These days it seems that our living spaces are getting smaller whether by desire or necessity. Yet we still want to add green life into our homes. It’s a good thing then there are small plants that can fill any small spot in your home. With a little digging you can find a world of small plants from a micro miniature Begonia to fill a small glass terrarium or a compact flowering Anthurium to give you some flower power. Here are some suggestions to get you on the right track.
As I’ve previously written, I have a love for begonias and the variety of size is amazing. There are miniatures to compact begonias that can fit on your shelf in the bathroom or perhaps even your nightstand beside your bed. A small terrarium begonia like Red Planet or luzonensis reaches only a few inches tall and both have pretty pink to white flowers and decorative foliage. Or how about Autumn Embers (picture 5), that has beautiful amber orange foliage sure to liven up that table under the window. Variety is huge here!
This is another large plant family that most people might be familiar with. This family contains Artillery Fern, Aluminum plant, and Chinese Money plant. This group of shade loving succulent like plants is so easy to care for and can be used in a variety of areas. They can even be used in terrariums too. Chinese Money Pilea, P. peperomioides (picture 1 and 8), is such an easy plant that produces round coin-like leaves. It can grow up to a foot tall and wide and takes neglect really well. It spreads by runners in the pot and these can be separated and shared with others.
Here again is another large plant family that contains a variety of compact sizes and leaf colorations. It’s also known as the radiator plant and has succulent like stems and leaves. In fact, there are a few species that are grown like cactus and succulents. I have many favorites but the ones that come to mind are Green Ripple (picture 10), Baby Rubber plant, and P. prostrata. There are even a few species that their leaves resemble watermelon rind. Again most of these are super easy and take some neglect. Try a few varieties in your terrarium as well.
Brazilian Fireworks  
This plant (picture 4) has turned out to be one of the easiest plants to grow. It’s also known as Rose Pine and Purple Shrimp plant and coincidentally is related to the tropical Shrimp plant. It has silver veined green leaves that are topped with rose colored, pine cone shaped flower spikes that are produced throughout the year. It stays about a foot tall and wide, and will grow in low to bright light levels in your home. To flower reliably it will need to be placed near a bright window. This one is so easy and you can plant it out in a pot with Impatiens for summer.
Flamingo flower or painter’s palette (picture 9) is a very tropical looking flowering plant that will produce beautiful flowers all year long. This flowering plant is a bit on the larger size when full grown, however they will flower when young about 8 to 10 inches tall. Flowers range from white, pink, to red and last for weeks while more are produced. Anthuriums like to be allowed to dry between watering and misting helps to create the humidity they like. Remember, they are tropical after all. Place them in a bright window where flowering will be at its best. Nestle them in with your orchids they will make a nice addition.
Most of you know this by snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (picture 2) and you know how easy these are to care for. There are some compact varieties that can easily be placed in small areas of the home. The variety of leaf variegation in the bird nest types are many and there are a few that stay well under a foot tall like S. ballyi and Pinguicula (picture 3). The toughness of these plants is amazing and the only way you could go wrong with them is by overwatering. Also, some of them grow so slowly that they can stay in the same container or space for years.
Also, don’t forget about African violets (picture 6), flame violets, ferns, and orchids (picture 7). All of these plants can be found at your local garden centers, plant club sales and friends. These are only a few in a myriad of choices of compact plants. Sizes, textures, and colors are only the icing on the cake when it comes to choosing a new houseplant. Now, which one to try? Good growing!

Brent Tucker is Horticulturist of Seasonal Displays and Events at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s Botanical Gardens. You may reach him at

To view images of the houseplants listed here, visit the online version of the January 2017 issue at

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