Friday, April 19, 2024

Make a big statement with one of these extra-large houseplants

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I live in a mid-century style house with 16 foot ceilings at the highest point. So when my husband and I moved in five years ago, we started filling the spaces with large houseplants. Not only do they bring the outdoors in, they’re often more affordable – and more satisfying – than, say, a side table or floor lamp.

Whether you’re looking for your first plant or your tenth, if you’re looking for something really big, it’s a good idea to take a trip to your local nursery, says Madeline Hooper, co-host of the public television show GardenFit. . “It’s ideal to see a plant [in person] because you feel a visceral reaction,” explains the New York gardener. “Get what you’re really passionate about, because you’re going to live with that every day. »

Hooper also suggests not buying the biggest plant you find; Instead, start with a medium-sized version that will grow. This will ease the burden of maneuvering around your home while you determine optimal lighting conditions.

Ready to buy a trendy plant? Here are some ideas.

Difficulty: Intermediate to expert

Ideal for : Brightly lit rooms; people who like challenges

The fiddle leaf fig tree has become a favorite when it comes to interior decorating for its sculptural foliage and dramatic stature. But these plants aren’t the easiest to care for, because they require bright, indirect light and constant watering, says Hanna Kolaks, a horticulturist at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“If red spots appear on the leaf, it is because the cells are receiving too much water, too quickly, and are bursting, which is called edema,” she explains. “Avoid letting the soil dry out completely between waterings and be sure to soak the soil thoroughly when watering.”

Falling leaves and fading foliage are telltale signs of stress, usually attributed to lighting or watering issues – something I personally encountered when we lost a trio of magnificent (not to mention expensive ) fiddle leaf figs due to lack of light in our large room. . “No plant really likes low light. Some people just tolerate it more than others,” says Kate Osmond, assistant general manager of Gardens of Babylon in Nashville.

“As this plant has large leaves, it can accumulate dust quite quickly, so be sure to wipe the leaves occasionally with a damp cloth,” adds Kolaks, noting that drafts and air dry can also damage a violin sheet.

Ideal for : A room with direct exposure to the sun

If you’re looking to incorporate tropical vibes, this is a great choice. Bird-of-paradise plants, with their large, palm-like leaves, can become soaring, but they can be pruned if necessary. The oldest leaves on any plant will wilt and turn brown as the plant matures, Osmond says, so remove faded foliage with clean, sharp pruning shears.

“Best practice would be to sterilize your shears before cutting a new plant,” she recommends. “I like to wipe them down with whatever rubbing alcohol you already have in your medicine cabinet.”

The bird of paradise needs direct sun; you can even move it outside in the summer before bringing it inside during the dormant season. It also prefers fertile and organic soils (loamy, acidic) with good drainage.

The bird of paradise has similar watering needs to the Audrey ficus. Let the top few inches of the container dry, then soak it thoroughly. You may notice the leaves start to curl and droop when they’re too thirsty, Osmond says, but they should perk up after a drink. Bird-of-paradise leaves can also split easily, especially in high-traffic areas or near a powerful air vent, but don’t let that stress you out either: split leaves are still healthy.

Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate

Ideal for : Moderately to brightly lit rooms or corners with bright, indirect light

Osmond finds that the fiddle leaf fig’s lower-maintenance cousin, the Audrey, is the real star of the ficus family. “An Audrey brings the same impact as growing a tree indoors, but with cleaner lines. [because of its simpler leaf shape] …and less noise,” she says. “These plants still prefer a strong light source but are generally hardier and more adaptable to different conditions.”

“Knowing when to water involves feeling the soil of each plant rather than watering on a schedule,” says Osmond. “Like all ficus, Audrey prefers to dry out a bit between deep, thorough waterings, so wait until the top few inches or 25 percent of the container is dry, then soak the soil until the water flows from the bottom of the container. »

Don’t let the container sit in standing water, she adds, and remember that the more light a plant gets, the faster it dries.

Ideal for : A south-facing window with bright, indirect light

One of the easiest houseplants to care for, monstera deliciosa (also called split-leaf philodendron) can produce massive leaves when conditions are optimal. A monstera can grow up to 15 feet tall with the proper support, care and patience, notes Alfred Palomares, vice president of merchandising at It needs a support system, such as moss poles, stakes or a trellis, to help it climb and grow.

This plant is also semi-drought tolerant, but you will need to water it often enough to keep the soil from drying out completely. An inexpensive moisture meter can help you determine when your monstera (or other houseplant) needs to drink. Palomares, a self-proclaimed “plant dad,” suggests planting a monstera in a well-draining peat-based potting mix or in coir soil with a more neutral pH balance.

If your monstera gets too large, you can prune it, starting with the oldest leaves that may be yellowing or damaged. Then look for crowded areas to reduce, says Palomares.

Ideal for : Rooms with medium to high light, with space near a window

Also known as ficus elastica, the rubber tree is “more easy-going,” Osmond says, and there are a number of varieties, with a range of foliage colors. Her personal favorites include “ruby” with red-purple leaves; the “tineke” with pastel green, off-white and pink foliage; and the “burgundy” with leaves tinted with ultra-dark red and green.

Palomares says rubber trees grow well in a soil mix that contains perlite or coconut fiber to help retain moisture. “The soil should never be completely dried out either, as this plant cannot tolerate drought,” he says. If you must prune a rubber tree, he advises doing it during the growing season in spring and summer, to keep the plant healthy and encourage new growth.

Ideal for : Darker spots, up to spaces with bright, indirect light

If your room is on the darker side, Osmond recommends looking into dracaenas – often mistaken for palms, these plants are characterized by their tall, slender silhouettes and grass-like leaves. A popular type is the corn plant, which does not require much sun. “You’ve probably seen these staples around airports and malls for this reason,” she says, although “some tolerate dimmer light better than others.”

According to Palomares, corn plants prefer well-draining soil that includes a mixture of clay, sand and silt, which helps water drain more efficiently. Although these plants are quite forgiving and can withstand short periods of drought, Kolaks says, you’ll probably want to water yours thoroughly once a week to every 10 days; in winter you can extend it for up to two weeks.

If your corn plant gets too tall, Palomares recommends cutting off the tops of the stalks. “You can also use the top of the plant to propagate and grow new corn plants to add to your collection or to give to friends,” he says.

Ideal for : Very bright houses and humid and warm spaces

Bananas – which are not true trees, but rather herbaceous plants, Kolaks notes – grow in the tropics where they experience high humidity, warm temperatures, full sun and constant rain. If you want a model to thrive in your home, you will need to replicate that environment to the best of your ability.

“Place the plant in the sunniest area you have, increasing humidity with a humidifier, avoiding drafts, and watering once or twice a week,” advises Kolaks. The amount of water needed varies depending on the size of the banana plant, but the soil should be completely soaked every time you give it a drink, she says. To avoid overwatering, make sure its container has drainage holes and don’t hesitate to take out your moisture meter. Since these are very fast-growing plants, Kolaks adds that they may need to be fertilized more frequently than your other houseplants.

Although a banana tree requires at least six hours of direct light each day, some varieties have leaves that burn easily. Palomares recommends rotating the plant a quarter turn every two weeks so that all sides are closest to the light source. And sorry: your banana tree won’t grow bananas indoors.

Kristin Luna is a writer in Nashville who covers home design, art, travel and food.

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