10 houseplants that aren't your usual houseplants

houseplant collage
© Various / TreeHugger

Think outside of the houseplant box with these unique ways to bring some green indoors.

It's the houseplant era (again) and that's just fine with us. Having plants in the home has distinct health benefits, and the aesthetic perqs are hard to beat. We're all for plants! And while we may be smitten with all the darlings vying for attention on social media, we're also all for the wonderfully quirky choices beyond strings of pearls and money plants. Consider the following:

Succulent in a cork planter

Succulents are stoic little guys and don't need much in terms of soil or water, which is why using up old corks and making wee little planters is both completely practical and irresistibly cute. And you can add a magnet to the back and have living magnets if you like. Here's a how-to: Core out the cork without coring all the way through, decorate to your liking, add a little soil that the plant came with and some water, add a sprig of succulent, water every week or two, voila.

Quirky plants for the houseplant-averse

If you suffer from a fear of houseplants, say hello to the darlings of the cool crowd: air plants! Native to drier climes ranging from the southeast to South America, there are more than 730 types of plants within the Tillandsia genus. And they are likely the world's least demanding houseplant – like the Pet Rocks of botany. They don't need soil – so they can be scattered about here and there and everywhere in between – nor do they need that much water as they get most of what they need from the air. Just find a cute place for them and let them do their thing.

Look for air plants at your local nursery, florist or hipster home boutique. See more here: 10 enchanting facts about air plants.

Little desert worlds

Combining two trends into one, the appeal of succulent terrariums is illustrated by the volume of how-to guides online, like this one from the Washington Post. But even though they all call for an open vessel (as opposed to the closed ones used in traditional terrariums), the folks at Cacti Guide still propose that the glass walls likely create too much moisture. They give their expert advice in the right way NOT to build a succulent terrarium.

Marimo moss ball friends

This special green algae (Aegagropila linnaei) is known as Marimo (meaning "ball seaweed") in Japanese, but is often simply called a Japanese moss ball around these parts. I just think of them as little friends. They are easy to care for, requiring only room temperature tap water (changed weekly) and some light. They grow up to about 1/4 inch per year and can get pretty big, like up to a foot in diameter. Cutie pies. They are popular amongst the aquarium set, but make for a lovely ball o' green without fish too. Look for them at nurseries, aquarium stores or online.

Forced bulbs

Convincing flower bulbs to bloom indoors is a trick we humans have been performing for centuries. Forcing tulips and hyacinths were such the rage in 18th-century Europe that special vases were designed for just such the purpose. There are many, many kinds of bulbs that take to forcing; most commonly you will likely see hyacinth, paperwhites, tulips and amaryllis, though there are others. The procedure is simple, but varies with the type of bulb and vessel you chose to use. Old House Gardens is one good source for heirloom flowering bulbs; check their guide here for more. Once they start to bloom, brace yourself for a rush of Spring color and fragrance. Total intoxication.

Bonsai

Unlike many of the options presented here – plants that are relatively easy in the care department – adopting a bonsai tree is an exercise in patience and craft. The ancient Japanese art is a commitment and requires things like trimming, pruning, clamping, wiring, grafting and defoliation. It truly is an art ... and oh the rewards. Like, for example, the key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) bonsai tree, pictured above, which was nurtured into its "windswept" shape by Kazuo Fujii. If you're looking for a new creative hobby, and one that provides you with beautiful tiny trees, look no further.

Teeny tiny planters, big impressions

Wearable Planter© Colleen Jordan
Created by artist Colleen Jordan, this collection of wearable planters are generally intended to be worn as a necklace of lapel pin; but there's no reason they can't be strung about the house. I'm so smitten with these delightful dollhouse designs, I want to wear them and use them as decor. See more here: Wearable planters turn live plants into jewelry.

Orchid in a jar

At best there's something a bit Harry Potter about an orchid in a jar; though depending on the selection of jar and orchid it could become downright Edward Gorey in a beautifully dark Victorian kind of way. However you chose to display one of these exotic beauties, you can start with these smart tips from the American Orchid Society.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Culinary herbs kind of get the short end of the stick. We buy and use them so frequently that some of us forget they are actually really pretty little plants, aside from the flavors they bring to food. Having a stash of them on hand, living in a pot on the kitchen windowsill, is such a gift. Not only do they offer all of the health benefits of houseplants, but when snipped and added to a meal they proffer further salubrious advantages.

Little garden in a light bulb

Light-bulb moment! What to do with old light bulbs? Fill them with a garden in miniature, of course. This idea has been floating around the re-use and cute-craft circles for years, but it's so quaint that there's no reason it should be canned anytime soon. Not only does it provide a noble retirement for an out-of-commision bulb, but the ensuing creation creates a small little globe with microcosmic resonance.

Lloyd wrote about them long ago, yet still just as relevant: Creative re-use: Turn a light bulb into a terrarium.

For more ideas on plants, see related stories below.

10 houseplants that aren't your usual houseplants
Think outside of the houseplant box with these unique ways to bring some green indoors.

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