When one considers all that comes along with purchasing a new home or moving into a new place, outfitting your space with flowers and plants may seem to be low on the list of priorities. However, few things bring life and beauty to a home like houseplants – especially flowering varieties that bloom all year-round – but for the beginner, amassing the perfect collection is no easy task. Many of us rely on the choices available at the local grocery where there is often not enough information or skilled sales associates to help us make the most informed decision.
Below is a short list of wonderful, blooming perennials that will surely fill your home with beauty and vitality throughout the year – and for many years to come when cared for properly. You may not be able to find everything in one place, but the extra effort is worth it, especially when compared with the expense and disappointment that comes with purchasing the wrong plants for you and your home. A wise thing to consider before setting out to buy, is to treat indoor landscaping as you would any other type of decoration or design by considering all lighting (natural and artificial), color schemes, spatial placement and the type of atmosphere you are trying to create. And, if you have children or pets, it is very important to understand which plants are hazardous or toxic.
African Violets top the list of almost every indoor plant enthusiast’s list of favorites because of the vibrancy and delicacy of the flowers and the ease of care. African Violets are actually not violets at all, but rather a member of the Gloxinia family (another beautiful blooming houseplant, but one that only blooms occasionally) and can be found throughout the year in just about any place that sells houseplants. African Violets like warm conditions and are great for indoor use because they require only filtered sunlight (excellent for bathrooms with at least one window). The only caveat is to keep the leaves from getting wet when watering as this can cause unsightly brown spots. African Violets require soil that is consistently and evenly moistened with room temperature water (the harder the water the better) and the roots must be allowed to dry before re-watering. Snipping the blooms as they begin to shrivel will promote the healthy development of new growth and increase the vibrancy of the bloom. They are on the list of plants generally safe for people and pets.
Another excellent choice for indoor landscapes is the Flowering Maple. This often overlooked variety is a fun and interesting plant because it is fast-growing and can go from a large pot or hanging basket to a wonderful tree for your home in just a few seasons (they can grow up to 5 or 6″ tall)! The Flowering Maple is a sun-worshipper and so the closest to direct sunlight, the better. If properly cared for, this houseplant will yield delicate, crepe-like blossoms in either pink, orange red or yellow all year long. Be sure to keep the soil evenly moistened (any dry spots can cause the blooms to drop) and prune the branches at least twice per year to maintain a thick, full appearance. The jury is still out on the toxicity of the leaves and/or flowers of the Flowering Maple to humans and pets, but since there are studies that show it to be mildly poisonous to some small animals like rabbits, it is best to keep all house pets away.
The Peace Lily is one of the best indoor house plants as it needs only low light, low humidity and tolerates occasional neglect from watering (although the blossoms may suffer from lack of care). It is a visually appealing plant due, in part, to the contrast between the wide, sturdy, tropical-like leaves and the delicate white blooms, but also because of its robust stature. The Peace Lily can grow to almost 6′ tall and 5′ wide and so a few of these around the house can really fill the space. Not all varieties bloom year-round, but many do, so be sure to ask your salesperson. In spite of its name, the Peace Lily is poisonous to pets and children, so it is best kept out of the reach of both and for any droppings to be cleaned up right away.
Another must-have in any home’s indoor landscape is the hearty-but-delicate Jasmine. There are many varieties available, but the easiest to grow are the “Many-flowered” and “Arabian.” When given plenty of bright, intense light and water, Jasmine will yield beautiful and fragrant pink or white blossoms on vining branches all year long. This is another plant that can grow high and wide (up to 4′ x 6′) and so is a wonderful way to fill a space and add a pleasant aroma to any home. Jasmine is reported to be safe and non-toxic to humans and pets.
Many of us are familiar with the Wax Begonia for use as an outdoor ground cover, but this vibrant, perennial favorite makes an excellent indoor plant that yields white, red or pink blossoms all year long. Wax Begonias can be easily propagated for indoor use with clippings from your outdoor plants as they root quickly in water or very moist soil. When inside, they thrive in bright light and because they are accustomed to spreading their roots must be kept in roomy pots with well-aerated soil. Wax Begonias are full, stout plants and tend to stay within an 18″ range both tall and wide. While not poisonous to humans or pets, they have been shown to cause painful irritation to mouth, lips and throat and should be treated as harmful.
Contrary to some thinking, the type of soil used for houseplants is not overly crucial (many houseplants can live in just water as is evidenced by the practice of Hydroculture). But, they do need nutrients. If you are using a very basic potting soil, adding things like Miracle Gro about once per month is always a good idea. Unlike outdoor plants, the most important factors in keeping the roots of indoor gardens healthy are water and oxygen. This means that the soil should be kept well aerated and the plants should be repotted at least once per year to keep the soil from becoming too dense for the nutrients to be absorbed. For larger houseplants and indoor trees that are just too difficult to repot, simply scrape the top layer of soil off at least 3 times per year and apply a new layer. Water should be as hard and free from chlorine as possible and with few exceptions, should be given at room temperature. The debate on plastic versus clay can be summed up rather easily: terracotta is always best because it is porous and allows the roots to breathe better. However, because the water evaporates more quickly, plants that require evenly moist soil must be monitored more frequently. If less tending is what you desire, use terracotta for plants that prefer drier soil and put the others in plastic. All indoor plants, without exception, should live in pots with drainage holes – reserving decorative pots with closed bottoms for outdoor container gardens.
For those embarking on outfitting your home with house plants for the first time, you will soon see that plants – like people and pets – begin to take on a type of personality that is all their own. You will learn what they like, what they do not like and in what circumstances they thrive best. And, yes, plants really do respond when spoken to – just ask Prince Charles.