The Hardiest of Houseplants

Friday, July 11th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Thin fruit trees after “June drop” when the trees partially thin themselves. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. Pears don’t need thinning.
    • Garlic should be harvested when the leafy tops turn yellow and fall over; air-dry bulbs, remove tops and store bulbs in a cool place.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming through the summer. Watch for pests and diseases and treat as soon as you see trouble.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.
    • Prune rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas to shape them now. If you wait much longer, you will be cutting off next year’s flowers.

The Hardiest of Houseplants

There are houseplants that even brown thumbed gardeners can enjoy. They require minimal care and are able to put up with irregular watering, low-light conditions and occasional feeding.

Some of the best and easiest houseplants are in the Dracaena family. Dracaena fragrans “Massangeana” (corn plant) and D. deremensis ‘Janet Craig’ adapt well to low light conditions yet remain attractive. Both have wide strap-like leaves. The first with a yellow stripe down the center and the latter, a dark lush green.

Dracaena Warneckii is a handsome plant with distinctive white stripes down the center of each wide leaf. There is also a “Lemon Lime” variety that has dramatic green and yellow stripes on its foliage.

Dracaena marginatas have thin, dark leaves. They make elegant, tall plants for a corner or to add a vertical dimension to a wall or entryway.

Pachira, or Money Tree, is hardy plant and extremely tolerant of low light and dryness. With braided trunks and large, 5-leaflet leaves, these plants can reach 7 feet in height, so give room to grow.

Aglaonema, or Chinese Evergreen, is valued for its lush green leaves that often have silver or cream variegations on them. It is one of the best for low light situations and will tolerate light watering but thrives with lots of water.

Spathiphyllum is one of the few plants that will flower well indoors. It has large dark
green leaves on slender stems and its flower resembles a calla lily. It is known as Peace Lily or White Flag.

Sansevieria or Snake Plant is almost indestructible. It will tolerate low light levels and little watering; during winter it only needs watering every couple of months. It will rot easily if overwatered.

Chamaedorea elegans (Neanthe Bella Palm or Parlor Palm) is a small palm tree, growing slowly to 3 feet tall with slender, cane-like stems. It is often grown as a houseplant, and was particularly popular in the Victorian era. It can be grown in low light, but it grows faster with bright, indirect light.

For hanging plants it’s hard to beat trailing philodendrons or pothos. Philodendron cordatum is a tough, long-lived, trailing plant. They can live for 10 years or more in the same 6-inch pot. It requires very little care.

Pothos is similar in appearance to the trailing philodendron. Its leaves have bright yellow streaks on top of an apple green background. A white and green variety is called ‘Marble Queen.’ Both will take low light conditions and will grow to 20 feet or more, if you let them. Just keep the soil evenly moist.

There’s a houseplant for almost every condition. Houseplants beautify and freshen the air in our indoor environments.

Gardening Gift List

Sunday, December 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Living Christmas trees are now available. The slower growing spruces can be used for several Christmases before you need to plant them.
    • Spring bulbs can still be planted now. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives.
    • Clean up the yard and compost dead plants. Replace them with pansies and primroses for winter bloom.
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.
    • Fruit trees can be planted now from containers while the soil is easy to dig. Many are on sale now!

Gifts for the Gardener

This time of year we are all thinking more about our gift lists than our gardens. But whether it’s decorating your indoor space with houseplants and indoor fountains, or gathering gifts for those who love the garden and outdoor entertaining, there are lots of things to discover at local garden centers.

Indoor spaces are greatly enhanced by the presence of houseplants. The greenery not only softens the corners and adds life to the room, but also improves the air quality. Plants remove air pollutants while adding oxygen to the air, which is especially valuable in the winter when we tend to keep the doors closed most of the time.

Hanging plants, like philodendrons, pothos, or spider plants, can soften the edge of a bookcase, improve the look of an empty corner, or hide areas you don’t want on view. Some upright plants, like weeping figs, rubber plants, or dracaenas, make fine floor plants while prayer plants, peace lilies and Boston ferns are very attractive on tables.

Bright red Holiday Amaryllis, pre-packaged and ready to grow, make a nice gift for any indoor gardener.

Small fountains for the indoors provide the soothing, relaxing and stress-reducing sound of trickling water.

Outdoor fountains are a great enhancement to the patio or garden area. Made of concrete, these large pieces last for many years and can serve as a focal point for a deck or patio. Containers of any size, with or without a plant, are a welcome gift.

Other statuary items include birdbaths and figurines of various sizes and styles to make a statement in the yard, or be tucked into smaller spaces. You’ll find animals, angels, and dragons as well as saints and Asian figurines.

For the bird lover, there are feeders, bird houses and birdbaths. There are many kinds of feeders both for seed-eaters and for hummingbirds and orioles. Bird houses that are designed with the preferences of each type of bird in mind will give a home to the friends you enjoy the most. A birdbath looks lovely in any garden and is a must for the bird enthusiast.

Add music to the garden or patio with beautiful windchimes. Musical chimes range from tropical island sounds to deep Westminster chimes, while the gentle, natural sound of bamboo windchimes is reminiscent of the sound of water bubbling over stones.

On a more serious note, there are tools of all kinds for gardeners and outdoor lovers. Rain gauges and thermometers help you keep track of local weather conditions. And tools run the gamut from pruning shears, loppers and gloves to spades, forks and Grandpa’s Weeder.

There are specialty tools for experienced gardeners. Kneelers make working in the garden a whole lot easier. Use your arm strength to raise and lower yourself to a padded kneeling platform to plant and pull weeds. Special gloves help support arthritic hands and ratchet pruning shears reduce pressure on the hand while getting the job done.

Add a gardening calendar and you and your gardening friends can look forward to another great year of gardening pleasures.

Hardy Houseplants

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Living Christmas trees are now available. The slower growing spruces can be used for several Christmases before you need to plant them.
    • Holiday Amaryllis are easy to bring into bloom and they make lovely gifts.
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying now with copper sulfate to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees next spring.
    • Wild bird feeders will attract migrating birds so you can enjoy the pleasure of their company.

The Hardiest Houseplants

Houseplants brighten our environment, especially in the winter time. Many houseplants require minimal care and are able to put up with adverse conditions, like not being watered regularly, low-light conditions and not being fed on a regular  schedule. Here are some of these  “toughies “:

There are many varieties of Dracaena, like the corn plant, with a yellow stripe down the center of each leaf, and “Janet Craig”, a compact plant with dark green leaves, that will adapt well to low light conditions yet remain attractive. Dracaena marginata has slender leaves and attractive trunks that make it a fine upright plant.

Philodendrons are a large family of plants that take adverse conditions. There is the trailing philodendron with its dark green, heart-shaped leaves, and the split-leaf philodendron which has large, attractive leaves and needs a sturdy stake. A new variety of trailing philodendron is called ‘Brazil’ and it has attractive variegated leaves.

Chinese evergreen is a tropical foliage plant is valued for its lush green leaves that often have silver or cream variegations on them. It is one of the best for low light situations and will tolerate light or heavy watering.

Spathiphyllum is one of the few plants that will flower well indoors. It is known by several common names including white flag and peace lily. It has large dark green leaves on slender stems and its white flowers resemble calla lilies.

Pothos is similar in appearance to the trailing philodendron.  Its leaves are brightly splashed yellow on top of an apple green background. It grows to be a very long, trailing plant that can be trained around a macrame hanger or up the wall. It will take lower light conditions and just needs the soil evenly moist. It’s sister plant is called Marble Queen and it has green leaves splashed with white. It is also very hardy.

Parlor palm is one of the smaller palms, eventually growing to 3 feet tall. It is slow-growing and takes low light, dry soil and varying house temperatures. They are easy to care for and live for many years.

Sansevieria, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant, is a tall, slender plant with thick waxy leaves that likes to be pot bound. It is excellent in the home as an air-cleaning plant and almost impossible to kill.

Spider plant, or air plant, is extremely adaptable and will even grow in low light if necessary. The variegated leaver are attractive and the plantlets that emerge on long stalks from the mother plant can be cut off and rooted to make new plants. They are very good at cleaning the air.

The “Money Tree”, Pachira, looks a lot like the familiar Umbrella Tree, but is much easier to grow. With its braided trunk and broad leaves, it is very attractive and may eventually grow to be a small tree. It is durable and versatile and makes a lovely gift plant.

If you have a difficult, low-light situation or you find houseplants hard to grow, try some of these beauties and enjoy their greenery around you.