By using houseplants as ornaments, focal points and as integrated decorations in the home, you will derive even more pleasure from your plants than you would by regarding them merely as botanical specimens. Although plants are constantly changing — they grow, die, or simply alter their shape — this very lack of stability can be turned to your advantage. Unlike any other decorative element that you can place and forget, and eventually even take for granted, plants have a dynamic
existence. You have to move them, re-arrange them, even re-pot them into different containers, all of which gives them an extra dimension and vitality that other kinds of ornaments lack.
Many evergreens are tough enough for the more difficult positions around the home, such as a draughty hallway. They will be far more robust than plants with thin or papery leaves, feathery and frondy ferns, or even those with hairy leaves. You need these other leaf textures, as well as flowering plants, to add variety of shape and form, and a touch of colour, but it makes sense to use the toughest evergreens as the basis of your houseplant displays. Ivies are ideal if you need a tough climber or trailer, and there are lots of varieties to choose from, with a wide choice of leaf shape, size and colour.
Palms are the epitome of elegance and will add a touch of sophistication to your home. Many are slow-growing, and, consequently, large specimens are often expensive. But do not be deterred from trying palms; if you provide the right conditions, even small plants will gradually become very impressive specimens. The most common mistake is to regard all palms as lovers of hot sunshine and desert-dry air. They often have to cope with both in countries where they grow outdoors, but as houseplants you want them to remain in good condition with unblemished leaves. Brown leaf tips are usually caused by over-dry air, and yellowing leaves by under watering.
Ferns are grown mainly for the grace and beauty of their fronds. The majority of ferns will thrive in shade or partial shade, conditions that are easily provided in any home. Unfortunately they also require a lot of moisture and high humidity, both of which are in short supply in the average living room. Although most of the ferns sold as houseplants come from tropical regions, central heating spells death to many of them unless you counteract the dry air by taking measures to increase the humidity. The ideal place for ferns is in a conservatory, porch or garden room where it is easier to establish a moist atmosphere. If you wish to grow the delicate types with feathery fronds, try planting them in a bottle garden, where they will happily thrive.
Although generally short-lived in the home, flowering houseplants will bring a wonderful splash of colour and vibrancy. They also add an element of seasonal variation that ordinary foliage houseplants lack. The most rewarding flowering houseplants are those that grow bigger and better each year, with each subsequent blooming crowning another year of good cultivation and care. Flowers that you should be able to keep growing in the home from year to year include heloperones, bougainvilleas, Campanula isophylia, clivias, gardenias, hoyas, Jasmine polyanthus, Neriurn oleander, pelargoniums, saintpaulias, spathiphyllums and streptocarpus.
A year-round chrysanthemum makes an excellent short-term houseplant, and will flower for several weeks. Many flowering pot plants are difficult to keep permanently in the home and are best discarded when flowering has finished (or placed in a greenhouse if you have one). You should therefore really regard them as long-lasting cut flowers. A lot of them are annuals (in other words, they live for only 1 year) and can, therefore, be inexpensively raised from seed. Try browallias, calceolarias, cinerarias andexacums, which all make bright and cheerful plants for the home.