There's a definite art to making your home feel like a home, whether you live in a rental composed of small, boxy rooms or a big, modern dream home with a wide-open floor plan. One of the most effective ways to upgrade your space is with houseplants, which bring life and color to suit any decor. Some require a long-term commitment before they'll grow large enough to make a visual statement, but others grow quickly enough to have a near-immediate impact. Here are a few of the best.
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1. Pothos, or Devil's Ivy
Some plants are floor dwellers, while others are aerialists, and pothos is definitely in the hanging-plant camp. Also known as devil's ivy, it flourishes in hanging pots or in planters where it can drape over long, elevated surfaces. Buy a small plant and let it grow or take cuttings from a friend who has one and start them in water on a convenient windowsill. Either way, it will take only a few months for it to spread aggressively and give a cascade of showy green leaves.
2. Sansevieria, or Snake Plant
Often, a room needs a bit of drama, and sansevieria provides drama to spare. Its fast-growing, spear-shaped leaves are deep green and are often patterned or variegated in multiple shades of green and yellow. Its distinctive shape has inspired a number of catchy nicknames, from "snake plant" to "African spear plant" to "mother-in-law's tongue." Whatever you call it, a small sansevieria rapidly becomes a big one, and it provides a visual focal point in a floor-standing pot or on a low piece of furniture.
3. Spider Plant
As a hanging plant, spider plants offer a double benefit. The leaves of the main plant are striking themselves with their displays of stripes, and they also provide secondary visual appeal by way of the spiderlike plantlets, or pups, that dangle from their pot. These pups will quickly grow larger and will send out pups of their own, making the spider plant nature's own hanging mobile. You can expand your collection quickly by rooting the pups and hanging them in a separate pot.
4. Diffenbachia, or Dumb Cane
When you have a corner that's just calling out for a large, visually striking plant, diffenbachia is one of your best choices. Its oversized leaves, variegated in various patterns of (usually) dark green and pale yellow-green, can bring life to any space no matter how large. It will grow to substantial size if given a large enough pot for its roots to keep up. Be careful if you have kids or pets, though, because its leaves are somewhat toxic and will cause you to lose sensation in your mouth, hence the name "dumb cane" (dumb meaning mute in this instance).
5. Tradescantia, or Wandering Jew
Tradescantia, or wandering Jew, is another absolute must-have for your hanging baskets and high places. The plant's striped leaves in shades of green, white and vivid purple are always eye-catching, and it's a fast-growing addition to your living space. If you have shelves or bookcases that need an attention-getting accent, tradescantia is definitely your friend. The same goes for any place you can put a ceiling hook and suspend a hanging basket. Create a really lavish display by rooting cuttings and placing them back into the pot.
In an ideal world, every space in your home would be bathed in plentiful, plant-loving natural light. Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world, so it's handy to have a few plants in your arsenal that flourish in lower-light scenarios. Ferns ordinarily make their homes in the dappled light of the forest floor, so they're an ideal choice. They also love a bit of moisture and humidity, making them an excellent choice for use in bathrooms.
7. Cordyline, or Ti Plant
There are lots of plants that can give you glorious displays of green, with and without stripes and patterns. The Ti plant, or cordyline, is one of the relatively smaller number of plants to combine bold reds and yellows with impressively rapid growth and big, dramatic leaves. It's a concentrated dose of tropical exoticism in a pot, and as an added bonus, it will give you long spikes of sweet-scented flowers as well. What's not to like?
8. Ficus, or Weeping Fig
Decorating with greenery is a matter of fitting the right plant into the right space. Sometimes, that means you want something small and jewellike, and sometimes, you want a tree. If you've ever been in a mall or office building, you'll know that the ficus tree, or weeping fig, is one of the top choices for indoor duty. Its slender and delicate stems grow quickly and produce copious quantities of pretty leaves, and its size is effectively limited only by your room and the pot you choose. Beware, though: Like many popular pets, it sheds. Be prepared to add leaf sweeping to your house-cleaning routine.
9. Bamboo and Lucky Bamboo
Both true bamboo and the unrelated lucky bamboo (a distant cousin to asparagus) are fast-growing plants that can make a bold statement in your room. True bamboos can grow to treelike height when given a pot with enough room for their roots. Lucky bamboo can be kept to flowerpot size or allowed to grow to treelike dimensions as well, and if you wish, you can train the main stems into exotic shapes. Lucky bamboo is traditionally thought to be a fortunate plant in many Asian cultures and is widely used as an element in feng shui.
Most of the default houseplants that people grow are perennials, but there's no reason you can't cut loose and add a few annuals as well. When you're looking to add color to your home, one of the splashiest is the nasturtium. They'll provide a torrent of blossoms in shades of red, yellow and orange, and their leaves are visually interesting as well. They're at their best when overflowing a raised planter or hanging basket, so place them up high. As a bonus, their leaves, blossoms and buds are all edible and have a spicy, arugulalike "bite" to their flavor. Try them in a salad or as a vivid garnish on a cooked dish.