Container plants that would thrive in a covered (but light) carport
March 12, 2017 8:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a container plant that will be happy in a covered (but light) carport in southern California. No direct sunlight, but it does get very light during the day. I'm looking for something that will provide a nice screen for an ugly HVAC unit so something that will grow tall would be great. I'd been considering Snakeskin plant (sanseveria). What else should we consider?
posted by stewiethegreat to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Many aloe are perhaps surprisingly happy with low light. Actually "bright shade" or profuse indirect light can grow tons of cools stuff. Snake plant can survive a basement with a tiny window, but your carport should support a wide variety of "house plants", which are often understory or sub-canopy tropicals.

Things like pothos, philadendron, many ferns, monstera, bromeliads, zamioculca, Chinese evergreen, maybe an epiphyllum.

For concealment and rapid growth I'd start with Monstera, you can maybe solicit cuttings for free, trade, or cheap on your local Craigslist etc. As a bonus, the young leaves and fruit are both edible, and is known as the 'fruit salad' plant in some areas for that reason. More info and pics here. I don't grow mine in a carport but it goes nuts here in central TX in as deep of natural shade as you can imagine, right next to wall, tall plants adjacent and thick tree canopy overhead.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:59 PM on March 12

What are the dimensions you're looking to cover?

Sanseveria is unkillable, but in So Cal it can get so much light that it bleaches out and struggles. What about planting a bunch of Clivia? They do great in pots, too, if you can't put roots directly into the ground.

Monstera's a good idea. So are calla lilies, although they go dormant for part of the year. Maybe plant a mix of these things to see what thrives.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:57 AM on March 13

Plant a mix and see what thrives is great advice for any planting!

One other option FYI: they won't get big but with bright indirect light and high humidity you may find some orchids grow happily there with very little maintenance. You can pick up a phalenopsis in bloom from a big box store garden center or some grocery stores for around $10 if you're interested.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:12 PM on March 13

Tall and upright, outdoor light but not in direct sun, bushy enough to hide an HVAC. Okay.

I would recommend one of the bushy, small-leaved Ficus species: F. benjamina, F. maclellandii, or F. microcarpus. None of them need direct sun, and they grow fast enough that they would cover the HVAC unit relatively quickly.

Possible problems: they do catch the wind pretty easily, so you'd need to use a large, heavy, stable container to keep the plant from blowing over all the time. The big heavy container would in turn be a problem if it got cold enough that you needed to bring the plant in the house (they're good down to at least 50F, and in a sheltered carport, in a large pot, they'd have a bit more cold resistance than that). You would want to make sure that the roots weren't growing out of the pot and into the yard, as they can harm pipes, foundations, etc. You'd need to plan for pruning both the branches and the roots periodically, in order to keep the plant in the same container over a long period. Also some people have allergies to the sap; it's a potential problem with a lot of plants, but it seems to be more common for Ficus.

Also possible:
Beaucarnea recurvata (slow-growing),
Breynia disticha (quick-growing),
Crassula ovata (slow-growing),
Cyperus alternifolius (aquatic; would need you to maintain the water level; I'm not sure about the cold-sensitivity; some Cyperus spp. get taller at maturity than others),
Euphorbia milii (lots of thorns),
Euphorbia tirucalli (poisonous; borderline-dangerous sap which is extremely painful in contact with eyes),
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (slowish; may not bloom as readily as you'd expect, depending on how much light you have; some tendency to get wider as much as taller),
Monstera deliciosa (if you have something sturdy for it to climb, are prepared to allow it a lot of ground to crawl on, or are prepared to whack it back a few times a year; also somewhat cold-sensitive),
Osmanthus fragrans (I can't grow them indoors personally and don't know why, but the scent is lovely, and other people grow them pretty easily),
Polypodium aureum (very fast-growing, possibly not tall enough to hide the HVAC but it would give it its best shot),
Sansevieria trifasciata or cylindrica (though they do bleach in very strong light, like late afternoon dreaming hotel said),
Schefflera actinophylla / arboricola / elegantissima (all fairly quick-growing, some cold-sensitivity),
Synadenium grantii (poisonous sap, painful in contact with eyes, slightly cold-sensitive),
Yucca guatemalensis (sharp leaf edges, slower-growing, possibly cold-sensitive),
Zamia furfuracea (slow-growing)
Zamioculcas zamiifolia (cold-sensitive, may not be tall enough at maturity to cover the HVAC)
posted by Spathe Cadet at 4:58 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

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