Jim Shults on Front Porch Plants
Jim Shults, Shults Greenhouse and Nursery in Hot Springs Arkansas, is an expert in growing plants both indoors and out. During a recent visit Jim featured a few plants that work well on front porches.
This is a regular Ficus benjaminia, or weeping fig, that's used primarily as a houseplant. We like to use it as a porch plant or an outdoor sun plant just because it's much easier to grow in an outside environment than it is in the house. It doesn't drop leaves. You can get a topiary-type look with these, or you can have them in bush form. They're real adaptable to different conditions. But outside, particularly on a sunny porch that has a western exposure where it's hard to get things to grow, these are plenty tough; plenty heat tolerant. Ficus are much better outside than they are inside the house.
We also like to grow the Dracaena marginata outside. It's another plant that is use primarily as a houseplant. But out on a porch in a shady area you can get a cylindrical, tall look from this plant. They'll take on the Southwestern, spiky appearance of a yucca, but in a shady place.
Some other varieties that we like for porches that typically are inside plants are things like nephthytus, crotons and rubber plants. Things like Chinese evergreens and birds nest ferns are great for out on the porch. These are all primarily shady-area plants.
For a sunny environment on a porch, the two things that I probably like the most are hibiscus, which are very easy to grow. Just give them full sun and regular feedings and they will do great.
Caladiums are mostly thought of as a shade plant, but there's a few varieties like 'Red Flash' or 'Aaron', that make a great full-sun plant - very easy, no blooms to shed. A lot of people like that because any type of flowering plant that sheds on a porch sometimes can cause problems, but caladiums do great, last all summer, sun or shade -- sun for only some varieties.