Not since the ’70s have houseplants played such a vital role in our homes and our hearts. And back then there weren’t even any social media “plantfluencers” (#houseplantsofinstagram) or pandemic-induced home stays to further sweeten the pot(s). Indeed, houseplants are, in a word, “huge” right now, says Danny Quinn of Wells Hollow Farm in Shelton. “It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen, or even imagined before.” The 150-year-old farm, for example, which simply “dappled” in a few dozen houseplants prior to March, has since stocked an entire greenhouse with some 500 varieties — and are running with it. So, yes, prospective plant parents, since the choices out there are vast and astonishingly varied, there is bound to be a houseplant (or 10) that suits you. Herewith are some favorites from indoor-gardening experts from around the state to get you started: Time to bring in the green.
1. Easy does it
Emily Cross of Clinton’s From Stem to Fern calls Sansevieria trifasciata, more commonly known as the snake plant, her “bachelor” or “weekender” plant. “They’re the most forgiving” plants, says Cross (in other words: difficult to kill) and will tolerate low light and let’s just say a less-than-regular watering schedule — heck, “even if you forget to water them for a few weeks they’ll be fine,” Cross says. Finally, despite the fact that your grandmother no doubt boasted a snake plant or two of her own, they have a “modern” look, Cross says, and come in lots of varieties, some of which stay small and compact, others that can get up to seven feet tall and still others, like Cross favorite Sansevieria cylindrical, that resemble the rays of a starfish.
2. Share the love
There’s a lot to love about Ceropegia woodii, akastring of hearts, if you ask Quinn. After all, this trailing beauty, which Wells Hollow sells in hanging baskets, boasts what Quinn calls “perfectly heart-shaped leaves” paired on slender vines that can quickly reach all the way to the floor if you let them. It also happens to be “wildly popular,” “super easy” to care for and, well, just plain pretty.
3. Succulent? Sure.
“The ‘succulent craze’ has been going on for years now,” says Pat Cannon of Manchester’s Woodland Gardens, but that doesn’t mean it shows signs of slowing. Instead, fans of the easy-to-love (and care for) little green dudes whose water-holding capabilities endear them to attention-challenged owners everywhere, are looking for more unusual varieties, Cannon says, and are finding them in all sorts of shapes, colors and textures. Case in point: Senecio peregrinus, otherwise known as string of dolphins, whose crescent-shaped, bluish-green leaves on graceful trailing stems serendipitously resemble teeny-tiny leaping dolphins, right down to their dorsal fins.
4. We speak for the trees
Quinn predicts that Ficus benghalensis, aka Ficus Audrey, a “cousin” of the coveted fiddle-leaf fig, will be the next “it” tree — and that it’s going to happen in the very near future. Fiddle-leaf figs can be a bit “difficult,” according to Quinn, starting with the fact that they don’t transition well from greenhouse to home and can become “very unattractive very quickly.” The fair Audrey, on the other hand, makes the move with ease, is more forgiving when it comes to water and light requirements, and with velvety emerald-green leaves veined with white, is quite the looker. In fact, legend has it that Ficus Audrey, which is also the national tree of India, is the tree under which Buddha sat for 49 days to achieve enlightenment.
5. Share the wealth
One of the reasons that Darlene Granese of Van Wilgen’s Garden Center in North Branford likes Pilea peperomioides, a native of southern China more commonly known as the Chinese money plant, is that it’s a “plant made for sharing.” In fact, this happy little guy with its bright green pancake-shaped leaves (yup, it’s also called the “pancake” plant), produces baby “plantlets” from both from its roots and its stem, which can then be separated from their mama, settled into a pot of their own and shared with those you hold near and dear — ’tis the season, after all.
6. Up in the air
Tillandsia xerographica is the queen of the air plants as far as From Stem to Fern’s Cross is concerned. Native to Mexico, South and Central America, where they can be found hanging high in the canopies of subtropical forests, “xeros” grow entirely without soil. Instead, their deceptively delicate-looking silver-green leaves, which curl into compact rosettes as they grow, pull the nutrients and humidity they need right from the air itself. Cross recommends giving these easy-to-maintain lovelies a fresh “spritz” of water each day and keeping them away from forced-air heating or air-conditioning vents, even fans — which she discovered the hard way last summer when a ceiling fan caused a grouping of xeros she had on display beneath it to revolt.
7. Cream or sugar?
Although Coffea arabica has, of course, been around for a long time, “many people don’t realize you can grow it as a house plant,” says Laurelynn Martin, co-owner of Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden in Danielson. In fact, “in my opinion [coffee] is one of the best house plants to grow because it has the hallmark of beauty, fragrance and ease of culture,” Martin says. Think lateral branching like a Christmas tree, shiny green leaves, fragrant white flowers, and round green beans that turn into bright red coffee “cherries.” “It’s very ornamental,” sums up Martin — and, yes, (because we know you’re wondering), if you patiently wait a year or so to get your plant up to size, you should be able to harvest enough beans to brew your own pot of joe, according to Martin — bonus!
8. One for the wish list
Philodendron erubescens, “Pink Princess,” is “all the rage,” when it comes to in-demand houseplants, says Martin, not to mention a bit of a status symbol in this increasingly competitive world. “Pink leaves are a phenomenon in the plant world,” says Martin, and the unique intensity and pattern of light- to vibrant-pink variegation on each princess makes it what she deems a “stunning showpiece.” Fair warning: If you (or Santa) are lucky enough to happen upon one, you had best be prepared to dig deep: When Logee’s, for example, has availability, each 4-inch pot currently goes for $399.95, and, because that doesn’t happen as often as devotees would like, you can sometimes find these lovely ladies going for upward of $1,000 on websites like eBay or Etsy.