Gardening

Keep your houseplant collection fresh this winter by branching out with different varieties

I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting what garden articles elsewhere will be covering. Recall a month or so back when I warned of a raft of “don’t rake leaves” articles. My goodness! Every single news feed urged using leaves rather than kicking them to the curb.

OK, OK, of course people write about leaves in the fall. So I guess you don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict what is coming next: a rash of “best houseplants for” articles. You know the ones: “The 10 best houseplants for low light” or “The 6 easiest plants to care for!”

It is winter. The articles on houseplants are coming. And now, instead of being shamed by the world for writing the same stuff about the same plants in the winter, there are accolades because we are in the midst of the COVID-19 houseplant spree.

It is not hard to understand how the pandemic resulted in renewed interest in houseplants. This is a good thing, of course. New plants are being introduced to our homes — and by “new,” I mean plants consumers have not seen before, not those old ficus, croton or Rex begonia standbys. Old standbys have become easier to find.

And, if I may express a bit of satisfaction, the latest houseplant craze has really upped the notion that indoor plant lights are a very good idea. I guess I am not the only garden writer who harps on the absolute need for some winter light system for your houseplants. You can surely expect Outside news feeds to feature plant lighting articles.

So what do I like, not that it matters, as it is your collection that counts? I like some of the new plants. Check out mangave plants, for starters. Spell check doesn’t list “mangaves,” they are so new. I like Agave x Manfreda.

[Holiday cacti are traditional, but other varieties are even more spectacular]

There are a bunch of new Dracaenas. You probably have at least one of the old-fashioned kinds already. Search the internet for Dracaena “Star Canary.” The plant is almost entirely bright yellow, which would really brighten up a dark corner in the house.

I’ve mentioned the heart-shaped hoya, Hoya kerrii. What used to be green now has varieties with interesting splashes of white on the leaves. These will flower eventually, if kept a bit root-bound. Etsy has some amazing Hoyas to consider. Wow.

Next, rex begonias were the rage and still should be. On the new side, check out Begonia maculata. There are so many more kinds of indoor begonias and they make great collections. The houseplant craze has resulted in numerous rare plants from some of these collections being sold at prices as high as $150 and more. Google “rare begonias” and check the images. You will understand why they are so expensive.

You can surely order any houseplant via the internet, though I always worry about shipping this time of year. It is best to check with the seller. In any case, do make the rounds of local nurseries, box stores and florists first. You should find plenty of new plants that will pique your interest — and maybe some old ones.

In any case, you will be reading way too many articles on houseplants this winter. With lights, few of these plants should be out of your reach. Go for it. Join the trend you will be reading about.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Light display, walking tours, classes. www.alaskabg.org. Membership is the only gift a gardener needs.

Birds: Grackles love suet. Do not put it out. These are not birds we want around here. If you think the magpie are taking over, wait until you experience grackles.

Poinsettias: They are baaaack. They don’t like drafts, do need slightly moist soil and must have drainage. Don’t fertilize.

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