How To Choose Which House Plants To Grow

In the (very long!) Alphabetical List which follows, I have given brief descriptions and cultivation details of over eighty genera of permanent house plants you might choose to grow. If you are interested in a plant just hit ctrl F on your keyboard and search for the name that way.

There are, of course, many other plants which can be grown in rooms. A number of hardy plants, from trees to alpines, will grow in cool, sunny windows. At the other end of the scale, anyone who can provide a greenhouse atmosphere by one means or another can grow any greenhouse plant, depending upon the heat available. In this last category come a variety of genera occasionally offered, including Alocasia, Bertolonia, Bougainvillea, Crossandra, Dipladenia, Episcia, Eranthemum, Gardenia, Hqffmania, Ixora, Miconia, Piper, Sanchezia and Sonerila.

Succulents, including cacti, are excellent in a sunny window. Another large group are the Bromeliads, which include many good house plants. More or less temporary ‘gift plants’ are described under Florists’ Plants, and the few annuals which can be grown indoors under Annuals. Limitations of length have forced me to omit all bulbous plants.

Ease of cultivation

The Figure 1, 2, 3 or 4 placed after the name of each plant is a rough indication of its ease of cultivation. Plants marked 1 are easy to grow in almost any conditions; 2 indicates plants which it should be possible to grow in average conditions with a little experience and care. Plants marked 3 are rather difficult, needing something better than the ‘average’ room and a good deal of care. Those classed under 4 have become popular in countries where central heating and air-conditioning are commonly available, and are usually more suitable for growing in indoor greenhouses than in the normal open room. This classification is also a very rough guide to the degree of heat needed, which, in many rooms, is still often the deciding factor. A cold room is, of course, one that is not heated at all. ‘Cool’ conditions mean a minimum of 4-7°C. (40-45°F.) and a maximum of 13°C. (55°F.). When ‘some heat’ is noted, this means between 10-18°C. (50-65°F.). A few plants described need a minimum of 16°C. (60°F.).

The abbreviation P. stands for Propagation. Do not forget that, unless otherwise stated, winter watering and the atmospheric conditions needed for each plant.

Some of these plants have English names, and these have been given and cross-refer-enced where they are in reasonably common use. They all have Latin names; as in every form of gardening, one simply has to get used to them. They are really more use than English names!


Acorus (1) A. gramineus variegatus is a fleshy-rooted plant like a miniature flag iris, its fan of leaves cream-striped longwise. It makes a useful contrast in a bottle garden. It should be kept very moist and rather cool. P., division.

Adiantum (3) The maidenhair ferns are old favourites, with elegant small leaflets on wiry black stems. They are, however, difficult house plants, detesting sun, gas, tobacco smoke, sooty atmosphere, dry air and draughts. Few rooms can provide conditions in which they will live long, though they thrive in an indoor greenhouse. A. capillus-veneris (up to 12 in. high) and its many varieties, A. venus-tum (to 12 in.) and A. pedatum (to 24 in.), are nearly hardy and need cool, moist conditions; A. cuneatum (9 in.) needs some heat. General cultivation, see Ferns.

Aechmea (2) A large genus of attractive bromeliads, making tall, sculptural ‘leaf-vase’ rosettes. Only a few are in commerce. A.ful-gens has 16-in. Very recurved, wavy green leaves, purple beneath. A. fasciata (also known as Billbergia rhodocyanea) has broad, white-banded, grey-green leaves up to 2 ft. long. Cultivation, see Bromeliads.

Aeschynanthus (4) Plants with colourful flowers like those of Columnea but in clusters. Hothouse subjects which may survive flower-less in a room but really need the humidity of an indoor greenhouse. Partly synonymous with Trichosporum. Cultivation the same as for Columnea.

African Violet See Saintpaulia.

Aglaonema (2) A number of species, sometimes called Chinese Evergreens, with oval or more elongated leaves which are often attractively marbled, or more rarely symmetrically patterned. Good plants especially for central heating, tolerating shade but never gas fumes. Use a compost with extra peat. P., division, or cuttings in heat.

Aluminium Plant See Pile a.

Ampelopsis (2) This genus of Virginia Creepers gives us one house plant, A. hetero-phylla (syn. Brevipedunculata elegans)t in which the stems are pink and the usually 3-lobed leaves pink, white and cream. Their thin texture makes them resent dry, stuffy air, but in a cool or cold place it makes a striking climber – except that it naturally loses its leaves in winter. P., cuttings.

Ananas (2) The common pineapple, A. comosus, is a bromeliad, and makes an attractive plant of some size, with its long-toothed leaves – up to 5 ft. long in nature — especially in the variegated and coloured-leaved forms. It is possible to obtain a plant by cutting off the top of a fresh pineapple fruit, removing all the flesh and placing it in sand kept moist in some heat (ideally, 21-27°C. [70-80 °F.]), when it may root. Cultivation^ see Bromeliads.


A number of climbing plants, either annual or normally treated as such, have proved suitable for rooms, providing quick growth and attractive flowers in summer following spring sowing.

Convolvulus major, Ipomoea tricolor (rubro-caerulea), Thunbergia alata, Tropaeolum majus and T. peregrinum will flower in a cool room; Cobaea scandens, Maurandya barclaiana and Rhodochiton volubile need some heat (at least 10 °C. [50 °F.]) and humidity, especially to start with. Passiflora caerulea may also be grown from seed, mainly for its foliage. Eucalyptus globulus is a quick-growing tree which makes several feet of growth in one season, and is treated like the climbers.

Seeds of all these may be sown in small pots between February and April, the date depend-ing upon the degree of heat and the amount of air moisture available. If no special facilities can be provided for germination and the first weeks of growth, such as a propagating case, it is best to wait till early April or, alternatively, to buy greenhouse-grown seedlings in April, May or June. It is essential to maintain steady growth, not allowing the plants to be checked by cold, draughts or becoming pot-bound; they must be potted on until they are in 4-in. Or 5-in. Pots at least. Two or three plants may be placed in a large pot to make dense growth. Lack of light at any stage will make them grow spindly, and they may not make up for this.

Once growing steadily, and especially when flower buds begin to form, regular feeding will benefit the plants greatly – little, weak and often being the rule. The climbers must, of course, have stakes or strings on which to climb, or a simple cane trellis may be made by pushing two canes into the pot to form a diverging angle, with cross-pieces tied on at spaced intervals.

Most garden annuals are not suitable for growing from seed indoors in this way.

Anthurium (3) Relatives of the arum lily, some grown for their flowers and some for their leaves, all rather difficult, needing constant moist heat (16°C. [60°F.] minimum), partial shade and plenty of water. Central heating suits them, as long as damp moss or gravel is placed to evaporate moisture and maintain humidity around them. A. andreanum with long, heart-shaped leaves and A. scherzerianum, with white-veined, ribbon-like leaves, are smallish plants, the leaves 6-8 in. long, grown for their long-lasting flowers, which are produced most of the year. The latter, the Flamingo Flower, is easier in rooms. There are many hybrids, with orange, scarlet, pink or white blooms, looking like distorted arum lilies. A suitable compost contains peat, loam, sphagnum moss and sand. P., division, seed, in hot, moist conditions. When re-potting, take great care of the roots.

Aphelandra (3) Several species are grown in warm greenhouses; one, A. squarrosa louisae, has become popular as a house plant. The dark green 6-9 in. leaves are boldly marked with white along the veins, and in spring a cockade of bright yellow bracts is produced at the top. Despite its greenhouse origin, it does fairly well in a warm room; the temperature must not vary very much, and draughts and stuffy air must be avoided. Plenty of water should be given at all times. If many leaves drop in winter, cut hard back in spring. P., cuttings of sideshoots in heat. Aralia See Dizygotheca and Fatsia.

Araucaria (1) A. excelsa, the Norfolk Island Pine, is a conifer with bright green, horizontal branches, looking like an artificial Christmas tree. It is nearly hardy, and only needs to be kept reasonably damp in a fairly moist, draught-free atmosphere. It will stand much shade and needs compost with extra peat. P., seed, cuttings, in heat.

Asparagus (1) The so-called asparagus ferns are really relatives of the lily. A. plumosus is the one with very fine, feathery foliage; A. sprengeri has 1-in. Needle-like leaves; A. asparagoides or A. medeoloides (the Smilax of florists) has 1-in. Oval leaves; while the very vigorous A. falcatus has 3-in. Sickle-shaped leaves. All are long-stemmed climbers or can be used as trailers. A. plumosus nanus and A. p. compactus are small-growing varieties that need no support. They are easy plants, tolerating shade, which need frequent feeding and plenty of water, especially A. sprengeri. They sometimes produce tiny flowers fol-lowed by berries. P., seed, cuttings, in heat.

Aspidistra (1) The old Cast Iron Plant, indeed a relic of the Victorians, A. lurida (elatior) will stand deep shade and almost any neglect. It dislikes sunlight. In a large decorative scheme there may be a place for its massive 12-20-in. Dark green leaves. There is a scarce, boldly white-striped form which is more attractive. Keep fairly warm in winter. The weird soil-level flowers, occasionally borne, are pollinated by snails. P., division.

Asplenium (1, 2) A large genus of ferns, many easy in cool rooms, especially A. bulbi-ferum (1), with finely divided 1-2-ft. Fronds on which young plants are produced, and A. praemorsum (1), with rather stiff 6-18-in. Fronds.

A. nidus (2), the Bird’s Nest Fern, is very attractive, with undivided fronds from 6—24 in. long, tapering at both ends, of apple green with blackish midrib. It needs light and some warmth, and must be kept from draughts, or the leaves go brown. Good in bottle gardens. Cultivation, see Ferns. Astilbe (Spiraea) See Florists’ Plants.

Azalea indica (3) This beautiful florists’ plant, freely sold in autumn and winter, with single or double flowers in pink, red or white, is one of the more difficult of temporary plants. It is forced in heat and humidity, and has a very compact rootball, usually potted in pure peat. This must be kept moist, for it dries out very easily; if this happens, the leaves and flowers will drop. The plant needs to be kept in a steady medium temperature, out of draughts, should be given a fine spray-over with water when possible, and does best when stood above water or damp peat. Keep out of sunlight. When flowering is over, it can be placed in a cooler room but must still be treated with great care. Once the danger of frost is past, the plant should, if possible, be re-potted in compost with additional peat and stood outside, preferably burying the pot in soil. Regular watering, feeding and syringing during summer are necessary. In autumn it must be brought indoors before frost is likely, and may be persuaded to flower again in a room. P., summer cuttings. See also Florists’ Plants.

Baby’s Tears See Helxine soleirolii.

Begonia (2, 3)

This immense genus supplies us with a number of house plants, moderately or fairly difficult to keep permanently; some give a long season of bloom, and most have decorative leaves, which are characteristically lop-sided. In general, they all need constant temperatures of at least 13°C. (55°F.) in winter, fairly high air humidity, clean air and absence of draughts. They like peaty compost with good drainage (soil-less composts are excellent), appreciate feeding, plenty of water, overhead spraying and good light without excess of sun. If they can be established, some make very effective specimens indoors.

For our purpose the begonias are best divided as follows. There is not space to mention here the large-flowered, tuberous-rooted begonias, which have a dormant period. Foliage Begonias These are virtually stemless and are grown for their large, strikingly-marked foliage up to 12 in. long, in various shades of green, grey, silver, red, purple, etc. They need at least 13°C. (55°F.) and high humidity. They are greedy feeders. Begonia rex is the typical species but there are many others and innumerable hybrids. One of the most striking is Iron Cross (B. masoniana) with a brown pattern on bristly leaves; B. bozveri is a small plant with black-edged leaves. P., leaf cuttings in heat.

Stem Begonias

The least difficult house begonias come into this class. The following can be recommended: B. corolicta, B. feastii, B. fuchsioides, B. glaucophylla, B. haageana, B. heracleifolia, B. ingrami, B. maculata, B. nitida, B. richardsiana. There are also innumerable hybrids of which Beatrice Had-drell, Chantilly Lace and Cleopatra are extremely popular. Many of these species and hybrids will grow several feet tall, and may be cut back occasionally to keep them bushy. P., cuttings in some heat.

Semi-tuberous Begonias

Orange-flowered B. sutherlandii and pink B. weltoniensis are small bushy plants which grow from tubers and die right down in the winter, when the pots should be stored virtually dry. Start watering again when new growth is seen.

Bedding Begonias These are dwarf fibrous-rooted varieties, very free flowering, derived from B. semperflorens. Though mainly used for summer bedding, they are quite perennial. They should be trimmed back now and then. P., cuttings, seed, in heat. Gloire de Lorraine Begonias These winter-flowering hybrids (sometimes known as B. cheimantha or B. hiemalis) are hard to keep, though they may be used as temporary flowering plants and, if bought early enough and kept fairly cool, may survive the winter. P., leaf cuttings in heat.

Beloperone guttata (2) A shrubby plant, 2 or 3 ft. high, with arching spikes of smallish flowers partly concealed by large overlapping bracts in pink and brown, whose shape and colour give it the name Shrimp Plant; the flowers are carried more or less continuously in warm, moist air. It needs good drainage, and likes sun and some warmth, and frequent feeding. Water freely, but keep almost dry in winter. It tends to become leggy, so cut back in spring and root new plants periodically; non-flowering shoots do so readily.

Billbergia (1, 2) B. nutans (1) is the commonest of the cultivated bromeliads; it is almost hardy and will produce flowers in a warm room, which most of the tribe will not. It has an upright, recurving rosette of 1 ft.-long, narrow, spiny, dark green leaves, and the I^-in. Tubular flowers, produced on long stems, are pink, yellow, green and blue. It should be pot-bound to flower. There are many more attractive species, but few are available. B. windii(1) is a hybrid of B. nutans, not unlike it, with larger flowers and leaves. B. zebrina (2) forms an 18-in. Tubular rosette striped with grey. B. rhodocyanea (2) is Aechmea fasciata. Cultivation, see Bromeliads. Bird’s Nest Fern See Asplenium nidus.

Bow-string Hemp See Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii.

Bromeliads (2)

A large family (Bromeliaceae) of plants from tropical America, many of which are ideal room plants, usually very decorative and making large sculptural specimens. Despite their jungle origins, they are tolerant of quite difficult conditions and will stand much neglect. They are rosette plants, with leaves varying from 2—4 in. across and up to many feet long, though, of course, those sold for rooms are not so large. The leaves are stiff, hard, usually spiny, and have a great variety of colourings, including bright red, brown, silver and grey, and are often beautifully mottled. The flowers are all extraordinary, both in shape and colour; much of the colour comes from bracts surrounding the flowers, which last a very long time. Rosettes which have flowered do not do so again and may die, but in any case it is difficult to flower most of the genera without a hot, humid greenhouse.

Most of them are epiphytic, living on trees, etc., but without being in any way parasitic, and are known in America as air pines, but some are terrestrial. A few of the epiphytes have leaves so closely packed together that they form a watertight ‘vase’ in the centre, and have special cells for absorbing this water. Some need little else besides water to survive.

A suitable compost for most bromeliads consists of 2 parts sphagnum moss, peat and/or leafmould, 1 part fibrous loam and 1 part coarse sand, with a few small pieces of charcoal, or equal parts fibrous loam and leaf-mould can be used. All need good drainage.

These plants must never be overwatered, especially in winter. Those with leaf-vases should have them filled, preferably with rainwater, but they still need light watering of the soil. They prefer a moist equable atmosphere and temperatures over 16°C. (60 °F.) but will stand dry and colder air. Most types prefer daylight but can survive in shady conditions.

In general, propagation is from well-formed offsets, best rooted in heat; or from seed, a slow process.

The nomenclature of these plants, particularly in the trade, is somewhat confused; however, any bromeliad of reasonable size is worth acquiring. Descriptions of the following genera, species of which are in commerce, are given in the list: Aechmea, Ananas, Bill-bergia, Cryptanthus, Guzmania, Neoregelia, Nidularium, Tillandsia and Vriesia. Busy Lizzie See Impatiens. Cacti See Succulents.

Calathea (3)

Attractive low-growing plants very similar to Maranta: in fact species and varieties are apt to be labelled indiscriminately under one name or the other. There are numerous species but only a few are available. Of these C. makoyana, the Peacock Plant, is the most spectacular, with curious red ellipses and lines on the pale green, translucent leaves. C. oppenheimiana (sometimes classed as a Ctenanthe), C. insig-nis, C. lonisae and C. zebrina are also good, and C. ornata has improbable pink lines on a bronze leaf. They are not easy in ordinary rooms but are ideal plants for a bottle garden. They need shade and a compost with additional peat. Water freely June to August, keep dryer at other times. Re-pot annually if vigorous growth is made and feed in warm weather. P., division. Calceolaria See Florists’ Plants.

Campanula isophylla (2) This almost hardy harebell will produce its 1-in. Blue or white flowers for many months, and is easily grown in fairly cool, humid conditions, best out of strong sun, and freely watered. It is pendulous and is good in a basket. In winter it needs to be kept dryish in a cool, frost-free place. P., cuttings in spring, easy.

Carex (1) The sedges provide one house plant, C. morrowii (syn. Japonica) variegata, often labelled elegantissima, a plant with small, narrow flag-iris leaves in tufts, with a white line along each edge. A water plant, it needs to be kept wet. P., division.

Cast Iron Plant See Aspidistra elatior.

Castor Oil Plant See Fatsia.

Ceropegia (1) C. woodii(Hearts Entangled) is an attractive little plant with trailing, twining stems and small fleshy, mottled, heart-shaped leaves to \ in. across. It prefers a fairly light, moderately warm position, and may produce its small, tubular purple flowers in a warm room. P., cuttings, or rooting the little tubers formed at the joints. Chamaedorea See Neanthe. Chestnut Vine See Tetrastigma voinieriana. Chinese Evergreen See Aglaonema. Chlorophytum (syn., Anthericum) (1) The Spider Plants form large rosettes of narrow, pale green leaves, 1-2 ft. long. The variegated forms of C. comosum and, to a lesser extent, C. capense (syn. Datum), with wide cream stripes on the leaves, are usually grown. The small white flowers appear on long arching stems which later, in C. comosum, produce leaf rosettes, giving a graceful ‘waterfall’ effect. A very tolerant plant for cool or warm rooms, which likes adequate summer watering and feeding, and will stand some shade. P., division, or by rooting plantlets while still on the parent.

Christmas Cactus See Schlumbergera. Cineraria See Florists’ Plants.

Cissus (1) Tendril climbers closely related to the vines. C. antarctica, the Kangaroo Vine, is one of the toughest room plants; it has notched, roughly oval 2-in. Leaves. It prefers a cool room and adequate light, especially in winter, but will stand both shade and sun as well as fumes. P., cuttings of I-year wood in slight heat, easy. Will also root in water. See also Rhoicissus, a close relation.

Citrus (2) Orange and lemon trees make attractive plants for cool, airy conditions; in a warm room they may lose their leaves. Though it is very easy to grow such plants from pips, the seedlings are unlikely to flower: plants bought are usually grafted, and will be in a flowering state. They may even carry fruit! Citrus mitts is a small-growing species with miniature oranges I in. across. Feed well.

Clivia (1) C. miniata, the Kaffir Lily, grown for its many red or orange flowers which are carried on a thick stem in winter, has strap-shaped, dark green leaves, 18 in. long and 2 in. wide, arranged in two rows. It will flower regularly if freely watered in summer and kept fairly dry from November to January, when the temperature should be 7°C. (45°F.). It hates being moved, and can be kept in the same pot for several years, being topdressed each spring and fed in summer. It is an ugly plant out of flower, and if it cannot be placed in the background of a large display is best put outside in summer. It will grow and flower in the shade, but prefers some light, though not full sun. P., offsets.

Clog Plant See Hypocyrta glabra. Cobaea scandens (Cup-and-saucer Vine) See Annuals.

Cocos (1) C. weddeliana, also known as Syagrus weddeliana, is a relation of the Coconut Palm, small plants of which, grown from seeds, are often sold in very small pots. Its stiff much-divided fronds radiate from the base, and it is a useful contrast to more solid leaves, and valuable in a bottle garden. Culti-vation, see Palms.

Codiaeum variegatum pictum (syn., Cro-ton) (4) Numerous varieties exist with brightly coloured leaves, green, red, yellow, purplish, etc., with many curious shapes and twists. They are difficult plants needing steady, warm, humid conditions, no draughts, no strong sun and plenty of water. Leaf dropping will occur if anything is not to their liking. Good in indoor greenhouses, and very attractive and colourful if they settle down. The narrow-leaved varieties are much easier in rooms than the others. They grow eventually to several feet. P., cuttings in a heated propa-gating case.

Coleus See Florists’ Plants. Collinia See Neanthe.

Columnea (4) Mainly trailing plants with attractive paired leaves and spectacular, tubu-lar, two-lipped orange or red flowers, some-times offered as house plants; but only really suitable for a warm, moist indoor greenhouse. They may survive in a room but are unlikely to flower again. Provide compost with extra peat; diffused light; take care not to under- or over-water. P., cuttings in heat. Convolvulus See Annuals.

Cordyline and Dracaena (2, 3) These two genera are so similar and so much confused that they are best treated under one heading, and are usually known as Dracaena in the trade. Dracaenas are also sometimes called Dragon Plants. Cordylines may be differentiated since they have a creeping rootstock. These plants usually have long, arching leaves arranged spirally up a long stem; old specimens will grow very tall. There are many species and varieties, in which the leaves are variously striped and coloured in yellow, silver, purple and red, or a mixture of these. Some, like the nearly hardy C. australis and C. indivisa (2) have palm-like leaves. They are very striking plants, quite easy to grow if some heat is available, with plenty of water and light and regular syringing. In winter they can be kept at 13-16°C. (55-60°F.), rather dry and well ventilated without draughts. C. terminalis, D. deremensis, D. fragrans and D. sanderiana (3) are intermediate in heat requirements, as is D. godseffiana (3), which has yellow-spotted laurel-like leaves. D. goldieana (3) prefers warmth and has bold white markings. All like peat-based composts. P., seed in spring or cuttings (pieces of stem with a bud, or the top of an old plant will be best), all in moist heat.

Crassula See Succulents.

Croton See Codiaeum.

Cryptanthus (2) A small genus of dwarf bromeliads, also known as Earth Stars, which form flattened, wavy rosettes of leaves, usually 6-9 in. long, 1—12 in. wide, which resemble starfishes; the white or green flowers are densely clustered in the centre. They are usually banded or mottled, grey in C. zonatus, buff and red in C. bivittatus, pink and white in C. beuckeri. C. undulatus is a miniature with 2-in. Leaves. C. bromelioides tricolor is spectacular with cream, green and pink leaves, but also the most tender. All are first rate for bottle gardens. Cultivation, see Bromeliads. Cyclamen (3) These florists’ plants with their pink, red or white flowers and often nicely marbled leaves, are sold in immense quantities every winter – and how few survive any length of time. The best advice is to buy the plant early in the autumn, when it should acclimatise successfully and ought to go on flowering steadily. Cyclamens need warm, humid conditions, complete absence of draughts and regular watering. Avoid wetting the top of the corm or rotting of the stems may occur. The plant may with advantage be plunged into damp peat or moss in a bowl; or stood on a block of wood in a saucer, which may be filled with boiling water daily. Keep in a light place. Cyclamens can be grown on from year to year. When the foliage begins to die down in early summer, dry the pot off gradually, give a few weeks of almost complete dryness, and in August re-pot in a compost with plenty of leafmould or peat and start watering again, gradually increasing the amount. The florists’ cyclamen is botanically C. persicum; the hardy species cannot be grown indoors. Cyperus (1) Water plants with long stiff stems crowned by short radiating leaves, hence the common name Umbrella Plant. Easy in moderatelv warm rooms, in small pots which

should stand in a saucer always full of water. Semi-shade. C. alter nijolius, C. diffusus and their variegated forms are grown. They are I—2 ft. tall. P., division; leaf-rosettes will root in soil or water.

Cyrtomium falcatum (1) The Holly Fern has stiff fronds up to 2 ft. long, bearing very dark, leathery, toothed pinnae (leaflets) up to 5 in. long. Very easy, tolerating quite dark corners, and should never be put in bright light; it likes more water than most ferns. There is a rare pendulous variety. Cultivation, see Ferns.

Cytisus canariensis See Florists’ Plants. Date Palm See Phoenix dactylifera. Davallia (2) The main interest in these ferns lies in the furry rhizomes which are formed at soil level and may creep over the pot edge; hence the names Squirrel’s-foot Fern (D. bullata) and Hare’s-foot Fern (D. canariensis). The Fronds are finely divided. They need some warmth. Cultivation, see under Ferns.

Dieffenbachia (2) Fleshy plants, mostly varieties of D. picta, with pointed, oblong leaves up to 1 ft. long, which may be spotted or banded with white or yellow. They prefer constant heat and humidity, with regular spraying, a compost with additional peat, and partial shade, but often settle down in rooms. They will grow several feet tall. P., top cuttings or pieces of stem with buds, in moist heat. Caution: the sap will cause great pain if it reaches the mouth – hence the popular names Dumb Cane and – unkind thought -Mother-in-law Plant.

Dizygotheca (3) Long-stemmed plants, up to 3 ft. with narrow, toothed leaflets in wheel-spoke arrangement ar the tips, generally dark green with prominent midrib, reddish in D. elegantissima and white in D. veitchii. Elegant but temperamental plants, needing constant warmth, peat-based compost, good light, no draughts and careful watering. Small, well-drained pots are best. Used to be called Aralia. P., cuttings in heat. Dracaena See Cordyline. Dragon Plant Name for Dracaena.

Dumb Cane See Dieffenbachia.

Easter Cactus See Rhipsalidopsis.

Epiphyllum (2) The almost spineless Orchid Cacti, with long flat or triangular joints 6—12 in. long and 1 in. across — are quite ornamental and will produce their spectacular, variously coloured flowers in a warm room. They need porous, peaty compost, plenty of summer feeding, watering freely in summer and moderately in winter, and shade from bright sun. There are many hybrids. P., cuttings, easy.

Erica See Florists Plants.

Eucalyptus See Annuals.

Euphorbia (2, 3) House plants in this huge genus are woody, sub-succulent, spiny species, E. splendens (syn. Milii) (2) and E. bojeri (2), which produce small apple-green leaves and bright scarlet flowers at intervals throughout the year. They make bushes 3 ft. through eventually. Treat as succulents, in full sun and without much water. They need some winter warmth. P., cuttings, allow to dry out for 10 days before insertion. Caution: the milky juice is poisonous.

Euphorbia pulcherrima (3), the Poinsettia, is a beautiful winter-flowering florists’ plant, grown for its handsome scarlet, cream or pink bracts and attractively shaped leaves. It needs to be kept light, warm and draught-free, and watered carefully. The Mikkelsen varieties are much tougher than most of the others. When the bracts fade, dry the plant off gradually. Keep dry until May, when cut back hard: begin watering again, and feed, or re-pot. It will reach 2-3 ft. high. P., cuttings in heat. Fatshedera lizei (1) An attractive hardy plant, a cross between Fatsia japonica and Hedera hibernica (an ivy), bearing five-pointed, ivy-like leaves, 4-10 in. across, all the way up the upright stems which will grow to several feet. It likes a cool to fairly warm, rather shady place and compost with extra peat, and will tolerate gas and oil fumes. If the leaves drop off, the top should be cut off and re-rooted; the base will sprout again and pieces of stem will also root readily. If bushy growth is preferred, pinch the growing tip. There is a slower-growing, more tender variegated form.

Fatsia japonica (syn., Aralia japonica, A. sieboldii) (1) An almost hardy plant, with dark, glossy, multi-lobed 6-16-in. Leaves, which will in time make a long trunk or can be kept bushy by pinching. Best kept cool and shady; likes fairly frequent feeding and plenty of water. There are yellow and white variegated forms. Makes an impressive specimen. Often mis-called the Castor Oil Plant. P., cuttings. Ferns (1,3) Ferns are as varied in shape as any other class of plants. It is mainly those with ‘hard’ foliage that withstand room conditions best; the delicate kinds, such as the maidenhairs (Adiantum), are less satisfactory. Ferns are moisture-lovers; they must have moisture-retaining soil, and’ preferably a damp, equable atmosphere. They hate draughts. Though they dislike strong sun, they should have some light. Some are hardy and will grow in cold rooms; others can be found to suit various temperatures. Peaty or soil-less composts are best. Drainage should be good and the soil should never be allowed to dry out, but overwatering must be avoided in winter. Re-potting should be carried out, when necessary, in spring. Feeding should be done sparingly if at all. Propagation, in rooms, is by division, which should be done with care. Details of the following suitable ferns are given in this list: Adiantum, Asplenium, Cyrtomium, Davallia, Phyllitis, Platycerium and Pteris. Blechnum gibbum, Polypodium aureum and Pellaea rotundifolia are also worth growing if available.

Ficus (2, 3) The large fig genus gives us numerous good house plants. F. elastica (2) is the well-known India Rubber Plant, with shiny ovate 6-12-in. Leaves on an upright stem. F. e. decora (2) is a better form with larger leaves held more upright, with dark-red undersides; F. e. tricolor (2) has dark and light green and yellow variegation, and F. e. schryvereana (2) is cream-patterned. These are easy plants once acclimatised, growing to a large size, preferring warm but standing cool conditions (never below 7°C. [45°F.]) and semi-shade. F. lyrata (syn., F. pandurata) (3) is similar in habit but has very large, pale green ‘waisted’ leaves, for which it is sometimes called the Fiddle-leaf Fig. Its leaves will fall if the temperature fluctuates, or the water is too cold or contains chlorine; it needs good winter warmth. F. benghalensis (3), the Banyan, has large oval leaves, covered with reddish felt, difficult to clean. F. benjamina (2) makes an attractive pendulous shrub or small tree; it has glossy 2-4-in. Leaves like those of a willow, the young ones apple-green. F. australis (2) is a shrub, with 3-in. Rounded leaves, brown underneath; there is a variegated form. F. diversifolia (2) is a rather more contorted shrub with 1—3-in. Leaves and small round fruits which are carried continuously in a warm room. F. microphylla is similar. All these shrubby species may be propagated by leaf or stem cuttings in much heat.

F. putnila (syn., F. repens) (2) is a virtually hardy climber with thin woody stems and close-set ^-in. leaves, with aerial rootlets which cling to any rough surface in a moist atmosphere, though it can be grown as a trailer. It grows rapidly and needs water all the time, regular feeding and shade. There are a variegated and a miniature form. F. radicans (2) and its silver-variegated form have rather larger leaves and are a little more choosy. They are suitable for bottle gardens.

Peatv compost containing some sand should be used for all ficuses but potting into too large a pot easily leads to overwatering and failure. On the other hand, the plants should never be allowed to dry right out, especially F. benjamina. Young leaves should be protected from sun.

F. elastica varieties may grow enormous. Air layering will re-root the top and new growth will follow below; or the plants can simply be cut back in April. P., otherwise by stem cuttings in much heat.

Fiddle-leaf Fig See Ficus lyrata.

Fishbone Plant See Maranta leuconeura massangeana.

Fittonia (4) Pretty, low-growing plants with 2-4-in. Oval leaves which have either white veins (F. argyroneura) or red (F. verschaffel-tii). Difficult except in an indoor greenhouse or bottle garden, needing warmth and humidity, shade, and careful watering. Draughts mean death. P., cuttings in heat.

Flamingo Flower See Anthurium scherzerianum.

Florists’ Plants

Under this heading come the following plants which are sold when in flower, and which are usually much best treated as ‘expendable’, and discarded when the flowers are over, especially as many are ugly when out of bloom. Of these Azalea, Cyclamen and Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia) are dealt with in the List. Astilbe (Spiraea) and Hydrangea can be put in the garden after flowering. Calceolaria, Cineraria, Erica and Solanum are best discarded unless a greenhouse is available. Coleus, Cytisus canariensis and Primula obconica may survive a long time; Fuchsia needs a winter rest, almost dry. Gloxinia, Gesneria and Smithiantlia are very showy warm greenhouse plants which must have heat and humidity: they may not live long. For Kalanchoe blossfeldiana and Crassula (Rochea) coccinea, see Succulents.

These plants have all been grown in greenhouses in conditions vastly different from those of the room that they will go to. Many of them are winter flowering, and may suffer a death-dealing check between leaving the greenhouse and being bought by the customer – before in fact the customer has any control over the plant. The remarks on acclimatisation are therefore to be taken even more strongly than with permanent plants, and if winter-flowering, the earlier they can be bought in autumn the better.

Most of these plants prefer fairly cool, airy conditions, as they need a lot of air humidity, and – in particular those needing some warmth – will benefit by frequent syringing and being stood above water. None of them like full sunshine, but they do need light.

Friendship Plant See Pilea.

Fuchsia See Florists’ Plants.

Genista See Florists’ Plants.

Geranium See Pelargonium.

Gesneria and Gloxinia See Florists’ Plants.

Grape Ivy See Rhoicissus rhomboidea.

Grevillea robusta (2) The Silk Oak is really a tree with 9-12-in., finely cut, fern-like silvery leaves. Young plants raised from seeds are grown indoors, where they will soon make big specimens. It likes cool, fairly light conditions and ample summer waterings; it will drop leaves if allowed to dry out. If this happens, the top should be cut off and rooted in slight heat. Otherwise propagate by seed.

Guzmania (2) A large genus of bromeliads, very brilliantly coloured in the centre when in flower, and forming spreading rosettes. Cultivation, see Bromeliads. Hare’s-foot Fern See Davallia canariensis.

Hart’s-tongue Fern See Phyllitis scolopendrium.

Hearts Entangled See Ceropegia woodii.

Heaths See Erica under Florists’ Plants.

Hedera (2) The ivies are adaptable, house plants, available in a very wide range of leaf shapes, sizes and variegations. Most are climbers, which may be used as trailers, and a few have stiff, compact growth (e.g. H. helix conglomerate!). Most ivies produce long single ‘trails’, but there are self-branching sorts such as Adam, Chicago, Green Ripple, Heisse, Little Diamond and Lutzii, which % make bushier plants. In warm rooms it is perhaps better to use H. canariensis and its varieties, rather than the British H. helix and its forms, which are very hardy and should be kept cool -below 10-°C. (50°F.) in winter. All need to be moist both at the roots and over the foliage -dry air is their worst enemy, plus red spider. A, good spraying once a week is beneficial. Keep on the dry side in winter. They prefer a certain amount of shade but the variegated forms need some light, especially that of H. canariensis. P., tip cuttings; will root in water.

Helxine soleirolii (1) Mind-your-own-business or Baby’s Tears makes trailing stems, clothed with tiny pale green or gold leaves. It should always be kept moist, preferably by standing the pot in a saucer of water; water is best kept off the foliage. It is wisest to keep it to itself, for it will root into other pots very readily and may become a nuisance. It is nearly hardy and will grow anywhere, but hates dry air. P., division.

Hibiscus (4) Though the exotic H. rosa-sinensis could be grown in a warm indoor greenhouse, it would take a lot of room. The variety cooperi is sometimes sold as a foliage plant, for its narrow leaves are variegated with white, pink, red and dark green. In an ordinary room it can only be regarded as temporary. P., cuttings in heat.

Holly Fern See Cyrtomium falcatum.

House Lime See Sparmannia.

Howea See Kentia.

Hoya (1) Plants with thick, glossy, dark, oval 1—3-in. Leaves, which will stand cool conditions and flower in warm, moist ones. The flowers are small, scented, wax-like (hence the name Wax Flower) and in clusters. The leaves, which are sometimes white-spotted, are quite decorative alone. Though the plants are naturally climbers with small aerial roots, the stems are strong enough to make a bushy effect on small specimens. They prefer semi-shade, compost with additional peat, plenty of water, good drainage, and must not be potted into too large a pot. Keep at 10-°C. (50°F.) in winter. If flowers are produced give less water. Do not cut off old flower stems, as new flowering growths are produced there. H. carnosa and the larger H. australis are the easiest to grow. H. carnosa has a variegated form. H. bella is dwarf and pendulous, has prettier flowers and needs more heat. P., cuttings in heat.

Hydrangea hortensis See Florists’ Plants.

Hypocyrta (2) Plants related to Columnea and needing the same cultivation, with thick, glossy leaves and pouch-shaped flowers, red in H. nummularia, orange-yellow in H. glabra, the Clog Plant. The latter has dark foliage and will stand cool conditions, especially if kept fairly dry. P., cuttings in heat.

Impatiens (2) The Busy Lizzies I. holstii, I. Sultanii and hybrids — are fleshy-stemmed plants, 1-2 ft. high, which produce I^-in. Pink, red or white flowers continuously in rather warm, moist conditions. There are also 6-in. Dwarf strains. J. petersiana is a very striking plant with deep red-purple foliage and bright red flowers; it grows taller and is a little more difficult to manage. All these plants are easily grown in summer, when they should be watered and fed very freely, but tend to become leggy and damp off in winter, when they must be kept warm, very light and rather dry. Pinch back for bushiness. Cuttings strike very easily, even in water, and a stock should be rooted in early autumn to provide good plants by next spring. Seed sown in heat also produces flowering plants quickly.

India Rubber Plant See Ficus elastica.

Ipomoea (Morning Glory) See Annuals.

Ivy See the reference to Hedera.

Jasminum (2) J. polyanthum is sometimes sold as a pot plant for its deliciously-scented white flowers and graceful foliage. Though easy enough to keep alive it is difficult to bring it into flower again without a greenhouse or conservatory. It is nearly hardy and must be kept cool and airy. P., cuttings. Kaffir Lily See Clivia. Kalanchoe See Succulents. Kangaroo Vine See Cissns antarctica. Kentia (syn., Howea) (1) Palms of the easiest cultivation with flat, slender, hanging leaves up to 4 ft. long. K. forsteriana is quick growing; K. belmoreana is slower, but hardier and more attractive. Both reach a considerable height. Cultivation, see Palms.

Lemon See Citrus.

Maidenhair Fern See Adiantum.

Maranta (3) Pretty, low-growing plants; the commonly grown M. leuconeura kerchoveana has oblong, 6-in. Apple-green leaves with two rows of diamond-shaped markings, which are purple on young leaves and go brown later. The leaves close together at night, which gives it the name Prayer Plant. The variety M. I. Massangeatia has regular white veins on a dark green background, and is known as the Fishbone Plant. A newer variety is M. I. Erythrophylla or tricolor, with large yellowish-green leaves, which have dark red veins and deep green blotches. Marantas need heat and moist air, but will acclimatise to cooler conditions if kept in a constant atmosphere out of draughts. Several other species are well worth growing. They are all admirable for bottle gardens. See Calathea for cultivation and other species. Maurandya See Annuals.

Mind-your-own-business See under Helxine soleirolii.

Monstera deliciosa (2) A striking plant with large, perforated, heart-shaped leaves and long, thick aerial roots, which soon becomes very large. Unfortunately, though it will grow well in a shady, quite cool room, it needs a free root-run if it is to produce well perforated leaves. Even in a large pot the leaves are often plain or have only one or two holes or cuts. Really old, well-grown plants have double or triple rows of holes in leaves up to 18 in. wide, but the ones in commerce usually only have one set of holes and are about 9 in. wide. The faster-climbing immature form, with large heart-shaped leaves and few holes, is some-times called Philodendron pertusum. Use compost with additional peat and feed well. Allow nearly to dry out between waterings. Keep out of draughts and fluctuating temperatures or the leaves go brown. If the plant grows leggy, cut off the top and root it in much heat, or carry out air layering. The plant will stand cutting back hard if it grows too tall. Sometimes called the Swiss Cheese Plant. P., cuttings (top of shoot with a mature leaf). Mother-in-law’s Tongue See Sansevieria.

Mother of Thousands See under Saxifraga sarmentosa.

Natal Vine See Rhoicissus.

Neanthe elegans (syn., N. bella, Chamaedorea elegans; the latest name is Collinia elegans) (1) A miniature palm, eventually up to 3 ft., with graceful foliage 1-2 ft. long, but usually much smaller, which is easy to grow in almost any conditions. Useful as a contrast in bottle gardens, it needs little feeding, and will stand dry air and fumes. Cultivation, see Palms.

Neoregelia (2) A large genus of bromeliads, many of them, such as N. spectabilis, with brightly coloured tips to the leaves, which earn them the name Painted Fingernail Plants. The best known is N. carolinae tricolor, with a large, flat rosette striped with cream and pink. Cultivation, see Bromeliads.

Nephthytis See Syngonium.

Nidularium (2) Attractive bromeliads with low. Soreadiner ‘leaf-vase’ rosettes which are red around the centre when the flowers are produced there. N. fulgens and N. rutilans have 12-in. Mottled leaves, 2 in. broad; N. innocentii has 8-in. By 2-in. Leaves, reddish purple below. Cultivation, see Bromeliads.

Norfolk Island Pine See Araucaria excelsa.

Oplismenus hirtellus (syn., Panicum varie-gatum) (2) A grass with 1-3 in. flat leaves pointed at each end. In the variety albidus they are white with a green midrib; in the variety variegatus they are striped white and pink. They need some warmth, lots of water, will tolerate a certain amount of shade but need light in winter. Good for edgings; renew fairly often to maintain a good appearance. P., cuttings, very easy.

Orange See Citrus.

Orchid Cacti See Epiphyllum.

Painted Fingernail Plant See Neoregelia.


Many palms are well adapted to cultivation indoors, having stiff, tough foliage, and do not grow too large if kept in large pots or tubs. They prefer damp air; if the air is dry or the plants are in draughts, the leaf tips will go brown. The leaves should be sponged regularly. They will stand sun, but are best in indirect light. They need adequate water in summer, little in winter, and may remain in the same containers till quite pot-bound; they should be fed in summer and topdressed annually. A good potting mixture contains 3 parts of fibrous loam, 1 part of leafmould, 1 part of cow manure, 1 part of coarse sand; a little bonemeal may be added. Potting should be very firm. Propagation is usually from seed, which germinates readily in moist heat; also by division or suckers. Details of the following palms are given in this List: Cocos, Kentia (Howea), Phoenix, and the most attractive for rooms, Neanthe.

Pandanus (2) The screw pines — palm-like plants with long, narrow, very spiny, recurving leaves arranged in a spiral. In P. utilis the spines are reddish; in P. veitchii the leaves have white stripes. Need light and fair winter warmth, free summer watering and occasional spraying. They like compost with additional peat and can remain in the same smallish pot for several years. At first making a rosette, they eventually reach a considerable height with corkscrew-marked trunks. P., suckers in some heat.

Panicum See Oplismenus.

Passiflora See under Annuals.

Peacock Plant See Calathea makoyana.

Pelargonium (2)

The familiar zonal and semi-pendulous ivy-leaved ‘geraniums’ so much used for summer bedding will flower in a well-lit window. Some zonal varieties have strikingly coloured leaves. If prevented from flowering in summer, they will do so in autumn and winter. The beautiful regal pelargoniums need warmer conditions, and flower for a short season only. None of these types seem to fit in very well with most house plants – the scented-leaved kinds are the most suitable. These are smaller shrubby plants, many having delicately-shaped and variegated leaves with a variety of delicious scents when touched, and small but attractive white, pink or purple flowers. All pelargoniums must have full sunlight or they become very leggy.

All types need some feeding and copious summer watering, and winter rest in cool but frost-free conditions. In early spring they may be re-potted and also cut back if desired. Zonals, especially, are best raised afresh each year to have nice-looking plants. Cuttings root readily in sandy loam, kept moderately moist; take them in spring or August if possible. The scented-leaved kinds need only smallish pots; the others fairly large ones.

Pellionia (3) P. daveauana has grey-green leaves edged with dark olive green; P. pulchra has attractive veining. They are useful as colour contrasts, and being low, creeping plants, can be striking hanging over the edge of a white container. They need compost with extra peat and a warm, even temperature, avoiding dry or stuffy air. P., cuttings in heat.

Peperomia (3) A huge genus of low-growing, bushy, often fleshy plants; most have attrac-tively patterned leaves (usually 2-3 in. long) and many have pink or red stems. Flowers may be produced in warm, moist conditions — they usually look like rats’ tails – but the plants will acclimatise to cooler conditions so long as they are kept out of draughts and not watered with very cold water, or overwatered in winter. Nor must they be hot and dry. They need light but not strong sun. P. magnoliae-folia has cream and pale green leaves; P. obtusifolia has large, fleshy purple-margined leaves; P. caperata has small corrugated leaves and white flowers; P. glabella is trailing, with dark green leaves; P. scandens is similar, but white-marked, and creeps or climbs; P. hederaefolia has greyish markings. P. sandersii (syn., P. argyreia) is the most decorative, with silver crescents on 4—5-in. Round leaves; it is a little more difficult than most. P. nummularifolia and P. microphylla have small leaves on trailing stems. There are numerous other species which are sometimes available. Re-pot seldom but feed occasionally. Useful for bottle gardens. P., leaf or stem cuttings in heat.

Philodendron (1,3)

This is one of the most important house plant genera, and the number of species in cultivation increases steadily. Many are vigorous climbers with aerial roots; thus they can be grown up mossy branches or wire cylinders filled with moss. The leaves are glossy, leathery, and in a wide variety of shapes. They are quick growing and mainly tolerant of quite difficult conditions, though they prefer warmth and humidity. They like shade, dislike draughts, and need compost with extra peat, and summer feeding. Do not pot them into too large a pot.

The commonest climbing species grown is P. scandens (1). the Sweetheart Vine, with heart-shaped 2-6-in. Leaves. P. erubescens (1) has long-oval to arrow-head 7-12 in. leaves. Burgundy (3) is a striking hybrid with shining blackish-green leaves and red stems. P. hastatum(1) has 7-in. Spear-head leaves and makes a fine specimen. P. oxycardium (1) has narrower 9—12-in. Leaves. P. laciniatum (1) is deeply notched in a grotesque manner. P. radiatum (1) is similar but more regular, and P. elegans (1) has very deeply cut leaves. P. panduriforme (bipennifolium) (1) has 6-9-in., 5-lobed leaves of indescribable shape; while P. leichtlinii (3) has 9—12-in. Oblong leaves, very much perforated like Monsteray but paler and of much thinner texture. It is more difficult than the other species, as are P. andreanum (3) and P. melanochrysum (3), which are velvety, and with rosy young foliage.

Then there is a group of non-climbers, which radiate leaves from a central crown at ground level, including the deeply indented P. selloum, P. pinnatifidum and P. bipinnati-fidum (the last is a very tolerant plant, and the only one usually grown), all with leaves up to 12-24 in. long, and the plain-margined P. wendlandii, with narrow 12-24 m- leaves and curious swollen leaf-stalks. P. pertusum is the juvenile form of Monstera deliciosa. P., layering, or cuttings (including plant tops) in much heat; non-climbers from seed in moderate heat.

Phoenix (2) Phoenix dactylifera is the Date Palm, which has narrow, elegant, bluish 8-16-in. Leaves. It will stand quite cool, airy conditions, as will P. canariensis, which has very long green foliage and makes a massive crown. P. rupicola is normally grown; it has a rare variegated form. These all reach a con-siderable height. P. roebelinii is dwarf, only reaching 5 ft. at most, and is more graceful, but needs warmer conditions.

Date stones can be grown; place one in a pot of peaty, sandy compost, cover with a piece of glass or a jar, and keep damp and as warm as possible till germination occurs. Keep the seedling warm until it is well developed. It takes some time to look anything like a palm! Cultivation, see Palms.

Phyllitis scolopendrium (syn., Scolopend-rium vulgar e) (1) The Hart’s-tongue Fern, with glossy strap-shaped 6-18-in. Fronds, and its numerous varieties, with crisped or wavy edges and ends cut or feathered in many ways, are excellent and attractive plants in cool or cold rooms in shade. They are quite hardy. Cultivation, see Ferns. Pick-a-back Plant See Tolmiea menziesii.

Pilea (2) P. cadierei is an attractive plant with 2-4-in. Oval leaves embossed with regular aluminium markings. In America it is aptly called the Aluminium Plant. For some obscure reason it is also known as the Friendship Plant. There is a dwarf form which is useful in bottle gardens and needs little stopping to make it bushy. P. involucrata has roundish ‘gilded’ leaves in copper and silver. P. Bronze, or Silver Tree, appears to be a distinct species, with rounder, larger leaves, pale bronze with a central silver band. It also is a valuable bottle plant. Bushy, with erect stems, all these plants prefer rather warm, moist, shady conditions, plenty of water and feeding. Dryness and draughts make them lose leaves. P. cadierei will acclimatise to cool conditions. P. nummularifolia is a hanging plant with f-in. Round leaves. P., cuttings, easy. Platycerium (2) The stag’s-horn ferns are bizarre and striking plants. They are epiphytes, with large, rounded fronds which clasp the tree-trunk on which they grow. The fertile fronds are like flattened antlers up to 2 ft. long, of an attractive grey-green. P. bifurcatum is the usual species grown; the very similar P. alcicorne is also in commerce. These are best grown either on a flat pan or on top of a basket containing peat and leafmould, which the clasping fronds can envelop; or on a mass of osmunda fibre wired to a wood block. Water freely whenever the fronds begin to droop. Do not let water remain on the fronds or lodge in the centre. It is advisable to buy a reasonably large, well-hardened specimen, which will stand quite low winter temperatures (minimum 4°C. [40°F.]), though it prefers some warmth. It likes good light, but not sun, and very free-draining peaty compost ; seldom re-pot; do not spray leaves.

Plectranthus (2) Easy plants with fleshy, heart-shaped, notched 2—3-in. Leaves with marked veins and sprawling brittle stems. P. fruticosus has green, shiny leaves; P. oertendahlii has downy leaves, dark purple beneath. They need cool, light, airy conditions and compost with extra peat. P., cuttings in heat, easy.

Poinsettia See Euphorbia pulcherrima.

Pothos See Scindapsus.

Prayer Plant See Maranta leuconeura kerchoveana.

Primula See Florists’ Plants.

Pteris (1) Very easy ferns which will stand hard treatment, characterised by pale green, ribbon-like, forking fronds. The usual species grown is P. cretica, which reaches 9—12 in.; P. multifida (syn., serrulata) is similar but larger. P. ensiformis and P. biaurita (syn., quadriaurita) are also quite good indoors. There are many varieties which may have wavy, much-divided or feathered fronds, and some with white or grey lines on the fronds. P. biaurita tricolor has reddish fronds with silver lines. I find the small specimens of P. cretica so often seen in shops rather ugly, but a well-grown specimen, particularly of a striped variety, is quite effective. Water freely. Cultivation, see Ferns.

Rhipsalidopsis (1) R. gaertneri is the current name for the Easter Cactus, originally called Schlumbergera gaertneri. It is a compact pen-dulous plant with bright red flowers. Cultivation, as for Schlumbergera.

Rhodochiton See the reference to Annuals.

Rhoeo discolor (syn., R. spathacea, Trade-scantia discolor) (3) An attractive plant with rosettes of narrow leaves up to 12 in. long, tapering at each end, rich purple below, which may be variegated with cream and purple above, carried on a short trunk-like stem and giving the appearance of a miniature palm. Flowers are borne at the base in curious boat-shaped bracts. It needs to be carefully acclimatised, liking equable warmth, plenty of water, compost with extra peat, occasional spraying, and shade from sun. P., cuttings.

Rhoicissus rhomboidea (1) The Grape Ivy or Natal Vine, a tendril climber related to the grape vine, with small, dark green, glossy 1 -in. leaflets borne in threes. The young shoots are silvery. An easy plant which grows fast and may be grown as a bush, needing cool, airy summer conditions and some warmth in winter. Likes adequate watering and feeding. P., cuttings of fairly old growth, which will root in water, but layering is best.

Rochea See Crassula under Succulents.

Saintpaulia (3) The African Violet is the house plant of America, and it is becoming quite popular elsewhere. It is a pretty little plant with hairy, dark green, oval 1-2-in. Leaves radiating from a central crown. There are now hundreds of varieties of S. ionantha and other species in which the (ideally) almost continuously produced flowers may be blue, mauve, violet, pink or white, single or double, and the leaves may be mottled or can be variously shaped.

It is, however, a plant for the typical American room, needing a very warm (13°C. [55°F.] at night, i8-21°C. [65-70^.] by day) and moist atmosphere, and in inadequately heated rooms it is often a dismal failure. It hates draughts, gas, cold water and changes of atmosphere, and succeeds best in an indoor greenhouse. It should be kept out of sun, but needs ample light; growers have fluorescent lighting, often kept on for 12 or 14 hours at a time. The compost should have extra peat, and summer feeding is desirable. Water moderately from below, always with caution, with room-temperature water. Rotting may follow overwatering or any damage. Place the pots if possible in or above a layer of moist peat, or above pebbles with water below. Plastic pots are ideal. P., division; leaf cuttings in peat or water.

Sansevieria (2) The usual species seen is S. trifasciata. This odd plant makes clumps of long, twisting, sword-shaped, mottled leaves rising vertically from the ground. The variety laurentii is most commonly grown: it is bigger, rising to 3—4 ft., and is margined with yellow. It is sometimes called Snake Plant or Bowstring Hemp, or Mother-in-law’s Tongue. It is a sub-succulent desert plant which will stand shade, but prefers sun; a heavy compost is usually recommended but it grows well in soil-less compost; the plant can be allowed to become pot-bound, and should always be watered sparingly, especially in winter, when it needs some warmth. Overwatering is the usual cause of failure; otherwise it is an easy plant. There are other species, including some with cylindrical leaves and some forming rosettes, like the stocky S. hahni, which also has a variegated form. P., division; or cuttings, first dried and struck in sand, but these will not reproduce the yellow edges in laurentii.

Saxifraga stolonifera (syn., S. sarmentosa) (1) A plant of many names, including Mother of Thousands. It has reddish, hairy, marbled leaves, and produces quantities of runners in the same way as a strawberry. A fine array of young plants will soon hang down if the pot is suitably placed. It produces a mass of small pink flowers on long stems in summer. It is hardy and needs cool conditions, a light but not sunny position, and must be kept very moist and fed in summer. The more delicate form. S. tricolor, is attractivelv marked with red and cream variegation. P., runners, easy.

Schefflera (2) A quick-growing, upright shrub related to Fatsia, S. actinophylla is a recent introduction with large leathery, glossy, oblong leaflets, each on a distinct stalk and radiating from a central point – hence the name Umbrella Tree. A big plant makes an excellent individual specimen. It prefers shade and a moderately moist atmosphere, and will grow in standard compost. The soil should be allowed partly to dry out before being thoroughly soaked. Re-pot annually. There is a variegated form. P., cuttings.

Schlumbergera (1) The proper name for the Christmas Cactus usually referred to as Zygocactus. S. buckleyi and S. truncata have 1-2-in. Flat, notched, leaf-like segments, join-ted together and forking occasionally. The growth is short and pendulous, and they may be grown in a basket. In winter they produce multi-petalled flowers up to 3 in. long and 1 in. across, usually cerise or magenta, but other colour forms exist. They need feeding in summer and watering all the time, though after flowering watering may be restricted for some weeks. In winter they appreciate some warmth, which should be constant; fluctuating temperatures, draughts or drying out will cause any buds to drop. The Easter Cactus is now Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri. P., cuttings of 2-3 segments, easy.

Scindapsus (syn., Pothos) (1) S. aureus is very similar to a Philodendron scandens in which the leaves are streaked unevenly with a rather virulent yellow. Golden Queen is similar but more attractive; Marble Queen is cream-variegated and a better form. Silver Queen is almost entirely white. S. pictus argyraeus is a very attractive plant with silvery markings on thicker, also heart-shaped 4-6-in. Leaves. They are all vigorous climbers. Cultivation, as for Philodendron.

Scolopendrium vulgare See Phyllitis scolopendrium.

Selaginella (2) These are small plants, upright or sometimes trailing, half-way between a moss and a fern, which succeed in shady, moist conditions in small pots of peaty compost, or are admirable in bottle gardens. They are usually bright green, sometimes bluish or golden. S. apoda or apus, S. martensii and S. kraussiana are among the many species. P., cuttings, division, in warm, close conditions.

Setcreasea (2) S. striata is very like Zebrina pendula in shape, but the leaves are pale green with fine parallel white lines. S. purpurea, or Purple Heart, has narrow, elongated leaves of rosy purple, and a tendency to sprawl. They are not as easy as Zebrina, needing more warmth, and must have good light or they will become spindly. Good light and fairly dry soil also encourage good purple colour in S. purpurea. P., cuttings, easy.

Shrimp Plant See Beloperone guttata.

Silk Oak See Grevillea robusta.

Smilax See Asparagus asparagoides.

Smithiantha See Florists’ Plants.

Snake Plant See Sansevieria trifasciata.

Solanum See Florists’ Plants.

Sparmannia africana (2) This attractive shrub produces pale green, hairy, heart-shaped leaves. It is related to the lime, and is sometimes called House Lime. It will make a very big specimen if allowed to, or may be cut back severely as desired. The leaves will become quite large – up to 8 in. across in ideal conditions. It needs good light but not bright sun, a great deal of water at all times, and prefers frequent re-potting. It will stand a minimum winter temperature of 7°C. (45°F.). It is sensitive to draughts, dry air, and the soil drying out, when its leaves will go yellow and fall. In a warm, moist atmosphere the white flowers may be produced. P., cuttings in slight heat, easy; will root in water. Spathiphyllum (2) Arum relations with flowers like a miniature elongated Jack-in-the-pulpit, similar to Anthurium, and needing similar treatment, though rather less fussy but not very attractive out of flower. S. wallisii had 6-in. White flowers and dark, narrow 6-in. Leaves. There are other species. Flowers last for several weeks. Re-pot, feed and divide often. Spider Plant See Chtorophytum. Spiraea See Astilbe under Florists’ Plants. SquirrePs-foot Fern See Davallia bullata.

Stag’s-horn Fern See Platycerium.


Most make excellent room plants provided they are given maximum sunlight, and hence can only be kept satisfactorily in a south window, where they should be placed as near to the glass as possible.

Most thrive in dry air, and dislike stuffy, damp conditions. Watering can, in general, be free in summer, but it is always best to err on the dry side or rotting may follow, especially in poor light conditions. In winter the soil should be kept from drying out, no more. A number of small plants can be grown together in shallow pans or bowls, and watering can then be reduced to prevent excessive growth. A winter temperature of 10-°C (50°F.) is ample, with a minimum of 4°C. (40°F.). Frost protec-tion is necessary; if the room is cold a few sheets of newspaper between plants and window will suffice. Do not draw the curtains so as to leave plants between them and the window on cold nights. Avoid draughts.

The soil may be 4 parts of John Innes Potting Compost No. 1 with 1 part of coarse sand and crushed brick and/or vermiculite. Drainage must always be very good. Repotting should be done when necessary; many of these plants grow quickly. Most are readily propagated from offsets or cuttings, which should be well dried before inserting in coarse sand.

Cacti are almost all spiny, though Epi-phyllum and Schlumbergera are barely so. These have showy flowers and prefer peaty compost, moist air and less sun than most other cacti. Cephalocereus, Cereus, Chamae-cereus, Echinocereus, Echinopsis, Ferocactus and Opuntia make fairly big specimens which mix reasonably well with other house plants, but they take time to attain any size. Astro-phytum, Lobivia, Mammillaria and Parodia are attractive-looking plants which never become very big.

Of other succulents, species of the follow-ing are particularly suitable for rooms, as they make fair-sized, decorative plants quite quickly, and fit in with other house plants: Agave, Aloe, Ceropegia, Crassula, Euphorbia, Kalanchoe and Rochea. Other genera with suitable species are Aeonium, Cotyledon, Echeveria, Gasteria, Haworthia, Pachyphytum, Sedum and Stapelia, and the free-flowering shrubby mesembryanthemums (Lampranthus).

Sweetheart Vine See Philodendron scandens.

Swiss Cheese Plant See Monstera deliciosa.

Syngonium (1) Quick-growing climbers related to Philodendron, with 3—7-lobed arrow-headed, leathery, dark green 6-8-in. Leaves, which give the plants the name Goose Foot. Cultivation, as for Philodendron. If grown without a climbing support the plants make short-jointed growth, but they are most effective trained over a wire cylinder filled with moss, or on cork bark kept moist, which encourages their prolific aerial roots. S. podophyllum and S. vellozianwn are commonly grown. There is a variegated form of the first which is often called Nephthytis Emerald Gem in the house plant trade.

Tetrastigma (3) T. (or Vitis) voinerianum is a rampant tendril climber with 5-lobed, notched leaves, glossy above, brown-felted below, in shape and size like those of a horse chestnut, hence the name Chestnut Vine. The young growths are covered with silvery down. In constant atmospheric conditions growth is rapid. The plant is brittle, and draughts, careless handling and, in particular, over-watering will cause the leaves and stem sections to drop, though it usually grows again from the part left. In Scandinavia, this propensity has earned it the name Lizard Plant! Keep out of full sun. Compost with extra peat and large pots are necessary, and also frequent feeding in summer; keep almost entirely dry in winter. P., cuttings in bottom heat, difficult.

Thunbergia See Annuals

Tillandsia (2) One of the largest genera of bromeliads, very variable in shape – T. usneoides, the Spanish Moss, has no roots and can grow on telegraph-poles, obtaining moisture from the air. T. lindeniana or lindeni is sometimes obtainable: it has an arching rosette of narrow, pointed, 15-in. Leaves, purple at the base. Many hybrids have been raised, and most tillandsias are worth growing. Cultivation, see Bromeliads.

Tolmiea menziesii (1) A low-growing hardy plant making a spreading clump of light green, heart-shaped, hairy, notched 2-in. Leaves on long stems, whose main interest lies in the young plants produced on the lower leaves which in nature root as they touch the soil. They give it the common and apt name of Pick-a-back Plant. It is very easy to cultivate, needing some shade and lots of water. P., rooting leaf-buds, even in water.

Tradescantia (1-3) Species grown indoors are mainly creeping plants, often called Wandering Jew, with fleshy stems with a leaf at each joint. T. fluminensis (1) is a very common plant; it is naturally a glossy, dark green, but there are more attractive forms with white, pink or yellow striping on the I-J-in. Leaves. Its stems will grow several feet long. There are a number of similar species which have given rise to special forms like the large silver-striped Quick Silver (2) and the small white-streaked Silver (1). T. blossfeldiana (1) is hairy on the thicker stems and the purple undersides of the larger leaves. T. reginae (3) is a handsome, erect plant with 6-in. Leaves with dark green banding on pale green, purple below: it needs warmth and humidity. T. sillamontana (3) is a very beautiful but unfortunately temperamental plant entirely covered in silvery felt. Any other greenhouse species are worth growing. All root very readily at the joints on contact with the soil, and can be rooted in water, and young plants of T. fluminensis in particular should be periodically rooted as the parents become too leggy. They are all excellent in baskets and trailing over container edges; they will stand cold but grow better in warmth. Dry air causes the lower leaves to shrivel. See also Setcreasea and

Zebrina. Trichosporum See Aeschynanthus.

Tropaeolum See Annuals.

Umbrella Plant See Cyperus.

Umbrella Tree See Schejflera.

Vriesia (2) A numerous genus of bromeliads, making large rosettes of sculptural appearance. V. splendens is often obtainable and has 15-in. Leaves, z\ in. wide, with brownish banding and a long, narrow ‘tongue’ of scarlet-bracted yellow flowers. V. hieroglyph-ica and V. tesselata are bigger, fascinating plants. Cultivation, see Brotneliads.

Wandering Jew See Tradescantia and Zebrina.

Wax-flower See Hoya.

Winter Cherry See Solomon under Florists’ Plants.

Zebrina pendula (1) A close relation of Tradescantia and often confused with it (also known as T. zebrina), needing identical cultivation. It has 2-3-in. Leaves of glossy green with two bands of silver which sparkle metallically. The undersides are purple and if the plant is kept on the dry side the colouring becomes very rich. There is an unusual variegated form which is very colourful, with cream and reddish streaks added to the silver, but it is quite difficult to grow.

Zygocactus See Schlumbergera.


Easy plants Aspidistra, most Cacti, Chlorophytum, Cissus antorctico, Clivia, Cyrtomium, Fatshedera, Hoya, Palms, Pteris, Rhoicissus, many Succulents, Tolmiea, Tradescantia, Zebrina. Other plants for average rooms Acorus, Asparagus, Asplenium, Bromeliads, Carex, Cyperus, Epiphyllum, Fatsia, Ficus, Hedera, Impatiens, most Philodendrons, Platycerium, Plectranthus, Sansevieria, Soxifrogo sarmentosa, Schefflera, Scindapsus, Schlumbergera, Syngonium. Plants for central heating Aglaonema, Anthurium, Aspidistra, Begonia, Bromeliads, Cacti, Chlorophytum, Clivia, Cordyline, Cyrtomium, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Epiphyllum, Fatshedera, Ficus, Hoya, Palms, Pandanus, Philodendron, Sansevieria, Scindapsus, Schlumbergera, most Succulents, Syngonium, Tradescantia, Zebrina.

Plants to stand shade Acorus, Aglaonema, Anthurium, Aspidistra, Begonia, Bromeliads”, Calathea, Carex, Clivia, Codiaeum, Cordyline, Cyperus, Dieffenbachia, Dracaena, Fatshedera, Fatsia, Ferns, Ficus, Fittonia, Hedera (plain-leaved vars.), Hoya, Maranta, Monstera, Palms, Philodendron, Rhoicissus, Sansevieria, Schefflera, Scindapsus, Schlumbergera, Spathiphyllum, Syngonium, Tradescantia, Zebrina. Plants for cool rooms (but keep out frost) Acorus, Ampelopsis, Araucaria, Asparagus, Asplenium, many Cacti, Chlorophytum, Cissus antarctica, Citrus, Cyrtomium, Fatshedera, Fatsia, Grevillea, Hedera, Helxine, Jasminum, most Palms, Phyllitis, Pteris, Saxifraga sarmentosa, Schefflera, some Succulents, Tolmiea, Tradescantia, Zebrina.

Plants which will stand gas fires and similar fumes Aglaonema, Anthurium, Aspidistra, Bromeliads, Cacti, Chlorophytum, Clivia, Cyrtomium, Epiphyllum, Ficus, Hoya, Monstera, Palms,

Peperomias, most Philodendrons, Platycerium, Sansevieria, Schefflera, Scindapsus, some Succulents, Syngonium, Tolmiea, Tradescantia, Zebrina. Plants for bottle gardens Acorus, Aglaonema, Begonia rex, Bromeliads especially Cryptanthus, Calathea, Cocos weddeliana, Cordyline, Dracaena, Ferns, Maranta, Oplismenus, Pellionia, Peperomia, Pilea, Selaginella.

Permanent plants which flower Aechmea, Aeschynanthus, Anthurium, Aphelandra, some Begonias, Beloperone, Billbergia, Citrus, Clivia, Columnea, Epiphyllum, succulent Euphorbias, Hypocyrta, Impatiens, Jasminum, Rhipsalidopsis, Saintpaulia, Schlumbergera, Spathiphyllum, Vriesia.

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