Tovah Martin, author of The Unexpected Houseplant, proves that when gardening indoors, you don’t need much to grow.
By Kelly Phillips Badal
This little known succulent deserves to take American living rooms by storm,” says Tovah Martin. Why? Kalanchoe thyrsiflora‘s wavy, red-tipped leaves read as one massive bloom—one whose striking looks last year-round. “It’s also practically unkillable,” Martin adds. She put the low-maintenance plant on a pedestal, in a footed, galvanized metal urn. To ensure proper drainage, place a layer of pebbles and activated charcoal in the bottom of your container before filling it with potting soil; then let the soil dry out a bit between waterings.
Most gardeners think of vines as outdoor athletes, ready to be trained up exterior fences and walls. But climbers can also soften windows inside, so long as you provide them with something to scale (a few nails and fishing wire will do the trick). Martin planted her Passiflora caerula—which ofers “comely foliage plus tricked-out petals and sepals”—in a shallow terra-cotta pot, then topped it with an upside-down vintage egg basket that acts as a tendril jungle gym.
Expand your kitchen-herb vocabulary beyond the usual parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme with this green’s crisp, cool cucumber flavor. Says Martin, “Sanguisorba minor is idea for cramped spaces, because it exists in a kind of suspended animation, never growing too big or tall.” She gave the plant a dreamy yet practical home by lining a bird’s nest with plastic and setting it on a cake platter to watch rogue water droplets.
A botanical oddity akin to taxidermy, Platycerium bifurcatum‘s scraggy center leaves give way to antler-like fronds—the “staghorns” of its name. “My guests literally stop and stare at this weird, architectural specimen,” says Martin. “Surprisingly, it’s a cinch to care for.” An epiphyte (a plant that grows non-parasitically on another plant or object), this fern wants little more than something solid to grip and a natural medium, such as moss or bark. For Martin, that meant sheet moss placed in a wicker basket with an iron pedestal base—now almost completely engulfed. “I carry my staghorn outside weekly for a watering, and it thrives in my hallway’s indirect light,” she says.