Coloured indoor foliage

Many house plants have brilliantly coloured leaves, often combined with startling shapes and lavish textures, providing all-year-round interest.

There is a whole host of house plants offered by garden centres, supermarkets and florists. You may find a number of alter-native common names on plant labels and in house-plant publications – if in doubt refer to the botanical name, in italic type, which is recognized worldwide.

Coloured-leaved plants lose some of their brilliance if grown in poor light, but few can tolerate strong direct sun without their foliage scorching. For the best results, position them indoors where they receive plenty of indirect light. Avoid placing coloured-leaved plants on sunny south- or west-facing windowsills.

Glossy leaves can be enhanced by spraying occasionally with a ‘leaf-shine’ aerosol – follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding application and suitable plants. Alternatively, wipe tough-textured leaves gently with cottonwool soaked in water; don’t wipe soft, delicate leaves – you will bruise them. Regular spraying with water using a hand-held mister is beneficial for all but hairy or felted leaves.

Apply a liquid feed regularly to coloured-leaved house plants while they are growing. The pigments which produce the unusual colours are built up from trace elements in the compost, so starved plants may develop only weak, poorly coloured foliage.

Some fleshy-leaved plants, such as Christmas cheer (Sedum rubrotinctum) turn a richer colour if kept rather dry and warm. In cooler, moist conditions they grow faster, but greener.

A few coloured-leaved plants also produce attractive flowers the fancy-leaved zonal pelargoniums, for instance – but with others the flowers may be insignificant or do not appear at all indoors. For bushier growth, remove growing tips and flowerbuds if the blooms are known to be of little merit.

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