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The Best Pot Plants: Our Ultimate Guide for both Indoor and Outdoor (Part 8)

One of the best pot plants - Japanese laurel or Aucuba japonica evergreen shrub plant with lush foliage of leathery glossy green leaves with golden spots


This is the eighth 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 guides to how best to grow roses in pots for the home; how best to grow palms in pots; and the best large pot plants for using as privacy screens.

AUcuba Gold dust (Japonica Varigata) house plant

The “Gold dust plant”, is a bushy, leafy plant with dark green leaves with gold dots.

If you are seeking a lush looking plant for a patio or indoor situation, then put the Aucuba ‘Gold Dust’ on your shortlist of the best pot plants.

To grow this plant you will need a large pot as the plant is usually grown to around 3 feet tall.   Aucuba “Gold Dust” plant also makes an excellent plant on a shady patio.  Aucuba plants produce a large number of stems and forms a bushy shrub.   

Aucuba (Japonica Varigata) is best suited to spots with good indirect light. To grow this plant on a patio find a shaded spot with a good constant source of indirect light. Short periods of direct sunlight will be fine, but in some climates this plant’s foliage can be burnt by long periods of direct sunlight.  

If you are planning to grow the Acuba plant indoors, please note that it is best suited to areas of bright indoor light. 

The “Gold Dust” Acuba has been a very popular plant in the past, but its popularity waned for a while. However, it has been rediscovered again and is being chosen as an unusual and niche plant by many gardeners, unaware of its popular past.

They are a durable, long-living and generally very easy to care for plant.

Care of Aucuba japonica variegata pot plants: 

To care for your “Gold Dust” pot it into a large broad pot.   The plant looks best when pruned into a bushy shrub shape and suits a squat looking pot.  Use a good quality, well drained potting mix.   Mix through some slow release fertiliser.  

Use a self-watering pot or a pot with a saucer.

Plants can be a bit slow growing if not fertilised,  so use some liquid NPK fertiliser once a week during the growing season.   Plants thrive on seaweed based NPK fertilisers if used regularly.  

There may be a point when you need to give your “Gold Dust” plant a little prune to keep it thick and bushy.   Aucuba looks best when pruned into a shrub shape, so give it a prune in the early stages to create a nice shape.    Pruning is best done during the warm part of the year.  

During winter this plant hardly grows, whereas in subtropical climates it can grow quite quickly and looks splendid in planter boxes positioned on a side wall or boundary.

Aphelandra indoor potted house plants

Aphelandra plants are an unusual and colourful indoor house plant.  

The most common varieties have large dark green leaves with white veins.   Aphelandra plants also flower, with a flower spike developing on the ends of the stems.  

Aphelandra indoor plants do best in bright indoor light conditions and require a large pot if you would like to keep them for many years. Self-watering pots are an easy way to water Aphelandra plants as they need good consistent moisture to do well.  

Self-watering pots have a reservoir for water at the base of the pot, so you only have to fill the reservoir and the plant will be watered for a number of weeks or more.

aphelandra plant close up, isolated on white backrgound - one of the best pot plants

Care of Aphelandra pot plants: 

To care for your Aphelandra indoor pot plants, pot them with a good potting mix and slow release fertiliser.  Aphelandra plants require good fertilising to look their best.  We suggest the use of a seaweed based NPK liquid fertiliser.  Fertilising with liquid fertiliser once every two weeks is sufficient.  

The main pest problems for Aphelandra plants are Mealy bugs which can be controlled using White oil.

Weeping Japanese Maple tree pot plant

If you would like to grow a dwarf tree in a pot why not choose something really special, like the Weeping Japanese Maple?

Weeping Japanese maples have been selected for ornamental characteristics such as: small size, unusual leaf shape and foliage colour. All of these characteristics combined make them one of the best pot plants.  

They are dwarf grafted trees which normally only grow from 2 to 5m in height.  The botanical name of the Weeping Japanese Maple is Acer Palmatum Dissectum and there are numerous variations and variety names. 

Due to the development of these trees for dwarf ornamental purposes they have become captivating pot plants, as well as garden specimens.    

When grown in a pot they resemble a large Bonsai tree with interesting foliage and weeping habit.  One of the most striking aspects of the Japanese maples is the Autumn foliage colour.    

During Autumn the leaves turn brilliant hues of red, purple or orange. Weeping Japanese maples are deciduous and will drop all their leaves in winter. 

When grown under good conditions Japanese maples can live for many decades in a pot and will increase in value as they mature (some trees being worth many hundreds of dollars).   

Although they can be slow growing,  Weeping Japanese maples should be grown in a large squat pot.  

They have high water requirements in summer and should not be allowed to dry-out.  Using a large pot maintains a good supply of moisture in the potting mix and stops the plant blowing over in high winds.    

You can expect a Weeping Japanese maple to grow to around 1.5m and larger in a good sized pot.   

The best climates for Weeping Japanese Maples are cool temperate and temperate climates.  They can be very tricky to grow in areas with intense sun in summer and are best grown under a large trees, under a veranda or shade cloth.  

If the plants get intense sunlight and hot dry winds the leaves can curl and drop off.   Fortunately this usually does not cripple the plant and they jump back to life once conditions improve.

Care of Weeping Japanese Maple pot plants: 

To care for your Weeping Japanese maple pot plant,  choose a large pot with a saucer.   Maples look at their best in ceramic pots, but practically speaking,  a large self-watering pot provides an important water source during summer heat.    

Weeping Japanese Maples prefer acid soils, so use an appropriate potting mix.  Azalea & Camellia potting mix is a good choice.  Use slow release fertiliser in the potting mix.  

To fertilise your Japanese Maple use a liquid NPK fertiliser. We find seaweed based fertilisers are excellent. Fertilise only during the growing season.  A sprinkle of slow release on the surface is also quite effective. 

The main pest problems for Weeping Japanese maples are caterpillars on the leaves and soil borne curl grubs. “Curl grubs” can eat out the roots and are the most common cause of Weeping maple mortality.  Your local nursery should have treatments for these

Meyer lemon productive pot plants

If you would like to grow a lemon tree in a pot you can’t go past the “Meyer” lemon. 

“Meyer” lemons are dwarf lemon trees which produce masses of large juicy lemons. They are a very productive tree and in many cases will produce lemons all year round. This is definitely a factor in their inclusion on our best pot plants list.

The ‘Meyer Lemon’ is quite hardy and will adapt to various conditions, from semi-shade to full sun.  “Meyer” lemons are best grown outdoor in full sun, this helps them produce the best fruit. Naturally “Meyer” lemons grow to around 4m, but in a pot they will stay happily at around 2m tall.

To encourage your “Meyer” lemon to grow well it is important to use a large pot and water well during the warm part of the year.

Self-watering pots are a great way to grow citrus trees and large plastic self-watering pots are available from nurseries and hardware stores. Using a large pot will help root development and stop the tree blowing over in strong winds.  

“Meyer” lemons can be grown in cool temperate, temperate, warm temperate, Mediterranean and some subtropical regions.  In most warm climates they will produce lemons all year round, in cooler climates “Meyer” tend to ripen in winter. 

If you’d like to know more about all things citrus, see our sister article, Citrus – Our Ultimate Guide. And if you are specifically interested in Lemons, including the Meyer Lemon, please read here.

Ripe yellow-orange Meyer lemons on a lemon tree - one of the best pot plants

To care for your potted “Meyer” lemon tree: 

Use a good quality potting mix with slow release fertiliser. Fertilise your “Meyer” lemon in late winter and early spring with a specialised citrus fertiliser.  Fertilising can also be done in mid-autumn, this will improve the size and quality of fruit. 

Water your “Meyer” lemon well during hot periods.  Small fruits are an indication of a lack of water during fruit development.

The major pests of “Meyer” lemons are: Scale insects, Aphids and Mildews. All of these issues can be fixed using low toxic sprays and treatments and so ask your local nursery for these.  

Good drainage is important for growing citrus also, so make sure your pots drain well.   Using a seaweed based tonic regularly will improve the quality of citrus growing in old potting mix. “Meyer” lemons can live around 10 to 15 years in pots under good conditions. 

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Tree fern potted plants

If you would like to introduce a rainforest atmosphere to your garden or patio try some potted Tree fern plants.

Tree ferns are large growing ferns which have arching, umbrella like foliage.  The stem thick and tall and the foliage is typically fern like. 

Tree ferns grow naturally in temperate and subtropical rainforest regions of Australia & New Zealand. They are, however, quite hardy plants and will grow well in large pots. 

There are two main types which can be grown in pots: Dicksonia and Cyathea.  

Of these two types Cyathea Cooperii is the most suited to pots and it will grow well in semi-shade to full sun positions. Dicksonia (or also known as woolly tree ferns) will burn in summer sun, where Cyanthea Cooperii are generally more sun hardy. 

The best climates to grow tree ferns are temperate, warm temperate and subtropical regions. Some will also grow well in cool temperate regions with protection from heavy frosts. 

Tree ferns can grow to a large size, spreading over 2m wide in good conditions. So, pick a spot with room for the fronds to expand. 

To care for your Tree fern: 

When planning where to grow your tree fern pick a spot which is semi-shade at best.  A little sun during the day will help them grow well and dappled sun is excellent. 

They usually look their best growing under large trees or on a shaded side of a house.  Generally the most sun hardy variety is Cyathea cooperii as it can grow from shaded spot right through to full sun exposure.  

It is most important that once you have found a good spot for your tree fern, then leave it in position. Tree ferns do not adapt easily to new conditions as they must adjust their foliage to the sun conditions. 

This usually involves the dropping of old leaf and the growing of new foliage to suit the light conditions. Once a new leaf develops in becomes adapted to the light conditions which prevail in that particular spot.  

When potting for your tree fern, make sure you choose a large broad pot. Due to the umbrella shape of the tree ferns, they have a tendency to blow over in strong winds. It is important to pot your tree fern with a very good quality potting mix as the plants like a good mix of drainage and moisture. 

Use a slow release fertiliser when potting your plants. Fertilise with a long lasting slow release or use a seaweed based NPK liquid fertiliser. The best time to fertilise your potted tree ferns is in spring and autumn. Liquid fertilisers can be used all year when used at the specified rate. 

Tree ferns make great large potted plants and can stay in pots for decades. If you no longer need your potted tree fern you can plant it, give it to a friend or sell it at a garage sale. They always remain popular and over the years can feel like dear friends.

This completes our latest piece on the best pot plants. Please see below for other articles that may interest you.

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