It’s always exciting to bring a new houseplant home. But if you’re tired of the same old plain green leaves, why not look for something more exotic the next time you shop for indoor plants? There are plenty of intriguing species we can grow indoors with unique leaves packed with personality! Here are a few of our favorite striking indoor plants for Iowa.
Fittonia, often called Nerve Plants, are dramatic in more ways than one. They have striking dark green leaves with bright red or white veins. They’re beautiful to look at, and they can tolerate fairly low-light situations. However, they’re very dramatic about being watered. If you let their soil dry, they’ll wilt and collapse as if the world has ended. Luckily, it hasn’t (unless you leave them like that for days on end!). Give them a thorough soaking, and they’ll perk back up within a few hours like nothing ever happened.
Lithops, often called Living Stones, are an unusual family of succulents that actually look like rocks! They’re native to very dry areas of southern Africa, and some even survive in areas that get less than 2″ of rain each year. They stay small and low-profile, and they can go months without water. However, they do need full direct sunlight for a minimum of 5 hours per day. A bit of extra shade in the heat of the afternoon is helpful.
The warning to NOT overwater these guys is super important. Lithops are dormant for spring and summer, so don’t water them then unless the leaves start to shrivel. At that time, only offer a small amount, just enough to moisten the top of the soil. They start growing again in August or September, and plants that are at least three years old may bloom in the fall, producing cute little spiky flowers.
In the fall, you can give them one deep watering, but make sure they have good drainage. Cactus soil is ideal, as it prevents them from staying wet for very long. Stop watering altogether by the end of September. They grow through the winter, but they need the soil to be very dry to complete their growing cycle. Do not be tempted to water if the old leaves start to shrivel; this is a normal part of their growth and reproduction process.
Staghorn Ferns have recently become more popular for their large leaves that look like moose antlers. Staghorns are epiphytic, which means that in the wild, they attach themselves to other plants and don’t grow in soil. They do best when mounted on a hanging platform of some sort, or in a hanging wire or mesh basket with little to no soil. An orchid bark mix would be well suited for staghorn.
So, how do you water a staghorn? There are two primary ways to make sure your fern is getting enough moisture. They like humidity, so if your home is dry, you may need to mist even once per day during the driest parts of the year. The higher the humidity in the area, the less frequently you’ll need to mist or water.
The second watering method is to soak the roots. You can dunk the entire root ball into a bowl or sink of room temperature water for a minute or two. You’ll have to pay attention to your fern to figure out how it likes to be watered. Fronds beginning to go black or brown at the base means it’s getting overwatered. Wilty fronds with brown tips are telling you the plant needs a bit more frequent watering.
Sensitive Plant has leaves that may not be that exciting to look at from a distance, but they are truly fascinating when you get closer. Kids and adults alike love to interact with this plant, because as soon as you touch its tiny leaves, they fold up and move away from your finger, only to reopen a few minutes later. This amazing reaction is a defense mechanism to keep the plant from being eaten by herbivores. Don’t touch it too often, though, as the constant folding/unfolding is stressful and weakens the plant.
The sensitive plant likes bright light, with some direct sun in the morning and high humidity. It is poisonous, so keep the plant out of reach of kids and pets and watch closely when allowing kids to interact with the leaves. Let the top of the soil dry before watering again, but don’t ever let the whole pot dry out completely. Sensitive plants can benefit from a few applications of all-purpose houseplant fertilizer during its growing season.
Mother of 1000s is a variety of kalanchoe. Its thick triangular leaves propagate little baby plantlets all along the edges. This is another succulent species, so it needs excellent drainage; cactus soil is best. In the tropics, Mother of 1000’s can become invasive because the babies simply drop off when they’re ready and can quickly fill in an area.
Mother of 1000’s likes plenty of indirect light, so they should be close to a window with a sheer curtain to protect the plant from direct sunlight. Thanks to its succulent leaves, it doesn’t need to be watered too frequently. Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out before watering.
If you’re looking to add some exotic, strange, or straight-up strange-looking plants to your home, stop by our garden center. We’ve got plenty of weird and wonderful houseplants for you to discover!