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.
Pothos is that plant that you usually give to your friends when you aren’t sure if they have green thumbs or not. Almost anyone can cultivate this not-too-fussy plant.
While the most pothos fall into the “golden pothos” family, there is one that’s particularly eye-catching because of its extremely bright, heart-shaped leaves: the appropriately named “neon” pothos.
Like the more common golden pothos, these plants look great in a pot or hanging in a container. We suggest that you give your plant bright indirect light, not only so it can thrive, but also so it can maintain that striking neon color. (Neon pothos in low-light conditions will survive, but their leaves will start to get darker).
One of their very few demands of all pothos is to not be overwatered, so keep the top few inches of soil dry and test the soil prior to watering. While pothos don’t necessarily require fertilization, particularly if they have good nutrient soil, you can feel them on a regular schedule from April or May through August. Just follow the instructions on the label of your favorite plant food.
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.
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. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the top 2 – 3 inches of soil are dry and then provide a thorough watering. Here’s a pro tip: water with room temperature water when possible. That will prevent it from getting a chill and going into shock.
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.
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.
You’ll often see a household Benjy grown to almost six feet, although in nature, these trees can soar to 10 times that height. You’ll also sometimes see braided trunks with this plant to augment their ornamental beauty.
Caring for your Benjy
Light: Place it in a room with bright, but indirect sunlight. Again, once you find a good spot, keep the plant there, as it has a high intolerance for being moved.
Water: Steadily moist soil is great, particularly during growing season, but don’t let the plant sit in water as this will cause root rot. In the fall and winter, you can scale back and let the plant get drier.
Food: This is a plant that likes its meals. To keep up with its heavy feeding schedule, you might want to use slow release pellets at the beginning of the growing season in spring. After that fertilize monthly during the spring and summer and then scale back to once every other month during the fall and winter.
Pruning: This plant is a fast grower and should be pruned, but wait until the growing season is over.
Alocasias are considered some of the most striking houseplants available because of their eye-catching foliage. Native to the subtropics, they have close to 80 varieties with a wide range of looks.
Some are known for their gigantic leaves like the “elephant ear” varieties. Others feature highly visible veins, typically in a contrasting colors.
Alocasias need bright, indirect light. In nature, these plants thrive beneath tree canopies and direct sun will lead to the leaves getting burned. They are also used to high humidity, so don’t place them in a place where they will dry out easily, such as an air conditioner vent or a heater.
Allow the top 2 to 3 inches of the plant to dry between watering to ensure that the plant isn’t sitting in soil that is too wet.
Better known as the umbrella or parasol plant, the Schefflera is yet another example of a houseplant that will not only lend beauty to your home, they will also clean the air for you.
Available in both solid green and variegated varieties, the Schefflera likes “medium” light, which basically means good light without being in direct sunlight, which can scorch its leaves. It will tolerate a darker house, but you’ll want to rotate your plant, because it will lean towards the light source.
Schefflera likes nice moist soil, but it’s forgiving if you forget to water it for a week or two. On the other hand, you definitely don’t want to overwater as this will eventually kill it. A good rule of thumb is to water it when the first inch of soil dries out. Get rid of any excess water lying in the drip tray to avoid problems like root rot.
You also may need to prune your schefflera periodically, particularly when it is being grown in lower light situations, which can lead the plants growth to be “leggy” or floppy. Just cut away the overgrowth until the plant regains it shape.
Schefflera is occasionally susceptible to spider mites, mealy bugs and other scale insects. Insecticidal soap can usually take care of it, but if you have a persistent infestation of bugs, you might need to break out the neem oil or possibly use a systemic insecticide for houseplants.
Pachira aquatica, a tropical wetland plant from Central and South America, got its common name “the Money Tree” from a bit of mythology about its origins: a poor man prayed for money and discovered this “odd” plant. After he took it home, he became rich selling the plants he grew from its seeds. Variations of this theme said he was able to make money because the plant wasn’t just one tree – it was five.
And that’s typically what you’ll see in nurseries – a plant that looks like its trunk is braided; it’s actually the five or sometimes even seven plants that are woven together to make one Money Tree.
This is a statement plant, bold and eye-catching that deserves a dedicated spot in your home. In fact, you aren’t going to want to move your Money Tree around a lot, as it will start to drop its leaves. If that happens however, please don’t fret; it will recover.
Here are a few more tips on keeping your Money Tree happy:
Go with medium to bright indirect light.
Water when this plant is 50-70% dry. They do not have a lot of root mass, so they prefer a dryer pot.
Be sure to turn your Money Tree each time you water to allow for even growth and leaf development.
It likes a good misting now and again (remember, it’s a native of the tropics)
Feed once a month during spring and summer while new leaves are being produced.
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.
Many common names for houseplants can be misleading; they are often based on what the plant looks like as opposed to what it actually is.
Take, for example, the Asparagus Fern. No, it isn’t a fern, and you aren’t about to harvest some delicious vegetable spears if you cultivate one. (And, in fact, if your Asparagus fern sprouts berries, please note they are not edible.)
Here’s another example where what you see doesn’t quite match reality: those fuzzy, soft-looking fronds? They can hide thorny spurs, so be careful when you tend to your plant.
Caring for Your Asparagus 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. It thrives best in bright, indirect light.
Misting: Mist the plant daily, focusing on the arching stems. If the plant appears to be turning brown and droopy, it likely needs more water.
Water: Keep soil moist and water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
The Bromeliad family of plants is amazingly diverse, with eight botanical subfamilies and almost 3,600 known species. There are bromeliads that grow up to 50 feet tall (the puya raimondii) and bromeliads that you can eat (ananas comosus, better known as the pineapple).
But today we are focused on those species of bromeliads that can be grown indoors as a striking – and not to hard to maintain – houseplant.
Here’s the really interesting thing about bromeliads – they typically only flower once in their lifetimes. The colorful beauty of the plant is actually its leaves, or bracts, that are often mistaken for flowers. A bromeliad grows by added new leaves to the center of the plant. At some point, the center will become crowded and new leaves will no longer have room to form. The plant then starts producing “pups,” also known as offsets.
Caring for Your Bromeliad
Bromeliads have few needs and very few problem pests, so with good maintenance, you can enjoy one in your home or office year round.
Potting – This may be the most complicated part of having a bromeliad. They can be potted in a variety of media – in addition to traditional pots, you can also have an epiphytic or “air” plant, meaning it grows on a rock, tree bark or is somehow mounted. If you are potting your plant, don’t just use potting soil. It’s too dense and doesn’t allow for the drainage bromeliads need. You can purchase soil specific to bromeliads, or make your own that’s a mix of soil, perlite and some sort of bark, like fine fir bark, orchid bark or pine bark nuggets.
Light – For the most part, bromeliads thrive in bright, sunny spaces, but keep your plant away from direct sunlight for an extended period of time, as it can damage the leaves.
Water and Humidity – Bromeliads don’t like overwatering (they’ve adapted to withstand drought), but they do love their humidity.
For plants in a potting medium, soak it so that the water runs from the drainage holes. Then, don’t water the bromeliad again until at least the top two inches of potting media are dry. Any more and you could be asking for root rot.
If you have an air plant variety (living on a rock or tree bark instead of being planted), you just need to mist it regularly to keep it moist.
All bromeliads like about 60% humidity, which is difficult to maintain in our dry mountain desert. Regular misting or a humidity tray can help.
Fertilizing – Bromeliads don’t need a lot of food, but you’ll want to occasionally use a water-soluble fertilizer. Air plants versions of bromeliads can benefit from a liquid fertilizer diluted (about one-quarter to one-half strength), which you can then spray onto the plant.