A Guide to the Best Indoor Plants For Your Home

An illustrated guide to help choose the best indoor plants for your home. Includes plant illustrations and detailed indoor plant charts with plant information.

| November/December 1987

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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS 1. Arrowhead plant (Syngonium podophyllum): The leaves of this decorative aroid (sometimes called Nephthytis ) are frequently tinged with contrasting shades of cream or ash green, and they rise on long, thin stalks that are easily trained to climb bark or wooden slabs.
    ILLUSTRATION: JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS2. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum or commutatum): Durable if slow-growing aroids, the Chinese evergreens make excellent low-spreading table or floor plants that seldom reach over three or four feet tall. Their crisp, green, leathery leaves frequently sport elegant white or silver marbling.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS 3. Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata): The stiff, leathery, sword shaped leaves of this succulent, slow growing lily are blackish green with light green "snakeskin" crossbands. This must be the easiest plant ever grown. It can endure neglect.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS7. Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior): True to its name, this Chinese lily tolerates all kinds of abuse, even night temperatures as chilly as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Its oblong, blackish green, cornlike leaves slowly grow to 30 inches long.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS4. Bird's-nest fern (Asplenium nidus): This is the best fern for indoor culture because it requires less humidity than many of its relatives?although it does appreciate steady warmth and frequent watering. The stiffly spreading, shiny green fronds surround its nest like crown.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS5. Cornstalk plant (Dracaena fragrans Massangeana): This tall growing floor lily sports rich green, arching leaves, banded with light green and yellow. Chills give the cornstalk brown blotches, but it proves quite durable when provided with warm temperatures and adequate moisture
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS6. Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans): This durable feather palm and the related, slower growing "Neanthe bella" bear clustering frond, and can range in height from one to 10 feet. An indoor gardening , classic, it seldom needs repotting and takes well to low-moisture environments.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS8. Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens): A fast grower, the heartleaf philodendron has deer green, heartshaped' leaves that will climb a support or cascade from hanging baskets.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    SHADY-LIGHT COMPANIONS9. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum): The classically elegant peace lily bears glossy, softly plaited leaves. Its white, spathelike flowers (frequently appearing in winter) rise on slender stems and provide a striking contrast to the dark foliage.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 1. Madagascar dragon tree (Dracaena marginata): A popular lily, this hardy, bushlike ornamental can slowly grow to 16 feet high. Its slender, cane like stems are topped with shiny, red-margined leaves. For best results, keep it in a small container.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 2. Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia picta): This tropical American native is prized for its ornamental variegated leaves on tall growing, thick green canes. Dumb cane earned its name because the noxious sap in its stem causes pain and swelling when swallowed.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 4. Asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus or plumosus): This lacy, fernlike lily family member bears wiry stems with flattened fronds carrying fine, hairlike greenery. It makes a long lasting, luxurious basket plant. The related Sprengeri fern (A. densiflorus`Sprengeri') has a fluffier appearance.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 5. Striped dracaena (Dracaena deremensis warneekeii'): Long, sword -shaped, leathery leaves with white center stripes grow from a thick, tall-growing cane. This durable dracaena does well in dry environments.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 3. Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa): This reliable fan palm carries bamboolike canes and glossy, dark green, leathery leaves. The versatile lady adapts to warm and cool temperatures alike.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 7. Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Long, wiry, flowering stalks cascade spiderlike from the pot, forming little airborne plantlets that give the spider its alternative name: the airplane plant. The ivory-banded basket plant adapts well to cool temperatures.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 6. Grape ivy (Cissusrhombifolia): The long, bending branches of this vine sport deep green, wavy-toothed leaflets. The cascading rambler forms a lush, decorative plant for baskets or trellised pots. Pinch it back occasionally to promote denser growth.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 9. Devil's ivy (Scindapsus aureus): A popular philodendron cousin (also known as pothos or hunter's-robe), devil's ivy is a green, fleshy viner suitable for basket or trellis culture. (The popular cultivar `Marble Queen' has regal white variegation.) It relishes warmth and likes to go dry between waterings.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 2. Medicine plant (Aloe vera): This slow growing lily relative excellent for a sunny table or windowsill. Its gray-green, dagger shaped leaves marked by soft spines along to edges?contain the skin-healing inner pulp that 'explains its "first-aid" nickname.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    MEDIUM-LIGHT COMRADES 8. Umbrella tree (Brassaia actinophylla): The familiar umbrella, or schefflera, is admired for the grand rosette produced by its compound leaves. The fast growing aralia makes an excellent tall-growing tub plant. But it dislikes drafts and is very sensitive to overwatering, so keep it warm and let it dry well between waterings.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 1.Yucca tree (Yucca gloriosa): Also called the palm lily, the yucca has a woody trunk topped with a rosette of stiff, leathery, sword-shaped leaves. The sturdy plant tolerates many adversities and likes to go dry between waterings.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 3. Pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli): This bizarre succulent shrub has pencil-thick, glossy green cylindrical branches that contain a milky white sap. Also called the milkbush, it is a durable, but slow, grower.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 4. Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii): The barrel carries sharp, golden spines on a globular, light green, ribbed base. Like other cacti and succulents, it enjoys a porous, gritty soil (two parts loam to one part sand) and should be allowed to dry between waterings.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 5. Jade plant (Crassula argentea): The stout trunk of the jade (also called the monkey tree or Chinese rubber plant) has thick, bending branches which bear fleshy, succulent leaves. A durable species, it adapts well to drafts and dry locations.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 6. Weeping fig tree (Ficusbenjamina): This graceful mulberry carries small, shiny, deep green leaves that are pointed at the tips. In warmth and good light, it becomes densely Foliated, but under adversity it sheds readily. Keep it in a small container.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 8. Wax plant (Hoya carnosa): A wining milkweed, the hoya bears thick, leathery leaves and long, persistent spursthatproduce fragrant, pinkish white flowers. An ideal hanging basket plant for sunny windows, it appreciates good drainage along with liberal summertime watering.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 7. Craton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum): This showy tropical tub plant sports magnificent multicolored leaves in many shapes and patterns. Strong sunlight helps young! yellow-flecked foliage turn orange and red. For best results, keep a pebble-filled tray beneath a croton pot to increase humidity.
    JOEL POPADICS
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    RADIANCE RELISHES 9. Norfolk bland pine (Araucarta heterophylla): The long, wide-spreading branches of the Norfolk (also called star-pine or Christmas tree plant) extend parallel to the ground and are set with soft-pointed needles. It tolerates heat, chills, and some drying out.
    JOEL POPADICS

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Bring the blessings of living greenery by choosing the best indoor plants for your home.

A Guide to the Best Indoor Plants For Your Home

Houseplants are good for us. Their presence eases much of the stress that leads to disease and may even lower blood pressure and blood sugar. Some, such as the spider plant, actually act as air purifiers, absorbing formaldehyde and other toxic indoor fumes. Beyond the health benefits, houseplants provide a living link with nature, make pleasant winter companions and lend softness and warmth to our surroundings. The problem, though, is that most indoor environments are not good for plants after all, homes are designed to provide human comfort. Modern interiors are generally very dry, whereas many houseplants are tropical and subtropical natives that require high humidity. And indoor environments often rely on artificial lighting, which may be insufficient for many plants. So indoor gardening is not simply a "pot and forget" proposition. A lot of houseplants fail to flourish because of inappropriate environment or inadequate care. To increase your own chances for success, I'm going to recommend a variety of very durable, adaptable specimens and then offer a commonsense approach to caring for them. (See the indoor plant illustrations in the image gallery.)

How Bright Is Your Light?

From sun-blazed savannas to shady, canopied rain forests, the varied natural habitats of tropical plants have caused them to develop differing light-intensity needs. Accordingly, the most important rule of indoor gardening is to select a plant appropriate to your light situation.

Remember that radiant energy triggers photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce nourishment and build tissue. The blue and violet waves of the light spectrum promote foliage growth, while the longer red and far-red rays control stem length, leaf size and flowering.



The most common artificial light in homes is provided by incandescent tungsten filament bulbs. Incandescent light is rich in red and farred waves, but it does not contain enough blue and violet rays to provide a complete light source for plants. Natural outdoor light from windows can help supplement incanment incandescent illumination.

Some homes (and most offices) contain overhead fluorescent tubes. These fixtures can be used to achieve a balanced spectrum. Cool white tubes are inherently balanced, or you can combine daylight lamps (high in blue waves) with warm white bulbs (high in red). Still, fluorescent lighting does not exactly duplicate sunlight—and it's certainly not as intense.






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