(BEING CONTINUED FROM 23/09/15)
Easy Care, Minimal Maintenance Indoor Plants
The following 6 houseplants pretty much grow themselves. In fact, your biggest problem my be what to do with all the baby plants they’ll produce. All 6 can be grown in the indirect light from a window and like the same indoor temperatures as most people (55 – 75 degrees F.)
As with any houseplant, there is always the threat of insect pests like aphids, scale, spider mites and whiteflies. But disease-wise the only things you’re likely to incur is root rot, from too much watering. So these 6 indoor plants are also perfect for someone who always forgets to water their plants.
- Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) Earned its name by growing under the worst of conditions, even outdoors in deep shade. Prefers low light. Grows in a clump. Leaves are sword-like, pointed, about 4″ wide & 2′ long. Occasionally flowers indoors. A variegated version is available with white stripes. (USDA Zones 7 – 9)
- Christmas Cactus (Zygocactus or Schlumbergera) A trailing member of the cactus family that produces deep pink / red flowers in early winter. Seems to do its best when ignored. Can handle low light, but you’ll get more flowers in bright light. Pruning after blooming with keep the plant bushy.
You can force your Christmas cactus to bloom in December by keeping it in complete darkness for 12 hours a night, beginning in about mid-October, until buds appear. An even easier method is to subject it to cool temperatures (50 – 55 degrees F.) starting in November. Just leave it on a windowsill at home while the heat is off, because you’re at work. (USDA Zones 9 – 11)
- Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata) & Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderian) Dracaena have long been the centerpiece of container plantings. Street plantings in towns across America feature 1 spiky dracaena stuck in the center of red blooming geraniums in a half whisky barrel. But there is actually a good amount of variety in dracaena and most make excellent, easy care houseplants. In particular, Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) which resembles a small palm tree and can reach heights of 10 ft. and Lucky Bamboo, which isn’t bamboo at all. Both have stems that can be trained to bend or spiral. The stems are topped by clusters of slender arching leaves with narrow purple margins. They grow best in bright light and if allowed to dry out between waterings. Even if allowed to wilt, dracaena will spring back after watering, although the leaf tips may turn brown. Will tolerate low light. Lucky bamboo is often grown in water, but once substantial roots have formed, it is happier planted in soil. (USDA Zones 10 – 11)
- Mother-in-law’s tongue or Snake plant or Bird’s-nest plant (Sansevieria) Called Mother-in-la’s tongue because of its long, sharp, pointed leaves and because it never leaves. These are long-lived, easy care houseplants. Very tolerant of low light. Water sparingly or it will rot. Only 1 or 2 waterings are necessary indoors during the winter, depending on the humidity. Variegated forms need more light and can be more difficult to grow. There is also a dwarf variety, Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’, called Bird’s Nest. (USDA Zones 10+)
- Pothos (Epipremnum) One of the easiest houseplants to grow; almost impossible to kill. Trailing plants that just keep on growing, 10+ feet. Pruning the plants will keep them fuller at the base and each cutting can be rooted in water to create more plants. Pothos like to dry out between waterings, but if left dry too long, leaves with wilt and eventually dry and fall. Very tolerant of all types of light conditions, even artificial office lights. You can let them trail down or secure them to a support or trellis. There are many variegated and golden varieties available. (USDA Zones 11+)
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) Spider plants just keep on giving. You almost never see a spider plant that doesn’t have babies attached. Often grown in hanging baskets, spider plants will get 2 to 2 1/2 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet long. Their roots tend to fill a pot, so repotting may be necessary every couple of years. When dangling babies start to form roots, they can be cut off and planted on their own. (USDA Zones 9 – 11)
African Violets — Growing Healthy Saintpaulia
Updated March 01, 2016.
African violets are one of the world’s most popular houseplants, and for good reason. These compact, low-growing plants flower several times a year, and they are available in a multitude of leaf forms and colors. Don’t be put off by their reputation for difficulty: providing you follow a few simple rules, African violets should thrive indoors. With a little experience, it’s possible to keep them in flower nearly all year round and grow them to the size of dinner plates.
Light: Bright, but not direct sunlight. They are commonly grown under fluorescent lights placed 12 to 15 inches above the leaves.
Water: Keep soil moist with warm water and strive for high humidity. Do not allow water to contact the leaves to prevent damage, other than light misting. Water from below, or push the water spout into the soil when watering. Don’t allow the plant to sit in water.
Temperature: Do not allow to fall below about 60ºF. They thrive at 70ºF.
Soil: A well-drained potting mix is essential. Poor drainage can cause root rot, in which the plant becomes waterlogged and its leaves begin to fall, so make sure that the plant is never allowed to be exposed to standing water for an extended period of time.
Fertilizer: Feed with a African violet fertilizer every other week.
African violets can be propagated from leaf cuttings or from offsets. Adult plants occasionally produce small plantlets or shoots from the side. Remove these and pot up independently. Removing them also encourages better blooms on the parent plant.
African violets do better when they are slightly underpotted. Repot only when necessary into a pot that is one size up. To repot these plants, simply grab the plant as a whole, lift it, and replace it into a larger container, making sure not to damage their root systems in the process. Common signs that a plant is stressed out and needs to be repotted include falling leaves and overcrowding, as well as roots that protrude from the surface of the soil. Keep an eye out and repot if you think it’ll help.
The original plants, the S. ionantha, were introduced in Germany in 1893. Two years later, the S. confusa were introduced. Since then, thousands of varieties have been produced. Today, African violets are available in single and double flowers, in all different colors, and with widely varied leaf shapes.
African violets will thrive in bright, warm and humid conditions. Keep water from touching their leaves or it will leave brown spots. Remove dead flowers and leaves as soon as you seen them to encourage a healthier plant. Regularly check the soil and plant to make sure there is no accumulation of dead leaves. This will encourage rot. Growing these houseplants is really a matter of balance; you have to make sure that the different factors that go into their cultivation all are weighted against each other. They should be kept in moist enough conditions that they don’t dry out, yet still exposed to a fresh breeze to avoid letting them get too stuffy, and exposed to sunlight without damaging their leaf tips. Don’t be discouraged if your African violets suffer some damage — it’s all part of the process.
- Streptocarpus—Growing Streptocarpus Indoors
- Gloxinia—Growing Senningia Hybrids Indoors
- Fairy Gardens You Can Make Yourself
- Goldfish Plants—How to Grow Columnea gloriosa Indoors
(to be continued)