Category Archives: Houseplants

Houseplant of the Week: The Parlour Palm

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The Neanthe Belle or Parlor Palm is one of the most popular houseplant palms in the world – and its easy to see why. With its elegant lush leaves, this palm is a lovely addition to any home.

The plant can reach three to four feet in height, but it will take several years to get there. This plant thrives in a variety of indoor lighting conditions, but a room with medium to bright light and a north or west facing window is best. Do not keep your plant in direct sunlight.

Keep your plant evenly moist, meaning the soil should never be completely dry or overly wet. Do not keep the plant in standing water for more than 15 minutes as this can lead to root rot and pests.

The Parlor Palm needs more fertilizer than most indoor palms. Feed monthly in spring and summer with a slow-release fertilizer. If the leaf tips are brown, you could be over fertilizing.

Houseplant of the Week: Bamboo or Lady Palm

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For tall, cool elegance you can’t go wrong with Rhapis excelsa, better known as the Bamboo Palm or Lady Palm.

Dark green with fan-like groups of leaves set on tall stalks, the plant is from Asia, most likely China or Taiwan. It’s low lighting and humidity needs makes it a popular choice for offices.

You should place this palm near an east-facing window out of direct sunlight in a room. Water the palm when the soil is dry to a depth of 1 inch during the spring and summer and 2 inches during the fall and winter.

You can repot your palm every couple of years, increasing the size of the pot each time if you want it to grow. After you’ve reached the desired size, continue to repot every couple of years to refresh the soil (they like a soil mix similar to what you’d use for African Violets).

You’ll only want to feed your plant during the summer and take care not to over-fertilize.

Photo courtesy of Eric in SF through Creative Commons 4.0

Houseplant of the Week: Areca Palm

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With the Areca Palm, the thing to remember is that this houseplant loves the light. Bright, indirect light, preferably from a south or west facing window is the ticket to making this palm grow.

And grow it will. Your tabletop version will gain anywhere from 6 to 10 inches every year until it reaches its mature height of six to seven feet.

Their fronds can have up to 100 leaves that spread out beautifully, which is why this variety is often referred to as the butterfly palm. However, they are one of the few palms that do well if you trim them, making it easier to keep the plant indoors for its lifespan without having to rearrange your furniture to fit it. 🙂

While Areca Palms are not difficult to care for, you can’t neglect them. They like enough water to keep their soil slightly moist in the spring and summer, while you should let the soil dry slightly between waterings in the fall and winter. As for food, you can use a time-release fertilizer in the spring that will last the whole season.

You’ll need to repot your Areca every couple of years, mostly to replenish the soil and remove fertilizer salt deposits that can build up.

Houseplant of the Week: Zebra Plant

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This week’s houseplant feature is a little harder to grow than many of the other ones we’ve shared with you – but it is so beautiful, we think it’s worth the effort.

These gorgeous guys are known by their pointy deep green glossy leaves shot through with silvery veins, giving them their iconic striped appearance.

And in the late summer or early autumn, these plants flower – tall, elegant flowers that last up to six weeks and are very striking.

But you need to pay attention to what your zebra wants – and he wants bright light, high humidity and plenty of water. Never allow the soil to dry out. You might want to use lukewarm water to keep the soil temperature up; and you don’t want house temps to fall below 60 degrees for smaller plants. Larger plants actually would prefer the temps to be above 70 degrees – greenhouse or conservatory conditions, truly.

But you can raise these lovelies in your home, if you are willing to keep the heat on and keep them well watered. For your effort, you’ll get a healthy plant that annually produces some show-stopping blooms as a bonus.

Houseplant of the Week: Schefflera

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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 possible use a systemic insecticide for houseplants.

Houseplant of the Week: Monstera Deliciosa

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Like many lovely plants, Monstera Deliciosa is stuck with a not-so-appealing name, but this monster is actually very popular for its large, dramatic, perforated leaves. In fact, you can see it often in magazine spreads as a “statement” plant, dominating the decor.

Which leads to our first piece of advice about this houseplant – it needs a lot of room. Cramped spaces, tight corners, and windowsills need not apply.

As far as general care, your monstera likes a well-lit indoor spot and weekly waterings. You’ll want to keep those gorgeous “Swiss cheese” leaves clean with a damp cloth. In addition to removing dust, it actually allows the plant to “breathe” better and absorb moisture, which it likes as a tropical plant.

Monsteras outgrow their pots in about two years. You might also want to consider lending your monstera a little support (like a trellis or support sticks) to help it stay upright.

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: Fiddle Leaf Fig

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Two weeks ago we told you about rubber plants (ficus elastica) and last week we talked about the weeping fig (ficus banjamina). This week we complete our ficus trifecta by focusing on the fiddle leaf fig or ficus lyrata.

This is the glamour puss of the ficus world. 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 concerns are 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: Ficus benjamina

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Keeping with our ficus theme from last week, we turn our attention to ficus benjamina, 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: Rubber Tree

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Tall, dark, handsome and super easy to grow: what’s not to love about a rubber tree plant?

With it’s beautiful dark glossy leaves, ficus elastica is one of the easiest varieties to cultivate. It doesn’t drop leaves all the time like the Weeping Fig and doesn’t demand as much maintenance as your average Fiddleleaf Fig.

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 based of the plant. Your plant is not trying to climb out of its pot; these are “aerial” roots and perfectly normal.