Foliage Houseplants Overview

Foliage Houseplants Overview

Although flowering houseplants are often very spectacular and beautiful, foliage houseplants should always play an important part in any collection in the home. Many will flourish in lighting conditions that most flowering plants would not tolerate. And of course they are usually attractive for a much longer period.

Foliage plants are available in a surprisingly wide range of forms and habits from the low golden hummocks of Helxine solierolii aurea (Mind Your Own Business), that will tumble over the edge of a pot, to the large rubber plants and philodendrons that will reach the ceiling of a modern house in a surprisingly short time.

Once a few foliage plants have been collected, the sheer variety of leaf shapes, colours and markings starts to become apparent. Many leaves are as colourful as most flowers. The well-known coleus, which is one of the few foliage plants that can be raised quickly and easily mind your own business from seed, demonstrates both the range of vivid colours and the wonderful variegations that can be found in leaves. There’s nothing drab about a good croton (Codiaeum variegatum), with its brilliant red, orange or yellow leaves enhanced by striking variegations, nor can Setcreasea purpurea be overlooked with its strap-like foliage in attractive shades of purple. Gynura aurantiaca is another purple plant, only this time it is the hairs that provide the rich colour on the leaves, giving it the velvet-like appearance which led to its descriptive common name the Velvet Nettle.

In their variegations or interesting leaf shapes. Marantas, pileas and fittonias are examples of plants that provide year-round interest with variegation alone, and there is a whole range of plants with plain green leaves that are grown for their interesting shapes. The Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa) is popular for its deeply cut foliage, and philodendrons have the merit not only of leaves that are attractively shaped, but that are positioned in such a way that they give the whole plant a distinctive shape.

There are even foliage plants that will amuse marantas (Prayer Plants) obediently fold their leaves as if in prayer when the lights go out; the Sensitive Plant, Mimosa pudica, wiH sulkily fold up its leaflets and tuck the whole leaf away if anyone touches it; and for those that like the maranta more gruesome, there are plants like the Venus’s Flytraps which will devour the odd fly or two.

Other foliage plants are grown for their constant desire to produce new offspring in unconventional ways. The well-known Chlorophytum comosum produces replicas of itself` on the ends of long stalks, while bryophyllums sprout tiny plantlets along the edges of their leaves.

The positioning of foliage plants is a matter of choice, but those with brightly coloured or variegated leaves are usually best given good light, as this will tend to strengthen the colours. They will be quite happy on a north-facing windowsill. Plants with green leaves, on the other hand, are usually better kept in a shady position, where their leaves will be a deeper green.

Generally, foliage houseplants will appreciate a feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Those with glossy leaves will also benefit from an occasional wipe over with tepid water, and you can lightly brush dust off those with hairy leaves.

poison dumbcane There is a word of warning for pet owners. A few plants, such as dieffenbachias and philodendrons, are poisonous. If the leaves of some dieffenbachia species are eaten, there could be fatal consequences.

And obviously this warning should also be heeded if there are babies and children in the home. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a diffenbachia.

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