Bright sunlight during the winter months is a precious commodity here in the Okanagan Valley. When the cloud gets trapped in the valley it can make you wish you were on a sunny beach far to the south!
If you think it’s tough on the human psyche, pity your poor houseplants, who also appreciate a bright day every now and then. If you’ve got dark corners in your home here are a few suggestions for some tropical plants to transform those spaces.
One plant which combines a stout constitution with the ability to grow in the darkest recesses of the living room is the aspidistra, or Cast Iron plant. This is an apt common name if there ever was one! Dark green, arching foliage grows to about 30 inches long and four inches wide, and these look very elegant in the right container.
Cast Iron plants are slow growing and can tolerate all but the very worst neglect. Keep the soil barely moist and fertilize once a month during the growing season.
The aglaonema, or Chinese Evergreen, is another great plant for dark spots. I have seen these growing in offices where even the fluorescent lights were turned on infrequently and the curtains were always drawn. They are commonly seen in hotel lobbies or dimly lit shopping malls.
All have some variegation in the leaves, depending on the variety. Again keep them barely moist and fertilize only about every two months between March and October. Chinese Evergreen will grow slowly to about 24 inches, with foliage about six inches long and three inches wide. Like the aspidistra the Chinese Evergreen is rarely bothered by insects.
One popular low light houseplant that has a pleasing combination of good looks and flowers is the spathiphyllum, or Peace Lily. The two-part blooms are composed of a white curved “flag” which looks like a hankerchief, and a stick-like piece which comes up in the centre. The tiny individual parts of this are the actual flowers.
If the peace lily is happy in its environment it will produce flowers continuously, but they are also beautiful foliage plants, with dark green, graceful foliage. Spathiphyllums prefer the low light and warm, humid environment of their native South and Central American jungle home so keep them moist and try to keep the surrounding air humid by misting them or setting them on a large tray filled with small pebbles and water.
Finally, all members of the philodendron family thrive in low light situations. It is a large family and many hybrids have found their way into commercial greenhouses and into our homes.
Many philodendrons are by nature low-laying plants which crawl along the jungle floor, or climb vine-like into trees. Philodendrons, and their close relative the pothos, are extremely easy to care for. Allow the soil to dry between watering and try to keep the foliage clean of dust and away from the bright sun.