Perfect Plants for Medium-Light Container Gardens - dummies

Perfect Plants for Medium-Light Container Gardens

By Bill Marken, Suzanne DeJohn, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

Some direct light is fine for plants that prefer medium light, but for the most part, they need bright but indirect light. Place them near a west or southeast window where they receive bright daylight but no direct sun, or in a window with sheer curtains. The following are well-suited for medium-light locations:

  • African violet (Saintpaulia): The fuzzy leaves on this 4- to 6-inch-tall plant form a rosette, with flowers that come in white, pink, lavender, and purple. Provide an average to warm temperature and medium to high humidity. Keep the soil evenly moist. Avoid getting water on the leaves, which causes spots and rot. These plants are easy to grow, but getting them to flower can be challenging.

  • Begonia: With colorful and varied foliage plus showy flowers, begonias have it all. The type of begonias that have large, gorgeous flowers (called tuberous or Rieger begonias) are considered disposable. Longer-lasting begonias include angel wing (sporting spotted leaves and insignificant flowers); rex begonias (with foliage that’s variegated with gray, purple, or magenta); and B. schmidtiana (featuring dark green crinkled leaves with reddish undersides). Keep the soil evenly moist, and avoid getting water on foliage. Fertilize lightly and regularly during the growing season. Repot annually. Begonias get a medium fussiness rating.

  • Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus): This fern’s apple-green fronds unfurl to 3 feet. It thrives in areas with an average temperature and high humidity — a great plant for close proximity to the shower. Keep the soil evenly moist. Bird’s nest ferns are easy to grow.

  • Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis): This fern looks tropical, full, and lush when well kept — but scraggly when untended. Keep the soil evenly moist. Boston ferns are easy to grow, but can be annoying because they tend to shed leaves.

  • Bromeliad: Sporting rosettes of sharp-edged, leathery leaves that are covered with grayish, waxy scales, the “flowers” of bromeliads are colorful bracts that remain showy for weeks. The plant’s foliage creates a vase that you can fill with water. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Bromeliads are easy to grow.

  • Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera): Christmas cactuses require an extended period of cool (50-degree-Fahrenheit) temperatures and 12 to 14 hours of total darkness at night to be coaxed into blooming. Let the soil dry out between waterings, and give them less water in winter.

  • Coleus: Traditionally used outdoors in shady summer beds, its colorful foliage can brighten up your indoor space as well. Place in an area with high humidity. Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season, and barely moist in winter. In spring, cut back and repot. Pinch tips to keep growth bushy.

  • Croton (Codiaeum variegatum): The colorful orange, yellow, or red midribs of the croton’s shiny leaves make it look like it was dipped in paint. Provide a medium to warm temperature, high humidity, and moist soil.

  • Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia): Provide an average temperature and medium to high humidity. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Occasionally, take a deep breath and cut the tallest, leggiest dumb cane stem down to 3 inches so that shorter stems may take over.

    Avoid this plant if there’s a chance that a pet or child may chew on it.

  • Ivy: English ivy (Helix hedera) and related species are easy to grow. You can keep them pruned to a compact shape, let the vines trail down, or train them up and over a window. Keep the soil evenly moist and watch out for spider mites.

  • Moon Valley pilea (Pilea): The leaves of this plant have dark veins and look finely quilted. It thrives in high humidity. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Pinch plants back to keep them bushy.

  • Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla): This is a good candidate for an indoor Christmas tree. Hot, dry conditions can cause the needles to drop. Keep the soil evenly moist.

  • Palm: Because palms vary in mature size, light and water requirements, and other characteristics, read plant labels carefully before you buy. Most palms are a little temperamental and are frequently attacked by spider mites.

  • Peperomia: Widely available, peperomia forms a dense mound of pleated leaves. Red Ripple has deep red stems. Water when the soil is dry. Peperomias are easy to grow.

  • Philodendron: These plants become vines unless you pinch them back. They’re among the easiest plants to grow.

  • Pothos (Epipremnum): This vining plant grows and grows, making it the plant of choice for training up and over your windows or anything else that will stay still. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Pothos is very easy to grow.

  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum): The spider plant is a fine choice for a hanging basket. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Repot when roots fill the pot.

  • Umbrella plant (Schefflera actinophylla): An imposing 6 to 8 feet at maturity, the umbrella plant is a good choice for a big, empty corner. Keep the soil evenly moist (drier in winter). Repot every two years.