By Bodie V. Pennisi
Georgia Extension Service
Blending well with flowering potted plants, foliage plants make wonderful gifts. They add a remarkable variety of leaf sizes, shapes, textures and colors. Combined in dish gardens, small foliage plants offer delightful displays as instant miniature gardens.
So many species and cultivars of foliage plants are available now. And new ones are introduced every year.
Foliage plant breeders have focused on improving plants' appearance and performance indoors. Each year they select plants for qualities such as repeat flowering, increased disease resistance and tolerance to low light and temperatures. Some show spectacular displays of leaf colors, too.
Some winnersHere are some of the exciting, new foliage plants to look for in the garden center.
Aglaonema 'Red Gold' features green and yellow speckled leaves with very characteristic and unusual pink petioles. As with all Chinese evergreens, it can perform excellently indoors.
Anthurium 'Tropic Fire' features bright fiery-red spathe and white spadix. This new cultivar produces a full pot of rich, medium green, shiny foliage.
Calathea 'Silver Plate' features silver-green, glossy foliage, and long-lasting lighter pink flowers. One of the few flowering calatheas in culture.
Carludovica 'Jungle Drums' is a new plant species for the foliage trade. It's stemless, with rounded, fan-shaped, rich green leaves, usually cut in two parts. They resemble corrugated palm leaves but are much softer. Panama hats are traditionally made of a close relative of this plant.
Chlorophytum 'Fire Flash' has glossy-green, lance-head-shaped leaves with distinct, parallel veins and a bright coral petiole. The coral veins and petioles make a strong contrast with the leaves, while the small flowers are white in a dense, cylindric panicle partly hidden in the foliage. This plant is a close relative of the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) but has much larger leaves.
Dracaena 'Rikki' has foliage that produces graceful arcs of deep green, glossy leaves, with highlighted yellow bands in the center running the length of the leaf. It is a wonderful companion to all other dracaenas and does a credit to this genus of old favorites.
Homalomena 'Purple Sword' has spectacularly colored dark green and silver-marked leaves with contrasting dark purple on the undersides.
Polypodium 'Green Wave' has distinctive upright, dark green fronds. This new tropical fern grows as vigorously as a Boston fern.
Spathiphyllum 'Hi Ho Silver' is a variant of "Ceres," the European variety that blooms with a symmetrical shape. The leaf veins are lighter, compared to the rest of the lamina, giving the leaf a unique look of a subtle white web on a green background. This beautiful new cultivar resembles a gray-green Aglaonema.
Syngonium podophyllum 'Neon' has bright, new hot-pink foliage. This small plant branches freely and is perfect in large assortments or dish gardens.
(Bodie Pennisi is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)