While winter’s icy grip may have many gardeners house-bound for several more weeks, there is no reason to let the fact that the ground is frozen keep us from gardening. And even if you live in a milder climate where the ground is workable and the days are balmy, winter is still a great season to think about adding a few houseplants to your indoor environment. They brighten the room, freshen the air and they give us something to focus on while we drool over the ever-growing stack of catalogs by the chair in anticipation of spring.
“Houseplants” have a come a long way, baby! Even the most mundane of the old-fashioned types have gotten a facelift in the past decade or so. The Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema) comes in a stunning array of green, silver and gold combinations, the old-fashioned “corn plant” (Dracaena fragrans) comes in a shocking new shade of chartreuse (gardening’s most “in” color at the moment), and even the stalwart old “rubber tree” (Ficus elastica) comes in spectacular green-and-white or green-and-pink variegated forms! These are not your grandmother’s houseplants! The great thing is that even though they come in all of these beautiful new forms, their hardiness hasn’t waned a bit. They’re still the tough old houseplants I remember from my childhood–just in more spectacular dress.
A few of my newer favorites include Dracaena fragrans ‘Limelight’, the “shocking chartreuse” form of the old-fashioned corn plant that I mentioned above (it’s also spectacular outdoors in a shady spot for the summer), and Aglaonema x ‘Golden Bay’, a newer form of the old “Chinese evergreen” with leaves of deep green overlaid with pewter and silver, and a golden yellow mid-rib running down the center of the leaf. The old-fashioned heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) also comes in some new color variations and it’s certainly still as tough as its old green counterpart. ‘Aurea’ has leaves of solid golden-chartreuse that scream from across the room, and if you want something a little more sophisticated try the variety ‘Brasil’, with deep green leaves boasting a lime green center. Gorgeous!
Pothos (Devil’s Ivy) has also undergone a dramatic change with the variety ‘Neon’, a solid chartreuse-yellow form that will fill a hanging basket in no time.
And do you remember the “Ti Plant”? “The Amazing Ti Plant”–in advertisements in every TV Guide and lady’s magazine of the 1970’s–a plant that grew from just a piece of the trunk! “Plant it and watch it grow! Yours for only $1.99 during this special offer!” Well, hold on to your hats, because the “old-fashioned” Ti plant is now one of the hottest plants around. New color forms are being introduced every year and they just keeping getting bigger, brighter, better and more beautiful–shocking shades of fuchsia, red, pink, green, cream, yellow and white–sometimes with 3 or 4 colors in every leaf! These are another outstanding “houseplant” for outdoor containers in the summer and nearly impossible to fail with indoors!
Hopefully, you’ve already read the entry on begonias–my current obsession. If not, scroll down and you’ll find it below. Talk about a tough and undemanding group of plants! There are certainly scores of others and I would encourage all of you to visit your local garden centers and nurseries to see the latest and greatest things they have available. Do a little internet research, too, as there are always new introductions being made.