The Gift that keeps giving

The Gift that keeps Giving
Indoor plants today provide style to the home. Indoor plants provide a transition from nature to our domestic living space. Indoor plant arrangements in diverse and creative containers have gained popularity. As opposed to being innocent living defenseless and sympathetic individuals stuck in a corner, today’s indoor foliage breathes life into a home. Indoor plants help clean the air, provide oxygen and brighten our spirits. This can be done in a stylish way. It wasn’t always that way.

Foliage plants like these Sanseveria (pictured) are a welcome and healthy addition to any home!
Foliage plants like these Sanseveria (pictured) are a welcome and healthy addition to any home!

Years ago indoor gardening meant a Ficus, Dieffenbachia or Dracaena plant stuck in a corner losing half its leaves in winter. A token Fern basket would hang deprived of the humidity it needed because of dry furnace air and then maybe a Christmas cactus and an African violet on the windowsill. Today Orchids, Tillandsia, Succulents, Herbs, Fiddle leaf Fig, Sanseveria, Palms and more to name a few have become main stays of the stylish indoor garden.
If you are prone to an eclectic mix of plants I have a suggestion. Most people tend in this direction because most plants are purchased without a plan. Inspiration and impulse influence our plant purchases. That’s OK because a mix of textures and sizes in plants gives depth to your décor. I would pay attention and make investment in the containers, the “homes” for your houseplant friends. A good quality container has enough space for roots to grow and allows for drainage. A good quality container also adds to the style of your interior plant arrangement. With a variety of colors, textures and forms to your plants you can unify your living space by coordinating the containers. Even though the plants are varied, a consistent style and color of container in various sizes can unify or pull the whole décor together. As a matter of fact, I recommend for the interior what I recommend for our outside landscape. Monocultures are not a good idea. When a problem develops it spreads like fire in a monoculture. Diversity is a good thing. Celebrate it with your plants and visually tie them together with a consistent planter theme.
Finally don’t forget about Poinsettias to add color to our indoor plants in December. Today’s varieties of Poinsettia are colorful with long lasting bracts. They like other houseplants don’t like cold drafts. Don’t place them near heat registers, room temperature will do just fine for them. Don’t overwater them (too much water is the number one killer of houseplants) and make sure to provide drainage if they are foil or deco wrapped in a fancy pot cover.

Proper care for Poinsettias...don't over water and avoid cold drafts
Proper care for Poinsettias…don’t over water and avoid cold drafts

Indoor plants are our friends and help bring an interior space to life. They truly are the gift that keeps giving.

Bon Foliage My Friend

Bon voyage as we begin our journey into a new year. The New Year provides a fresh start often accompanied by resolutions to live healthier. How about adding a natural inexpensive air purifier to your home or landscape?

Ficus Elastica
Ficus Elastica

How about something that will improve your mood and just might enhance your productivity? Well then it’s Bon “foliage” as we begin our New Year. Talk about functional decorating! Style with a purpose! You’ll find the benefits of some well placed houseplants will grow on you!

My good friend split leaf Phil O’ Dendron

Cleaner indoor air decreases stress and noise reduction enhances your productivity. In our enclosed sealed tight spaces for winter, plants create oxygen and remove CO² as well as connecting you with the outdoors improving your mood.
Who would think the Space Station would teach us the benefits of clean indoor air? It makes “scents” when you think about it. Astronauts can’t throw open a window when the air gets stale and often neither can we in the middle of winter. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration conducted the NASA Clean Air Study to demonstrate the effectiveness of particular plants to purify air. That’s one small “Schefflera” for man, one giant “leaf” for mankind. Homes are more insulated and efficient today making it easier to trap indoor air pollutants.

Breath easier....Go Foliacious!
Breath easier….Go Foliacious!

We often don’t think about indoor air pollution and the seemingly harmless nature of its many sources. Aside from the obvious Uncle Ernie and his cigars or that smoking casserole on the stove, pollutants indoors can come from things like glues and adhesives, insulation materials, carpets, chemicals in household cleaners, paint and pressed wood products.
Here are some favorite easy to grow Houseplants to clean your indoor air:
• Pothos
• Philodendron
• Peace Lily
• English Ivy
• Dracaena
• Ficus Elastica or Lyrata
• Snake Plant
• Chinese Evergreen
• Spider Plant
• Aloe Vera
• Anthurium
• Bamboo Palm
• Oakleaf Ivy

One very popular houseplant today is Ficus Lyrata better known as fiddle leaf fig.

Fiddle leaf fig or Ficus Lyrata
Fiddle leaf fig or Ficus Lyrata

Unique large leaves and relatively easy to grow…..this houseplant is trending as a must have for your interior decor.

“Lettuce” make this a good year and I say some well placed purposeful foliage can do just that. Bon “foliage” my friends!

Detox your home

Detox diets are popular with a New Year’s arrival. I did one this winter. Not sure if it worked but I learned a lot about myself. You have a lot to think about on those “cleanse” days when you are just drinking liquids. Primarily how much you like Pizza. I personally think fresh air and exercise are a key factor to good health. The problem in winter is we spend a large share of our day indoors. Think about it….between home and work many people spend 80%, 90% or more of their day indoors in winter. Our houseplants are also “prisoners” indoors in winter. Dry furnace fed air with no fresh air through the windows can get things rather stale. Aside from elevating your mood or calming you, plants can also raise the humidity in a room which is good when the air is dry.

My good friend "Phil"-o-dendron
My good friend “Phil”-o-Dendron

Houseplants can also have a pulling effect on airborne toxins. Studies by NASA have found that indoor plants can eliminate some toxins in the air including formaldehyde, benzine, carbon monoxide and even act as dust collectors. I have a list of prime air cleaning plants that I have mentioned on my radio show….here’s the list!

  • Areca Palm (I said “Areca” not “Eureka” which some people might exclaim when they are able to actually keep the plant alive)
  • Mother-in-law-tongue (Yes that’s what they call it because most people can’t remember it’s real name Sanseveria. This plant is virtually indestructible)
  • Spider Plant (Unless you have a phobia about spiders)
  • The Golden Pothos (this is not an all you can eat buffet but a great easy to grow vining houseplant in many variegated variations)
  • Aloe Vera (not a waitress in a bad sitcom, this plant is great to have in the kitchen for “owwies”)
  • Peace Lily (not the goofy lady next door who still smokes her herbs instead of using them in her cooking)
  • Dracaena (not a dance craze but a colorful “spikey” plant that comes in many variations.
  • Purple Waffle (not a place you have breakfast, it’s called Purple Waffle because Hemigraphis is too tough to remember)
  • Philodendron (my easy going good friend Phil O’ Dendron. There are color variations, split leaf varieties, floor plants and hanging vines)
  • English Ivy (a spot of tea anyone?)
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica at one time it’s latex was used to make rubber)
  • Money Plant (see money does grow on trees….said to bring good luck)

Relax…..you’re among “fronds”

I love foliage houseplants. Sure there is the practical side to them, from aesthetically filling space to cleaning indoor air. They are nature’s oxygen generating and filtration system for our indoor living spaces. When our windows and homes are sealed tight for the frigid winter months they improve the quality of our air as well as our visual landscape. January is a long month and if you’re not into winter sports or shoveling the driveway you’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors. You’ve got a friend in foliage. With some light and a little bit of care foliage is the gift that keeps giving year around. I like to talk to my plants. For some that might feel strange but remember the carbon dioxide from your breath can be converted into oxygen by these nature’s miracles.

Foliage Houseplants brighten a room and clean the air
Foliage Houseplants brighten a room and clean the air

An understanding is needed to successfully grow foliage in our Michigan homes in winter. First of all remember that foliage plants are native to tropical areas. That means they don’t appreciate cold drafts. No I’m not talking about beer I’m talking about drafty blustery doorways. They also do not like being near heat sources like a furnace vent. The dry indoor air is unlike their environment in the tropics. A brightly lit window in a cool part of the room will suit them just fine for the winter months. Your job is to not overwater them. Water is the number one killer of houseplants, too much or too little. Nine times out of ten it’s too much not too little. We kill them with kindness. With the lack of transpiration in the winter months, the foliage demands much less moisture supply from the roots. If you’re adding too much water to the roots without the demand of the foliage the roots rot and choke.

My good friend "Phil"-o-dendron
My good friend “Phil”-o-dendron

In addition fungus gnats develop and multiply like, well, fungus gnats. That’s no fun. Keep your soil on the dry side watering only when needed. Remember your houseplants are just trying to get through winter like you and are also experiencing cabin fever.
The fun part is picking out some new foliage for your home or office. It’s not as expensive as furniture and certainly easier to move. The choices in foliage are far greater than the typical Ficus tree with half of its foliage fallen off and lying in the pot or on the ground. Some foliage plants are just plain tough and can put up with some neglect and abuse. Plants like Chinese Evergreen, Sanseveria, Hoya, Pothos, Philodendron, Aspidistra and ZZ plant are tough and tolerant. Ideal for office environments they’ll stand the test in your home climate.
Orchids, Anthurium and Spathiphyllum can provide some long lasting blooms in your home. Moth or Phalenopsis Orchids are easy to grow and the blooms are long lived. Draceana and Crotons can provide colorful foliage.

Colorful Crotons are great for use outdoors in summer and add color indoors in winter
Colorful Crotons are great for use outdoors in summer and add color indoors in winter

Some varieties of Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Pothos and Aglaonema as examples have quite interesting and colorful foliage. If you can discipline yourself not to overwater, Succulents and Cactus thrive on neglect in a bright spot and will provide living interest in your home. If you need something very basic pick up some Catgrass seeds and sow them on some potting soil in a windowsill pot. Even if you don’t have a cat in the home, you can occasionally cut your indoor lawn with a scissors to get your green fix.
Don’t forget to talk to them. Like my friend “Phil”-odendron has told me, relax, you’re among fronds.

Have a plant move in for the holidays

Late December is a time for visiting relatives who bring strange smelling casseroles to the house. The windows are shut tight due to the winter solstice  and chilly temps outside. Maybe the aroma is produced by the relatives themselves from the cigar of Uncle Lewis and well…we all know about cousin Eddie. Foliage Houseplants 2We all need a little fresh air to go with our holidays and some live plants might just be what you’re looking for.

Adding some houseplants to the home and office can’t hurt. I’m sure there are some EPA estimates somewhere about the quality of indoor air versus outdoor air. Think about it, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process. Studies have found they absorb more than just carbon dioxide having the ability to absorb other indoor air pollutants. Even soil and roots can play a role in removing air-borne pollutants. Plants also help add some moisture to the air as well as oxygen. Visually they’ll improve both your mood and the mood of your guests as we Ho-Ho-Ho through the holidays.

Before you throw the Poinsettia in the trash claiming it to be poisonous consider the following. Poinsettias as a living plant can improve indoor air just like a houseplant. They are not deadly beauties and have had a bum rap as highly poisonous. Poinsettias (12)Accidental ingestion will not kill you and any normal kid or pet would spit out their nibble after the first bite or two because they taste awful. I’ve tried them and believe me, stick with the eggnog. You would have to eat a whole lot of leaves to reach the point of potentially toxic compounds. In most cases adding it to the buffet would lead to some nausea, no different than Aunt Bethany serving up her jello mold.