Blue Plumbago Maintenance Guide

Last update: January 29, 2021

Looking for a plant that is gorgeous yet easy to care for? Look no further than blue plumbago. It will grow happily as a shrub in your warmer garden or as a lovely container plant for your porch. This South African native plant thrives best in full sun to partial shade in fertile soils. Continue reading to learn about this beautiful evergreen shrub.

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What Is Blue Plumbago?

Blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) is part of the Plumbaginaceae Family. The name comes from the Latin word “plumbum” which means lead, hence, the other common family name, Leadwort. The origin of the name lead is uncertain. Some say it refers to its color or the dye you can make from it. The folklore says it was a cure for lead poisoning. In any case, it’s a nice plant.

You might find a plant with the same common name but with the scientific name, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. Though different plants, they are in the same family and have similar care requirements. The primary difference is that this one is more winter hardy than its counterparts.

Blue plumbago originated in South Africa. You’ll also see it called cape leadwort, royal cape, or even skyflower. The second part of its name, auriculata, is Latin for eared, referring to the leaf base. We’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s appropriately named. However, the fact that it is from South Africa should give some clues about what this plant needs to be happy.

Benefits of Blue Plumbago

It is a perennial evergreen shrub that grows by spreading outward. It has slender stems which, when given a chance in its native habitat, can grow up to seven feet tall with adequate support. You can train it on a trellis. Even if you keep it to a compact size as a shrub, it makes an excellent border plant. It will fit in nicely with a cottage garden or other informal landscape.

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Growing Blue Plumbago

You can grow blue plumbago as an outdoor plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 11. Though it can handle colder temperatures to some degree, 10 degrees Fahrenheit is its lowest extreme temperature. Outdoor plants will do best if you cover them with mulch before winter begins. Live in a different hardiness zone? You can still have blue plumbago in your garden.

In cooler areas, you can have it in a container plant and bring it indoors to overwinter in a sunny room. As a patio plant, it’ll make a delightful display in a decorative container with its gorgeous flowers cascading over the sides. Because of its delicate stems, you should place it in an area where it will be protected from strong winds that can damage its stems.

Light

Blue plumbago prefers full sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight for the maximum amount of blooms. If your site gets less exposure, no worries. It can tolerate partial shade, but it will flower less. But when it gets the sunlight it wants, it will bloom throughout the season until the first frost. Its blue, phlox-like flowers will continue to brighten your garden.

Moisture

For new plants, you should keep the soil moist to give them a chance to become established. Once that happens, blue plumbago is drought tolerant. You can let the soil dry between waterings. As with many plants, you’ll need to find that balance between too much and just enough water. Too much moisture can lead to root rot, especially in a container plant.

Its Garden Place

You should plant blue plumbago in areas where it won’t have to compete with other plants. As you may guess, it won’t fare well with aggressive plants that would easily overtake it. On the other hand, butterflies adore blue plumbago. Plant it, and they will come. But that’s not its only value. Butterflies aren’t the only ones that will appreciate it.

It makes an excellent addition to a wildlife garden. The birds will like its dense growth that can offer them cover. And deer typically give it a pass. They rarely will do severe damage to blue plumbago. If deer pressure is heavy in your area, it offers a smart option. However, remember that a hungry deer is less picky.

Maintenance

You’ll need to do relatively little maintenance with blue plumbago outside of the basic care. One thing you will need to do is pruning. Since it flowers on new wood growth, you should prune your plants before new growth starts in the spring. Late winter or early spring are the best times for pruning. Pruning offers many benefits for both you and your plants.

Regular pruning will encourage that dense growth of blooms that make blue plumbago such an excellent choice for your garden. You should also remove any dead or damaged branches to keep your plants healthy. Inspect your plants occasionally because of its weak stems. Because it grows fast, you may need to prune more often to keep its growth in check.

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If you have a container plant, you can bring it indoors over the winter. It will fare best in a sunny location. However, you can also cut it back and let it overwinter in a cool basement or garage. It will reward you with a fresh batch of pale-blue blooms the following spring. For the most part, blue plumbago is hassle-free with few insect problems. And we like low maintenance.

This video from the Utah State University Extension explains the proper ways to prune shrubs to keep them happy and to encourage new growth.

Soil and Fertilizing

Blue plumbago prefers well-draining soils that are nutrient rich. That means a regular application of a fertilizer during the growing season. It grows fast, so it’ll need the nutrients to support new growth. It does best in soils with some loam. You can also amend your soil to match its needs. This tolerant plant offers an attractive, low maintenance addition to your garden.

Photo by Sabrap59 licensed under CC0.

Also Read: Broadleaf Lady Palm

Caring Guide For Your Cineraria

Last update: April 28, 2020

Cineraria describes both plants of that genus as well as plants commonly known by this name. Most are daisy-like examples available in a wide range of colors. These plants include ones that are adapted to an array of conditions. You’ll find a wide variety of colors too. Continue reading to learn more about these plants and how to find the ideal one for your garden.

What Is Cineraria?

The name cineraria may cause some confusion. Cineraria is a genus of the Asteraceae or Sunflower Family. It includes many species found in southern Africa and not native to the United States. However, they can live happily in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 through 11. As you might expect, they resemble daisies or asters. But that’s only part of the story.

The term cineraria also applies to the common name of plants that are part of the genus, Pericallis. It includes plants native to tropical-sounding places like the Canary Islands and Madeira. They have the same aster-like characteristics of the genus with the same name. The differences fall more in the domain of botanists than home gardeners.

You’ll also find some plants from the genus Senecio also called cineraria. To avoid confusion, we’ll stick with plants with the common name of cineraria rather than the genus as a whole. You’ll recognize many common plants such as dusty miller and greenhouse varieties referred to as the hybrid, florist’s cineraria. Whew! Hope you’re still with us.

Benefits of Growing Cineraria

Because it is a horticulturist favorite, you’ll find a broad range of cultivars in a stunning array of colors. In many ways, they can stand out as a showpiece for your garden or as an accent piece. Their intense colors are sure to catch everyone’s eye. As you may expect, an island-dwelling plant prefers warmer, humid climates. And this is the case with many varieties.

But with greenhouse varieties, you’ll find a greater range of suitable habitats. There are plants that prefer partial shade. You can grow it as an annual or a perennial if you live in suitable hardiness zones. With annual plants, you’ll find plants that can grow in a broader spectrum of hardiness zones. You can easily grow cinerarias even if it’s just for one season.

This video from the University of Illinois Extension discusses the importance of matching your annual plants with the conditions in your garden.

https://youtu.be/KdNILCD0-_w

Care Requirements for Cineraria

As an annual, your enjoyment of cineraria is short but sweet. Proper care, therefore, is essential to make the most of this time. Because of the various uses for cineraria, you’ll find that the plants differ in their appearances and uses in the garden. We’ll focus on two popular types you’re sure to see at your local garden center, dusty miller and florist’s cineraria.

Dusty Miller

Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) stands out because of its stunning, silver foliage. Because it is such a departure from other plants, it makes an excellent accent piece or backdrop from more dramatically colored flowers. Its foliage is where it’s at. You might even consider pinching off any yellow flowers that come up, so the plant will focus its energy on its foliage.

This plant does well in partial shade/sun. It can tolerate a variety of soil conditions from sand to loam to clay. It prefers it on the acidic side. Dusty miller is a slow-growing plant that will get about a foot high. It’s not invasive, so that it won’t crowd out any neighboring plants. You should mulch around these plants, so others don’t take advantage of its slower growth.

You’ll appreciate the fact that it is relatively pest and disease free with proper watering. It is drought tolerant. If you water it too much or too frequently, then you may have problems with it such root rot. Like of a lot of plants of its ilk, it’ll fare best if you let the soil dry a bit between waterings. Deer rarely damage dusty miller, so you’ll have no worries there.

If you can grow it as a perennial, you should cut it back about one-third before the next growing season. Like shrubs, this pruning will encourage new growth for the following spring. You can also trim it back during the season if it gets spindly to foster denser growth. Make it a point to remove any dead or damaged branches.

Florist’s Cineraria

Florist’s cineraria is the polar opposite of dusty miller. Where it is diminutive, florist’s cineraria is a plant that will grab your attention. It will get about two feet high in the right conditions. It has daisy-like flowers that you’ll find a wide swath of vivid colors from red to blue to purple—and everything in between. It also comes in white if you prefer something less showy.

Its care is similar to that of dusty miller. It prefers partial shade/sun and rich, well-drained soils. You shouldn’t over-water cineraria as it does better in moist rather than soggy soils. It likes the same soil conditions as dusty miller so that they would do well together in a garden. And if you live in a zone it can tolerate, it’ll reseed itself for the next growing season.

You can grow cineraria as a houseplant too. You’ll get the best results placing it in a room with bright or filtered light as long as it’s on the cool side. It prefers daytime temperatures in the 65 degree Fahrenheit range, not unlike its native habitat in the Canary Islands. When kept in these conditions, you’ll get the most vigorous growth and the most number of blooms.

Cinerarias offer great ways to add some dramatic color to your garden. Whether you grow them as annuals or perennials, they will continue to deliver with stunning foliage. If you’re looking for an attractive focal point, take a look at the beautiful varieties of cinerarias. They can act as the ideal border to welcome visitors to your garden.

Photo by szjeno09190 licensed under CC0.

Maintaining the Cast Iron Plant

Last update: April 28, 2020

The cast iron plant has to be one of the most appropriately named plants. If it had a middle name, it would be tolerant. If that alone weren’t enough, it’s a handsome plant with lovely foliage that would make a welcome addition to your home or garden. Continue reading to learn more about this tough plant and how to care for it as either a houseplant or garden plant.

What Is a Cast Iron Plant?

The cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) is a member of the Asparagaceae Family. It is a diverse group of plants that includes asparagus, agave, and dracaena. You can find plants of this family around the world. While they don’t share a lot of common physical traits, they are connected genetically and from an evolutionary perspective even if they look worlds apart.

The name cast iron should tell you everything you need to know about this plant. It is also known as barroom plant and iron plant. It originated in eastern Asia, coming to this country around 1824. The barroom plant moniker is fitting, given its place in smoky taverns back in the day. While you may think of it as a houseplant, it will also do well outdoors in shady gardens.

Benefits for Both Indoors and Outdoors

The advantage of the cast iron plant for both inside and outside settings is its hardiness. It can handle just about anything you throw its way including low light, poor soils, and even the occasional neglect. It offers an excellent choice for the gardener who likes the proverbial green thumb. If you want to succeed growing plants, you may want to consider the cast iron plant.

You’ll find a wide variety of cultivars with different patterns of variegation and spots. If you’re looking for a centerpiece plant, you’re sure to find a plant to fit your garden’s theme and mood. It is a long-lived perennial plant that will continue to delight for years to come. As a broadleaf evergreen, it will provide year-round color which adds to its charm.

How to Care for the Cast Iron Plant

The care for a cast iron plant is similar whether you have one outside in a container or a pot in your home. They are low maintenance and tolerant of a broad spectrum of conditions. Their regal form makes them a good choice for a patio plant or as a focal point in a room. Its vibrant dark green foliage makes an ideal backdrop for any room or landscape design.

Light

As an indoor plant, few others match the easy care of this plant. You needn’t set up a grow light to keep it happy. It’ll do just fine with the ambient light. It is the same for outdoors plants. They thrive and even flourish in the shade. In fact, its leaves will discolor if it gets too much sun. It’s a perfect addition to a shady garden or just that one spot you need a plant that wants less light.

Moisture

Its moisture needs run from low to medium. If you’re planting them outdoors, they prefer moist soil conditions to get established. Afterward, they become drought tolerant. It’s a slow-growing plant which you might expect for a plant that prefers low light. That accounts for its low water use. It’ll reach a maximum height of two to three feet in about 10 to 20 years.

The cast iron plant can tolerate dry conditions. However, it will fare the best if its soil is kept moist rather than bone dry. Likewise, it’ll do better during drought conditions if you water it during the worst extreme conditions. As a general rule of thumb, water your plants when the soil becomes dry. The cast iron plant is no exception.

This video from the University of Wyoming Extension explains the importance of proper drainage for your container plants.

Soil Conditions and Fertilizing

The cast iron plant prefers well-drained soils to prevent root rot. It can adapt to a variety of soil types and conditions. In fact, the variegated cast iron plant will lose its lovely coloration if the soil is too nutrient-rich. Unlike other heavy feeders, it does well with only the occasional fertilizer application. But a light hand is essential. Planting them with some organic matter is all they need to make sure they get the proper nutrition.

The cast iron plant can adapt to other challenging conditions including slightly alkaline soils. It can handle the gamut of soil types from sand to clay to loam. The one thing it can’t tolerate well is salt which is something you can say about a lot of plants. You should also keep them in sheltered areas to prevent wind damage—or toppling over a top-heavy potted plant.

Fitting In

As a ground cover, it is not aggressive. It will exist happily in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 11. The cast iron plant isn’t a plant you’ll grow for its flowers which appear as brown blooms. Rather, it is a plant that you’ll put in your garden or home for its foliage. Its showy leaves can reach lengths of 18 to 36 inches. You can even cut some to add to floral arrangements.

The cast iron plant takes care free to all levels. In addition to shade and drought tolerance, it is relatively pest and disease free with the exception of leaf-spotting diseases. As long as you avoid watering the foliage, your plant should do fine. As a garden plant, It won’t crowd out others or take over your garden. It will play well with other plants.

The cast iron plant is tough and tolerant, making it an excellent choice for challenging garden situations. Whether it’s a lack of full sun or a nutrient-rich soil, it will continue to thrive and reward you with its lovely foliage for many years to come. It will fare well as either a container plant or a permanent member of your garden.

Photo by leoleobobeo licensed under CC0.

Quick Guide to Tillandsia Caput Medusae Care

Last update: April 27, 2021

The Tillandsia Caput Medusae is an amazing plant for several reasons. It has interesting story. It is an outstanding example of evolution and adaptation. And it is a stunning tropical plant in its own right. It is also a low-maintenance plant. What more can you ask? We can promise you that it’s the most unusual you’ll ever own. Continue reading to learn more about this fascinating plant.

What Is the Tillandsia Caput Medusae?

The Tillandsia Caput Medusae is part of the Bromeliaceae Family also known simply as bromeliads. You’ll recognize some members of this group including pineapple and Spanish moss. It’s also known as the octopus plant or the Medusa plant which is reflected in its scientific name because of its wild crown of leaves. Therein lies its charm.

If you can say anything about the Tillandsia Caput Medusae is that it’s certainly a conversation starter. The name alone is enough to spill a few tales about Greek mythology. Everything about this plant breaks the mold for growing houseplants from the way you keep it to its care. While you may think it needs a lot of TLC, it is a low-maintenance plant.

Planting the Tillandsia Caput Medusae

Growing the Tillandsia Caput Medusae is unlike any other plant you’ll likely have in your home. It is not one that you simply plant in a pot of soil and watch it grow. The air rather than the soil is its source of nutrients. It is part of a group known as air plants. In its native Central America and Mexico, it grows by anchoring itself to trees or other structures.

Growing them indoors means providing a similar type of support. It’s an opportunity to be creative and use the Tillandsia Caput Medusae as a decorative element. You’ll need to use something that is both sturdy and waterproof since you’ll need to mist it frequently. Take that bit of care into account when you select a place for it too. You can place this plant anywhere.

Light and Temperature

The best place to grow the Tillandsia Caput Medusae is indoors rather than outside to best replicate its native environment. It prefers bright light that can be direct or indirect. Direct light, however, is not the best choice as it can scorch its leaves. As you may expect with a rainforest plant, it likes it warm. It’s an excellent choice for that warmer room in your home.

Moisture

The base of the plant is a structure that looks like a pseudo-bulb. Its leaves will grow outward from it. The plant gets its water and nutrients from the air just as it would in the wild. You’ll replicate this scenario with frequent misting, depending on the relative humidity of your room. Once a day may be sufficient. During the cooler months, you can mist less frequently.

You can help ensure that the humidity is in its comfort zone by planting it around other houseplants to replicate its native habitat. You can also create a mini rainforest environment with a shallow pan of water placed near your plants. Make sure and fill it with fresh water regularly.

This video from the University of Wyoming Extension discusses the care of air plants and bromeliads.

If you can do it, you might also consider dunking the plant in filtered water every few weeks, again, depending on the relative humidity of its living space. With enough light and moisture, the Tillandsia Caput Medusae will look its most vibrant. Notice that we said dunking and not soaking. You’ll want to avoid oversaturating its bulb to prevent it from rotting.

Fertilizing

Some plants can fix nitrogen from the air. That means they can convert it into a form that they can use. Like other plants, the Tillandsia Caput Medusae absorbs water and nutrients through its leaves. This plant has special structures called trichomes that are the business end of this process. They are the things that give the plant’s leaves its fuzzy look.

These extra hair make gas exchange more efficient by increasing the amount of surface area on the leaves. Instead of a flat surface, it adds grooves and spaces to create more area where it can occur. On its own, it’s a fascinating lesson on how plants evolved to best adapt to challenging conditions like a rainforest.

To ensure your plant has enough of what it needs, you should add a weak fertilizer solution as part of your misting routine. You should plan on doing this once or twice a month during the warmer months to fuel its growth. You can cut back on the fertilizing during the cooler months especially if the light levels change with the seasons. Growth will likely slow during this time.

Fitting In

The Tillandsia Caput Medusae is probably in fitting in because it is an air plant. You give it what it needs, and you’ll get a delightful plant that will flourish with enough light. You can also propagate additional plants any time of the year from its offsets or cuttings. All you need to do is give each new one its own space, and you’re set.

Special Care Instructions

If you live in a northern region, you’ll need to take some special care during the winter months. If your home is drier, you’ll need to compensate those conditions with some of the suggestions we mentioned previously for moisture needs. Also, 55 degrees Fahrenheit is on the edge of its optimal low temperature. If possible, make sure the room stays this warm during the winter.

If you give the Tillandsia Caput Medusae the moisture and light it needs, it’ll reward you with a plant with unusual foliage and striking flowers—and some good stories. You can grow this rainforest plant anywhere that can meet these basic criteria. We can’t think of a better or easier way to add an exotic feel to a room.

Photo by James Steakley (Own work) licensed under CC by SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Read Also: Dragon Tree care

Effective Tips for Growing the Silver Vase Plant

Last update: April 28, 2020

The silver vase plant is a striking houseplant with low maintenance needs. Its showy pink flower bract and delicate bluish flowers make it an eye-catching focal point for any room. Though it takes a while to bloom, it is worth the wait. While it has some special care needs, it isn’t a fussy plant. Continue reading to learn more about this exotic rainforest plant.

What Is the Silver Vase Plant?

The silver vase plant (Aechmea fasciata) is a member of the Bromeliaceae Family which includes the pineapple. The first time you see one, you’ll probably think it resembled a pineapple with its cluster of thick silver and green leaves. It also goes by the name urn plant, but we prefer silver vase. Most of the plants of this family are from New World subtropical and tropical regions.

It is an interesting plant, and unlike many other houseplants you may have grown before. While easy to care for, it has some special needs that will stand out. One of its most outstanding features is its rose-colored flower bract and small blue-violet flowers. However, the silver vase plant is slow-growing, so unless you buy one that is already pink, you’ll wait awhile to see it.

Planting the Silver Vase Plant

This plant is typically grown as a houseplant rather than an addition to your garden. However, if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10a through 11, you may have luck with it outside. Bear in mind though that is a plant that would naturally live in humid rainforests. It won’t fare well in hot, dry climates.

The plant will get about two foot tall with a similarly sized spread. However, it is a slow-growing plant. Most of its growth is above ground which makes it rather top heavy. A terra cotta or ceramic pot will help distribute the weight better. It’s a good chance to capitalize on its exotic look with an attractive container that matches its mood.

Now for the bad news. Unlike other flowering houseplants, it’s a onetime deal with the silver vase plant. It does flower season after season. Once it blooms, that’s it. It won’t be long before it goes to the big garden in the sky. However, it can take several years before it flowers, so you’ll be able to enjoy it for a long time. The flower will also last several months before it begins to decline.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for a silver vase plant is easy. It’s not too picky about what it needs which makes it a good choice if you’re new to raising houseplants. If it’s not happy, there are telltale signs that will clue you about what is lacking in its world. Fortunately, there are quick fixes for most issues. Basic care is similar to most houseplants except when it comes to watering.

Light

The silver vase plant prefers bright indirect light such as it would get in its native Brazil. Direct sunlight will damage the plant and hasten its demise. A south, west, or east-facing window will suit it just fine. It’ll thrive in normal household temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers it on the warmer side, so you can place them in a room that fits the bill.

Water

Watering is where there is a slight departure from the typical care of a houseplant. You should keep the soil moist and avoid over-watering it. Just because it’s a rainforest plant doesn’t mean it likes soggy soils. Let it dry between waterings. You will also need to add water to its vase portion, the central area where the flower will emerge. In the wild, rainwater collects there.

At home, you’ll replicate it by filling the vase with water. To avoid bacteria development, you will also need to replace it every two to three weeks with fresh water. It’s a small price to pay for keeping this plant healthy and easing its way to flowering.

Soil Conditions

The most important thing it needs from the soil is good drainage. Root rot can become a problem even with a tropical plant. Any lighter soil mixture will do. To aid draining, you should opt for a peat-based mix. Because you’re using lighter soil, that heavier clay pot is essential to keep it from toppling over. If you keep the plants outdoors, make sure it is sheltered from the wind.

Fitting In

The silver vase plant is nontoxic if ingested. However, it may cause skin irritation. Then, there are its leaves. They have spines along the edges. Be careful when handling the plant. To be on the safe side, you may also want to make sure it’s well out of reach of pets and small children.

Special Care Notes

The silver vase plant is relatively problem free. If it develops brown leaf tips, it might not be getting enough water. A light misting should bring it back. If the entire leaves develop brown spots, the problem lies with light. What you’re seeing is damage from too much direct sunlight that is burning the leaves. Move it away from direct light, and the plant should recover.

The pest issues you may encounter are mealy bugs and scale. A regular application of an insecticidal soap will take care of most problems. And finally, its large leaves may become dust magnet, especially if you’re misting your plant. You should wipe down the leaves occasionally with a damp cloth to keep it looking its best. It’ll also help keep the plant healthy.

This video from Koppert Biological Systems discusses how mealy bugs can affect your houseplants.

The silver base plant is a low-maintenance plant that offers a stunning display of its beautiful flowers even if they only bloom once. As a foliage plant, it’s an attractive addition on it own. With the proper light and adequate watering, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a gorgeous plant that will bring a bit of the tropics to your home.

Photo by HilaryFran licensed under CC0.

Learning How to Grow the ZZ Plant

Last update: April 25, 2020

The ZZ plant is an excellent choice for a plant with low-maintenance needs. It’ll tolerate neglect and perhaps even thrive. That is because this plant evolved having to survive in challenging conditions. Your home is a piece of cake compared to drought. Continue reading to learn more about this user-friendly houseplant.

What Is the ZZ Plant?

The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) has nothing to do with sleeping. Rather, the ZZ name refers to its genus and species name. It is the sole member of its genus that belongs to the Araceae or Arum Family. The group includes many plants you’ll likely recognize such as jack-in-the-pulpit and peace lily. Rather than regular flowers, they have a spadix for a bloom.

Maybe we were premature so say it isn’t about sleeping. This plant is slow growing, so you might wonder if it’s still awake. It won’t flower most likely. You may not need to repot it. For someone looking for a no-fuss houseplant, you can’t do much better than growing a ZZ plant. It’ll continue to thrive in most any conditions—even the occasional neglect.

Care and Maintenance

A little background of the ZZ plant will tell you most of what you need to know about its care. The plant grows in eastern Africa where it has evolved under drought-like conditions. It is a tough plant that you may put in the category of houseplants that are hard to kill.And it has few special needs. Basic houseplant care will suffice. At full maturity, it reaches heights up to three feet.

Light and Temperature

The ZZ plant prefers indirect light that is neither too bright nor too shady. Direct sun will scorch its leaves while too little will affect its already slow growth. Overall, it will tolerate most indoor settings as long as you avoid extremes. The ZZ plant will do just fine in normal indoor temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer conditions will spur growth.

While it is a tolerant plant, it won’t thrive in a windowless room. It needs some light to undergo photosynthesis. You can place it in most rooms, except for a north-facing room which likely won’t have enough light for it to make food and energy.

Moisture

The ZZ plant is a succulent which is one way plants adapt to dry conditions. Their thick, fleshy leaves allow the plant to store water to get it through tough times. Cacti and other plants from dry areas share similar adaptations. That means you needn’t worry about relative humidity as much as you’d have to with a tropical plant. The conditions in your home are all right.

Since it evolved to handle drought, you should let the soil dry between waterings. In fact, if there is one way to kill a ZZ plant, it is through over-watering. The telltale yellow leaves will tell you that you’re overdoing it. It’s essential to avoid watering it too much to prevent root rot. It is the bane of many houseplants, especially when you grow them in containers.

This video from Fulton Mason Peoria Tazewell Extension explains the proper way to water your houseplants to keep them happy.

Soil Conditions and Fertilizing

Proper drainage is essential for growing the ZZ plant. That means you should select a container with holes on the bottom even if you have to make them yourself. The soil should also lend itself toward fast-draining conditions. You can use a soil mixture appropriate for cacti and succulents. These lighter soils will prevent water from pooling and create a healthier environment for roots.

The soil mixture will directly impact your choice of container. You’ll need to compensate for the lighter soils with a pot that is heavier to keep the plant from becoming top heavy. It’s a good opportunity to use a decorative ceramic or terra cotta container instead of a plastic one.

As you may expect with a slow-growing plant, fertilizing will not be your top maintenance priority with a ZZ plant. However, it still needs to get its nutrients from the soil. You should plan on fertilizing it quarterly with a weak, all-purpose product. It’s especially important for plants actively growing in lighter conditions. It’s probably something you want to encourage.

Fitting In

The ZZ plant is one of many plants that can improve indoor air quality by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You may think of air pollution as an environmental problem. But indoor air quality is also a concern simply because we spend so much time inside, especially during the winter months.

You can propagate additional ZZ plants from cuttings. But do you remember that part about it being slow growing? That will also apply to the new plants you’re trying to grow. Stay patient, and you’ll see them take hold, eventually. Provide the cuttings with same conditions that your adult plant enjoys. Believe us; it’ll happen.

Given the right conditions, the ZZ plant will reach its mature height, albeit, over period of time. You also have some control over its spread. If you plant it in a wide container, it’ll become a bushier plant over time. The reverse is also true. So, you can easily match this plant with the space which is something you can’t say with a lot of houseplants.

Special Care Notes

The one caution is that it may contain calcium oxalate crystals. They can cause mouth and throat irritation if a pet or child accidentally ingests any part of the plant. Otherwise, that is the only drawback to an otherwise smart choice for an indoor plant.

The ZZ plant is a handsome plant with beautiful foliage. It has a lot to offer the home gardener. It is low maintenance and will tolerate lapses in good care. As long as it has some indirect light, it’ll fare well in your home. It will pay you back for its optimal growing conditions with a plant that will improve your indoor air quality. Now that’s what we call a win-win situation.

Photo by CITYEDV licensed underCC0

Wrap Your Mind Around Our Sansevieria (Snake Plant) Care Tips

Last update: April 1, 2021

A common plant in commercial buildings and office, the Sansevieria plant has long green or green-grey leaves arranged in a rosette around a central growing point. The sturdy, leathery leaves can grow up to four feet tall and provide a focal point in otherwise drab- looking rooms, like boardrooms or hospital corridors. The Sansevieria can survive just about any neglect or punishment, except for over watering, and can easily be propagated in a soil mixture or water, or by dividing a mature plant and repotting it in one or more containers. The Sansevieria is also called the Snake Plant, Mother-in-law’s Tongue or Devil’s Tongue.

Growing and Maintenance of the Sansevieria

The genus Sansevieria consists of 70 species, including the Sansevieria trifasciata. With its thin, dark green leaves, banded yellow on either side, the Sansevieria trifasciata makes an attractive, low-maintenance potted plant for homes and offices. Native to Africa, India, and Indonesia, this sturdy plant forms dense stands spread by creeping rhizome. The vertical leaves grow from a rosette in the center of the plant.

The Sansevieria’s leaves are sword-shaped and can reach 35 inches long and 2.4 inches wide when mature. The Snake Plant graces large planters in hospitals, hotels, stores and banks. This ornamental plant also removes toxins from the air, and they may even provide allergy relief. (source)

The Snake Plant’s leaves may be poisonous if ingested. Keep the plant away from curious pets and avoid placing it in children’s bedrooms.

Watering

This drought-tolerant plant makes an ideal potted plant for the home or office. It requires little watering and rarely needs to be feed or repotted. There’s little danger of damage to the plant if it becomes root bound, and it does well in low humidity.

Allow soil to dry completely between waterings. Water every other week during spring and summer, and test soil before watering in the fall to make sure it’s dry. During the winter, water monthly or only when soil is dry to the touch.

Water only the soil, and be careful not to get any water on the leaves. Pouring water directly on the Snake Plant’s leaves causes them to rot. When leaves become yellow or mushy, it’s usually due to over watering. Always use a well-draining soil, and don’t let the plant sit in water, even for a short period.

Soil and Fertilizer

The Sansevieria will flourish without feeding, but you can use a mild cactus fertilizer during the spring and summer. Avoid feeding the plant in the winter.

Light and Temperature

A Snake Plant tolerates many light conditions, from 60 percent to 80 percent shade to bright light levels. However, the plants grow best in medium light with partial shade.

The Sansevieria trifasciata is sensitive to cold, and shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees, frost or cold winds. The Snake Plant grows well in temperatures from 70 to 90 degrees.

Learn more about this sturdy plant by watching “Let’s Talk about Snake Plants – Sansevieria” from the PlantzNThings YouTube Video Channel.

Planting and Propagating

Although over watering a snake plant can kill it, rooting it in water is one of the best propagation methods for this plant. Select a healthy leaf on a mature plant and cut it off with sharp shears. Place the cut end of the leaf in a container with enough water to the bottom one-fourth of tissue. Position the container in indirect sunlight. Change the water every few days, and soon you’ll see small roots form. Place the rooted leaf in sand or peat moss and follow the watering and lighting procedures for the Snake Plant.

Propagating a snake plant with cuttings is even easier than growing a root in water. Cut a leaf from a grown plant, and let it dry and callus for a day or two. Fill a container with slightly moist sand and place the cut end into the sand. In a few weeks, a new Sansevieria will sprout.

Potting and Repotting

Divide a grown plant in the spring for best results, though you can repot the Snake Plant any time of year. Remove the plant from its old pot and use a hand saw or shears to cut the base into sections. You may be able to cut it in half unless the plant has too many rhizomes. Place each section in a new container with the fresh potting medium during the repotting process.

Thoroughly water the old plant before removing it to help loosen the root ball. The root ball should slide right out of the pot when you turn it upside down, but you may need to pound on the sides to loosen it. If there are soft or dark roots or root rot, trim them off with a knife. (source)

For a tutorial on how to propagate a Snake Plant, watch “How to Propagate a Mother-In- Laws’ Tongue or Snake Plant through Leaf Cuttings” on The Weekend Gardener YouTube Video Channel.

Snake Plant Problems and Solutions

  • Droopy Leaves

If your plant as droopy leaves, it’s probably due to over watering, like most of the problems with Snake Plants. Avoid soggy soil and root rot by watering only when the top two to three inches of soil is completely dry. (Use your finger or a pencil to test for dryness.) Be sure your plant’s pot has adequate drainage, and plant your Sansevieria in a soil mixture made specifically for succulents and cactus. You can also use regular potting soil with perlite or sand added to enhance drainage.

Too much bright direct light or dark lighting conditions also cause leaves to droop. Position your plant near a sunny east or west-facing window any time of year to make sure it gets the right amount of sun.

  • Mealy Bugs and Spider Mites

Most pests avoid the Snake plant, but mealy bugs and spider bugs occasionally appear on its leaves. Pick mealy bugs off the plant or wipe them off with alcohol. Get rid of spider mites by using a water spray ad increasing the humidity in the plant’s location. (source)

Photo by stephen boisvert licensed under SA-BY 2.0

Growing Peace Lily: Facts & Care

Last update: January 29, 2021

The peace lily is a unique house plant that’s somewhat deceptive in its nature. Its white, diamond-esque “flower” that defines its look isn’t a flower at all – it’s essentially a hood covering for the plant’s real flower. The plant also has a strong reputation for being able to break down airborne toxins, making it a strong environmental ally. The plant is easy to take care of, as it just requires basic indirect sunlight, water, and a variable amount of fertilizer, depending on how quickly you want the plant to grow.

A Peaceful Looking Plant

What’s in a name? If you’re talking about peace lilies, there’s a bit of deception – they aren’t actually lilies, and their signature white flower-like appendages aren’t actually flowers. But none of this hardly matters, as this beautiful houseplant will effortlessly bring grace and elegance to your home.

A Look at What Your Peace Lily May Look Like

It’s one thing to see a peace lily hanging out in your local nursery or garden shop. But seeing it in someone’s home gives you a much better frame of reference as to what you may expect it to look like. This amusing little video will provide you with such a reference, as well as a couple handy tidbits on how to give it the love it needs to thrive.

So, What Are Those White Things?

The aesthetic hallmark of a peace lily is the white diamonds that encase the end of plant’s flowers. However, these diamonds are not part of the flower; rather, they’re a leaf bract emanating from the stem. This bract acts a hooded shield that protects the flower part of the plant.

The beauty of this faux flower makes it a popular plant, which is a very good thing from an environmental standpoint. The peace lily’s capacity to break down and neutralize toxic gases within its pores is matched by very few plants. It’s an ability that no less of an authority than NASA has recognized.

One thing to note about these white bracts: They are dust magnets whose ability to process sunlight can be hindered greatly if they aren’t cleaned. While you don’t have to constantly clean the bracts, you should be prepared to wash or wipe them down at least once a year.

Caring for Your Peace Lily: Lighting and Temperature

Another reason why peace lilies are popular – and make great house plants for people new to gardening – is that they are quite easy to maintain. They aren’t too temperamental, and other than wiping down their bracts, don’t require any unorthodox care methods.

Like a lot of indoor plants, peace lilies thrive with medium to low light. In fact, the plant is unique in the sense that the amount of light you want to give it will directly correlate with what you want the plant to look like.

If you want the bracts to unfurl wide and become more diamond-shaped, you’ll want to put them in a greater amount of light. Conversely, putting the plant in lower light will allow it to maintain a more traditional indoor plant look, complete with tighter white ends. Whatever you do, though, avoid putting this plant in direct sunlight – you’ll end up scorching its leaves.

You’ll also want to put your peace lily in a place where it can enjoy a consistent temperature between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You also want to be mindful of protecting your plant from drastic temperature swings or sudden drafts of cold.

Caring for Your Peace Lily – Water and Fertilizer

Like any house plant, consistent watering is important to the health of a peace lily. You don’t want to have a lapse in giving the plant water, but you don’t want to overdo things, either.

Ideally, you’ll give the plant enough water to ensure its potting soil is moist without being soggy. The best way to see if your plant needs water is to stick your finger in its soil. If it doesn’t have any dirt clinging to it after it’s removed, it’s time to water.

A peace lily will do also do its part to let you know if it needs a drink. It will dramatically wilt if it dries out; if you see this, you won’t even need to do the finger test – water your plant post haste. Fortunately, your plant will bounce right back to its vibrant self once it gets the water it needs.

Because peace lilies are technically tropical plants, they especially thrive in high levels of humidity. If its area is insufficiently humid, its leaves will start browning on its edges. You can counteract this with a humidifier, surrounding it with more houseplants, or setting the pot on top of a tray of pebbles.

As far as fertilizer goes, you can fertilize your peace lily about once or twice a year if you want to promote steady, consistent growth. However, if you want to speed up its growth or maximize its blooming potential, you can add fertilizer on a more frequent basis.

A general-purpose fertilizer is all you need to help your peace lily along. That said, be sure to follow the application instructions to the letter. Adding too much fertilizer in one setting can do more harm than good.

Finally, because peace lilies are relatively compact plants, you won’t have to worry about re-potting like you would with tall plants. If anything, the need for re-potting can be somewhat mitigated when its first purchased. If you initially plant it in a 10-inch pot, you may not have to think about re-potting at all.

All of this basic maintenance adds up to a very easy plant-growing experience, making peace lilies an excellent house plant option for the beginning gardener. Succeeding with a peace lily may foster the confidence that’s so often needed to tackle advanced plants, so think of the plant as a stepping stone for even more amazing things as you admire its beauty.

Photo by Olin Gilbert Licensed Under CC BY 2.0

Growing the Hawaiian Ti Plant Easily

Last update: April 1, 2021

You have to like a plant with the moniker, good luck plant. Who can’t use a bit of extra good fortune? The Hawaiian ti plant is a broadleaf evergreen that comes in a variety of sizes and colors. It’s a vibrant tropical plant that will bring a bit of island magic to your garden or home. Its stunning feature is its long colorful leaves. Continue reading to learn more about this plant.

What Is the Hawaiian Ti Plant?

Its name probably says it all. The Hawaiian ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa, syn. Cordyline terminalis) is a tropical member of the Asparagus Family, yes, that asparagus. The group includes other exotic-sounding plants like agave and yucca. Like many tropical plants, it is an evergreen plant that can provide year-round interest in the right location.

Also known as the Hawaiian good-luck-plant, it excels as a focal point with its eye-catching, lush foliage. You’ll find it with green leaves, but you’ll also see many cultivars with brightly colored leaves in red, orange, or yellow variegation. The name of the cultivar often provides this information with descriptive names like ‘Painter’s Pallette’ or ‘Oahu Rainbow.’

Planting the Hawaiian Ti Plant

You’ll find a broad spectrum of sizes with cultivars and hybrids of the Hawaiian ti plant. You can opt for a plant that will suit your tastes and size allotment. Heights range from 3 to 10 feet with spreads up to 4-foot wide—and everything in between. You’ll also find miniature varieties like ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Baby Doll’ that may be more suitable for houseplants.

Care and Maintenance

The Hawaiian ti plant’s optimal range as an outdoor plant is limited to USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 12. It’s not surprising given the fact that it lives in southeastern Asia and throughout the Pacific. Even though you may not be able to have it in the garden, it makes an excellent houseplant for bringing a bit of the tropics indoors.

Light and Temperature

The best conditions for the Hawaiian ti plant replicate its native habitat. That means bright indirect light. Outdoors, you’d be looking at partial to full sun. And as you might also surmise, the Hawaiian ti plant prefers it warm with temperatures well above the Zone 10 extreme low of 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It thrives best in temperatures over 55 degrees.

Light is important on several fronts. Of course, a tropical plant would love sunlight. But it’s also essential for maintaining the lovely variegation of its leaves. When it doesn’t get enough sunlight, the coloring will fade and turn the leaves a solid green color. How boring is that? It goes both ways. While it can tolerate low light and survive, direct sunlight might scorch its leaves.

Moisture Needs

The climate of Hawaii is best described as mild temperatures all year round with moderate humidity. The Hawaiian ti plant prefers moist soils, especially during the growing season. You should water the plant regularly, but avoid over-watering which can lead to root rot. You shouldn’t wet its leaves to prevent fungal growth. Water at the base of the plant.

Soil Conditions and Fertilizing

The Hawaiian ti plant prefers soils on the acidic side within the range of 5.6 to 6.5. You can use a peat-based soil mixture as long as it falls within that pH range. Just make sure that it is a well-draining mix if you’re planting in it in a container. Proper drainage is essential to keep your plant healthy.

If you’re planting the Hawaiian ti plant outdoors, you should do a soil test before planting. Then, amend the soil with compost or other additives to get the pH in its optimal range. Regarding fertilizer, the plan will vary depending on whether you have them in the garden or a container. The Hawaiian ti plant is one that you’ll grow for foliage as a houseplant. It rarely blooms indoors.

The fertilizer mix should favor this growth with a higher ratio of nitrogen for houseplants. You should fertilize outdoor plants at the beginning of the growing season to support both foliage and flower development. During the winter months, you can reduce applications to once a month. If you notice yellowing of the leaves, the plants need an extra boost of magnesium.

Fitting In

The range of cultivars and hybrids makes it easy to find a plant that will work for your situation. You can also keep its growth in check by topping them. Unlike shrubs and trees, the growth of the Hawaiian ti plant comes from the base. You needn’t worry about ruining its shape or hurting the plant as long as you use sharp pruning shears.

Propagating New Plants

You can easily grow new plants from your established one with cuttings from the stems. Place the cut ends into moist soil to encourage root development. You can also propagate plants with air layering. You can then spread your good luck with plants as gifts for friends and family.

This video from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener walks you through the process of propagating plants with air layering using a rubber tree as an example.

Special Care Notes

The Hawaiian ti plant has one critical special care note regarding water. Fluoride in tap water is toxic to these plants. It begins with brown leaf tips and will spread to the leaves. The lower pH of the soil will help it endure it. You can also leave tap water to sit out before using it to water your plants. You might also want to consider using a rain barrel to collect rainwater.

The Hawaiian ti plant is an attractive plant for the southern garden or as a beautiful indoor plant that will bring plenty of color to a room. With many cultivars available, you’ll be able to pick the right plant to match the color scheme and mood of your garden or indoor space. And you’ll also appreciate the extra bit of luck it’ll bring to your home.

Photo by daryl_mitchell licensed under CC By-SA-2.0.

Our Quick Guide to Calla Lily Care

Last update: January 29, 2021

The calla lily is a gorgeous plant whether you grow in in your garden or keep it indoors as a container plant. If you meet its needs for moisture and light, you’re well on your way to mastering calla lily care. And the rewards are sweet. It will add charm and elegance to any setting. Continue reading to learn more about this beautiful plant.

What Is the Calla Lily?

The calla lily (Calla aethiopica) is probably one of the most striking members of the Araceae or Arum Family. It evokes class and elegance in ways that few other plants can manage. This South African native was introduced into Oregon and California. Both its foliage and its blooms are gorgeous. Its dark green foliage provides a beautiful backdrop.

Can you imagine a stand of three-foot tall plants with white, trumpet-shaped flowers? We’d say that it is nothing short of stunning. The plant grows from bulbs with a single one capable of producing several flowers. Best of all, it’ll bloom as long as you keep it happy in the conditions it prefers. A plant that doesn’t go to flower is missing something that it needs.

Planting Calla Lily

You may think of the calla lily as an indoor plant or as part of a bouquet. It is stunning in either capacity. However, you can also grow it outdoors as part of your landscaping design. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 8a through 11, you’re in luck. These plants get to a good size, so you’ll want to space them 12 to 15 inches apart if you’re growing them outside.

Care and Maintenance

While it is easy to care for once established, it’s striking the right balance with its needs that matters. The calla lily differs from other garden plants on several key points, primarily with moisture. Light is another essential consideration with a plant that likes to flower. Nutrition and soil conditions present other important factors. While it may be picky, it is worth the effort.

Light and Temperature

The calla lily loves sunshine. It thrives best in full sun. The same thing applies to plants grown indoors. A sunny location is essential. Even if everything else is right in its world, it won’t flower unless it has enough light. And it may be slow to respond if you make changes to correct any deficiencies. On the plus side, you needn’t do anything special to make it flower if all is good.

Regarding temperatures, mild days are best for calla lilies. They don’t like overly warm conditions, nor cooler temperatures. However, it is surprisingly cold hardy. Based on its hardiness zones, it can tolerate an extreme low temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the high temperatures that it doesn’t like. You can mulch it to keep it cooler during warm months.

Moisture Needs

The calla lily will stand out from other garden plants because of its love for water. It is a plant that you’ll want to consider for challenging areas such as the edges of ponds. It’ll provide an excellent border plant that will add interest to your focal point. However, there are limits to its tolerance. While it likes moist conditions, it won’t handle soggy soils well and may lead to root rot.

It’s a concern both in the garden and especially with container plants. Proper drainage is critical. If its pot doesn’t have holes on the bottom, make sure. Root rot, like so many other plant diseases, is much easier to prevent rather than cure. However, you should not let the soil of a calla lily plant dry out between waterings.

This video from the University of Illinois Extension explains the things to look for to water your houseplants properly.

Soil Conditions and Fertilizing

Proper soil pH is another factor that will determine your success with growing calla lilies. You can use a standard soil mixture for container plants. However, both indoor and garden plants require soils on the acidic side in the range of 6.1 to 6.5 pH. You can find soil mixtures that will fit the bill. For outdoors, make sure and run a soil test prior to planting.

A basic soil test will provide a lot of information that can help you with calla lily care. In addition to pH, you’ll also learn the soil’s nutrient profile. As a rule of thumb, you don’t need to fertilize a calla lily plant as much as you would with others. The plant will fare better if you don’t fertilize. If you do, a weak solution is best. However, you should avoid long-term applications.

Fitting In

The calla lily plant has a lot going for it in addition to its great looks. There is one serious drawback that you need to know up front. Like many members of the Arum Family, it contains insoluble calcium oxalates. It is toxic to both dogs and cats. Accidental ingestion will cause mouth and throat irritation as well as excessive drooling in pets.

The same caution applies to people too. The entire plant is poisonous from seeds to root. It may even cause skin irritations or allergic reactions in some individuals. To be on the safe side, it’s best to wear gloves when handling it or performing routine maintenance.

Special Care Notes

On the plus side, you can propagate the calla lily easily by cutting tubers or using offsets or cuttings from the plant. It handles repotting well. You might even have some success with sowing seeds. If the plant produces berries, you can also plant them to grow new bulbs for additional plants.

Calla lily care means the right balance of light, moisture, and soil conditions. If you can satisfy its simple needs, you’ll enjoy beautiful flowers that are the epitome of elegance. We can’t think of a better plant to create a dramatic centerpiece for a landscape. For us, it is worth the effort to get it right.

Photo by Tappancs licensed under CC0.

Also Read: Growing Borage