Nobody said that these would be new, unheard of up-and-comers. Actually, quite the opposite. These are plants that most gardeners either have, or should try. Here are a few of my favorites.
• Aglaonemas These always go at the top of my list. Their foliage is showy, and the plants are incredibly well suited to indoor conditions. Breeders have brought us a grand assortment of types, from the plain original Chinese evergreen, to all manners of silver variegation to a much more recent group of rosy-pink types. They thrive in bright rooms, but they can tolerate reasonably dark settings. They do not need direct sunlight. If you can read a paragraph of a book without turning on a lamp, that’s enough light for these winners.
• Devil’s ivy, or Pothos As common as mud, these old-fashioned houseplants are still some of the best. Many sport brightly variegated yellow or white leaves. More recently a solid yellowish-green pothos called Neon has come into the market. These can all be used trailing across desktops or climbing up totem poles. Fun fact: the plants develop the familiar “giant leaves” only when their stems ascend. Go to any tropical area and you will see them growing up tree trunks. Their leaves can grow to be larger than garbage can lids.
• Spathiphyllum, or peace lily Wholesale growers turn these out by the tens of millions. They’re perhaps the most common of all flowering foliage plants, staples of the funeral and gift-giving industries. They’re super-durable as long as you don’t let them wilt repeatedly. That’s when their leaves brown around their edges and at their tips. They produce their showy white Jack-in-the-pulpit blooms a couple of times every year. No direct sunlight, please, which makes them ideal indoors.
• Dracaenas and Pleomele There are many types and we’ve grown them for decades. Unfortunately, the most familiar one, the one with the thin leaves with red edges to its leaves (Dracaena marginata) requires really bright light, so it’s not well suited to most homes and offices. But all the rest really are. Janet Craig has always been my favorite, but corn plant is up there, too. And there are several newer types worth considering.
• Sansevierias At one point I had a collection of more than 60 species and varieties of sansevierias, but two problems with greenhouse heating have cost me much of my collection. (I should have followed my recommendation and had them indoors as houseplants.) These plants are ultimately durable. Forget to water them for a few days? No problem. Haven’t fed them for months? No problem. Just don’t let them freeze! Some types are low and rosetting, while others are very tall and spikey. Some types even arch with sharp-pointed leaves. You’ll find the unusual ones from serious collectors and occasionally at really good nurseries.
• Pony tail palm First things first, it’s not really a palm. But it’s a superior houseplant. We have one that’s been in the family for 50 years. They have those large, swollen bases that serve to store water in their arid native homes. They tolerate low humidities and dry times indoors, but you’ll get the best growth if you give them the same care you’d give other plants. Sunlight is not suggsted, but bright light is a must.