Looking to style Insta-worthy shelves? Be sure to include a houseplant — and make it cute. Here are some darling plants, ranging from charming to quirky, that are ideal for creating a lovely display no matter the size of your shelf space.
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1. Watermelon Peperomia
When you first see a watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia), you are very likely to say: awwwww! All Peperomia species are darling, and the watermelon variety is utterly adorable, with green leaves striped with silver, similar to a watermelon rind. The plump oval leaves are pointed on one end and grow in on reddish-purple stems. These small houseplants are lush, but usually stay below eight inches tall and are as easy-care as succulents when kept in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
These plants like medium to bright indirect light, but keep them out of the blaze of direct sun. Well-draining potting soil is a must, loamy is ideal. Add some water when the top inch of soil is dry, and mist the leaves from time to time to up the humidity.
2. Purple Shamrock
Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis) is an exotic looking plant with triangular leaves in such a dark shade of purple that they can appear black. The leaves move like sunflowers to face the light, then fold up at night. Extremely decorative on their own, the leaves contrast well with their tiny, delicate flowers in baby blue, white, or lilac.
Growing from bulbs, these plants are as easy to grow as they are to love. They make few demands, enjoy bright, medium, or low light and don't mind an irregular watering schedule. Rotate the pots from time to time to give every leaf its share or rays.
3. Pinstripe Calathea
The pinstripe calathea (Calathea ornata), is an uber-ornamental houseplant that looks adorable as part of a houseplant shelf. As is true with most calatheas, the pinstripe calathea's claim to fame is its striking leaves. They are a dark bottle-green dashed evenly with pale pink stripes, each leaf arching gracefully on its own long stem. The undersides of the leaves are an appealing shade of purple.
Despite its fancy patterning, the pinstripe calathea makes a great houseplant for beginners as well as experts. It grows happily in almost any type of indirect light, from bright to low, and its leaves close up when it's dark. Place it on a pebble tray to increase the humidity levels and keep the soil consistently moist.
4. Zebra Plant
Here's another stand-out succulent that's cute as a button: Zebra haworthia (Haworthiopsis fasciata). This delightful little succulent makes a very attractive small houseplant with its low-growing rosette of fleshy green leaves. The outside of the leaves have horizontal pearly bands, giving them a "zebra" stripes. It grows to 6 or 8 inches high.
These distinctive plants are as easy to grow as other succulents. They like bright indirect light and adequate moisture in the summer. Winters they need less water.
5. African Violet
The African violet (Saintpaulia spp) is among the cutest and most popular of houseplants. The first specimens arrived from Germany in the 1800s, sporting bright jewel-tone-purple blossoms above round, fuzzy leaves. However, since then, hundreds of cultivars have been developed and you can find African violets with different colors of flowers, single and double blossoms and widely varied leaf shapes.
Although they have a reputation as fussy, African violets will thrive indoors in bright, warm, and humid conditions. Keep the soil moist but not wet, and don't let water splash on the leaves since it leaves brown spots.
Buy now: Plants.com African Violet, $29.99
6. Flaming Katy
If you think of succulents as foliage plants, you aren't in on their biggest secret: the amazing flowers that some produce. (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is a case in point. It's an utterly adorable succulent with easy-going ways, asking only a warm location, some indirect sun and superior drainage. Its fleshy, green leaves have scalloped edges and a glossy look.
Flaming katy transforms from small succulent to superstar when its flamboyant flowers appear. At random times during the year, flaming katy suddenly offers a lush display of blazing blossoms, each with four small petals. They are traditionally a blazing red, but you can also find them also available in salmon, white, orange, and yellow. The flowers form a curved crown and bloom for up to six months.
Buy now: LilyParadiseFlowers Flaming Katy Plant, $10
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.