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Easiest Houseplants for the Midwest - Part 1

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Here is a list of houseplants that are great for just about anyone to grow…no green thumb required. The Midwest needs plants in the house especially in the middle of winter and some actually provide healthy benefits. A recent study showed that patients with growing plants in their room healed better and faster than those that didn’t…although it might have something to do with the people that sent or brought the plants!

 Some common rules for houseplant - (unless otherwise described below)
• Make sure the pot has drainage and excess water in the tray below is dumped out
• If the leaves turn brown or have burned spots, try moving them to less light
• If leaves emerge smaller or the plant is spindly, move to more light and add fertilizer
• Fertilize with a basic houseplant fertilizer like Peters or Miracle Grow (read instructions)
• Err on the low side when fertilizing – more is not better – it can burn the plant
• Keep an eye on the plant for pests, diseases, water and light needs
• Keep away from cold drafts or heating ducts • Pots other than plastic hold moisture best • Overwatering is the biggest cause of houseplant demise

Aloe Vera – (pronounced AL-oh VER-uh)

Keep this plant handy because it is easy to grow and is considered a succulent (adapted to dry conditions and has water storing tissues). Break open a leaf and rub the sap on a burn, cut or bug “bite”. Test first on a small area because some people could have a reaction. Care is very similar to cactus; a bright window, South or West in our area, infrequent watering and soil with good drainage. They like to be pot-bound (tight in small pots) and are easily divided. Lower leaves tend to dry so remove them to maintain good looks. If the plant gets too tall or topples over, break off the stem and stick it in some good potting soil for a new plant! They like summers outside, but gradually introduce light and watch the water (rain may make the plant too wet) and bring it inside before it gets very cold since it is a tropical plant.

Begonia coccinae – (pronounced be-GON-yuh kok-SIN-ee-uh) - Angel Wing Begonia or Cane-type Begonia

These plants are easy to grow indoors all year around or you can winter them indoors after summer vacation outdoors. Leaves are shaped like an angel’s wing and are often spotted and have a grouping of red colored flower. Bring plants in well before frost. If dug from the ground and potted, cut back stems to match the size of roots. Indoors they need a bright spot, but not direct sun, consistently moist, never completely dry or very wet. Fertilize during growth with a houseplant balanced fertilizer (follow directions). If planning on bringing the plants in yearly it is best to leave them potted, rather than continually digging, cutting back and stressing the plant. 

Chlorophytum comosum (pronounced klor-roh-FY-tum kon-OH-sum) - Spider Plant or Airplane Plant –

I love these variegated plants and they are good for the environment! This houseplant helps to clean the air, especially of the chemical formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is used in paints, coatings, fabrics, building materials and glues to name a few. Hanging baskets best display the hanging runners. The plant only needs a sunny window, medium amount of water and fertilizer now and then. It also tells you when it needs water by drooping or the tips turning brown (trim the tips for a nicer look). It loves a really tight pot and will send out “babies” as a reward. There are a few tiny flowers if it is really happy in the environment. The “babies” can be cut off and potted when they are large enough to have a few roots…or if the “baby” is anchored in a pot it will root…or if the “baby” is placed in water (only the roots) it will add more roots until you decide to pot it. Children will enjoy caring for and learning about propagation from this plant.

Schlumbergera x buckleyi (pronounced shlum-ber-GER-uh cross buck-LEE-eye – Christmas Cactus -

Sold especially around the holidays in full bloom, they are easy to care for, propagate (make more plants) and bloom. Blooms are showy and emerge from the tips of the segmented leaves in pinks, reds, salmon and white. They are also tropical succulents, so need bright (South or West in the Midwest) light (spring and summer) and infrequent watering. Fertilize in spring and summer and use very well drained soil (bromeliad soil is great). To make more plants, snip off a few segments and place the bottom one half in the moist soil. To force it to bloom the plant needs about 12 hours of darkness for an extended period in fall. Place it in a room not used too often, but don’t forget it. The plant also likes to be touching a cool window to stimulate bloom (to simulate their natural environment of warmer temperatures in the daytime and cool evening temperatures). Turn the plant frequently or it may only bloom towards the window!  

Dracaena marginata – (pronounce drah-SEE-nah mar-jin-NAY-tuh) – Corn Plant -

Another plant that helps remove formaldehyde from interior air and very easy to grow! Multi-stemmed versions of this plant look like a palm, so very tropical looking for the Midwest. The plant is grown for its variegated tropical looking foliage. In the Midwest it needs fairly bright light and watering after it dries out. Overwatering and no drainage are death to this plant. An occasional dose of general houseplant fertilizer keeps it happy. Keep away from drafts and heat registers. As the plant ages, some lower leaves will drop. Heavy leaf drop is a sign of trouble. Summer the plant outdoors in a semi-shaded to shaded location, Dracaenas cannot take full sun outdoors.

Sandie is a freelance writer and photographer. Her mother started her passion for gardening by "letting" her help her plant and water annuals, paint stepping stones and mow and edge the grass. Some of the "dirt" must have been absorbed. She consider herself to be a plant collector. Her garden had a plan, but it has been overrun by cool and not so cool plants. If they grow and bloom or look nice, they stay. That includes what many people might call weeds! Sandie calls them wildflowers or native plants. Check out her website at for more info, or visit her profile at . She currently writes garden articles and profiles of passionate gardeners for "the Michigan Gardener" and "the Herbarist" along with other non-gardening writing. 

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