?