Plants for a West Window

All windows are not created equal. Some plants fry fdin that quick-changing light and heat. Those on our list will thrive.

All windows are not created equal. Some plants fry fdin that quick-changing light and heat. Those on our list will thrive.

Jade tree (Crassula argentea) is well suited to big, quick shifts in light and temperature such as occur in a west window.

Jade tree (Crassula argentea) is well suited to big, quick shifts in light and temperature such as occur in a west window.

Foliage is a jade's best assett, yet jades will bloom once a year if they experience long nights and cool air in the fall. This one was outdoors into October where those conditions set it up to bloom after coming in for the winter.

Foliage is a jade's best assett, yet jades will bloom once a year if they experience long nights and cool air in the fall. This one was outdoors into October where those conditions set it up to bloom after coming in for the winter.

Flowers of a jade tree (Crassula argentea).

Flowers of a jade tree (Crassula argentea).

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is also called airplane plant.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is also called airplane plant.

A west window may offer a great view while presenting a challenge to plants. Many indoor/tropical plants leaf tips go brown or may be scorched or bleached as a result of a daily power shift from dim to bright, cool to hot. You might hang sheer curtains over such a window to moderate the effect -- if you don't mind giving up the view. Alternatively, you can take our advice to grow plants there that evolved in big-shift environments.

Recently, we helped a young lady eager to green up the only window in her first apartment with this list of our top plants for west windows.

Jade tree/bush (Crassula species)

These are succulent plants you'll recognize in an instant. Buy a tiny one and over the years it'll turn into a tree and an heirloom. There are some with leaves attractively ivory-streaked and gold-variegated. Avoid the weeping, dangling kinds, which tend to be sickly.

Jades also do us the favor of being easy to water. Simply wait until the leaves begin to wrinkle from water loss before watering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoes have pretty, glossy green leaves on dense plants. Once they begin blooming they can produce months and months of red, orange or yellow flowers.

There are also furry-leaf varieties, such 'Chocolate Soldiers'.

A heads up. It's correctly pronounced kal an KOH ee but even people in greenhouses will call it kal EN choh. It's an error that makes us smile, as that's how common names get started.

Jade leaves are plump when full of water. Don't water until they begin to thin or even wrinkle.

Jade leaves are plump when full of water. Don't water until they begin to thin or even wrinkle.

Kalanchoe will bloom for months.

Kalanchoe will bloom for months.

Kalanchoes come easily from cuttings. Here in a teacup pot, a young 'Chocolate Soldiers' kalanchoe from cuttings.

Kalanchoes come easily from cuttings. Here in a teacup pot, a young 'Chocolate Soldiers' kalanchoe from cuttings.

 

Spider plant (Chlorophytum)

This plant is so easy to grow that sooner or later most gardeners clip a dangling spider plant offset and grow it on as a new plant. Foolproof in almost every location, but its leaf tips may tend to brown in a west window.

 

 

Hoya

Hoyas have thick, waxy leaves of green or variegated gold, cream or pink. They are frequently grown as vining plants. Although they rarely bloom, when one does flower the scent is out of this world. We had one bloom pretty regularly for us, probably because it was on a sill that got very cold in winter -- down to about 50F most winter nights and rarely over 70F by day.

Hoyas are not only tough in big-daily-change environments but long lived. This one (right or below on your screen) vined around the window for decades after having moved with the owner from another long-term home.

Tip: Grow each of your houseplants in its own pot. To combine plants is taking a chance -- at right or below on your screen, the waxy round-leafed hoya will be fine in a west window but the ferns will fry.

Aloe

Aloes are well suited to west windows. We like growing the "true" aloe (Aloe vera) since we can then cut off leaves to use as burn cream.

Although people don't think of aloes as flowering plants because they don't bloom often or for a really long time, we've always loved ours for its flowers fragrant, greenish-white flowers.

Croton

Say it like it looks, CROH ton. The better the light, the brighter the leaf color... and they come in nearly unbelievable color combinations.

Crotons can be almost unnaturally bright colored. We've overheard people pointing out a gaudy variety like this and calling them artificial plants.

Crotons can be almost unnaturally bright colored. We've overheard people pointing out a gaudy variety like this and calling them artificial plants.

Fancy leaf begonia; a.k.a. Rex begonia

Rex begonias are elegant enough to compensate for the fact that you'll need to keep sheer curtains between plant and window. These aren't the waxy leaved, lumpish begonias people grow in pots and gardens in summer. These are fantastic things with leaves of all colors and sizes.

 

P.S. Pack it in air for the trip home

An important point that applies to any houseplant: Winter is not a great time of year to buy a plant unless you can transport it home inside a bubble of warm-ish air. We take along a sturdy cardboard box or a large paper bag, something large enough to enclose the whole plant. We stuff crumpled paper around the pot so it doesn't shift and crush the foliage, then tape the box closed so air is trapped inside.

If it's below 40F outside, don't buy an indoor plant from anyone who tells you it's okay to carry that plant home wrapped in a plastic bag. They may as well flash freeze the plant at the checkout line since plastic has zero insulating quality. Everywhere a leaf touches the plastic, it will be touching the frigid air.

More: Why to shop interior plants at a garden center or greenhouse

Knowledgeable staff, well tended healthy plants, help for you if you have care questions later... All great reasons to buy your plants from a garden center or greenhouse rather than a department- or home store.

Knowledgeable staff, well tended healthy plants, help for you if you have care questions later... All great reasons to buy your plants from a garden center or greenhouse rather than a department- or home store.