Houseplants grow more exotic

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By Marty Ross

No matter what weather the fall and winter bring, you can keep gardening indoors. Putting together a stylish indoor garden is easier than ever. The houseplant business has grown way beyond philodendrons and Christmas cactus.

There are hip new houseplants and interesting variations on well-known themes for sale everywhere. The selection of houseplants at garden shops, big-box stores and even grocery stores hasn’t merely grown, it has matured. Cool carnivorous plants are stocked side-by-side with gorgeous moth orchids; fancy-leaf begonias are nudging out dependable but demure scheffeleras.

“Nobody ever needs to buy a pothos again,” says Ellen Zachos, owner of Acme Plant Stuff in New York and an expert on houseplants of all kinds. “There is so much out there that is more interesting and just as easy to grow.” She admits she is a tireless plant collector, eager to try anything new and offbeat, and she recommends this philosophy to her clients.

Rhipsalis, for example, appeals to her enormously. “It’s a tropical cactus without spikes, and they’re really cool — they are modern and sleek looking,” she says. Zachos also likes begonias with spotted leaves, tropical ferns that wrap themselves around the rim of a pot as they grow, and obscure, unearthly sanseverias.

Odd juxtapositions of plants don’t scare her, either. You should read the tags on unfamiliar plants so you can group those that thrive in the same light conditions together. But beyond that, mix and match however you like. “Just like in a garden, you’re looking to combine color and texture to create a lively tapestry,” Zachos says.

If you’re new to indoor gardening and not sure where to start, try a few foliage plants. Foliage plants are grown for their interesting leaves rather than for their flowers and always look great, no matter the season. The leaves of a variegated spider plant or the striking red, green and white foliage of a tropical prayer plant (calathea) don’t need flowers to stand out.

Crotons, which have bright yellow spots, flashes of deep orange or even ghostly white variegation, get more spectacular the bigger they get. The dramatic, deeply veined leaves of fittonias look as delicate as lace, but they’re as easy to grow and take care of as a sprouting potato.

Most people shopping for houseplants want something adaptable and easy to take care of, Zachos says, and the selection of suitable plants is vast. Bisser Georgiev of Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses and Exotic Angel houseplants in Apopka, Fla., says a growing group of indoor gardeners also wants something more.

If you are ready to move up to the next level with the plants you have in your offices but don’t what plants are out there or are not comfortable with how to care for them, try a professional plantcare expert. Growing Expectations will come and give you a free consultation informing you about what is out there and what would be suitable for your business. Contact Growing Expectations  at to schedule an appointment.

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