Tuesday, January 13, 2015

21 Indestructible Houseplants

Split-leaf Philodendron

Thomas McCavour, Simcoe County Master Gardener

I challenge anyone to maim, injure or destroy my houseplants. I will give the first person that succeeds one half of my favourite Coffee Crisp chocolate bar. 

Take my attractive Purple Heart with its violet downy leaves and matching flowers. It has lived in the west windows of my home for 15 years. It grows like a weed in Mexico with only occasional watering. A Split-leaf Philodendron, also from Mexico requires regular watering and occupies a moderately lit corner. It likes to climb; Tarzan used to swing on its aerial roots. A Heart-leaf Philodendron keeps it company.

My Jade plant with origins in southern Africa and Asia would not win a beauty contest; in fact it looks jaded. As a succulent it is watered sparingly.

The Syngonium with its pure green or variegated leaves is another climber and trailer. It prefers moderate light and can be grown hydroponically or in soil. A Chinese Evergreen sits in a dark corner and requires spraying and watering weekly. My Phothos is a show off, regularly competing and winning beauty contests. Its leaves can be solid green, yellow or variegated.

A Croton sits in a sunny spot wishing it was home in the tropics and continuously changing colour like a chameleon. I call mine Joseph. Keep it sprayed and don’t be alarmed when it does a strip-tease in November. The leaves will regrow.

My Snake Plant or Mother-in-Laws Tongue is one of the easiest to grow house plants. It is not fussy, tolerating full sun or full shade. Mine has never flowered and has never practiced birth control; but it has learned to multiply. The Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane is another native of Brazil. It is easy to care for requiring low light and high humidity.
Our African Violets are rock dwellers from Tanzania and Kenya. They sit in a moderately lit east window and also require high humidity.

The Peace Lily comes from the rain forest and can tolerate poor lighting in a north-facing window. It produces pretty white flowers with a pale yellow spadix. The Dracena, which is sometimes called the Dragon tree, hails from the rain forests of Africa and flourishes in moist soil and bright indirect light. The handsome Cast-Iron Plant has broad, dark green leaves. It is a tough oriental plant and takes its name from its ability to survive and grow in spite of low light, little water or food and neglect.

The Hoya or Wax Plant has sat faithfully in our indirectly lit hall for many years, watered sparingly; relying on its succulent leaves to survive.

Our Christmas cactus has its own calendar and usually flowers at Halloween and Easter. It is watered occasionally and lives in a basement window while recovering. The Wandering Jew is an attractive creeping or hanging plant with beautiful leaf markings and thrives in high humidity and regular watering. It is an easy plant to propagate. A native of the rain forest the Prayer Plant folds its attractive leaves at night in a praying position. Make sure to obtain a variety that grows in the home.

I have run out of friends who want Spider Plants. It is an excellent plant for beginners and requires no special room temperature and can grow in light or shade. My Swedish Ivy is actually misnamed. It is not ivy and comes from Africa and Australia, thriving in bright light at normal room temperature and humidity.

Since ancient times, the thick sap of the Aloe has been used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. A native of Africa it needs little water and likes room temperature or lower.

Good luck with your indestructible house plants. I really don’t want to give away that Coffee Crisp.

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