Gardening In Winter: Indoor Houseplants

Pothos is a variety of Philodendran easily grown indoors in low light

Pothos is a variety of Philodendran easily grown indoors in low light

Story and photos by Lindsey Chester.

Cary, NC- The Christmas decor has come down and now your house is looking a little drab. Maybe you love to garden but it’s way too early to plant your annuals. Have some fun and literally freshen up your indoors with some tropical houseplants.

Houseplants have many benefits besides bringing in some color and green to a tired living room or kitchen. They consume CO2 and give you literally a breath of fresh air from the oxygen they produce. Houses get very stuffy in the winter with the heat on and the windows closed. Place a few tropical plants in rooms with filtered light and your home will not only look better, but you will actually feel better too!

How to Care- But Not Too Much

I asked Kitty Mazza, from Garden Supply Company here in Cary, for some examples of easy houseplants. Let’s face it, I garden outside, and about 50% of those die, and what does well, literally has to be “hardy”. Kitty’s sage advice warned “not to care too much” – don’t  overdo the watering or fertilizing. You can love your plants to death.


Rule of thumb for all: water sparingly. Let it dry out, then water by filling the pot, let the water run through and place the plant in your pot or stand. Do not allow the plant to sit in standing water, it will literally rot.


No direct light, but also don’t leave them in the dark. Try to keep plants in rooms that you frequent. If you don’t see the plants, you will forget them and they will die. The nice thing about tropicals here in Cary, NC is that come summer, you can bring them out on your front porch, or deck and they will enjoy a vacation. Bring them in when the temps dip under 40 degrees.

Draecena is easy to grow indoors and has spear shaped colorful leaves all year.

Draecena is easy to grow indoors and has spear shaped colorful leaves all year.

Top 3 Indoor Plants

Here are Kitty’s top 3 picks:

1.  Pothos – is in the Philodendron family

This is a nice trailing plant and comes in a range of greens from bright lime, to variegated or striped. There’s even a marbled version, and one with red stripes. I admit, even I can’t kill these. We have one in the kitchen, and another in an upstairs bathroom. Water sparingly, and it will do fine. No direct sunlight, and not in a room that is dark. Looks great in a standing planter where it can trail over the sides.

2. Croatan– these multi colored plants can get pretty large and look great in a standard pot on a table or the floor. Big oval leaves with yellow, green and red splotches of color. Do Not over water this one. There’s nothing you can do once leaves start dropping. Let the pot dry out between watering.

3. Dracaena-with their blade shaped leaves these plants come in all sizes – some that are bushy and others that are stalk-like.

If you like flowers

Bromelead – its not your typical flowering plant. The “flower” looks more like a colored leaf but it is very striking and easy to care for. It usually has one central floral stalk surrounded by curving leaves that is very sculptural. The grey green foliage contrasts beautifully with the red-fuchsia flower.

Bromelead is a tropical flower with a long indoor bloom time

Bromelead is a tropical flower with a long indoor bloom time

Orchids – you need to be a little more adventurous for these beauties. I have had many over the years but none have lasted more than 2 years for me. Again its either neglect or over watering that get these babies. They will bloom for a prolonged time, but once the flowers fade, the plants is mostly a naked stalk and some rounded leaves. When it looks like that, find a room where it will still get filtered light and you won’t forget it. Water sparingly and the blooms should return in about 6 months. If not, pitch it and buy another one, as they aren’t that expensive and they really are beautiful!

Bulbs – This time of year you can also force Paperwhites and Amaryllis bulbs to bloom. They take a month or so to set up and  bloom, but be patient, water sparingly and you will have gorgeous flowers in your house before Spring.

Houseplants won’t break the bank and don’t require a lot of care. They can give you that spot of bright color in an otherwose dreary winter interior. Look for any of our top three for ease of care until you can finally go outside and dig in the ground.


The Gardening Column on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Garden Supply Company on Old Apex Road in Cary.

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