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Popular in Gardening

Fantastic Foliage Houseplants

From frilly fronds to big, bold, brightly colored leaves, foliage houseplants set the tone in any room. Choose from the selection of attractive tropical beauties described here to dress up your home.

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    • Iron-Cross Begonia

      Wondering where this plant got its name? Look for the dark brown markings on its leaves and you'll notice a cross pattern. It doesn't mind being a little potbound, but do stop it from completely drying out.

      Here's a tip: If you see brown, crispy leaf edges, give the plant more humidity. If you see yellowing or browning leaves, cut back on the amount of water you give it.

      Why We Love It: It's an old-fashioned plant that reminds us of our grandmothers. Plus, it's extra easy to grow.

      Name: Begonia masoniana

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 65-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 12 inches tall and wide

      Note: The roots and stems can cause painful irritation of the mouth, lips, or throat if eaten or chewed by children or pets.

    • Peacock Plant

      Peacock plant is one of the more commonly available types of Calathea, but you're likely to find several other species in garden shops. All have silver and green markings on upper leaf surfaces with a reddish purple reverse, making them attractive when viewed from above or below. Give peacock plant warm temperatures and high humidity for best results.

      Why We Love It: Calatheas are some of the boldest, most dramatic foliage plants around.

      Name: Calathea makoyana

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 70-85 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 18 inches tall and wide

    • Prayer Plant

      Green prayer plant (pictured) is sometimes called rabbit tracks for its purplish brown leaf markings. Closely related red prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura erythroneura) has bright red leaf veins along with the markings. Leaves of both forms fold together in the dark, creating the impression of praying hands. Prayer plant appreciates high humidity and even soil moisture except in winter when it goes semi-dormant and need slightly drier conditions.

      Why We Love It: It's a fun plant for children because the leaves open and close at night. The big leaves create a nice accent to rooms and they fit in with a wide variety of decorating styles.

      Name: Maranta leuconeura

      Growing Conditions: Medium light; 60-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist, drier in winter

      Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    • Nerve Plant

      The fine tracery of pink, red, white or silver veins on leaves give nerve plant its common name. It's a great way to add color to a brightly lit kitchen or bathroom because it appreciates high humidity and moist soil.

      Why We Love It: It combines well with other plants in dish gardens and terrariums.

      Name: Fittonia albivenis Verschaffeltii Group

      Growing Conditions: Medium light; 65-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

    • Rex Begonia

      Hundreds of cultivars of rex begonia are available in a broad array of color combinations of silver, white, pink, red, purple, and green. Many have unique leaf shapes and forms as well. Although rex begonia is grown primarily for its dazzling foliage, it may produce pink or white blossoms in bright light.

      Why We Love It: It's a time-tested favorite of generations of gardeners thanks to its flamboyant foliage.

      Name: Begonia rex selections

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 65-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

      Note: The roots and stems can cause painful irritation of the mouth, lips, or throat if eaten or chewed by children or pets.

    • Ti Plant

      Colorful strap-like leaves emerge from a central stalk on ti plant, which is also called good luck plant and sometimes classified as C. terminalis. As the plant ages, it loses its lower leaves to show off a woody trunk. It's easy to propagate; just place sections of the trunk horizontally on moist potting soil. Then be patient: It may take several months for new shoots to sprout.

      Why We Love It: The variegated leaves make this one of the best houseplants for creating a splash of constant color (because you don't have to worry about whether it's going to stop blooming): It looks great 365 days a year.

      Name: Cordyline fruticosa

      Growing Conditions: Bright to intense light; 60-85 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    • China Doll

      China doll has a fine texture, even though individual leaves can be 2 feet long. It is usually sold with several plants in one container to give it a fuller appearance. Pinch or prune shoots regularly to keep plants lush and full.

      Why We Love It: Its finely textured leaves add grace and elegance to any room -- and it fits well with a wide variety of decorating styles.

      Name: Radermachera sinica

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 60-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    • Aluminum Plant

      Enjoy the fun, metallic-silver splotches of aluminum plant's green leaves. It makes an attractive tabletop plant or hanging basket. If the plant gets leggy, move it to brighter light and pinch it back to force more compact growth.

      Why We Love It: Its compact size makes it a good candidate for mixed dish gardens or terrariums.

      Name: Pilea cadierei

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 60-75 degrees F.; allow the soil surface to dry between waterings

      Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

      Note: The roots and stems can cause painful irritation of the mouth, lips, or throat if eaten or chewed by pets.

    • Wandering Jew

      The most widely available form of this easy-care vine has leaves with olive and silver striping on top and purplish maroon underneath. Some forms have purplish color on both surfaces of leaves. In bright light plants may bear pink flowers with three petals. Wandering Jew starts easily from stem cuttings stuck in moist potting soil or water. While you can leave the cuttings growing for months in water, they'll do best if you plant them in potting mix.

      Why We Love It: Besides offering great foliage, it's also extra-easy to grow and propagate.

      Name: Tradescantia zebrina

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 55-75 degrees F.; allow soil surface to dry between waterings

      Size: To 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide

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      Fatsia

      Unlike many tropical plants, Japanese fatsia likes to be kept on the cool side, but adapts well to normal room temperatures. Try it near a sliding glass door or in a cool entryway as a dramatic specimen plant. Wash the leaves periodically to maintain a glossy shine and to remove the occasional spider mite infestation.

      Why We Love It: This plant is all about texture. The big leaves create a dramatic, tropical look in an instant.

      Name: Fatsia japonica

      Growing Conditions: Low to medium light; 50-65 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 6 feet tall and wide

    • 11 of 25

      Pleomele

      This plant used to be classified as Pleomele reflexa, and is still sometimes sold under that name. The wild form has solid green leaves, but the cream-and-green variegated cultivar 'Song of India' is more widely available. If the plant grows too tall or loses its lower leaves, prune it back to force new, more compact growth.

      Why We Love It: This shrubby plant mixes well in a variety of decorating styles. Its variegated foliage adds extra interest.

      Name: Dracaena reflexa

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 65-75 degrees F.; allow soil surface to dry between waterings

      Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

      Note: This plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by dogs.

    • 12 of 25

      Parlor Palm

      Parlor palm has been popular since Victorian times. It grows best with medium light and moist soil. Keep it out of cold drafts and avoid exposing it to direct sun to prevent brown leaf tips. Give parlor palm a shower occasionally to wash off accumulated dust and keep spider mites at bay.

      Why We Love It: Because it tolerates low light and low humidity fairly well, it's one of the best palms to grow indoors.

      Name: Chamaedorea elegans

      Growing Conditions: Low to medium light; 65-80 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    • 13 of 25

      Moon Valley Friendship Plant

      In bright light Moon Valley friendship plant may offer small creamy-white flowers, but its most outstanding feature is its waffle-like foliage. If the plant becomes leggy, simply pinch back the stems to keep the plant compact.

      Why We Love It: Its color and texture make it an excellent companion plant for iron-cross begonia.

      Name: Pilea involucrata 'Moon Valley'

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 60-75 degrees F.; allow soil surface to dry between waterings

      Size: To 1 foot tall and wide

      Note: The roots and stems can cause painful irritation of the mouth, lips, or throat if eaten or chewed by pets.

    • 14 of 25

      Blushing Bromeliad

      Although small purple flowers form in the center of blushing bromeliad's vase, the variegated foliage is the star attraction and source of its common name. Leaves have saw-tooth edges, so take care when handling the plant. Water the central vase rather than the soil.

      Why We Love It: Its green-and-white striped leaves with central red blaze on young foliage create a bold statement.

      Name: Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor'

      Growing Conditions: Bright light; 65-80 degrees F.; keep water in central vase of leaf cluster

      Size: To 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide

    • 15 of 25

      Watermelon Begonia

      Watermelon begonia is unrelated to either watermelon or begonia, but you can see how it got its common name: Its gray-green leaves have patches of silver and dark green and resemble a tiny watermelon or a colorful begonia leaf. The trailing stems have a tinge of pink, and leaf undersides are silvery white. The plant used to be classified as Pellionia pulchra, and you may find it sold under that name.

      Why We Love It: The trailing stems and silver-and-green leaves create a charming accent no matter where you grow it.

      Name: Elatostema repens

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 70-80 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: Trailing to 2 feet or more

    • 16 of 25

      Strawberry Begonia

      Although strawberry begonia is commonly used as a landscape ground cover in Zone 7 and warmer, it makes a terrific houseplant most anywhere that receives a moderate amount of light. It is not closely related to either strawberry or begonia, but has some characteristics that resemble those plants. Like many begonias it has multicolored leaves, and similar to strawberries, it produces plantlets on runners sent out by the mother plant.

      Why We Love It: It's an easy-to-grow plant with beautiful foliage. It's also really easy to propagate and share with friends.

      Name: Saxifraga stolonifera

      Growing Conditions: Medium light; 50-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide

    • 17 of 25

      Purple Passion

      You may also know this old-fashioned houseplant as purple velvet plant because of the color and texture of its foliage. Its fast-growing stems trail as they lengthen, making the plant well adapted to hanging baskets. Older plants may produce orange flowers.

      Why We Love It: The fuzzy purple foliage is interesting and distinctive. Plus, it's easy to grow from cuttings.

      Name: Gynura aurantiaca 'Purple Passion'

      Growing Conditions: Bright light; 60-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

    • 18 of 25

      Aralia

      Balfour aralia (pictured) is one of several aralias commonly available as houseplants. Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) has deeply cut lacy leaves. Parsley aralia (P. f. 'Elegans') is smaller, with dense curled leaves. All develop corky, gnarled trunks as they age. Aralias need warm temperatures and high humidity. Keep them away from cold drafts.

      Why We Love It: They're great trees with glossy green, scalloped leaves that create a beautiful texture indoors.

      Name: Polyscias scutellaria 'Balfourii'

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 65-85 degrees F; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

      Note: This plant is poisonous and can make children or pets ill if they chew or eat it.

    • 19 of 25

      Asparagus Fern

      Several plants go by the common name of asparagus fern. Foxtail fern (pictured) has bottlebrush plumes of medium green needles. 'Sprengeri' has arching stems covered with flat needles, giving the plant a frothy appearance. Plumose fern (Asparagus setaceus) looks more like a true fern, but like the others is an ornamental form of asparagus.

      Why We Love It: The feathery foliage looks good in a variety of settings and decorating styles.

      Name: Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers'

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 60-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 2 feet tall and wide

      Note: The red fruits can make children or pets ill if eaten (though the plants rarely fruit indoors).

    • 20 of 25

      Baby's Tears

      This species of baby's tears forms a mat of delicate rounded leaves. It grows well in a small hanging basket, as a ground cover in a terrarium, or surrounding large, upright houseplants. It's a wonderful, old-fashioned plant.

      Why We Love It: It's a beautiful ground cover that forms a mat of fine-textured foliage. It's perfect for terrariums.

      Name: Soleirolia soleirolii

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 55-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 2 inches tall and 12 inches wide

    • 21 of 25

      Fiber-Optic Grass

      Fiber optic grass gets its common name from wiry grassy leaves, which resemble fiber optic wire. It can even grow in standing water, adding fine texture to a shallow water garden. Or create a mini palm tree effect by wrapping a plastic tube around the base of the plant for the "trunk," allowing leaf tips to arch out of the tube as palm "fronds."

      Why We Love It: Its arching, threadlike grassy foliage is a conversation piece. And it's a great choice if you tend to overwater plants.

      Name: Isolepis cernua

      Growing Conditions: Medium light; 55-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist or wet

      Size: To 12 inches tall and 20 inches wide

    • 22 of 25

      Piggyback Plant

      This plant earned its common name because baby plantlets develop on the main leaf vein of older leaves, appearing to ride piggyback. This makes the plant easy to propagate. Simply pin a leaf bearing a plantlet to the soil to encourage rooting. The weight of developing plantlets causes outer leaves to drape over the container's edge, which makes piggyback plant a good choice for a hanging basket or display on a pedestal.

      Why We Love It: The fuzzy green leaves are charming when they develop little babies at the base. It's super-easy to propagate and share with friends or neighbors.

      Name: Tolmiea menziesii

      Growing Conditions: Medium to bright light; 60-75 degrees F., 50-65 degrees F. in winter; allow the soil surface to dry between waterings

      Size: To 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide

      Note: Piggyback plant can cause skin irritation to individuals with sensitive skin.

    • 23 of 25

      Swedish Ivy

      Native to South Africa and Australia rather than Sweden, where it was first popularized, Swedish ivy is more closely related to mint than ivy. It's an easy-to-grow cascading plant with glossy green, scalloped-edge leaves. It often blooms in spring and summer with short spikes of white or lavender flowers, but the foliage is the main attraction.

      Why We Love It: It's an easy-to-grow vine that looks especially beautiful in hanging baskets.

      Name: Plectranthus verticillatus

      Growing Conditions: Medium light; 60-75 degrees F., 50-65 degrees F. in winter; allow the soil surface to dry between waterings

      Size: To 18 inches tall and 36 inches wide

    • 24 of 25

      Waffle Plant

      This mounding plant has creeping or trailing wine-red stems and glossy, oval, purplish leaves with scalloped edges. In summer, waffle plant bears small white flowers at the stem tips. They contrast beautifully with the dark foliage. It's also a great annual ground cover outdoors in shade gardens.

      Why We Love It: It's a low-growing plant perfect for adding texture to tabletops, mantels, or other horizontal surfaces where its creeping stems can create a richly colored carpet.

      Name: Hemigraphis alternata 'Exotica'

      Growing Conditions: Medium light; 60-80 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist

      Size: To 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide

    • 25 of 25
      Next Slideshow 24 of the Easiest Houseplants You Can Grow

      24 of the Easiest Houseplants You Can Grow

      Grow these no-fuss houseplants to bring life and color to your home.
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