Indoor Plant for gifts and how to care for the




These are the plants I talked about on CBC’s Fresh Air December 23, 201


Don’t just fling plants around a window and think you are doing them or yourselves a favour. I used to collect indoor plants and lug them outside in summer then back in the autumn. My husband used to collect cartoons of indoor plants eating the house. It’s what our place once looked like. Not any more, they should be a real enhancement for necessarily a full on forest of greenery.

I have a friend who is so crazy about her succulent collection she does gardens in a pot, adding different kinds putting them together to make a design. But she has so many that now she and her husband want to downsize, they can’t figure out what to do with the plants. “Get me a greenhouse.” she says

Moderation works with house plants as it does in most other things. Start by checking out the light:

* low light means you can have them in shady places but there has to be reflected light from somewhere. Dead dark won’t cut it.

* houseplants do not want to be in sunlight banging on them directly. They can easily get burned as the days get longer and sun more intense. So they want lots of reflected light. A bright place close to a window but not in a window.

* And never over a heating vent or by a radiator. Dries then out too quickly.

Watering is a major concern. It’s over watering that kills off most indoor plant. And the ones on my list will function in two ways: they will clear the air and will be easy to maintain.

  • Always use tepid water that’s been sitting for about 20 minutes so all the chemicals have evaporated. Water so that it comes out the bottom of the pot.
  • Do the knuckle test:   stick your finger in the pot and if it’s dry at the first knuckle it probably needs watering. Double knuckle would be down two knuckles of course.

Give all indoor plants a spritz with tepid water occasionally. They will get dusty and the stomata which do all the good work you want will get blocked.

Plants can make a huge difference to the air quality of any room. These forgiving plants usually need good light and some will do the job of removing nasty things like the benzene or formaldehyde from furniture and cleaning products. They absorb these particulates, take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.

But: If you have animals or small children, make sure you are not setting out any plant that’s toxic.

THE CORE PLANTS (ones to keep the air clean and look great)

SPIDER PLANT  The wonderful old fashioned Spider plant would be my top plant for this air cleaning. They have a languid stripey quality, grow in just about any light and you can harvest the babies, stick them in soil and make new plants, these are called Spiderettes. Cats like mucking about with them because they are slightly hallucinogenic

PEACE LILY or SPATHIPHYLLUM has a shell-like delicate white flowers and would make a great focal plant if you are adding more than one. It is also useful as an indicator plant:   though it gets along on very little water, one it starts to droop, water immediately. Then follow through and water all your houseplants. It’s an air cleaner and can take low light but it is toxic. You’d want this one on a shelf and I wouldn’t recommend it if you have cats that climb all over the place

Dracaena especially the ones with a red edge to give a pop of colour but they can get huge, up to 4 metres tall so keep that in mind.

For a shady spot consider a Bamboo or Reed Palm, Chamaedorea   But Bamboo palm which is also a decorative plant will deal with bright sun is also pet friendly so keep that one in mind they need lots of humidity.

Sego Palm is a Cycad and it’s highly toxic but also stunningly gorgeous and good in a shady place. But will also put up with full on su

My Favourite Houseplants:

There are lots of other air purifiers including succulents like the ALOE PLANT. I used to keep one of these for cuts and bruises and one time experimented with using the jelly as a facial. Forgot I had it on and answered the door covered in what looked like green mould. Bit of a shocker for the postman. Aloes come in many shapes and forms including Hoya or Wax plant with the thick waterstoring foliage. It grows in low light or shade

I am crazy for just about all succulents. If you want to give a gift of a plant give a succulent. These are so many different kinds to choose from. They have a slightly exotic look. Their thick luscious leaves hold water for a good long time so little watering required. And they colours range from pale ecru to deep rosey red. The shapes and sizes go from tiny miniature Hens and Chicks or Sempervivums to big lacy ones such as

Burrito’s Tail   a Sedum and a lush hanging plant

Cacti such Schlumbergera the Christmas Cactus should be in bloom at this time of year, if it isn’t you probably have a Thanksgiving cactus (that’s American Thanksgiving).

String of Pearls is a Senecio and looks like beads spilling over the side of a gorgeous pot. You can nip them of and propagate them if you want a wall of them. The wouldn’t take direct light but bright light is good.

Chloe Fraser recommends the following for low light and air purifying.

Chinese Evergreen , Aglaonema Has a lovely bushy look, full leaves full of patterns. Some have Cream and green combination never grows big and thrives in lower light

Snake Plant, Sanseverria has now got lots of novelty cultitvares and there are dwarf varieties they have a chunky form and fan shaped leaves.

ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia has shiny glossy lime green leaves with a very sculptural habit and she calls it a desk to flow plant to describe how it grow.

POTHOS again a bump of colour in neon lime green and it’s easy to propogate so you can fill all sort of dark spaces with it.

Have a look at Chloe’s  web site: and be dazzled. You’ll see the range of shapes and colours in houseplants and lots of new interesting varieties. Absolutely great gifts.

A plant is a wonderful gift that should last for long time and if you give one to yourself your are going to feel better than ever.


From Marjorie