Nick Alexander's 10 Plants Everyone Should Have in Their Home

Nick Alexander's 10 Plants Everyone Should Have in Their Home

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Nick Alexander
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  • California Tropicals
    Watermelon Peperomia


    Nick Alexander

    I got my Watermelon Peperomia as a single leaf last year, and over a matter of nine months, it has exploded into a luscious plant of nearly 20 leaves. It has not been phased by cool temperatures or cloudy weather and has grown steadily through the winter, which is a plus in my book.

    This peperomia holds its own with stiff succulent foliage and a striking green-silver contrasting patternation. It is one of the larger leaved peperomias, and will not get lost in your collection if you choose to add one. It also makes a great stand-alone plant on a table or shelf. If it likes you well enough it may even give you branching sprays of unusual cylindrical white flowers!
  • California Tropicals
    Hoya Kerrii


    Nick Alexander

    I would say that this is a misunderstood plant that a lot of people complain about, but I'm here to set the record straight. Those little heart-shaped leaves you see around Valentine's Day, peeking out from some depressing glued-down gravel in which the Hoya Kerrii has been grown in, may never actually grow. 

    I think it's quite unfortunate, as this is virtually the only way this plant is ever offered in stores. If you can find a plant that has at least two leaves, I would grab it. Hoya Kerrii enjoys some direct sun indoors but is good at retaining its shape in less than ideal light levels. Like any succulent, be careful not to overwater it, especially when it's not in active growth. 

    I like to let the leaves get a little soft in the winter before watering. If you play your cards right, it will give you absurdly delicious smelling flowers; I liken it to eggnog, a creamy spicy scent. Unfortunately, mid-summer is the wrong time to crave eggnog, which is when this blooms for me.
  • LiveTrends Design
    Hanging Basket Pothos Scindapsus


    Nick Alexander

    Even though these are called Pothos, these are not actual Pothos! The scientific name is Scindapsus pictus. As opposed to a glossy finish on a regular Pothos (genus Epripremnum), this has a satin finish on the front of the leaves, which its name is derived from. 

    The plant has a certain iridescence when you hold it to the light and some judiciously placed silver flecking that splays towards the edges of the leaf. It's also a shingling plant, meaning not only its stem, but its leaves hug the tree that it's growing on. This can be replicated on a roughed-up board, moss pole, or any other surface it can get traction to cling upon.

    A lot of people are either quick to overlook foliage plants or are chasing after more elusive subjects, but I firmly believe that Scindapsus is more interesting than those it is usually grouped with. This plant is one of the most common on this list, so check around your local nursery, grocery store, or big box store, and it shouldn't be too hard to find.
  • California Tropicals
    Hoya Exotica 'Tricolor'


    Nick Alexander

    This is one fastest growing Hoyas out of the more than 30 Hoyas I own. I can confidently say it's grown about five feet in a little less than a year. Even in dreary Northeast winters, it refused to stop growing, when most of my other Hoyas were dormant. 

    For best growth, the more light, the better when indoors, which means direct sun for at least part of the day. It will, however, tolerate less with grace. This used to be a very expensive plant, so I'm glad the prices have gone down considerably so everyone can enjoy it without breaking the bank. I suspect its speedy growth habit to be the cause of this.

    Beyond its vegetative capabilities, I would argue that this plant has the most beautifully hued leaves out of any plant in my collection. The new leaves start as a saturated crimson, then age to blush pink, peach, and finally a chartreuse green in the center with darker green along the edges. It's absolutely gorgeous.
  • Hirt's Gardens
    String of Turtles Peperomia prostrata


    Nick Alexander

    String of Turtles is actually another Peperomia species. The namesake of this unusual peperomia arises from the green-brown pattern on its numerous circular leaves. Even though you may see larger displays of this plant in hanging baskets, the individual plants themselves are very small, meaning this is a great plant for someone who is limited on space. 

    While I don't have this in a terrarium, I've seen many that do, and they grow equally well in one or without one. This could comfortably be kept in an itsy bitsy three-inch pot if you wanted to trim it every so often.

    String of Turtles will grow quickly in bright light, although it will tolerate lower light conditions. You might even get little green, horn-like appendages arising from the herd of turtles, and no, an alien did not invade your plant, these are flowers.
  • California Tropicals
    Philodendron Micans


    Nick Alexander

    Just because this is a heart-leafed Philodendron, does not mean it should be overlooked. Many of its Philodendron cousins are prized for their velvety leaves, which of course comes with a three or sometimes four-figure price tag. If you don't mind smaller leaves, Philodendron Micans is a great alternative.

    This Philodendron, like many others of its kind, can be trained up a moss pole or can be used as a trailing plant on shelves or in a hanging basket, like the one I own. Philodendron Micans will tolerate a wide range of light conditions like other Philodendrons and Pothos. 

    In my experience, these don't have huge root systems and like to be under-potted for their size. It is a super fun and rewarding plant however you choose to grow it!
  • California Tropicals
    Hoya Retusa


    Nick Alexander

    This was a difficult plant to discern when I first encountered it. It looked like a hanging basket filled with trailing grass. I was surprised to later find out that this was indeed a Hoya!

    Besides the obscure foliage, small white blooms adorn this plant throughout the fall-winter months, which are nice to see when everything beyond the window looks quite desolate at times. Unlike other Hoya that bloom in bunches, these emerge one at a time, and smell faintly of Easter lilies. 

    The peculiarity doesn't just stop at the appearance of the plant, this Hoya, unlike others, does not like to fully dry out. I treat mine more like Pothos in that regard. It is a great gift for someone that likes unusual plants!
  • Succulents Depot
    Ceropegia woodii Variegated String of Hearts


    Nick Alexander

    This has to be one of my favorite plants for a few reasons. Firstly, this is a very low-profile plant, even though it can reach many feet in length. The leaves are less than an inch in width, and the vines hang almost perfectly straight, which makes for a great little hanging basket or pot for spaces that cannot accommodate more voluminous plants like pothos or philodendron. 

    Secondly, they grow warp speed (several feet a year with some direct light), and thirdly, they have pink variegation! While standard white variegation is fine and all, when you add pink to already heart-shaped leaves, you get maximum adorability. They even produce weird little clusters of parachute-like flowers, which often surprise people that do not expect them to bloom. 

    These plants are in the same family as Hoya and have similar care requirements. So make sure to let them dry between watering and err on the side of smaller pots. Given the right care, this plant will show you all the love.
  • Costa Farms
    Black Raven ZZ Plant


    Nick Alexander

    I've had numerous people walk into my house wondering why I, of all people, would own a plastic plant. What they are referring to is my ZZ Raven with its unreal, ultra-glossy, jet black leaves. A well-grown specimen truly is a sight to behold with its stiff upright arching leaves, which makes for a spectacular architectural specimen.

    Like the regular green ZZ Plants, these are as tough as nails, and the only thing that seems to kill them is overwatering. The only fault I can find with this plant is that they seem to grow more slowly than their green counterparts. This can, however, be remedied with higher lighting. 

    My general advice that I tell people is that you can always grow a plant to the size you want in higher light, and then move it to a desired lower light location, once you are satisfied with the growth. I've seen these circulating big box and grocery stores recently. It might be worth scanning the garden centers while you're out shopping if you want to snag one at a decent price.
  • Calisia repens 'Bianca'


    Nick Alexander

    This is essentially a miniature version of Tradescantia or ‘Wandering Dude,’ but with truly tiny quarter-inch leaves. The variegation is somewhat unstable throughout the plant, so you get beautifully contrasting chunks of pure pink leaves and fully green leaves. You can take out green growth to select for more variegation, but remember too much will weaken the plant overall.

    My plant has grown ravenously. It went from a 2.5-inch pot to a full hanging basket over the course of the winter. To my surprise, direct sun stunts growth, so I have placed mine behind other plants to get filtered sunlight. A north exposure window would work well too. 

    Propagation of the Bianca is probably the fastest and easiest of any plant I've had. Chuck it in some water and voila, within a week or so, it'll grow roots. It's a super great plant if you want to share the love of gardening with those you care about. It's extremely easy to grow!