plants in a restaurant

helen4December 17, 2008

My daughter-in-law is opening her own restaurant and she has asked me to help her find plants for a planter that occupies her entrance lobby. It has some light from the east but it won't be a lot because of surrounding buildings and the fact that the planter itself is not directly next to a window. The usual cast of character come to mind, but aspidistra and company are kind of boring. Any ideas?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, the reason the usuals are the usuals is because those are the plants that can put up with bad conditions for a long time without complaint: she may not really have many options for a spot like that (at least, not without adding supplemental lighting or something: some distance away from a partly-obstructed east window is not much light to work with). It would also help to know what sorts of temperatures are involved: near a door that's constantly opening and closing, in a cold climate, is not ideal for a lot of plants.

With that said,

I am an unabashed fan of Dracaenas. Or maybe I'm a little abashed. Sometimes. If you can keep the staff from overwatering and keep the customers from dumping drinks in them, lots of Dracaenas will work very well for a long time in a darkish spot, though they may get cold damage if they spend a lot of time below about 60F/16C. There are some very pretty ones out there now; I'm particularly fond of Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckei' and 'Lemon-Lime.' D. fragrans 'Massangeana' (corn plant) is pretty sturdy as well, and there's a Dracaena called 'Riki' (sometimes 'Rikki') that seems to like a little more light than the others, but would probably also work. D. deremensis 'Art' and 'Janet Craig' are more subdued, plainer plants that are nevertheless often nice. I don't recommend D. marginata (dragon tree), because in my experience they want more light than people generally give them, they're very easy to overwater, and they have a tendency to look kind of thin and sad as they age. I also don't recommend D. sanderiana (ribbon dracaena, "lucky bamboo"), though that's personal: I just don't think they look very good over long periods, even when they're cared for well.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant) and Sansevieria trifasciata are also very tolerant, pest-resistant plants that are not good with cold and are easily overwatered.

I really like Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen), though they will, given two or three years, lose leaves at the bottom and need to be cut back or replaced. The older varieties are extremely intolerant of cold; some of the newer ones are supposed to be better though I can't say I've tested this. They need more water than the others, but not a lot more: leaves will yellow and drop if they're watered too often, but they can get fairly dry without serious consequence.

Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm) is supposed to be a good, easy, low-light plant, but they're prone to spider mites. Even when they're not getting spider mites, they've never behaved very well for me personally.

Aspidistra elatior and A. lurida you mentioned, so I assume you know them well enough that I don't need to say anything more.

Monstera deliciosa (split-leaf philodendron, swiss cheese plant) is okay with moderate light, not so much low light. The leaves are unlikely to split in a low-light situation, but they should still be fairly large, enough to be decorative, and they're generally easy to maintain. They do need something to climb, but if they get overgrown they can always be cut back. Best above 60F/16C.

Philodendron hederaceum (heart-leaf philodendron) and Epipremnum aureum (pothos) are both vining, trailing plants that are easily grown indoors; I personally find Philodendron the easier of the two but the entire rest of the world seems to have a better time with Epipremnum. Philodendron may be the better choice if there are likely to be a lot of "helpful" people trying to water the plant; Epipremnum is better if people are likely to forget about the plant. Neither are very good below 60F/16C, but they'll take it for a while. Both species are available in a lot of cool color varieties, Epipremnum particularly.

Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant) is another one that's really not a low-light plant, but that would probably do well in this situation. They're better about cold (to 50F/10C), relatively pest-free, and handle a range of moisture levels, though they will develop burnt leaf tips if not flushed out regularly, and they have nostalgic, 70s-era associations for a lot of people: appropriate if the restaurant is going to be a homey, retro, diner-type experience, but not what an upscale, sophisticated restaurant is going to want.

Spathiphyllum spp. (peace lily) is a good choice in a lot of ways (minimal pests, shockingly cold-tolerant, low-light is fine), but people do have difficulty with the watering: ideally, you want to wait until the plant is just beginning to wilt from lack of water (it holds its leaves differently; it's easy to see if you're watching for it), and then soak the plant. What everybody tries to do instead is water in little bits all the time, which usually ends up with the plant being overwatered, which it signals with black leaf tips and edges. It's also not very likely to flower in these conditions, though some cultivars are better about that than others and the flowers aren't all that great compared to the foliage anyway. There are some cool cultivars now that don't look like the usual peace lily: 'Domino' is green with white variegation and a bumpy leaf texture; 'Golden Glow' is chartreuse, and there's a cultivar I don't know the name of that's got silvery foliage. It can be a nice plant, though people tend not to treat them well, and they're a bit overdone.

Clivia miniata is hard to find (around here, anyway) but makes a nice, cold-tolerant, dark-green foliage plant. Better with good light, they'll handle low light okay. They have differing water needs at different times of year, which may be too much to try to keep up with, and mealybugs like them.

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem' is tolerant of low light and isn't terribly attractive to pests, but they haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate cold, and I have still not figured out how mine wants to be watered (after having it for a year and a half).

Hedera canariensis (Algerian ivy) and H. helix (English ivy) might work: the light and temperature wouldn't be a huge problem, but they're very attractive to spider mites and mealybugs, and English ivy has enough of a problem with spider mites that I've given up on it entirely.

Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy, oakleaf ivy) is similar to the Hederas, in that it's cold-tolerant and attracts spider mites, but it's a better plant for me than either of them. More light is better, but moderate light is acceptable. Best if given something to climb.

Ficus elastica (rubber plant) is borderline, depending on how much light you have. Given consistent care over a long period, they can become very nice plants, though they get leggy without enough light. They can be cut back if necessary. Spider mites are occasional problems; temperatures can go down to about 50F/10C, though that's debated. They're also kind of retro-cool plants, though in this case they have more 1950s associations.

Ophiopogon planiscapus and O. japonicus (mondo grass) will grow indoors in lowish light, though not particularly quickly. I have a couple types at home, and they seem not to have big pest issues, and they're fairly tolerant about over- and underwatering. Some of the ones in the greenhouse at work have gotten burnt leaf tips when exposed to the hot air from the heaters for long periods, but cold air doesn't seem to be an issue. The only real down side I can think of is that they're likely to be hard to find at this time of year.

Other suitable plants probably exist, but that's as many as I can think to recommend at the moment. Hopefully there are at least a couple ideas in there of interest.

Some people may try to tell you that Dieffenbachia spp. (dumb cane) are good low-light plants, but those people are wrong. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between Aglaonema and Dieffenbachia, which probably accounts for some of the confusion.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 9:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you so much, Mr. Subjunctive! I have a lot to work with now. I am planning to revisit the restaurant to get a better read on the light. Do you have any experience with escargot begonias? I have seen them in a dark, shiny green and a silver and green variety, but I am not sure how they would do if it got too cool or drafty. I am thinking of several pots of good foliage and interspersing with brightly colored flowering plants that will be changed with the season.Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 8:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mr. Subjunctive, as for Sans, I've seen sans being grown in fairly cold grocery stores (Mid-fifties? High-forties?) in town without any problems that I could see. Although plantfiles says they're hardy to 30 degrees which seems a bit cold. I've gotten a lot of conflicting information on just how much cold they can take, so I'm not really sure if it varies by cultivar or what.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 2:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've had one personally go through a winter with me on a fairly cold, bright, dry porch (I was also living on the porch at the time -- long story), where the temperatures were pretty regularly down into the high 30s (F) at night, and maybe on a good day up to around 55-60F. Not only did we both survive, the plant actually flowered during the ordeal. So I know it's possible to do.

On the other hand, I've also seen plants start to fall apart after cold exposure. I don't know if it has to be a combination of things, like cold+wet or cold+dark, but since some websites say they're touchy about it, and since I've seen it sometimes myself, I tend to err on the side of caution when advising other people.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 8:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

On the subject of sans, I saw a bunch of different types the other day and they were interesting looking. More fleshy, than the old reliable standard sp. I will look into them. I have decided to try some of the low light specials and brighten them up seasonally with brightly colored flowering plants that won't last a long time, but will add color interest. Thanks for the help! Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 10:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In a restaurant, you want to have as clean a facility as is humanly possible.
Now it is nice to have real living plants to decorate a space with.....but since plants also are associated with would be nicer for patrons to be assured the flying insect is not one that was invited in.

So to that, why not consider artificial. They look as good, or even better, than any houseplant that you can name.
Some, that flower, can be made to flower year round.

The benefits are many. They never need watering, they don't invite bugs, they never need proper lighting, they always have a sheen to their leaves...albeit they do draw dust.

Patrons might touch the leaves and wonder whether they are real...but...most cases, you cant tell the difference.
Another benefit is you can buy any size of plants that can best fill a space and give the restaurant a much better decoration.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 4:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hate it when I click on the wrong link and wind up in the Artificial Plants Forum.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 5:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't worry Mr. S. I am not planning on going artificial. I agree about the clean and insect-free atmosphere, but plants can help clean the air and they should be carefully monitored for signs of trouble. I have been snow-bound for a few days, but we should resolve this situation soon!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 6:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well Helen, as you describe the location of such a plant, you had better get out your crystal ball for a plant that will suffice.....and not die on you...rather on your daughter-in-law and once it starts any patrons who notice when they first enter, might just turn around and find some more suitable place to dine.

Plants....all plants, need light and in winter receive very little. If the location in the restaurant is bereft of light -- even low light---then you are not doing your d.i.l. any favor.
Better you think twice about putting such a plant into such environment.

While there are plants with low light requirements, they still have to be given what light keeps them alive.
The way you describe the location---

I repeat, artificial plants look good, and isn't that what is wanted.

Its too bad you hooked onto a site that people who care less about a living plant and will profess that any plant will overcome their deficiencies and will live and prosper in any environment given them.

To that Helen, its your buck and a half--gullibility is not returnable.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 4:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Come on Jeannie,

"Its [sic] too bad you hooked onto a site that people who care less about a living plant"

If you don't care for this site, don't come here & don't participate w/ us/this. What's the point of doing so only to disparage us as somehow not coming up to your standards?

Ill will seems particularly unwelcome at the holiday time.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 7:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This thread has become more and more interesting. First of all, artificial plants can be attractive, I agree. I use them for wreaths and crafts occasionally when it is appropriate. I would not use them, say, on gravestones at Memorial Day. That really drives me wild! At my dil's restaurant, we will have to experiment and see what happens. Jeannie, thank you for your advice and pirate girl, Rock on!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 7:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Believe it not I was only thinking of what would be ideal for the location in the restaurant.
Many such places have living's offices, dentist's, and yes, restaurants. But as you describe Helen the amount of light that the plant would receive doesn't speak well of its living to a ripe old age.

The exposure is in itself wrong for a plant - especially at this time of season and when put together with a low intensity from its placement, two strikes are on the plant.

Let's hope you choose wisely - at least, one that has a chance of bearing up to its environment.

Merry Christmas and the best to all in the New Year.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 11:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mentha(9 CA)

If the planter is large could you go with spot lights facing up into the plants? or lights from the ceiling facing down? This would also help keep them warmer to a degree. You really haven't told us if the lobby is inclosed or not, this could help with decisions.

When we lived in TN they had all sorts of Wandering Jews planted in planters, boxes, and hanging coir baskets outside. I never knew that Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida) was a houseplant until joining GW thirteen, or fourteen years ago (has it really been that long ago? when Spike still owned it and it was still small enough for him to send out birthday cards.) I'd never seen it sold in CA and never seen it inside in Tennessee.

I would also look into hardy ferns. There are some which live up in Northern CA which take snow every year and look fine afterwards. You could suppliment with blooming plants. Begonias would not survive in a low light situation, you'd end up with sick and unhappy plants. You could try hardy or scented geraniums, they take a lot of abuse. Even colorful Hostas would be better than plastic plants. You could also go with a couple nice Epiphyllum oxypetallums. I've seen these grow in north, south, east, and west windows. Tennessee was also the first place I had an epi. Most of the bloomers you'd have to rotate in order to keep them nice looking, but there are still a lot of plants which could survive well in such a spot.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 1:39PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Has anybody seen the micro ZZ Plant "Zamicro"?
They are a smaller amd more compact cultivar of the...
Can anyone ID this tree?
It's about 8' tall, a normal 'tree shape'. We got it...
Only 1/2 of a schefflera remaining...
4 years ago, I adopted this schefflera from a bank...
Mini garden
A long time ago I started working on this mini garden,...
Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL
Question on pot-up house Azaleas
I have no problem growing florist Azalea as a houseplant....
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™