Home & Garden

7 must-have houseplants to brighten your home

The burgundy rubber plant tolerates low light and fairly dry soils, especially in winter.
The burgundy rubber plant tolerates low light and fairly dry soils, especially in winter. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Not since hippies popularized cascading greenery in macramé hangers back in the 1960s and ’70s have houseplants been this cool.

But this time around, their popularity is being driven largely by millennials looking for affordable plants that require minimal care and fit beautifully into small spaces.

Those younger buyers prefer a clean, modern look with big, bold foliage and unusual shapes and colors.

One of their favorites? The fiddle-leaf fig — a dramatic upright plant with large, dark green violin-shaped leaves that’s easy to care for.

“They’re our No. 1 seller right now,” said Lino Gomez, garden supervisor at Home Depot in San Luis Obispo. “We can’t even keep them in stock.”

Gomez said houseplant sales at the store have been “phenomenal” lately — up 15 percent from January 2018 — thanks to an improved economy and increased interest by younger buyers in their 20s and 30s.

The elephant ear plant is known for its giant leaves. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Houseplant wholesaler Micah J. Lopez said sales for Pacific Sun Growers, the Nipomo company he co-owns with brother Angel Lopez, increased 15 to 20 percent for 2018 over the prior year.

Lopez said his clients attribute increased business to buyers inspired by splashy houseplant displays featured by blogs, decorator magazines and home design networks such as HGTV.

Local college students are also buying into the houseplant craze, according to Cal Poly students Cameron Lilly and Jacob Mattlin. The two were manning the Cal Poly Plant booth at a recent Saturday farmers market in San Luis Obispo.

While they said succulents remain popular with students, fiddle-leaf figs, air plants and unusual orchids such as mini cattleyas are big sellers.

What’s not in demand? Flowering potted plants such as ivy geraniums and begonias.

“They’re too temporary,” Mattlin said. “People want plants they can keep around and grow with.”

Pacific Sun Growers in Nipomo grows indoor plants for wholesale. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

7 must-have houseplants

Dracaena reflexa: This standout plant features short, pointed, green leaves stripped in yellow that swirl from the plant’s center. A slow grower indoors, dracaena makes an excellent table plant or small tree when given bright light and even moisture.

Elephant ears (Calidora): This dramatic plant, known for its giant leaves, requires bright, indirect light, moist soil and high humidity. To increase humidity around the plant, place it on a pebble-filled tray and add water until it sits just below the pot.

Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina): This lush, small-leafed tree requires a bright room with lots of indirect light. Keep soil evenly moist, but not wet, and apply fertilizer regularly. This ficus drops its leaves if moved or its watering schedule changes.

The peace lily’s leaves frame tall, white calla-like blooms in spring. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Lickety Split philodendron: This attractive upright plant boasts large, lobed green leaves and prefers bright, filtered light and evenly moist soil. Its easy-care nature makes it an excellent choice for beginners.

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii): This graceful table plant’s dark green leaves frame tall, white calla-like blooms in spring. Peace lily tolerates low light, and its leaves will droop when thirsty.

Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata): This hardy indoor plant is popular for its huge, violin-shaped leaves and easy care requirements. Keep soil moist in summer, but let dry slightly in cold months. Keep leaves clean with an outdoor shower or by wiping with a damp cloth.

Burgundy rubber plant (Ficus elastic): A tough plant whose bold, thick leaves may require staking as it grows, the rubber plant tolerates low light and fairly dry soils, especially in winter.

The fiddle-leaf fig plant is popular with houseplant fans, who love its huge, violin-shaped leaves and easy care requirements. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Want healthier houseplants?

  • Use potting soil designed for potted plants.

  • Provide bright light, but not direct sunlight.

  • Apply liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted in water monthly during spring and summer.

  • Make sure pots have drainage holes.

  • Don’t overwater. Most houseplants need watering no more than every week or two.
Leslie Stevens lives in San Luis Obispo and has been gardening and writing about the area for nearly 20 years. If you know of a special garden or gardening event worth sharing, please contact her at lesloscrib50@gmail.com. Please allow a minimum of six weeks from the event.
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