My affection for houseplants began the first time I lived alone. Plants were the only thing that changed while I was at work. Checking on them and observing their growth, needs and unique characteristics intrigued me.
Houseplants depend on light, humidity, spacing, location
In Victoria, our home has tinted windows that are energy-efficient but don’t provide enough light for flowering plants. So our current collection of houseplants is predominantly green.
I’m eager for more colorful houseplants, so we have placed a grow light in a room with a southwest exposure. Placement and humidity along with location will affect my indoor plants.
Crotons (Codiaeum varigatum Petra or Mammy or Sunny Star)
Currently we have Petra crotons among the pumpkins at the front door.
The Petra croton is variegated with shades of red, orange, yellow and green. When temperatures dip below 55 degrees, it will be necessary to bring them inside.
These variegated plants are sun worshippers.
- Color enhances with light
Crotons do best in direct sun, so place them in south- or east-facing windows. The more sun they get, the more colorful their leaves will be. Our new grow-light will give them the extra light they need.
- Thrive in humidity
Crotons thrive in humidity, so regularly mist their leaves. If your home is dry in the winter, you may consider adding a humidifier for them.
Another helpful technique for adding humidity is to set plants on a shallow pebble-filled tray of water. As the water in the tray evaporates, it will add moisture to the air around the plants.
Ti plant (Cordyline fruticose)
For centuries, Ti plants have been considered sacred by Hawaiians and when planted around a home to bring good luck. They are striking with their lance-shaped foliage and exotic color combinations.
Most varieties have purple foliage variegated with streaks of hot pink, cream, white, green, gold or red.
Like crotons, Ti plants thrive in full sun and warm temperatures.
- Less light, more green
When this colorful plant doesn’t get enough light, its leaves show less variegation and more green. The plant’s color will also fade if the temperature is too low.
Its leaf tips will brown if the plant stays dry for too long or needs fertilizing.
- Prevent brown tips with feeding, watering as prescribed
March through August, fertilize every two weeks to optimize its growth and vitality.
Use rainwater or distilled water to avoid adding fluoride or chloride that’s often found in tap water. These chemicals are mildly toxic to Ti plants. Or you can let tap water sit for 24 hours before watering so the chemicals will dissipate.
- Sponge/regularly mist leaves for enhanced color
Some gardeners recommend sponging Ti leaves to remove dust and to make them look brighter. This practice also protects against spider mites that grow in dry conditions.
Since Ti plants thrive in humidity, a cool mist humidifier works best but may not be practical. Ti plants will do well if their leaves have regular misting.
- Provides height and color to arrangements
Ti plants grow from 2- to 6-feet tall and will provide height as well as color to house plant arrangements. If the plant gets too tall, cut it back at the top. New branches will grow from its base after pruning and prevent it from getting too leggy.
This year my husband’s favorite plant is the red iresine Brillantissma also known as the bloodleaf plant.
- Thrives with filtered light, daily watering
It has thrived on the patio with morning sun and afternoon shade along with daily watering.
- Feeding, trimming for branching
Feeding garden-planted bloodleaf plants weekly from March to August will help them grow up to 5 feet tall with a spread of 3 feet. In a container, it will grow 12 to 24 inches tall.
Young plants should be trimmed a number of times so they will branch nicely.
Originally from Brazil, bloodleaf plants have been described as colorful, hardy and tough. They have brilliant red leaves that are variegated with dark green and white markings and pinkish red stems.
As a houseplant, bloodleaf plants need a loamy, soil-based potting mixture and a sunny location.
- Needs light, moderate humidity
In a location with light from two sides, its leaves glow like burgundy. If the plant doesn’t get enough light, it will become dark and leggy.
Like the croton and ti plants, bloodleaf plants do not tolerate dry, heated air. They like moderate humidity and misting.
These three colorful patio plants have similar needs and will transition to houseplants with at least 6 hours of sunlight daily, good humidity and moderate watering. All will add color, texture and interest to indoor winter rooms.