Nancy Brachey

Fresh houseplants will give rooms a new look

In the spirit of the new year, many of you may want a fresh look for your home. This does not require wholesale redecorating at huge trouble and expense. It can be as simple as the addition of new houseplants.

The selection is huge, but not all thrive in the dry air and low light of a house or apartment. Ones that do are surprisingly pretty and rewarding for their nice foliage.

And a few will reward you with flowers, though temporarily.

A wonderful choice for a flowering house plant in winter is cineraria. This is sold widely in garden centers and flower shops in the winter. It bears flowers shaped like daisies above pretty, light green foliage and comes in white, rose, blue and purple, all a nice change from the red, silver and gold things we just packed away.

Cineraria likes it cool, and the cooler (but not freezing) temperatures it has, the longer it lasts. In that way, it is like cyclamen, another popular choice for this time for year.

Both benefit from light through a window to bring out the blooms.

For darker spots in a room, several top choices exist. There are the popular pothos and philodendrons, both trailing evergreens that look good on mantels and high shelves and require little care. They will take low light and require watering only once a week or so, especially in the slow-growth days of early winter. They look good all the time and give a nice splash of green where it is needed.

However, for dimmer spots with little natural light, some elegant choices exist. The best of the lot is Chinese evergreen. This plant is notable for both its shape and the softly variegated color of its long, narrow leaves. Most leaves have markings of light green, cream or grayish green, which contrast well with the darker green on the margins. The leaves look a little waxy, which gives them a nice glow under a lamp.

Another choice is aspidistra, commonly called the cast-iron plant because it prospered in the difficult environment of poorly heated homes in Victorian England. The tall, vertical leaves are very dark green and a mature plant looks striking. They don’t show up well in dark corners, but the shape is interesting when a lamp shines on it. It requires practically no natural light. The only care is regular watering and occasional dusting of the foliage.