Indoor Plant Options for Low to Medium Light

dumb cane (Dieffenbachia amoena)

dumb cane (Dieffenbachia amoena)

If you have never grown indoor plants but have been waiting for the right moment to do so, now would be an opportune time to embark on this new venture.
Most indoor plants are killed because of overwatering, yet during the fall and winter seasons, few if any indoor plants will need to be watered more than once every 10 to 14 days, so the danger of overwatering should be considerably reduced. You can relax about catering to your indoor plants in terms of fertilization and supplemental water until days begin to lengthen significantly in the spring.
In the Valley, those of us who live in an apartment, condominium or average-size house find the light available to us for indoor plants to be sorely limited. The buildings and especially trees that surround us take away most of the sunlight that would otherwise stream through our windows, and indoor plants that require little light grow best for us. We cannot usually grow the classic weeping fig tree (Ficus benjamina) indoors because of its requirement for good light – even if the weeping fig must be protected from direct Valley sun when planted outdoors.
Where indoor trees or tall floor plants – which grow to 6 feet or more – are concerned, the specimens of choice would be dragon trees (also known as Dracaenas or corn plants) and palms. There are two low-light dragon trees and two that will do better with medium light. The low-light species are Dracaena “Warnecki,” with white stripes on its leaves, and Dracaena “Janet Craig,” the most popular floor plant in America, with deep emerald green leaves. Dracaena “Massangeana,” with a pale yellow stripe along the midrib of each leaf, and Dracaena “Marginata,” with red-margined leaves, will require a bit more sun to grow their best.
Among truly elegant plants, Janet Craig is probably the easiest to take care of, never requiring more than one weekly watering and demanding fertilizer no more than once every six months or so. A word of caution: Do not procure your “Janet Craig” at a swap meet or from one of those gigantic home and garden centers, since such plants are often of inferior quality and typically develop badly burnt leaves. Find a nursery or florist with real plant knowledge that will stand behind the quality of its Janet Craigs. The leaves of a high-quality Janet Craig are far less likely to burn.
There are three types of palms that grow well indoors with limited light. Kentia palms (Howea Forsteriana), those with the glorious arching fronds, require less light than any other palm species. Lady palms (Rhapis excelsa), with stiff, vertical, yet fashionable fan-shaped fronds, would nicely complement a collection of Asian art or a room filled with artifacts carried back from the Orient. Bamboo palms (Chamaedorea species) are the most feathery palms for indoor use. Chamaedorea elegans, commonly known as Neanthe bella, is especially recommended for low light.
Many table plants do well in low to medium light. The easiest ones to grow belong to the arum family. The arums include philodendrons, Swiss cheese plant, Dieffenbachias, Chinese evergreens, pothos and Nephthytis. Philodendron means tree lover in Greek (philo=love, dendron=tree) and refers to the vining habit of these plants in their tropical habitat. Philodendron selloum – with deeply lobed, elephant-ear leaves and boa-constrictor roots – is generally grown as an outdoor plant in the Valley, though it is also suitable for indoor use. Philodendron scandens is a vining indoor plant with lustrous, heart-shaped foliage.
Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), also known as split-leaf philodendron, has leaves with deep cuts and holes; it will happily climb a stake placed in its pot. Dieffenbachia, an arborescent arum, and Chinese evergreens are known for foliage with fascinating symmetrical markings.
Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum), or devil’s ivy, is the most popular table plant. It grows “like the devil,” with green and yellow or green and white variegated foliage. A notable variety of Nephthytis has arrowhead-shaped leaves that are vanilla-colored with green venation.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Pothos and Nephthytis are easily propagated by detaching 6-inch stem pieces, together with their leaves, and placing them in water. Roots should begin to form within two to three weeks.

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