The year was 1970 and I was just about to graduate from college with a degree in plant science. One of my job opportunities was to go to work in Leucadia or Encinitas, California for one of the many foliage plants where plants such as Spider Plants, Boston Ivy, Snake Plants, Aglaonema and Prayer Plants, to name just a few, were propagated of the millions. These plants were sold across the country to customers like myself, young and idealistic and wanting to make the world a more loving place to live.
Fast forward about 50 years and the houseplant revolution is back and going strong. In our garden centre, we have dedicated an entire greenhouse of 3,000 square meters to nothing but houseplants and all the accessories that come with them. Every time I walk through that space, I am amazed at the variety and choices that homeowners now have compared to what was on the market 50 years ago. Here are four options that are favorites here at the nursery for you to consider.
Chlorophytum amaniense ‘Fire Flash’: Commonly known as the mandarin plant, this spider plant relative does not send out shoots with baby spider plants at the ends, but rather forms a rosette of strap-like shiny green leaves with glowing orange stems, giving it an interesting, tropical feel to indoor spaces. Native to East Africa, it was introduced to North America in the 1990s and has steadily grown in popularity. At home, give it bright but indirect light and grow it in good quality potting soil, letting it dry out between waterings (in other words, don’t water until the top one inch of soil is dry, and put then soak it. ). Like spider plants, the edges of the leaves will burn if it is too sunny or sometimes if the water is too high in chlorine and/or fluoride. Otherwise, it is an easy-care plant.
Cissus tetrastigma, (Tetrastigma voinierianum): Commonly known as Chestnut Vine or Lizard Vine, it is a vigorous vine with coarsely divided leaves that can make an impact in any home. It is native to Vietnam, where it can trek through the jungle at a rate of 50 feet per year, in a home it will often grow 12 inches per month, using its tendrils to attach itself to blinds or curtain rods. Be prepared to keep your pruners sharp and handy to keep it in line! Like so many houseplants, let it dry out between waterings and then give it a good soak, let the excess run off so the roots don’t sit in saturated soil. Keeping the humidity up will also help deter insects.
Aralia Fabian (stub): “Polyscias scutellaria” is a funky indoor shrub with a thick, dense stem and round leaves. I think of it as more architectural rather than foliage. In its native environment in the Pacific Islands it can grow 10 to 12 feet tall, but in the house it needs to be treated almost like a bonsai with careful watering (keep it very dry) and high light. Think of it as a piece of furniture that will thrive on neglect.
Cordyline fruiticosa (Hawaiian tea): It has stunning foliage with shades of pink, green, purple or deep red, depending on the cultivar. It requires strong light to maintain its foliage colors. Water the plant when the top of the soil feels dry.
November is the perfect time to get out of the cold, wet weather and explore the hot and humid climate of a tropical greenhouse. Feast your eyes on the many choices of leaf colors, flowers, growth habits and unique offerings available to plant keepers today. Take a few home and start your own jungle, just in time for winter. Be safe and keep gardening!
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at [email protected]