Naperville Living: Tropical plants make sunroom feel like Florida
By Angela Bender For The Sun February 7, 2013 6:06PM
Terry Ryser sits in the warmth of his sunroom in his Naperville home on Friday, Feruary 1, 2013. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:05AM
The sensation of the tropics is not what comes to mind when looking out the window of a Naperville home in the middle of winter. But Naperville homeowner Terry Ryser has found a way to overcome the long, cold feeling of a Midwest winter by creating a room filled with tropical plants.
“Wintertime I really want to see something green,” said Ryser who lives in the Stillwater neighborhood on Naperville’s south side. “I don’t have to get on an airplane and go to the tropics. It’s cheaper (to have tropical plants).”
Ryser did not set out necessarily to create a tropical room in his Italian-style house, but little by little kept adding a couple new tropical plants each year that interested him. Eventually the plants became the main focus of his sunroom, to the point that he now has about a dozen of them.
“I’ll see something I like and I’ll … find a place (for it in the room),” said Ryser, a retired teacher and coach. “If a plant does badly … I’ll throw it out and get something new.”
Every year about this time, he will make a trip to the Garfield Park or Lincoln Park Conservatory. He will write down the names of plants that interest him and then go to local garden centers and see if they carry them.
Liz Holmberg, owner of Lizzie’s Garden, a garden center and greenhouse in Naperville, says that most houseplants on the market are actually tropical plants, and are typically grown in Florida or other warm climates. She says the most popular tropical plant we see in the Midwest is Spathyphyllum; otherwise know as a Peace Lily. Other popular plants include Aglaonema, Dieffenbachia, Boston ferns, Crotons, Schefflera, rubber, Pothos, Neanthe belle palms, Areka palms, Calathea, Anthurium and ivy.
“Plants sometimes go in or out of favor, and plants which were plentiful at one time are now difficult to obtain commercially,” Holmberg said.
Part of the enjoyment of the tropical plants for Ryser is that they require little maintenance — a little water, fertilizer and clipping off the dead leaves. He has found the secret is that most need water infrequently but deeply.
Holmberg said when contemplating introducing tropical plants into a home, the biggest considerations include the light levels available in the home, areas in the home that might aesthetically benefit from having a plant, and the care in which the owner may, or may not, be able to give to the plant.
The home that Ryser designed and moved into 15 years ago is primarily covered in hardwood floors. But his sunroom has tile, which works perfectly for him in case there is a spill. And there are large windows throughout the room, which allows for maximum light, even in the winter, which is beneficial for some tropical plants, like Hibiscus, Crotons, Cefflera and rubber plants, according to Holmberg.
“Plants are like having guests in your home,” Holmberg said.
“After a while, you really get to know them, and their particular needs and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes, you’ll like them better after living with them for awhile, and the converse can also be true.”