Indoor Foliage Plants

Indoor Foliage Plants

It is worth bearing in mind when choosing indoor foliage plants, that when plant-growing in the home was first attempted, the plants used were the ones grown for the beauty of their leaves, the aspidistra, the tradescantias and the ferns. For a long time, the image conjured up by the word houseplant was of a green, leafy plant. Then, house-plants came to include those that flowered – short-term plants that could be kept for a few weeks only and then died-climbing plants, cacti and many others. In fact, it became apparent that a great many plants which had been thought to thrive only in the well-lit conditions of a greenhouse were quite happy in the home, provided their needs were reasonably well met.

If you live in a home which is on the dark side, perhaps a basement flat or an old house with tiny windows, or a house getting little sun because of trees, don’t think you will not be able to grow indoor plants. You can, very successfully, but you will do best to concentrate on indoor foliage plants foliage plants, and you will find that they can be extremely ornamental, and can be grown in practically any situation. They have the great advantage of being much hardier and more able to put up with conditions not tolerated by other plant groups. If neglected, they will just tick over until you remember them again, and rarely do they turn up their toes and die. Many will grow much better and be a deeper green if kept slightly shaded.

Since light is one of the two major limiting factors the other being warmth) to growing plants in the home, as opposed to a greenhouse, your choice of foliage plants will be far greater than that of other groups more dependent on these factors. There is a wide variety of form. Some may be bushy and spreading like the Fatsia, Aspidistra, Pilea or Maranta, while others are tall and sometimes narrow, such as Grevillia, the rubber plant, Dizygotheca, or Cyperus and the umbrella plant.

The climbing and twining kinds are good plants for dark places. Their habit of growth has been developed to make them grow upwards, either to reach light from a dark beginning, or because there is no room for them at ground level. They can only survive by getting out of the way of the crowd, and growing up and round tree trunks. The ivies, the sweetheart vine, the sweetheart vine grape ivy and the kangaroo vine are all climbers, and are easy to grow.

Finally, there are the trailers-wandering jew (Tradescantia and Zebrina), mother of thousands (Saxifraga stolonifera), ivy, which looks just as pretty cascading down as growing up, hearts-entangled (Cerapegia woodii) and X Fatshedera lizei, to mention just a few.

The foliage plants offer a great variety of leaf shapes. Take Dizygotheca, with its extraordinary toothed, narrow leaves, elegantly poised in mid air on delicate stems; the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), whose enormous cut and holed leaves make the most dramatic of shadows and silhouettes, and the ubiquitous ivy, whose leaf shape has been used in design since the times of the Greeks and Romans, the green leaves of which hanging down a white wall have a classic simplicity of unique beauty.

An illusion which the newcomer to houseplant growing will soon have shattered is that leaves are always green. There must be just as many plants grown for their different coloured leaves as for their green ones, to say nothing of the variegated-leaved kinds.

The coloured-leaved plants now available for growing indoors are exotic and rainbow-like. They outdo the flowering plants in their dazzle Gynura and brilliance of plants like the codiaeums (croton) and dracaenas, the lovely purple-furred Gynura, Begonia rex in all its variations of rose-pink, wine-red, silvery-grey, pale green and cream, and the flame nettle (Coleus), with its really fantastic range of brilliant colours and, in the most recently produced varieties, exciting shapes.

For those who still like green in their leaves but think all-over-green a bit dull, there are many, many, foliage houseplants whose colouring is relieved with cream, white or yellow variegation-in the form of spots, blotches, edgings or centre colouring-outlining the veins, or taking up most of the leaf. Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’), the goosefoot plant (Syngonium podophyllum), Aglaonema, Peperomia magnoliaefolia and the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) all have variegations of one kind or another.

There are some general rules that can be applied to the care of foliage plants, as distinct from the other groups. For instance, nitrogen has priority as a plant food over all the others. This is the nutrient plants need rnost for strong, well»coloured leaves and stems, so ;nal<e sure that it is always contained in the compost, and use liquid fertilizers which have a high or higher percentage of nitrogen (N) than of the other foods.

The indoor foliage plants with plain green leaves will grow in places distant from the light, in some shade, and in rather dark corners. The variegated and coloured-leaved varieties need a good light, such as a window sill facing north, or one facing sww the sun which has a net curtain over it. They can be put on a table near an un-shaded sunny window sill but not in the direct sunlight. Leafy plants need more grooming than the others.

Grit and dust must be regularly wiped or sponged off the leaf surface with tepid water, or brushed off in the case of hairy leaves. Occasional polishing with a proprietary leafshine will give them a larger-than-life look for special occasions.

Slightly more water is needed in the compost than for other groups, and a humid atmosphere is especially important for those with thin papery leaves, such as Caladium (if you have the courage to attempt to grow it), Maranta and Diffenbachia.

caladium There are other groups of indoor foliage plants grown entirely or mostly for their leaves, these include the bromeliads, the cacti and succulents, and the palms and ferns, but these are rather special groups, with special needs.

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