Winter houseplants can help to scratch the gardening itch that plagues so many of us during the colder months. There’s no reason to let your green thumb go dormant just because the plants in your backyard do. Whether grown for flowers or foliage, houseplants can brighten indoor spaces while simultaneously improving air quality. Here are some of the best winter houseplants to grow.
Aloe plants are well known as houseplants, and are commonly used as a remedy to soothe sunburn and other skin irritations. Aloe will produce clusters of orange flowers in winter if given enough light year round. Kalanchoe is another popular succulent winter houseplant, producing a profusion of long lasting, star-shaped single or double flowers in both vivid and pastel colors. Christmas cactus is a no-fuss succulent to grow and flowers easily. Most succulents prefer well-drained soil and bright light, with the exception of the Christmas cactus, which likes indirect light, regular misting, and more watering than many of its cousins.
Forcing bulbs is an easy way to bring big color and fragrance indoors in winter. The large, showy blooms of amaryllis are a stunning focal point in any room, and heavily fragrant paper whites are some of the easiest bulbs to force. Try hyacinth bulbs in late winter to give yourself an early scent of spring. Just about any bulbs are suitable for forcing; including tulips, daffodils, crocus, and muscari, although the time it takes for them to bloom will vary. Once the ground outside is workable, plant them in the garden and watch them flower year after year.
Orchids are popular winter houseplants and, given bright indirect light and even watering, will provide spectacular and long lasting blooms. The large flowers of moth orchids are some of the best-known and commonly available orchid species. Cymbidium orchids are also fairly common and have smaller flowers than the moth orchid, but more of them. The black jewel orchid has foliage as lovely as its flowers and is attractive even when not in bloom.
While many of us know wax begonias as garden annuals and tuberous begonias as houseplants that flower in spring and summer, rex begonias are quickly becoming popular houseplants for year-round appeal, especially in winter. While their flowers are small, it’s the wide variety of foliage rex begonia has to offer that’s the real show stopper. Some to try are ‘Fireworks,’ with its textured purple, black, and metallic (!) silver leaves, ‘Stained Glass,’ for its ruby red and silver foliage, ‘Marmaduke’ with its yellowish green leaves, mottled with chocolate brown, and ‘Escargot,’ so named for its spiral, snail shell-like leaf shape that has whorls of silver, dark purple, black, and green. Like most begonias, rex begonias are sensitive to moisture conditions and should be watered only when soil appears dry but before stems begin to wilt.
The elegant calla lily is a beautiful plant for winter blooms, as long as you provide it with bright light and keep its soil moist. Cilvia is similar in appearance to amaryllis, but has several, smaller orange flowers instead of one large blossom. Cilvia can also tolerate slightly lower light. The corn plant, also known as dracaena, has fragrant blooms and can grow quite large, so long as you don’t overwater it. Cyclamen is another favorite winter houseplant. It has attractive, rounded leaves and delicate flowers that will keep appearing if you deadhead the spent ones. Azaleas will also give long bloom periods if deadheaded, and some are available trained into tree form for additional interest. Anthurium and peace lily are two tough flowering houseplants that can tolerate lower light conditions than most and are easy to care for.
The upright leaves of the snake plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is nearly indestructible and adds an architectural element to a room. Foxtail ferns, on the other hand, have soft, fluffy foliage you won’t be able to resist touching. Chinese evergreen tolerates low light and has interesting patterned foliage. Others that have varied foliage pattern or color are the prayer plant, or rabbit tracks, so named for the pattern on its leaves, and the Ti plant, or Cordyline terminalis, which comes in varieties of variegated white, green, pink and red. Common garden plants caladium, also in varying combinations of white, green, pink, and red, and coleus, which boasts additional yellows, browns, oranges and purples in its color pallete, make attractive houseplants in winter and prefer bright, indirect light. Be sure to pinch back coleus to keep it from becoming leggy. For a larger winter houseplant, try schefflera for its delicate, dark-green to almost-black foliage reminiscent of lace leaf maples. Schefflera likes bright light, high humidity, and is fussy about being moved.