Tag Archive | houseplant

Plant Abuse – Case #2 Succulents Tortured with Glitter

Poor little Echeveria…

Every year, right before Christmas, I start to see what type of torture some marketing firms have dreamed up to torture plants. This year seems to be following a glitter / bling theme. As many of the suppliers of our annuals and evergreens also sell the austerities, I get to see these tortured plants first hand. It’s so sad, in my opinion. I don’t understand why a plastic version of these plants can’t be marketed. Non-plant folks don’t understand that the coating of glitter is suffocating the plant.How would you like to be covered in glitter?!? It didn’t turn out well for the girl in ‘Goldfinger‘.

Now THAT is a beautiful Christmas succulent pot!!

I did see a wonderful alternative for folks that want to share winter succulents that look Christmassy and are not being tortured. I have no affiliation to the Edsy shop that sells these, just an appreciation of the designs, and the fact they are not being tortured. They are also very well done, in my opinion. The best part is that you can remove the ‘Christmas’ part of this pot and still have a beautiful arrangement. Please consider one of these arrangements before buying a tortured, painted or glittered plant.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 11-20-2017

How to Care for Your Thanksgiving / Christmas Cactus

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The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus  (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are popular winter-flowering houseplants native to South America and come in many colors: red, rose, purple, cream, white, peach and orange. The Schlumbergera species grow as epiphytes (non-parasitic plants that grow upon others) in the rain forests.

To distinguish the difference between a Thanksgiving and a Christmas cacti, look at the shape of the flattened stem segments called phylloclades. On the Thanksgiving cactus, these segments each have saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margins. The stem margins on the Christmas cactus are more rounded and less pronounced.

Since flowering plants sell better than nonflowering, merchants tend to fill their shelves with Thanksgiving cacti.

How to Choose, Care For and Rebloom Your Poinsettia

imageChoosing Your Poinsettia:

  • Choose a plant with dark green foliage. Avoid fallen or damaged leaves as this indicates poor handling, fertilization, lack of water or a root disease problem.
  • Avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges, as this is a sign of insufficient maturity.
  • Be sure to check the underside of the leaves for insects.
  • The colorful flower bracts should be in proportion to the plant and pot size.
  • Little or no pollen should be showing on the actual flowers, the red or green button-like parts in the center of the colorful bracts. This indicates a younger plant.
  • If you are planning on reblooming your plant for next year, examine the branching structure. If the plants are grown single stem (non-branched with several plants per pot), these cultivars do not branch well and will not form attractive plants for a second year.

Prairie Fires – Cleansing the Midwestern Landscape

imageFire has played an instrumental role in affecting many of the prairies in the Midwest.
Historically, tall grass prairies are shaped by one of three types of disturbances;

  • Drought
  • Animal grazing
  • Wildfires

There are many misconceptions that if the prairie (or other natural area) was left alone, it would revert to native. In the absence of disturbance, prairies often revert to either poor quality grasslands or thorn woodlands.

Native American Indians were keen on this information, observing what Mother Nature did naturally to herself to cleanse her skin, fire. They learned that fire removed the thorny brush, which gave access to animals and hunters alike. The open areas were also available to grazing animals and native plants that equal medical supplies and food to the Indians.

Ilex vs. Tar Spot on Maple

imageThere are several fungi in the genus Rhytisma (most commonly Rhytisma acerinum and Rhytisma punctatum) that cause tar spot on maples and sycamores. These fungi commonly survive in over-wintered leaf litter, where they produce spores that lead to leaf infections.

The best defense in keeping tar spot out of your trees is to rake up and destroy all infected leaves in the fall. Leaves should be burned or properly mulched. The fungus can overwinter on fallen leaves and provide a source of inoculum to re-infect the trees for the next growing season.

 

For anyone that might be interested in learning some tips or tricks for making outdoor winter containers – Click the photos below!

         

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 10-30-2017

 

 How to Grow Garlic in the Midwest

scapesBreak up the garlic bulb into cloves. You don’t need to pull off the papery covering like in cooking. To get them off to a good start and protect them from fungal diseases, soak them in enough water to cover, containing one tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed for a few hours before planting. Garlic should be planted in the fall. Timing of planting should be within two weeks of the first frost (32°F) so they develop roots, but do not emerge above ground.

Cloves should be planted with the flat or root end down and pointed end up, 2 inches beneath the soil. Set the cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart. Top the soil with 6 inches of mulch; leaf, straw or dried grass clippings work well.

Time to Protect Shrubs for WinterScan_Pic0003

Smaller shrubs like rhododendrons, will benefit from using fresh cut branches of conifers [spruce, pine]. Direct the thick end into the ground near the crown of the plant, and intermingle the branches together. This will provide a windbreak and help stop branch breakage from the weight of snow. If the shrub is taller than the conifer branches, tie them together at different heights to protect the whole shrub.

Another method of providing protection is to use horticultural fleece, plastic, wind-break netting or commercially made covers like below. This method should be used on all late-season planted evergreens, as they may not have developed an adequate root system yet, and can dry out from harsh winds.

How to Make New Planting Beds in the Midwest

double digging 1New planting beds should begin in autumn in the Midwest because the freeze/thaw cycles of winter, work to break up the clods of clay.

Most soils in the Midwestern region are alkaline and consist of high concentrations of clay. Contrary to some opinions, there are more plants available for this soil type than any other.

Choose a location that meets the criteria for the types of plants being chosen i.e. sunny location for annuals and vegetables, or a shady location for a woodland garden.

General Pruning Techniques for Trees and ShrubsAcer x f. Autumn Blaze® 'Jeffersred' 1

Many factors must be considered when pruning any type of shrub or tree.  Proper pruning technique is necessary, and is described further at Trees are Good. Identification of the plant, along with knowing it’s growth or habit, flowering schedule, and reason for pruning, is also imperative.

Pruning of dead, dying, or diseased limbs should be done at anytime. The 3 D’s! Many problems can be avoided if the problems are not allowed to spread throughout the tree or even to the neighboring trees.

How to Prepare Your Houseplants to Come Back in For the Winter

imageMy houseplants enjoy their summers outside on the porch. I feel the living room looks a bit bare when they get moved out, however, I don’t spend much time in the house during the summer either!!
When it’s time to bring everyone back into the house, there are a few things that need to be done to insure a safe, pest-free winter. Otherwise, things can go bad fast

I then make sure the pot drains correctly and that the pot is rinsed off of dirt or any other cling-ons. This will become difficult to do if you can’t bring it outside to correct.

Some of my plants need amendments, like my orange tree prefers acid soil in this land of limestone well water. I add the garden sulfur as directed and water it in thoroughly. Again this is something you really can’t do after the plant is inside with only a reservoir under the pot. I do give some of them a bit of fertilizer, however I only give it sparingly.

25 Ways to Kill A Tree

Kill a TreeMechanical damage and improper tree maintenance kills more trees than any insects or diseases. This how-to guide will hopefully teach you how NOT to treat your tree friends. .. However, if you’re the sadistic type and love spending money replacing trees, this is a great read for you also!

1 – “Top” the tree which promotes watersprouts that weaken trees and encourage pests and disease.

Do not top trees. Tree heights can be lessened by proper crown reduction that doesn’t stimulate watersprout growth.

2 – Leave co-dominant leaders to promote “V” growth and splitting during winds and storms.

When a tree is young, select one or the other of the competing upright branches to be the main branch and cut the other off. Do not buy a tree with these characteristics.

3 – Leave crossing branches to rub protective bark and create wounds.

Prune branches that cross and rub in order to prevent bark wounds.

Click the links for the full articles!!

©Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Re-potting Houseplants

imageIt had been about 5 years since I took in these two orphans from work. They had been hanging under a pergola for one season and the clients didn’t want them anymore. Their loss is my gain! I re-potted them into these cool cornucopia looking bamboo baskets and they have lived happily in my south window since. 

I started to notice the soil around the outside edge started to feel a bit ‘crunchy’ for lack of a better term. These hang high, and I can’t see into them without removing them from the hooks, so I had to go on other signs they wanted new soil for their feet. Crunchy soil and the fact it took less time for me to hear the water flowing into the drip pan, meaning there were fissures in the soil that allowed the water to flow through the soil without any uptake of water into the soil. I finally decided it was time for a re-pot.

Many plants do actually prefer to be rootbound. My ficus and other philodendron plants have been in the same pots for decades. Other plants need the freedom to spread their roots…. These had gotten a bit thin on top, so along with the re-pot, I was going to transplant many of the runners to the pot to return it to it’s afro past.

  • First, I pruned off all the runners. I wanted the plant to put all of its energy into making new roots and leaves on the existing plant, not want to ‘Seek out new life and civilizations” ;-).
  • Then, I had to remove part of the old pot, as it had grown roots all through the bottom. The new pots weren’t that much larger than the old, however these do like to be root bound and I didn’t want to have them swimming in a ‘too large’ pot. I also had size restrictions on the hangers.
  • I took off about and inch of roots from the bottom. I wanted to encourage them to grow down into the new soil I placed on the bottom of the new pot. I also took off a bit of soil on the sides where there were no roots, so new, nutrient-filled soil will go.

image      image

  • I placed about 2 inches of potting soil in the bottom of the new pot. The pot was only about an inch larger around, but just enough to plant some newbies in there.
  • These are very easy to propagate. Prune them at a node (where there looks to be roots growing) and pop it in the new soil.
  • Be sure to keep these new babies watered. They aren’t getting the supplemental nutrients from Mom anymore, and will need some extra help.

 

image      image

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And were back to lookin’ tropical 😉

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 10-17-2016

How to Grow Garlic in the Midwest

scapesBreak up the garlic bulb into cloves. You don’t need to pull off the papery covering like in cooking. To get them off to a good start and protect them from fungal diseases, soak them in enough water to cover, containing one tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed for a few hours before planting. Garlic should be planted in the fall. Timing of planting should be within two weeks of the first frost (32°F) so they develop roots, but do not emerge above ground.

Cloves should be planted with the flat or root end down and pointed end up, 2 inches beneath the soil. Set the cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart. Top the soil with 6 inches of mulch; leaf, straw or dried grass clippings work well.

Time to Protect Shrubs for WinterScan_Pic0003

Smaller shrubs like rhododendrons, will benefit from using fresh cut branches of conifers [spruce, pine]. Direct the thick end into the ground near the crown of the plant, and intermingle the branches together. This will provide a windbreak and help stop branch breakage from the weight of snow. If the shrub is taller than the conifer branches, tie them together at different heights to protect the whole shrub.

Another method of providing protection is to use horticultural fleece, plastic, wind-break netting or commercially made covers like below. This method should be used on all late-season planted evergreens, as they may not have developed an adequate root system yet, and can dry out from harsh winds.

How to Make New Planting Beds in the Midwest

double digging 1New planting beds should begin in autumn in the Midwest because the freeze/thaw cycles of winter, work to break up the clods of clay.

Most soils in the Midwestern region are alkaline and consist of high concentrations of clay. Contrary to some opinions, there are more plants available for this soil type than any other.

Choose a location that meets the criteria for the types of plants being chosen i.e. sunny location for annuals and vegetables, or a shady location for a woodland garden.

General Pruning Techniques for Trees and ShrubsAcer x f. Autumn Blaze® 'Jeffersred' 1

Many factors must be considered when pruning any type of shrub or tree.  Proper pruning technique is necessary, and is described further at Trees are Good. Identification of the plant, along with knowing it’s growth or habit, flowering schedule, and reason for pruning, is also imperative.

Pruning of dead, dying, or diseased limbs should be done at anytime. The 3 D’s! Many problems can be avoided if the problems are not allowed to spread throughout the tree or even to the neighboring trees.

How to Prepare Your Houseplants to Come Back in For the Winter

imageMy houseplants enjoy their summers outside on the porch. I feel the living room looks a bit bare when they get moved out, however, I don’t spend much time in the house during the summer either!!
When it’s time to bring everyone back into the house, there are a few things that need to be done to insure a safe, pest-free winter. Otherwise, things can go bad fast

I then make sure the pot drains correctly and that the pot is rinsed off of dirt or any other cling-ons. This will become difficult to do if you can’t bring it outside to correct.

Some of my plants need amendments, like my orange tree prefers acid soil in this land of limestone well water. I add the garden sulfur as directed and water it in thoroughly. Again this is something you really can’t do after the plant is inside with only a reservoir under the pot. I do give some of them a bit of fertilizer, however I only give it sparingly.

25 Ways to Kill A Tree

Kill a TreeMechanical damage and improper tree maintenance kills more trees than any insects or diseases. This how-to guide will hopefully teach you how NOT to treat your tree friends. .. However, if you’re the sadistic type and love spending money replacing trees, this is a great read for you also!

1 – “Top” the tree which promotes watersprouts that weaken trees and encourage pests and disease.

Do not top trees. Tree heights can be lessened by proper crown reduction that doesn’t stimulate watersprout growth.

2 – Leave co-dominant leaders to promote “V” growth and splitting during winds and storms.

When a tree is young, select one or the other of the competing upright branches to be the main branch and cut the other off. Do not buy a tree with these characteristics.

3 – Leave crossing branches to rub protective bark and create wounds.

Prune branches that cross and rub in order to prevent bark wounds.

Click the links for the full articles!!

Venus Fly Trap – Dionaea muscipula

image

Carnivorous plants live all over the world but the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is native to select boggy areas in North and South Carolina.

Early observations of the flytrap revealed that when an insect contacts a hair and within 20 seconds contacts another, the trap closes. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value. The trap also doesn’t close right away to allow for extremely small insects to escape, because of their low nutritional value also. Don’t want to go wasting digestive juices for nothing!

Last week, new discoveries were made when German researchers monitored Venus flytraps electrical impulses. Flytraps were manually stimulated by mimicking prey behavior, while researchers observed the plants’ responses.

The scientists found that the trigger hairs are linked to two key areas in the plant: motor tissue, which physically closes the trap and the endocrine system, which digests the prey. After two touches have sprung the trap, the insect’s struggling against the hairs prompts the release of digestive juices.

It was also observed that certain gland cells in the flytraps permitted the plants to absorb and store large amounts of sodium. Researchers are not certain how the plants use the element, however proposed that it might be stored in the stem, which may help to preserve the correct balance of water in the plant’s cells.

Taking Care of Audrey II*

Venus Flytraps are quite easy to grow, as long as they are given the proper growing conditions.

  • Flytrap should be grown in very bright light, but not in direct sun.
  • A warm, humid environment, with a constant supply of moisture is ideal. Hint: Elevate the pot by placing pebbles under it so that the base of the pot is barely in contact with the water, not submerged.
  • The potting mixture should contain of a mix of 70% peat or sphagnum moss and 30% perlite or coarse pumice.
  • Flytraps are extremely sensitive to chemicals, so you should only use distilled water or rain water. If it is absolutely necessary to use tap water, allow it to rest for 24-48 hours in an open container, to allow the chlorine and any other chemicals to dissipate. That is of course if you have city water.
  • The insects which they consume provide them with all the nutrients they need, so do not fertilize them.
  • Your Flytrap will consume 2 or 3 small insects each month. Dead flies and insects can be used, provided that they died of natural causes and not by poisons.
  • Never, ever, ever feed your Venus Flytrap any hamburger. The fat content in burger will be fatal to your plant.
  • Artificially springing the trap, i.e. poking it with your finger, drains the Flytrap’s energy. If this is done too often, the fly trap head will become less sensitive and possibly die.
  • Always keep dead leaves and heads cut off to prevent fungal infections.

Flytraps require a period of dormancy during the winter of about three months. At this time, much (if not all), of the foliage will die back. The entire planter should be moved to an area where the temperature will remain at 45-55 F or the bulb may be removed, sprayed with fungicide, wrapped in damp, live sphagnum moss, placed in a plastic bag and moved to a cool area.

*This was the name of the plant in “The Little Shop of Horrors”

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Terrarium ~ Succulent Succulents

I think it’s somewhat* healthy to fail. Even when it is something you are good at. My terrarium had taken a turn for the worse. I neglected to water them a bit too often and I was rewarded with brown sticks. Awesome.
So I figured I’d set-up a re-do.
My three new victims terrarium mates:

Golden Sedum – Sedum adolphi is a low-growing succulent plant with pointed dark green leaves. The leaves develop orange or reddish tips when exposed to bright sunlight. Sedum adophi produces white, star-shaped flowers in spring. It can survive a few hours in temperatures as low is 29 degrees Fahrenheit, but is not considered winter hardy except in frost-free locations, such as United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 10 and warmer.

Stone Face – Lithops occur naturally across wide areas of Namibia and South Africa, as well as small bordering areas in Botswana and possibly Angola, from sea level to high mountains. Nearly a thousand individual populations are documented, each covering just a small area of dry grassland, veld, or bare rocky ground. Different Lithops species are preferentially found in particular environments, usually restricted to a particular type of rock.

Graptoveria ‘Titubans’Porcelain Plant is an intergeneric cross between a Graptopetalum paraguayense and an Echevería derenbergii. It has grey-blue leaves that form compact rosettes on creeping stems. It offsets freely producing soon dense carpets or cushions. Grows to about 20 cm tall.

image  image

This time I didn’t take off as many roots from the bottom and built-up the front berm with a retaining wall of smooth pebbles. This allowed for a bit more soil for them to sit in. There is a flat spot on the bottom for shelf placement, however even if I hung this terrarium, the hole would be at the wrong angle. If I were to redesign this just a bit, I would move the hole up just a tad to allow for more of a soil base.

image

My Mother was a fan of these crystal art pieces. To me, they are super cute, but high maintenance on a shelf, so they were carefully packed away. This one, however gets to spread its wings and enjoy the tropical environment!

terrarium

Gee, can you tell we have alkaline water here? And maybe if someone didn’t do a half-assed job, they would have cleaned the inside of the glass with vinegar.  I sux. =-P

  • Although the fear of failing life is quite paralyzing!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Plant Abuse ~ Move Over Blue Orchid, There’s a New Kid in Town

When I visit Home Depot I always peruse the houseplant section. I usually try to adopt rescue a few plants when I go there.  I was quite taken back when I saw these poor plants. This was worse than the hot glued straw flower on the cactus, even more diabolical than the blue dyed orchid.. I feel so bad that humans have to make plants wear decorations. Can’t we like them the way they are?
image

Really? Someone needed to dye cactus needles green?! Aren’t they already green? These Desert Gems cactus needles will eventually grow out normal. This method isn’t suffocating the plant though, unlike the poor group on the shelf below…

image

These are Kosmik Kaktus. These succulents (not cactus) are dipped in a non-water based paint. These will surly not survive for very long. Plants do breath… well, not these plants. I can appreciate the fetish latex paint tho 😉

While surfing the web for answers as to what these marketing gurus were thinking when they deemed plant abuse was a great selling point, I found many folks agreeing with me about this atrocity. There were also optimistic folks that tried to see the good in this, by stating these may bring interest to the ‘non-gardeners’ out there. I feel that any good that came from the day of purchase would be lost when the plant lost its fancy clothes or croaked from slow suffocation.

Good God, what’s next? Pastel dyed chickens?

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Aphids on Basil

I follow a really cute fellow called Mongo. He is an adorable yellow lab with a veracious appetite which usually gets him in trouble. If you need a great laugh, be sure to catch the Howl-o-ween post about how Mongo got into the Halloween candy. You’re in for a treat…

When Mongo’s Dad isn’t cleaning up after Mongo, he likes to grow basil. Unfortunately, his basil got a case of aphids. =-O

Aphids on basil

Mongo’s Dad’s Basil

Unlike white fly, which tends to like to hang-out on the underside of leaves, aphids like to enjoy the topsides.

Aphids are  tiny-tiny (1/16″ – 1/8″) semi-transparent green, (or other colored) insects that suck the sap from leaves, stems and flowers. Aphids mainly feed on tender new growth, causing the leaves to appear puckered or twisted. They multiply rapidly and can destroy a plant quickly, however the good news is that they are very fragile.

Aphids have been called the mice of the insect world, because they multiply so quickly and provide food for so many creatures. These guys are usually not a problem when they are outdoors. In a well balanced environment, there are enough predators out there to keep their numbers down. Other creatures want aphid poop, better known as honeydew. Ants have been know to ‘farm’ aphids and harvest the honeydew. Pretty darn crazy sounding, until you seen it.

When your basil is indoors, it doesn’t have the Lady Bird Brigade protecting its leaves. It has to rely on you for support. Aphids are pretty easy to take out, just a jet of water can wipe out a good majority. Having the plant soaked every once-in-awhile is no problem. I would also toss up a yellow sticky card to trap any white fly that may come by.

If this doesn’t work, then I would step-up to Horticulture soap* or Neem oil, in that order. I just think sometimes Neem can change the taste of leaf veggies. This is just my opinion.

Thanks again for the post material Mongo’s Dad!

*Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect. All you will do is dry out your plant!

Ilex Farrell