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Same easy-care house plants; new vibrant colors and patterns

A hand holds a philodendron leaf that is half pink and half brown.
Differing light levels can create color variations and patterns on philodendron leaves, like this one, called, "Pink Princess."

Common favorite houseplants like philodendrons and rubber trees come in varying colors, shapes and sizes.

As you’re turning down the volume on the year-end holidays and enjoying the quiet of crisp winter days, take some time to add greenery to your space with new and vibrant houseplants.

These new twists on common houseplants, like rubber trees, philodendron and sansevieria, or snake plants, have variations that add new color to your home while still being easy-care.

Rubber trees, philodendron and snake plants

Rubber trees, or Ficus elastica, are tropical plants hailing from South America. These plants can grow quite large, and have several dark green, oval leaves on each stem.

A note for pet owners — especially if your dog or cat likes to munch on houseplant leaves! Inside each fleshy leaf is a white sap that can be toxic to pets.

For something new besides the traditional green leaves, the rubber tree variety called “Burgundy,” grows dark russet-colored leaves. Another type, called “Yellow Jam” boasts yellow leaves. For mottled green, pink, yellow and white, go for the rubber tree variation named, “Moonshine.”

Rubber trees grow best indoors in a bright window but not in full sun. Keep their soil evenly moist.

Philodendrons are vining house plants with roots in the Caribbean, Colombia and Venezuela. They also grow naturally in Asia. This favorite among house plants grows large and bushy with green heart-shaped leaves. One vining variety is called “Pink Princess,” with pink leaves. “Gloriosa” is an upright philodendron with heart-shaped leaves, while “Lickety Split” has yellowish leaves.

Whether vining or upright, these philodendrons still boast that easy-care label. They can handle lower-light situations and even absent-minded plant parents who forget to water them.

Snake plants, or sansevieria, are evergreen succulent perennials native to eastern Africa. Most snake plants have long and upright sword-like leaves with a pointed tip. Snake plants can grow quite large and are often displayed as floor plants in large containers.

Aside from traditional snake plants with green leaves and white or yellow edges, a new sort to try is called “Patens." Its leaves grow to look long and cylindrical, almost like green pencils! This snake plant would work well on a table top, due to its smaller size.

Other sansevieria varieties include “Whale Fin,” with large flat leaves, and a rosetted one with yellowish-gold and green leaves called “Golden Honey.” Though smaller in stature, these snake plants are just as tough.

In order to see these color and pattern variations on their normally just green leaves, the plants need to be kept in a room with sufficient light. If the room is too dark, the plants will lose their color variations and return to being just green.

Compost egg shells for garden soil or leave them out?

Q: Should I compost egg shells? I heard that they shouldn't go into the compost if you plan to use it in a garden. Is that true or false? - Kate, in St. Albans

A: Yes, you can compost egg shells, as they are a great addition to your garden soil. Egg shells are slow to break down. You might notice when you're getting ready to empty your compost bin, the egg shells are still around.

That really isn’t a problem, but if you’d rather not add large shells to your soil, let the egg shells dry out a bit before composting, then crush them into smaller pieces and add to your compost. That will help them break down faster.

Q: The heavy snows are beating on my highbush blueberry plants and they're bending the tall stalks to the ground. Any good fixes or just go out and shake the snow off? - Ed, in North Duxbury

A: The best plan is to leave the snow alone, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. Knocking the snow off the berry bushes yourself could break some of the branches.

And because the plants are adapted, they will shed that snow off eventually and then bounce back up again.

Next week, we'll learn more about planting and harvesting small crops of microgreens indoors. These tasty additions to salads and soups also help scratch that itch of wanting to plant something while we wait for spring!

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.