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The Best Pot Plants: Our Ultimate Guide for both Indoor and Outdoor (Part 5)

Strelitzia, the Bird of Paradise flower - one of the best pot plants


This is the fifth part in our series on the best pot plants for the home, whether indoor or out
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We also suggest that you also check out our introductory article: Smart Tips for Growing Healthy Pot Plants at Home

We have also compiled a guide to how best to grow roses in pots for the home. We recommend checking it out here.

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) pot plant

We open our latest piece on the best pot plants with one of the most striking.

The Bird of Paradise flower, Strelitzia reginae, is one of the most popular garden plants in temperate, warm temperate and subtropical gardens.   The plant is very easy care and in most cases drought tolerant. They can even withstand light frosts.  

In addition to the tropical looking foliage the flowers are stunning. The flower really looks like the crested tropical bird of the Pacific. The flower is a popular cut flower sold by florists in flower arrangements.   

Not only this, the Bird of Paradise makes an excellent flowering pot plant, so you can have these attractive flowers at home, even if you do not have a much space. 

The Bird of Paradise plant has fairly upright foliage, the leaves can vary depending on conditions. In lush wet situations the leaves tend to be a green colour, in drier climates the leaves take on a grey/green appearance.  

Plants tend to grow to around a maximum of 1m in a large pot.   However tend to stay lower to around 60cm in smaller pots.   A large pot is a good idea for Strelitzia, as it allows the plant to develop a good root system and bushy growth.   The bushier the plant the more flowers you will get. For pots the best variety to grow is reginae, there are a few other types which are not suited to pots. 

The best positions for the Bird of Paradise pot plant is in full sun.   They can withstand extreme conditions, particularly high winds, where other pot plants suffer.

Watering is important, however they can take extended periods without watering if needed.   The flowers develop usually in spring and summer,  however in some excellent conditions they will flower all year.   

Care of Bird of Paradise pot plants: 

 In regard to care, Bird of Paradise pot plants are one of the lowest maintenance pot plants you could have – making them one of the best pot plants if you don’t like to be constantly monitoring your plants. It is unlikely that they will just die on you like some plants, seemingly out of the blue, as can happen to the inexperienced grower. Bird of Paradise are very forgiving and particularly suitable for non-gardeners.   

To get the most out of your Bird of Paradise, use a well-drained quality potting mix, suitable for pots.    Plant with some slow release fertiliser.   Bird of paradise plants can live for decades in pots, so it is worth setting them up with good potting mix and conditions to get them started.   

Some people find that flowering reduces over-time when grown in pots, this can be avoided by providing good fertiliser and watering. Fertilise twice a year with a small amount of general purpose fertiliser, in spring and autumn.   Or use some slow release fertiliser once a year.   

Growth and flowering can be maximised by using a liquid NPK fertiliser once a week or fortnight.

Yukka (Yucca) – an easy care pot plant

If you live in a dry climate, or just want a low maintenance pot plant then Yukka (Yucca is the correct spelling) could be the pot plant for you.  

Having said that, even in suburban England (where I spent my childhood), the Yucca was one of the best pot plants to cultivate indoors.

Yucca plants come in a wide variety of forms, some are tall and imposing and others are low and grass like.   Whichever you choose they all seem to be incredibly hardy and drought tolerant.   

They have architectural leaf shapes which are strong and hard, which makes them look great around modern homes.   Some do not flower, but most do.   The Flower tends to be white and in a very showy spike that stands above the plant.  

Although the foliage is interesting, there are some varieties which should not be used as pot plants.   Some of the most drought tolerant species develop a sharp tip on the leaves and should be avoided. So check with your nursery before using them as pot plants. 

Most Yucca pot plants grow best in hot dry climates, however they can grow in cool temperate, temperate and warm temperate regions.   They are great for inland areas which experience drastic changes in climate, from cool winters and frosts to extreme heat in summer.   They are not suitable for areas which get snow.  

The great thing about your Yucca is that they do not need a lot of water to grow, which makes them easy to look after.

To care for your Yucca, plant into a well drained potting mix.   Use a slow release fertiliser at planting.   Water well to establish.   Once the plants are established water now and then. Yucca plants can be grow in full sun positions, however many will take some shade during the day. 

 Fertilise your Yucca once a year with some slow release fertiliser, this will keep them strong.   Yucca plants are not know to get many pests.   On the rear occasion that a Yucca plant gets sick it is usually due to not being watered, as they are so hardy sometimes people forget to water them at all!

One of the best pot plants - Yucca leaves close-up on a background of gray laminate. Yucca transplant at home. Care for home plants. Close-up of expanded clay, spray gun, soil pot and yucca in the pot.

Camellia sasanqua – a flowering house plant

Camellia sasanqua plants are lush, thick growing shrubs which produce masses of pretty flowers in autumn and winter.  And they grow very well in pots.  

Camellia sasanqua are very versatile plants,  they can be easily shaped and, given a little care, make great potted house plants.  Due to the fact that Camellia sasanqua generally has small leaves,  means that they are a good plant to shape (topiary). 

Topiary Camellia sasanqua pot plants can be shaped into Cones, Standards and Pillars.  They also make excellent visual screen plants to grow in pots around the house.   So, if there is a outlook that you would like to screen in your garden, or on a balcony, then a potted Camellia sasanqua could be a practical solution. 

Camellia sasanqua pot plants can be grow in full sun to semi-shade situations.  This makes them a very handy pot plant to use in spots which get sun for part of the day. 

Apart from the nice glossy foliage the flowers make a great display.  Generally they are smaller flowers than the Camellia japonica, but there are a lot more flowers.  Flower colours are generally whites, pinks and reds. 

Camellia sasanqua shrubs grow well in temperate and warm temperate climates.   

Tips for growing a strong potted Camelia Sasanqua

One of the tricks to grow a good potted Camellia Sasanqua is to find a good spot with adequate sun and then simply leave them in place!

They do not like being moved around, and they generally adapt to the light conditions in one spot, but it takes time for this to occur.  So, moving them from a heavy shaded spot,  to full sun spot in summer, for example, will only damage the leaves (leaf burn). 

Camellia sasanqua plants grow quickly during the spring and summer, but slow down at other times of the year.  Any pruning should be done after flowering or during spring and early summer.  Any fertilising should be done during the spring and summer. 

Care of sasanqua camellia in pots: 

Although camellia sasanqua are quite hardy plants regular watering will be required.  This could mean a couple of times a week (or more) in areas which get around 25 degrees in summer. 

When considering pot size, use this rule: the larger the pot, the larger your camellia will grow.  If you wish to use the plant as a visual screen, it would be worth getting a large pot. 

Camellia sasanqua plants can grow up to around 2.5m tall in a large pot.  Getting a large pot will also prevent the plant from blowing over in the wind.  

When potting up your camellia plants make sure that you use an Azalea/Camellia potting mix.  Camellias prefer an acid potting mix to grow in.  Also, use a slow release fertiliser, special Azalea/Camellia slow release fertilisers are now available, which make fertilising easy. 

Liquid fertilisers are also excellent and should be used once a week, to once a fortnight.  If you are having problems growing your camellias in pots, say they have yellow leaves for example, it could be a pH problem.  You can test your potting mix with a pH kit available from plant nurseries.

Usually a small dose of granulated Azalea/Camellia fertiliser is adequate to help bring them back to a green colour.  

When it comes to pruning you can prune your potted camellia plants at any time of year.  Please note that if you prune them in late summer or autumn it is likely that you will prune off the developing flowers. 

So, if you want flowers make sure you prune your camellia plants after flowering, up to late spring (or early summer in some areas).  Often it is a compromise and weighing up whether you prefer flowers or a nice trimmed shape for your pot plant. 

Pest problems are not substantial with Camellias, in most regions.  They can get soil bone grubs, like curl grubs, which eat the roots.  They can also can get aphids, scales and sometimes associated mildew on the leaves.  There are systemic and knock down sprays to fix these problems. 

But more often than not, the health of the plant is the problem.  A healthy plant always gets fewer pests.  So make sure that your camellia gets adequate sun, water and fertiliser and it will be a joy to have in the garden.

Dracaena marginata – an easy care potted house plant

Dracaena marginata is a very easy to grow and low maintenance house plant.  So no wonder it has a place amongst our best pot plants.

Dracaena marginata has long thin leaves with many branches, which make them quite architectural and suited to modern style homes and gardens. 

Dracaena marginata are very adaptable plants, growing in situations of heavy shade to full sun.  This makes them a great plant to grow as an indoor house plant, as a patio or balcony plant and as a pot plant in full sun situations. 

They do not require constant watering,  fertilising or pruning and do not have many pest issues. Consequently, they are one of the easiest potted house plants to grow at home, or at the office. 

There are a number of varieties which have become available in nurseries,  a few are as follows: 

  • Dracaena marginata, which has dark green foliage with a red line along the edge of the leaf
  • Dracaena tricolour, which has a number of colour lines along the leaf, white, red and green
  • Dracaena “Black knight” (pbr) which has very dark green, almost black, leaves

They will all grow in similar situations, as described above.  

Dracaena Marginata and other types of the best pot plants

Tips for growing beautiful Dracaena plants

Try to give Dracaena plants time to adapt to the environmental conditions (mainly light conditions).  Alternatively,  buy plants which have been grown in the correct environment. 

For example, if I would like to grow my Dracaena plants indoors, I would buy Dracaena plants which have been grown for indoor conditions.  If I would like to grow my Dracaena plants in full sun light, I would try to purchase plants which have been grown with some sun. 

It is not always possible to get plants grown in the perfect conditions, however, given time Dracaena plants will adapt to the light conditions.  So, even if you do buy one which is shade grown and place it in a semi-shaded spot, it may slowly adapt to more sun and, eventually, full sun.  

Please note that you may lose some old leaves in the change-over process,  as the new leaves that develop in the new conditions will then be adapted to the light available.

Care of Dracaena house plants: 

The care of Dracaena pot plants will depend on where you are going to grow them.  If you are going to grow your Dreacaena pot plants inside, as indoor plants, you will need to place them in a spot which get some natural light during the day. 

They are also well known for being able to grow under bright florescent light, as you would find in and office block.  However, the duration of artificial light needs to be long for the plants look good.  Generally an indoor Dracaena plant hardly grows at all, but they can still look healthy. 

Indoor plants will need to be grown in a self-watering pots.  Use a good quality, well drained potting mix and use a small amount of liquid fertiliser once a month. 

You may get the odd pest if the area is very low light like Mealy Bugs (white fluffy bugs) and scale insects. “White oil” is usually sufficient to control these pests.

If you are going to grow your Dracaena pot plant outdoors in the sun, or a semi-shaded spot, then ensure you maintain watering even when the plant is looking good.  It is quite common that because Dracaena plants are so drought tolerant, people can easily forget to water them.  Unsuprisingly, they do much better with adequate water. 

In regard to fertilisers use some liquid NPK fertiliser on them once a fortnight.  Slow release fertiliser will also help, just scatter some on the surface of the pot. 

Make sure you use a well-drained potting mix in your pots.  If you find that your potting mix has become a-bit stale over the years and your plant not thriving, use some seaweed tonic now and then. 

The major pest issues that affect Dracaena outdoors or on patios, are fungal spots.  These usually develop due to drops of water sitting on the leaf.  This mainly occurs in humid conditions and on the older leaves.  It does not normally require any treatment and is seasonal.

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