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House Plant Ideas for Winter

By: Mike Darcy

While there are always many things we can be doing in our garden during the winter months, it is also a time to give some thought to different house plant ideas. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I have been doing quite a bit of transplanting in my outdoor garden, and as I am probably like many gardeners, I have plants in the wrong places. Short plants are behind tall plants and vice versa.

Also, as the garden changes, so does the gardener. Often we want to add new plants and that may require removing some old ones. This is a good time of year to do some ‘editing’ of your garden. And while you are ‘editing’, if it involves removing plants, consider offering your discarded plants to others.

I think many of us overlook the value of having house plants and this is a good time of year to think about them. I must admit there are very few in my house but I do enjoy seeing them in other homes. There is a wide range of choices of many tropical and semi-tropical plants that would not survive outside, but do quite well indoors. Just like outdoor plants, some can be temperamental but many are easy to grow and enjoy indoors. I often remind myself that all house plants are living outside in some locale and it is our task to consider where the plant is from and adjust our environment as much as possible. The following are some house plants that I have selected as being relatively easy to grow.

CrotonCrotons

It would be difficult to find a group of plants that provide more splash of leaf color than the Crotons. These fantastic foliage plants are easy to grow and are available in a wide assortment of leaf colors ranging from yellow, purple, red, pink, green or almost any combination of these colors. Crotons can grow tall but if trimmed, they will branch out and remain quite bushy. In order to keep the leaf colors vibrant, place plants in a location with plenty of light. Often times I have seen several different plants all planted in the same container and this creates an extremely colorful effect. Purchase several different plants, with different leaf patterns and colors, and plant them all in the same container using Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil. With the addition of perlite and pumice into this potting soil, this greatly helps with drainage which is essential for most house plants to survive.

BromeliadBromeliads

If the colored leaves of Crotons are not quite your style, consider Bromeliads. With their sword-like leaves, the new growth can offer some very intensely bold colors. The lower leaves act as a reservoirs and it is best to keep clean water in these spaces. If you live in an area with heavy chlorination in your tap water, it would be wise to use distilled water. Bromeliads provide long lasting color in the upper leaves and while this main stalk will eventually die, the plant will usually produce a new shoot or shoots near the base and this can be cut and planted. Keep plants away from direct sunlight. Some leaves can be quite sharp so beware of this especially if there are young children around.

Dracaena Lucky BambooLucky Bamboo

For a house plant that I would consider ‘fun’ and one that children would enjoy, consider Dracaena sanderana, often referred to as ‘Lucky Bamboo’ or ‘Curly Bamboo’. This Dracaena is usually sold as stems that are to be placed in water to root and then planted. It is an ideal learning tool for children because often the stem is purchased with no roots and within several weeks, roots will appear and children can watch as the roots develop. There will be buds along the stem and these will begin to swell and grow into new leaves. For a novelty, try ‘Curly Bamboo’, once you see it, you will know how it got this name. ‘Curly Bamboo’ is especially popular with children. Be sure to change the water in the vase on a regular basis and keep it clean. Once a mass of roots has developed, the stem can be placed in a pot with Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil and the plant will continue to grow.

Begonia EscargotRex Begonias

Another group of plants that make ideal house plants and are easy to grow are the Rex Begonias. One of my favorites is called ‘Escargot’ and when you see the leaf, you will understand why! Rex Begonias will grow fairly well in the low light conditions that many houses have and they tend to prefer to be a little on the dry side. They will bloom with small white or light pink flowers and are long lived. Many Rex Begonias will do well outdoors in a shady location during the summer and makes a nice patio plant.

Just because we are in the middle of winter does not mean there is not gardening to be done; it just changes from outdoors to indoors. Check out your local garden center and you will probably be surprised at the offerings of indoor plants that are now available.

Special thanks to photographer Rich Baer, who took all the images that accompany this article.

About Mike Darcy


Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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