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Potting

6 Easy-Care Houseplants With Colorful Leaves

By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms

When you think of houseplants, green usually comes to mind. Popular plants like peace lily, fiddleleaf fig, monstera, and money tree all have lush, dark green leaves. You can add year-round color to your collection – without flowers – by selecting easy-care plants with colorful foliage. Here are some of my favorites.

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Aglaonema

Aglaonema (sometimes called Chinese evergreen) comes in a wide variety of leaf shapes and colors, making it a top pick for anyone who wants to infuse their home with festive foliage. It’s also one of the most tolerant houseplants around, forgiving missed waterings, tolerating low light, and growing in low humidity levels. 

Growing tips: Aglaonema varieties enjoy bright light but tolerate medium and low light levels. They don’t like to be wet; water as the top half or so of the potting mix dries to the touch.

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Calathea

Now botanically reclassified as Goeppertia, colorful calathea varieties like Pink Star and Dottie are a fun way to imbue flashy leaves in your home. Other selections feature delightfully patterned foliage, making a collection of calatheas one of the most eye-catching plant groups around. Calatheas are fairly fussy about their water needs, but if you grow them in a good self-watering system (like Wick & Grow), they’re much easier to manage.  

Growing tips: Calathea flourishes in bright light but tolerates medium and low light pretty well. It prefers to be moist; water as the top inch or so of the potting mix dries to the touch. Keep it away from drafts—hot or cold drafts can cause the foliage to develop brown, crispy edges.

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Fittonia

Fittonia might be the plant for you if you’re looking for a small but colorful houseplant. Typically staying well under 12 inches in height, there are a number of varieties, most with green leaves and contrasting veins in red, pink, or white.

Growing tips: Fittonia likes bright light but tolerates medium and low-ish light levels. It prefers to be moist; water as the top inch or so of the potting mix dries to the touch. It wilts readily when it starts to dry out, but usually rebounds quickly once watered.

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Polka Dot Plant

This versatile houseplant is commonly used indoors as a houseplant and outdoors as a colorful annual. No matter where you grow polka dot plant (Hypoestes), you’re sure to enjoy its leaves, which are liberally splashed with red, pink, or white. Polka dot plant is a great partner for Fittonia, as it stays a similar size and enjoys the same growing conditions.

Growing tips: Polka dot plant thrives in bright or medium light. Low light will cause it to become lanky. It prefers to be moist (but not soggy). Water as the top inch or so of the potting mix dries to the touch.

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Rex Begonia

Rex begonias are kind of old-school, but in the best possible way. Enjoyed by plant parents for decades, enthusiasm in this group of plants has pushed plant breeders to come out with new varieties in a dazzling array of colors and leaf shapes (such as Red Tango, shown here).

Growing Tips: Rex begonias show best leaf color in bright light, but they can grow in medium light levels (they won’t be as showy, however). They want to be moist; water as the top inch or two of the potting mix dries to the touch.

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Waffle Plant

Waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata) earned its common name because of the quilted/corrugated texture of its leaves. There are three main varieties—Purple Waffle Plant (with purplish leaves), Snow White Waffle Plant (with leaves variegated in pink and silver), and the variety Belgian Waffle (with leaves variegated in cream and green). No matter which you select, they contrast other houseplants and are beautiful choices for windowsills and terrariums.

Growing Tips: Waffle plants prefer bright light but tolerate medium and low-ish light levels. They need to be moist; water once the top inch or so of the potting mix dries to the touch.


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