No doubt about it, I’m a foliage gal. More often than not, if the leaves of a plant don’t interest me, the plant does not come home with me - no matter how popular and cherished it is among other houseplant enthusiasts. For instance, I can’t for the life of me see the appeal in small, thin-leaved plants such as Ivy or in Ferns with narrow leaflets. It just doesn’t do it for me. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the delicate beauty of these types of plants. I do. And although I do realize that they are exceptionally popular, they certainly won’t take up a spot in my home. If by chance they ever do, it’s only for experimental reasons, usually to test their ability to grow in hydroculture.
But this doesn’t mean that I always rule out entire species. Sometimes - even in a plant group that doesn’t generally interest me - the occasional dynamic member can be found. For example: although I’m not much of a fan of any member of the Ivy clan, I do like some plants from the ancient – dating back to prehistoric times - Fern group. A couple of members that I adore include the Staghorn and Bird’s Nest; both very unique and stylish.
So although there are a great variety of leaf styles, only a few types interest me. My concentration lies mainly on dramatic, visually striking foliage that demands attention. When I’m snooping around at the garden center, one thing’s for sure: leaves that are long and narrow, large, oval, spiky, thick, leathery, unusually or interestingly-shaped, broad, variegated, streaked or splashed with colour will certainly draw my attention and reel me in to further investigate. And plants that are tall with huge leaves, such as some of the Philodendrons, leave me in awe – even though I never purchase any of these types because they’re much too large for my home.
So, after all that rambling, the question is: are there specific plants that I am particularly fond of? You bet there are. And not just a few. There are a multitude of plants I am keen on, some of which I’ve had the good fortune to grow and some of which I’d like to grow but have yet to find locally.
And I’m going to share a handful of my favourites with you. Maybe you’ll like a few of them too.
This is one of the most spectacular Calatheas I’ve ever had the good fortune to set my eyes on. And although almost all of the Calathea members appeal to me, there’s something extra special about the Corona with its olive green leaves highlighted by dark green edges. This magnificent, shiny-leaved charmer makes a great specimen plant with its beautifully-designed foliage. Place it on its own, away from the masses, for a stunning ornamental effect that will draw attention and accentuate the spot it occupies.
The Corona is no different than any other Calathea member: it is very fussy about its needs and insists that they be met. If you do not provide the required care to this plant, which can be very unforgiving, it will decline rapidly and end up in the trash bin. Guaranteed. Keep its soil moist but never soggy, use a fast-draining medium to avoid root rot, make sure it receives bright, indirect light in a warm room, protect it from midday sun and cold drafts, and always, always satisfy its (unyielding) desire for ample humidity. This plant may be a little more demanding but it’s worth the added effort if you’re looking for a striking addition to your home décor.
* photo courtesy of www.toptropicals.com *
Alpinia Zerumbet Variegata – Variegated Shell Ginger
I got my first glimpse of this striking plant a few months ago at a garden center near my home. And I’ve yearned for one ever since. I have not lugged one home with me because – much to my dismay – the only Gingers of this kind being sold are specimens that are much too large for my residence (the dwarf version would solve this problem but it’s nowhere to be found). To accommodate this large beauty, I’d have to get rid of some of my furniture. Or one of the kids.
* photo courtesy of www.toptropicals.com *
Stromanthe Sanguinea Tricolor (Triostar)
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful jewels of the tropical world, the Sanguinea Tricolor is one of the only Stromanthes available for indoor gardening. And although it can be a little more challenging, you can adorn your home with the eye-catching, multicoloured foliage of this dazzler all year round as long as you properly fulfill its needs.
Like its Calathea cousin the Corona, this Maranta member needs high levels of humidity to keep it healthy. A pebble tray filled with water or a humidifier nearby will increase the moisture in the air and help keep it in good shape. Keep the porous soil moist at all times and never allow it to dry out completely. Average room temperatures between 16°C (60°F) and 27°C (80°F) are ideal, and cold drafts must be avoided. Protect this specimen from direct exposure to sunlight, which will damage the leaves and cause them to fade, and place it in bright light to intensify the dramatic variegation.
Vriesea Splendens – Flaming Sword
Bromeliads, unfortunately, are not available regularly in my neck of the woods. And on the rare occasion when they are offered at the local garden centers, they’re usually the less glamorous varieties and alarmingly quite pricey. But lady luck came to town recently and brought with her the exotic Vriesea Splendens, a Bromeliad admired for its outstanding foliage and its spectacular flower display. The price tag was a little more than what I’m usually willing to dish out for plants, but since this dazzler has been absent for years, I decided to bite the bullet and take one home. Perhaps it’ll make lots and lots of babies (something Bromeliads are capable of before they expire) and I’ll get a good return on my initial investment.
Spathiphyllum Domino – Domino Peace Lily
I’m not a big fan of the ordinary, green-leaved Peace Lilies – although I think they’re pretty enough to warrant a shady spot in my home, mainly because of their flowers – but I am a huge fan of the marble-leaved Spathiphyllum Domino with its dark green and white spear-shaped leaves. Man-made, fairly new to the market, and the only variegated cultivar, this elegant Peace Lily is a stunning addition to interior gardens. And although it’s not the most prolific bloomer, the patterned leaves make the Domino irresistible.
Alocasia Amazonica – Shield Plant, African Mask
The first time I ever laid eyes on this plant, I knew I had to add it to my indoor plant collection. Years later, I’m still captivated by its glossy, dark green, elongated leaves with protruding bright, white veins and margins. This exotic specimen should be placed where it can be admired; its elongated, arrow-shaped foliage - that can reach over a foot long - demands attention and is worthy of center stage.
Dracaena Reflexa – Song Of India
Exotic-looking, rugged and carefree, this tropical indoor plant makes a bold statement with its beautiful yellow and green variegated leaves. The Dracaena Reflexa - widely used in office and commercial settings – is a wonderful choice for houseplant enthusiasts interested in adding a stylish plant to their collection. Sold throughout the year in local garden centers, florist shops, supermarkets, big box stores - and any other place that sells plants for indoor gardening - you’ll have no trouble obtaining one of these.
By now it must be obvious how much of a fan I am of Bromeliads. How can I not be when members of this spectacular group include plants such as the eye-catching Aechmea Chantinii? Don’t pass up this low maintenance, popular specimen that is perfectly suitable for the home if you ever find it available at local garden centers, which is – regrettably - hardly ever. With deep green leaves that are banded by silver, this epiphyte requires the same type of care as the Vriesea Splendens – Flaming Sword.
Strobilanthes Dyerianus - Persian Shield
This charming plant with its shiny, lance-shaped, marbled, dark green and metallic purple leaves commands attention and is best displayed on its own. Although it is an exceptional choice for indoors, it requires specific care to look its best. High humidity is essential; add a humidifier nearby or place the plant on a pebble tray. Average temperatures and a brightly-lit spot away from the direct rays of the summer sun will keep this plant thriving. Keep the soil evenly moist during the warm months, allow it to dry slightly between waterings and then water thoroughly. During the cooler months, water sparingly to avoid root rot.
Ficus Elastica Tricolor – Variegated Rubber Plant
My home has never been without the cherished Ficus Elastica. Its durability and low-maintenance requirements - combined with its bold, rubbery leaves - make it irresistible as an indoor plant. Imagine my surprise – and delight – when the ‘Tricolor’ showed up at the garden center, which is beautifully-variegated and just as easy to care for.
So there you have it folks – some great choices if you’re searching for plants with impressive foliage. Of course there are many, many more that belong in this article, but the above-mentioned are a few of my favourites. Houseplants with attractive, variegated foliage can be found all year round at your local garden center from plant groups such as Coleus, Dracaena, Cordyline, Croton, Peperomia, Dieffenbachia, Aglaonema and Rex Begonia, which are not only ornamental but also affordable and easy to maintain.