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Houseplants to grow


Potted Croton (Codiaeum ) plants, displaying colorful foliage<br />

We’ve all killed a plant (or two, or three) in our lives. It happens. We always hear about indestructible plants, like snake plant, pothos, and dracaena. We all feel comfortable growing the same old, reliable plants we’ve had for years. But what about tough-to-grow plants? They deserve a loving home, too! These plants may be considered a little high maintenance, but that doesn’t mean that keeping them alive isn’t realistic. They may be difficult to grow indoors but well worth the effort.

Oftentimes these plants are challenging because they’re outside of their natural habitat—a tropical rainforest—and the dry, forced air found in most homes is a shock to their system. Here are some common signs of struggle in each of these popular houseplants and what you can do to help them thrive.


Elephant’s Ear
This tropical plant is known for its bold leaves and ability to thrive in wet areas. You’ll often see this dramatic plant growing alongside ponds or in container water gardens. Elephant’s ear loves moist soil, which can be difficult to provide in an indoor setting.

It’s easy to tell when it needs a good drink of water—the stalks will droop. Each stalk that holds a large leaf at the end is actually like a straw full of water.

The more water, the stronger the stem will be; if the stalk isn’t full of water, the leaf will become too heavy for it. If watering at the first sight of drooping doesn’t work, try staking the plant for a couple of days—the stalks should perk up once they are not feeling so top-heavy.

Another sign of a problem is leaf-browning. Elephant’s ear plants typically do best in partial sun. Too much sun will scorch the leaves and make them turn brown. If you’re seeing brown leaf tips or spots, close the blinds a bit to filter some of the bright light from the window, or move the plant to a place with more indirect sun.

Bird’s Nest Fern
The bright green leaves of this fern variety have a delicate, curly edge that adds a bit of whimsy to your indoor garden. The glossy leaves are atypical for ferns, which makes this plant really stand out.


Like most ferns, Bird’s nest fern likes to live in a lot of moisture. If it doesn’t have a moist-enough environment, the leaves will start to brown on the edges. Try to mist this plant a little bit each day to keep the soil moisture levels consistent. You can also try placing the pot onto a plastic dish with water and pebbles in the bottom—then it has a reservoir where it can take water when it needs it. Grouping it together with other plants also helps add moisture and humidity.

Moth Orchid
Being a plant parent to moth orchids requires a little bit of patience (a friend refers to them as Ogbanjes or Abikus).

After a bloom, these plants need time to regenerate before putting out another round of flowers. An orchid will drop their previous blooms so it can give all its energy to new flowers. Although their regeneration time makes them look dead, there are some warning signs to look for that may mean your orchids is actually dying.

White or black spots of dead tissue are damage from heat. Orchids are very sensitive to heat, so keep them away from heaters, radiators, and even lamps. If the leaves or your orchid are shriveled or the roots become spongy, you’re probably not watering it enough. To remedy this problem, mist the orchid twice a day until it starts to grow again.


It’s hard not to be attracted to crotons—their thick, glossy leaves are multi-colored and bold—however, they require ideal conditions to thrive. These tropical plants don’t like being moved and are particular about water levels.

If leaves start dropping, it’s most likely a moisture issue. You can use a clean pair of sheers to clip off brown parts on leaves.

Since they are native to humid, tropical areas, they need plenty of moisture to be happy. Like ferns, crotons will respond positively to a humidifier in the room and daily misting. However, don’t overwater the croton or put it in a pot without a drainage hole. Sitting in water drowns the roots.

If you want a plant with dramatic foliage, try Tradescantia. Some varieties have variegated green and purple leaves, and others have leaves that are soft and velvety to the touch.

Tradescantias are trailing plants, so they’re ideal for keeping in macramé plant hangers. Keep watch for changes to the leaves—they’ll tell you everything you need to know about what the plant needs.

Brown leaves mean you are allowing the soil to dry out too much in between waterings. The soil should be moist at all times, so your spray bottle will be your best friend when it comes to caring for tradescantia. If the colored leaves turn yellow, the plant is in too warm of a spot which stresses the plant. Move the plant to a cooler spot, but keep air moisture levels high.

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