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Archive for the category “indoor plants”

Poinsettia Pointers & Other Plants to Ring in the New Year

The only care-free poinsettia is a fake one.

The only care-free poinsettia is a fake one, remaining perky even in snow. Or in the attic.

If you’re like me, it’s tough passing up after-Christmas bargains. And since my drug of choice is plants, a trip to the nursery the 1st week of January means I’ll extend the season with HUGE, beautiful poinsettias for less than $5 each. I look at this as a quick high, a temporary fix, though. You CAN get a return bloom next year, if you are willing to put in the effort. For 5 bucks, I’m not. In case you’re on JEOPARDY, by the way, what we call the blooms  are actually brightly colored leaves – or “bracts” – with the actual flower the tiny middle part. Feel free to share the prize money. It should get me a few more poinsettias for next year.

Kolanchoes have a long bloom period, come in several colors, and thrive indoors if given lots of light.

Kolanchoes (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)

have a long bloom period, come in several colors, and thrive indoors if given lots of light.

Want an alternate, repeat-blooming Christmas-y flower without the hassle? Try kolanchoe. No. It doesn’t double as a breakfast food. You’re thinking ko-LA-che. Don’t eat these. Like poinsettias and many other houseplants, kolanchoes are POISONOUS to people and pets if ingested. (Here’s a list with more poisonous houseplants for you.) Kolanchoes not only make great houseplants, they can be planted in the ground for almost year-round color in warmer climates.

Christmas cactus – Schlumbergera bridesii – may be an old-fashioned, hand-me-down plant, but it continues to be one of my favorites for its dependability in low light conditions. My original plant came from Dad 15+ years ago and I’m pretty sure his was a cutting from someone else. It always amazes me when the buds start to pop out of nowhere around the 2nd week of December. I’ve divided mine now and am sharing pieces with friends, too, which is one of my favorite parts of gardening. And yes, having indoor plants is still gardening!

This year I surprised several special people in my life with red amaryllis bulbs for Christmas. My friend (and my co-author on HEIRLOOM BULBS FOR TODAY) Chris Wiesinger at The Southern Bulb Company offers them in a ready-to-give package. You can find a number of incredible bulbs to force for the holidays from Chris and Rebecca, in fact. Then after the blooms are done, plant them in your garden, if you live in a temperate locale like I do.

Do you have a favorite Christmas plant that’s easy to take care for? Not counting the silk poinsettias in your attic, of course.


Top 3 House Plants To Improve Indoor Air Quality

Feel free to mix plants with similar needs in one pot. (This one came as a gift and I'll have to remove the beautiful moss covering the soil to help keep mold from hiding.)

When you walk into a beauty salon, do your eyes begin to water?  How about the perfume counter at Macy’s….do you see double for a few minutes after passing by it or a man with a bit too much foo-foo water, as my grandmother used to call scented after-shave?  When you put in new carpet, paint, or exterminate your home, does your spouse/child develop a horrible headache? Chances are pretty good those symptoms signal a chemical bomb attacking your system.  Whether it is the combination of gases or a personal sensitivity to a specific one, a strong reaction might be your body’s way of sending up a white flag in surrender to something it fears.

HIT: Many houseplants are environmentally friendly HOUSECLEANERS!

Sometimes the reaction is too subtle to notice.  Or we blame an exterior source such as ragweed or pollen instead of the actual culprit.  Over time the reaction may become more severe.   If you note a correlation between a PLACE and an allergy related SYMPTOM – like itchy eyes, runny or congested nose or sneezing, skin rash, headache, sore throat – you might want to look into the root cause.  Other reactions that can be a result of poor air quality are nausea, depression and drowsiness.  And while we can’t completely avoid indoor air pollution, it is possible to lessen the impact with houseplants in your home.  Both NASA and the Soviet space program found plants invaluable for cleaning an airtight room. Recent studies from India have isolated the top THREE PLANTS  at mitigating a “sick building” so YOU don’t become the one ill. (Watch this short TED video of the Top 3 Houseplants for Removing Toxic Air in India and which room to put each in for best results or use this website to see how many/where/which plants to use.)

GOLDEN POTHOS/POTHOS IVY/MONEY PLANT: super easy, even under artificial lighting; trails, so either give it support or locate it on top of a bookshelf;

MOTHER-IN-LAW TONGUE: another super easy; great architectural, grass-like form to it for a more contemporary setting;

ARECA/CANE PALM: this one’s a little trickier for me because it needs good sunlight and takes up quite a bit of space, but great tropical feel.

A few more of my favorites are:

CORN PLANT: more tree-ish, but very easy with enough natural light, like an east or west facing window

SPIDER PLANT:  this is another one that does well on a shelf, but it needs a more direct light source than the ivy; also a variegated form

peace lily

PEACE LILY: this the mascot of my office (thanks to my friend Brenda Dickinson!) with southeastern light coming in from the atrium; nice white flower and upright, even when large it stays relatively compact

Moss may look nice, but it can mean a not-so-fun-guy on the soil of houseplants....

Mold is a killer for my allergies and indoor plants in soggy soil can be a huge source.  I try to set my plants into the bathtub once a week or so for a nice long drink, then put them back into their water-proof tray afterwards.  There are specific household products that will curtail mold growth, but I just try not to use anything like that. A periodical bath outside works great, too.  DO NOT cover the plant’s base with moss since it will encourage fungal growth.  Plants like pothos ivy and airplane are quite happy growing in WATER and might be a better choice.

Also be aware that some houseplants are poisonous to pets or when munched on by toddlers.

MYTH: All plants are GOOD for us....beware of plants that might be toxic to toddlers or pets.

If you’d like more info on growing any of these plants, check out this article on Dave’s Garden and this one, too if you send up a white flag because of your brown thumb!

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