Ask A Plant Queen: What Are The Best Plants To Buy For Summer?

Welcome to Ask A Plant Queen, where with the help of Tula founder and bona fide plant expert Christan Summers, we'll answer every question you've ever had about the care, keeping, and presentation of houseplants. No need for you — or your pretty green pals — to thank us.
Question: Summer seems like a great time to get serious about collecting plants! We plan on soaking up the sun, keeping the windows open, and ducking out of the office early whenever possible — so, you know, more time to water said plants. Do certain plants do better in the hotter weather than other? What are some good plants to integrate into a home during summer?
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Answer: For most plants, summer is grow season, which means that plant owners get to experience the best part of living with plants – watching them grow, flower, and flourish. Good plants to integrate into your home during this season will always depend on the environment you live in, what sort of plant person you are, and your summer lifestyle.
For example, I love rare and unusual arid plants. Particularly cacti that have big blooms, succulents, and deciduous caudiciform plants. Our apartment is east facing, with a teeny balcony and big windows. Winter months are dark, and in the dead of winter we’ll only see about two hours of direct sun per day. Summer months however, we’ll see about 5-6 hours of direct sun. So during the winter months, my cacti are stagnant, the caudiciforms are completely bare (deciduous means they shed all their leaves during the winter months), and the succulents become super leggy and top heavy. But when summer rolls around, all these arid weirdos go out to that teeny balcony and bask in the morning to mid-day sun. The cacti bloom, the caudiciforms grow back lush foliage while thickening their beautiful caudex and I’ll cut down the leggy succulents so they can grow thicker and stronger stems. When the cold months roll around, everyone comes back indoors and we start the process over again.
I tell you this because you could also have a winter to summer routine by understanding your indoor and if you have it, outdoor environment. Which in turn will quickly point you to the direction of good plants to integrate for summer.
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Below, a few plants that will flourish this time of year, based on how much natural light your home gets.
For those with 5-6 hours of indoor summer sunshine:

Bird of Paradise (Stelitzia reginae):

This is ne of the most beautiful and fast growing tropical plants, which will grow well indoors with the right environment and care. During the summer months, the Bird of Paradise can push out 5-6 new fronds. And when the plant is mature, these fronds could be 3-4 feet in length and 2 feet wide. The Bird of Paradise is named for its unique orange and white blossoms that look like the bird of the same name – I’ve never seen one bloom indoors, so if you can make it happen, please send pictures!

Alocasia portora:

Another tropical stunner that grows massive leaves and will push out a half dozen new foliage per summer. The Alocasia is easily over-watered, so be careful to water only when the soil starts to dry out and know that the bottom leaves will always die off as new leaves grow. Over time, the plant will grow a woody stem that will harden the base, making the plant stronger.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica):

The deep burgundy leaves on these beauties make them a stand-out among the deep green of most tropical plants. I love the Ficus elastica. They are easy plants to grow once you get the grow and care conditions right. You could see anywhere between 6-8” of growth in one summer with good light, watering and feeding. They are also great plants for those who take long summer weekends as they don’t mind drying out a bit between watering, just as long as you give them a thorough soak when you return home.
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Fockea Crispa:

A deciduous caudiciform native to South Africa, the Fockea will grow a thick caudex base over time and will very much appreciate an outdoor space for the summer. It’s adapted the caudex to store water during winter droughts. I’d suggest caudiciform plants like the Fockea for plant enthusiasts and collectors who are okay with the deciduous habits of these plants. Other awesome caudiciforms are the Dioscorea elephantipes, Trichodiadema bulbosum, and the Pachypodium bispinosum.

Agave Lurida:

For those looking to add a desert vibe and structural lines, the Agave Lurida is a beautiful option. Harder to come by is the Agave attenuata, which is similar to the lurida with the most elegant foliage design. I love agave, as they are so, so easy to care for and can take the heat and drought if you’re a summer traveler.

Columnar Cactus (Cereus peruvianus):

This is an easy to come by cactus that will produce white blooms the size of your hand if grown in the right conditions. These cacti are also fast growers, so if you get the watering right, you could see anywhere between 6-8” of growth (maybe more) per summer.

Notocatus magnificus:

Also known as the ‘Balloon Cactus,” this plant has a low lying, clumping growth habit. When mature, you could have a dozen cactus heads that will all bloom vibrant, silky textured yellow flowers that will take your breath away.
For those with 2-4 hours of indoor summer sunshine:

Night Blooming Cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum):

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This is hands down one of my favorite specie of plant. It is an unassuming, fast growing epiphyte. In its natural habitat, an epiphyte attaches itself to other mediums like trees to reach more sun and moisture – orchids are epiphytes, for example. The Epiphyllum oxypetalum is an epiphytic tropical cactus that will bloom at night during the summer months. The blooms are magnificent – big, white blossoms the size of your hand that give off a sweet aroma. If you have a mature plant, you could see multiple blooms at once. But the flowers only last one night, so you have to stick around to see the show. Come morning, the buds will have already wilted.

Philodendron (any and all):

The philodendron grows under the canopy in its natural habitat so it has acclimated to cooler, lower light conditions. During the summer, they will also push out a number of new leaves. There are so many species of philodendron, but the most common are the Selloum (Hope), Cortadum (which is a vine), Prince of Orange (a beautiful, large-leafed hybrid), Philodendron ‘lemon-lime’ (for a kick of color) and many more. The philodendron are also good plants if you take longer weekends during the summer, as long as temps stay cooler in your home. If you’re a plant collector, there are quite a few unusual philodendron specie that you could grow indoors as well.

Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum):

Another easy and fast-growing plant. What I love about their summer growth are the offsets they grow. This is how they multiply in their natural habitat — the offsets will fall off the plant and root themselves. You can do this as well by simply cutting the pups when you see roots start to form and plant them in a new pot, back into the same pot with the mother plant, or gift them to a plant loving friend.
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Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa):

We know this holy plant well, Instagram has made sure of that. But a fun fact you may not know is the Monstera deliciosa is in fact a vining epiphyte. During the summer months, these beauties can easily grow a dozen new leaves and start to splay out and take over your living room. Something you can easily do is trellis the monstera, so it grows vertically instead of horizontally. And if you play all your cards right, you could someday grow the fruit, which I hear tastes like pineapple.
I could go on and on… especially for those with outdoor spaces as you can take advantage of the sun and witness blooms and fruits and weird growth habits, but I’ll stop here. Always feel free to reach out to us at Tula and we’re happy to talk unusual plants for outdoor, and indoor growth.

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