Nine of Martha Stewart's Unique, Beautiful Houseplants—Plus, a Look at How She Displays Each
Martha has too many hobbies and passions to count, but caring for her plants, she says, is the most gratifying. She grows them in her greenhouse in Bedford (the more striking and unusual, the better) and displays them throughout her home in unique ways. Here, Martha shares her current favorite plants—from knockout orchids to sculptural succulents to bountiful begonias—along with personal stories and pointers to help your leafy lovelies flourish and thrive.
Let's start with the showstopper: With chartreuse blooms bursting from giant stalks that can reach three feet in height, this diva (Grammatophyllum scriptum var. citrinum) demands the spotlight—and is here to stay. "It's long-lived," says Martha. "Two months can go by, and not one petal will drop." Her advice: Place it in bright light, and keep the growing medium (orchid bark) thoroughly moist at all times.
When it comes to feeding plants Martha's motto: You eat; your plants need to eat, too. Fertilize them during the growing season, which for most starts in March and ends in November. Fish emulsion is a great all-purpose option; just add some to your watering can once a month. Yes, it can smell a little, but the odor dissipates within a few hours.
For the ultimate wow factor, choose your container wisely. Terra-cotta is untreated and therefore porous, so these containers dry out faster than sealed ones and are great for succulents. Don't worry if white streaks or powder appear on their exteriors; these are harmless mineral deposits. (One of Martha's favorite brands is Guy Wolff Pottery.) Ceramic or glazed clay is available in a rainbow of colors. These pots have been sealed, so they hold moisture well and make excellent homes for thirsty ferns or selaginellas. And finally, cachepot, typically made from porcelain or china, are purely decorative. They have no holes, so keep your plant in a smaller pot with drainage (like the plastic one it came in from the nursery) and tuck it inside. To water, pull out the inner pot and let in drain before putting it back in.
Inspired to start your own green collection? Let's explore more of Martha's plants that enchant.
Spread the Wealth
Chinese money plants (Pilea peperomioides) are unfailingly generous. "Like a good investment, they multiply," says Martha, who often arranges them on dining tables because the leaves are shiny and bright. "Plus, they're not fussy—they'll grow in dim or bright light," she adds. The prolific plants send out offshoots that can be propagated when they reach two to three inches in height. (Martha loves to give the minis to kids.) Just clip one where it emerges from the soil, and nestle it into a small pot. Keep the plants in well-drained soil, and water only when it feels dry.
Look for Interesting Foliage
Martha was drawn to the "extremely weird foliage" of this easygoing houseplant (Peperomia caperata "Red Ripple"), which does well in part sun or shade and can even handle a little neglect, like if you forget to water for more than a week. While the grooved purple leaves are the main attraction, this cool character does produce flowers—in the form of spaghetti-like spikes—in summer and fall.
Focus on What You Love
"I'm hooked on hanging succulents, and am always looking for new ones to add to my collection," Martha says. String of bananas (Senecio radicans) is a relatively fast-growing variety that prospers in lots of sun and cactus-blend soil. Water only when the soil is dry.
Make Them Do Work
Don't be fooled by the graceful four-to-five-inch-long "pitchers" dangling from this beauty (Nepenthes alata): They lure, trap, and devour flies, ants, and small wasps. "It's important for them to have some water inside," says Martha. "I taught my granddaughter, Jude, how to fill each one with about an inch."
Find Their Happy Place
"My aunt Clementine had quite the collection of African violets, and displayed them in cabinets and glass boxes," recalls Martha. "She taught me how to carefully water beneath the leaves (to avoid spotting and rot), remove spent blooms with tweezers, and use manicure scissors to snip dead leaves. I still follow her advice today." For healthy results, let the top of the soil dry out between waterings, and put them in indirect bright light, like the windowsill in Martha's servery. This prominent placement is intentional, she says. "They're not happy someplace where you don't look at them all the time."
Keep an Eye Out
"Whenever I find a plant that is beautiful and odd, I buy it," says Martha, who picked up this uncommon cactus (Myrtillocactus geometrizans forma cristata, left) and rare euphorbia (Euphorbia lactea forma cristata variegata) years ago on a trip to Arizona. "I brought them home on the plane in my purse. They were smaller then," she says with a laugh. Keep them in a sunny spot in very well-drained soil (like a cactus blend mixed with some coarse gravel), and allow it to dry out fully before watering.
Low-Maintenance and Sculptural Is a Double Win
The literal translation of this no-fuss succulent's name (Euphorbia caput-medusae) is "Medusa's head"—no explanation needed. It won't turn you to stone, but its milky sap can irritate skin, so handle it with care; if you get some on you, wash it off immediately. "This plant is extraordinary and sculptural," says Martha, "and you can go away for a couple of weeks without worrying about it."
Much like its namesake, the rhizomatous Begonia "Martha Stewart" has flair to spare. Bred by Logee's nursery, where Martha loves to buy her begonias, it sports foliage in shades of chartreuse, orange, and bronze, and sprouts delicate pink flowers in winter. Since the roots grow horizontally, not vertically, plant these in shallow pots. Then give them moderate light, and let the soil dry out between waterings.