Brighten up your home by growing colorful plants indoors. Many varieties are easy to care for and grow well in the lower light levels in the home. Some plants have colorful foliage that rivals the beauty of flowers. Position them in the correct light level and water as needed, and these varieties are virtually care-free.
Queen of the Bromeliads
The queen of the bromeliads (Aechmea chantinii) produces showy flower bracts in shades of red, purple, orange or yellow. The plants are funnel-shaped with a rosette of leaves, with flowers that are borne on a spike that grows from the center of the rosette. Add water to the cup-like center of the rosette, and keep the potting soil evenly moist. Plant in a potting mixture of one part pine needles, one part sand and one part peat moss. Position in bright indirect light near a south, east or west window. Feed every month with a water soluble fertilizer that is dissolved in water and applied directly to the soil. Move outdoors during frost-free weather to grow in the shade until freezing temperatures threaten in autumn.
Coleus (Coleus spp.) are grown for their colorful leaves and are available in dozens of varieties with red, cream, purple or yellow markings. Some varieties grow only a foot high and others grow to a height of 3 feet. Sprawling types can spread more than 3 feet and make excellent specimens for hanging baskets. Grow in bright light away from sunny windows for best leaf color. Coleus are thirsty and need frequent watering. Grow in well-draining potting soil and do not allow them to dry out completely. Pinch growing tips to encourage the plants to branch out and become more full and lush.
Also called "elephant's ear," fancy leaf caladium (Caladium bicolor) have large, heart-shaped leaves that are multi-colored in shades of green, white, pink, red, rose or salmon. They grow from tubers which should be planted an inch deep in rich indoor potting soil. Put in bright, filtered sunlight. Direct sun will cause the colors to fade. Water as needed to keep the potting soil evenly moist. Mist daily or set their pots on saucers of pebbles filled with water. Do not let the level of water touch the bottom of the pot or the caladiums will rot. Grow at regular room temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Feed monthly with a water soluble houseplant fertilizer mixed at half the manufacturer's recommended strength. Keep away from drafts and dry air, which cause the leaves to turn yellow and die.