5 Questions and Answers About Interior Plants

5 Questions and Answers About Interior Plants

May 14, 2008

We recently got a chance to sit down with Deborah Kuchar, a sustainable garden designer (she's principle of Green Alchemy) and blogger. We picked her brain about common questions and concerns regarding houseplants. Take a look, after the jump!

1) A lot of us city dwellers don't have a lot of space, time, or light in our apartments. What are some minimal care interior plants that can survive without a lot of natural light?

The very first one is Dracaena'Janet Craig. In the industry we call it the Elevator Plant because it's the only good-looking plant that will survive in a dark hallway next to an elevator. The Janet Craig has a tall stem with long and skinny pointed leaves. It can be anywhere between 3 feet and 12 feet tall. Super glossy dark green leaves.

Next in the top low light areas is the Cast Iron Plant. It only gets about three feet tall, so you could put it on the floor to provide a bushy look. It's dark green, with wide leaves that point up. Both of those plants require minimal low light and are really tough. The key to success is not to over water them. Only two to four times a month is necessary.

For a plant that's more interesting looking, but still meets your low-light, low-mainence requirements, use a Dracaena Warneckii. It grows on a stem, and it gets six to eight feet tall. It has grey and white stripes on the leaves. There is a Dracaena Warneckii called Lemon Lime that has chartreuse stripes instead of white stripes, it's very striking. These plants are all low light, low maintenance, tough plants to kill.

2) Those plants are all fine and well, but what about flowering plants? Do we have any options there?

You can have flowering plants, but you have to understand that they'll have to be rotated because they won't be in flower all year round. There is no low-light flowering plant that blooms all year round.

A good flowering plant (that'll need to be rotated) is the Bromeliad. The Bromeliad is tropical looking and has many different colors of flowers. If you like pink, a good Bromeliad is Aechmeas Fasciata. If you like orange, a good Bromeliad is the Guzmania. You can find these plants virtually anywhere. And they're super easy to maintain. You only need to water them once every week or two, depending on how warm your apartment is.

3) Are there any type of bug that are really common with houseplants that we should be aware of? If so, is there a treatment you can recommend?

Most plants get insect because they're not cared for and they are stressed out. If you keep your plant healthy (i.e. correct watering, etc), you shouldn't get bugs. The most common problem with house plants in low light is the fungus gnat, a small fruit fly type insect. The reason the fungus gnat appears is because of over watering. To get rid of them, simply cut back on the water.

4) So say we have a pretty well light (naturally) apartment. What are some good plants that we could use? In other words, what types of plants do you think make a great addition to an apartment or design style?

I really like Anthuriums, also known as bleeding hearts. In a well-lit environment they're bloom throughout the year. The bloom's are beautifully heart shaped and come in red or pink. The leaves are a glossy green. Also, the Zamioculcas plant, also known as the ZZ plant. It has really glossy leaves and strong architectural lines. It works really well in contemporary settings. If you like that woodland look, the Ficus Benjamina really gives you the feeling like you're in the forrest. It's very leafy, nice branches (like a regular tree), and it's all green. For minimal interiors, I'd recommend any type of Philodendron. They come in trailing plants (the ones you hang from the ceiling) and upright plants. The reason I'd suggest the Philodendron is because there is a lot of variety to choose from, and they are very easy to care for. Not to mention they are very interesting looking. For instance, there's one called Rojo and it has paddle-like leaves that are green on one side and rust colored on the other. The Black Cardinal has such dark leaves that they look black. Very interesting. The Swiss Cheese, because the leaves have holes in them. Those are just a few.

5) Can you tell us the most common mistakes with house plants?

Sure! Under or over watering (research your plant); putting it in the wrong location, because it can get too much or too little light; putting them directly in front of a sunny window... People often think that every plant will do better if it gets maximum sun exposure, however, that is not always the case. A lot of plants don't like direct sun because they're under story tropical plants. Another common mistake is that people don't clean their plants. Plants accumulate a lot of dust over time. You need to put them in the shower and get all that dust off. A good bath every 4 months will give you a very happy (and clean!) plant. Lastly, a healthy, strong plant will deplete the soil of nutrients. It's important to feed the plant, and when you throw it in the shower it's important to run water through the soil to clean out any kind of salt build-up from the fertilizer.

To read Deborah's gardening blog, click here. Otherwise, check out Green Alchemy's site.

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