By Stephanie Cavanaugh
Q. I’VE BEEN contemplating some kind of small-bushy plant for my balcony, which is enclosed. I made the mistake my first year here in my city apartment by putting out my fave, a lantana (I have direct east light, lots of heat and sun). But back when I had a lantana outdoors I never noticed how dirty they were, how those little florets just kept dropping everywhere. I’m too lazy to keep sweeping them up.
So what I want is a clean plant, the kind that will keep its own counsel. Now, your readers don’t necessarily live in city apartments with enclosed terraces. So I don’t know how helpful my quest might be for them.
A. I see many condos with enclosed terraces that probably share your woes. Yes, you can have flowers, but plants that bloom profusely are going to shed all over the place, demand water, and be a pain in the tuchus.
If I were you, I’d think about creating a background screen of palms. While many palms prefer shade, the areca palm thrives on direct sun and, depending on the variety, can grow to great heights (and widths). They need fertilizing in the summer but are pretty carefree in winter. Place them where they can cast a little shade on the interior, and you’ve created an exotic background for some easy-care flowering plants. The areca palm at left comes in a 10-inch grower pot and stands 24 to 34 inches tall; it’s from United Nursery and is $45.52 at Home Depot.
Here’s a short list of brilliant blooms that last and last and require only slightly more care than fakes (which need to be dusted).
Bromeliads have some of the wildest shapes and colors, borderline tacky (particularly the pink ones, which are nearly fluorescent), but nevertheless fabulous. Enjoy the flower for a few months, which is as long as one might last, and give the plant to someone who enjoys tinkering. I’ve never found trying for repeat blooms worth it. Maybe you have a sister with a house in New Jersey? The bromeliad shown below, in a 4-inch pot, is $29.98 at Home Depot.
This is how I feel about orchids too.
Did you know that bananas grow on banana trees? I learned this a few years ago. One would think that I . . . but no! What I don’t know continually amazes me. Bananas appreciate bright but indirect sunlight, so can go in front of the palms. While it’s rare for them to fruit indoors (which is probably why it never occurred to me) it’s possible!
Clivia is a beauty you might want to move about the house. The Prince bought one for me about 10 years ago, an apology plant for some misdeed (of his) or other, and it’s still growing strong with absolutely no care whatsoever, besides haphazard watering. It can be kept in indirect light much of the year, moved into a sunny spot sometime around now, and it will toss off a beautiful bunch of sherbet-hued flowers that stay for weeks and can simply be clipped when they fade. The Belgian Hybrid Clivia miniata shown at the top of the story is $75 for a 1.6 gallon plant at Monrovia.com.
You might also consider filling gaps with geraniums, which thrive on four to six hours of sun each day and are about as cheery a flower as one can imagine. Think Capri! Or something. You still have to pick off the spent blooms, but that’s not much of a nuisance: The flowers last a long time and can be pinched off when they wither, and the colors and variety are splendid. Many even carry a faint but lovely scent. [Editor’s note: The geraniums shown at left are faux—no scent but pinching off spent blooms either. The “plant” as shown is a cluster of three “bushes” from One Allium Way, $33.99 at Wayfair.com, pot not included.]
Enjoy your little greenhouse!