Move over, plain old green!

By Marianne Willburn
October 20, 2020
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I love getting away from it all in my lush, green, indoor jungle, especially when winter winds start to blow. But a true jungle is not monochromatic, so I like to mix my houseplant colors up a little, too. Just as using contrasting hues, textures and shapes are key to an exciting garden design outdoors, indoor gardens play by the same rules. A little kick of color in just the right place can turn "attractive" into "amazing" in seconds.

Here are five newer houseplant varieties that can create a statement on their own, or can provide the contrast our eyes instinctively seek out in a grouping with all-green or lightly variegated houseplants.

Credit: Courtesy of Costa Farms

1. AglaonemaGolden Fluorite

Aglaonema, also called Chinese evergreen, provides incredible foliage color in an easy-to-maintain package, and ‘Golden Fluorite’ is one of the best newer varieties. Yellows, greens and white suffuse the shiny foliage, with a beautiful blush of rose-red running down the center of each leaf. Aglaonema can handle the drier air indoors while providing gorgeous color in practically any room of your home.

It’s best to grow this forest understory plant in indirect light away from the temperature fluctuations of windows and vents. Water on the moist side, but don’t let it sit with wet feet (empty the saucer after watering). Busy life? Don’t worry, Aglaonema can tolerate drying out from time to time.

Credit: Marianne Willburn

2. Neoregelia ‘Guacamole’

If you’re not growing bromeliads yet, especially Neoregelia, let me be the first to implore that you do. The color variation is unreal, the shape is architectural, and the care is minimal. ‘Guacamole’ is one of my favorites. It’s a smaller house neo with stiff, arching yellow-green leaves that have intense burgundy bands. It’s compact enough to cluster several in a pot or to simply showcase solo on a minimalist shelf.

Indoors, neoregelia appreciate plenty of light to keep that color strong. They also love a humid environment, and a pebble tray is an attractive solution. As for water, they provide their own cup in the center of the leaves. Fill it each week, dumping any stale water first, and dribble a little on the soil to keep your neo happy.

Credit: Marianne Willburn

3. Philodendron ‘Birkin’

From Costa Farms’ Trending Tropicals collection, ‘Birkin’ is a stunning new philodendron whose creamy, one-of-a-kind variegation appears almost white as it unfurls large pin-striped leaves on an upright plant. The variegation of each individual leaf is dramatically different and adds to its appeal. White may not technically be a color, but the variegation is so unusual, and so strong, that it squeaks in under the wire for me.

The care couldn’t be easier: bright indirect light and water on the dry side. Overwater this precious find and you’ll, unfortunately, be hunting for a replacement.

Buy It: Philodendron 'Birkin' ($18, Etsy)

Credit: Marianne Willburn

4. Dracaena ‘Harvest Moon’

So new that you probably won't find it for sale until next spring, ‘Harvest Moon’ is a striking Dracaena fragrans that was a 2020 Cool New Products award winner at the Tropical Plant International Expo in January. This is one to showcase on a stand in your dullest corner, because it can handle the lower light levels that usually characterize those darker spaces. There, it will bring an architectural presence to the room with golden, strappy leaves double-edged with deep green.

Much like most dracaena, you can get away with letting the top inch of soil dry out between waterings, but never let it go bone dry. It also appreciates any extra humidity you can provide, which will help keep the leaf tips from turning dry and brown.

Credit: Marianne Willburn

5. Begonia ‘Positively Peridot’

Another brand new variety that's not yet available on the market, ‘Positively Peridot’ from J. Berry Nursery's Crown Jewels Begonia collection, ticks all the boxes. It’s a rhizomatic begonia with startlingly acid-green leaves that are deeply lobed and splattered with rich burgundy tones and red margins. The crinkled, somewhat succulent texture is outstanding, and for those close-up shots, tiny light-catching hairs decorate the delicate red margins framing each leaf.

Yep, this one’s a stunner, and rhizomatic begonias make good houseplants as long as you follow four rules: Keep them away from heating vents; err on the side of dry when watering; don't cover those fascinating textured rhizomes with soil; and give it bright, indirect light.

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