Category Archives: Houseplants

Houseplant of the Week: Kalanchoe

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Kalanchoe, which also goes by the lively names “Flaming Katy” and “Madagascar Widow’s-thrill,” is a popular succulent that comes in a wide variety of vibrant colors, including yellow, pink, magenta, orange and red. These blooms are set off by gorgeous, large, deep-green leaves.

They like bright, natural light as long as they don’t get too much direct sun, which can cause burning. The more light they get, the better; the flowers often won’t bloom if the plant doesn’t get enough.

As succulents, Kalanchoe don’t want to be sopping wet. They need good drainage. Water well and then water again when dry (which could mean up to two weeks depending on your house temperature, lighting and the size of the pot).

When you repot, use a mix of regular potting soil and one designed for succulents. And while Kalanchoe aren’t particularly vulnerable to pests, keep an eye out for aphids and mealybugs.

Houseplant of the Week: Caladium

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Many think of caladium as an outdoor annual, but this plant, with its dramatic array of green, red, pink and white leaves can be grown indoors as well.

However, don’t be surprised if your plant only produces leaves from spring to fall. Caladium plants require a rest period of about five months before they sprout again in spring.

Place your caladium in medium light, keeping them out of direct sunlight, which can burn their leaves.

The big challenge with these plants is that they like a lot of humidity, as they are natives of tropical forests. You can achieve this by misting or placing a saucer filled with pebbles and water under the container. As the water evaporates, it will moisten the air and provide the humidity your caladium needs to stay happy.

Houseplant of the Week: Ficus Audrey

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Banner featuring image of the Ficus Audrey

We understand why you might be a little nervous about adopting a plant named “Audrey,” particularly if you are a fan of Little Shop of Horrors. But we promise our Ficus Benghalensis is not a bloodthirsty alien looking to take over the world.

Although now that we think about it…

In the wilds of India and Pakistan, where they are known as Banyan Trees, the Ficus Audrey can soar to 100 feet tall and grow several acres wide. They have roots that easily overtake other roots, which allows them to form a forest’s worth of canopy with just a single tree. In fact, the Thimmamma Marrimanu or Thimmamma’s Banyon Tree located in Anantapur, India, is thought to have the world’s largest canopy from a single tree, covering almost 5 acres.

So maybe not world domination, but forest domination – sure! 

Your indoor version of Audrey won’t be this expansive, but it still might grow as tall as 10 feet! In appearance, it’s very similar to the Fiddle Leaf Fig, although it’s actually easier to grow.

Here are a few tips on raising your Ficus Audrey:

  • This ficus thrives in indirect bright light. No direct sun or low light.
  • They don’t like drafts or low temperatures.
  • Make sure the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry before you water.

Pothos

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It’s hard not to love the Pothos. Their easy-going nature makes them not only a great plant for your home, but a good gift for your friends or loved ones who might not think they have green thumbs.

These versatile houseplants look great in a pot or hanging in a container (they look particularly fetching in macramé hangers, which have made a comeback.) They grow well in bright light or low light, meaning they will flourish anywhere in your home.

Caring for Your Pothos – One of their very few demands is not being overwatered, so keep the top few inches of soil dry and test the soil prior to watering. You should feed them on a regular schedule from April or May through August. Just follow the instructions on the label of your favorite plant food. (We recommend VF11 organic liquid fertilizer once a month.)

Pothos love a good misting and it’s also important to dust them when needed so they photosynthesize efficiently. This also gives you a chance to inspect your plant for any pesky pests or bugs.

Houseplant of the Week: African Violets

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Looking for a cutie to cultivate in a very small space? If so, check out the African violet.

This distinctive looking plant has bunches of purple, pink or white flowers surrounded by green, slightly fuzzy leaves.

African violets like medium to bright indirect light, which encourages blooming. You also want to make sure that the soil is moist but not soggy as they can suffer from root and crown rot. Make sure to water at the base and not on the leaves.

You also need to make sure that you take care of the leaves as their fuzzy texture can catch debris. Brush the leaves off with a small soft brush to remove dirt. Fertilize every two weeks during the spring and summer growing season.

Houseplant of the Week: Devil’s Backbone

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Devil's Backbone plant

In summer, the slow-growing Devil’s Backbone will sometimes develop “flowers” (really leaf bracts) that are pink or red, which gives this lovely houseplant some of its more colorful nickname’s – red bird flower and Persian lady’s slipper among them.

But most of the time, this houseplant sports variegated white and green leaves up its “spine.” Easy to grow and propagate, this plant has basic requirements and an aversion to cold.

Caring for Your Devil’s Backbone

Soil/Watering: This plant likes a nice even moisture, so in addition to a good potting mix, you might want to add a little peat most that will help spread out the water but keep the soil from being too wet. Make sure your Devil’s Backbone is in a pot with drainage holes so the soil drains well.

Light/Temperature: Room temperature and a spot out of the way of drafts is perfect. As with many tropical houseplants, Devil’s Backbone does not like the cold, but loves bright, indirect sunlight.

Food: Fertilize in the spring about every three weeks. This will help it produce those nice colorful bracts in the summer. Devil’s Backbone goes dormant in the fall and winter, so discontinue feeding at that time.

Houseplant of the Week: Shamrocks

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With St. Patrick’s Day arriving soon, we thought we’d turn our attention to the lovely Shamrock houseplant – symbol of Ireland and boasting hundreds of varieties, most with green or purple clover-like leaves. (The term shamrock comes from the Irish seamróg or seamair óg, which means “young clover”).

They are also a relatively easy houseplant to cultivate. There is one very important thing to keep in mind however: these plants tend to go into dormancy during the summer. Don’t throw them out! They’re resting, not dead.

Caring for Your Shamrock

Soil/Watering: Your Shamrock would like lightly moist soil and make sure to let it dry out between waterings.

Light/Temperature: Room temperature and good air circulation are perfect for the shamrock. It likes bright, but not direct light. (Except when it’s resting, as we’ll explain below.)

Food: Fertilize with a balanced houseplant food every few months.

I’m not dead, I’m resting: In late spring or early summer, the leaves will begin to die, but the plant is still okay. It’s just going into its period of dormancy to rest. Move the plant to a cooler, darker location, away from direct light and leave it alone – no water or fertilizer.  Just check on your plant every couple of weeks; dormancy can last from several weeks up to about three months, depending on the plant and external conditions.

When you see new shoots, your shamrock has woken up and would love it if you moved it back into the light and resumed regular care.

Houseplant of the Week: Watermelon Vine

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A bit of a hidden gem in the houseplant world, the trailing Pellionia pulchra (better known as watermelon vine) has oval-shaped variegated leaves with dark stems. One of the best ways to enjoy this beauty is to put it in a hanging basket or a high shelf to show off its cascading vines.

This lush plant can be a little finicky, so it’s a good idea to be attentive about its light, water and feeding.

Watermelon vine houseplant

Light: The watermelon vine likes plenty of bright, indirect light, which will help it grow. Can it survive lower light levels? Yes, but more light ensures that this plant will thrive instead of just survive.

Water: This is a plant that originated in southeast Asia, so it’s used to having moist soil. You’ll want to water when the top inch of its soil dries out. Don’t let it go completely dry!

When you water, saturate the soil until it runs through the pot’s drainage holes. Remove any excess water from the drainage plate. This plant likes moisture, but not sitting in water.

Temperature and Humidity – The sweet spot for this plant, temperature wise, is in the mid-70s. Keep them away from drafts that would come from exterior doors or cooling/heating vents. They also love their humidity, so a humidifier or pebble tray with water is highly recommended.

Here’s another tip for humidity loving plants – group them with other plants. It will boost the “collective humidity” and benefit all the plants.

Feeding Time – Your watermelon vine prefers diluted fertilizer every other week during growing season in the spring and summer. You don’t need to feed in the fall and winter when the plant is dormant.

Houseplant of the Week: Cyclamen

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There’s something very romantic about cyclamen, one of our favorite winter houseplants.

Maybe it’s the petite blooms on long stems that stretch up above its green and silver foliage. Or the colors – cyclamen flowers come in shades of pink, violet, red and white and have a pleasing, sweet scent. Or those heart-shaped leaves.

All we know is that during Valentine’s Week, we can’t keep them in stock!

We mention that they are our favorite winter houseplant, because unlike most indoor plants, their dormancy period is in the summer. Cyclamen are “tuberous perennials,” meaning they die down to their thick roots (tubers) in the heat of summer, then re-emerge and bloom again as the temperatures cool in fall.

Here are some tips for cyclamen care:

Light: Bright and indirect light in winter when the plant is actively growing. When dormant, keep your cyclamen in a cool, dark area with good ventilation.

Soil: These pretty plants like organically rich soil that drains well. Potting soil does well, but you might want to add some peat in to increase the acidity slightly.

Water: When leaves are present, the plant is actively growing and you should water when the first inch of soil below the surface feels dry. Do not overwater! It’s a common way to kill these plants. Don’t get the leaves or crown of the plant wet, which can lead to rot.

When the plant is dormant during the summer, reduce watering. All you are trying to do during this time is prevent the soil from entirely drying out.

Temperature and Humidity – Cyclamen plants don’t like extreme heat or dry air. Keep them away from drafts too. During the winter, when our air is so dry, cyclamen really want high humidity. Our suggestion would be keeping your cyclamen on a tray with pebbles and water. Just make sure that it isn’t sitting in the water, as that can cause root rot.

Feeding Time – Your cyclamen would appreciate some diluted liquid low-nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks while in full leaf. You don’t need to feed your cyclamen while it’s dormant.

Houseplant of the Week: Watermelon Peperomia

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Looking for an easy indoor plant that doesn’t take up too much room and comes in a wide range of colors and varieties? Then you might want to pick a peck of peperomia.

There’s well over a thousand varieties of these plants, but one of our favorites is the P. argyreia, whose silver stripes against dark green leaves make it look like a watermelon skin!

Peperomia tolerate low light relatively well, but they will be happiest in medium to bright indirect light. But don’t allow direct sunshine to hit those beautiful leaves; if given too much light, the colors and patterns that make this plant so special will fade.

Water your Peperomia sparingly. Wait until the top 50% – 75% of the soil is dry, then water until liquid flows through the drainage holes at the bottom. Discard any water that has accumulated in the saucer. Many types of Peperomia can hold water in their leaves, so it’s not a death sentence if you go on vacation or forget to water them once in a while.