Turn over a new leaf


Turn over a new leaf

Lakshmi Unnithan Arvind lists 12 indoor plant varieties you can bring home this year.

Houseplants are grown for decorative purposes, positive energy and indoor air purification. Such plants generally tolerate indoor growing conditions, including low light, dryness and warm temperature. The cooler, brighter and airier the conditions indoors, the longer the plants will last. Indoor plants also need to be taken into sunlight on a rotation basis. The plants that are selected to be placed indoors are chosen for their foliage, architectural beauty and extraordinary shapes. Some of them are attractive, thanks to their glossy aromatic foliage. The feathery foliage and architectural beauty of some varieties are used as a contrast to the severity of modern architecture. Indoor plants range from the small plants that are used as single table plants to those used in dish gardens. Then, there are plants in pots for offices, foyers, and entrances. Choose plants that suit your style, space and budget. There is a vast collection of plant varieties that can be taken indoors.


Philodendrons are the favourite among all foliage plants. Their popularity is because of their tolerance to low light, dryness and warm temperature. Their tough, leathery, glossy leaves enhance the ambience.


Monstera is widely used as an indoor plant. It is a climbing plant that thrives, and is different from philodendron with which it is easily confused.

Succulents & semi-succulents

A large number of succulents and semi succulents make an excellent group of indoor plants.

They include the peperomias that have compact, dwarf-like growth and are excellent for dish gardens and as potted plants for coffee tables or window sills. Aluminium plant (pilea), prayer plant (maranta), Chinese evergreen (agalonema) are also excellent indoor plants that come under this group. Cactii are succulent plant varieties. The famous cacti are opuntia sp, astrophytum sp, mammillaria sp, cereus sp. Succulents have juicy, fleshy, soft and thickened leaves, stems and tubers. These plants have specific structures specifically adapted to survive long periods of drought.

Some well known succulents are sedum, jade plant, sansevieria, aloe, kalanchoe, gasteria, haworthia, sempervium, etc. When watering, keep moisture off the crown and never permit the soil to stay wet. Provide good drainage and ensure there’s no moisture in winter.


The umbrella plant (papyrus) grows well if planted in aquariums, yet will survive as potted plants when kept constantly moist. They are valued for their striking form and interesting oriental silhouette pattern.

Table plants

Agalonemas make excellent house plants. They are useful as a table plant for offices, foyers, for water gardens and even for planters in shopping malls.

Cast iron and tough

Cast iron plant (aspidistra) is another plant ranking in toughness. It has an excellent capacity to withstand low light and dryness.


The different types of dracena are excellent for home culture or on the desk or table. All the species have striking variegation and intense colouring foliage.
The growth habit of these plants makes it a good accent plant.


Ivy has been proven to be a good house plant for dry interiors. They can be grown in attractive bottles. The spider plant (chlorophytum) has long been a favourite house plant because of its cascading stems that produce small white flowers followed by plantlets.

The aristocrats

Palms are the aristocrats of the foliage plants. Architects and interior designers have a close association with palms. Palms fare better indoors. When being moved to a patio or porch in summers, they must have protection from the bright sun. Although palms need bright light, lack of direct sunlight is not a problem. The species of palm that are best indoors are the areca palm, fish tail palm, parlour palm, bamboo palm, Kentia palm, yellow palm, broad leaf lady palm and Forster sentry palm, etc. Like palms, most ferns thrive in cool rooms. Ferns are sculptural, pretty, soft and delicate. They thrive under moist conditions, moderate temperatures and are shade loving. They include Boston fern and maiden hair fern. Epiphytic ferns such as Stag’s horn fern (platycerium), polypodium and davallia have become very popular house plants.


Bromeliads are another species used as indoor plants. They have rosettes of leaves arranged in cup-like forms. Most of them hold water in their tightly furled leaves. Cryptantus sp and tilandsia are excellent examples of indoor bromeliads.


Orchids can also be grown as house plants. Orchids should have fresh air on all the days. Avoid extreme hot or cold drafts directly on plants. Phalaenopsis, cattleya, miltoni and oncidium are examples.

Trees for company

Scale, as much as form, was an important consideration in earlier times and still is. Indoor trees are a favourite because they are large enough to make an impact on an interior space, and to act as a focal point. Java fig is an excellent indoor plant for home or office. A member of the fig family, (moraceae) ficus sp is excellent as an indoor tropical bonsai too. What makes it attractive is the leaf shape that varies from round to the pointed shape. Umbrella tree or Schefflera is a member of the aralia family. It survives in low light. As an indoor plant, it can be trained to grow into a bonsai, a dwarf plant or a large pot specimen.


There are some more things we need to understand before you select indoor plants. A lot of studies have been conducted that show what kind of plants are chosen to suit indoor conditions — plants that can purify the air. These studies have pointed to plants such as the areca palm, dracena, denrobium and phalenopsis orchids, peace lilies, sansevieria, anthuriums and money plant. Palms are known to be natural air purifiers.

Areca palm is said to be the living room plant. Peace lilies (spathiphyllum) thrive in the shade and remove harmful toxins like acetone, ammonia, benzene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, trichloroethylene and xylene. Apart from being easy to take care of, orchids rid the air of xylene, a pollutant found in many glues and paints.

Anthuriums have large, dark leaves that absorb ammonia, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene, so they are a thoughtful present for a workplace. Money plant rids the air of carbon monoxide and formaldehyde and is known as the specialist plant. Unlike most plants which release CO2 at night, snake plant (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue) does the reverse as it converts CO2 into oxygen at night.

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