Question: I like your idea of growing plants to improve my indoor air. Could you suggest some that are easily grown by an amateur?
Answer: Here are five trailing indoor plant varieties that almost anyone can grow. Most children have fun growing these plants. They are all easy to start with branches cut off of an existing plant. Although they all grow best with some direct sunlight, they can be grown in relatively low-light conditions.
My favorite is Swedish ivy (also called creeping Charlie). It is a fast growing plant with shiny, scalloped leaves on long vining arms. Variegated Swedish ivy has green and white leaves, and grows a little more compact than the green type. With plenty of fertilizer, Swedish ivy grows rapidly. It is actually more compact and attractive if it has less fertilizer. I have started several plants by sticking 10 or more 3 to 5 inch stem cuttings into a 6 to 8 inch hanging basket of potting soil and covering with a clear plastic bag for a week or two until they are rooted. Snap or cut the tips of stems to encourage branching.
If you like plants with colorful leaves, try purple and green striped Wandering Jew. I was recently in a friend’s home and spotted a small Wandering Jew plant growing near a window. When I looked more closely, I noticed that it was two stems which had been rooted in a glass of water. It was about six weeks old with only a little liquid fertilizer and had a mass of roots with no soil. The problem with Wandering Jew is that they grow so fast that they become scraggly. Just cut plants back to stimulate new growth, or start new plants.
Devil’s Ivy or Pothos is a variegated ivy with heart shaped leaves. It comes in both yellow and green or white and green versions. Stems can be cut back to stimulate branching and maintain a compact plant or left to grow several feet long and trained over doorways or similar locations. Devil’s ivy is often grown on an upright pole. It will form roots on stems which are touching the soil. A new plant can be started by pinning down a stem or two on an empty pot placed next to an existing plant.
Heart-shaped Philodendron is very similar to devil’s ivy except without the variegation in the leaves. It looks best if stem tips are pinched off to encourage branching.
Spider plant is the easiest to grow and most indestructible of any vining plant. The green and white variegated leaf variety is more attractive than the solid green one. Spider plant has long, narrow, pointed leaves and produces numerous offsets on wire-like branches similar to strawberry plants. The little offset plantlets are similar in appearance to spiders. These offsets form small roots like toes in the air and grow readily if they touch the soil. They hang down like a charm bracelet over the side of the pot. Roots are so thick that plants need to be moved to larger pots regularly before they push themselves out of the pot. These are all plants that are fun to start new ones to give to friends. But be careful. If you start too many, they can take over your house. Next week: Easily grown upright plants.