Categories
Houseplants

I Just Wet My Houseplants

In my book ‘I Just Wet My Plants’ I note that water is the number one killer of houseplants. Usually too much. We kill them with kindness. I took the following pictures to illustrate a couple of easy tips to improve your watering practices that maybe you haven’t considered. As an example it is a popular practice to put a houseplant in a coffee mug for desk, office or kitchen counter. Avoid planting directly into the coffee mug.

Use a cache pot with drainage holes inside the coffee mug

Coffee is hot. The coffee mug for obvious reasons has no drainage holes. Good for coffee but no so much for your plant.  A cache pot is a decorative container that holds a potted houseplant. Think of it as a  pot inside a pot. The cache pot does not have drainage. The “grower pot” inside the decorative pot has drainage holes. By using a cache pot combined with a grower pot with drainage holes the plant will be healthier and it will make both watering and maintenance easier for you. Everybody wins.

An additional watering tip is to avoid making the mistake I often see people make. They give up trying to figure out when and how much water to apply to their houseplant. What they end up with is what they believe is a compromise. They pour on a “little” water frequently. They meet their desire to water on a schedule (frequently aka kill it with kindness) and the end result is the soil in the upper half of the pot remains wet. The roots in the upper half of the pot rot while the roots at the lower portion of the pot dry out. The plant quickly displays its displeasure with browning leaf tips and decline. The sight of the plant suffering causes the owner to water even more which speeds up the decline. The appropriate way to water is when the plant needs it (indoor plants like outdoor plants have seasonal needs). In winter lack of light, day length and humidity causes the plants to “slow down” compared to their vigor in spring and summer.

For smaller pots you can tell if the plant needs water based on the weight of the pot. Pick it up. You can learn to tell when it’s time to water. Then when you water, water thoroughly so the water is available to the soil at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the pot. Because you have provided for drainage with your cache pot grower pot technique, the excess can drain out the bottom. Now allow the soil to dry and wait until the plant needs water again. Remember in winter you will be watering far less frequently than when the days are longer and the light is bright in spring and summer.

Example of grower pots inside a decorative cache pot (click on image to enlarge)

 

Categories
Houseplants

Tough as nails

As the day length begins to shorten, kids head back to school and the outdoor air temperature cools, we begin to think about moving plants indoors again. Without proper care these plants can feel they are under house arrest. Never fear. There are two foliage houseplants that are as tough as nails. As always some stress will reveal character and in the case of plants show how well grounded they are. Plants with fibrous and shallow roots tend to be less adaptable or easy to grow than those with tuberous, thick or rhizomatous roots. Both ZZ and Sanseveria plants have tuberous thick roots. Both are native to Africa. If you’re the type to over nurture these plants might not be for you. If you lean towards neglect they might be perfect. 

Sure they need care but are a couple of houseplants that are the closest living thing to plastic known to man. The Zamioculcas zamifolia and the Sanseveria plant. Often seen in office environments or airport terminals these two seem to thrive on neglect. Both have thick waxy leaves and low rates of transpiration. You have to however look at the business end of these plants to see thick roots, in the case of a ZZ plant tubers allowing it to go long lengths without water.

ZZ Plant

Adaptable to harsh environments the ZZ plant is native to Africa and found from Kenya to Zimbabwe to South Africa. Considering its native environment you can see the plant adapted to long periods of drought in between wet seasons. That’s probably why some call it the “Bachelor Plant” as legend has it they only need to be watered 9 times a year. For those restless, easily bored or with a great need to nurture this is not the plant for you. Unlike a vine this plant is slow growing and content to simply exist in a well lit corner. Pest resistant and a stable household friend, homeowners tend to kill it with kindness. Kindness as in water, too much of

Sansevieria

it. They feel they have to do something to demonstrate they care resulting in a permanent rainy season for the plant. I recommend talking to it or better yet get it a card and rotate it a quarter turn from time to time. You’ll both feel much better. It’s an expensive plant to kill because it is a slow grower. Because it takes time to get to size growers charge more for the plant. Similar to Aspidistra also known as Cast Iron plant, or Rhapis excelsa known as Lady Palm their methodical slow growth make them durable but expensive for the homeowner. If you’re just going to kill them with water they might not be the plant for you. 

Sanseveria is a colorful character known for their diversity, usefulness and lasting quality. The genus Sanseveria consists of numerous species and varieties with flamboyant often variegated sword like foliage as flashy as the man they were named after. Raimondo di Sangro Prince of Sansevero was the world’s most interesting man long before the advent of beer marketing, or at least Raimondo would tell you that. It is said he dabbled with numerous inventions from super lightweight cannons to fireworks, hydraulics and waterproof capes and other bizarre experiments. He was the Prince of Sansevero and lover of knowledge willing to testify of his prowess and fame. He would have been pleased that a Swedish botanist named the Sanseveria plant in his honor. A tough hard to kill houseplant it lives as long as the legacy of Raimondo provided you don’t kill it with “kindness.” A renowned office plant ideal for indoor air purification qualities, its tough, dogged obstinance and resolve is reflected in its common names Snake Plant, Snake’s tongue, Devil’s tongue or Mother-in-laws tongue.

As we fill our homes with plants this fall remember to consider these characters…..they are tough as nails.

 

Categories
Houseplants

A Garden You will Love

A GARDEN YOU WILL LOVE
Time spent in a garden is a metaphor on life. The objective is not to “prove” yourself. Your intent should be to “improve” yourself and the quality of your environment.

A garden by definition is a space, a plot, a pot, a place where plants are cultivated. This can be just about anywhere and size does not matter. It’s the cultivation part that matters. It is projected that in the coming years the percentage of city dwellers will increase from 54% to 66% of the world’s population. A move from the rural to the accessibility of city life. Older generations like the convenience of walking distance and younger generations like the opportunities for experience and lifestyle. This move will change how we love our gardens and we will use plant material in tighter or smaller spaces. It has also produced a resurgence in indoor foliage plants for “breathing” rooms.

Cultivate is a verb, an action so let’s get growing. Get beyond the fear of failure and get your hands in the dirt. Consider planters or window boxes or in winter windowsill gardens as a starting point. What you plant, what you do is not permanent and it’s changeable. Pot something up and don’t consider it permanent. Your “garden” won’t change as often as your clothes but can and should change more often than the batteries in a smoke detector or the toothbrush in your bathroom. If dentists recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months then why don’t we change the smile on our living space as often?

Succulent mania 

If the word “work” is a synonym for cultivation do not lose sight of the fact that culture, nurture and enlightenment can also be argued as closely related synonyms that make what you’re doing akin to having discriminating taste. Especially if it relates to edibles like herbs, air quality plants like foliage houseplants, sustainable water misers like succulents or blooming mood lifters like an orchid or a Kalanchoe. Planning for a growing space for spring is good but it starts in February. A habit of nurturing and being surrounded by plants has it’s roots in February. Start with small spaces, places and pots. Succulents, herbs and foliage tropical plants are the perfect place to start.
1. Get over your fear of failure. People fail everyday so fail early and fail often.
2. Your attempt at horticulture does not need to be either perfect or a work of art. We’re not trying to recreate the hanging gardens of Babylon here.
3. A good container with room to grow, quality potting mix, light and a determination not to drown your plant with kindness will get you a long way to a “garden” you will love.
Practice now on your cultivation and plant nurturing skills so when we get to the frost free days in May you’re ready to plant a garden you love of blooming and edible delights. Indoor plants can move outside with you when frost is finished sometime in May so you can continue to cultivate your relationship with them and add new friends or in this case “fronds”. Here is a list of my recommended plant friends for right now who will help you grow relationships. Once we get through the winter months it will be the big leagues and we’ll have the chance to significantly expand your affiliations and alliances to create a garden you will love.
“Fronds” for life
• Birdsnest fern
• Sanseveria
• Primula
• Phalaenopsis Moth Orchids
• Tillandsias
• Echeveria and Haworthia Succulents
• Philodendron
• Citrus
• Pothos
• Jade Plant
• Baby tears soleirolia
• Kalanchoe
• Herbs
• Pachira aquatic
• African Violets
• Bromeliad
• Anthurium
• Hypoestes Polka dot plant
• Cactus
• Amaryllis
• Ivy
• Peperomia
• Pony Tail Palm
• ZZ plant

Categories
Houseplants

Two Plants with a lot of character

As always some stress will reveal character and in the case of plants show how well grounded they are. Plants with fibrous and shallow roots tend to be less adaptable or easy to grow than those with tuberous, thick or rhizomatous roots. When people complain of their vines not blooming or their houseplant’s demise the root of the problem is exactly that, the roots.
Take as an example a couple of houseplants that are the closest living thing to plastic known to man. The Zamioculcas zamifolia and the Sanseveria plant. Often seen in office environments or airport terminals these two seem to thrive on neglect. Both have thick waxy leaves and low rates of transpiration. You have to however look at the business end of these plants to see thick roots, in the case of a ZZ plant tubers allowing it to go long lengths without water.

The ZZ plant

Adaptable to harsh environments the ZZ plant is native to Africa and found from Kenya to Zimbabwe to South Africa. Considering its native environment you can see the plant adapted to long periods of drought in between wet seasons. For those restless, easily bored or with a great need to nurture this is not the plant for you. Unlike a vine this plant is slow growing and content to simply exist in a well lit corner. Pest resistant and a stable household friend, homeowners tend to kill it with kindness. Kindness as in water, too much of it. They feel they have to do something to demonstrate they care resulting in a permanent rainy season for the plant. I recommend talking to it or better yet get it a card and rotate it a quarter turn from time to time. You’ll both feel much better. It’s an expensive plant to kill because it is a slow grower. Because it takes time to get to size growers charge more for the plant. Similar to Aspidistra also known as Cast Iron plant, or Rhapis excelsa known as Lady Palm their methodical slow growth make them durable but expensive for the homeowner. If you’re just going to kill them with water they might not be the plant for you.
Sanseveria is a colorful character known for their diversity, usefulness and lasting quality. The genus Sanseveria consists of numerous species and varieties with flamboyant often variegated sword like foliage as flashy as the man they were named after.

Sanseveria Plant also known as Snake Plant

Raimondo di Sangro Prince of Sansevero was the world’s most interesting man long before the advent of beer marketing, or at least Raimondo would tell you that. It is said he dabbled with numerous inventions from super lightweight cannons to fireworks, hydraulics and water proof capes and other bizarre experiments. He was the Prince of Sansevero and lover of knowledge willing to testify of his prowess and fame. He would have been pleased that a Swedish botanist named the Sanseveria plant in his honor. A tough hard to kill houseplant it lives as long as the legacy of Raimondo provided you don’t kill it with “kindness.”

A renowned office plant ideal for indoor air purification qualities, its tough, dogged obstinance and resolve is reflected in its common names Snake Plant, Snake’s tongue, Devil’s tongue or Mother-in-laws tongue.
From ZZ plants to Sansveria and flowering vines, sometimes we have to show them who’s boss to get them to behave. Kindness is a virtue but sometimes too much just makes us soft.

Categories
Houseplants

A lesson from a Ficus tree

I watch the Ficus benjamina trees that are shipped from Florida to Michigan. When they arrive their glossy leaves have a very pronounced midrib. That’s the visible line right down the middle of the leaf from petiole to the tip. Over time as they endure the cloudy low light seasons of Michigan weather, that midrib begins to disappear on the foliage. Important when it lived in the Florida sun, the midrib would cause the foliage to fold up in half to conserve moisture. Not needed in Michigan the foliage indoors becomes flat trying to absorb what light it can. In addition seasonally up to half the foliage drops off the plant as a defensive mechanism.

Ficus….I want some sunlight

When that happens if you run for the watering to can and apply more water you simply rot the roots and speed the decline.
Here too I see a correlation between the landscape and our lives. When plants are situated in a shaded or dark place they adjust. They adapt to the environment they dwell in. If the environment is wrong they either curl up and die or adapt and thrive. The metaphor on life for me is you can’t change some realities of life but you can change how you experience it. If the sun isn’t shining make your own sunshine, things will get better. Right plant, right place. When plants are respected by being properly located they thrive and find relevance.