Completing our two-parter on house plants, this week we’ve selected a dream team of house dwellers based mainly on the texture, colour and exoticism of their foliage.
Floral & Hardy’s Top Five Foliage Houseplants:
Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
A wonderful plant that is favoured for its manageable size and growth rate, but also for its elegant good looks – the easiest comparison would be to call it ‘the bonsai palm tree’. Suitable for pot growth where you can expect it eventually to reach heights of over two metres, it’s easy to look after in virtually any room in the house, and being an evergreen also makes this palm a sound investment for year round decoration.
Iron Cross Begonia (Begonia masoniana)
The Iron Cross Begonia is a broad-leaved evergreen perennial with a low, bushy habit. The foliage itself is dappled and, in texture, lightly rough to the touch. The emerald green leaves will show deep purple markings with a tendency toward cross patterning. It does also have the bonus of flowering with tall stems of scented, creamy flowers, but is mainly grown for its striking foliage. Grow in good light, but not direct sunlight.
Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina)
The story goes that this little beauty is named, due to its rapidly spreading nature in its native lands, after a Jew who has been alive since the crucifixion of Christ – left wandering the earth incessantly until Jesus’ return! Whatever its origin, due to its vine-like growth, it is best suited to guided growing i.e. through canes or even over furniture – a friend of mine made a beautiful installation of the plant using an old wicker clothes airer! They also look good left to trail down from hanging baskets. In any case, it’s a beautiful, easy to grow specimen with complimentary green, silver and purple variegated leaves that grow, overlapping one another, in the hundreds.
Purple Passion (Gynura aurantiaca)
Formerly known as the Purple Velvet plant, this cultivar will bear lush bunches of glossy green leaves which will cultivate a layer of incandescent indigo hairs on their surface, giving a startling furry appearance. In time the soft stems will branch outward and sit well on a hanging basket – making them ideal for porch or conservatory where they’ll be assured the light they need to coax their orange flowers into bloom. Keep the hairy leaves clean using a soft paintbrush and cut them back a bit when the leaves start to lose their colour to encourage new growth.
Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus)
In my opinion I’ve saved the best till last with this plant, whose foliage has such a staggered growth cycle that a matured and vital plant can appear to have a variety of different leaf shapes and textures, where in fact they are merely at different stages of maturity. These will cascade downward in an overlapping fashion with the promise of spikes of tiny white and lavender flowers in the summer. Despite its name, it originates in the Southern Hemisphere and only became known as Swedish Ivy as this was the country that first popularised it as a houseplant. The leaves also have a distinctive scent when touched.
This concludes our roster of champion, easy to grow houseplants and we hope you find it useful, although you probably have many favourites of your own. Remember, however, that houseplants are like any other plant, you only get from them what you put into them, and ensure you follow the basics of house planting like indirect sunlight, judicious watering and plenty of pot space.
By Josh Ellison