It’s interesting how many plants have common names that remind you of creatures that live in the water. Heliconias are known as “lobster claws” because their flowers have that shape. Then there’s the String of Dolphins. Today’s fish-as-a-plant is the Goldfish Plant.
Columnea gloriosa features dark green leaves and flowers of red, orange and gold that do look a lot like goldfish.
They are an easy plant to grow and care for and are also great for propagating. Plus, they make quite a splash (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves) with their colorful flowers.
Caring for Your Goldfish Plant
Goldfish plants want a lot of light, but direct sun will burn them so make sure it’s indirect. They also grow well under artificial light in the winter.
These plants love humidity, so make sure that their soil never fully dries out and if you have them in a hanger, mist them on a pretty regular basis. (And mist them with room temperature water, not cold, which can damage the leaves). If you want a really happy Goldfish plant, you might want to consider the bathroom, where they’ll thrive on the steam from the shower!
You’ll want to fertilize on a regular basis during the growing season (spring and summer). Controlled release pellets are a good choice.
- This is a long-living plant, and will thrive if you repot it every couple of years.
- You can easily propagate this plant. Pick a stem a few inches long without a flower bud and they will take root very easily.
- Also look out for aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs as these are common pests on this tropical plant.
You can check out all of our Houseplants of the Week in our gallery here.
The image that probably pops into most people’s heads when you mention Ivy is the vine you often see clinging to the sides of houses. In fact, as a vine, it’s often considered invasive because of its aggressive growth.
But Ivy as a houseplant makes a lovely addition to a home, where its leaves will cascade down from pots and hanging baskets.
Caring for Your Ivy Plant
The most important thing your ivy plant needs is the right amount of light. The mostly green varieties like a bright light, but if you have a variegated version with white on the leaves, you might want to bring that down to medium light.
While Ivy like humidity and to be watered regularly (think of English Ivy in the rainy British Isles), it doesn’t like to be soaking in water, which can make the roots rot.
Remember to feed your plant, too. Fertilize your ivy with a water soluble, nitrogen-rich fertilizer about once a month except in winter, when the plant is dormant.
Finally, remember this is a plant from northern Europe, so it tends to like its temperatures on the cool side.
What makes Euphorbia milii, the Crown of Thorns, such an easy indoor plant to cultivate? It thrives in the conditions you find in most homes, adapting well to normal room temperatures (although it can withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees). It doesn’t mind dry indoor conditions and will even forgive you if you miss a watering or two.
The one thing it does insist on is a little sunbathing. Your plant will be super happy in a sunny window where it gets about four hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day.
Caring for Your Crown of Thorns
- Soil –Use a sandy, well-drained soil that is 2/3 cactus or succulent potting soil and 1/3 perlite or coarse sand. The soil should drain quickly to prevent root-rot.
- Water – From late spring to early fall, water your plant well and then allow the top half of the soil to dry out before watering again. Reduce the amount of water when the plant is not producing new leaves and flowers, but never allow the soil to totally dry out.
- Fertilizer –Feed monthly when it is actively growing with a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength.
- Pests & Diseases – While the plant is pest-resistant, too much moisture can cause mildew or fungus on the plant.
- Repotting – A Crown of Thorns plant needs to be repotted every two to three years.
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.
Dracaenas 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.
Although they have no flowers, the club moss or Selaginella, is a charming, easy-to-care-for houseplant whose beauty comes from its foliage.
Colors can range from green to gold and some species feature new growth that is white, which makes them look like they are frosted.
They also can be placed in a variety of containers, working well in pots and terrariums.
Caring for Your Club Moss
- Soil – If planting in a pot, start with good commercial potting soil, which is lighter than top soil and often contains a mild “starter” fertilizer.
- Water – Club Moss likes moist but well-drained soil. Check the soil moisture with your fingertips. If the top two inches are dry, or the plant is wilted, you need to water it.
- Fertilizer – Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly.
- Temperature – The Club Moss is a native of sub-Saharan Africa and loves humidity. If you want to make this plant happy, place it in the kitchen or bathroom. Avoid placing in drafty, hot, or high sun locations.
You have to love the nicknames that this week’s houseplant goes by: the airplane plant, the ribbon plant, and (our favorite) hen and chickens. But for most of us, the variegated leaves of Chlorophytum comosum are best known as “the spider plant.”
Spider plants like indirect sunlight, as direct sunlight can burn the tips of their leaves. (Cut the tips off if this happens). They also like nice even moisture, so a good potting soil mix is essential. These guys grow fast, so you might want to repot them every once in a while so they don’t get root-bound.
Like many of the plants we’ve featured in this series, spider plants are good at detoxifying the air.
Move over, venus flytrap – there’s a new carnivore in town.
Nepenthes, which is often called the monkey cup or tropical pitcher plant, is rather exotic looking. From its tendrils you’ll see globe- or tube-shaped protrusions that act as traps. In the tropics, monkeys are often seen drinking rainwater from these “pitchers” which is how it got its most popular nicknames.
However, if you are smaller than a monkey, you might want to watch out. While insects are the primary diet for Nepenthes, larger versions of the plants in the wild have been known to trap rats, lizards and even the occasional bird. (Yikes – cue the “Little Shop of Horrors” soundtrack.)
Not to worry, however; the hybrids we offer at Warner’s will most likely stick to bugs.
Caring for Your Nephentes
- Light – These plants love bright (although not direct) sun. A nice windowsill with bright light is perfect for this plant, which needs a hefty dose of light to develop its “pitchers.” Just make sure the plant doesn’t scorch, which will show up as red zones on the plant’s upper most growth.
- Humidity – Although this plants roots are in the tropics, you don’t have to have a hothouse to grow a Nepenthes. They’ll tolerate lower humidity although they probably won’t develop as many pitchers. A terrarium is a great choice for this plant, however, because of the increased humidity it provides.
- Soil – Your medium for this plant should be a mix of moss and perlite, not potting soil (the minerals in potting soil will actually damage the plant).
- Water – Don’t let your Nephentes dry out completely. On the other hand, standing water is a bad idea as it causes root rot.
- Temperature – As you would expect with a plant that comes from the tropics, Nephentes doesn’t like the cold. Please keep it away from the air conditioner or drafts.
This week’s houseplant, Philodendron, comes in many varieties, including Splitleaf, Brasil and Hope Selloum, but one of our favorites here at the nursery is the “Swiss Cheese” philodendron.
The name comes from the holes that form on its heart-shaped leaves as it gets older.
In addition to being beautiful, they are relatively easy to care for.
- All philodendrons like bright, but indirect, light.
- These are tropical plants, so they like their humidity. A swiss cheese philodendron in your bathroom or kitchen will likely be a happy plant.
- It’s a good idea to let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings.
- If you give them some support, they will climb like a vine.
Finally, if your leaves are pale, it’s likely that your Philodendron isn’t getting enough calcium and magnesium. A good fertilizer will help you correct any nutritional deficiencies for your plant – just ask one of our experts at Warner’s about which fertilizer would be right for your philodendron.
Ferns are typically underrated, and we think we know who’s to blame: yuppies.
A long time ago, in an attempt to cater to the wave of young urban professionals, lots of bars decided to go upscale. They installed better lighting, started offering fancier expensive drinks and added a lot of plants, mostly ferns, to their decor. The term “fern bar” was coined – and for many who missed the shot-and-a-beer vibe of their local watering hole, it wasn’t meant as a compliment.
But the haters don’t appreciate how versatile, easy to maintain and just plain luscious ferns are. And they seem to come in endless varieties. There’s the Western Sword with its layers of fronds coming up to a point like a sword; the Asparagus Fern, with its airy, delicate appearance and the Crocodile Fern with its scaly textured leaves. Not to mention the Birds Nest Fern, the Lady Fern, the Eagle Fern, and the Ostrich Fern (there’s a lot of ferns named after animals, aren’t there?)
Caring for Your Fern
- Light: Ferns grow in the wild on forest floors where there’s a lot of shade, but this doesn’t mean that your houseplant has to be in a dark corner. So give your fern some morning or late afternoon sun, similar to the dappled light it would experience in the wild. No direct sunlight, however; that will make them lose their leaves or turn the fronds yellow.
- Water: Ferns like moisture, so stand their pots on trays of damp pebbles and mist them regularly unless you are using a humidifier in the room, in which case that should be enough humidity for them.
- Fertilizer: During the summer, feed your ferns every two to four weeks (dilute the strength because ferns have delicate root systems, and full strength will scorch them). Stop feeding in winter, while the plant is “resting.”
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