Houseplant gardening is back in vogue. Just take a look at the latest White Flower Farm Christmas catalog. It features a whopping 36 varieties of tropical plants. (

Houseplants are the perfect accessory for the mid-century modern decor that’s all the rage. The plants soften the look and add texture as well as color. And university studies have found that houseplants clean the air while improving concentration, memory and productivity. They also have a healing effect and help folks mellow out. So what’s not to love?

Sadly, many folks pass on houseplants, having had a bad start when an impulse buy or a gift plant croaks after a couple of weeks.

Hot off the press is a great new book by my friend Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, who is known as the Houseplant Guru and grew up in rural mid-Michigan. Steinkopf’s “Houseplants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants” (Cool Springs Press, $30) is a great go-to bible for both new and experienced indoor gardeners that takes the mystery out of growing plants indoors. Its straightforward and easy-to-read format, lavishly illustrated with gorgeous photos by Lisa’s daughter, Chelsea Steinkopf, makes choosing and caring for these pieces of living art a snap.

In the maintenance section, which goes beyond watering techniques, Lisa covers how to make smart selections by choosing plants that are suited to your space and conditions – information you won’t find on a plant tag. The book includes more than 125 profiles and pictures of the most popular and cutting edge species and references hundreds more varieties and sub-species.

In the problem-solving section, Chelsea’s close-up photos of pests feeding away on the leaves of plants are worth their weight in gold. Properly identifying insects and other issues early on is a big key to success for any gardener.

At some point, like dirt gardeners, indoor growers may want to try their hand propagating new plants and Lisa covers the bases on several procedures. As certain methods work on some plants but not others, she includes the best method of propagation for each plant featured in the profile section.

A copy of “Houseplants” and a container garden would make a great housewarming or wedding gift, especially for those who marry later in life or the second time around and already have two of everything.

To find out more about Lisa Steinkopf, visit her blog,

Book signing: Lisa Steinkopf will be signing her new book from 12-2 p.m. on Nov. 11 at Goldner Walsh Garden and Home, 559 Orchard Lake Road, Pontiac.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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