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Houseplants for black thumbs and travelers

October 15, 2011

Plenty of houseplants will survive neglect, still clean the air and bring joy.

Credit: Doreen G. Howard
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As the leaves turn gold, orange and red, it is natural to think of greenery indoors and houseplants to the replace a landscape that is quickly going dormant for winter. 

My first instincts are to bring in potted plants and enjoy their vibrant flowers and foliage.  That urge usually ends in dead plants, however.

I’m a skilled gardener, but my indoor space presents challenges such as lack of light and low humidity; and there is no one to water plants for long periods.  Sometimes I’m gone up to a week on work-related trips, and my husband doesn’t know what a watering can is.

Discovered by experience and recommendation, here are a trio of indoor plants that brighten my home, clean the air and thrive with little attention. 

Take a look.

These tiny ceramic stones provide everything moss needs to thrive indoors.  Unusual and easy, Moss Rocks!™ are fun no-kill houseplants.  Photo courtesy of Moss & Stone Gardens.

Moss Rocks!
Helen Yoest, a blogger in North Carolina, told me about a fabulous new look she had discovered: moss in small containers.  Her friend David Spain has introduced the product line to garden centers this month. Moss Rocks! ™ are small to tiny ceramic containers designed to display and maintain Dicranum moss indoors in low light and humidity.  I love mine and even have one on my desk by the computer.

My two-year-old anthurium thrives in a glass of water and my neglect. 

Anthurium in water
This air-cleansing, tropical plant with spectacular, hardy flowers needs to be watered often. But, two years ago I found a brilliant-red flowered anthurium that was grown in a tall glass of water! I keep the glass two-thirds filled with water and add a drop or two of liquid fertilizer to the water I add every 10 to 14 days.  The bottom three inches of the glass are filled with small pebbles to anchor roots.  It sits next to my kitchen sink, in front of an east window, and flowers year-round.  Easy and carefree!

Due to their thick, water-filled leaves, these sun-lovers endure anything!  You can forget to water them for two months, place them a low-light situations and never fertilize them, and they thrive. Little or no growth will take place (until they go outdoors to full sun), but they are still attractive air cleaners and perfect for miniature and fairy gardens.  I made a diminutive gnome garden with a Senecio that resembles a well-branched tree, a couple of miniature props and plenty of pebbles.

A tiny Senecio mandraliseue 'Blue Chalk Sticks' found at a local nursery makes a great tree for my rocky gnome to lie under and watch the bees and frogs!

I’m off on another trip, visiting the Missouri Botanical Garden, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Long Creek Herb Farm in the Ozarks this week.  I’ll be sharing my experiences and photos with you in two weeks.  Meanwhile, I won’t have to worry about my houseplants!


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Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including

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Another fun plant to grow

By Marthapp

Another fun plant to grow from seeds is the TickleMe Plant. The TickleMe Plant will fold its leaves together like magic when you Tickle it.

Hi Dorreen. I'm reading your

By Olga

Hi Dorreen. I'm reading your articles and I'm ordering seeds from Baker Creek. Looking forward for your pic. and stories.

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