Indoor Plants For Adventurous Gardeners

If you read the advertisements as well as the text in your favorite garden magazine, you surely have noticed the many types of greenhouses offered by the homeowner. 

Some are large in size, others are small enough to fit a window frame. 

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Perhaps the greenhouse of your dreams has become a reality, and though it now “bulges at the seams” the search for new plants goes merrily on. 

Four Unusual Plants

Here are four unusual plants you might like to consider.

One of these, Hoya Bella, belongs to the milkweed family. The other three are the relatives of the African Violet. These are:

  • Aeschynanthus
  • Isoloma
  • Sinningia

These, however, require more light than African violets, though direct sunlight is not needed. 

For these three gesneriads, a night temperature of 65° degrees Fahrenheit is best, but no harm results if it does not fall below 60° degrees Fahrenheit. 

The day temperature should, of course, be at least 10° degrees Fahrenheit higher. Apply tepid rather than cold water as the temperature rises, and avoid getting it on the foliage.

Aeschynanthus Paella

Aeschynanthus paella, formerly known as Trichosporon pukhrum, is a native of Java. An epiphyte may be planted in shallow pots containing orchid peat.

However, my plants grow well in soil composed of one part Ieaf mold, one part peat moss, one part fibrous loam, one part sharp sand, and a few pieces of broken charcoal.

Drainage must be perfect, so place pebbles in the bottom of the pots and cover them with sphagnum moss before adding soil. 

Aeschynanthus Pulcher

Aeschynanthus pulcher is a fibrous-rooted, evergreen, trailing plant with rich green, broadly ovate leaves. 

The brilliant red flowers are produced freely when the plant is in active growth, when it requires feeding. 

A weak solution of liquid manure is excellent, applied only when the soil is moist. If desired, plants may be pruned after flowering.

Stock Of Aeschynanthus

The stock of aeschynanthus may be increased by seed or cuttings, 2″ to 3″ inches long. These will probably have 4 to 6 leaves, so remove the two lower leaves and place the ends in moist sand. 

If a top and bottom temperature of 70° degrees Fahrenheit can be supplied, the cuttings will root in about a month, and they can be planted in 2”-inch pots. 

Do not allow plants to flower the first year; pinch the shoots 3 or 4 times to induce bushiness.

Isoloma Genus

While leafing through various catalogs, you may find various forms of the genus Isoloma, also listed under the genera Kohleria or Tydaea. 

Two isolomas that I enjoy growing are Isoloma ceciliae and Isoloma hirsutum. The first has downy, brownish-green leaves, vivid rose flowers, and a compact habit. 

Isoloma Hirsutum

Isoloma hirsutum is a tall grower, but pinching will keep plants shorter.

I once took a well-budded 6”-inch cutting, placed it in a pocket of sand in a soil mixture of equal parts of loam, leaf mold, and sand, and shaded it for a few days.

The foliage was syringed with a misty spray occasionally, and although a few buds dried, the remainder opened.

The stem and buds of Isoloma hirsutum, as the name would indicate, are covered with red-brown hair. 

The red flowers, with a yellow throat dotted with red, are produced freely. The toothed leaves are a rich green, with hairy edges of red-brown. 

New shoots will emerge from the scaly stolons when the plant finishes blooming.  

When about an inch high, they may be carefully removed and placed in small pots containing porous soil. Shift into larger containers as necessary, and when flower buds appear, feed every two weeks. 

Ideal Growing Conditions

As house plants, isolomas need a south window during winter and early spring. The summer sun is too hot, and plants should be moved to a cast window unless shade is provided.

It has been said that gloxinia is almost as popular as African violets. If they are not, they should be, for well-grown specimens are beautiful plants, while the large-flowered hybrids are especially spectacular. 

Do not, however, overlook the charm of the slipper types.

Sinningia Speciosa 

The illustration shows Sinningia speciosa, first found in Brazil in 1825, said to be the parent of the modern gloxinias. 

Modern Gloxinias

Note the beauty of the foliage and the grace of its nodding purple bells. Gloxinias are not difficult to grow in the house. 

Plant tubers just below the surface of porous African violet soil after placing crushed charcoal in the bottom of the containers for drainage. Small tubers require 4”-or-5”-inch pots, but larger ones will need a 6”- or 7”-inch size.

Be careful not to overwater newly planted tubers, as this may cause them to rot. I like to water older plants thoroughly, then wait until the topsoil is slightly dry before watering again. 

“Leggy” Gloxinia

Light is important, as too little may produce a “leggy” gloxinia. The fact that some varieties need more light than others adds to the confusion, but plants grow well in the south or cast windows during the winter months. 

If the foliage scorches as the sun becomes more intense, move plants to a northeast window. 

The dormant period for gloxinias is variable, but the lovely Sinningia pictured seems never to tire! 

  • To force it to rest, gradually withhold water until the leaves die. 
  • Place the pot where the temperature does not fall below 60° degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Sprinkle the soil with water occasionally to prevent the tuber from shriveling. 
  • Seeds or leaf cuttings will keep you well-supplied with new plants.

Old-Fashioned Hoya Carnosa

The first hoya I acquired was the old-fashioned Hoya carnosa, but finding two other varieties with variegated foliage was not difficult. 

Much harder to locate and well worth the search was Hoya Bella, perhaps the loveliest of all. 

It seems to be like a soil mixture of two parts loam, two parts leaf mold, one part well-rotted manure, one part sand, and some broken charcoal. Shade the plant from the hot sun.

Hoya Bella in Hanging Pot

I prefer Hoya Bella in a hanging pot; one can look up and see the exquisite, waxen-textured blossoms nestling among the small leaves. 

You will also appreciate the delightful fragrance of the flowers, which usually appear toward early spring and summer. 

This is the active growth period, and water should now be applied freely. Less water is given during the winter, for too much may destroy the roots.

Hoya Bella: Stove Species

Hoya Bella is a “stove” species, so it is best not to allow the temperature to drop below 55 degrees. My plants have a night temperature of 60. 

Take cuttings in the spring, using shoots of the previous year’s growth for new plants. These plants are ideal for the greenhouse and will also grow in the house. 

Use porous pots placed on pebble-filled saucers to help increase humidity, but keep the water level in the saucer below the base of the pots. 

If yours is an “adventurous spirit” where houseplants are concerned, you will want to try these unusual candidates.

44659 by Helen B. Farnham