Tag Archive | houseplant

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


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


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.


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!


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?

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…


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

Ilex VS Scale (Again!)

As I was preparing my houseplants to come inside for the winter, I noticed a bad case of scale on my palm.


Crawlers & Female Scales

You are seeing a range of ages of scale in these photos, as scale can have one or two generations per season. The nymphs are hatched from under a female scale and ‘crawl’ to a new location. This is the only time the insect will ever move, so the nymphs are often called ‘crawlers’. Females will find a suitable location and honker-down. She will loose her legs and live under her shell. Male scale develop wings for to get around to all the women, however in most cases, he only lives for a few days.


Scale insects are divided into two categories:

Soft scales (Cottony maple scale, for example) produce a soft, thin, cottony, powdery or waxy layer over themselves that cannot be separated from the insect body.  These scale insects often produce copious amounts of honeydew.

Armored scales (like these in the photos) have a hard, shield-like cover composed of shed skins and wax that conceals the body but is not attached to the body of the insect.


Treat with horticultural oil or organic insecticidal soap. If you’re going with soap, spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

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!

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.


Both new and old scales are seen in this photo

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Cactus Terrarium

image My husband and I were at thewpid-wp-1443303724211.jpg Dollar Store and he saw these terrariums for sale. He just HAD to have one! Funny, I’m the one that usually goes for this stuff. His eyes lit up when I said he could have it.

I really didn’t think it was going to grow. I know the USDA stamps seeds for sale and figured it wouldn’t have this and confirm my suspicions that nothing will grow. I was very surprised to see the seal of approval on the bottom! OK, I now move up the chances of germination from 50/50 to 70/30.

My sweety meticulously read the directions and planted the  seeds it came with including the Giant Saguaro, Golden Barrel, Organ Pipe Cactus, and the Fishhook Barrel Cactus. We placed it on the kitchen window sill and waited. And waited… It tat a speck? it IS!! Turns out, after about 10 days, we had one out of five grow. We think it’s the Organ Pipe (Stenocereus thurberi) that survived.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Phalaenopsis Orchid Care

This was my orchid last winter

https://midwesternplants.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/wpid-20131203_170655.jpg?w=498&h=280This was actually my first orchid ever. I saved it from the Home Depot clearance shelf for $5 last year. I was blooming quite nicely (see above) when I purchased it. It most likely was on the sale shelf because the blooms fell off one by one after about two weeks.

I really didn’t have much knowledge of how to care for on of these guys. I knew they liked humidity, warmth and shade. I tried to provide these things. I use ice cubes to ‘water’ it once a week. I did move it to a lower shelf in my Southern window, where it gets bright, indirect light.

The only issue with it’s location was the dogs were able to knock it off the shelf countless times. This poor guy has had his pot shifted a few times. Maybe a bit of rough handling made it think death was eminent and produced a flower spike for me.


These photos were taken every Saturday for four weeks.


In the fifth week, POW Orchid flowers!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl