Hot Plants for the Cool Season

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By Mike Diamond

Even without glancing at the calendar, I can tell that summer is winding down. The sound of the ice cream man’s relentlessly cheerful melody makes me want to take a sledgehammer to the truck’s speaker. I am tired of depriving myself carb binges- (a God given right!)- just because warm temps mean less layers. And really, I just don’t approve of people wearing flip flops on the subway. Gross!

The one thing I do love about summer is tending to my plant collection, strewn about my tiny NYC garden, my windowsills, and even my rooftop (shhh, don’t tell the landlord). It’s almost time to bring the greenery back inside, but if you’re a plant whore like me, cooler temps aren’t going to stop you from adding to your indoor jungle. To see what’s new, cool and unusual in the world of plants, I turn to Logee’s Tropical Plants. Here, I highlight some of the items from the Logee’s catalog that really got my attention.

Operculicarya decaryi “Elephant Tree” They say an elephant never forgets, but you might to forget to water. With this specimen however, that’s ok, at least in the winter. This is one bizarre looking plant- the trunk is gnarled, knobby, and grayish; think Elaine Stritch. A native of Madagascar, this easy to grow plant thrives with full sun, and sports small, shiny green leaves on its branches. A freakishly beautiful conversation piece (just like yours truly!)

Zamioculcas zamiifolia “ZZ Plant” is another visually interesting, easy to grow plant.

Perfect for people with a ‘black thumb’, such as FierthMagazine editor Brian Mills. (I’ve seen many plants turn yellow and just wither away at his house- and honey they were made of plastic). Looking like a glossy, prehistoric hybrid of a fern and a sago palm (though it’s actually in the Aroid family), ZZ is listed in Logee’s ‘indestructible houseplant’ category. EZ with a Z!

Feeling a bit grand? Get into the Royal Plant Collection, a selection of botanical beauties for a queen! The Collection contains darling little “Mexican Foxglove” (Tetranema roseum) with the cutest pink blossoms; the variegated and architecturally intriguing Calathea lancifolia ‘Rattlesnake’; as well as Ruby Red Club Moss” (Selaginella erythropus ‘Sanguinea’) and Golden Club Moss (Selaginella kraussiana ‘Aurea’), to add shades of deep red and bright chartreuse. This grouping is perfect for a terrarium, which would provide the warmth and humidity these plants thrive in. Queen it up!

The Selaginella family of plants actually has even more interesting members. Selaginella uncinata “Peacock Moss” is simple, small, but dazzling; the somewhat fernlike stems of this creeping groundcover moss are an uncanny shade of iridescent blue; Logee’s describes them as ‘shimmering’ and when you see this delicate looking but easy to grow shade lover up close, you’ll agree. On the freaky side, check out Selaginella lepidophylla “Resurrection Plant”. This oddity arrives as a shriveled, dead looking thing (that reminds me, I must tell you all about my last date), but after being placed in water, it turns from a parched brown ball into a lush, green, and very much alive plant! Kids love this one, and its great for ‘weird science’ experiments, or just a way to kill a few hours on a lonely Saturday night. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Rounding out my list of fabulous indoor plants for the fall and winter season, I have selected Ludisia discolor “Black Jewel Orchid”. This small, easily grown terrestrial orchid is a native of South Asia, and while it does have flowers- spikes of pure white blossoms in winter- it’s the foliage that makes this a knockout. The amazing, velvety leaves are deep maroon, so dark that they appear black, with delicate markings of pink- simply stunning! A must have.

Coming this autumn from Laurelynn and Byron Martin, the owners of Logee’s Tropical Plants, is their new book “Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere”. I cannot wait to get my hands on this and read all about how to grow exotic edibles in my very own home, plants like Dragonfruit, Miracle Berries, and even- wait for it– chocolate!


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Mike Diamond is a writer, comedian and television personality based in New York City. He has hosted the Logo network’s ‘PopLab’ program, and also does video reporting for various web sites including 365Gay, TripOut, and EDGE. Mike was born in the bathroom of the Crisco Disco in 1973, is two inches taller than he appears on television, and has no gag reflex.

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