12 Great Plants Easy to Grow Indoors

12 Great Plants Easy to Grow Indoors

Plants add quality to our lives on so many levels.  Indoors, they soften the environment, add living beauty to a room, and provide us with connection to the natural world.  All of the plants listed here are easy to grow even for beginners, and most are commonly available at nurseries, garden centers, and maybe even grocery stores.

 

Table Top

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

May every family enjoy the presence of an Aloe plant!  Aloe is one of the most medicinally valuable plants on the planet, and it is super easy to grow indoors!  In addition to being spiky, bold & beautiful, you can’t beat fresh Aloe gel for minor burns on the skin.  Aloe is a succulent plant that can hold water in its leaves for long periods of time. Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.  This may mean watering only every two or three weeks.

 

Common Jade or Money Plant (Crassula ovata AKA C. argentea)

Jade is amazingly resilient, and does not require frequent watering. This is another plant that should be allowed to dry completely between waterings, and so may need water only every two or three weeks. If the leaves fade and start to shrivel, it has gotten too dry.  With thick stems and succulent light green leaves, Jade produces a profusion of light pink flowers off & on from Fall through Spring.  Indoor plants may not flower if they are in a low-light location. Jade can be kept small by keeping it in a small pot, and pruning its fast growing shoots.  These plants can get quite large and heavy when grown outdoors or in large pots.  I’ve seen them as large as 6′ tall and half as wide.  Jade works nicely on the patio, but must have afternoon shade and protection from frost.  There are now many new varieties of Jade with interesting textures, flower colors, and growth habits including dwarf varieties that would be ideal for indoor or container growing.  Jade is sometimes used for Bonsai as well. This is another plant that should be allowed to dry completely between waterings, and so may need water only every two or three weeks. If the leaves fade and start to shrivel, it has gotten too dry.  The leaves should be smooth and plump.  Jade is highly toxic to dogs.

Elephant’s Food (Portulacaria afra)

This plant is very similar to the common Jade plant in appearance and growing requirements, and is sometimes sold under the name of “Miniature Jade Plant”.  Portulacaria afra has thick reddish brown stems and fleshy green leaves like Jade, but is faster growing and more loosely branched. Portulacaria afra is also available in a variegated form that has green and white leaves.  This is a very interesting, beautiful plant that grows into a broad bush or small tree, and provides nice contrast in texture when grown with other common houseplants.  It is also a fine specimen on its own.  Having a small root system and being drought tolerant, this plant also makes an excellent bonsai specimen.  You like minimalist decor?  This is your plant!

 

Peperomia species

There are so many varieties of Peperomia that I love!  They come in a wide selection of varieties with vast differences in form, leaf color, size, and textures.  Most have small root systems so they will stay small, and not require frequent re-potting.  Generally Peperomias can hold water in their leaves and stems so if you forget a watering, they are likely to be fine.  Peperomias do well with bright light.  An east facing window or one that could be shaded in the afternoon would be ideal.  A couple of my favorite varieties include Peperomia c. ‘Jeli’ – upright growth with bright green & white leaves, and Peperomia caperata which has thick dark green leaves with deep fissures that provide interesting texture.  Another beauty is the Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia).  Its leaves have green and white stripes that look like a watermelon.  If you don’t find the exact variety you may be looking for, there is likely to be one by a different name that is very similar in appearance.

 

Variegated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata variegata)

This beauty will tolerate neglect and low light, and comes in many varieties with differences in leaf markings.  Leaf color of variegated varieties will look best with bright light.  This plant is a succulent, and has stiff upright leaves with sharp points on tips so take care when choosing location.  Allow plant to dry between waterings.  This plant can remain in the same pot for many years.  Some people say this plant loves being potbound.  This is another plant that is very forgiving, and would be a good choice for beginners or travelers.  It may only need watering every two or three weeks.

 

Hanging Baskets

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English Ivy is an evergreen vine that comes in many varieties with different leaf shapes and markings.  All are easy to grow.  The miniature leaf forms are the best for use as stand-alone plants, topiaries, or as fillers with other plants in potted arrangements.  Keep soil evenly moist, and avoid full sun.  Some of the prettiest varieties include Hedera ‘Needlepoint’ which has very pointed leaves that will stay small, Hedera ‘Glacier’ which has white edges, and Hedera ‘Teardrop’ which has very pretty heart-shaped leaves.  English Ivy is easily grown from cuttings.

 

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’

Pothos is probably the most popular houseplant in existence.  They are very forgiving.  If you are just getting started with houseplants, Pothos is a good one to try.  This variety has green leaves with white marbling.  Leaf color will be best in bright indirect light.  Pothos can be grown on tabletop, climbing, or hanging. These are often seen in restaurants climbing all along the ceiling.  Several varieties are available with differing colors of leaf variegation, and they are easy to propagate from stem cuttings.

All of the plants listed above as hanging plants can also be used as tabletop plants when young or if kept small enough with occasional pruning.  You can also place them on an elevated stand or shelf if you don’t want to use a hanging basket.

 

Trees

Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’

This is a very showy, drought tolerant palm-like plant with red, green and cream striped leaves.  It looks awesome when backlit by the sun, and is great for grouping with other plants.  This would be a fine tree to showcase against a wall with night lighting.  They are not fast growing so buy one that is already full and bushy.  These plants can be quite pricy purchased large, but once you have one, they are easy to propagate – a plus if you’re one who likes to play with plants!  Your plant will need to be pruned occasionally to keep it full and bushy.  If a stem becomes too tall and bare, cut it off at the desired height, and new shoots will soon appear.  You can make stem cuttings from the branches you prune off, and start a new plant with them.  Just cut the stem into about 3-4″ lengths (remembering which end is down), and place the cuttings (top end up) into a fresh pot of houseplant potting mix.  Keep the planting mix evenly moist, but not wet.  These new plants make nice gifts for plant lovers, or multiples for yourself!

 

Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

Every time I see one of these, I feel happy inside!  This beautiful tree looks lovely all year, and makes a great living Christmas tree.  The foliage is soft and fern-looking.  Norfolk Island Pines can grow to over 100′ in their native environment, but will be kept small when grown in a pot indoors.  So don’t transfer it to the yard unless you have ample space for it!

 

Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)

Japanese Aralia is a bold, tropical looking bushy plant that can get quite large. They are great for instant beautification!  They also work well on shaded patios, but will need frost protection in winter.  Variety ‘Moseri’ has a smaller compact habit, and ‘Variegata’ has leaves with golden yellow or creamy white edges.

 

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Considered nearly indestructible, the Ponytail Palm adds instant interest to any room.  These plants require very little water, so would be ideal if you travel often.  Plants are sold in a variety of sizes from tabletop to tree size.  As they grow, the leaves will get longer, and the plant may need to be placed on an elevated stand so that its fountain-like leaves can hang naturally. These plants do well in bright light.  Outdoors they can grow in full sun.

 

Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)

The Rubber Tree is one of the easiest trees to grow indoors, and can tolerate less light than most large houseplants.  The plant has smooth thick dark green leaves that can grow to 8″ long or more. The new leaves unfold from rosy pink sheaths.  Rubber Trees can grow up to 8′ tall, and they can be kept smaller if needed by pruning tall shoots.  There are several varieties available with differences in leaf coloring.  Avoid using leaf shine products on these or any plants. They can interfere with the plant’s ability to breath.  Just wipe the leaves with a dry or damp cloth.  When you dust your furniture, dust your plants.  If you spray these with water occasionally to clean them off, dry the leaves with a soft cloth or there will be water spots left behind.

 

Please note: All plants or parts of them may be potentially toxic to pets and humans, especially young children. Some plants are more toxic than others, and some can be deadly if ingested.  Take care when selecting and locating plants. Keep plants out of reach of young children and pets. More information on toxic and safe plants can be found here: http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Toxic_Plants_by_Scientific_Name_685/

 

 

 

 

My Most Recommended Tool for Choosing Water-wise Plants for California Gardens

My Most Recommended Tool for Choosing Water-wise Plants for California Gardens

Choosing plants for a landscape plan or even a small garden project can be overwhelming.  There are so many plants!  It is easy to find examples of landscapes and plants we love, but how do we know that the plants we like are going to thrive in our garden?

There are many factors to consider when choosing plants, and if you want your plants to be low-water users, developing your plant list can be challenging.

When researching plants, we see terms like, “water-wise”, “low-water use”, “drought tolerant”, “no summer water”, “medium water”, “moderate water”, “water regularly”, “keep evenly moist”, “keep on the dry side”, “let dry between waterings”, “let dry somewhat between waterings”, “deep and infrequent waterings”.

Seriously?!  How do we know what these words really mean in terms of how to choose and water our plants?  This is like trying to figure out how much light a plant needs:  low, moderate, high, bright, indirect, part sun/part shade, half sun/half shade, dappled shade, filtered shade, etc.!

Introducing Waterwonk!  Waterwonk (www.waterwonk.us) is my absolute favorite Must-Have tool I use when choosing plants for a California garden.  The water needs of any given plant will vary depending on the climate region where it will live.  To make sure the plants I’m considering are appropriate for the location, I look them up in the WaterWonk database. WaterWonk is the WUCOLS online California plant database search tool.

What is WUCOLS?

Water Use Classifications of Landscape Species (WUCOLS) provides a guide to estimating irrigation water needs of landscape plantings in each of 6 distinct California climate regions.  WUCOLS was developed by the University of California Cooperative Extension in cooperation with landscape professionals and funded by the California Department of Water Resources.

What I love about WaterWonk is that it is so easy to use.  You simply type in your city, and the tool will pull your search results from the correct WUCOLS climate region.  You can view the entire list of plants appropriate for your region, or you can filter the list by entering other search criteria such as type of plant (tree, shrub, succulent, etc.).  You can even select CA native plants only, or plants that require less summer water once they are established.  The database also provides clickable links to Flicker photos of each plant so you are able to get a really good idea of what the plant looks like.  Enjoy!

If you check out the WaterWonk search tool, I would love to hear how you liked it.  Let me know in the comments below!

If you’re gardening in a state other than California, check with your county Cooperative Extension Service, or do a Google search to find landscape water efficiency resources for your region.  Many water agencies, native plant societies, plant nurseries, and other organizations publish plant lists online.  You might start by entering search terms such as “low-water”, “drought tolerant”, or “water-wise” plants for (your city/state).

The #1 Question I Receive About Ecological Landscaping

The #1 Question I Receive About Ecological Landscaping

The question I was most often asked while visiting clients as a Garden Consultant was, “Can you design a totally no maintenance yard for me”?

Although done in a humorous spirit, those who asked this really would prefer to avoid yard work!  🙂

My answer often went something like this…”Sure, if you don’t want any plants”!  We can create a nice hardscape plan for you, and you’ll never have to mow, weed, or prune again”!  (Hardscape includes all the elements of a landscape that are not plant material such as sidewalks, patios, and BBQ pits, etc.  Softscape is the plants: lawn, trees, shrubs).

Seriously though, there is no such thing as a maintenance free landscape.  All require regular maintenance in order to thrive and grow even more beautiful over time.  Your landscape is an investment, and part of the cost of that investment that is often overlooked by DIYers is maintenance.  Maintenance takes time, energy, and money.  If you (or another family member are not a person who really enjoys working in the yard, and has the time and energy to do it, I encourage you to consider hiring a professional gardener to maintain it for you at least for the first two years.”

“A well-planned landscape will require less maintenance once the plants become established, which may be up to two years for many varieties.  The cost of maintenance for two years should be included in your initial budget for your new landscape.  We can definitely create a low maintenance landscape for you by planning for minimal maintenance from the beginning of the design process.  However, please don’t plan to do the work yourself just to save money without really thinking it through.”  It doesn’t take long for a newly installed landscape to go from fabulous to failure due to lack of proper maintenance.

One beautiful benefit of ecological (or sustainable) landscaping is that maintenance is greatly reduced because we design gardens in such a way that we allow the power of nature to do much of the work.  Essentially, we eliminate or greatly reduce labor intensive maintenance tasks by purposefully selecting our design elements and plant material for sustainability, and we let nature put on her show!

What does that mean?

In terms of landscaping, sustainability means we garden in a way that can be continued indefinitely without causing harm to people or the environment, or being a drain on resources.  We seek to work with nature as much as possible, and let go of the need to have complete control.  We build gardens that invite nature in, and we interfere as little as possible with the normal processes of nature.  Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean we allow nature to run wild in our yards and we do nothing!  That is not gardening.   That is simply observing wilderness.  🙂

One example of how to significantly reduce maintenance when taking a sustainable approach to landscaping is to eliminate or at least reduce the size of the lawn.  The lawn is the highest maintenance element of most traditional landscapes, and typically requires high inputs of products for fertilization and management of weeds and diseases.  The lawn is also the highest water use element in most yards.

I’m not totally against lawns.  I just like to encourage people to consider how much they really need.  If you have a lawn now, how often does it get used?  If it is rarely used anymore, maybe you would get much more enjoyment out of the space by turning it into a water-wise garden that would attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  Think about all the time, energy, and money you could save if you didn’t have to spend it growing a lawn.  A hummingbird garden would require maintenance and water too of course, but not nearly as much as a lawn.  I love the idea of not having to even think about the lawn every week!  If you’re looking to simplify your life, and get more enjoyment out of the space you already have, less lawn might be a good fit for you.

So, although the idea of having a completely maintenance free landscape is not realistic, it is possible to keep maintenance to a minimum without sacrificing beauty.  If you don’t live in a desert, your yard doesn’t have to look like one.  And, conserving water doesn’t mean brown has to be our new green.  🙂

If you have any questions about creating your own sustainable landscape or lowering maintenance in your yard, let me know in the comments below.  Your questions will help me choose topics for future blog posts.  If you already have an easy care landscape you love, I’d love to hear about it.  Please include any details you care to share such as whether you created your own plan or paid a professional to do it for you.  Did you do any or all of the work yourself?  What went right, what went wrong?  What would you do differently next time?

If you found this post valuable, please pass it on to someone who might benefit from it, or give it a share on Facebook or Pinterest!  🙂

Thank you,

Melanie