Category Archives: houseplants

Poinsettia Pointers: Before and After the Holidays

Odds are you have a poinsettia in your home for the holidays. In the United States, poinsettias are grown in greenhouses and programmed to bloom in time for Christmas. Try to emulate the bright light and balmy 70 degrees the greenhouse has to offer in your home so your poinsettia will survive the holidays. Keep the soil moist but don’t let the roots sit in water. Make sure the pot has drainage holes. If it is in that decorative foil, either remove foil or cut bottom out of foil so excess water drains out.

After the holidays, grow it as if it were a houseplant. With luck, you may be able to see colored bracts (the “flowers”) again next year. Keep the plant in bright light and 70 degree temperature. In the spring, cut the stems back about half the length. Keep indoors or put outdoors in the warm summer months. Apply a houseplant fertilizer and make sure the plant does not dry out. In June, transfer into a slightly bigger pot. In September bring the plant back indoors. To induce flowering, give the plant bright light each day and fourteen hours of uninterrupted dark each night beginning in early October (as in cover with a box or put in a closet). Keep the soil moist but stop fertilizing. The color should form on the bracts in six to eight weeks.

National Indoor Plant Week: Snake Plant

Snake plants vary in stripes, color and leaf shape.

This is the last day of National Indoor Plant Week. To celebrate National Indoor Plant Week, I published an article each day on low light level, low maintenance plants suitable for the office or home. These plants do well if you cannot devote a lot of time to take care of them and if you cannot put them near a window. I also collaborated with Costa Farms to give away one particularly distinctive plant: the ZZ plant.

Snake plants provide a strong vertical accent.

Today, Day 5, is about the snake plant, Sansevieria. The snake plant has one to 1 1/2 feet long, sword-shaped leaves, which usually are a mottled green, with yellow, gray or silver margins. There are varieties with more yellow or silver coloring in the leaves. For a new take on snake plant, look for Bantel’s Sensation, which has narrower leaves with white vertical strips or the cylinder snake plant with very narrow, cylindrical leaves. All are low light level, low humidity plants where the soil is kept barely most. Fertilize once a year.

To learn more low light, low maintenance plants suitable for the office or home, see Day 4, pothos; Day 3, Chinese evergreen; Day 2, Arrowhead, and Day 1, the ZZ plant.

To enter the giveaway to win a six-inch pot of a ZZ plant, subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a monthly newsletter for people interested in gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Subscribe between now, Monday, September 17, 2018, and midnight, Friday, September 21, 2018. The winner will be drawn at random from all new subscribers in this time period. Subscriptions are free, all that is needed is an e-mail. To subscribe, click here or visit pegplant.com and enter the “subscribe” button on the right column. Each issue of Pegplant’s Post lists at least 50 gardening events for the month in the Northern Virginia, MD, Washington DC metro area, recently published gardening books, gardening articles, tips, and advice, and a giveaway.

The ZZ plant cannot be shipped outside of the United States, Canada, California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Costa Farms is a third generation, family owned group of companies headquartered in Miami, FL. They grow more than 1,500 houseplants and outdoor tropical plants. You can find Costa Farms plants at many retail outlets in this area or you can order the plants via Amazon.com. Costa Farms has a great website with an online database to help you find the perfect plant for your particular needs and informative houseplant descriptions and photos. Photos in this article are from the Costa Farms website.

National Indoor Plant Week: Pothos

This particular variety of pothos is called Marble Queen.

This week is National Indoor Plant Week to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces. Plants provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and increase humidity. Plants improve air quality by helping to remove chemicals. Numerous studies have shown that plants have a positive psychological impact on people such as reducing stress and increasing memory retention and concentration.

To celebrate National Indoor Plant Week, each day from Monday, September 17, to Friday, September 21, I will focus on a low light level, low maintenance plants suitable for the office or home. These plants do well if you cannot devote a lot of time to take care of them and if you cannot put them near a window. Plus, I will be collaborating with Costa Farms to give away one particularly distinctive plant: the ZZ plant.

Neon pothos has yellow leaves.

Today, Day 4, is about the devil’s ivy or golden pothos, Scindapsus. The heart-shaped leaves are variegated green and yellow or green and white with a waxy sheen. In the tropics, this is a vine so indoors it has a trailing or cascading effect. Take advantage of the roaming nature by putting on top of office credenzas or kitchen cabinets. Or cut the stems back to keep a round shape in a planter. This is a low light level, low humidity plant where the soil is kept barely moist. However, this plant roots very easily in water and can be grown in a vase of water for a period of time. Fertilize once a year.

To learn about previous plants, click on Day 3, Chinese evergreen; Day 2, arrowhead, and Day 1, the ZZ plant.

To enter the giveaway to win a six-inch pot of a ZZ plant, subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a monthly newsletter for people interested in gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Subscribe between now, Monday, September 17, 2018, and midnight, Friday, September 21, 2018. The winner will be drawn at random from all new subscribers in this time period. Subscriptions are free, all that is needed is an e-mail. To subscribe, click here or visit pegplant.com and enter the “subscribe” button on the right column. Each issue of Pegplant’s Post lists at least 50 gardening events for the month in the Northern Virginia, MD, Washington DC metro area, recently published gardening books, gardening articles, tips, and advice, and a giveaway.

The ZZ plant cannot be shipped outside of the United States, Canada, California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Costa Farms is a third generation, family owned group of companies headquartered in Miami, FL. They grow more than 1,500 houseplants and outdoor tropical plants. You can find Costa Farms plants at many retail outlets in this area or you can order the plants via Amazon.com. Costa Farms has a great website with an online database to help you find the perfect plant for your particular needs and informative houseplant descriptions and photos. Photos in this article are from the Costa Farms website.

National Indoor Plant Week: Chinese Evergreen

Chinese evergreen plant with white and green stripes

This week is National Indoor Plant Week to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces. Plants provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and increase humidity. Plants improve air quality by helping to remove chemicals. Numerous studies have shown that plants have a positive psychological impact on people such as reducing stress and increasing memory retention and concentration.

To celebrate National Indoor Plant Week, each day from Monday, September 17, to Friday, September 21, I will focus on a low light level, low maintenance plants suitable for the office or home. These plants do well if you cannot devote a lot of time to take care of them and if you cannot put them near a window. Plus, I will be collaborating with Costa Farms to give away one particularly distinctive plant: the ZZ plant.

Chinese evergreen plant with more pronounced silver bands

Today, Day 3, is about the Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema. Plants have large, wide leaves with variegated green and cream or green and silver coloring. There is a new variety called red aglaonema with red, pink, and green leaves. The plant has an upright appearance and grows from a foot to two feet. This is a low light level, low humidity plant where the soil is kept barely moist. Fertilize once a year.

Click here for Day 2, the arrowhead, and for Day 1, the ZZ plant.

To enter the giveaway to win a six-inch pot of a ZZ plant, subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a monthly newsletter for people interested in gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Subscribe between now, Monday, September 17, 2018, and midnight, Friday, September 21, 2018. The winner will be drawn at random from all new subscribers in this time period. Subscriptions are free, all that is needed is an e-mail. To subscribe, click here or visit pegplant.com and enter the “subscribe” button on the right column. Each issue of Pegplant’s Post lists at least 50 gardening events for the month in the Northern Virginia, MD, Washington DC metro area, recently published gardening books, gardening articles, tips, and advice, and a giveaway.

The ZZ plant cannot be shipped outside of the United States, Canada, California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Costa Farms is a third generation, family owned group of companies headquartered in Miami, FL. They grow more than 1,500 houseplants and outdoor tropical plants. You can find Costa Farms plants at many retail outlets in this area or you can order the plants via Amazon.com. Costa Farms has a great website with an online database to help you find the perfect plant for your particular needs and informative houseplant descriptions and photos. Photos in this article are from the Costa Farms website.

National Indoor Plant Week: Arrowhead Plant

Arrowhead plant with a blush of pink in the center of the leaf

This week is National Indoor Plant Week to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces. Plants provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and increase humidity. Plants improve air quality by helping to remove chemicals. Numerous studies have shown that plants have a positive psychological impact on people such as reducing stress and increasing memory retention and concentration.

To celebrate National Indoor Plant Week, each day from Monday, September 17, to Friday, September 21, I will focus on a low light level, low maintenance plants suitable for the office or home. These plants do well if you cannot devote a lot of time to take care of them and if you cannot put them near a window. Plus, I will be collaborating with Costa Farms to give away one particularly distinctive plant: the ZZ plant.

Today, Day 2, is about the arrowhead plant. Like the name suggests, arrowhead plant, Syngonium, has arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves usually are white and green but there are gold and green varieties and varieties with a blush of pink.  As the plant matures the leaf shape and color changes so that mature leaves can be all green. To keep the variegation, just cut off older leaves. The plant grows to about one foot tall. This is a low light level, low humidity plant where the soil is kept barely moist. Fertilize once a year.

Baby arrowheads are often available for small containers or terrariums

To enter the giveaway to win a six-inch pot of a ZZ plant (see Day 1 for a description), subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a monthly newsletter for people interested in gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Subscribe between now, Monday, September 17, 2018, and midnight, Friday, September 21, 2018. The winner will be drawn at random from all new subscribers in this time period. Subscriptions are free, all that is needed is an e-mail. To subscribe, click here or visit pegplant.com and enter the “subscribe” button on the right column. Each issue of Pegplant’s Post lists at least 50 gardening events for the month in the Northern Virginia, MD, Washington DC metro area, recently published gardening books, gardening articles, tips, and advice, and a giveaway.

The ZZ plant cannot be shipped outside of the United States, Canada, California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Costa Farms is a third generation, family owned group of companies headquartered in Miami, FL. They grow more than 1,500 houseplants and outdoor tropical plants. You can find Costa Farms plants at many retail outlets in this area or you can order the plants via Amazon.com. Costa Farms has a great website with an online database to help you find the perfect plant for your particular needs and informative houseplant descriptions and photos. Photos in this article are from the Costa Farms website.

National Indoor Plant Week: Low Light, Low Maintenance Plants

This week is National Indoor Plant Week to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces. Plants provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide, and increase humidity. Plants improve air quality by helping to remove chemicals. Numerous studies have shown that plants have a positive psychological impact on people such as reducing stress and increasing memory retention and concentration.

To celebrate National Indoor Plant Week, each day from Monday, September 17, to Friday, September 21, I will focus on a low light level, low maintenance plants suitable for the office or home. These plants do well if you cannot devote a lot of time to take care of them and if you cannot put them near a window. Plus, I will be collaborating with Costa Farms to give away one particularly distinctive plant: the ZZ plant.

Today, Day 1, is about the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), which has distinctive foliage. The pinnate leaves are about a foot long with 6-8 pairs of leaflets, about 3 to 6 inches long. They are spaced in such a manner they look like a ladder. The dark green leaves are so glossy they look like they have been polished. Although ZZ plants are not grown for flowers, they do bloom at the base of the plant with peace lily type flowers. The plant can grow to a few feet tall, does well in low humidity, low light, and low soil moisture, and is pest resistant. The roots are actually swollen rhizomes, which means the plant can tolerate very dry conditions. Water when the soil dries out and use a general purpose houseplant fertilizer once a year.

To enter the giveaway to win a six-inch pot of a ZZ plant, subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a monthly newsletter for people interested in gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Subscribe between now, Monday, September 17, 2018, and midnight, Friday, September 21, 2018. The winner will be drawn at random from all new subscribers in this time period. Subscriptions are free, all that is needed is an e-mail. To subscribe, click here or visit pegplant.com and enter the “subscribe” button on the right column. Each issue of Pegplant’s Post lists at least 50 gardening events for the month in the Northern Virginia, MD, Washington DC metro area, recently published gardening books, gardening articles, tips, and advice, and a giveaway.

The ZZ plant cannot be shipped outside of the United States, Canada, California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Costa Farms is a third generation, family owned group of companies headquartered in Miami, FL. They grow more than 1,500 houseplants and outdoor tropical plants. You can find Costa Farms plants at many retail outlets in this area or you can order the plants via Amazon.com. Costa Farms has a great website with an online database to help you find the perfect plant for your particular needs and informative houseplant descriptions and photos. Photos in this article are from the Costa Farms website.

New Cultivars of Wintergreen for Bright Red Berries

This week I attended the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS), an annual horticulture trade show at the Baltimore Convention Center.  MANTS is one of the largest shows with over 10,000 attendees and almost a thousand companies exhibiting at booths in the Convention Center. The companies are wholesale, they are not selling directly to customers or the press like me. However, I enjoy attending because it provides me a glimpse of new products and plants and trends in the gardening world. This year, I discovered several new plants and gardening products which I will describe in future articles.

One plant in particular stood out for me.  I was struck by how many times I saw Gaultheria procumbens in containers either as a decoration or as a new cultivar. I have seen the species for sale in local nurseries before but they were always so small and scrawny I never bought them. The plants at MANTS were large with exceptionally large berries.

Briggs Nursery had a display of Berry Cascade and Cherry Berries. Cherry Berries has very large red berries, almost like cranberries, while Berry Cascade had berries appearing the entire length of the stem, forming a cascading effect. Because Briggs is a wholesale nursery, you would have to ask your garden center to order these if they don’t already have them in stock.

Cherry Berries

Berry Cascade

Monrovia, a plant company that sells directly to consumers via their website and through garden centers, had beautiful, healthy plants in their signature containers. Their website features two types: Very Berry and Red Baron. Red Baron has more and larger bright red berries.

Monrovia’s Gaultheria plants

I was lucky to find Peppermint Pearl at MANTS. Peppermint Pearl is unusual in that the berries first appear white in the fall and change to pink by early spring.

Peppermint Pearl, already turning from white to pink

Botanical Collections, a wholesaler of Kew pottery from London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, used the red berries of Gaultheria to show off their products.

Red berries add color to Botanical Collections’ pottery

And here is another photo of Gaultheria modeling this container.

Gaultheria procumbens, also known as teaberry or wintergreen, is a groundcover that prefers shade and moist, acidic soil (think “woodsy environment”). Hardy to zone 3, Gaultheria is an eastern North American native plant. It blooms small, white flowers in the summer followed by the berries in the fall. The berries can last until spring and are edible but it is the leaves that produce that aromatic wintergreen scent. Native Americans used the leaves to make a medicinal tea, hence teaberry, to alleviate pain (much like aspirin).  The name wintergreen comes from the fact that the plant is an evergreen. Its green leaves turn bronzy red or purple with the cold weather and remain above ground throughout the winter. Although the plant should be grown outdoors, its red berries make it a great holiday gift plant. Now that there are new cultivars with even larger berries, I will have to add Gaultheria to my Virginia garden as a native herb evergreen groundcover with winter interest!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Shamrock Plants

Although it looks like a three-leaf clover because of its trifoliate leaf structure, a shamrock plant is actually a species of Oxalis. These green or burgundy foliage plants are often sold as novelty houseplants, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. The small flowers rise high above the leaves with five white or pink to white petals. Most people grow them as houseplants but they can be grown outdoors in the summer here in Virginia. Because they are small, it is best to grow them in containers (off the ground level) for better viewing. Shamrock plants grow from rhizomes called pips which can rot if overwatered so it is best to let the soil dry out a little between watering. Eventually the plant will go through a dormant period and produce more pips that can be dug up for more plants.

The plant is best grown in indirect light with cool temperatures. Usually it is only after you purchase the plant that you learn of its charm:  the leaves move up and down every day. In the daytime, at maximum light, the leaves are horizontal or open. By nightfall, when light levels are reduced, the leaves bend down almost as if the plant is wilting. Don’t worry, this is normal and does not mean that you have to water.

Shamrocks are beautiful houseplants but there is one caveat: they do not combine well with pets. Oxalis contains a high level of oxalic acid, which can be poisonous.

U.S. Botanic Garden’s New Exhibit: Mediterranean Room

pelargonium (2)

Pelargonium

The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG), in Washington DC, has just opened a new exhibit: the Mediterranean room. Part of the Conservatory, this room is full of plants native to or commonly cultivated in Mediterranean climates, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters with only occasional frost. Five areas have a Mediterranean climate: the Mediterranean Basin, California, Chile, South Africa, and Australia. These areas produce a wide range of foods reflected in Mediterranean cuisines: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and unsaturated plant-based fats. Eating a Mediterranean diet has been associated with health benefits such as longer life spans, lower average body weights, and reduction of risks of heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers.

“We are thrilled to showcase the amazing flora of Mediterranean regions, which are some of the most diverse habitats in the world,” said Ari Novy, executive director. “Beyond their ecological value, the Mediterranean regions have given us some of nature’s most enjoyable bounty including olives, figs, and wine. The fruits of the Mediterranean have truly enhanced both our health and cuisines.”

kale lettuce thyme viola

Kale, Lettuce, Thyme, and Violets

fig tree

Fig Tree (Ficus carica)

This particular conservatory room has not had a new thematic exhibit in 15 years. The idea germinated several years ago when staff horticulturist Adam Pyle suggested that many of our foods and edible plants come from the Mediterranean region. Additionally, this cuisine has the highest number of foods that people recognize today. In an era where the number of people who produce food has reduced dramatically while the number of people who live in urban areas has increased, most people are not connected to food production, agriculture, and gardening. However, there is a high degree of “relatability” with Mediterranean foods–many people recognize citruses, pomegranates, olives, grapes, and figs, and culinary herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

The Mediterranean room is bright but not hot, colored in soft yellows and blues to complement the yellow and blue tiles of the fountain. On one side is an urn modified to be a fountain and a tiled basin of water and on the opposite side is a 53-foot mural painted in hues of blue against a yellow wall.  Rolling pastures, fields of grain, tall cypress trees, and ribbons of blue and purple flowers evoke images of a sunny Mediterranean country.

Arbutus 'Marina'

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus ‘Marina’)

Visitors may recognize common culinary herbs in terracotta pots: rosemary, sage, thyme, fennel, parsley, and cilantro. More unusual herbs include rue, absinthe (Artemisia absinthium), golden feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium aureum), and fern leaf lavender (Lavandula pinnata). Edibles such as lettuce, kale, and spinach are grouped together in shallow containers. In the ground are fava bean plants, pineapple-guava (Acca sellowiana), bay laurel, fig, pomegranate, olives, and several different types of citruses.

To highlight the yellow and blue tiles in the fountain, flowering plants are strategically placed across the room from the purple-flowered pelargoniums, light lavender heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens ‘Marine’), yellow and peach snapdragons, and pendulous yellow blossoms of the tall flowering maples (Abutilon). One arch is covered with bougainvillea not yet in bloom but the other arch is covered by a black coral pea vine (Kennedia nigricans) blooming with slender black flowers. The sweet pea shrub (Polygala x dalmaisiana) has beautiful purple blossoms and the strawberry tree (Arbutus ‘Marina’) has bunches of cream flowers, very similar to a Pieris.

black coral pea (4)

Black Coral Pea (Kennedia nigricans)

sweet pea shrub (2)

Sweet Pea Shrub (Polygala x dalmaisiana)

The Mediterranean room is only the beginning of USBG’s next foray into communicating the importance of food production and agriculture. Devin Dotson, public affairs and exhibits specialist, envisions many activities this year from additional signs highlighting specific plants, special tours, food programs, storytelling, and cooking classes. This new exhibit builds upon and continues USBG’s interest in reconnecting the public with food production and agriculture and the pivotal role all botanical gardens can play in educating people about agricultural and the future of food. USBG has had several exhibits in the past communicating the importance of plants through food such as its Food for Thought exhibit, Amber Waves of Grain, and Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots. The USBG is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. The Conservatory is located at 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, on the southwest side of the Capitol. More information is available at http://www.usbg.gov.

Abutilon 'Canary Bird'

 

Keep that Poinsettia after the Holidays!

Odecember2015poinsettia 007dds are you have a poinsettia in your home for the holidays. In the United States, poinsettias are grown in greenhouses and programmed to bloom in time for Christmas. Try to emulate the bright light and balmy 70 degrees the greenhouse has to offer in your home so your poinsettia will survive the holidays. Keep the soil moist but don’t let the roots sit in water and make sure the pot it came in has drainage holes. After the holidays, grow it as if it were a houseplant. With luck, you may be able to see colored bracts (the “flowers”) again next year. Keep the plant in bright light and 70 degree temperature. In the spring, cut the stems back about half the length and either keep indoors or put outdoors in the warm summer months. Apply a houseplant fertilizer and make sure the plant does not dry out. In June, transfer into a slightly bigger pot and in September bring the plant back indoors. To induce flowering, give the plant bright light each day and fourteen hours of uninterrupted dark each night beginning in early October (as in cover with a box or put in a closet). Keep the soil moist but stop fertilizing. The color should form on the bracts in six to eight weeks.december2015poinsettia 010