Gardeners' Winter Stress Reliever: 8 Supreme Houseplants

A winter balm for those calmed, in warmer weather, by gardening.

Posted Nov 02, 2020

Lynn Greyling, Public Domain Pictures
Source: Lynn Greyling, Public Domain Pictures

Many people find that gardening reduces stress and anxiety. Alas, in most climes, winter puts the kibosh on that.

Fortunately, well-chosen houseplants are a decent winter substitute, and their benefits last year-round.

Here are eight unusually rewarding houseplants. For each, I provide a link to a site that offers the best combination I could find of photo, the plant being offered for sale, and growing tips. Of course, Googling the plant's name will get you even more information.

Coleus Electric Lime. It grows quickly and with intriguing yet not the garish foliage common among other coleus varieties. Despite its fast growth, you can easily keep Electric Lime compact and bushy by pinching out new growth eyes. It does like water, so think of it as a child who depends on you.

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans) No plant does more to enrich decor than this staple of the elegant living room. It is slow-growing, so patience is required. Impatient? Buy the similar but more vigorous Areca or Kentia palm. I’ve seen them in a 10" pot at big-box stores for $30.

Ficus Benjamina. This is another plant that beautifully structures a room's décor. In a moderate-light corner, it will grow (eventually) into a graceful ceiling-height tree, among the few trees that grow easily indoors.  It’s widely available in nurseries and big-box stores.

Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily). It's the perfect plant for low-to-moderate light: glossy foliage topped for months each year by elegant white lily-like flowers. As long as you pick a variety of spathiphyllum with leaves that are no more than two inches wide, the plant will stay compact, remaining comfy indefinitely in a 6” pot.

Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant.) I’ve had the same one for 30 years in the same large pot. It gives your room a tropical look, and it's fun to see those swiss-cheese-like leaves unfurl.

African Violet. Perhaps surprisingly, the best varieties are found at supermarkets and big-box stores. Simply pick the color(s) that move you. My faves are the solid dark blue or purple.

Streptocarpus. These bloom flagrantly for much of the year. And some varieties bear clusters of flowers that are surreal: frilled, multicolored trumpets. See, for example: Harlequin Lace.

Phalaenopsis. Again, the best source, surprisingly, is the supermarket or big-box store. For example, at Trader Joe's, I get to choose from among dozens of superior varieties in full bloom for $8 to 12. The good news is that phals bloom with little care for months. The bad news is that reblooming them isn't easy, so unless you’re up for a challenge, when it finishes blooming, you may want to recycle it.

I find myself saddened by all of today’s pressures and tensions and wish I were more optimistic about our future. So I, as well as some of my clients and friends, find ourselves in ever greater need for distraction, a break from it all. Even in winter, great houseplants can provide such respite.

I read this aloud on YouTube.