Monday, June 29, 2009

Bachelor Pad Houseplants

     The term, "Bachelor Pad Houseplants", is more inclusive than you might believe. These are not just indoor plant suggestions for apartment-dwelling guys who are spending most of their free time at the computer, pirating the latest volume of "Girls Gone Wild". These houseplants are for everyone who claims to have accidentally killed every green plant ever purchased. They don't require much water (perhaps once every 10 days in the summer) and can take low light as well as fluctuating temperature conditions. These indoor plants are great for offices, too, where lights, heat and air condtioning are turned off for extended periods.

These plants also pass the Farmer Fred Benign Neglect Houseplant Test: they get watered, and showered...once a month. They live in a room that has enough natural daylight to comfortably read. But frankly, they don't read much; perhaps furtive glances at the photo layouts in "Pistil and Stigma Monthly". Fertilizer? Nope. But they start their indoor life in high quality potting soil with a bit of an organic, slow release fertilizer. That soil gets changed every few years…if I remember. And, they don’t complain, unlike that whiny pothos on Twitter.

Bachelor Pad Houseplants (Purple Thumb Plants, if you prefer): 

   The Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum, pictured left) is a small to medium sized plant, with oblong, lance-shaped leaves 6-9 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. Among all the Chinese evergreens, look for the "Emerald Beauty". Avoid the "Silver Queen" variety, It can't take temperatures below 50 degrees.

 The dracaena (Dracaena deremensis, pictured right) grows as a single-stemmed plant, sending out long, narrow leaves all along the stem. Of the dracaena varieties, choose the "Janet Craig" or "Warneckii". You can go two to three weeks between waterings with these. In fact, watering more often could be detrimental.

The ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia, pictured left). A Southern Hemisphere relative of philodendrons, the ZZ plant has been described as "a houseplant with an attitude".  The roots, stem and leaves all store water, making it drought tolerant. We have one here that thrives on neglect in a south-facing window without the benefit of cheap sunglasses. However, reports indicate it could do just as well in an east or west-facing window, and perhaps facing north, as well. Or in La Grange.

Other bachelor pad houseplants:
Dracaena fragrans massangeana - corn plant
Aspidistra elatior - cast iron plant
Aucuba japonica Variegata - gold dust plant
Brassaia actinophylla - schefflera
Chamaedorea elegans - dwarf mountain palm
Cissus rhombifolia - grape ivy
Crassula argentea - jade plant
Cyrtomium falcatum - holly fern
Dieffenbachia amoena - giant dumbcane
Ficus  elastica - India rubber plant
Ficus lyrata - fiddleleaf fig
Howeia forsteriana - Kentia palm
Pandanus veitchii - screw pine
Peperomia obtusifolia - ovalleaf peperomia
Philodendron oxycardium - heartleaf philodendron
Podicarpus macrophylla - Japanese yew
Sansevieria - snake plant
Syngonium podophyllum - nephthytis

Bachelor Pad Houseplant Care Tips:

* When choosing houseplants, avoid those with no identification tag or simply say, "tropical plant". If they don't know what it is, how can you get help when problems arise?

* Before buying, check the plant on the underside of the leaves and in the crotch where the leaf meets the stem. That's where bugs tend to congregate. Avoid plants with brown-tipped leaves; that's a sign of improper watering or poor drainage.

* The easiest way to clean and water the plant is to take into the bathroom with you, and shower with a friend. Or, in the case of the Kentia palm, shower with a frond.

* Use a container that has drainage holes. Keep a pan (such as a microwave dinner dish) beneath it, with a layer of gravel (or styrofoam popcorn) to catch the runoff.

* Don't fertilize the plant from October through March, let it rest. During the spring and summer, fertilize lightly, if at all. Coffee grounds, applied as a mulch once a month, are OK. Just be sure to remove the coffee filter, or your potential girl friend may back out of the room, slowly.

* If the plant is on a window sill, rotate it every few days so it won't start bending in one direction. Great excuse when checking out your hot neighbor.

1 comment:

  1. your list is too long,Fred. Reliable indoor plants for bachelors (and others who may have challenges with them-the plants, not the bachelors) might only include half a dozen plants. How about: chinese evergreen, Dracaena, Pothos, Sanseveria,Ficus(in good light) ZZ plant.