Category Archives: Houseplants

Houseplant of the Week: Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)

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Not only are aglaonema plants beautiful, there are very easy to grow, even if you are a novice gardener.

This tropical foliage plant, also known as the Chinese evergreen,  is one of the most durable houseplants you can grow, tolerating poor light, dry air and drought.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make your home hospitable to this lovely plant. So give your Chinese evergreen medium to low light conditions or indirect sunlight. And remember, it’s from the tropics, so if you can make sure that it’s in an area that’s warm and a little humid, it would be very grateful! 

Caring for Your Aglaonema

  • Light: Your Chinese evergreen does well in anything from low to indirect light. The pink veined variety is one of the few pink plants that can tolerate low light.
  • Water: Moderate watering is best. Allow the plant to dry out between waterings as too much liquid can lead to root rot.
  • Fertilizer: Feed older Chinese evergreens a couple of times a year with water-soluble houseplant fertilize.
  • Pests: Chinese evergreens are susceptible to spider mites, scale, mealybugs and aphids. Check the leaves routinely for signs of pests.

Houseplant of the Week: ZZ, the Eternity Plant

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We’ve been doing the research but we don’t know quite how Zamioculcas zamiifolia (say that three times fast) got one of its nicknames.

Not “ZZ” (that one’s kind of obvious) or “Fat Boy,” which come from the tubby little rhizomes under the soil, but its very popular name, the “Eternity Plant.”

We’re guessing, however, that it’s because you can’t kill it. Or at least you’d have to try really, really hard.

This is one of the most forgiving plants you’ll find in our nursery. Miss a watering (or three) and it still shows off it’s glossy, feathery wings. It’s not particular about soil; anything that drains well will do. It’s not even fussy about light, which makes it very popular in places where there’s little natural light, like an office cubicle, or cities where most days are overcast. It also has no identified pest or disease problems.

No wonder this beauty is the star of so many Instagram posts!

Are there any downsides? Well, yes. Much like our recent houseplant of the week, Dieffenbachia (or Dumb Cane), your Eternity plant can be an irritant to sensitive skin. You don’t need to wear gloves around it, but you probably should wash your hands thoroughly after touching it, and you definitely shouldn’t consume it, so keep it away from pets and small children.

Caring for Your Eternity Plant

  • Light: As mentioned, “ZZ” is pretty tolerant of any lighting situation, but it does its best with bright but filtered light.
  • Water: The bulbous rhizomes under the surface contain water, which is why your Eternity plant with forgive you for missing a watering, but also be careful not to overwater, because that will cause the rhizomes to rot. You’ll know if you have overwatered because the leaves will start to turn yellow.
  • Fertilizer: Feed once a month during the spring and summer growing season.

Houseplant of the Week: Dieffenbachia

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Showy, beautiful and easy to care for, Dieffenbachia can make a super indoor plant.

It’s general tolerance for low light and numerous varieties make it a favorite houseplant. 

One word of caution, however. If you have small kids or pets, you’ll probably want to make sure you place this plant out of reach. Diffenbachia’s milky sap is a mild irritant and should be kept from bare skin. The sap can even result in temporary loss of speech if ingested by causing swelling of the tongue and throat! That’s how Dieffenbachia came by it’s other name, “dumb cane.”

Caring for Your Dieffenbachia

  • Light: It likes bright but filtered light, particularly in the spring, when it’s tender new leaves can get easily burned. Make sure to rotate your dieffenbachia so they don’t pull to one side of the planter.
  • Water: Keep your Dieffenbachia moist, but be careful not to overwater.
  • Fertilizer: Feed every couple of weeks with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to encourage growth

Houseplant of the Week: Anthurium

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Waxy and wonderful, the show-stopping heart-shaped flowers of anthurium (also known as laceleaf, flamingo flower or painter’s palette) are a wonderful addition to your home.

Gorgeous to look at, these plants are often used as centerpieces on tables or dining rooms. However, your anthurium might do really well in your kitchen or bathroom, as they love humidity.

Anthurium thrive in medium to bright light. You can have them in low-lit areas and the foliage will do well, but they probably won’t flower. They are not particularly fussy about feeding (general fertilizer every few months is a good idea), and they like their soil moist but not wet.

Like many of the plants featured in this column, anthurium is another great air purifier for your home.

Houseplant of the Week: Rubber Tree

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Tall, dark, handsome and super easy to grow: what’s not to love about a rubber tree plant, the first of our ficus trifecta.

(The other two are the Ficus Benjamina and the Fiddle Leaf Fig; click on their names to read more.)

With it’s beautiful dark glossy leaves, ficus elastica is one of the easiest varieties to cultivate. It doesn’t drop leaves and doesn’t demand much maintenance.

It also grows fast. In nature, rubber tree plants can grow to up to 80 feet, so if you keep re-potting this houseplant into bigger and bigger pots it will get wider and taller. However, If you limit it to a 10-inch diameter pot, you should get a nice 3- to 4-foot tall plant.

Rubber plants love light but keep it from direct sunlight that might burn its leaves. Do not attempt to grow this in a spot with low light; you’ll be disappointed.

Water your rubber tree about once a week during the spring and summer and every two weeks in fall and winter. Good potting soil will make your rubber tree happy. Use fertilizer sparingly – maybe once in the spring and once during the summer.

Also, do not be alarmed by some root structure that you might see at the base of the plant. Your plant is not trying to climb out of its pot; these are “aerial” roots and perfectly normal.

Houseplant of the Week: Ficus Benjamina

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Another member of the fig tree family, the ficus benjamina is also known as the weeping fig or ficus benjy.

Like other ficuses, it features nice thick foliage with dark rich leaves. It needs a bright room and steadily moist soil.

So why does it weep? Well, it doesn’t like being distressed and when it is, it responds by dropping its leaves. But if you put it in a nice bright room and leave it there (it doesn’t like moving around) and don’t overwater it, it should stay calm and beautiful.

On the plus side, this is one of the great houseplants for cleaning your indoor air.

Houseplant of the Week: Fiddle Leaf Fig

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The glamour puss of the ficus world is the fiddle leaf fig or ficus lyrata. Tall and stately, it grows in a column and tends to go up, instead of out, so it works well as a decorative tree that has the drama of big leaves without taking over the whole room. Those leaves are violin or lyre shaped, thus the name.

Fiddle leaf figs tend to get a bad rap as being, well, fiddly, but they honestly are not that demanding.

Probably their biggest concern is getting enough bright (but filtered) light and keeping warm (remember this is a tropical plant – putting one near the fan or the a/c is just torture). Like most plants, the fiddle leaf fig likes its soil moist but not sopping wet, which will lead to droopy leaves and root rot.

What they do like is a little moisture in the air, which can be hard to achieve in dry Arizona, so try misting to make the leaves of your fiddle leaf fig happy.

Houseplant of the Week: Gardenia

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Although it is more commonly a fabulous fragrant shrub in your garden, it is possible to cultivate Gardenias as an indoor plant. But regardless of whether you have it inside or outside your home, this beauty requires a little bit of protective behavior on your part.

Why? Because Gardenias tend to be susceptible to all manners of pests. But if you can manage that (and it really isn’t that hard), it’s certainly worth it.

With it’s dark waxy leaves and snow white flower, Gardenias are handsome houseplants, but let’s face it – it’s that phenomenal perfume that is their real calling card. Which is part of what makes them such fabulous indoor plants; imagine being able to move them around to wherever you are so you can enjoy that captivating scent?

Caring for Your Gardenia

Let’s get the basics done before we talk about pests:

  • Light: Gardenias love bright light, but avoid direct sunlight, especially during summer.
  • Water: Keep your Gardenia moist, but reduce watering in the winter.
  • Temperature: They love their heat. Please no indoor temps lower than 60 degrees. Keep out of the way of cold drafts.
  • Soil: Most potting soils will do, but know that Gardenias prefer slightly acidic soil, so a non-alkaline mix is best.
  • Fertilizer: Feed every couple of weeks with a non-alkaline fertilizer. If you want to lower the pH level in the soil, a teaspoon of agricultural sulfur will do the trick.

Okay, now about those pests. Mealybugs can be a problem, but what you really want to avoid is aphids, those nasty suckers that cluster below the leaves. Not only are they awful by themselves, they can also cause a secondary blight called sooty mold, which turns the leaves black. That in itself won’t kill the plant, but it keeps the plant from being able to absorb sunlight through its leaves, which in turns inhibits photosynthesis.

Fortunately, sooty mold is caused by the honeydew excreted by aphids, so if you control the aphids, you prevent sooty mold. Your best bet is neem oil. It will kill some pests, like mealybugs, on contact. It also attacks the larvae of other insects and repels pests feeding on plants because it has a bitter taste.

Repotting Your Gardenia

You should repot your gardenia every couple of years in the spring. If it isn’t as healthy as it had been, but you find no insects or diseases, it usually indicates that it needs to be repotted. Again, use a low-pH (non-alkaline) soil.

Houseplant of the Week: Tradescantia

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Leaves of Tradescantia houseplant, aka purple inch plantOur latest Houseplant of the Week, Tradescantia, goes by many names, including wandering jew and the purple inch plant.

Whatever you call it, however, it has a beauty that looks great in a hanging planter or spreading along a flat surface.

Part of the spiderwort family and originally from Mexico, Tradescantia is a plant that grows easily – some might argue too easily. In fact, in certain zones, it is grown outside and can be seen as invasive!

But as a indoor plant, it will be a welcome and colorful addition to any room.

Typically, Tradescantia matures into a plant about 6 to 9 inches in height spreading 12 to 24 inches.

Caring for Your Tradescantia

Probably the trickiest part of cultivating your Tradescantia is getting the moisture levels right. These plants like their water, but like most plants will develop root rot if they are soggy. Your best bet is to make sure that it is planted in potting soil that drains well. Mixing a little sand into your potting soil can help. Water them when the soil starts to get dry; don’t let the plant fully dry out.

You’ll also be looking to find the right balance for light. Inch plants like bright but indirect light. Too little light and the distinctive variegation on its leaves will start to fade. Too much direct sunlight and those leaves will scorch. However, inch plants can tolerate some direct light, which makes them a great choice for growing in a sunny window.

Propagating Your Inch Plant

Remember how we said this plant was easy to grow? Well, that applies to creating new inch plants from cuttings. Simply take a one-inch piece of stem containing at least one leaf and set it in fresh potting soil. Water it regularly and you should have a fully rooted new plant in just a few weeks.

You can check out all of our Houseplants of the Week in our gallery here.

Houseplant of the Week: Dracaena

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We’d understand if you think the Dracaena is an intimidating plant.

It’s name comes from the Greek and roughly translates to “Female Dragon,” because of the red gummy resin that can be produced by the stems of the plant resembling, it’s said, dragon’s blood.

Fortunately, the Dracaena doesn’t breathe fire. It’s even pretty easy to maintain.

Dracaena houseplant being heldDracaenas like filtered light or semi-shady spots. Never place a Dracaena in direct sunlight. It’s ironic, but the dragon plant actually has leaves that will burn in direct light.

Dracaenas also require less water than most indoor plants. Mist their leaves, keep the soil slightly moist but also make sure it has good drainage (Dracaenas hate soggy soil as it can create root rot). A good rule of thumb? Let the top couple of inches of soil dry out before watering.

Dracaenas are sensitive to temperature, preferring it to be about 65-78 degrees during the day and no colder than 55 degrees at night.