Are you a plant fanatic, but busy too?
If you love plants, you probably have some that you dream of that are fabulous, but out of reach. For me, those prima donnas are either outrageously expensive, or need a humidity level that would destroy a living room, or some other exacting demand. The Peacock Begonia is $100. The Venus Flytrap - major humidity. The King Anthurium - 6 foot leaves (in my tiny house - forget it!)
Sometimes we have to settle. But with this Fabulous Five, we don't have to settle too much. They are easy-going AND gorgeous. You won't have to live in a terrarium, conservatory, or a jungle to grow them. They're not outrageously expensive.
These gems just need what I consider routine house plant care: bright light from a window or plant light (mine is a regular light bulb in a reflector thing, mounted on a plant stand), water about once a week with a little plant food in the water. Occasional repotting, occasional spray for pests with a Neem oil spray mixture.
The first of the five All-Stars - my new favorite house plant:
Red Aglaonema, Chinese Evergreen
The Chinese Evergreen is an old standby houseplant. It has decorated shopping malls and doctors' offices for a long time now. However, plant breeders or SOME GENIUSES have now come up with fabulous new varieties streaked and edged with luscious rosy red! I have the one called Crete or Creta. There are many varieties with the red variegation. A number of these are on eBay. I saw a beauty named Maria, either at Home Depot or Walmart.
(These beauties are around online...my hardest job was SPELLING the darn botanic name, at first).
In the winter, without direct sun, the red Aglaonemas grow with a little more of the deep green on their leaves. But they still have the beautiful red edges and usually red central veins. Any plant that can maintain even SOME variegation during the Northwest winter has got my vote! Then summer comes around, and they get more red areas, as well as yellow-green areas. They look like some artist splashed them with paint...just gorgeous.
If the Chinese Evergreen grows tall with exposed stems, you can cut it off and root it in water. A new shoot will grow in the original plant pot, plus you plant your new cutting somewhere and you have a new plant.
A. Crete or Creta
Next Amazing Plant - Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera Obliqua
This one looks like something from an alien jungle on some other planet. Incredible holes in the leaves really get the looks, even from non-plant people! Weird, but enjoyable, and EASY.
It's a vine, so you can train it to grow up the side of a window or any kind of support. Or make a hanging basket; train the ends back into itself for a bushier look.
Leaf of Swiss Cheese Plant
It likes "bright filtered light" as the books say (does anyone HAVE that in a normal house?) In very low light it will grow lanky and the leaves will be small. It does like some humidity. For me, keeping it among other plants seems to provide enough. And intense summer sun, in a south window especially, will scorch it. Other than these considerations, it just needs routine care.
Not too many have seen this one. Monstera Obliqua won me a blue ribbon at our fair. Maybe it could be a winner for you!
Monstera Obliqua, young plant
Next - Euphorbia Milii, Crown of Thorns
This one can bloom continuously with cheerful small coral-pink flowers. Other flower colors are available.
Crown of Thorns is not a fussy plant. It likes a sunny window and is pretty tolerant of house conditions.
I say it CAN bloom continuously - you may have to experiment; try a few different varieties to find one that blooms freely. I have an unnamed one that just blooms and blooms. On the other hand, I have paid high prices for named and/or imported varieties and never, or rarely, got flowers. I don't know what determines the flowering...maybe sunshine. Maybe being in the Northwest (or any area with less sun) is a factor. Could be that the large-flowered Thai hybrids need more sun.
But if you get the right one, and it becomes happy in your spot, it almost always has the little flowers, all year.
Note: the sap is an irritant/toxin, so don't let kids or pets chew on it or play with it.
Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia Milii
Next of the Fabulous Five - Angel Wing or Cane Begonia
The long, wing-shaped leaves on these plants sport flashy veins, streaks, dots or spots. This alone is a fine show, but when the plant is mature enough and content enough, it will produce gorgeous hanging blossoms. The flowers can be pink, orange, white, or red depending on the variety.
Eldora is a pretty variety with dotted leaves and pink flowers. Avalanche's leaves are spotted, bloom light red flowers (see photo). Looking Glass is a favorite; has leaves with deep green veins on large silver areas.
An informative website is bradsbegoniaworld.com.
For some reason I don't see cane begonias in stores or even nurseries much. They can be ordered online, and on eBay. Also Kartuz Greenhouses, kartuz.com has a tantalizing selection.
Beautiful, rewarding, and easy.
Cane Begonia, "Paper Snowflake"
Cane Begonia "Avalanche"
The Fifth Fave - Philodendron Pink Princess
She's tough. She's tolerant. She grows large exotic dark green leaves splashed with beige, light green and PINK. No two leaves are alike; each new one is an interesting new look. The maroon stems (sometimes striped) add to the show.
Philodendron 'Pink Princess'
Pink Princess is a vining plant, and will appreciate a support to grow on. Philodendron people call a big support stick in the pot, a "totem". Like most variegated foliage plants, more light helps bring on the color. Cooler temperatures AND good light seem to cause the Princess's pink areas to be deeper toned. In a greenhouse situation, once I saw a magnificent Pink Princess growing with huge (at least 10 inches) almost black leaves, and its pink patches were a fabulous deep rose color. Stunning.
This one is a must-have if you like Philodendrons!
Two Young Pink Princess Plants
One fun thing about these five is that most are fairly easy to multiply by putting cuttings in the old glass of water method. This works for all but the Crown of Thorns. With this one - put a cutting in potting soil, then water very sparingly, if at all.
In general, they grow roots, you pot them up, and you have beautiful new plants!
Return On Investment
Why grow boring plants? For the same time and care you would invest in a ho-hum plant, you can grow something spectacular and get more color, pattern, or oddball flair!
There are others too. The plant world is an ongoing adventure!
rubyflora (author) on November 29, 2015:
Hello, I am not sure on this. I will have to go to a florist shop or two and look around, see what they have.
I found red Aglaonemas at Home Depot. Got a cane begonia at a plant sale put on by Portland, OR's African Violet Society, also ordered some online. Ebay has the Monstera Obliqua, also saw this one at Portland Nursery in Portland, OR. Sometimes Crown of Thorns is at nurseries, as is the Pink Princess (also online). They are not extremely common, but they're worth hunting them down!
peachy from Home Sweet Home on November 29, 2015:
I was wondering whether I can buy them at the flower shops?