The main factors affecting the growth of plants are light, water, heat and compost. Plants that have no special requirements within these factors and that tolerate fluctuations in their growing conditions belong to the group of undemanding plants. In their natural habitat, their requirements differ from the conditions provided in the home, but they are capable of a certain amount of adaptation or, at least, are able to tolerate the changed conditions.

The easiest to grow house plants are often cultivars accustomed to growing in cultivation. They are also frequently plants whose ecological variability is so great that they will tolerate numerous mistakes on the part of growers without any visible adverse effects on their beauty and vitality.

All plants the world over have some sort of annual cycle. Nowhere on earth is the temperature and the amount of rainfall the same throughout the year. Conditions in the home are regulated by Man to suit himself first, and not to suit the requirements of plants. Sometimes, he creates conditions to which the plants are unaccustomed at a time when they have the least need of them. The main difference between plants and Man is in their separate humidity requirements. The dry heat of modern, centrally-heated houses does not suit most plants, although it pleases people. As a result, plants requiring overwintering in cool conditions are disappearing from the scene, whereas species that tolerate a warm and dry environment are becoming increasingly popular.

Plants are sometimes left without water during holidays and they must often tolerate cold when the heating is switched off at night. Sometimes they are exposed to a stream of freezing air in a room that is usually overheated, while it is being aired. Fortunately, the light and compost conditions provided by the grower are generally well tolerated by undemanding plants.

English: Iron plant, Barroom plant, Cast-iron ...

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Hedera helix

In the wild, ivy grows in the undergrowth of shady woods or as an escape from gardens and cemeteries where it is commonly grown. It is also grown indoors as a decorative plant in hanging containers and bowls. Its evergreen foliage, the leaves exhibiting marked variability in shape as well as coloration, make it a popular house plant. Ivy is a climbing plant with numerous clinging rootlets with which it holds fast to trees, rocks and walls. It is heterophyllous, that is it has two kinds of leaves. Those on the sterile branches are an entirely different shape from those on the fertile (flowering) branches. The former are lobed, usually with three to five lobes, whereas the latter are ovate with an entire, unlobed margin. The inconspicuous yellow-green flowers are in small umbels and are produced only by older plants. The type is not suited for indoor cultivation because its growth is too vigorous and the rootlets cling to walls and furniture where they often cause damage. Most people prefer cuitivars.

It tolerates shade well but will produce flowers only in a light position. It grows best in a compost containing lime. Ivy can be propagated throughout the year by stem cuttings. Cuitivars with variegated foliage require a higher temperature for rooting. It used to be grown mainly in cold rooms that were often shady as well. Nowadays, with so many cultivated forms which have higher temperature requirements, it is becoming a common ornamental plant even in modern centrally-heated houses. The most popular cultivated varieties are ‘Argenteovariegata, with white markings on the leaves , ‘Crispa’ with curly edged leaves, ‘Aureo-variegata’ with yellowish markings, ‘Ovata’ with almost unlobed leaves, and ‘Gloire de Marengo’ with fairly large three-lobed, creamy-yellow leaves .

Hoya carnosa

Wax Flower is one of 200 Hoya species distributed throughout China, India and Australia. It may form woody stems up to several metres long. The leaves are opposite, stiff, leathery and glossy. The flowers are the most striking part of the plant and gave the plant its name. They look as if they were made of white or faintly pink wax. They have a very strong fragrance, particularly towards evening, which some people find overpowering. They also secrete a sticky fluid (nectar) that makes the area around the plant rather messy.

Wax Flower grows very rapidly and so must occasionally be pruned. It likes a light position but direct sunlight causes the leaves to turn yellow. In winter, limit watering; a temperature of 12°-15°C (54°-59°F) is the most suitable. Water liberally during the growing period. Other cultivation details are the same as given for H. bella .

Aspidistra elatior

Bar-room Plant, Cannon-Bali Plant, Cast Iron Plant – few house plants are as hardy and undemanding as this one, which tolerates a smoke-filled atmosphere, dry air and dust. Because it is native to the shady forests of Japan, it grows well even in poor light in a room or hall, but does not tolerate full sun. This evergreen is grown for its large leaves. The flowers are insignificant and easily overlooked, for they grow close to the ground and their colour makes them hard to distinguish. The eight perianth segments are interesting, as plants of the Lily family usually have 3-merous flowers. There are also eight stamens.

During the growing period, water the plant moderately, only when the compost is dry. Severely restrict watering in winter. It will tolerate a winter temperature as low as 2°C (36° F). It does not tolerate frequent repotting and so should be left in the same container for several years. When repotting, it is best to pot it up in a heavy loam and peat compost. Propagate by dividing the clumps when repotting. Each newly detached plant should have at least two leaves.

English: Back view of leaves from the Tradesca...

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Zebrina pendula

This species is native to Mexico and is now widely grown (syn. Tradescantia zebrina) everywhere in houses as well as public buildings. Its popularity arises from its attractive appearance and its ability to propagate rapidly by cuttings which last several years just in water (with an occasional application of feed). The genus Zebrina includes four species formerly classed in the genus Tradescantia. The joined sepals and joined petals are typical of Zebrinas. The leaves are the most striking feature of Z. pendula. They have prominent silvery-white stripes on the upper surface and are red on the underside. They have a membranous sheath where they are attached to the stem. The stems are prominently geniculate and often red. The petals of the 3-merous flowers are pink inside and white outside.

It is often grown in glass containers of various sorts, such as test tubes. If you want to grow it in a pot, always put several cuttings in the compost. These will rapidly form roots if watered frequently. Older plants should not be repotted but renewed by taking pieces of the plant and rooting them to grow into new plants. Zebrina does best in diffused light; the colour of the leaves fades in sunlight. During the winter it tolerates temperatures as low as 6°C (43° F).

Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’ (syn. S. purpurea)

The Commelinaceae family includes several genera with similar habits of growth. Delimiting the genera is by no means simple and botanists often differ in their opinions. Setcreasa is most closely related to Zebrina, from which it differs by having unjoined sepals and petals joined only at the base. All parts of the plant are purple. The narrow leaves may be up to 20 cm (8 in) long and only 3-4 cm wide. The inflorescence is scanty. The flowers, measuring about 15-20 mm are pale purple and enclosed by two bracts. The type is native to Mexico. Its striking colour makes this an outstanding plant for room decoration. Conditions for growing are the same as for Zebrina and Tradescentia .

Fatsia japonica (Fatsi) in Mount Zapateira, Co...

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Fatsia japonica

The genus Fatsia includes only this species. As the specific (syn. Aralia japonica) name indicates, it is native to Japan, where it grows as a shrub to a height of 5 m (16 ft). The long-stalked leaves are evergreen, leathery and with seven to nine lobes. They are glossy on the upper surface, dull on the underside, and generally broader than they are long – they can be up to 40 cm (16 in) wide. The flowers are fairly inconspicuous. They are white, arranged in small umbels, and usually appear from July to September. Fatsia is greatly valued as an ornamental plant, growing by itself or with other plants. Very large and old specimens are used to decorate foyers, concert halls and hallways. In summer they are also put outdoors in large ceramic pots in public areas.

Fatsia thrives in a rather cool and light location. It requires a nourishing compost, such as a loam and peat mixture. Water regularly. At high temperatures it becomes unattractive. The best temperature for overwintering is 4°-8°C (39°-46°F). In summer it does very well in the garden or on a shaded bacony or patio. It will also grow well in soilless cultivation. Plants that have become leggy and too tall may be rejuvenated by being cut back hard, but first let the top form roots directly on the plant by air layering.

Ophiopogon jaburan

Lily Turf can be recommended for those who require an undemanding plant for a shady position. It can be grown in a pot or as a ground cover in a conservatory, for example. It forms attractive clumps of narrow, grass-like leaves, about 40-70 cm (16-28 in) long, 5-15 mm wide. They are fairly stiff and dark green. The cultivar ‘Variegatus’ , with striped golden-yellow leaves, is also popular. The flowers are white, small, about 1 cm (0.5 in), and arranged in crowded spikes. The flower spikes are usually hidden by the leaves, very occasionally rising above them.

Conditions for growing this plant are the same as for Acorus gramineus . It does best in cool conditions. The compost should be kept constantly moist. It is readily propagated by dividing the clumps.

Ruellia portellae (syn. Dipteracanthus portellae)

The genus includes 200-250 species, all distributed throughout the tropics. R. portellae , native to Brazil, is a low-growing, prostrate plant with only some of its shoots reaching a height of 30 cm (12 inch). It is very branched so that it rapidly fills the planting position. The leaves are longish ovate with a pointed tip, 5-7 cm long and 3-4 cm wide. A broad white to yellow stripe runs along the midrib and narrower stripes run along the secondary veins. The leaves are pinkish-red on the underside. The flowers, which do not appear until late autumn or the beginning of winter, grow singly from the axils of the leaves and are coloured pink.

This rewarding plant does well in shade and therefore can be planted beneath taller plants. It also looks very attractive in a shallow dish. It requires plenty of warmth. In winter, the temperature may fall as low as 15CC (59° F). Water regularly. A good compost is a mixture of two parts leaf mould, one part peat and half a part sand. Propagate by tip cuttings or seed.

Chamaeranthemum beyrichii

This species is becoming a popular house plant not only because of its variegated foliage, but also for its low-growing habit. The genus Chamaeranthemum has only four species, found in tropical South America. C. beyrichii is from southern Brazil. It grows to a maximum height of 10 cm (4 in). The leaves are large, opposite, ovate, stiff and glabrous. During the flowering period, upright clusters of small, white flowers subtended by minute bracts protrude above the leaves.

Because this is a low-growing plant with greater moisture requirements, it used to be grown in a plant case but it is now known that it does equally well in normal room conditions. Normal room temperature is sufficient for good growth, but a higher temperature is very beneficial. Water liberally. A good growing medium is a loam and peat compost. Three to five young plants are usually planted together. If it has enough space it rapidly spreads not only by vegetative means, but also by means of seeds which are ejected by the plant itself.

Philodendron wendlandii

Philodendron is a genus that is very closely related to Monstera.

It includes some 200 species distributed throughout tropical America. P. wendlandii is native to Costa Rica and Panama. Philodendrons are either lianas or woody plants with upright stems that may grow to a huge size. They often form aerial roots up to several metres in length. P. wendlandii has very stiff, leathery, prominently ribbed leaves that form a huge rosette. The wing-like leaf stalks are striking. The flower spadix is creamy-yellow.

It requires peaty compost with an addition of sand and frame soil or leaf mould. Water regularly to keep the compost moist but not soggy; it does not matter if it dries out occasionally. Normal room temperature is suitable for good growth; in winter it may fall to 16°C (61°F). Propagate by cuttings which require a temperature of 25° C (77° F) for rooting. All species of Philo-dendron have the same cultivation requirements. Provide a moss pole for climbing types.

Philodendron verrucosum

This species is native to the forests of Costa Rica and Colombia. The most conspicuous features are the leaf stalks which are up to 50 cm (20 in) long and thickly covered with hairs. The heart-shaped leaf is dark green flushed with brown along the veins and emerald green along the margins.

It requires a higher temperature and liberal watering. It has the same cultivation requirements as P. verrucosum .

Philodendron elegans

This species typically has heart-shaped leaves with very narrow, linear segments, up to 70 cm (28 in) in length and 50 cm (20 in) in width. It grows in the tropical forests of South America as a liana that climbs high in the treetops. There is no need to worry about its growing too high indoors because it can be kept to a reasonable size by pruning. The cuttings can be used to grow new plants; they root well just in water. It has the same cultivation requirements as P. verrucosum .

Philodendron scandens

This Philodendron , native to the Antilles, differs from the preceding species by having extremely thin stems which may be as much as several metres long and are covered with small, heart-shaped leaves. The leaf blade is only 8-14 cm (3-5 inch) long and 5-9 cm (2-3.5 in) wide and glossy on the upper side.

It does well in a light position and even in partial shade. It should be protected from direct sunlight, which causes the leaves to fade and turn yellow. It is a very good plant for soilless cultivation in a hydroponic container and looks attractive placed on a shelf from which its stems trail downwards. It is also often planted beside a moss pillar. It has rather demanding moisture requirements.

Philodendron selloum

This species is native to Brazil and Paraguay. It has been grown in cultivation since 1850. It has magnificent foliage with deeply lobed leaf blades up to 50 cm (20 in) long and 70 cm (28 in) wide. The lobes are wavy on the margin. Conditions for growing are the same as for P. scandens .

Monstera deliciosa

Swiss Cheese Plant is native to Mexico. It is rightly considered to be indestructible. Its leaves are incised, but the perforations appear only on mature plants. The leaves of young specimens are entire. Only when four or five leaves have developed do the perforations begin to form in the oldest leaf.

The ideal temperature throughout most of the year is 21°C (70° F), but, in winter, even a fall to 16°C (61°F) or as low as 12°C (54° F) will cause no harm. A mixture of peat and loam is generally used as the growing medium. Water liberally. A light position is best. The leaves of specimens grown in dark places | are usually without perforations. Propagation is by means of cut-up pieces of the stem, which may even be without a leaf. They will root in a propagator or just in water.

Epipremum aureum (syn. Pothos aureus) Raphidophora aurea, Scindapsus aureus) Ivy Arum is one of the commonest house plants. This liana is native to the Solomon Islands where it climbs to great heights on all sorts of trees. This characteristic can be put to good use indoors where it can be trained over walls or various kinds of netting and frames, even quite far from the window.

It does well in a light position and in partial shade, but does not tolerate direct sunlight. Water regularly throughout the year. It also does very well in hydroponic cultivation. Propagation is very easy. Simply insert stem cuttings in water where they will rapidly form roots.

The leaves of E. aureum are heart-shaped with streaks of yellow. Horticulturists have developed many cultivars with coloured leaves. The cultivar ‘Erich Gedalinus’ (syn. ‘Marble Queen’) is interesting in that the markings are white, whereas in other cultivars they are usually yellow. It is more demanding and so harder to grow. The temperature should not fall below 15°C (59°F) and it should also be provided with a more humid atmosphere. It is very attractive tied to a moss pillar. This is moisture-retentive and so is very beneficial to the plants that twine around it for support. The stems can also be allowed to trail downwards instead of being trained up a frame.

Aucuba japonica

This evergreen, dioecious shrub , native to the sub-tropical forests of Japan and southern Korea, reaches a height of 2 m (6 ft). The opposite leaves are 6-20 cm (2.5-8 in) long, pointed, irregularly toothed, and glossy. The 4-merous flowers are small, red, and arranged in short panicles. The red fruits (drupes) are small, about 1 cm (0.5 in). There are numerous cultivars differing chiefly in the markings on the leaves and in their consistency. ‘Crassifolia’, for example, has very stiff, leathery leaves; a distinguishing feature of ‘Luteocarpa’ is its yellow fruit.

It is an absolutely undemanding plant, grown both as a potted plant and in parks and gardens. In Europe, it requires a sheltered situation outdoors but, even if slightly damaged by frost, it makes vigorous new growth in spring. This can be cut back and the cuttings inserted in the soil to root. It requires cool conditions for good growth.

Chlorophytum comosum

Spider Plant is native to South Africa and has been cultivated since the mid-19th century. It has extremely thick, yellow roots. Its leaves are arranged in a fairly large, dense rosette. The type has green foliage, but it is rarely grown as a house plant. Far commoner are the cultivars with leaves striped white or yellow such as ‘Milky Way’ , or variegated forms, listed collectively as ‘Variegatum’ cultivars . The leaves are narrow, 40 cm (16 in) long, 25 mm (1 inch) wide and usually arching. A long flower stem, terminated by small, white, 3-merous flowers grows from the centre of the leaf rosette. Numerous plantlets with roots also form on the stems. When they are severed from the parent plant, they may be inserted immediately in compost and grown in pots.

It will last many years indoors but does not produce flowers regularly. It requires a light situation but should be protected from direct sunlight which causes the leaves to fade. Water regularly. It grows well at normal room temperature. It can be repotted any time of the year. A suitable growing medium is a mixture of frame soil, rotted turves, peat and sand. It is grown not only in pots but also in hanging containers and, in summer, is often planted in outdoor beds with decorative annuals.

Tradescantia albiflora

This species has green stems and leaves, and white flow- ers, but these are only rarely produced. It is grown mainly for its decorative foliage.

It does best in diffused light and does not tolerate full sun or deep shade. It is a good plant for hydroponic cultivation.

Propagate by stem cuttings inserted either into water or directly into compost, about ten to a pot.

Spathiphyllum wallisii White Sails, Lily of Peace is a very rewarding plant of the Arum family. The genus Spathiphyllum includes about 30 species growing primarily in tropical America; two are native to Asia. Lily of Peace bears flowers in succession from spring to autumn, making it an attractive addition to a room for a long time. It is a perennial herb with a very short stem from which rises a rosette of large leaves. The leaf stalks and leaf blades reach a length of about 25 cm (10 in). However, the leaves are only 4-7 cm (l ½-2 ¾ in) wide. The dark leaf blade is long-ish lanceolate with a long point. The flowers are borne on long stems that extend beyond the leaves. The spadix is yellow; the spathe is white and extremely narrow, 3 cm (1 inch) wide and 7 cm (2 ¾ in) long.

Cultivation is very simple for it is an undemanding plant that will grow even in the shade. Normal room temperature is quite suitable. Water liberally. Propagate by dividing the clumps. Because Spathiphyllum can grow submersed in water, it is also planted in aquariums.

Begonia-Corallina – hybr. ‘Luzerna’

This hybrid’s origin is not definitely known. It was developed in the early 19th century, probably by crossing either B. corallina and B. c. ‘Madame Charrat’, or B. corallina and B. teuscheri. Some Begonias are grown for the ornamental foliage, others for their decorative flowers. This hybrid has both. It may reach a height of 2 m (6 ½ ft) but is readily kept to a reasonable size by pruning; the tip cuttings may be used for propagation. The leaves are conspicuously asymmetrical. They may be up to 35 cm (14 in) long and 9-15 cm (3 ½-6 in) wide. The large, drooping inflorescences are pink or red.

It is considered to be the hardiest of the Begonias and so the best suited for indoor cultivation. It requires a light position but should be sheltered from direct sunlight, at least in summer. Normal room temperature is quite suitable, but the winter temperature should not fall below 18°C (64° F). It requires an acid compost. A suitable growing medium is a mixture of peat, sand and compost. Water liberally and feed every one or two weeks.

Cissus antarctica

Kangaroo Vine is perhaps the most widely cultivated of the 300 species of the large genus Cissus. It’is native to Australia where it grows in damp forests. This evergreen liana becomes woody in time. The stems and leaf stalks are covered with short, rusty-brown hairs. The leaves, 10-12 cm (4-4 ¾ in) long and 8 cm (3 in) wide, are almost heart-shaped in outline, long-pointed and sharply toothed on the margins. They are glabrous, except along the veins on the underside, which are glandular-hairy. The flowers are quite inconspicuous; the plant is grown only for its foliage.

It is extremely undemanding, but does not tolerate high temperatures or a dry atmosphere. It does well even in partial shade. Transfer it to a cool place in winter. Feed with either organic or inorganic fertilizer about once a week. Repot young plants every spring; older plants every two to three years. Propagate by cuttings, which soon form roots if the pot is covered with a glass jar.

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