Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Varieties of Old Favorites Thrive Indoors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Varieties of Old Favorites Thrive Indoors

Article excerpt

Humans have always felt the urge to bring nature indoors, according to archaeological records.

Vigorous, healthy plants adorn a house beautifully and improve air quality by removing carbon dioxide, ozone and other harmful compounds. But a sickly plant is an ugly sight. To ensure success, remember the old garden edict "right plant, right place." Although some plants require humidity and temperature conditions best achieved in a greenhouse, many will thrive inside a home or office if their needs are met.

First, assess the light, temperature and humidity of the space. Plants, like people, have likes and dislikes. What works for a plant adapted to damp, shady locations will kill a succulent that thrives in full sun and dry soil.

A north-facing window, a cubicle or an interior room without a window are all considered low light. East- and west-facing exposures are considered medium light. A sunny windowsill that faces south is considered bright light. While plants tolerate a range of light conditions, they will do best if placed in their preferred locations. Here are some houseplant suggestions:

Low light

Cast iron plant (Aspidistra spp.) lives up to its name, tolerating neglect and low light with occasional watering. Its dark green lance-shaped leaves grow slowly, and the plant rarely needs repotting because it tops out at 2-3 feet. Newer cultivars include variegated 'Amonogawa' and 'Okame' and the deep green 'Fuji No Mine.'

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema spp.) isn't fussy about light or moisture. Available in a range of leaf sizes from narrow to big and bold, it can sit on a desk or get big enough to sit on the floor. Look for 'Cecelia,' 'Calypso,' 'Maria' and 'Romeo.'

ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is an African native that will do just fine even if the only light source is a fluorescent bulb. Its foliage is dark green and shiny, and it tolerates dry conditions, making it ideal for someone who travels frequently. Water when the top inch of soil dries out.

All three of the above can move to medium light locations.

Medium light

Mother-in-law's tongue or snake plant (Sansevieria spp.) has tough dramatic upright leaves usually slightly mottled and edged in lime and grows from a large rhizome lying just below the soil surface. …

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