Foliage plants are grown for their interesting or attractive foliage or overall growth habit, as opposed to their blooms. According to Dr. D.G. Hessayon, in "The House Plant Expert," foliage plants provide the framework for most indoor plant collections. They can provide a year-round multicolored display in your home if they include varieties with colorful or variegated leaves. Foliage house plants belong indoors and should be considered permanent residents. Many types may outlive their owners, with proper care, although a few types do deteriorate with age.
Types of Foliage Plants
Types of foliage plants abound. There are spiny-stemmed plants, such as cacti or mimosa. Some foliage plants, such as airplane or spider plants and tolmiea, produce babies on their leaves or stems. There are also insectivores, such as flytraps; trailing or climbing plants, such as asparagus fern, philodendron (climbing varieties) and sedum morganianum; and palms. Rosette plants, such as aloe or agave, have no distinct stem, nor do bushy upright succulents, such as sedum. Bushy plants include caladium, coleus and begonias.
Finger-leaved plants are those with leaves that radiate from the stalk, such as schefflera. Other types have herringbone leaves or leaflets, such as plume asparagus; lobed and star-shaped leaves, such as begonia 'Cleopatra'; spear-leaved plants, such as aglaonema or pineapple; grassy-leaved plants, such as carex; and false palms, such as dracaena.
Foliage Plant Care
It is impossible to generalize about foliage plant care, because so many different types exist. Some are very dainty and delicate, such as variegated types, while others can even tolerate moderate neglect, as with plants that have large, dark green, shiny leaves. It is important to get a good plant guide that lists the needs for the individual varieties of plants to ensure proper care.
All-green foliage plants provide a solid background for flowering plants or become eye-catching focal pieces. Greenery is found in many different shapes and textures, from the smooth, shiny surface of the monstera leaf to the spiny, trailing stems of the emerald fern to the dark green, velvety leaves of philodendron melanochrysum.
Colorful Foliage Plants
Not all foliage plants are green. Many variegated varieties have leaves with white, yellow, or shades of red or pink intermixed with green. Coleus is one of the most colorful foliage plants, with leaves that add splashes of red or yellow to any foliage display.
Unusual Foliage Plants
Living stones mimic the pebbles that are found in their natural habitat, with extremely thick leaves fused together to produce a brownish or gray-green stemlike body with a slit at the top.
Most people are familiar with insectivores, such as venus fly traps or pitcher plants; but also included in this category are sticky-leaved plants, such as drosera, which trap and digest their prey with the juices secreted by the hairs on the leaves.
Tillandsias bear scales on their foliage that absorb moisture from the air, and they obtain nutrients from airborne dust, so they do not require soil or watering. They can be mounted on driftwood, coral, shells and other natural objects. The most familiar "air plant" is Spanish moss, which hangs from trees in its natural tropical habitat.