Colorful small cactus at Suburban Lawn & Garden in Martin City. Photo by Sue Loudon

Green up those winter blues with the help of simple house plants

“All plants help purify the air in your home or office.”

By Sue Loudon 

Dark, cold, short winter days make spring seem far away, and a trip somewhere warm with swaying palm trees probably is not on the calendar this season unless you were one of the lucky people with Super Bowl tickets. But surrounding yourself with green, living plants might help reduce the winter blues. 

Money trees at Waldo Greenhouse. Photo courtesy Waldo Greenhouse

Plant placement

Craig Fischman at Waldo Greenhouse, 436 West 85th St., provides suggestions for different areas of your home or office. “On the south, you should be able to grow about anything you want if you don’t over-water. Aloe vera is a good plant to have. If you get sunburned in the summer, you can pinch off a leaf and put the oil on your skin.”

Fischman likes Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema) for windows facing north. Known for their large, colorful leaves, they’re popular in offices with low light. Cactus do well and require little care in bright afternoon sun on the west. But best of all is morning sun on the east, said Fischman, who notes that all varieties of begonias do well in an east window.

“I have had good luck with begonias in an east window. They come in all colors if someone wants more color than just green,” said Joyce Brown, a retired local master gardener. “Over-watering is the most common problem, causing roots to rot. Put a few rocks in the bottom of the pot to keep this from happening.”

Check with the nursery before you decide on a house plant if you have pets, especially kittens or puppies. Most plants are safe if a pet bites a leaf, but a few are not. For instance, most fern varieties are safe, but not asparagus fern.

Purifying the air

“All plants help purify the air in your home or office,” said Tara Oursler, tropical plant manager at Suburban Lawn & Garden, 4 West 135 St. “Boston fern is one of the best and it’s easy to grow. They’re nice in a hanging basket, on a table or the floor. They do need indirect bright light.”

Mother-in-law’s tongue or sansevieria is a good plant for cleaning the air and does well in low light. It’s an easy choice for an office. Tall, often with yellow-edged leaves, it sits happily in corners with low light and needs water only once a week. For colorful blooms and smaller plants try cyclamen or kalanchoe.

Cyclamen pink flowers on display at Suburban Lawn & Garden. Photo by Sue Loudon

Gift giving

“Cyclamen come in so many pretty colors. They make good gifts,” said Oursler. “They will grow and bloom for several years with indirect bright light.” Kalanchoe also are brightly colored and can stand direct sun. They can be put outdoors in the spring in sun or light shade.

Oursler said Suburban is having a potting sale during the month of February. “Why not pot a plant in a fun Valentine pot instead of buying cut flowers that don’t last very long?” she suggested. “We have the plants and the pots, and we will help you do it.”

“You can tell your Valentine you did this gift personally. You didn’t just order something,” said Oursler. Oursler says plants make a good gift for both men and women. “We have small, colorful cactus and perfect pots for a man’s office.”

That’s a unique idea for your Valentine, or for a little self-love to brighten your own surroundings.

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