Rewarding Indoor Plants

The following list does not pretend to be complete, for almost any plant can be grown indoors for certain periods. It includes those plants which are easily obtained and indicates those which are easily grown under normal home conditions and those which are slightly more pernickety. All return moderate attention with a wealth of beauty, interest, value and long life. The list is alphabetical and where possible the common or popular names are mentioned as well as the botanical, so that there should be no difficulty in tracing any particular plant.

Adiantum cuneatum (maidenhair fern) : Difficult to grow except in a warm, humid atmosphere with clean air and no draughts. But worth trying.

Aechmea rhodocyanea (Greek vase plant) : An easy to grow, delightful and long-lived bromeliad. It has grey-green strap-like leaves arching from a central ‘vase’ which should always be kept topped up with water and from which rises the tall pink scape, or flower stem, bearing the beautiful pink, blue and violet flowers.

African violet, see Saintpaulia ionantha

Aglaonema: There are several of these aroids, generally similar in appearance with green spear-shaped leaves splashed, flecked or striped with grey or silver. Easy to grow.

Ananas comosus (pineapple) : Beautiful, spiky plants frequently with variegated gold and green leaves, these are easy to grow and long-lived. Plain green ones can be grown from the tuft at the top of a pineapple.

Anthurium: There are two or three of these, usually A. andreanum and A. scherzerianum, usually known as the palette plant, the piggy tail plant or the flamingo flower. Their main characteristic is the red, pink or white ‘palette’ flower from which rises the creamy-white ‘piggy tail’, almost straight in .andreanum and usually curled in scherzerianum. Foliage is a glossy green.

Aphelandra squarrosalouisae (zebra plant or saffron spike) : So named because of the heavy white stripes on the leaves and the bright yellow cockscomb of a flower. Not really an easy plant to grow for long periods, but more recent varieties are tougher and easier.

Araucaria excelsa (Norfolk island pine) : A tough and tiny pine which will even grow outdoors in mild areas. Grey-green foliage in regular branches. Easy.saintpaulia

Aspidistra elatior (parlour palm or cast iron plant) : The popular names derive from the fact that it used to be seen in every parlour and seems to withstand almost any treatment. But it takes a long time to grow and is now in short supply. Even more attractive is the variegated type with golden or creamy striped leaves.

Azalea indica: A popular flowering house plant, particularly around Christmas, when it is a mass of white, pink, red or brick-coloured flowers. The root ball ha usually been trimmed to get the plant into a small pot, so it is highly sensitive to drought. Keep the soil moist at all times. Look for the base of the main trunk; this should show up as wet and dark brown. If it looks dry, or the same brown as the upper portions, then the plant needs water badly.

Begonia: Many types, flowering and foliage, all of them beautiful, most fairly easy.

Beloperone guttata (shrimp plant) : So called because of the brownish-pink bracts and flowers it produces through most of the year. Give maximum light and feed regularly.

Busy Lizzie, see Impatiens sultanii

Cast Iron Plant, see Aspidistra elatior

Chlorophytum comosum variegatum (spider plant) : This plant gets its name from the way in which the long, yellow and green striped narrow leaves branch out from the centre. An easy plant which produces long, arching stems bearing at the ends new baby plants which will root easily if placed in soil.

Christmas Cactus, see Zygocactus truncatus

Cineraria cruentis: A familiar and endearing flowering plant with many-coloured, daisy-like flowers. Easy to grow indoors for short periods, but inclined to attract and harbour greenfly. Best watered with a systemic insecticide before being brought indoors.

Cissus antarctica (kangaroo vine) : One of the best of the climbers. It will live almost for ever without special treatment and can be trained to cover a wall, climb a pole or form a room divider.

Citrus mitis: A miniature orange tree which will carry sweetly-scented flowers and tiny fruits at the same time. Keep moist at all times and comparatively humid. Brush the flowers lightly with a soft brush to assist fertilisation and increase the fruit yield.

Codiaeum variegatum pictum (croton) : This plant can be most beautiful, with its gold and cream and red and green flecked leaves, but until recently it demanded more humid conditions than we were prepared to offer it indoors. New cultivars are tougher, more adaptable, and they seem to be getting better all the time.

Coleus blumei hybrids: These magnificently coloured plants are easy to grow from seed and from cuttings; they can be as vivid as flowers and they can last for months. Keep moist at the roots and if possible with some humidity.

Columnea banksii : A splendid and too little known trailing plant with glossy green leaves and vivid scarlet trumpet-shaped flowers which appear in winter. Place it high so it can trail and give it plenty of light.

Croton, see Cocliaeum

Crown of Thorns, see Euphorbia bojeri.

Cryptanthus (earth star or starfish plant) : Several varieties exist of this attractive and low-growing bromeliad which forms a spreading rosette. Keep the central ‘vase’ filled with water, but otherwise they need little or no special attention.

Cyclamen persicum: These familiar hybrids decorate many homes during winter and seldom last as long as they should because they are kept too warm. They like cool conditions and should never be allowed to dry out.

Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane) : The popular name for this plant and its several varieties is given because if any of the sap reaches the mouth it will cause intense pain and swelling. All parts of the plant are poisonous, so beware. It has large spear-shaped leaves attractively flecked, blotched and striped with cream or white.

Dracaena:-There are a number of dracaenas, all distinguished for their beautiful foliage but otherwise differing fairly widely. They are all comparatively easy to grow.

Dumb Cane, see Dieffenbachia

Earth Star, see Cryptanthus

Euphorbia bojeri (crown of thorns) : The popular name derives from the wickedly long and sharp thorns and the tiny scarlet ‘blood drop’ flowers. This is a curiously attractive plant which will live for many years (my own is about 20 years old) without growing too large or demanding much attention.

Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) : This is another member of the euphorbia family but entirely different. The white or pink are less striking than the vivid scarlet but equally attractive. The latest varieties are so strong that they will last for many months and can be brought into colour again after a brief autumn rest.

Fatshedera lizei: A curious hybrid resulting from a cross between the fatsia and the hedera. It is an attractive plant with large palmate leaves, usually grown trained up a stem but capable of growing as a sprawler. Easy to grow.

Ficus: A large family of house-plants which includes the well-known Rubber Plant and similar tree-like specimens as well as creeping, trailing and sprawling kinds. Most are comparatively easy to grow, all are distinctive and worth while.

Fittonia argyroneura (snake skin plant) : This gets its name from the beautiful silvery veins etched on the surface of the many leaves. A small plant and rather delicate but so beautiful that it is worth growing even if its life is short. Give it warmth, humidity and protection.

Geranium, see Pelargonium

Goldfish Plant, see Hypocyrta glabra

Goose Foot Plant, see Syngonium podophyllum

Grape Ivy, see Rhoicissus rhombo idea

Greek vase plant, see Aechmea rho docyanea

Hedera (ivy) : There are so many varieties and cultivars here that it is impossible to list them all. They differ in the size and shape of the leaves, in their coloration and in their habit of growth. They are all easy to grow, undemanding of attention and will live almost for ever.

Hippeastrum hybrids: These bulb flowers, sometimes known as amaryllis, produce huge, dramatic and vividly coloured flowers with the minimum of attention. Usual flowering time is winter and early spring. The bulbs can, of course, be dried off and grown again next year.

Hoya carnosa variegata : Although known popularly as the wax flower, this variety is unlikely to produce the dainty white blooms which appear more regularly on H. bella. But this twining climber is known instead for the pretty, chunky white-edged leaves which seem to appear almost miraculously from the apparently naked long and probing shoots.

Hypocyrta glabra (goldfish plant) : So named because of the little orange-red flowers. It is easy to grow and tolerant of poor conditions.

Impatiens sultanii (busy Lizzie) : This very popular plant grows easily, flowering readily. Latest varieties have added new’colours.

Kangaroo Vine, see Cissus antarctica

Maidenhair Fern, see Adiantum cuneatum

Maranta makoyana (peacock plant) : The name derives from the flaunted beauty of the foliage, two-toned pink with chocolate markings. This is not an easy plant to grow for long periods and seems to do best in a bowl with other plants.

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) : So named because of the holes in the large and beautiful leaves; ‘delicious’ refers to the fruit, unlikely here except in a greenhouse, which tastes like a cross between pineapple and banana. Any easy aroid, the monstera will grow very large indeed.

Mother-in-law’s-tongue, see Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii

Mother of thousands, see Saxifraga stolonifera

Neoregelia: Sometimes sold under different names, this is another of the excellent bromeliads which are so attractive and so easy to grow as houseplants. This, again, grows as a rosette having a central ‘vase’ which should be kept topped up with water at all times.

Nertera depressa : A charming, tiny, ground-covering creeping herb, covered with vivid, shining orange berries. It is easy to grow and will even grow outdoors in some sheltered districts. It likes some moisture and warmth, not too much direct sun.

Nidularium marechati : Still another bromeliad of roughly the same shape, size and habits as the others – blushes a deep scarlet when it is about to give birth to its flowers.

Norfolk Island pine, see Araucaria excelsa

Palette plant, see Anthurium

Parlour palm, see Aspidistra elatior

Peacock plant, see Maranta makoyana

Pelargonium: Sometimes wrongly called geranium, this splendid family gives us several types of plants, all beautiful, generous with vivid foliage or with brilliant and long lasting flowers. Will grow outdoors in summer and all through the winter if protected.

Pellionia pulchra : A little-known but charming small creeping plant with delicate silver, red and green leaves. Slow growing.

Peperomia: There are several of these, all attractive and useful, for they differ widely in leaf shape and colour but grow well and easily. P. caperata variegata has small cream and green crinkled leaves. P. magnoliaefolia variegata is larger, chunkier, glossier and smoother. P. obtusifolia has thick, fleshy leaves, dark green with a purple edge.

Philodendron: This large family of aroids includes about a dozen varieties for the home, most of them climbers or sprawlers, mostly fairly large and all of them easy and attractive.

Piggy tail plant, see Anthurium

Platycerium alicorne (Stag’s horn fern) : So called from its forked or branching shape and slightly furry texture. Easy to grow and very attractive, it will live for years given moderate care.

Plectranthus fruticosus: This attractive little plant with its glossy round leaves grows under almost all conditions quickly and easily. It will even grow in water alone; cuttings start to take root almost before they are severed from the plant.

Poinsettia, see Euphorbia pulcherrima

Rhoicissus rhomboidea (Grape ivy) : An easy climber which will grow almost anywhere indoors, live for years, cover a wall and look attractive at all times. Rubber plant, see Ficus

Saffron spike, see Aphelandra squarrosa louisae

Saintpaulia ionantha (African violet) : This dainty little flowering plant, which has nothing to do with violets, can be kept in flower the whole year through, once you get it to feel at home with you. Yet many plant-lovers find it refuses to flower or even to flourish for them. Clean air and good light are essential.

Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii (Mother-in-law’s tongue): So named because it is sharp and pointed but at the same time easy, tolerant, valuable and standing up well to neglect and mistreatment! Attractive and useful because of its characteristic shape.

Saxifraga stolonifera (Mother of thousands) : This plant has an endearing habit of putting out dozens of hair-like stolons each bearing at the end a tiny baby plantlet. Easy to grow, attractive in shape and colour, but so prolific that it ages quickly. The tiny plantlets grow quickly if merely rested on the soil of another pot, so renew your stock regularly.

Scindapsus aureus : Available in several forms, the scindapsus is an attractive climber with gold-flecked and marbled heart-shaped leaves. The differences in the varieties are in leaf size and coloration. Fairly easy to grow, needing plenty of light.

Shrimp Plant, see Beloperone guttata

Snake Skin Plant, see Fittonia argyroneura

Solanum capsicastrum (winter cherry) : A Christmas gift plant bearing vivid orange or scarlet berries. A difficult plant to keep, especially in convivial atmospheres.

Sonerila margaritacea: The dark green leaves of this attractive plant are covered with silvery dots. It likes warm, draught-free conditions but dislikes direct sunlight. Water freely from early summer to autumn.

Stag’s Horn Fern, see Platycerium alicorne

Syngonium podophyllum (goose foot) : So called because its large leaves resemble the arrow-shaped foot of a goose. They are lobed with a central lobe and a number of side lobes. This plant produces aerial roots and needs bark or some other support for these. It will take large quantities of water as the days lengthen and will benefit from spraying on hot days.

Tradescantiafluminensis (wandering Jew or wandering sailor) : Presumably so named because it grows so quickly and travels so far. Seldom seen at its best, for it needs pinching out before the trails grow too long. Light feeds help enormously. This is one of the few house-plants which is taken so much for granted that it too often goes unwatered and unfed for long periods.

Wandering Jew, Wandering sailor, see Tradescantia fluminensis

Wax Flower, see Hoya carnosa variegata

Winter Cherry, see Solanum capsicastrum

Zebra Plant, see Aphelandra squarrosa louisae

Zebrina pendula : Like the tradescantia in appearance but slightly larger, fleshier and more vividly coloured.

Zygocactus truncalus : Christmas cactus, although it does not flower automatically at tha t time but depends both on the season and the treatment it receives. piikrii pink, white or red flowers are produced from the ends of the claw-like joi ills of its flat stems, which resemble leaves.

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