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: Last week I described some easily grown trailing plants. Here are some easily grown upright house plants. Chinese evergreen or Aglaonema is one of the most dependable, low light tolerant plants available. It is one of the workhorse plants in shopping malls. The most popular varieties have long, pointed leaves, mottled in silver and green. It is not a striking plant that you would normally pick out of a group. But its dependability makes up for its ordinary appearance. Chinese evergreen makes a nice table plant. It grows about 8 to 10 inches high and equally wide.
Palms are also easy to grow, especially the parlor palm or Chamaedorea. It has been a popular indoor plant since the days when living rooms used to be called parlors. Small 3 to 4 inch tall plants are often used in combination planters. However, parlor palm will eventually grow 4 feet tall. Larger plants can be purchased in 6 and 10 inch pots. It is also very tolerant of low light conditions, and should not be placed in direct sunlight.
Two types of Schefflera or Brassaia have long leaves in a cluster at the end of a long leaf stem which creates an umbrella-like effect. Another common name is umbrella plant. The smaller Hawaiian Schefflera can be grown as a table plant in a 6 inch pot. However, it will eventually grow 2 to 3 feet tall and equally wide. The regular schefflera will eventually grow several feet tall and becomes a tropical tree. Plants can be purchased in small pots or large 10 inch pots. Scheffleras can be grown in a wide range of light conditions, from direct sunlight to much lower light levels.
Both dragon plant (Dracaena) and dumb cane (Dieffenbachia) have strong upright stems called canes. These two plants are better known by their scientific names than their common names. Both prefer medium light conditions (strong indirect light), but will tolerate the temporary lower light levels common in winter. They are also tolerant of dry soil conditions. Dieffenbachia varieties have large, upright, variegated leaves with patches of cream to yellow.
Dracaena plants have long, narrow, arching leaves ranging from solid green to variegated. Tricolor Dracaena has green, cream, and pink striped leaves. Red margined Dracaena has green leaves with a red outer margin. Janet Craig Dracaena has shiny, solid, dark green leaves. Corn plant Dracaena has green leaves with a yellow stripe down the middle. It can be quite striking with clusters of leaves at irregular intervals along its white cane or trunk. Most of these plants will grow several feet tall, although they can be purchased as small table plants.
All of these plants will grow quite satisfactorily if given less than “green thumb” care.
Allen Wilson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.