House Plants: What to Grow

 
 
Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
 
 
 
 A | B | C | D | F | H | I | M | P | S | T
.
Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen)

This tropical foliage plant is one of the most durable house plants. It tolerates poor light, dry air, air-conditioning and drought.

Grow in moderate daylight (1,600 lux); warm temperatures, 20 to 25 C; low to moderate humidity. Will grow in water; pot in standard soil; mix with extra humus; let soil dry between watering - needs little moisture.

Propagate by division, stem cuttings rooted in warmth, seed, or stem sections.

NOTE: If bottom leaves fall so lower stem becomes bare, cut off top and re-root.

Anthurium (Tail flowers)
A difficult house plant, the anthurium grows better in a greenhouse because it is so sensitive to cold, temperature fluctuations, hard water and low humidity.

Grow in moderate daylight; constant warmth (temperatures must never drop below 18 C); medium to high humidity (either mist foliage daily or place plants over wet gravel). Pot in organic soil or peat moss, keep evenly moist.

Propagate from stem cuttings, division, top cuttings, or very fresh seed.

Aphelandra (Zebra plant)
Normally a difficult house plant, this tropical, often colorful, foliage plant tolerate poor light but prefers medium light. They will flower once the plant has become pot-bound and winter dormancy is encouraged.

Grow in indirect sunlight during the summer and direct sunlight during the winter; constant warmth; high humidity. Avoid drafts and stuffy air. Pot in organic soil or standard potting mix; keep moist, but never wet. Even moisture and medium light will help prevent leaf drop. Propagate from cuttings of side shoots with bottom warmth.

NOTE: If many leaves drop in winter, cut back hard in spring.

Araucaria (Norfolk island pine)
Resembling small Christmas tree, these make hardy house plants, withstanding both dim and bright light and occasional droughts.

Grow in indirect sunlight, turning frequently to induce symmetrical growth; relatively cool temperatures, 15 to 20 C; moderate to high humidity. Protect from drafts. Pot in standard soil mix with extra organic matter. Keep evenly moist. Propagate by seed or air layering.

NOTE: In summer they do well if placed outside on the patio or in a protected area. If a tree becomes too tall and spindly due to insufficient light, air layer the top and repot when new roots form.

Aspidistra (Cast iron plant)
As the name implies, these are hardy house plants enduring heat, dust, poor light and lack of moisture.

Grow in low to moderate daylight (they dislike sunlight); moderate temperatures, 18 to 20C: low to moderate humidity. Pot in standard potting mix; keep barely moist. Propagate by division.

NOTE: Flowers are produced at the base of the Plant.

Begonia

Thousands of varieties of begonias are grown indoors for their pretty flowers, or their foliage alone.

Grow in plenty of filtered sunlight; moderate temperature 18 to 23C, moist, fresh air. Pot in standard soil mix, let dry between waterings. They are highly susceptible to rot, so should never be kept wet. Fertilize occasionally through spring and summer.

Propagate from leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, or division of rhizomes (for rhizomatous varieties).

Bromeliads
The bromeliads are a large family of plants (Vriesia, Billbergia, Aechmae, Annanas, Bromelia, Guzmania, Cryptanthus, Neoreglia) and one of the hardiest kind of house plants, able to stand much neglect. The leaves grow in rosettes which sometimes form a small water-holding vase at the base. If warm, moist conditions are provided, they develop a spike-shaped colorful flower.

Grow in moderate daylight, but they will tolerate shade; moderate temperatures over 15C; moderate to high humidity preferred. Pot in standard soil mix with extra organic matter if desired - the soil must be well-drained; let soil dry between watering - very susceptible to overwatering. For vase-forming species, keep the vase filled with water.

Propagate from off-sets rooted in warmth, seeds take a long time to develop.

NOTE: To induce flowering, wrap the entire plant in plastic and place an apple inside with it. Remove plastic in four days. Blooms should appear in two to three months. Ethylene gas produced by the apple initiates bud formation.

Bromeliad trees
Most bromeliads are epiphytic; they live on trees without being parasitic. Attractive arrangements can be made with bromeliad trees. Choose a large, nicely-shaped piece of driftwood and anchor it into a dish filled with stones. plaster of paris can be used to anchor the branch if it does not balance well. Wrap roots of plants with moist sphagnum moss and wire to wood with covered wire. Place lighter plants near the top. Always keep the moss wet.

Caladium

Grown for their delicate, colorful foliage, caladiums make lovely house plants if protected from drafts and colds - They cannot tolerate air-conditioning.

Grow in diffused sunlight (4,300 lux) - leaves are easily scorched; warmth over 20C; moderate humidity. Pot in standard soil mix with extra humus; keep moist, but never wet - caladiums rot easily. Propagate by dividing tubers.

NOTE: Caladiums go dormant in fall and winter. At the end of summer, gradually reduce watering until foliage withers and dies down. Leave tubers in dry soil and store in a moderately cool room 18 to 20C (65 to 70F) until spring when watering is resumed.

Calathea (Peacock plant)
Similar to Maranta, they are grown for their attractive foliage. Because of tier need for high humidity, they thrive in terrariums and bottle gardens.

Grow in diffused or indirect sunlight (they can tolerate shaded areas); warm temperatures, 23 to 29C; high humidity - mist daily. Grow in organic soil; keep evenly moist. Protect from drafts. Propagate by division.

Ceropegia woodii (Rosary vine)
This is a particularly strong, trailing succulent that can form vines six feet (2 m) long. Like the ivy, it can be trained up a trellis or stake.

Grow in indirect sunlight; fairly warm temperatures, 20 to 26C; low to moderate humidity. Pot in standard soil mix; let dry between waterings - as a succulent, it must never be over-watered.

Propagate form stem cuttings; root the small tubers which are formed at the joints - half cover these with rooting medium.

Chlorophytum (Spider plant)
These easy-to-grow house plants make excellent hanging plants. Foliage is variegated or solid green.

Grow in moderate daylight - the variegated varieties require more light, but plain types can tolerate dim light, moderate temperatures, 18 to 26C; moderate to high humidity - tips turn brown if the air is too dry. Grow in standard soil mix; keep evenly moist.

Small plants are formed at the ends of long runners. These are cut off and rooted in a moist rooting medium.

Cissus antarctica (Kangaroo vine)
These are very tough room plants, tolerating shade, sun, dry air and gas fumes. They can be trained to grow up a trellis.

Grow in filtered sunlight; moderate temperatures 18 to 23C; moderate to high humidity. Pot in standard potting soil; let dry between waterings. Propagate from stem cuttings.

NOTE: To encourage compact, bushy growth, pinch back growing tips.

Citrus (Calamondin orange, lemon trees or sweet orange)
Most plants started from cuttings flower and produce edible fruit in their first year. They make excellent tub plants to keep on the patio in summer.

They must have good light and constant temperatures. Grow in direct sunlight, cool, airy conditions, 15 to 20C; moderate to high humidity.

Acid soil i preferred and the addition of iron sulphate will help induce this condition. Soil must be kept moist to ensure bud formation. Citrus trees need plenty of water and should be fertilized through spring and summer to bring fruit to maturity. Cool temperatures, 12 to 18C help to ripen fruit. young fruit is sensitive to drop and must not be exposed to any sudden changes. After fruiting, a slight rest with cooler temperatures and reduced watering helps to ripen wood and induce budset and flowering. Propagate from cuttings; seeds develop slowly.

NOTE: To pollinate blooms, distribute pollen with a paint brush.

Codiaeum (Croton)
There are many types of crotons, their foliage varying widely in color, markings and shape. They grow rapidly, but prefer the controlled environment of the greenhouse. They drop their leaves if exposed to unsatisfactory conditions.

Grow in bright sunlight (insufficient light results in poorly colored leaves); warm, constant temperatures, 23 to 29C; high humidity. Protect from drafts. Pot in standard potting soil; keep evenly moist. Propagate from cutting sin warmth.

NOTE: If many lower leaves drop, air-layer the tops and replant when new roots form.

Coleus
Coleus have colorful foliage and make lovely house plants. Grow in direct sunlight - full light is necessary to develop color; warmth, 20 to 26C; medium humidity. Grow in potting soil; let dry between waterings. Propagate from leaf and stem cuttings rooted in water or rooting medium; or seed.

NOTE: Pinch back frequently to encourage compact bush growth. Once blue flowers have appeared, the plant begins to look faded and ragged. At this point it is best to start young plants from cuttings.

Dieffenbachia (Dumb-cane)

These large foliage plants are good house plants. They tolerate poor light if well established but tend to drop their lower leaves for various reasons, including insufficient light and possibly low soil potash.

Grow in indirect sunlight; warn temperatures, 20 to 26C low to medium humidity. Pot in standard potting mix; let dry between waterings, dieffenbachias often suffer from over-watering. Propagate by air-layering or laying cane sections in rooting medium.

NOTE: If lower leaves drop and stem is left bare, air-layer the top and plant when roots have developed. The sap is toxic to open cuts; use rubber gloves when taking cuttings. If the sap gets in your mouth it can cause temporary loss of speech.

Dracaena (Dragon plants)

Dracaenas are good house plants because they tolerate low light and have attractive variegated foliage.

Grow in moderate daylight; warm temperatures 20 to 26C; low to medium humidity. Pot in standard soil mix; keep evenly moist. Can be grown in water. Propagate from stem cuttings; air-layering; stem sections.

NOTE: When the bare stem beneath the foliage gets too long, air-layer to start a new plant. Foliage should be kept clean.

Fatshedera

The fatshedera is a cross between hedera (ivy) and fatsia. It is a sturdy climbing plant, and should be trained to grow up a stake or trellis. Pruning encourages side growth.

Grow in low to moderate daylight; cool temperatures 15 to 20C; moderate humidity. Pot in standard potting soil with extra organic matter; let dry between waterings. Propagate from stem cuttings.

NOTE: If leaves drop, cut off shoot tips and re-root.

Fatsia japonica
This is a sturdy plant which can be trained to a stake or kept bushy by pinching back new growth.

Grow in low moderate daylight; cool temperatures, 15 to 20C; low to medium humidity. Pot in regular potting soil; keep soil constantly moist. Propagate from seed; cuttings.

Ferns
Several species of fern show great variation. Ferns with tough, leathery foliage (such as Boston fern ) adapt better to household conditions; whereas feathery, delicate types (such as maidenhair fern) are less tolerant. All ferns are moisture lovers - they need high humidity and a moist but well-drained soil, high in humus content. Drafts and direct sunlight cause damage to the foliage. They will grow in dim light, but must receive some daylight or artificial light (1,600 lux). Ferns adapt to various temperatures, preferring a cooler room, 15 to 23C. Fertilize with care. propagate by division.

The common house plant ferns; Adiantum (maidenhair fern), Asplenium (bird's nest fern, mother spleenwort), Cyrtomium (holly fern), Davallia (rabbit's foot, squirrel's foot, deer's foot), Platycerium (staghorn fern), Polypodium (hare's foot), Nephrolepsis (sword fern), Pteris (table fern, brake fern).

Ficus
Ficus elastica is the India rubber plant, Ficus pandurata is the fiddle-leaf fig. Ficus pumila, the creeping fig, has smaller leaves than the other two, and is often used to cover bare walls. Ficus plants are all sturdy house plants, able to adapt to a variety of conditions.

They prefer diffused daylight; warmth 20 to 26C; medium to high humidity. Grow in humus potting soil; keep moist. Keep leaves clean. Do not use too large a pot as over-watering can become a problem. Propagate from leaf or stem cutting sin warmth; air-layering.

NOTE: Leaves drop if temperature fluctuates or plants are watered with highly chlorinated water. Miniature varieties grow well in bottle gardens. If lower leaves drop and too much stem is exposed, air-layer the top.

Fittonia
These are ideal for terrariums and bottle gardens because they are small and need fairly high humidity.

Grow to low to moderate daylight; warmth 23 to 29C; high humidity. Pot in standard soil mix; keep evenly moist. Drafts kill these plants easily. Easily propagated from stem cuttings. Young plants are more attractive than old plants.

Fuchsia
Grown for their beautiful flowers, and are attractive in hanging baskets.

Grow in diffused sunlight; fairly cool temperatures, 15 to 20C; high humidity. Protect from drafts. Grow in well-drained standard potting soil, let dry between waterings. Propagate from stem cuttings in warmth.

NOTE: Fuchsias should be rested in September through to March - lower temperatures, 7 to 12C, reduce watering and let foliage die down.

Hedera (Ivy)

There are hundreds of varieties of ivy all having similar requirements, they are sturdy, adaptable house plants. They can be trained up a trellis or stake, or pinched back continually to develop into tough bushy plants.

Grow in moderate daylight; fairly cool temperature 15 to 23C; moderate humidity (leaf tips turn brown if grown in dry air). Grow in well-drained standard potting soil; keep barely moist. Will grow in water. Propagate easily from stem cuttings.

NOTE: Pinching back stems while the plant is young induces branching and bushy growth.

Helxine (Baby's tears)
These dainty, moss-like plants are excellent as fillers in terrariums and bottle gardens.

Grow in moderate daylight; warmth 20 to 26C medium to high humidity. Pot in regular potting soil; keep slightly moist. To propagate, secure an attached shoot to a dish of moist rooting medium; keep warm and moist. When roots have formed, sever the leader.

Hoya (Wax plant)
These are durable house plant with decorative leaves. They are natural climbers but can become bushy plants if kept pinched back. They flower if kept warm and moist and rested in winter.

Grow in moderate daylight (tolerate poor light); keep warm, 18 to 26C in spring and summer; moderate to high humidity preferred. soil must be well-drained; use standard potting soil with extra humus. Soak well at each watering, then allow to dry before watering again. Use small pots. Propagate from stem cuttings in warmth.

NOTE: Fall and winter dormancy is necessary - keep cool, and reduce watering (just enough to prevent shrivelling). Do not cut off old flower stems, as new flowers are produced here. Buds may drop if pots are turned when in bud, due to the change of light direction.

Impatiens (Patient Lucy, Busy-Lizzie, Touch-me-not)

These easy-to-grow plants bloom all year round even when light conditions are poor.

Grow in full winter sun, but diffused sunlight during spring and summer; warm temperatures, 18 to 26C; moderate humidity. Pot in standard soil mix with extra organic matter, keep barely moist; fertilize regularly. Propagate from cuttings, easily grown from seed; plants begin to bloom after three months.

NOTE: Pinch back growing tips to develop compact, bushy growth. Leaves drop at temperatures below 18C.

Maranta (Prayer plant)

The prayer plant gets its name from the way it folds its leaves at night, to look like hands in prayer. It grows well in a terrarium or bottle garden.
Grow in diffused sunlight; warm temperatures, 23 to 29 high humidity. Pot in standard potting soil; keep evenly moist, except in winter, when soil should dry between waterings; do not let water stand in crowns, as the stems rot easily. Propagate by division in spring.

Monstera (Swiss cheese plant)
Monstera is often confused with the split-leaved philodendron, and is sometimes sold under the name Philodendron pertusum. Both are hardy, easy-to-grow house plants, enduring low light, a wide range of temperatures, dust and draught and low humidity.

Grow in diffused sunlight or daylight; warm temperatures, 23 to 29 moderate humidity. Pot in standard soil mix; extra organic matter is desirable; keep barely moist. Needs a large pot. Propagate from stem cuttings; stem sections; air-layering.

NOTE: Monstera produces aerial roots. The plant grows better if these are led down into the soil, or trained to grow into a totem (moss-covered pole). Leaves turn brown if exposed to drafts and fluctuating temperatures. If plant grows too tall, cut back hard.

Palms

Palms make elegant tub plants for large rooms, offices and patios. Most varieties are well adapted to indoor cultivation, and will not grow too large under household conditions if kept in large pots.

They will stand direct sun, but prefer indirect light; moderate temperatures 20 to 30C; moderate to high humidity - dry air causes leaf browning. Pot firmly in organic soil; keep soil evenly moist. Keep leaves clean. They can remain in the same pot for several years if fed occasionally and top-dressed once a year. Propagate from seed in moist heat; air-layering division.

Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm) is a large growing specimen while dwarf members of the same genus Phoenix canariensis and Phoenix roebelenii prefer cool, airy conditions. Phoenix roebelenii is a durable house plant and seldom grows over three feet (one m) in height. They are often grown in dish gardens and terrariums in indirect sunlight, warmth and moist soil.

Kentia palms are the easiest to cultivate. They can grow very tall. Neanthe palms are small and graceful, highly adaptable to household conditions tolerating low light. They are often used in dish gardens or terrarium arrangements.

Pelargonium (Geranium)
Many varieties of geraniums make excellent house plants.

Grow in full sunlight; at least four hours of direct sunlight; cool temperatures 15 to 20C; Low to medium humidity. Pot in standard potting mix with extra sand for drainage let dry between watering. Fertilize regularly in summer. Grows well on balcony or patio in summer.

Leaf and stem cuttings root quickly in sandy rooting medium.

NOTE: Plants flower best if kept in a pot-bound state.

Peperomia
Low-growing house plants, adaptable to cool conditions and dim light if not overwatered. Excellent for bottle gardens and terrariums.

Grow in bright, diffused sunlight; warm temperatures 23 to 29C; moderate humidity. Pot in standard potting soil; allow to dry between waterings as stems are prone to rot. Propagate easily from stem and leaf petiole cuttings.

Philodendron
A common house plant because of its ability to tolerate drought, dust, dim light, dry air and neglect. They can be climbers or non-climbers; the climbing varieties produce aerial roots which can be rooted in moss by training them up a totem; the non-climbers will need additional support by pinning them to a stake inserted in the back of the pot when they get large.

Grow in indirect sunlight during July and August - direct sunlight scorches foliage; warm temperatures, 20 to 26C; moderate to high humidity. Pot in organic soil; keep moist; can be grown in water. Keep leaves clean. Propagate from cane sections; leaf stem cuttings; air-layering seed.

NOTE: If plant becomes too tall or leggy, cut back to force branching. Brown, cracked leaves are a result of neglect or extremely bad conditions. Split-leaf philodendrons will not split in poor light.

Pilea (Aluminum plant, Artillery plant)
Small, compact house plants ideal for terrariums and bottle gardens.

Grow in moderate daylight or diffused sunlight; warm temperatures, 23 to 29C; high humidity. Pot in standard potting soil; keep evenly moist. Drought and dryness cause leaf spot. Young plants are more attractive. Propagate from stem.

Saintpaulia (African violet)

The most popular of flowering house plants, the African violet is easy to grow, and flowers year round.

Grow in diffused sunlight in summer, full sunlight in winter; hot sun causes leaf scorch; moderate temperatures 18 to 23C; temperature fluctuations cause leaf drop; high humidity. Dislikes drafts, hot dry air and cold water. Special African violet potting mixes and fertilizers are available. They grow well in standard potting mix; let dry between watering. Stems are very susceptible to rot; fertilize regularly with a dilute solution during blooming season. Leaf spots develop if water is splashed on leaves; leaves are sensitive to salt so must not contact the rim of the pot. This can be avoided by coating the rim with paraffin. Propagate easily from leaf petiole cuttings; seed with warmth; and division of multiple crowns.

NOTE: To develop symmetrical leaf formation, turn plants one-quarter turn each week. After flowering, it is a good idea to rest plants by reducing watering, withholding fertilizer, and placing in a cool room 12C (55F).

Sansevieria (Snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue, Bowstring hemp)
Known by many names, this succulent is one of the most durable, easy-to-grow house plants. It is able to withstand drought, poor light, drafts, low humidity, temperature fluctuation and neglect. Overwatering is its greatest enemy.

Grow in diffused sunlight or moderate daylight; moderate warmth 18 to 23C; low to moderate humidity. Pot in standard soil mixture, let dry well before watering. Propagate by division or horizontal leaf sections four to five inches (10 - 12 cm) inserted one-third their length in rooting medium. Variegated types yield non-variegated progeny.

Saxifraga (Mother of thousands, strawberry geranium)
This plant is best grown in a hanging container because it produces small plantlets at the ends of long runners.

Grow in strong daylight, but out of direct sunlight; cool temperatures 12 to 18C. Pot in standard potting soil; let dry between waterings. Do not let water stand on leaves or stems as rot can easily set in. Propagate from runners.

Schefflera (Umbrella tree)
Hardy rapidly growing house plants, grow well in offices.

Grow in direct sunlight or bright indirect light; warm temperatures 20 to 30C; low to medium humidity. Pot in standard potting soil; let dry between waterings. Propagate from stem cuttings.

Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus)
These succulents make good basket plants. They are epiphytic jungle cacti; they grow on trees in their natural state. They produce brilliant flowers in winter.

Grow in filtered sunlight; beginning in September they must receive at least 12 hours of complete darkness each day to produce flowers, during fall, cool temperatures 12C are necessary to induce bud set. Once buds form warmer temperatures 15 to 23C are necessary; medium humidity. Pot in rich organic soil; keep moist in winter, spring and summer - in fall let dry between watering. Fertilize regularly, except in fall. Propagate from pieces of branch, two or three inches (5 to 8 cm) long.

Scindapus (Devil's ivy, pothos)
This is a climbing vine which can be trained up a stake or totem, like the vining philodendron.

Grow in indirect sunlight; warm temperatures, 23 to 29C; moderate humidity. Grow in standard potting mix with extra organic matter; always let dry between waterings. Propagate from stem cuttings.

NOTE: Variegated forms lose their color if grown in poor light.

Setcreasea purpurea (Purple heart)
These grow rapidly, and are good in hanging containers.

Grown in bright sunlight; moderate temperatures 20 to 25C; moderate to high humidity. Pot in standard potting soil; let dry between waterings. Young plants are more attractive. Propagate from stem cuttings.

Solanum pseudo-capsicum (Jerusalem cherry) Often grown as Christmas gift plants, they produce round scarlet or orange fruit which may cause a skin rash if handled.

Grow in direct sunlight, cool temperatures, 12 to 18C; medium humidity. Low humidity is the major cause of leaf drop and unsightly growth. Pot in standard soil mix; let dry between watering. Propagate from seed sown in February or March.

NOTE: Plants seldom fruit well a second season, and are usually discarded, plant can e kept on if cut back and repotted after fruiting. Pinch back growth tips to encourage branching.

Syngonium or Nephthytis (Arrowhead vine)
These are quick-growing vines related to the climbing philodendrons, producing aerial roots in the same manner. They tolerate neglect and unsuitable growing conditions relatively well.

Grow in filtered or indirect sunlight; warm temperatures 23 to 29C; moderate humidity. Pot in standard soil mix; keep soil moist. Can be grown in water. Propagate from stem cuttings.

Tolmeia (Piggyback plant, mother-of-thousands)

The piggy back plant is named for the way it produces miniature plants at the base of its leaves.

Grow in filtered daylight; cool temperatures 12 to 20C; moderate to high humidity. Pot in standard soil mix; keep soil moist. Propagate from leaves on which plantlets have formed - insert about two inches (5 cm) of the leaf stem into sand, with the base of the leaf resting on the sand.

Tradescantia and Zebrina (Wandering Jew)
Because these genera are so similar, they have been grouped together. They make good house plants because they grow rapidly and adapt to various household conditions. They are excellent basket plants and adapt easily to water-culture.

Grow in filtered sunlight or bright daylight; moderate temperatures, 18 to 23C; moderate to high humidity; leaf tips turn brown in dry air. Plants will tolerate low light if humidity is high. Easily propagated from stem cuttings in water or rooting medium.


Adapted from Agdex 285\30-1. June 1976.
 
 
 
 

Other Documents in the Series

 
  Easy-To-Grow House Plants
Poisonous House Plants
House Plants: What to Grow - Current Document
House Plants: Terrariums
House Plants: Forcing Bulbs
House Plants: Gift Plants
 
 
 
 
For more information about the content of this document, contact Shelley Barkley.
This information published to the web on March 17, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 6, 2014.