What Are the Types of Indoor Plants?


A guest blog offered by MantelMount.

Are overly dim or dry rooms getting in the way of your dreams to become an at-home horticulturist? Especially in the case of apartment dwellers, these things may have hindered you from pursuing your dream of being a plant parent. And true enough, there may be many plants that require a paradisiacal living arrangement with abundant light, humid air and constant attention. Yet, there is also an array of other plants that will survive just about any kind of tough or marginal conditions. 

Here are some of the different types of indoor plants that you can choose from to beautify your home and which you can be sure will positively thrive!

Philodendron with long, narrow leaves, deeply cut along the edges, forming a rosette.

Photo: logees.com

Philodendron ‘Jungle Boogie’ (Philodendron ‘Jungle Boogie’)—With its long, narrow leaves with a strikingly tooth margin, it’s a stunner and sooo original! Like all philodendrons, it will put up with just about anything you throw at it. Just take care not to overwater it. Only give it a drink when the soil is getting quite dry. As for light, it likes things bright, medium or indirect.

Hanging plant with smooth green leaves, purple flower tube and red tubular flowers.

Photo: plantasonya.com.br

  1. Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus pulchersyn. Aeschynanthus lobbianus)With its curious tubular flowers, it’s easy to see where this plant got its name. It thrives in bright indirect light, but will also do fine in filtered light. Make sure to not overexpose it to direct sun, because that can burn its leaves and dry the plant out. Keep the soil a bit moist, but never wet. For balanced growth, rotate it a minimum of once a month.
Hanging plant with thick waxy green leaves marked variously with cream or pink, thick brown stems.

Photo: urbntropic.com.

  1. Hoya ‘Krimson Princess’ (Hoya carnosa ‘Rubra’)—This hoya with charming tricolor leaves—pink, cream and green—is, like other hoyas, a trailing charmer ideal for displaying in a window that gets bright but indirect light. It thrives on neglect, so don’t worry about letting the soil dry out between waterings. Repot during the spring or summer when the roots start peeking out of the drainage hole.
Rubber plant, tall, with nearly black leaves, long red buds, in black pot.

Photo: dianasflowers.com

  1. Rubber Tree ‘Burgundy’ (Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’)—Also called ‘Black Prince’, this ever-so-dark leafed rubber tree is a popular choice among ficus trees. It’s less finicky than its popular cousin, the fiddle-leaf fig (F. lyrata), and if you have room for it, it can grow to 25 feet (7.5 m) tall indoors: a true and stalwart indoor tree. As for light needs, bright or indirect light would be perfect, even full sun in the winter. Keep the soil evenly moist during the summer growing season. In the winter, the soil needs less moisture.
Thick woody stems, nearly round leaves, flat, dark green with purple overtones.

Photo: jespersplanteskole.dk

  1. Aralia ‘Fabian’ (Polyscias scutellaria ‘Fabian’) — Aralia ‘Fabian’ looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Its beauty and weirdness come from its thick burly trunk, thin speckled petioles and pancake-shaped foliage that’s a dark shade of green on top and deep violet on the bottom. To look after it, place your plant in a pot with a drainage hole and water thoroughly until water begins to flow into the saucer below. Repeat only when the upper two inches (5 cm) of soil are completely dry to the touch. Aralia ‘Fabian’ will appreciate a home in a warm spot in bright indirect light. If you don’t have that, dappled light throughout the day will also work well.
Upright small plant with flat, round, green leaves like a piece of money.

Photo: hortology.co.uk

  1. Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)This widely loved plant has many other endearing nicknames like UFO plant, missionary plant, pancake plant and Chinese honesty. Its love of humidity makes it an excellent choice for a bit of color in the bathroom! Its curious leafy disks would also add interest to any space with bright indirect light. Let the soil dry out between waterings to avoid disease problems. When its leaves droop a bit, it’s telling you it’s thirsty.
Climbing lant with thick, waxy, elliptic leaves variegated white, growing around a hoop

Photo: growlithops.com

  1. Variegated Hoya (Hoya carnosa ‘Variegata’)—This cutie with waxy white and green leaves will do best in a spot of your home that receives bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight in the summer: that could kill the plant over time. You only need to water the plant when the soil turns quite dry. It grows slowly but surely and may one day surprise with balls of scented pink flowers!
Small crassula with thick, green, spoon-shaped leaves growng in low with pot, with clay amphora as decoration.

Photo: hgtv.com

  1. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)—This plant with a thick stem and chubby leaves is a favorite among people who like keeping succulents indoors. Unlike most foliage plants, it survives direct sunlight without a complaint. In fact, the more sun you give it, the happier it is! It doesn’t like being kept wet, so place it in a pot with a drainage hole and let it dry thoroughly before watering it again. Here’s tip: insert your finger into the potting fix to the second joint and only water when it feels dry way down there. 
Arrow-shaped dark green leaves heavily marbles white.

Photo: Hernán Conejeros

  1. Variegated Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium podophyllum ‘Albo-Variegatum’)—Just like other variegated plants, it draws its surprising beauty from its bicolor foliage. Its soil needs to remain evenly moist, so you’ll need to water it more frequently during the spring and summer. And don’t ever let the soil dry out completely. Although it does very well in dry air, it positively thrives in high humidity. So, run a humidifier during the winter months when the air is often desert dry: it’s good for the plant … and good for your own health! Like most foliage houseplants, the arrowhead vine likes bright indirect light, but can also tolerate low light.
Tall plant, straight trunk, long, very narrow, pointed leaves, grey pot.

Photo: bloomboxclub.com

  1. Banana-Leaf Fig (Ficus maclellandii ‘Alii’ , syn. F. binnenbijkii)—With its amazing long green saber-shaped leaves that make it stand out from the rest of the ficus trees, this is a true statement plant. Plus, it’s more durable and less susceptible to losing its leaves than the better known weeping fig (F. benjamina). It needs bright indirect sunlight and won’t survive in low light. Keep the soil consistently moist, only letting the uppermost inch (2.5 cm) dry before watering.
Fernleanlike plant with thick shiny leaflets in a black pot

Photo: houzz.com

  1. Zz Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)—You’ll be able to take a lot of Zzs if you invest in a ZZ plant, also known as Zanzibar gem and aroid palm, as it’s one of the lowest maintenance options on the market. It only needs watering a few times a month, doesn’t require tons of sunshine and doesn’t attract bugs or other pests. Simple … and yet so elegant!
Spider plant with narrow pointed green leaves edged in white, a few baby spider plants arch down.

Photo: logees.com

  1. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vittatum’) — If you take off for the weekend and forget to assign a friend plant-sitting duties, your spider plant won’t punish you for neglecting it: it’s tough as nails! The plant is self-propagating, it cleans the air naturally, is totally bewitching in shape and form and will grow in anything from low to bright indirect light, making it an excellent option for apartment dwellers or first-time plant parents.
Plant with heart-shaped green leaves deeply cut from the outer edge.

Photo: shop.plantthefuture.com

  1. Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)With its thick, heart-shaped leaves with a distinct tropical look and feel, plus Swiss cheese-like holes and notches, the monstera is a perfectly bold plant that will truly thrive in an apartment. It tolerates many levels of sunlight and will even grow under fluorescent lights. While you ought to water your monstera regularly, it can survive a missed watering every now then.
Small succulent with rosette of thick, deep green, upward pointing leaves. White stripes.

Photo: Amazon.com

  1. Zebra Haworthia (Haworthiopsis attenuata, syn. Haworthia attenuata)—The zebra haworthia, or simply haworthia, is one of the simplest succulents to grow. Its maximum height is just 8-inches (20 cm) tall and, unlike most other succulents, doesn’t need intense light. In fact, it will do perfectly well in very low to moderate light. Plus, it needs only minimal watering. The zebra haworthia is often placed in both open spaces like a living room and small, more contained ones like a bathroom. Add to that are the plant’s very striking white-striped leaves, perfect complementing just about any design style.

Now that we’ve shared enough about the types of indoor plants you could opt for, why not take care of other sections of your house as well? Here are some fireplace decor ideas that could really amp up your decor game and give your visitors a WOW moment!

Monstera: July 2019 Houseplant of the Month


The Story of the Monstera

For a plant, the monstera or Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) has a lot to offer: a thick stem, sometimes a moss pole, usually impressive aerial roots … there’s plenty to see! That has made it an enormous hit on Instagram and a very popular element for creating the popular urban jungle look, amongst other things. 

The most fascinating aspect, though, are the leaves. Young leaves are simply heart-shaped, like the monstera’s close relative, the philodendron. They only develop the characteristic incisions later, when they’ve had some life experience. 

The plant’s air-purifying properties mean that the monstera also helps create a pleasant environment in the home: another unique selling point for this attractive houseplant.  


The leaves of Monstera deliciosa (above) and Monstera obliqua (below) are both deeply cut.

Monstera deliciosa is a member of the arum family (Araceae). It’s actually a liana found from southern Mexico to Panama in the wild, although widely grown in the tropics all over the world. It uses its fleshy aerial roots to secure itself to tree trunks, rocks and cliff faces and can climb trees to a height of 65 feet (20 meters). Its roots wrap right around trunks as it clambers upwards, growing its gigantic leaves. The more light the plant gets, the larger the leaves—up to 3 feet (90 cm) in diameter!—and the more cuts and perforations they have.

There are several theories as to why monstera leaves develop holes. One is that they’re designed so strong winds, that could otherwise tear the leaves to shreds, can pass through the leaf without damage. Another says it lets rainfall through to the roots. Yet another suggests that the leaves get bigger so the plant can capture more sunlight, but a huge entire leaf would require more resources from the plant. With cut leaves, it manages to capture more light without using as many resources. 

Monstera Varieties

Monstera deliciosa on a moss pole (left) and Monstera obliqua (right).

There are some 50 species of Monstera, all from the jungles of the New World. The best known is the one described so far, M. deliciosa, called Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron (although it is not a philodendron) for its leaves filled with cuts and holes. The green-leafed is usually sold, but occasionally variegated cultivars, such as ‘Variegata’ or ‘Thai Constellation’, are available. It’s offered in both small pot sizes without a moss pole and as sizable specimens 3 feet (1 m) or so tall attached to moss poles or other decorative supports. 

M. obliqua is less well known but also very attractive. The plant has small bright green leaves with attractive holes. It can be used as a hanging or climbing plant. Others to look for are M. friedrichstahlii and M. adansonii. 

What to Look for When Buying a Monstera 

Use contrasting sizes for a more interesting display.
  • The pot size, plant height and thickness should be in proportion.
  • Check whether it’s a hanging or climbing plant. With a climbing specimen, the moss pole should be higher than the foliage to allow for future growth.
  • Monsteras should have even leaf spacing: all sides ought to be attractively and evenly covered. If the plants have been placed too close together at the nursery, the plant shape will sometimes be one-sided or have fewer leaves and be less desirable.  
  • Monsteras are generally a healthy, strong plants not particularly prone to pests and diseases. Do check for scale insects and mealybugs, though. They’ll attack almost any plant and are hard to eradicate.
  • The plant should have no brown patches on the leaves. This is a sign of having stood in wet soil for too long.
  • Lime stains or water marks on the leaf diminish the decorative value, but are otherwise harmless and can be carefully removed with a damp cloth dipped in vinegar.
  • If you bring your plant home in winter, make sure it is protected against the cold with a sleeve or sealed inside a bag.

Care Tips

Monsteras like bright night, but not necessarily full sun.
  • Monsteras prefer good light, but don’t need full sun. 
  • The plant doesn’t cope well with cold; don’t place it in temperatures of 55 °F (13 °C) or less. It will take down to freezing in a pinch… but it won’t like it!
  • Water moderately; the soil can be kept slightly damp, but not drenched.
  • Apply a bit of fertilizer monthly during the spring to early fall growing season. 
  • Aerial roots can be seen as an interesting curiosity … or as a nuisance. In a home setting, they give nothing to the plant and can simply be clipped off.
  • Monsteras rarely flowers indoors. If ever yours does bloom, expect a white sail-shaped bloom much like the flower of the peace lily (Spathiphyllum).  After it blooms, M. deliciosa will even produce, as its name suggests, an edible fruit tasting like a blend of pineapple and banana.
  • All parts of monsteras other than the ripe fruit are poisonous. Serious poisonings due to monsteras are however almost unheard of, be it with pets or children, the first taste being so dreadful it is immediately spat out.  

Showing Off Your Monstera 

Monsteras on castors give flexibility to your interiorscaping.

You can create your own little monstera display by placing large, medium and small plants next to one another. Or try setting medium and small plants together in a bowl for an attractive appearance. And you can place the large pots of big specimens on castors. That way you can move them around easily. 

Text and photos adapted from a press release by Thejoyofplants.co.uk
Styling by Elize Eveleens, Klimprodukties

Scary Plant Names for Halloween!


Source: http://www.succesrama.com

Tonight is Halloween and everywhere, little ghosts and goblins will ring our doorbells in costumes designed to scare us half to death. But plants too sometimes have names that chill our blood. Here is a selection of plants with horrifying names that seem to have been specially designed for Halloween.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

20181031A LH.jpg

The immaculate white flower of the bloodroot belies its blood red sap. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

Let’s start with the bloodroot. It’s common in deciduous forests throughout eastern North America and makes an excellent perennial for woodland gardens. There’s nothing bloody about the immaculate white flower of the small plant, though. You have to dig it up and cut into its rhizome to see the flow of blood red sap that earned it its name. The root was used in traditional medicine to treat blood diseases and cancers and even today bloodroot salves are available online, but the extreme toxicity of the plant has banished it from mainstream medicine.

Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora)

20181031B LH

The absence of chlorophyll gives the ghost plant a spectral white color. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

The ghost plant, also called ghost pipe or Indian pipe, owes its phantasmal name to its unique cadaveric white coloring. It’s a parasitic perennial living on conifer roots and spends most of its life underground. Only the arching flower stem, bearing scales and a single bell-shaped flower, all of a ghostly white, rises from the ground. Many people mistake it for a mushroom, but the ghost plant is a true flowering plant, in fact, belonging to the rhododendron family (Ericaceae). A flowering plant of such pallor, and parasitic to boot, seems particularly ghoulish. It’s found in the forests of the Northern Hemisphere and is especially abundant in Eastern North America.

Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)

20181031C LH.jpg

The huge cut leaves of the monstera. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

As far as monsters go, this popular houseplant is rather a nice one. The name comes from its heart-shaped leaves of monstrous size, up to 3 feet (90 cm) in diameter, full of holes and slashes. To stay with the Halloween theme, you could say that they seem to have been carved out by Freddy Krueger! The holes in the leaves also give this plant a less gruesome name: Swiss cheese plant. Curiously, while monstera fruits are poisonous when immature, they are edible and, in fact, delicious when ripe, tasting, I’m told, like pineapple, hence its deliciosa epithet.

Dracula Orchid (Dracula vampira)

20181031D Eric Hunt, Wikimedia Commons.jpg

It’s the black flower of the Dracula orchid that earned it its name. Source: Eric Hunt, Wikimedia Commons

This Ecuadorian orchid takes its name from its large, almost black, three-sepaled flowers that can be reminiscent of the cape of the mythical Count Dracula or perhaps, with a little imagination, a bat with three wings. It’s an epiphytic plant (one which grows on other plants) and you sometimes see it in orchid shows. Needless to say, with a name like Dracula vampira, it attracts a lot of attention!

Zombie Palm (Zombia antillarum)

20181031J tropical.theferns.jpg

The sharp spines of the zombie palm are downright scary! Source: tropical.theferns

The zombie palm gets its name from its origin as well as its frightening appearance, since this small palm because it comes from Haiti, the country of origin of zombies. Its stem is so covered in piercing thorns that nobody but a zombie would dare to approach it.

Devil’s Claw (Proboscidea louisianica)

20181031E Steven Laymon, Bureau of Land Management & John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org .jpg

You wouldn’t want to run into a devil’s claw seed capsule barefoot! Source: Steven Laymon, Office of Land Management and John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org

The plant is a pretty annual with pink flowers and is indeed sometimes sold in seed packets. There is absolutely nothing threatening about it at this stage. But the seed capsule that follows bloom is long and black with two very pointed “horns” at the end, like devilish claws. The capsule latches onto the legs of passing animals, dropping seeds as the animal scratches desperately in an attempt to remove it. And it would appear that a barefoot meeting with this ultra-thorny capsule is nothing to laugh about!

Death Apple (Hippomane mancinella)

20181031F Hippomane LH

The fruit of the death apple could be mistaken for a little green apple … but don’t eat it! Source: laidbackgardener.blog

This tree, also called manchineel, is a common sight on the beaches of tropical America. It produces small green fruits that look like apples (in fact, the name manchineel derives from the Spanish manzanilla, or “little apple”), but are so toxic that they would kill anyone who dared eat one, thus earning it its macabre name. In fact, this plant is toxic in all its parts. Even sheltering under its branches during a rain storm can cause skin lesions from particles picked up by water dripping over the leaves!

Strangler Fig (Ficus spp.)

20181031G Ficus LH.jpg

This strangler fig tree is attacking a sculpture of Buddha in Ayutthaya, Thailand. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

There is not just one species of strangler fig, but dozens species of Ficus found throughout the Tropics that share the same ghoulish way of life. The seeds germinate on the branches of a tree of another species, then the roots of the strangler gradually wrap around the trunk of its host. Over time, it eventually suffocates (strangles) the other tree and then takes its place as a forest giant. The weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), a common houseplant often used as an indoor tree, is one of these strangler figs. So maybe taking a nap it its foot isn’t the wisest thing to do!

Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri)

20181031HTacca LH.jpg

The bat flower’s shape and color can indeed seem quite batlike. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

The huge black flowers of this houseplant are the stuff of nightmares. They can be up to 1 foot (30 cm) across and consist of two black “wings” with long, slender black whiskers that can exceed 2 feet (60 cm) in length. It’s often sold as a houseplant, but you’ll need really good humidity (i.e. greenhouse levels!) to keep it happy.

Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

20181031I Leif Jørgensen, Wikimedia Commons.jpg

When the corpse flower is fully open, you can smell it from afar! Source: Leif Jørgensen, Wikimedia Commons

This plant, which produces the world’s largest inflorescence, up to 10 feet (3 m) tall, grows from a huge underground tuber. Every year, it produces a single gigantic, deeply cut leaf, perfectly erect on a petiole measuring up to 20 feet (6 m) tall. It could easily be mistaken for a trunk and gives the leaf the appearance of a tree. Every decade or so, the plant produces a gigantic inflorescence that gives off an intense smell of decaying flesh, hence the name corpse flower. You’ll have guessed that it attracts, as a pollinator, carrion flies. The bloom lasts only three days, but often attracts crowds to the botanical gardens that grow it: everyone wants to see—and smell!—the horrendous monster!

If you do a bit of research, you’ll find lots of other plants with equally scary names: spider plant, bloody cranesbill, wolfsbane, ‘Bloody Butcher’ corn, devil tree and many more. Certainly enough to give Halloween a macabre touch of green!

5 Plants With Weird Foliage


20171130B Clipart Library.jpg

There is fascinating foliage all around if you just make the effort to look! Source: Clipart Library

The whole point of a leaf is to collect sunlight and convert it via photosynthesis into sugars for the plant’s growth. Thus, a leaf simply has to be green to be functional. You’d think a simple flat shape would be enough, but no. There are as many leaf shapes as there are plants and they come in far more colors than they legitimately should. Here are some of the more interesting and memorable ones.

Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)

20171130A Forest & Kim Starr, WC.jpg

The Swiss Cheese plant has slits and holes much like Swiss cheese. Source: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons

This is a very common houseplant whose leaves just keep getting bigger and bigger … and weirder and weirder. If you’ve ever grown one from a young plant, you know the first leaves are entire and heart-shaped (the Swiss cheese plant is often mistaken for a philodendron at this point). Then, as it grows, the leaves get larger and splits start to appear. As the leaf increases in size, the number of splits increases and then holes (leaf perforations) start to show up. The leaf keeps increasing in size and, as it does so, more and more perforations appear. If you have the space for this huge plant (they don’t call it Monstera for nothing!), the leaves can reach nearly 1 meter (3 feet across) and will be strikingly beautiful … and weird.

As for why the leaves become so “tattered” (and I use that word in the nicest possible way), that’s a matter of conjecture, but I like the theory that it’s because large leaves are like a banner strung across a street: if you don’t punch a few holes in them, the wind will tear them. I’ll write more about this phenomenon in a future blog.

20171130H Karl Wimmi, Wc.jpg

The inflorescence of the Swiss cheese plant is spectacular, but rarely seen except on very mature specimens. Source: Karl Wimmi, Wikimedia Commons

The Swiss cheese plant is normally a climber and will grow best when offered a (sturdy) moss stake to cling to. It tolerates low light, but for big leaves, give it as much light as you can. This will also keep it more compact. You are allowed to cut off the numerous aerial roots it produces (I like to keep a few for show). It may even bloom for you one day, with sail-like white blooms (think of a Spathiphyllum). The fruit that follows is edible when it fully ripens and its scales start to drop off and, as the name Monstera deliciosa suggests, is sugary sweet. Other than the ripe fruit, though, the plant is poisonous.

The Swiss cheese plant is easy to grow indoors, but does appreciate good atmospheric humidity (to prevent leaf browning). Otherwise, just give it regular houseplant care … and be patient!

Cooper’s Haworthia (Haworthia cooperi)

20171130C 9gag.com.jpg

Haworthia cooperi’s window leaves can appear completely otherworldly. This is H. cooperi truncata, with rounded leaf tips. Other varieties have pointed tips. Source: 9gag.com

I’m using this plant as an example of a window plant. There are many others in such genera as Haworthia, Lithops, Peperomia, Senecio, Fenestraria and Frithia, but all have the same fascinating characteristic: they have a translucent area at the leaf tip where sunlight can reach down through the gelatinous transparent leaf interior and reach the photosynthetic cells along the outside edges lower down. This is exactly the opposite to how other plants function. Their photosynthetic cells are located near the outside of the leaf, not buried deep inside.

Most of these window plants come from very arid climates and essentially live underground, with only their leaf tips exposed, each acting like a skylight, allowing even the buried leaf parts to photosynthesis. When we grow window plants in pots, however, sometimes we grow the plant with the entire leaf exposed, partly to show off the leaf … and partly to prevent rot.

Window plants are yet another subject I’ll cover in more detail in a future blog, but for the moment, here’s what you need to know about Cooper’s haworthia.

20171130K H. cooperi cooperi Abu Shawka, WC .jpg

Haworthia cooperi cooperi has pointed leaf tips… but the same windows as other varieties. Source: Abu Shawka, Wikimedia Commons

It’s a small, easy-to-grow succulent that will do well on almost any fairly sunny windowsill. It produces offsets and slowly the original rosette fills in the surface of the pot with the new growths. Just grow it like any other succulent, watering only when the soil is quite dry, and you’ll have success. It will even bloom quite readily, although the flowers aren’t very showy.

To best appreciate the transparent beauty of the leaves, you do need to place this plant carefully: at about eye level, with the sun in the background. When looked down on from above, the windows are not as noticeable.

You’ll find it, or other window haworthias, in most garden centers.

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

20171130C Mokkie, WC.jpg

The traps of Venus flytrap lie on their moss bed, awaiting the visit of a spider or insects. Source: Mokkie, Wikimedia Commons

There is no denying the plant has weird leaves. Weird in appearance and weird in how they’re used. A broad, winged, often heart-shaped petiole rises from a small rosette and it carries on normal photosynthesis, while the leaf blade itself forms two lobes, each with a ring of teeth around the outside. When an insect or other arthropod triggers the mechanism by touching the small hairs in the center of the leaf, the leaves close quickly, trapping the creature, then the leaves produce gastric juices to digest it. Yes, this plant is carnivorous, or, to be more precise, insectivorous.

Like most insectivorous plants, the Venus flytrap developed its feeding habits because it normally grows in a very sterile environment, in this case, nitrogen- and phosphorous-poor bogs in North and South Carolina. It needs insect “meat” to supplement its meager diet.

20171130K www.carnivorousplants.org.jpg

Remove the plastic container the plant is sold in and grow it in a sunny window sitting in a saucer of rainwater. Source: www.carnivorousplants.org

Although widely sold as a houseplant, the Venus flytrap is more of a curiosity than a good indoor plant, nor will it thrive outdoors under garden conditions unless you can recreate the environment of a cold, but nearly frost-free bog (zoned 7 to 9).

In most cases, it’s best to think of this plant as a temporary one, something to be tossed when you’re finished with it.

You can keep a Venus flytrap growing for years, though, if you know what to do and are willing to bow to its whims. Read more about it in No Hamburger for the Venus Flytrap.

Mother and Daughter Croton (Codiaeum variegatum forma appendiculatum)

20171130W www.pahls.com.jpg

Actually, with their amazing colours and strange shapes, all croton leaves are quite weird. Source: www.pahls.com

I suppose all crotons have weird leaves. Almost always variegated, they come in a wide range of colors (red, orange, yellow, purple, green and white), plus they change colors as they mature, so leaves from different parts of the plant may be very different colors. The leaf shape too is extremely variable, from ovate to linear and entire to deeply lobed, and often twisted or spiraled.

20171130F www.thepaddocks.de

Certainly the oddest of all crotons thanks to its leaf extensions is the mother and daughter croton. Here, the cultivar ‘Appendiculatum’. Source: www.thepaddocks.de

But the weirdest of all the crotons are those so-called called mother and daughter crotons: C. variegatum forma appendiculatum. In these, the leaf, often fairly linear, produces a narrow stalk from its tip, then a smaller leaflet, often curiously funnel-shaped, appears at the extremity. It looks like a kite on the end of a string!

I sometimes get letters from readers who think a baby plant is growing from the tip of a mother leaf. Sorry, but no dice: the croton is just not one of the plants you can grow from a leaf cutting, even less from a leaf section. You’ll need to take stem cuttings (or air layer the plant) to multiply it.

20171130M tom-piergrossi.squarespace.com.pg.jpg

Croton ‘Interruptum’. Source: piergrossi.squarespace.com

There are only a few cultivars with the appendiculatum habit, one being called just that: ‘Appendiculatum’. It has green leaves, although there is also a red form bearing the same cultivar name. The other often seen is ‘Interruptum’, with green leaves mottled yellow turning into red leaves mottled orange. Never is a very common plant. Unless you have a croton nursery in your neighborhood or can order one by mail, you’ll just have to wait until one of these curious mother and daughter crotons shows up in a garden center near you.

The croton has the reputation of being a persnickety houseplant, but I have specimens over 20 years old and they do just fine. Of course, I lost more than a few until I figured out that what they really need is high humidity until they settle in. Ideally, buy them in late spring or summer, when the air is naturally humid, and put them in their permanent spot, which needs to be a brightly lit one. By the time the dry air of fall arrives, they’ll have had time to adapt to your conditions and should do fine. Other than that, basic houseplant care is all they need … but do keep them out of cold air (less than 60˚ F/15˚ C).

Crotons also make great outdoor shrubs and even hedges, but only in truly tropical climates (zones 10 to 12).

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

20171130F www.edenproject.com.jpg

Ginkgo leaves are totally original: you can never mistake them from anything else! Source: www.edenproject.com

Most really weird leaves are found on tropical plants, which is normal considering the vast majority of plants on this planet are of tropical origin, but there are still many leaf oddities among hardy plants and I think the ginkgo clearly merits a spot in the list of weird leaves.

Maybe you’ve seen ginkgoes around you so often they’ve come to seem quite ordinary to you, but their leaf shape is in fact unique among seed plants. Only maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) have leaflets anything like them.

Each leaf has a very special fan-shaped form, caused by veins that split in two, then split in two again and again. It’s as if the needle of a pine started out narrow, then became increasingly crested from the mid-point on. And ginkgoes are indeed gymnosperms, closer relatives to conifers than to flowering plants, in spite of their broad leaves and deciduous habit.

250 million years ago, ginkgoes were the dominant trees on our planet and were apparently a major food source for dinosaurs. There is only one species left, G. biloba, rarely found in the wild and even then only in isolated areas of Southwestern China. However, it is now grown as a cultivated plant the world over in hardiness zones 4 to 9.

The ginkgo is a very slow-growing but forgiving tree, adapting to just about every condition as long as drainage is good.

More Weird Leaves to Come

20171130A Clipart Library.jpgI’ve only scratched the surface of plants with weird leaves. I have many others I want to present to you and hope to do so over the coming months. Also, I’m looking for suggestions. Maybe I’ll be able to include your choice in one of the future blogs! If you allow me to use one of your photos, I’ll add that too! Just write me at horticom@horticom.ca.

Do note I’m looking for plants that repeatedly produce odd leaves, nor for a single mutant leaf on an otherwise normal plant, nor do leaf oddities provoked by insects or diseases count (although I have to admit some leaf galls are pretty amazing!). Also, for the moment, I’m sticking to leaves, not weird growth habits or weird flowers.

Thanks for any help you can offer!

Edible Houseplants


Coffee fruit - Coffea arabica

A coffee plant (Coffea arabica) will produce it’s colorful “cherries” indoors.

Question: Are there any houseplants that are both edible and attractive?

Clecio Turgeon

Answer: There are many tropical plants that are both easy to grow indoors and give us something to nibble on or to add to our recipes… but you won’t find many among the most common houseplants we grow. Most “everyday houseplants” are either not considered edible or are even poisonous. The latter group includes such popular plants as philodendrons, dieffenbachias, oleanders and most euphorbias. You don’t want to eat those!

What follows is a description of some the more interesting edible houseplants.

A Growing microgreens on plastic white cup

Micro-greens aren’t really houseplants.

Plants Dropped From the List

I eliminated from the get-go certain plants that I just don’t consider to be houseplants. For example, I didn’t include most of the herbs brought indoors in the fall to grow over the winter, as in my opinion they are not really houseplants and in fact really struggle to survive indoors. You really couldn’t grow them indoors all year.

Nor did I include herbs and vegetables that are sown indoors with a view towards a quick harvest of fresh foliage: sprouts, micro-greens and baby vegetables, for example. Again, in my book, they may be indoor edibles, but they’re not really houseplants. Likewise rooted carrot tops, sprouted sweet potatoes or celery bases sitting in water. They just aren’t houseplants to me.

There are also a few poisonous plants that are edible only after they’re given some kind of special treatment, like cooking, soaking, pounding or being reduced into powder, such as taro (Calocasia esculenta) and variegated manioc (Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’). I didn’t think it was a good idea to include potentially dangerous plants in a list of edible houseplants, as some readers might skip the “fine print”.

Everyday Houseplants That Are Edible

Here are the few common houseplants, ones readily found in almost any garden center, that just happen to be edible.


Calamondin orange (X Citrofortunella microcarpa)

Calamondin Orange (X Citrofortunella microcarpa, syn. X C. mitis)
This is the only citrus commonly offered as a houseplant. It is inevitably already in fruit when you buy it and you just need to give it good conditions (especially, strong light) for it to continue it bloom and produce abundantly. The fruits are very bitter, but they can be used in cooking, especially in the preparation of marmalades. For suggestions of other less widely available indoor citruses, see Indoor Fruits below.

Chinese Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
The flowers are edible and often used in herbal tea. Here’s an article about this plant: The Secrets to Growing a Hibiscus Indoors.

Coffee (Coffea arabica)
Young coffee plants, usually scarcely more than seedlings, can easily be found on the market, but may be 2 or 3 years from blooming… and 5 to 6 years before producing enough beans to make a cup of coffee. Occasionally you find more mature plants already producing their highly perfumed white flowers.

You can actually eat the sweet flesh of the coffee “cherries” that follow or simply clean, roast and grind up the “beans” (seeds) to make a delicious drink.


False shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)

False Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis, syn. O. regnellii)
The leaves of this popular houseplant can be purple or green, with or without a silvery or pink marking… and they are quite edible, with a sweet/sour taste. This comes from the oxalic acid they contain. However, oxalic acid becomes toxic if eaten raw in large quantities, so moderate your use. Or cook the leaves before use. Just to reassure you, remember that spinach, which we routinely eat, also contains oxalic acid and is also toxic if eaten raw in excessive quantities. As they say, the poison is in the dose: eating a few leaves will not harm you.

Ornamental Pepper (Capiscum annuum and others)
All peppers are edible, even the ones sold as ornamental plants. Be forewarned though that ornamental peppers are hot peppers, indeed, very hot peppers, generally stronger then jalapeños.

You may sometimes see them bearing the label “unfit for human consumption”, though. Why is that? It’s not because the fruit itself is poisonous, but because it was treated with an insecticide that is potentially harmful to humans. Organic gardeners will consider the fruits spoiled for life; others can wait a few weeks, then rinse the fruits before eating them. Both can harvest the seeds and grow them to produce fruits totally safe to eat in the second generation.


Ornamental pineapple (Ananas comosus cv)

Pineapple (Ananas comosus)
There are several varieties of ornamental pineapple, for example with reddish foliage, variegated leaves, colored fruit, etc. And all produce fruits which, although they’re often smaller than commercially grown pineapples, are still edible.

Besides ornamental varieties of pineapple, you can also buy a fresh pineapple and root its crown. And yes, it will eventually produce an edible fruit.


Lemony rose scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens ‘Lady Plymouth’)

Scented Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens and others)
There are a multitude of varieties of scented geranium with an incredible array of scents: lemon, rose, coconut, apple. peach, strawberry, cloves, etc. In addition to rubbing the foliage to release their scent, you can use their leaves in cooking to impart a delicious aroma to your meal. Richters (Canada) offers an especially wide choice: more than 70 varieties of these highly perfumed plants!


Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)

Swiss Cheese Plant or Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)
Often mistaken for a philodendron (which is a close relative), the monstera, with its huge, deeply-cut leaves, certainly makes an impressive houseplant. When it reaches maturity, which can take many years, it will flower indoors, producing a white inflorescence recalling a calla lily. And the flower is followed by a sweet-tasting fruit, which is the reason for the botanical epithet deliciosa. The fruit can take 11 to 12 months to mature, and doesn’t change color too visibly at maturity. So how do you know it’s ripe? When the green scales that cover it begin to drop off, it’s ready to eat.

Note that the entire plant, from its roots to its leaves to its immature fruits, is toxic. Only the mature fruit is edible.

Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis)
Yes, tea plants. although not yet as common as the other everyday houseplants presented here, are found more and more often in garden centers. Here is an article about how to grow one: Homegrown Tea in Your Teapot.

Indoor Fruits

There are hundreds of different tropical fruit trees, all of which could theoretically be grown indoors, but most won’t produce for decades, will become too large to make good houseplants or require really extreme growing conditions. Since they are unlikely to ever produce fruit in your home, I excluded them from my list.

In this group of “forbidden fruits”, you’ll find most of the tropical fruits that can be grown from seeds or pits harvested from the fruits you buy, such as avocados (Persea americana), mangos (Mangifera indica), and papayas (Papaya carica). Of course, if you look hard enough, you may be able to find dwarf varieties of these plants that will produce fruits indoors, but otherwise its best to consider most tropical fruits you grow from seed simply as foliage plants!

What follows are a few fruiting plants that are more suitable for growing in our homes and that really do make good edible houseplants.


Barbados cherry (Malphigia glabra)

Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra)
Pretty pink flowers, bright red cherrylike fruits on a small shrub that fits neatly into most home decors. What’s not to like?

Cacao Tree (Theobroma cacao)

A challenge to grow and not readily found on the market, a cacao tree can still produce cacao beans at home… if you turn your home into a hot and humid jungle year round.


Key lime (Citrusaurantiifolia) makes an easy-to-grow indoor citrus.

Citrus (Citrus spp., Microcitrus australasica and Fortunella spp.)
As mentioned in the article A Lemon or Orange Tree From Seed?, real lemon trees, orange trees, grapefruit trees, etc. are simply too large and too slow to produce to make good indoor fruit trees, unless you can find grafted dwarf varieties.

Other lesser-known citrus fruits, faster in growth and of a naturally smaller size, make much better indoor plants. This is particularly the case for the Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) which, despite its name, is not a real lemon, the Key lime (C. x aurantiifolia) and the Australian finger lime (Microcitrus australasica). You can sow any one of these and have fruit 2 years later!

Kumquats (Fortunella spp.) too make excellent indoor fruit trees.

Common Fig (Ficus carica)
It prefers to pass its summer outdoors… and has the bad habit of losing most of its leaves during the winter, leading to a rather stark appearance, but the fig tree still quite readily produces figs indoors. Moreover, its foliage is edible too.


Dwarf banana

Dwarf Banana (Musa spp.)
Even a dwarf banana tree takes up a lot of space indoors (among the smallest cultivars are ‘Super Dwarf Cavendish’ and ‘Truly Tiny’) and also require a lot of heat, humidity and sun to produce fruit. Plus they may take years to produce bananas, but still, most will eventually do so if your conditions are right.

The pink banana (Musa velutina), with pink flowers and fruits, is another small-size edible banana you might like to try, but you’ll have to eat around its large seeds.


Dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum ‘Nana’)

Dwarf Pomegranate (Punica granatum ‘Nana’)
This is a miniature version of the rather large pomegranate tree whose fruits are found in the supermarket. It forms a small to medium-sized shrub with orange flowers that will readily produce small but nevertheless edible fruits indoors. Even if you grow it from seed (it comes true to type), it will bear blooms and fruits in only a few years.

Natal Plum (Carissa macrocarpa)

This small thorny shrub with shiny leaves makes a good houseplant and readily produces white flowers and edible red fruits. It is sometimes used as bonsai. Both the stem and leaves, and even the sap, are poisonous. Only the ripe fruit is edible.


Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)

Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)
This vigorous climber will need a good trellis, but can produce its white flowers with a purple halo and its purple or yellow fruits (the color depends on the cultivar chosen) in a sunny spot indoors. There are plenty of other species of passionfruit that do well indoors, but only a few produce edible fruit.

Pitahaya or Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus undatus, H. polyrhizus, H. megalanthus and others)
These climbing cacti take up a lot of space, but bloom fairly easily when they reach maturity (after 5 or 6 years), producing enormous white fragrant nocturnal flowers followed by large red or yellow fruits with white flesh that is dotted with tiny black seeds. This is a good example of a plant you can grow to fruiting size from seeds harvested from fruit purchased in the supermarket. You just have to be patient!


Fishbone cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger)

I grow a smaller and closely related cactus, the fishbone cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger), with hanging flattened zigzag stems whose very fragrant nocturnal white flowers often give small edible green fruits… but it’s difficult to judge when they are ripe. It too takes years to begin to bloom, but once it starts, it will faithfully continue to do so.

Pixie Grape (Vitis x Pixie® Pinot Meunier)

A dwarf mutation of the Pinot Meunier grape vine which produces fruit all year on a small plant… and its leaves are edible too. It can be grown as a houseplant, but is also hardy outdoors.


Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Roselle (Hibiscus sabadariffa)
This shrub with small yellow hibiscus flowers grows quickly from seed. In fact, you can treat is an annual if you wish. It produces red fruits often used in drinks and jellies.

Indoor Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices flavor our meals and often have medicinal uses as well. I limited the choice here to varieties that really make decent houseplants.

Bayleaf (Laurus nobilis)
In my opinion, this is the only “classic” herb that grows well enough indoors to make a good houseplant. It will grow indoors for years, eventually forming a tall shrub if you don’t prune it. The leaves can simply be plucked and used fresh as needed.

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
This climbing plant produces smooth shiny leaves and long spikes of green berries that turn red at maturity and is not difficult to grow indoors if you can offer good humidity. The berries give black, white or red pepper, depending on the treatment you give them.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
You can readily grow ginger from rhizomes purchased locally. Beware though that the rhizomes offered in many supermarkets were treated chemically or irradiated in order prevent them from sprouting. There is no use planting those! You need live rhizomes, with buds indicating they are ready to sprout. An Asian supermarket should have some.

Just push a section of rhizome into a pot of growing mix and water: a green rather bamboolike plant will soon start to sprout. Over time, the rhizome will spread and you can then harvest and eat any surplus. Don’t expect this plant to flower indoors, though: it almost never does.

Other spices in the ginger family also produce edible rhizomes and likewise make excellent houseplants: galanga (Alpinia galanga), turmeric (Cucurma longa) and cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) are only a few examples.


Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)
This is a bulbous plant with grasslike leaves and small pink trumpet flowers. The whole plant smells like garlic. If you use the edible leaves and flowers in your cooking, they’ll give the meal a garlicky scent, but without the bad breath that follows eating real garlic. The name society garlic come from the idea that you could safely eat it before attending polite society functions.


The variegated forme of Spanish thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus’) is probably more popular than the species.

Spanish Thyme or Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus)
This plant is neither a thyme (Thymus spp.) nor an oregano (Origanum spp.), but rather a tropical plant closely related to the coleus (Coleus scutellaroides, syn. Plectranthus scutellarioides). It’s a very popular herb in tropical countries where its thick leaves lend taste of oregano to cooked dishes. It’s very easy to grow.

Stevia or Sweetleaf (Stevia rebaudiana)
Increasingly popular for its sweet leaves that give dishes a sugary flavor without adding calories… and it makes a decent houseplant.

Indoor Vegetables

There aren’t many plants you could call vegetables that also make good houseplants. I could only think of the following two:


Malabar spinach (Basel alba ‘Rubra’)

Malabar Spinach (Basella alba)
An ornamental climber with mucilaginous leaves used to replace spinach, Malabar spinach is often grown in hot climates where real spinach doesn’t grow well. The species itself produces green stems and white flowers, but B. alba ‘Rubra’, perhaps even more commonly grown, has reddish stems and pink flowers. Both are very easy to grow.


Spineless nopal (Opuntia ficus-indica ‘Burbank Spineless’)

Nopal or Barbary Fig (Opuntia ficus-indica and others)
Many different opuntias are used as nopals, but Barbary fig is the most common one. This cactus with flattened pads does produce edible fruits called Barbary figs when grown outdoors in a hot, dry climate, but indoors it rarely blooms, let alone produces fruit. It made it onto my “edible houseplant list” by virtue of its edible pads.

Nopal is the name commonly used in Mexico for the pads treated as a vegetable. You’ll probably need several plants if you want to start harvest nopals, as the plant is very slow growing. You have to singe off the spines before you eat the pads… or use spineless (or nearly spineless) cultivars like ‘Burbank Spineless’.

This plant will need full sun to do well indoors. And yes, you can root a pad from the grocery store to start a new plant.

Where to Find Edible Houseplants?

Many of the plants above are not found in just any garden center, so here are few places where you might want to look for them on the Web.

For herbs and species, try Richters, a Canadian company that ships to the US and probably offers more choices of herbs than any other.

For unusual fruits and vegetables, try Flora Exotica, also a Canadian company that ships to the US, while Top Tropicals is an American company that ships to Canada and many other countries worldwide. Logee’s, in the US, is a good source for American readers, but no longer ships to Canada.

For European readers, try AlsaPlants. If you know of any other good mail-order sources of indoor edibles in Europe, let me know and I’ll add them to this text.

Bon appétit!