A Savvy list of the coolest houseplants

Indoor plant love: The coolest houseplants

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Houseplants seem to have made a big comeback these last few years. It’s not that they ever went anywhere, but a few factors have meant MUCH more selection at local florists and garden centres. It’s now possible to find more than a peace lily or African violet or Boston fern to decorate with indoors. I think the terrarium craze that started several years ago helped to spark this interest in the coolest houseplants, as did the ongoing succulent trend. And lately, I’ve been drawn in to these vibrant, leafy Instagram feeds of verdant indoor spaces. Lush greenery frames the pictures and modern knick knacks, rather than the other way around. I discovered Plant the Future’s feed with its Star Wars planters and fun, offbeat designs. Then it was The Jungalow and later the Toronto-based Houseplant Journal, and a few more.

I don’t really think of myself as having a green thumb when it comes to indoor houseplants. It’s more green-ish. Orchids? I can keep them alive, but I’ve never had one rebloom for me. I have varying success with other plants, depending on what it is and the care required. But I love to buy them—for myself and as gifts. I recommend that you ask at the time of purchase what the care instructions are for the plant you’re taking home.

With all that said, I’ve gathered a collection of some of the coolest houseplants I’ve come across. And I may add to it as I find more. This list is totally subjective, of course, but maybe you’ll discover a plant that you’d like to bring into your indoor space.

The coolest houseplants (in no particular order)

Air plants
I remember the first air plant (aka tillandsia) that I ever saw was huge! I promptly brought one home and set it on my mantel. I subsequently discovered the smaller ones that I’ve used for crafts, like these ornaments I created for Canadian Living a few year’s back. Air plants don’t sit in soil, so to water, you simply hold them upside down under a tap for a few minutes. That’s what the grower suggested to me when I sourced the plants. Other articles I’ve read suggest soaking them. They like bright, indirect light. And in high-humidity situations, it’s recommended that they’re given a light misting two to three times a week.

air plant

Air plants are epiphytes, meaning they grow on the surface of a plant and get their water from the atmosphere.

Crispy wave
I discovered Crispy Wave recently while writing a houseplant article for the Toronto Star. And a gardener by the name of Haruo Sugimoto found it in 1961 off the southern coast of Japan. This plant is a superstar. We’ve all seen that standard NASA list of houseplants that purify the air. Well, Asplenium Nidus “CW” can filter more formaldehyde from the air than a Boston fern. It likes low to medium light and a weekly water. Apparently it will last a long time.

Crispy Wave fern

It turns out that I saw a Crispy Wave fern at the Chelsea Flower Show this past spring, but I didn’t know it at the time. This one was in the Wedgwood booth!

Mother of Thousands
This unique plant looks like it has serrated edges from afar, but up close you realize they’re little buds. These are essentially plant clones called plantlets. The plant needs good drainage, so pot it up in a soil mix for cacti. It must be noted that this plant, Bryophyllum daigremontianum, is toxic to both humans and pets when ingested. Be sure to place it in a bright window and water thoroughly. Be sure that the top two inches of soil have dried out before watering again.

Mother of Thousands houseplant

The name of this houseplant makes me thing of Game of Thrones’ Mother of Dragons! photo by Jessica Walliser

When I interviewed Pascale Harster of Harster Greenhouses for my Toronto Star article, she told me that the minimalist-looking Pilea peperomioides is the big craze right now. The plant enjoys moist soil, but does not like wet feet, so don’t allow it to sit in water. Water it about once a week and place in a bright window, but not in direct sunlight.

Pilea houseplant

Also called the Chinese money plant, apparently Pilea is also very easy to propagate from cuttings. Photo courtesy of Harster Greenhouses

Medinilla magnifica
The Medinilla magnifica was the star of Canada Blooms several years ago now. I fell in love with the plant’s arced stems laden with heavy pink blooms. I also saw a few splendid potted examples during a trip to Belgium. The plant likes to dry out completely between waterings (about every seven to 10 days). Water from the bottom by placing the pot in a sink or dish of about two litres of water. Soak it for 10 minutes and allow to dry for a couple. It also likes to be misted. It doesn’t mind direct sunlight between November and March, but the leaves may burn the rest of the year, so best to move it to another location.

medinilla magnifica

The medinilla magnifica looking magnificent at the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Silver vase plant
This is the type of houseplant that dazzles with its vibrant, central bract that rises out of the centre of silvery green foliage. This bract actually forms a vase, which is where you water the plant. Keep it filled and freshen up the water about every 10 days. Give the roots a light water in the summer and less in the winter. Use orchid potting soil to pot it up and place this bromeliad in an area that gets lots of bright light, but out of direct sunlight.

Silver vase plant


And I can’t end this post before mentioning minis. I have a thing for items in miniature, so when I saw a miniature poinsettia at a local garden centre last November, it promptly went into my cart. Then at the California Spring Trials in April, I fell in love with miniature cyclamen at the Morel Diffusion booth at Ball. These little guys have so much potential in arrangements! So any plant that looks like it was shrunk by a plant fairy counts as a cool houseplant!

miniature cyclamen

I fell in love with these variegated beauties from cyclamen.com at the California Spring Trials!

Here are some of my favourite houseplant books!

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One Response to Indoor plant love: The coolest houseplants

  1. Geo Lambert says:

    Glad you mentioned that Mother of Thousands is toxic, but readers should also be aware those attractive plantlets along leaf edges drop off with slightest movement – or often it seems just from looking at. On table or floor they become easy targets for ingestion. It seems obvious that this is an unnecessary danger for any home that might ever have pets or toddlers present.

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