Hanging Out

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER, 20 Mark and Ben (his son) Cullen are seen in the Star studio for logo photos. The two will be co-writing the weekly Urban Growth column in Homes & Condos. September, 20 2017

Mark and Ben Cullen


Up, down, all around. We live indoors, most the of time, come winter. Some of us in rather congested space. The 400 sq. ft. condo dweller and the resident of a monster home have one thing in common, besides a roof over their head: a few indoor tropical plants can make dwelling there a whole lot more livable.

Green plants transpire moisture and produce oxygen. They do not necessarily require a lot of attention and they can be good company: no talking back or need for a midnight walk. Need we say more?

The space issue can be addressed by locating some hanging plants around your place. Here are our top 6 choices:

Burro’s Tail. Sedum morganianum. This really looks cool in a hot window. A succulent that needs bright light, somewhere that you won’t knock it as the burro’s tails are brittle and drop off easily. Needs very little water. Propagates easily from cuttings so if you do knock off a stem, push it into new soil and add water. Voila. Produce a new Burro’s tail in no time.

Grape ivy. Cissus rhombifolia While this lush looking foliage plant does not need much water, it will need more than the Burrow’s Tail. Tolerates low light conditions, so an east or north facing window works well. The broad grape-leaf shaped leaves lend a tropical look to any corner of a room. Prune when it gets out of hand.

Spider plant. Cholorophytum comosum. Designated a “clean air plant” by NASA, the American space agency. Which is to say that if you value the air you breathe, you really must have one. Or more. Put this in the baby’s room and watch your baby sleep like a…. we aren’t going to state the obvious here. Easy to grow, tolerates low light, is forgiving of dry conditions but grows best when you water it as the soil becomes dry to the touch. Easy to propagate too. Is there a downside to Spider plant? We aren’t aware of one.

Heartleaf Philodendron. Philodendron scandens. If there is one indoor plant with a long name that you have already gotten your tongue around this would be it, no? Almost as easy to grow as Spider plant. Lush green, heart shaped leaves make this a great addition where you want more hanging (or climbing) green foliage.

Inch plant. Tradescantia zebrina. Fast growing, easy to propagate. Did your grandmother have this plant growing in a glass full of water on her kitchen windowsill? Most did. And maybe still do. It is that easy to grow. Watching Inch plant take root in pure water convinces us that we can propagate anything. Until we try the same trick with a hardwood cutting and it just rots. Oh well, still a great lesson in plant propagation for young and old. Tolerates low light, bright light, dry conditions, overwatering and basic neglect. Trails downward. When growth thins just prune it back. Or start a new one. The perfect plant for the non-plant-enthusiast.

Trailing Strawberry. Saxifraga stolonifera. Related to the strawberry plant, which it is sometimes called. Also called Mother of Thousands because it makes babies to beat the band. The long stolon’s produce an abundance of small-leafed clusters that are looking for soil to put down a root. Just like strawberries come mid summer. Takes a minimum of room as it grows almost vertically, tolerates low light and dry periods. Furry leaves are fun for kids to rub with their fingers. Tell them this is the plant’s attempt to conserve moisture (true).

It may amaze you how the winter will melt away when you are surrounded by tropical plants just hanging out.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.