A Garden Indoors


By Savy Janssen

A kentia palm in a large, jade-green pot extends a bold greeting in the spacious entryway. The variegated philodendron perched atop the wardrobe reaches down toward the bromeliad below. Plants, pots and cabinet in similar hues unify the decor, while the bromeliad’s yellow bud plays off the mustard walls. (Photo: Randy Jay Miller)

There are lots of good reasons to add plants to your décor—and more than one reason you might hesitate to do so, from not knowing which greenery will thrive where you live, to not having the time or inclination to maintain them. Sheila McLaughlin is a Maui landscaper and the owner of Na Pua, which specializes in providing and caring for indoor plants. We asked her advice on how to create your personal piece of paradise (ocean breeze not included).

Aside from the obvious aesthetics, is there a benefit to having plants in your home?

Yes. Plants not only beautify a space, they may actually improve air quality, because plants produce oxygen. Indoor plants also improve your mood, and help you relax. I get a lot of happiness from my houseplants.

What types of plants are best suited for indoors?

Look for slow growers that can stay in their pots for a while. If you’re new to indoor landscaping, or doubt your green thumb, I recommend plants that can tolerate neglect—philodendrons, kentia palms, and fichus are good options.

In a hallway that doubles as art gallery, a large round pot sits in its wooden stand, counterbalancing in weight and tone a lava-rock sculpture by Maui artist Hoaka Delos Reyes. Anthurium and bromeliad cluster under the large leaves of a purple Cordyline fruticosa (ti). Farther back, a cylindrical planter sits below a whale sculpture by Randy Puckett, the bromeliads’ greenery a rich contrast to the red accent wall. (Photo: Ryan Siphers)

What tips do you have for maintaining indoor plants?

Imitate nature. Give a plant the light it needs; some need more than others, but any plant is going to appreciate sunlight. Don’t close all the windows or blast the air conditioning. Natural light and air are always better.

Deep water your houseplants. Put them outside periodically and soak them. (I take mine outside once every two weeks.) This will give them more sunshine, help to keep off insects, and prevent mold.

Rotate your plants. Cycle them in and out of the house. This will give you variety, and keep your plants healthy.

Keep a plant in its culture pot—the one it came in—and place that pot inside a decorative one. Be sure to remove for watering; most decorative pots don’t have good drainage. Another advantage to the culture pot is that if the plant fails, it’s easier to remove.

What common mistakes do people make with indoor plants?

Overwatering. Plants show the same symptom from overwatering as from underwatering: wilting. Feel the soil first; if it’s wet, don’t water. Also, make sure the water is draining—you don’t want to drown the plant.

Forgetting to feed plants. Just like people, plants need water and food! When you pour water through a pot, you leach out important nutrients from the soil. You can get plant food at any hardware or gardening store.

Finally, people don’t give their indoor plants enough attention. Plants are talking to you; listen to what they need and make changes. Indoor plants will thrive when they get a little love.

Any recommendations for making a statement on a small budget?

Orchids are good. A group will make a statement, but orchids can also shine individually. They do well in Hawai‘i, but will add a tropical touch anywhere. They also pair nicely with ferns. Neither needs a lot of water, and both are low maintenance.

Palms are striking indoors. They are generally more expensive, but you only need one to change the whole aesthetic of a room—perfect for minimal effort and maximum effect.

Invest in decorative pots. You can change a pot and change the whole look of a room. This is an easy way to spruce up indoor plants you may already have.

For more information, contact Sheila McLaughlin at 283-5866.

KEEP READING > NEXT PAGE features the Indoor Plant Guide



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