January is Houseplant Month at Cornell Farm, and we've just gotten in fresh shipments of plants for the New Year! From classic favorites to coveted collector finds, we've got plenty of plants to help you start the New Year off right. Below, you will find a few of the plants we're most excited about, plus a bit of information about their care.
This is a plant for all the collectors out there, but if you're new to the houseplant world, don't let that declaration scare you off! As long as you appreciate the unusual and hard-to-find, Rhaphidophora korthalsii belongs in your collection, and it's fairly easy to care for, too. A so-called shingling aroid, this vining plant is best grown against a vertical pole or stake that shows off its unique leaves, which — as the name would suggest — grow flat as shingles, hugging their support as they climb upwards. But as is the case for many plants in the aroid family, the leaves we see in cultivation are actually only half the story.
In nature, where Rhaphidophora korthalsii naturally grows against the trunks of trees, this plant produces shingling leaves only until it reaches the light-filled canopy, at which point it will begin to develop large, fenestrated leaves similar to a mature Monstera deliciosa or adansonii. Houseplant lovers are unlikely to see their plants produce these mature leaves in the growing conditions of our homes, but that is just fine with us, because the juvenile ones are stunning in their own right. This plant will do best with bright-to-moderate light and regular water, and a well-draining soil that isn't overly compacted will give you the best results. Also, beware of cheap fertilizers, as this plant will resent the salts they contain.
While common names aren't always the most reliable way to learn about a plant's background, if you were to assume from Kangaroo Paw's common name that it hails from "Down Under," you would be correct! Plus, with the fuzzy nature of its unusual, aloe-like blooms, this Australian native's name makes even more sense. Interestingly, it is actually these hairs that determine the color of the plant's blooms, which can be yellow, red, orange, pink, purple, or sometimes black! We have a couple of varieties right now at the Farm, and all of them are attention-grabbing, with architectural, sword-shaped foliage and wands of otherwordly blooms.
Unlike many houseplants, Kangaroo Paw will easily accept the low-humidity environments often found in our homes during the winter, but it does want bright light! As its succulent leaves would suggest, it is also intolerant of soggy soil, so it is important to let this plant dry out between waterings. Hardy to USDA Zone 9b, it won't survive in the ground here in Portland, but it is a great candidate for growing on a patio during the warm months and bringing indoors during our wet, cold falls and winters.
Commonly known as Madagascar Jasmine, this evergreen climbing vine boasts beautiful, glossy green leaves on long, twining stems. But perhaps this plant's most stunning feature is its clusters of flowers that resemble small trumpets of purest white, which give off an intense fragrance! (As you can imagine, this makes them a favorite for use in the wedding industry.)
When grown in tropical conditions akin to its native range, this plant is fast-growing, takes up a lot of water, and requires a sturdy trellis; however, its growth is far more tame when grown in the cooler conditions typical of our homes. You will still want to provide your plant with a support, humidity, and bright light, but it should be watered only infrequently, especially during the winter. Although Madagascar Jasmine is typically a spring-bloomer, the specimens we get in at the Farm arrive with blooms that can be immediately enjoyed. To encourage your plant to bloom next year, be sure to fertilize it and provide it with the conditions it wants. To encourage a more prolific bloom, it can also be grown in a pot outdoors as long as temperatures don't drop below 40°F, but be sure not to allow it to harden off gradually before moving your plant outdoors.
You might hazard a guess at the relationship between this Guzmania and its smaller Tillandsia cousins based on the similarities between their tidy rosettes of tropical, blade-like foliage and bright infloresences — just on different scales. Both are bromeliads, but in place of air plants' fuzzy, white-green leaves, Guzmania 'Tala' offers smooth, deep chocolatey-green foliage and bright orange-red bracts on its central bloom stalk, making it a fantastic accent for your home or office.
Provide this tropical beauty with bright light and occasionally top off its central "tank" with water, and it will reward you with a long period of colorful bloom. Like all bromeliads, Guzmania 'Tala' produces a terminal inflorescence, which is a fancy way of saying that an individual plant will bloom only once in its life — investing all of its energy into its final reproductive efforts rather than continued growth. The good news for houseplant parents is that this process is drawn out over months and months, during which the plant will continue to look beautiful. What's more, flowers aren't this plant's only reproductive strategy! Once the plant's bloom stalk has begun to fade, you will likely notice small basal offsets forming at the base of your plant. It is fine to cut off the spent inflorescence, but leave the mother plant's foliage to feed her babies. These "pups," as they are often called, will grow up to be clones of their mother. By the time they have reached about a third the size of the mother plant, they can be potted up individually to continue the cycle!
Calatheas — All of Them!
Like their Maranta cousins, Calatheas are also sometimes known as Prayer Plants, and if you've been looking for a stunning foliage plant, then consider your prayers answered! Although botanists have technically moved some of the plants once grouped into the genus Calathea to other genera, you'll find that most plant people — ourselves included — continue to refer to all of the varieties in the trade as Calatheas, in part because they share the same cultural requirements. Whatever you call them, we have plenty at the Farm right now, ranging from small to large, with striped, streaked, and patterned leaves in shades of green, cream, red, and pink. The lovely variety pictured above is 'Fucata,' offering a beautifully restrained palette of light greens and blue-greens that would fit into any collection.
Calatheas are best kept in moderate light conditions, but will tolerate lower light. They are also great choices for cat and dog owners whose pets have a tendency to nibble, as their leaves are non-toxic. They appreciate higher humidity, and will do best if their soil is kept evenly moist, but not damp. Generally, you will want to water them once the top two inches of soil have dried out, which will happen more quickly the brighter your plants' growing conditions.
Zamioculas zamiifolia 'Raven'
If you're a fan of dramatic foliage, then look no further than the Raven ZZ Plant. This unique cultivar gives an updated look to a houseplant that was already one of our all-time favorites. Its new leaves emerge a bright chartreuse just like the typical ZZ Plant, but soon mature to a deep, glossy black that makes for a stunning, modern statement in your home. This variety first took the market by storm in 2019, and we don't see it losing momentum anytime soon!
Just like the traditional ZZ, this plant is incredibly easy to care for. While nothing will grow in a closet, this is a houseplant that truly does well in low and indirect light conditions. If your ZZ Plant starts to look a little "leggy," you might consider moving it closer to a window or near a lamp, but that's about it. Save your bright windowsill for something more demanding — and for that matter, that fits in a windowsill! Mature plants can easily reach a couple of feet across over several years. They are also a good option for those of us that aren't, shall we say, the most religious of waterers. Raven ZZ Plants, will perform best when allowed to dry out between waterings, only requiring water about once a week or so — less during the winter. It's hard to resist the urge to gush about this gorgeous, low-maintenance plant.
In addition to all of the plants mentioned above, we have a a huge selection of houseplants right now at the Farm just waiting to be explored. As always, feel free to ask any of our team members for help in picking out or caring for your plants — whether it's Houseplant Month or not!