Kenny Coogan, CPBT-KA, is a pet and garden columnist and grows mostly edibles on his one-acre homestead, with a couple dozen houseplants to keep things green. Please search “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook to learn more about gardening.

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Bringing the Outdoors In
by Kenny Coogan       #Containers

Aloe vera


As a transplant from the North, I find the line between indoor and outdoor plants a blur. Scheffleras, palms, and bromeliads flourish in the Florida landscape, while in New York they’re only thought of as houseplants. Continue reading for a guide to keeping plants indoors, whether to overwinter them or for year-round enjoyment.

It would be hard to imagine a house in the 1970s without macramé and hanging plants in the family room. People have had houseplants long before then. With the invention and perfection of glass windows, people began bringing the outdoors in. During the Victorian era (1837 to the early 1900s) indoor plants were considered a symbol of respectability. Today people care for houseplants for companionship and to nurture one’s soul and for countless other reasons.


Aglaonema ‘Two Tone Moonstone’
 

Aloe
(Aloe vera)

Display Tips: By growing aloe near your kitchen you can more efficiently treat a burn. Pretty plump, elongated leaves fan out from a central base. The pups can be cut off in spring or summer to propagate even more medicinal goodness.
Fertilizing: Spring to fall - feed monthly. Winter - do not feed.
Indoor Temperature: 65-75 F
Light: Bright
Water: Slightly moist. Requires less water in winter.
Zones: 9-11
 

Bamboo Palm
(Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Display Tips: This slow growing palm has tropical bamboo like leaves. With compact foliage, it grows to about 7 feet tall in the house.
Fertilizing: Monthly
Indoor Temperature: 65-80 F
Light: Low to moderate
Water: Slightly moist
Zones: 10-11
 

Chinese Evergreen
(Aglaonema commutatum)

Display Tips: They tolerate low light situations better than most houseplants. This plant has a lot of varieties to choose from. Developed by the University of Florida, ‘Golden Bay’ shows off gray-green leaves with a creamy-white center and silvery variegation. ‘Silver Bay’ has silvery leaves outlined in rich, deep green. ‘Red Gold’ offers bright colors such as red, gold, green and cream on one plant. ‘Romeo’ has long, slim silver leaves marked with dark green. Pothos, ZZ plants, and Sansevieria’s make great complementary plants due to their hues and textures.
Fertilizing: Spring to fall - feed monthly. In winter, every 6 weeks.
Indoor Temperature: 65-75 F
Light: Low indoor light, near a North or East window.
Water: Slightly moist
Zones: 10-11
 

 

‘Neon’ pothos • Chinese Evergreen ‘Silver Bay’ and ‘Limelight’ Dracaena

Croton
(Codiaeum variegatum)

Display Tips: Easily seen in the landscapes of Florida – Technicolor crotons offer homeowners a wide range of options to choose from for their interior design. Also known as Joseph’s coat, this plant is one of the most widely sold foliage plants. They are easy to propagate and come in bold leaf colors such as red, yellow, orange, and yellow-and-green combinations. Some of my favorite varieties include, ‘Bush on Fire,’ ‘Gold Dust,’ ‘Lauren’s Rainbow,’ ‘Mammy,’ and ‘Zanzibar.’
Fertilizing: Every 2 weeks in spring and summer. Monthly, the rest of the year.
Indoor Temperature: 60-85 F
Light: Bright light is preferred. Will benefit from spending summer outdoors, if acclimated to the sun first.
Water: Slightly moist
Zones: 9-15
 

Crown of Thorns
(Euphorbia milii hybrids)

Display Tips: Solid and variegated varieties are available. ‘Jingle Bells’ has soft pink bracts touched with red and green. ‘New Year’ has buttery yellow bracts that change to cherry red as they age. ‘Pink Christmas’ has cream-colored bracts that develop pale pink and reddish streaks. ‘Spring Song’ grows creamy yellow bracts. In Thailand this plant is known to bring the caregiver luck in life, based on the number of flowers the plant produces. A local Thai temple has a plethora of these beautiful blooming bracts flanking their walkways.
Fertilizing: Every 2 weeks in spring and summer. Monthly, the rest of the year.
Indoor Temperature: 50-90 F
Light: Bright
Water: Allow soil to dry between watering.
Zones: 10-11
 

Dracaena


Display Tips: With around 40 varieties to choose from, Dracaena will provide a bold splash of color and texture that will surely fit any indoor aesthetic. Different than the other varieties, ‘Florida Beauty’ has rounded leaves that have generously dabbled golden-yellow marks. ‘Limelight’ featured in an earlier issue of Florida Gardening, is a fantastic variety for brightening up your home with its chartreuse leaves. ‘Janet Craig’ is one of the most common houseplants of all time. It features dark green, shiny leaves and is easy to grow. When mature, its stems resemble woody trees with many reaching 5 to 6 feet.
Fertilizing: Every 2 weeks in spring and summer. Monthly, the rest of the year.
Indoor Temperature: 65-75 F
Light: Moderate to bright
Water: Slightly moist
Zones: 9-11
 

 

Crypanthus spp. • Elkhorn Fern • Fiddle leaf fig

Earth Star
(Cryptanthus spp.)

Display Tips: Young plants look great in terrariums, while older plants are ideal for humid rooms where space is limited. It makes a great addition for low windowsills, where they can be enjoyed. A bromeliad, their flowers are small and hidden and it makes their starlike, wavy, sharp-tipped leaves the primary reason to grow them. Strong light strengthens the pink color of the leaves.
Fertilizing: Apply half-strength fertilizer every two months.
Indoor Temperature: 60-80 F
Light: Bright
Water: In spring and summer, keep roots slightly moist. Water less in fall and winter, but do not let roots dry out completely.
Zones: 10-11
 

Elkhorn Fern
(Polypodium grandiceps)

Display Tips: A gnarly version of a bird’s nest fern, this plant can tolerate more light exposure than other ferns. (A.k.a. Climbing Bird’s Nest Fern, Dwarf Elkhorn Fern, and Fishtail Strap Fern) Grows to 18 inches high and 18 inches wide.
Fertilizing: Not a heavy feeder, but benefits feedings during periods of new growth.
Indoor Temperature: 60-75 F
Light: Low
Water: Moist soil
Zones: 10b-11
 

Fiddle Leaf Fig
(Ficus lyrata)

Display Tips: A tough plant that easily adapts to various conditions, this musical fig is a very large specimen plant and possesses slightly wavy green leaves. When outside they can reach a towering 40 feet tall and produce edible fruits. Each leaf can grow more than 12 inches wide. These plants convey elegance and look great as single specimens or when their trunks are braided.
Fertilizing: Feed three times a year with a high-nitrogen plant food.
Indoor Temperature: 60-85 F
Light: Bright to moderate
Water: Avoid overwatering, but water if soil is dry to the touch.
Zones: 10-12
 

 

Flowering maple • A variety of Sansevieria cylindrical • Haworthia sp.

Flowering Maple
(Abutilon hybridum)

Display Tips: Related to hollyhocks, this plant produces delicate papery blossoms year-round, when adequate light is provided. In addition to pots or hanging baskets, abutilon can be trained to look like a tree. Abutilon has been hybridized to dozens of named cultivars. Variegated cultivars tend to have weaker blooms. Once the plant is about 3 years old, take 4-inch stem cuttings as an insurance policy.
Fertilizing: Every 2 weeks in spring and summer. Monthly, the rest of the year.
Indoor Temperature: 65-75 F
Light: Bright
Water: Moist, well-drained soil.
Zones: 9-11
 

Cape jasmine
(Gardenia jasminoides)

Display Tips: Yes, this fragrant plant can be kept indoors, especially if the right cultivar is selected. ‘White Gem’ is the most popular container gardenia. It has an upright growing habit and can reach 24 inches tall. ‘Radicans’ is another dwarf variety that is good to train as bonsai. ‘Veitchii’ is sometimes called everblooming gardenia. It is a taller variety and is a good choice for large sunrooms.
Fertilizing: Feed every two weeks with a formula that contains micronutrients, especially iron.
Indoor Temperature: 60-75 F
Light: Bright
Water: Slightly moist soil – avoid overwatering.
Zones: 8-11
 

Haworthia


Display Tips: Due to their petite size, haworthias can be grown in novel containers like decorative tins, mugs, or teacups. They make great accent plants for dish gardens.
Fertilizing: From spring to fall, feed monthly. In winter, do not feed.
Indoor Temperature: 70-80 F
Light: Bright, indirect light.
Water: Allow soil to dry between watering.
Zones: 9-11
 

Sansevieria trifasciata hahnii

Hibiscus
(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis hybrids)

Display Tips: Hibiscus grows the largest blossoms of indoor plants. To control the size of the plants you can lightly prune in early summer and more aggressively in the fall. ‘Dragon’s Breath’ features bold red flowers with white swirls in the center. The flowers can reach 8 inches. ‘The Path’ is bright yellow with a magenta center.
Fertilizing: Every 2 weeks in spring and summer. Monthly, the rest of the year.
Indoor Temperature: 65-85 F
Light: Bright, including direct sun.
Water: Moist in summer, allow to dry between watering in winter.
Zones: 9-11
 

Moth Orchid
(Phalaenopsis spp. & hybrids)

Display Tips: Flowers last 6 weeks or longer. Grow alongside or in foliage plants to showcase their bright flowers.
Fertilizing: Use half strength fertilizer weekly during spring and summer.
Indoor Temperature: 65-80 F
Light: Moderate to bright
Water: Allow soil to dry between watering.
Zones: 10-12
 

Mother-In-Law’s-Tongue, Snake Plant
(Sansevieria spp.)

Display Tips: This plant is a staple in landscaping around my neighborhood. Up North it was a household mainstay. Sansevieria can live 20 years or more, outlasting many mother-in-laws. Although this plant tolerates neglect – it responds to good care, again like mother-in-laws. ‘Cylindrica’ is an interesting variety with round stems that grow up out of the pot like pencils. These stems can also be braided together. ‘Futura Robusta’ is a compact variety that has silvery-green leaves mottled with dark green. ‘Moonshine’ is one of the most beautiful varieties, with silvery green leaves. It’s especially spectacular mixed with the dark-leaved varieties.
Fertilizing: From spring to fall feed monthly. In winter, do not feed.
Indoor Temperature: 65-75 F
Light: Bright to moderate
Water: Slightly moist, in winter water less.
Zones: 9b-11
 

 

Oxalis • ‘Golden’ pothos

Oxalis
(Oxalis sp.)

Display Tips: This plant is sometimes considered a weed in Florida, yet sold and displayed as a houseplant up North. Some people say weed, some say houseplant. Also known as a shamrock plant, its triangular clove-like leaves support the delicate flowers.
Fertilizing: Every two weeks
Indoor Temperature: 60-75 F
Light: Bright to moderate
Water: Light
Zones: 8-11
 

Peace Lily
(Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Display Tips: The ubiquitous houseplant, peace lilies are good to have around. Small varieties grow to about 16 inches tall, while larger ones can reach 6 feet. Cut the flowering stems when the blossoms turn green. Once settled, they will flower in early summer. Some cultivars have been bred to bloom intermittently.
Fertilizing: From spring to fall feed these plants a diluted solution at half strength, monthly. In winter, every 6 weeks.
Indoor Temperature: 65-75 F
Light: Low to moderate
Water: Keep slightly moist.
Zone: 10
 

Pothos
(Epipremnum aureum)

Display Tips: Place on top of a tall piece of furniture or filing cabinet to make the most of its runners. I recently saw an impressive display at a restaurant that had a 20-foot-long pothos sprawling along the ceiling. ‘Golden’ has green heart-shaped leaves streaked with golden-yellow variegation. ‘Manjula’ is similar and shows off variegated green leaves edged in a creamy white color. ‘Satin’ has dark green heart-shaped leaves adorned with irregular silver spots. It’s excellent in hanging baskets or climbing up a moss or wood totem.
Fertilizer: Every 2 weeks in spring and summer. Monthly, the rest of the year.
Indoor Temperature: 60-80 F
Light: Moderate to low
Water: Allow soil to dry in between watering.
Zones: 10-11
 

Variegated Schefflera arboricola

Schefflera
(Schefflera arboricola)

Display Tips: While all green varieties grow faster, ‘Trinette’ is the most commonly grown variegated cultivar and it looks great as an accent.
Fertilizer: Monthly
Indoor Temperature: 65-80 F
Light: Bright
Water: Allow the soil to dry in between watering.
Zones: 9b-11

Swedish Ivy
(Plectranthus australis)

Display Tips: Great for the workplace or at home. This ‘beginner’ hanging basket plant produces cascading stems with scalloped leaves. If you are limited on space, you can prune back its vines in the fall. Stem tip cuttings can be taken in the summer, after it has bloomed.
Fertilizer: Fertilize from late spring to late summer, when the plant is blooming. If it’s cut back in the fall, no fertilizer is needed.
Indoor Temperature: 60-75 F, can tolerate low temperatures of 40 F for short periods of time.
Light: Moderate
Water: Moderate
Zones: 9-11

 

 

 

A version of this article appeared in Florida Gardening Volume 22 Number 6.
Photography courtesy of Kenny Coogan.

 

Posted: 11/01/18   RSS | Print

 

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