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Growing houseplants is a wonderful way to add attractive foliage and flowers to indoor spaces. There's a houseplant for every living space, from small-scale terrariums to miniature trees. Every type of houseplant has particular growing requirements as well as preferences for sun and moisture. The Houseplants section of the Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia can help sort out any questions you might have, as well as inspire you to add different varieties of indoor houseplants to your growing routine. Our dictionary of houseplants allows you to search by common or scientific name, as well as learn about care tips and ideal growing conditions for each plant.
African violet care is incredibly easy. African violets are easy-to-grow, rewarding houseplants. They bloom well with lower light than most other blooming plants, although they will perform better with medium to bright, indirect light. All bear clusters of purple, pink, white, rose, or lavender flowers over fuzzy leaves. African violet flowers may be single, double, ruffled, or edged in an accent color. African violets thrive in warm conditions (65 degrees F or warmer), although newer varieties tolerate cooler conditions. Keep the soil evenly moist, and water from the bottom to prevent leaf browning from water spots.
The spiky green foliage of aloe vera is splotched in white and contains a gel-like sap often used to soothe burns and moisturize skin. This succulent perennial herb is at home in frost-free, sunny, well-drained sites. Native to hot, dry regions of Africa, it has been traced to early Egypt, where it was used for its healing properties. Aloe makes a great houseplant, especially in colder Zones where it cannot be grown outdoors all year. Aloe vera is also sometimes called Barbados aloe and true aloe.
Amaryllis is an easy bulb to grow. Its enormous cluster of trumpet-shape blooms may require staking to keep them upright, but blooms may last for up to 6 weeks. Keep the plant cool (60-65 degrees F) while in bloom but slightly warmer at other times when it is actively growing. It needs bright light and evenly moist soil, except when it is dormant. Force the bulb to go dormant in late summer or early fall by withholding water and placing it in a cool, dry location for a couple of months. Resume watering and move it to a warm spot to force new growth.
Arrowhead vine is a lush foliage plant that holds its variegation well in low light. Young plants usually remain compact mounds of foliage in various shades of green, bronze, and pink. As plants age, they develop more of a vining growth habit. Cut them back to keep them compact, or train them onto a moss pole. Arrowhead vine grows well in low to medium light with average room temperature. Keep the soil evenly moist. It is sometimes called nephthytis.
This subtropical relative of edible garden asparagus is in the lily family, but its needlelike foliage give it an appearance resembling a fern. Its stems shoot up and outward, making it an excellent plant for hanging baskets. Give asparagus fern medium to bright indoor light and keep the soil uniformly moist. Plants sometimes develop small red berries, which are poisonous, so keep the berries away from children and pets.
Looking for a small palm that tolerates shade? Check out bamboo palm and its relatives. Most stay under 10 feet tall, so they fit perfectly in the yard. Try it as a foundation planting, at the back of the border to create a textural backdrop for your other plants, or as a unique hedge
Add tropical flair to your garden or home with stunning bird of paradise flowers. Named for their resemblance to a flamboyant tropical bird, the long-lasting blooms appear in shades of orange and white. Outdoors, they are a favorite in tropical landscapes because the plants are practically carefree -- just give them a sunny spot with well-drained soil and you'll be rewarded with the exotic blooms.
Indoors, they need a bright spot in order to produce flowers. Many gardeners take their bird of paradise outside for the summer so the plants can soak up the sun. Repot or divide the plants every two to three years if you grow them in a container to prevent them from becoming root-bound.
With stunning 8-foot-long silvery blue-to-green leaves, Bismarck palm stands out in any landscape. In its native Madagascar, it reaches 80 feet tall, but in most landscapes it usually grows 40-50 feet tall and 20-25 feet wide. Bismarck palm makes a stately focal point in a large, open yard.
Once it's established, this palm is quite drought-tolerant -- but be sure to keep it well-watered the first year or so after you plant it. Bismarck palm is a slow grower, making it an unusual houseplant choice if you have a large bright window, sunroom, or greenhouse.
Grow your own peppercorns with this lovely houseplant. A vine that produces chains of small round fruit, black pepper thrives in full or part sun and indoor temperatures above 65 degrees F. By selecting the time of harvest, all four types of peppercorns -- black, white, green, and red -- can be harvested from the same plant. Black pepper is a slow-growing vine, and plants take three to four years to start flowering and fruiting.
Wait to water black pepper until the soil is visibly dry. When watering, thoroughly saturate the soil until a little water runs out the bottom of the pot.
The lush arching, dangling fronds of Boston fern are especially suited to hanging baskets, but they also look great on a pedestal. Give the plant medium to bright light, high humidity, temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F, and evenly moist soil to ensure success.
China doll can become a large tree outdoors, but in the home you can keep it to 4 or 5 feet tall by pinching back new growth to cause branching. Mature plants have glossy, deeply divided leaves with prominent veins. It grows well at average room temperature, but can take 55 degrees F in winter. Give it medium to bright light to prevent legginess and keep the soil evenly moist.
Chinese evergreen is an excellent foliage plant for low to medium light. Its lance-shape leaves are usually variegated with silver, gray, or shades of green. Keep the soil evenly moist and the air temperature above 60 degrees F to avoid chilling injury. The plant's sap contains an irritant, so keep the plants out of reach of children and pets.
Christmas cactus is a true cactus although it doesn't resemble typical desert cacti. That's because in its native habitat it grows in trees. It is a short-day plant, blooming when it gets more than 12 to 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness. You can also force it into bloom by providing cool temperatures, below 55 degrees F, for 6 to 8 weeks. Plants grow best in bright light with moderately dry soil. Room temperature is good for it except when it is in bloom or developing flower buds. At those times keep it at 55 degrees F.
Trailing shade-loving coleus is an easy-to-grow annual foliage plant that adapts well to hanging baskets and container gardens where its sprawling stems can drape over the edge of the planter. You also can plant it in landscape beds where it will intertwine with flowering annuals and perennials to brighten shady nooks.
Shade-loving coleus with blended leaf color provides vivid color and wild markings even in the darkest corners of your yard. The mottled colors often change in intensity depending on the amount of sunlight and heat. These varieties are easy to grow -- just plant them in a shady but warm spot; give them enough water to keep the soil moist, but not wet; and add a little fertilizer.
When frost threatens, pot them up and enjoy them as houseplants in a sunny window until spring. Then plant them outdoors once again!
Add excitement to dim areas of your yard with shade-loving coleus varieties that have a contrasting color on leaf edges. An amazing array of color combinations are available, as well as leaf textures -- choose from plants with scalloped, toothed, or fringed leaf edges. Coleus is exceptionally easy to grow: Plant it in a shaded spot, keep the soil moist, feed it regularly, and be sure it has warm temperatures.
When frost threatens, pot coleus up and enjoy it as houseplants in a sunny window until spring. Then plant outdoors once again!
Solid color shade-loving coleus grows well even in the darkest corners of your yard if you give it water, a little fertilizer, and wait to plant it outdoors until after the weather is consistently warm. Leaf color is often more intense in light shade than in deep shade, but avoid planting in full sun because leaves are susceptible to scorch in bright light conditions.
Veined shade-loving coleus is a colorful foliage plant that grows well in warm weather. Wait until nighttime temperatures remain well above freezing to plant it outdoors. Grow it in landscape beds or add it to container gardens to brighten shady corners.
When frost threatens, pot it up and enjoy it as a houseplant in a sunny window until spring. Then plant it outdoors once again!
Trailing sun-loving coleus is an easy-to-grow annual foliage plant that adapts well to hanging baskets and container gardens where it sprawling stems can drape over the edge of the planter. You also can plant it at the front of garden beds where it will intertwine with flowering annuals and perennials to bring color to the landscape.
Most trailing coleus have smaller leaves than upright growers, reaching only about an inch long.
Blended-color, sun-tolerant coleus makes a bright splash in sunny or shady sites. Their stippled or mottled leaves often take on different hues depending on the amount of sunlight that the plant receives. These easy-care plants thrive in moist, well-drained soil and warm growing conditions.
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