Easy-To-Grow House Plants

 
 
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 Foliage plants | Flowering plants | Hanging baskets | Stake or trellis | Totems | Planters

Growing plants indoors can be simple if you choose suitable species. Almost any plant can be grown at home with the use of artificial lighting and humidifiers, but for hobbies, offices and the average home, there is a wide selection of plants that will endure minimal care. The plants you choose must be able to tolerate dry air, poor light and fairly warm temperatures. Many of the easily grown types grow naturally in the dark, damp, tropical rain forests. With a small amount of care, both novices and busy homemakers can brighten their homes with growing plants.

Generally, the plants in this list require good soil, warmth and a fair amount of light. The most common problems with house plants are:

  1. Yellowing or dropping of leaves, which can be caused by overwatering, overfertilizing or lack of light.
  2. Browning of leaf tips or along leaf margins, which is the result of low humidity of lack of drainage.
These symptoms can only be used as a guide in trying to identify the problem, as any one or a combination of the following can produce the same effects: overfertilizing or under-fertilizing or over-watering and under-watering, too high or low light intensity or temperature, low humidity, insect or disease infestation, improper use of chemicals and poor drainage.

Foliage Plants

Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen) - grow well in poor light and low humidity.

Aphelandra - require medium light and low humidity, need even moisture.

Aspidistra - endure heat, dust, drought and darkness.

Bromeliads - adapt easily to the home, grown in light or shade and dry or humid spots. Will flower with a bit of extra attention. A home solution is to cover the plant with a plastic bag containing a sliced apple. The apple releases ethylene gas which induces flowering. In addition a commercial preparation, 'Bromo Bloom', is available. It is about 80 per cent effective, however it is expensive.

Chlorophytum (spider plant) - adapt easily to a variety of home conditions, but leaf tips turn brown with low humidity or mechanical damage.

Crassual arborescens (jade plant) - prefer cool areas, but adapt to warmth, and are insensitive to draft and air conditioning. Thrive in good lighting. Before watering, the plant should be near the wilting point, then completely soaked.

Dieffenbachia - will tolerate poor light and low humidity but prefer medium light. Leaf drop is not unusual and can be partly attributed to poor light.

Ferns - thrive in dim light, but need ample humidity and moisture.

Ficus elastica(rubber plant) - prefer warmth and humidity, but adapt to various indoor conditions; require medium to bright light.

Hedera (ivy) - trailing plants grow in many homes, enjoying cool moist surroundings and medium light.

Peperomia - easy to grow, but susceptible to over- watering, require medium light.

Pilea cadierei (aluminum plant) - thrive in warmth, indirect light and moisture, but will tolerate low humidity.

Philodendron - many varieties, all very hardy if kept out of direct sunlight during July and August.

Podocarpus (buddhist pine) - thrive in low humidity and a cool, moderately lit room.

Sansevieria (snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue) - grow under almost any conditions, however do not tolerate continual overwatering.

Syngonium (nephthytis) - grow best in warmth and partial shade.

Schefflera (Australian umbrella plant) - adapt well to air conditioned offices and poor light but prefer medium to bright light.

Tradescantia and Zebrina (wandering Jew) - highly adaptable, thrive in warmth and good light, and tolerate poor light if humidity is high.

Succulents and Cacti - easy to care for, require warm, dry conditions and plenty of sunshine. If light intensity is limited temperatures should be lower, about 5C.

Flowering plants

Begonias - pinch back occasionally to maintain compact, bushy growth.

Episcias - fine-leaved plants which flower in medium light and well-drained soil.

Clivia - bloom for many years if given a rest period for a month after flowering. Plants should be allowed to dry between complete soakings.

Impatiens sultanii (patience plant) - bloom year round, even if they don't receive full light; require even moisture.

Saintpaulia ionantha(African violet) - the most popular of flowering house plants, they bloom year round in plenty of diffused light and fertile soil. To ensure flower production, grow in a south or west exposure from November to February and an east or north exposure for the remainder of the year.

Flowering plants usually require more light and attention than foliage plants to bloom successfully.

Hanging Baskets

Bushy and trailing plant species can both be grown attractively in hanging baskets to furnish a bare wall or brighten a dark corner. Any interesting container with provision for draining the soil may be used. Place small saucers under pot with drainage holes to collect water that drains through, or place the potted plant inside a larger container. Avoid placing the hanging baskets in drafty locations such as doorways or along major pathways where they will be prone to physical damage.

A wide selection of plants grows beautifully in hanging baskets, but here are a few suggestions you may want to start with: Fuchsia, Tradescantia or Zebrina (wandering Jew), Sedum, Begonia, Chlorophytum (spider plant), Setcreasa purpurea (purple heart), ivy, Lobelia, ferns, Scindapsus.

Stake or Trellis

Climbing vines, such as ivy, Cerapegia woodii (rosary vine) and Cissus antaractica (Kangaroo vine), can be supported on a trellis or stake by securing them to the wood at regular intervals with small pieces of covered wire. Bamboo or plywood strips tied firmly together can be used as a trellis.

Totems

Some plants develop aerial roots, used in their natural environment (tropical or sub-tropical rain forests) to cling to the sides of trees. These plants will grow well when potted in regular containers. But to create an interesting effect, train them to grow up a totem.

Totems are easily-constructed. Choose a pole three to five times the height of the pot. Wrap this with a layer of sphagnum moss 5 - 8 cm deep and secure with string. Push the pole into the soil and wrap the vine around it, securing it with hairpins or covered wire. If the moss is kept damp, roots will grow into it. and leaves will form a solid cluster around the pole. You can also wrap moist sphagnum moss with a piece of plastic-coated wire mesh, and secure the plant to this. Any plant that forms aerial roots will grow up totem supports such as Philodendron vine, syngonium and pothos.

Planters

Planters can be used creatively to divide a large room or fill an empty corner. When using built-in planters, individual plants are best kept in their own containers so they can be taken out and replaced, or turned occasionally as the plant bends towards the light. The planter is generally filled with moist peat or sphagnum moss. Plants should be properly potted in porous clay pots and inserted to their rims in the moss. Using porous pots simplifies watering and prevents overwatering problems. All you do is keep the moss moist so the plant can absorb moisture through the sides and bottom of the pot whenever needed. Occasionally, the pots should be watered from the top to leach out salts. If you do not keep the plants in separate pots, be sure to supply the planter with a 8 cm layer of gravel to provide drainage.

Adapted from Agdex 285/20-1.
 
 
 
 

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Shelley Barkley.
This information published to the web on July 5, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 6, 2013.