PLANTS WITH PERSONALITY

 Houseplants have personalities, but you have to get to know them to figure out.
    Whether you prefer cacti or crotons, a well-chosen and properly placed houseplant brings a little more life to your living room. In a bedroom, in the kitchen, in the bathroom — healthy plants make the whole house seem more like home.
    “It’s definitely true that plants have personalities just like we do,” says Jennifer Nelis of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association. “I even think individual plants have different personalities.”
    Nelis considers ferns and palms to be the most relaxed and easygoing plants for homes and offices. They suit people with laid-back personalities, she says, and help make others feel that way. Ivies are the classic, comfortable beauties of the houseplant world, Nelis says, just right for anyone with traditional tastes. Right now, she’s crazy about sansevierias, sometimes called snake plants or mother-in-law’s tongue. “I like that they are tall and reaching, and always looking up.” she says.
    David Liu, an interiorscaper and owner of Foliage Design Systems, based in Miami (www.foliagedesign.com), helps bring nature — and drama — to business settings around the country.
    The plants displayed in office buildings and commercial settings are often much larger than you’ll ever see in a home, but you can still work on defining your look by studying the expensive arrays of plants in hotels, restaurants, airports and offices, Liu says, and borrow ideas to take home.
     “If someone has a contemporary home, very neat and orderly, you want the plants to be the same — maybe a narrow plant in a corner, in a stylish planter,” Liu says. Sporty types identify with big, leafy ficus trees, he says; tall, branching dracaenas seem to suit artists and architects. “I’m not an expert psychoanalyst,” Liu says, “but men are not usually saying ‘I want a fern.'”
    “People want plants to complete their interior design package,” Liu says, “but they also understand the benefits of plants.” Plants help improve the quality of the air indoors by actually removing volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and ammonia, which are found in paints and carpets. Plants soften the sharp edges of the architecture, help mark off interior spaces, make guests feel welcome, and generally create a sense of well-being.
    Houseplants fit in naturally with people’s interest in green lifestyles, says Bisser Georgiev of Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, near Orlando, which sells about 400 varieties of houseplants under the Exotic Angel brand . Young people who may feel hesitant and unsure about full-scale backyard gardening can start working on their green thumbs with houseplants, which are both hip and easy, Georgiev says. They bring lots of texture and bold color to their surroundings without making a lot of demands: You don’t have to make a big commitment, or even dig a hole.
    Young professionals tend to like plants with some pop, Georgiev says, and purple is the color of the year among fashion-conscious customers. He recommends Fittonias because they are easy to grow and thrive in low light; the velvet plant (also called purple passion) for its rich, dark foliage; and the modern, minimalist sansevierias, always in style.
    Alfredo Bergolla, who grows cacti and succulents for Costa Farms in Miami (one of the largest wholesale houseplant growers in Florida,) says interest in succulents is the hottest trend in houseplants. They suit people who travel for a living and anyone else committed to a low-maintenance lifestyle, he says, as well as artistic types and collectors, who might put several stubby species together in a striking dish garden or arrange a chorus line of spiky succulents in pots along a bright windowsill. Succulents thrive with little water, which also makes them a good choice for “the entry-level person who hasn’t gone much into plants, but is curious,” Bergolla says.
    When you’re shopping for houseplants, read the labels and think about the light at home, then let your impulses lead you, says Mike Rimland, a grower and business development manager for Costa. “Usually something just attracts you — a shape, a color — and that’s why you buy it,” Rimland says. Whatever you choose, you’ll be bringing an agreeable group of quiet new friends into your life, and a lot of zip into your surroundings.

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