With summer ending and cool weather just ahead, we’re starting to think about houseplants again. I walked through the Gardens of Babylon Garden Center one recent morning and polled the staff to learn what they’re loving now. Their houseplant picks range from the tried-and-true to the most interesting and unexpected varieties:
“For any type of environment – dracaenas! They’re not the most special, but they’re the most useful. So easy to maintain, and they are great air purifiers.” – Bradley
There’s great variety in the Dracaena family, from the large, brightly colored ‘Hawaiian Ti’ to the sedate little all-green ‘Janet Craig’. Dracaenas of all types do well in moderate or bright, indirect light. Keep the soil lightly moist, but don’t overwater.
“These little terrarium plants are great, and there’s a huge variety. Start with one plant, or get ten. Making terrariums is really fun and anyone can get into it.” – Taro
Taro and I were perusing the shelf full of tiny plants that included miniature crotons, petite peperomia, tiny ferns, dracaenas, pothos and many others. A terrarium planting can be one plant or a whole garden of thoughtfully chosen and arranged little plants. The possibilities are endless. Start with a glass bowl or container of any size, add a layer of gravel or pebbles for drainage, a little activated charcoal to keep the air fresh, and lightweight potting mix, arrange the plants, then water lightly.
“My apartment doesn’t have much light, so it’s a little challenging, but I enjoy growing different pothos. My favorites may be ‘Pearls and Jade’ and another type, ‘Baltic Blue,’ which kind of looks like monstera.” – Devin
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) ‘Pearls and Jade’ has lovely green and white variegated foliage; ‘Baltic Blue’ does, indeed, resemble monstera, with its fenestrated leaves. They enjoy moderate to bright light, but also do well under fluorescent light. Use potting mix that drains well, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
“I love a rubber plant. It provides so much reward for so little maintenance. And I think this variegated type is beautiful. Every leaf is like a little piece of artwork.” – McKenzie
The variegated Rubber plant that McKenzie pointed out (Ficus elastica) ‘Tineke’) has creamy white foliage brushed in light and darker green, resembling washes of watercolor. Rubber plants enjoy moderate to bright sunlight, but not direct sun. Keep the soil moist spring through summer; water less in winter.
“String of Pearls is one of the really great succulents. It’s such a gorgeous, unique plant.” – Cici
A pot of String of Pearls (Senecio rowelyanus) can look like a bowlful of little round, green beads on delicate threads. As the stems continue to grow, the “pearls’ tumble out over the edge of the bowl. This succulent, which may be most effective as a hanging plant, enjoys bright sun, and grows well in a cactus potting mix. Keep the soil slightly moist during spring and summer, and water less in the winter.
“With houseplants, when we say ‘figs,’ people think of the big plants with those huge leaves, fiddle -leaf figs. But Mistletoe fig is another good ficus to have as a houseplant.” – Trevor
Plant experts note that Mistletoe fig (Ficus deltoidei) is the only ficus that will grow fruit indoors – though the berries, which resemble mistletoe berries, are not edible. Keep mistletoe fig indoors in the winter in a bright window, and provide soil with good drainage and regular water. Fun fact: the plant’s tree-like form makes it a favorite of bonsai enthusiasts.
Two staffers – Neil and Mary – mentioned Sanseveria – snake plant – as easy-care favorites. Mary’s comment: “I’m not a great houseplant Mom, but I like succulents in general, and this one is a big, friendly plant that doesn’t need much care at all.”
There is a surprising range of shapes and sizes of sturdy Sanseveria plants, from skinny, tube-like leaves to tall, dramatic sword-shaped foliage. Grow them in moderate to bright light, but they also tolerate low light conditions. Keep the soil slightly moist, but don’t worry if you forget to water them; they tolerate a bit of neglect. Sanseveria is not completely indestructible – but almost.
Visit Gardens of Babylon’s Garden Center to select your favorite houseplants from the wide-ranging collection of commonly used and unusual varieties.