IN these modern times, as people seem to be separatingthemselves more and more from their vital connectionwith nature, it is possible to regain some of that linkby bringing plants into the living space.Plants bring warmth and life into dwellings, as wellas creating a peaceful ambience in homes. Decoratingwith plants also brings out creative talents and nourishesone’s caring instincts. Plants can be appreciated as livingbeings, instead of inanimate things.Even the humblest abode can be transformed into anatural palace with the help of ornamental plants, andmodern architecture with its cold, straight lines andempty spaces can be overhauled with plants to create ahumane environment. Some may already be “greenthumbs” when it comes to decorating with tropicalplants, while others may be just starting.The following will provide each plant lover with tipsfor more successful decorating and caring for tropicalhouseplants.When designing any interior decoration, youmight keep in mind the following: flowers, ferns andfoliage plants.FLOWERS provide color and variation over a limitedtime space, while ferns and foliage plants lend a constantbackground to your decorating theme with flowers.An orchid bloom may last only days or weeks, but it canbe displayed amidst a backdrop of tranquil green fernsand colorful foliage plants. Flowering plants can belikened to the actors on a theatrical stage, while the fernsand foliage plants are the stage props.Fortunately, the plant nursery business in Costa Ricahas grown tremendously and it’s possible to find anexcellent selection of these plants in practically everytown across the country.Many pueblos have several nurseries and may offerdifferent specialties in tropical plants. You’ll find nurseryshopping can be just as exciting as “malling” thesedays. It’s impossible for me to list all the wonderfulhouseplants that can be found in nurseries these days andmuch of what you choose will depend upon your ownpersonal preferences, but the box on the right suggestionsfor each of the friendly triad of plants I mentioned whichare available in many nurseries.The art of plant decoration with these three types ofplants involves mixing the cooler greens of the ferns andpalms with the brighter colors of flowers and foliageplants to create a contrast that is pleasing to the eye. Ifyou are interested in learning more about home decorationwith tropical plants, add these two books to yourhome library: “Garden in the Tropics” and “That TropicalLook” by Timber Press. Call 256-8251 for more info.Tips on caring for tropical ornamental plantsUsing plants as decoration indoorsrequires a certain amount of dedication tocaring for them. Without the proper care,plants can often perish in a week’s time.Here are a few tips to keep your plantshealthy and looking good.Light, Air, Water and SoilThe leaves of plants are much like solarpanels, which absorb the sun’s energy andstore it in the form of dextrose through theprocess of photosynthesis. Many annual floweringplants require full sun at least during themorning hours, while foliage plants and fernsprefer partial shade.Sunny windows and porches on the eastand southeast side of the house are the bestlocations for flowering plants, while foliageplants can be located in the shadier regionsof the home. It’s also beneficial to periodicallyclean the leaves of foliage plants, sinceaccumulated dust can interfere with theplant’s ability to photosynthesize.Air is also important in a plant’s growth.Ferns and foliage plants require humid air,while flowering plants often achieve bettergrowth in drier conditions, which preventsleaf diseases.Water is another important element. Forsome plants, such as ferns and foliage plants,their roots need a continual level of moisture.Misting these plants is beneficial for theirleaves. Other plants, like aloe vera and cacti,require watering only one or two times aweek. When purchasing plants at a nursery,ask the watering requirements of each plant.At home, set up a schedule for wateringyour plants that takes each plant’s needs intoconsideration. Once a month, soluble fertilizerscan also be dissolved into your wateringcan to feed your plants. Be sure to apply thecorrect fertilizer according to each plant’srequirements.As plants grow and age, their potting soilbecomes depleted of nutrients. To keep yourplants in good shape, change the potting soilevery year. Remove the old soil, prune backthe roots and, if possible, use a larger pot toinsure new, healthy growth. Most nurseriescarry prepared potting soil mixes or you cantry making your own with this recipe. Forevery wheelbarrow, add the following ingredients:1/3 of loamy soil1/3 of sand1/3 of peat moss or rice hulls1 quart of aged compost1 cup of lime, preferably dolomitic limestonePestsUsually indoor plants suffer from fewinsect pests and diseases; however, small,soft-bodied insects can sometimes become aproblem. Use a soapy water mix on yourplants to take care of these problems.Nurseries also carry friendlier, naturalinsecticides for your indoor plants. You willfind the product called KILOL, which is madefrom the extracted oil of grapefruit seeds, isan excellent preventive spray against plantleaf diseases. This harmless spray can beapplied once a month with a mister.Meet the Plants that Nicely Decorate Any HomeFLOWERSChrysanthemums – Known as Pomas in Spanish. Theyare at their peak of blooming at this time of the year andcome in an incredible array of color combinations.Orchids or Orquídeas– Theseplants tend to have their peak bloomingduring the dry season and requirea special shaded area outside thehouse during most of the year.Blooming orchids can be broughtinto the house as a center of your decoratingdisplay.Poinsettias or Pastoras – These famous plants bloomaround Christmas and into the dry season and come in brillantreds and yellows. Older plants can be transplanted outside.Petunias – These potted plantslend a colorful blend of blues, pinksand whites.Impatiens or Chinas – Pottedplants that bring a bright, cheery touchof colors and bloom much of the year.Christmas cactus or Bailarinas –These are lovely as hanging pottedplants with flowers in tones of red andorange.Gloxinia – Potted plants with velvet texturedflowers in reds and purples.Shrimp plant or Camarones – A perennialthat provides unusual flowers of yellowand white.Fuchsias or Gorriones – Try these hangingpotted plants that bring on blooms ofpastel rose.FERNSLeather-leaf fern or Metro y medio – A large fern withmeter-long fronds with leathery, coarse-toothed, heavy texturedpinnules. One of the most commonferns found in nurseries.Maidenhair fern or Aliento de niño – Adelicate fern with fan-shaped leaflets of afresh green color.Crisped blue fern – This fern has largebeautiful leaves of a milky-blue color.Bird’s nest fern – An unusual fern thathas shining green fronds that are erect.Staghorn fern or Cuerno de venado – Aspectacular fern with outward-thrusting,antler-forked light green fronds.FOLIAGE PLANTSAglaonemas – A very popular, hardy green and whitefoliage plant for home or office.Dracaenas – These are the mostcommon tropical foliage plants thatcome in a variety of colors andshapes. Warneckii, Marginata andMassangeana are common varieties.Crotons or Crotones – Thesefoliage plants add bright, warm colorsto any plant decoration scheme.Spider plants or Mala madre – An excellent choice forhanging baskets, this foliage plant has delicate, white andpastel green leaves and new plants that emerge from the tipsof the plant.Wandering Jew or Cucaracha– Another terrific choice asa hanging basket plant that has colorful leaves of purple andsilver hues.Ti plant or Cordelinia– This hardy potted plant hasshowy leaves of bright luminescent red, silver and green colors.Coleus – These plants are easy togrow and have practically an infinitevariation in colors and patterns.Figs or Ficus – A group of tallfoliage trees with wide, shiny green,rubbery leaves. The Benjamin fig hassmaller, green and white leaves thatare very popular as potted plants.Sansevieria or Lengua de suegra – These are the hardiestof indoor plants with long, spear-like leaves that come invariegated patterns of green, yellow and white.Palms or Palmas – To add a truly tropicaltouch to any decorating theme, palms are justthe right choice.Aloe vera or Sábila – Large potted aloescan create a cactus-like effect in your decoratingdesign, and they provide useful medicineas well.Schefflera – Alarge evergreen plant withshiny, palmate, compound leaves that adds aspecial tropical effect indoors.