Category Archives: houseplants

Multiply Your Holiday Cactus Through Cuttings

stem cuttings twisted off holiday cactus plant

This spring is a long, wet spring, the kind that prevents you from getting out in the garden. Frustrated? Take heart, we can still garden indoors. Now is a great time to taking cuttings of your holiday cactus. It should be done blooming now and cuttings are a great way to make many more plants to give away as gifts. Continue reading

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy Your Shamrock Plants

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although the shamrock plant looks like a three-leaf clover it is actually a species of Oxalis. These are commonly sold as St. Patrick’s Day gift plants but they make great houseplants and garden plants. Continue reading

Year of the Peperomia Houseplant

houseplant

Peperomia ‘Hope’

This year is the year of the peperomia, a tropical houseplant. Actually, it is an “old-fashioned” houseplant, one that has been around for many years. What is new are the many types available now, each uniquely different. In fact, there is such variation in foliage color and structure, if there wasn’t a label on the container, you might not know it is a peperomia. There are only two things each plant has in common: thick, fleshy leaves and flowers that look like rat tails. Grown for its foliage, peperomia is relatively easy to grow, a great houseplant for beginners. Continue reading

Appreciate Your Houseplant Today

Small Arrowhead Plant

Today, January 10, 2022, is Houseplant Appreciation Day. To celebrate, consider purchasing one (or all) of these low-light, low-maintenance houseplants. Houseplants should be appreciated — they have a lot to offer us.  Houseplants improve air quality by removing chemicals and carbon dioxide and supplying oxygen. Houseplants provide a positive psychological impact by increasing memory retention and concentration and reducing stress. They add beauty and color and can be used as a structural component to divide a room. Continue reading

A Great Houseplant for the Winter: Anthurium

When I was young, we lived in Thailand and my mother (who grew up in Milwaukee) would buy plants and orchids from the market. I remember one houseplant in particular. The beautiful flowers were so waxy they looked like they had been polished with furniture polish. The red flowers would last for months. My mother of course did not speak Thai so we did not know the names of the plants but we enjoyed their exotic beauty. Now that I am older, I know the waxy plants are called anthuriums. Although I associate them with tropical Asian countries, they really hail from South America tropical environments.

Anthuriums are members of the Araceae or arum family. The “flower,” the red, heart-shaped part, is a modified leaf called a spathe. The actual flowers are tiny and appear in the center vertical structure called the spadix. The “flower” lasts a long time, making them ideal for cut flower arrangements.

As a houseplant, anthuriums can grow in low light conditions. However, the more light you can provide the more likely it will bloom throughout the year. It definitely does not like moist soil. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Anthuriums are easy, low maintenance plants, perfect for the home and office.

Usually one sees red-flowering plants at the hardware store or nursery but pink, green and white, and purple colored cultivars are available. There is even a black flower cultivar called ‘Black Love‘. My plant was less than ten dollars at the local hardware store but it was very root bound in a 4-inch pot so check your plant’s roots after you purchase it.

Anthuriums as the perfect winter houseplant: the flowers last a long time and the plant has an exotic, year round appeal. Try growing this easy houseplant or purchase one as a hostess gift when you visit family and friends this year.

Easy-to-Grow Flowering Houseplant: Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus)

flowerIf you are looking for the perfect houseplant gift, try a streptocarpus. A mouthful I know but it is a beautiful flowering houseplant — cousin to the African violet but with more drama. I came across several at Merrifield Garden Center this weekend. What a perfect hostess gift for a holiday party. It is unique, festive, and will last longer than a poinsettia.houseplant

Native to Africa, streptocarpus is commonly called a Cape primrose. There are more than 135 species, and the size varies. The plants you see in the garden centers will have long, strap-like leaves with tubular flowers high above the plant. Merrifield has the Greenfuse Botanicals (California-based breeding company) line called Lady Slippers. There are some though with only a single leaf that can range from a few inches to a few feet in length.

Grow these plants like you would grow an African violet. They need strong indirect sunlight by the window or fluorescent tubes. They grow best with day temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees and night temperatures between 65 and 68 degrees. They do not like heat so if you put them outdoors in the summer along with your other houseplants, they may perish.streptocarpus

The soil should be evenly moist, but not wet. If you let the soil begin to dry out just a little bit between waterings, that would be ideal. Do not let water get on the leaves. There is specially formulated African violet soil which will work well for streptocarpus plants. They need to be fertilized with diluted balanced fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer has the same proportion of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the three numbers below the name of the fertilizer. To prevent a build up of fertilizer salts, periodically leach the plant by letting water run through the soil and out the drainage holes.

A streptocarpus is a type of a gesneriad, member of the Gesneriaceae family. In our area, gesneriads are greenhouse or house plants and include the African violet, espiscia, columnea, sinningia, and aeschynanthus to name a few. If you really enjoy growing streptocarpus, try your hand at growing other gesneriads and consider joining the local National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society. 

cape primrose

Taking Care of Your Holiday Cactus

holiday cactus

Thanksgiving cactus with yellow anthers and sharp leaf edges

A popular blooming holiday plant is the “Holiday Cactus” which is an umbrella term to include the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and the Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata). These are not cacti at all but epiphytes from the Brazilian rainforest. In their native environment, they grow among tree branches, in the humid, shady jungles. Continue reading

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy Your Shamrock Plants

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although the shamrock plant looks like a three-leaf clover it is actually a species of Oxalis. These are commonly sold as St. Patrick’s Day gift plants but they make great houseplants and garden plants. Continue reading

Appreciate Your Houseplant Today

Small Arrowhead Plant

Today, January 10, 2021, is Houseplant Appreciation Day. To celebrate, consider purchasing one (or all) of these low-light, low-maintenance houseplants. Houseplants should be appreciated — they have a lot to offer us.  Houseplants improve air quality by removing chemicals and carbon dioxide and supplying oxygen. Houseplants provide a positive psychological impact by increasing memory retention and concentration and reducing stress. They add beauty and color and can be used as a structural component to divide a room. Continue reading

Poinsettia Pointers to Prolong Healthy Plants

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. To keep your plant healthy for as long as possible, try to emulate the greenhouse conditions in your own home: bright light and balmy 70 degrees. 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 the foil or cut the bottom out of the foil so excess water drains out.

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