Craving some greenery in your bachelor pad to help you cope this winter? Let Dad keep his ficus trees and twinkle lights for his man-cave, you who knows the difference between Japanese Selvedge and Japanese salvage deserves a plant, which is well… more refined. Here are some cheats on how you can level-up your house plant collection from ‘Frat House’ to the elite Penthouse level, without having to break your wallet.
There are common plants, and uncommon ones, some which are challenging to keep alive, and others, which require only a little bit of basic knowledge. Here is my list of recommended man plants and don’t freak out if you never heard of them – these are all growable, no matter how green your thumb is or isn’t. Buck up buttercup – If you can cook a steak, you can grow a philodendron.
COOL VINES FOR WINDOWS:
Cactus and succulents aside, why not try something a little more daring? Hoyas are a family of plants with similar characteristics to succulents, but they come in a wide range of types (species), and they are just as easy to grow as cacti, but far more interesting – they are more bespoke and special, which just means that they will have your girlfriend saying “wow, where did you find these?” Look for interesting forms on-line or from specialty nurseries. (See example of a Hoya (carnosa) below courtesy of www.farmsociety.org).
Hoyas are tropical vines, yet they are slow growing. Best of all, they are long lived, and thrive on bright windowsills in warm apartments requiring full sun in winter, or at the very least, bright daylight. One rarely sees Hoyas anymore, since commercial growers steer clear of plants, which the public doesn’t already know. So you will need to Mail order them. See my list of sources for some ideas.
Hoya growing tip: Buy a Manzanita branch at your local pet store (look in the parrot aisle because they are used as perches). Set the gnarly branch in a sturdy container of river rocks or gravel, and plant your Hoya in a pot small enough to set within the gravel. It will clamber all over the branch with a little guidance from you, like a living sculpture.
Bonus: Most Hoyas will blossom, flowers appear at least once a year (always from the same growing nubs, so never manscape those off).
Red Pencil Tree, or Euphobia tirucalli – Looks like stick on fire if placed in full sun, this plant is all about strict architectural form. If planted in a geometric container (like a cube or a rectangle, and then lit from below, it will transform your space into a lobby from a hip boutique hotel. (See image of a Red Pencil Tree below courtesy of www.logees.com).
All citrus are easy to grow indoors, even easier if you can provide a cool, unheated bedroom, and if you are buff enough to handle moving a 75 lbs tub around. Look for Meyer Lemons and Kumquats as they bloom in the spring, which is important, because they can be pollinated by bees on your deck, and even better, the fruit will ripen in mid-winter. Try something more unusual such as an Australian Finger Lime, which will bear fruit in the late summer –(margaritas?). Finger Limes bear fruits with unique turgid vesicles will add a crunch and pop to summer cocktails. Hey, any excuse to use the phrase “turgid vesicles” may even help you land a date. (See image of Australian Finger Lime to the right courtesy of Matt Mattus’ www.growingwithplants.com.)
Cut Leaf Philodendron
There are a few plants sold under the name Cut-Leaf Philodendron all are easy to grow in low light conditions, as long as it isn’t in your closet. Truly tropical vines, these plants are used to spending their lives on the floors and trunk of deep, dark jungles. Look for the long, botanical Latin names of Philodendron bipinnatifidum or Monstera deliciosa which are the finest forms.
Cut Leaf Philodendrons were once common in offices and mid-century modern. You’ll recognize their iconic large, heart-shaped leaf with holes in them (it’s how they earned the common name ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’). They add that’ Mad Man’ look. Plant one in a vintage Eames planter, buy an ashtray and have a girl make you a Martini. (See image of Cut Leaf Philodendrons below courtesy of www.mycityplants.com).
DON’T HAVE GREEN THUMB?
Then it’s time to build a Mantarrium. Jars or large bottles will do in a pinch, or hey, why not upcycle that old aquarium from your high school obsession with tree frogs? Add some potting soil, moss and a few rocks and you will instantly have an environment where you can actually grow things like ferns, mosses and air plants – humidity lovers that no matter what Pinterest tells you, will fail if nailed to a wall, or hot glued into a seashell.
Terrariums are virtually carefree once planted, but never overwater, you’d be surprised at how little you will need to water this tiny cloud forest. (See image of Terrarium below courtesy of www.upout.com).
BONSAI ARE HARD, (Here’s my Cheat)
Read my lips: you will kill any and all bonsai.
All except this one – Presenting my secret bonsai cheat –
1. Buy a Jade Plant.
2. Shove it into a cool bonsai pot.
3. Look 20% cooler.
Really, go try it.
Jade Plants (Crassula ovata) are old-fashioned houseplants, but they have this incredible ability to handle neglect. They need very little water, so they’re perfect the type of guys who might need to wait in line for the next video game release for 5 days. SO step away from the expensive junipers and other fancy Bonsai at the mall store, and relish in the fact that your ‘faux bonsai’ will actually continue to grow, maybe even for decades. HINT: Look for Jade Plants that have the tiniest leaves, as there are a few types available. The smaller, fleshy leaves will add to the overall little-tree effect. (See image of Jade Plant below courtesy of lifeamongtheleaves.blogspot.com/ )
Lastly, don’t forget about lighting your plants at night. Go for the film noir, or ‘How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ look – I’m talking about casting dramatic shadows on the ceiling or walls with your plants – you know, transforming your bedroom into James Bonds secret love den. (I know, right?) A strategically placed lamp below or behind your plant will add that perfect Hollywood set-designer touch to your bachelor pad. And who knows, it might even get you laid.
Written by Matt Mattus from www.Growingwithplants.com
Also, see an amazing pictorial ‘Guide to Indoor Herb Gardening‘ from the great site Fix.com.