What (tradionally outdoor) plants should I have in my apartment?
April 25, 2007 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What kind of plants should I grow in my apartment? Bonus points for traditionally outdoor plants.

During my visit to the Badlands last summer, I was suprised to see a little Prickly Pear cactus hanging out in the the northern prarie. A few months later I noticed that my local grocery store carries Nopalitos, which while not the same species, are a kind of prickly pear. This coincidence, some research, and my own cheapass-ness inspired me to buy a nopalito (instead of the smaller, rarer, more northerly kind), and plant it in a pot. So far it seems to be doing fine, and I was wondering what other weird plants I could have in my apartment.

Some more info:
  • I have already started a garlic plant.
  • I know tomatoes/peppers are easy to grow, but I'm not really a fan of them.
  • Perennials are preferred, I guess, but I'm not too picky.
  • I don't have a balcony, and I don't think a window box will work with my windows; they are the horizontal sliding kind, with screen.
  • My apartment is on the corner of the building, with Eastern and Southern facing windows.
posted by ArgentCorvid to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Anything that wants shade or part shade when it grows outside is worth a shot inside, in a sunny window spot. Plants that want full sun are going to unhappy behind glass.

The coleus in this AskMe question is one example. Chives are another obvious choice, as are many of the gajillions of sedums.
posted by janell at 9:16 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love my amaryllis. They just have that sculptural "wow" factor. Mine live outside during the summer, but there's no reason that they couldn't stay an inside plant. The foliage dies back after they bloom and you can pretty much stick the bulb into a basement of closet for a few months before "waking" it up again. It's pretty fascinating to watch new greenery and beautiful blooms spring up from a bulb that appears to be dormant. You can kind of see my amaryllis here.

The home improvement stores should be getting in their ornamental citrus plants in soon, and you could grow one of those in a south-facing window. Most of them do have thorns, though. I had to get rid of a small key lime tree because I was worried about my toddler.

You may also get some more ideas by browsing through the wonderful houseplant forum on GardenWeb.
posted by Ostara at 9:46 AM on April 25, 2007

Alligator Plants are kinda ugly but are ridiculously easy to grow anywhere. I had one stalk get to like 2 feet tall even when I wasn't watering it. The top-most leaves will continually drop seedlings that will grow if they fall in any kind of soil. So in a big pot, one seed could multiply to 30 plants within a year. It's not a hurty cactus, and having a forest of them might lead someone to believe you were good at indoor cultivation.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:54 AM on April 25, 2007

Oooh, you can also take the pit of an avocado and grow your own little forest of avocado trees. Here's how.
posted by Ostara at 10:09 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: With south facing exopsure, you should have enough light for exotic succulents (sounds like you can grow a cactus already.) Easy to maintain (very little water/fertilizer), sculptural forms, and unique. You can get smaller ones for just a few dollars. A few of my favorite suppliers:
-Glasshouse works
-Old Man Cactus
-Shoal Creek Succulents
-Out of Africa Plants

I'm a sucker for crassula, adromischus, euphorbia, and monadenium. Anything with a caudex, too.
posted by imposster at 10:40 AM on April 25, 2007

I grow bamboo in a little wide-necked vase - all they need is water! And they're totally styling. Like this - my vase is narrower, so I don't use the rocks, and I don't tie them together because it looks a little too bondage for me.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on April 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. Just jumping in to say that although mentioned in the question, I'm not limiting myself to succulents. I don't necessarily have a brown thumb, either.
Some ideas that occured to me: Blueberries, strawberries, etc (how long would I have to leave them outside to pollinate?).
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:17 AM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: I had a lot of success with a geranium (pelargonium) inside. They're perennials, just not hardy in northern climates. it bloomed for like, three years straight (in college dorms no less- it finally met its end during one move home it didn't survive).
also, florists's azaleas (I've seen them in the florists at grocery stores, etc.)
you can also get a terrarium or little tabletop greenhouse and put iddy-bitty ferns in there.

I have This book and love it.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:40 AM on April 25, 2007

How about a kalanchoe? They are easy to grow, and for your "wierdness" appeal, you can propogate new little teeny ones from the leaves. (example) Here in SE Texas, they can be grown outside and they flower in the late Winter or early Spring.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:00 PM on April 25, 2007

Plants that want full sun are going to unhappy behind glass.

Since you have south-facing windows, that advice is too dire for you. You can definitely grow plants that want full sun.

For 'unusual'-looking plants, one great choice is a ponytail palm -- normally an outdoor plant, but will thrive in a south-facing window (mine does). They take almost no care and look very exotic.

And from the Shoal Creek site mentioned above, which I also love:
• the Euphorbia Obesa, which looks like a mutant baseball;
• the entire category of Asclepiads (scroll down for lots of cheaper choices).
posted by allterrainbrain at 1:25 PM on April 25, 2007

recommendation here for growing your own tea! camellia sinensis, that is.

i just started mine, and i can't wait till i can harvest my own caffeinated beverage/oracle in a few months.
posted by garfy3 at 2:28 PM on April 25, 2007

oops. that link is borked. here's the right one camellia sinensis.
posted by garfy3 at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2007

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