View from the Garden: House Plants for the Reluctant Indoor Gardener

House plants in the winter can be a great comfort for a plant lover. Depending on one’s skill, they can thrive and be very beautiful. I, however, am not one of those people.

The house plants that “survive” in my house must be tough and tolerant of care from one not devoted to them. I can grow most any plant that needs winter care in a greenhouse, usually trickier that house plant care, but have killed many plants trying to live in my house.  If they survive the winter neglect, I can make them thrive outside—but they’d better bulk up for the winter. Given this, I have a collection of house plants that have the necessary requirements for life in my house and some have  lived, and even thrived, with me for many years.

Cactus and aloes are probably my favorite house plants. There are many varieties with many different shapes and sizes. Their sculptural aspect and easy care makes any of them almost irresistible to me. When I had access to a green house, I had a large collection but now just a small group.  Caring for them cannot be easier. They need bright light and minimal water. They do not like humid conditions and do well with usual room temperatures. They like to be somewhat root bound and though they grow slowly, they do noticeably grow, assuring the caregiver that they are still alive!

Sansevieras are another favorite. Commonly called mother-in-law tongues, there are numerous varieties of these also. I have a huge cylindrical one that occupies a whole sliding glass door in my living room. Beside it is a smaller one called baseball bat. These grow very slowly but I was thrilled when they each bloomed last winter.

None of the above plants have ever had a disease or pest problem. If they are not over-watered and are repotted when they have really outgrown their pots, they will be your friends for years.

I tried to grow Rex Begonias several time but after killing several of these extraordinarily beautiful plants, I decided I should spare any more of them. I have, however, found success with Rhizomatous Begonias. They store water in rhizomes, allowing them to tolerate irregular watering. They like indirect light, normal room temperatures and can tolerate some neglect. They even bloom under these conditions. With more care, mine would probably become lovely specimens but, to me, they are just fine the way they are.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.

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