Monday, August 30, 2010

List: Houseplants With Circular (or Nearly Circular) Leaves

It occurs to me that I could do these list posts differently: instead of telling you what that the criterion is and then listing the plants that fit it, I could give you the list of plants and have you tell me the criterion. Basically "$10,000 Pyramid" for houseplants.

I won't do it that way, because it'd screw with anybody trying to google their way to a list of plants that had the criterion in question. But it'd be amusing. To me.

This one was unexpectedly difficult: I anticipated that I'd find circular leaves all over the place, but actually there are very few. Many otherwise-promising candidates actually have leaves which come to a point at the tip (there's a reason why we call it "leaf-shaped"), or are a little a little too stretched-out to call "nearly circular," or whatever. An even larger number among the succulents had almost round leaves, but with a thick petiole connecting them to the stem (like Crassula ovata or some of the Aeoniums and Echeverias), so the overall shape was more spoon-shaped than circular, and I didn't count them. But so here's what I came up with:

Calathea rotundifolia.

Cissus rotundifolia.

Dischidia nummularia 'Pebble Beach.'

Peperomia obtusifolia variegata.

Pilea nummulariifolia.

Plectranthus verticillatus.

Polyscias scutellaria.

Saintpaulia ionantha cvv.

Saxifraga stolonifera.

Soleirolia soleirolii.

Perhaps to make up for the difficulty of finding a set of ten plants, the recommends are exceptionally easy for this list. Peperomia obtusifolia variegata, Saxifraga stolonifera, and Plectranthus verticillatus are all very easy and tolerant plants. Peperomia prefers somewhat warmer temperatures than the other two, and Plectranthus grows so quickly that it requires a little more maintenance, but they're all pretty easy, 2.0 or below on the PATSP difficulty scale.

The anti-recommend winds up being a tie between Calathea rotundifolia and Soleirolia soleirolii, both of which need a lot of moisture in the air and soil in order to grow well. Soleirolia works out well in terrariums, where it can spread out and form a mat. Calathea maybe would do well in a terrarium too, but it'd need a pretty big terrarium, as C. rotundifolia gets to be a big plant. recommends a spacing of 18-24 inches (46-61 cm) between C. rotundifolias when planted outdoors, suggesting that they can get at least that big across. Your average planted fish tank isn't going to be able to accommodate that.

Not pictured (please suggest others if you think of some):

Alluaudia procera, sort of (some specimens seem to have more of a tendency toward a teardrop or oval shape, but others have round leaves; this is maybe a difference in conditions, or possibly the plant is just naturally variable)
a few Begonia cvv. are kinda roundish, if not actually circular (especially the extremely spirally cultivars like B. rex-cultorum 'Escargot')
Breynia disticha 'Roseo-Picta'
Calathea makoyana, roseo-picta, and some other spp.
Coccoloba uvifera
Ficus deltoidea, barely (often more triangular than round, but there seems to be a lot of variation between specimens, and some produce rounder leaves than others)
Ficus pumila, barely (usually more heart-shaped or oval)
Hoya kerrii, very occasionally (much stronger tendency to be heart-shaped, though sometimes leaves will have less of a notch at the tip)
Hoya obovata, most of the time
Lemmaphyllum microphyllum, sometimes (often more oval or leaf-shaped)
Maranta leuconeura kerchoviana, sometimes (usually more oval: younger plants tend to have rounder leaves)
Muehlenbeckia complexa
Pellaea rotundifolia, frond leaflets
Peperomia argyreia
Peperomia 'Jayde'
Peperomia prostrata
Peperomia urocarpa
Pilea depressa
Pilea glauca
Pilea involucrata 'Norfolk'
Pilea microphylla? (leaves are nearly too small to really tell what shape they are)
Pilea peperomioides
Plectranthus amboinicus
Plectranthus ciliatus
Plectranthus oertendahlii
Polyscias balfouriana
Portulacaria afra
Senecio rowleyanus (More spherical leaves than circular ones, but close enough.)
Sinningia cvv.
Tropaeolum majus (Though nasturtiums are not very often grown indoors, and they're super-prone to spider mites when they are.)
Xerosicyos danguyi


ScreamingGreenConure said...

So any of the plants I like the look of demand humid conditions. I'm seriously considering getting a massive great fishtank and just planting it up, maybe one of those hexagonal ones,or going all the way and planting one for a crested gecko.

Lee said...

I think Muehlenbeckia complexa and Lemmaphyllum microphyllum have sufficiently round leaf to be included on the list.

Sixwing said...

Hmm. Most of my round-leaved plants, aside from the P. obtusifolia, are Hydrocotyle and Rotala sp. They live in a planted fish tank, alongside the fish. Do those still count as house plants? They're in the house, they're just underwater.

Those are probably outside the focus of this blog. =)

mr_subjunctive said...


I know the feeling. We saw a long, narrow aquarium that was probably 30-35 gallon at a consignment shop recently, and immediately I started imagining what I could plant in something like that. There are a lot of plants I don't bother with because I don't have the right conditions, and a terrarium would broaden the possibilities for me. Lack of space, money, and a lid for the aquarium kept my ambitions from getting too far out of hand, though.


I added both of your suggestions to the list, though a lot of the photos that came up for Lemmaphyllum microphyllum looked more oval or leaf-shaped: apparently there is a separate round-leaf form.

Muehlenbeckia was an interesting suggestion, as I tend to forget that it exists: it was one of those plants that was occasionally on the availability lists at work, but we never bought any, mainly because I was underwhelmed with the look of it when I looked it up on-line. So I don't have any experience with growing it indoors, nor do I know anybody who does.

mr_subjunctive said...


Probably not. I mean, aquatic plants have some pretty serious humidity requirements.

When I planted my aquarium (very bad idea, will never do again), I debated for a while whether to count the plants in it as houseplants, and eventually decided no, on the grounds that they weren't in pots, they didn't need to be watered, they couldn't really be moved around, and it was unclear how long they might survive.

They did better than I'd thought, but most of them grew a bunch of tiny, scraggly growth, then detached from the gravel[1] and floated around until they got caught in the filter. Also one of them brought in a population of snails that was kind of cute when it started but got a lot less cute once there were hundreds of them. There are only two plants left, and truth be told, I'd be happy if they went away too.


[1] Yeah, just regular aquarium gravel. You can tell I wasn't fully committed to the idea of having live plants in the aquarium in the first place. I just didn't want to mess with doing it properly.

Ivynettle said...

Pilea peperomioides, definitely. It's an odd plant, not just in looks, but also because (at least here) lots of people have it and nobody knows what it is - I only stumbled on the ID by coincidence, and I'm still giggling about this story: - the situation hasn't changed much, it's still passed from family to family, but impossible to find in stores, and even my vocational school had it tagged wrong.

mr_subjunctive said...


I don't think I've ever seen a Pilea peperomioides before, unless it was misidentified as something else. I suppose they could be widespread passalong plants here, like in Europe, but even the passalongs I can think of still get sold occasionally (Chlorophytum comosum, Plectranthus nummularius, Tradescantia zebrina, etc.). I'll have to keep an eye out.

sentient said...

I nominate the understory xerophyte known by the common name of Silver Dollar Plant, Xerosicyos danguyi.

Thomas said...

The first one that came to mind is Peperomia prostrata. At one time it was fairly common, I'm not sure why it's not popular anymore. Nice plant.

Ivynettle said...

It's really a shame we're on different continents, or I'd offer you my Pilea peperomioides - I'm planning to kill it anyway (nothing wrong with it, I only don't have enough light, and not enough space - something needs to die before it gets cold so I can move the holiday cacti back inside - and I can easily get a new one from my gran.)

mr_subjunctive said...


The different-continents thing is inconvenient.

Brett said...

I would add Hoya kerrii to the list. One of my favorites!

Ginny Burton said...

The picture of Dischidia nummularia is so different from your usual ones. All the other pictures are pretty, but this one has a romantic quality. It's as if we were peering past a beaded curtain into a private garden.

Are those all tiny potted plants on a white table? What a lovely composition, with the terra cotta pots in the lower right echoing the shape of the tiny pots above, and the green leaves of the Dischidia. Very handsome!

Rainforest Gardener said...

Ooh, what about mistletoe fig? I also grew sea grape as a houseplant and it did pretty well. Quick question... do you use a humidifier for your plants?

mr_subjunctive said...


Well, occasionally H. kerrii leaves are kind of roundish, but they're usually pretty solidly heart-shaped. There's always at least a little notch at the tip.

Ginny Burton:

I was actually, if I remember right, fairly disappointed with that photo when I first took it, because I was trying to get a clear image of the flower. Hadn't really thought about it compositionally before.

mr_subjunctive said...

Rainforest Gardener:

I don't, except insofar as they all act as humidifiers for one another. We tried it once during the winter about five or six hundred plants ago, when we were in a 2-bedroom apartment. It fogged our windows impressively, over and over, and the tank always needed to be refilled, but that's about all I remember about it.

Last year, in the house, we didn't humidify. The plants that most needed extra humidity and warmth lived in the basement. Even without humidifying, our windows fogged a lot.

Actually, now that I think about it, our windows have fogged sometimes this summer, too. (Dewpoint of 80F outside, thermostat set to 74F inside: condensation happens.)

Tigerdawn said...

I nominate Hoya obovata.

sentient said...

Hmm, how about spherical leaves like "String of Pearls", Senecio rowleyanus?

mr_subjunctive said...


It was already on the list.

sentient said...

There it is! It even has a special caveat. Mea culpa!

sentient said...

I was just watering and realized another of my peperomias has quite circular leaves and it's not on the list yet: Peperomia urocarpa which I obtained from Huntington Botanical Gardens nursery.