House Plants Gone Wild

Do you know what happens to your plants when you leave on vacation? Hopefully you don’t do what these folks did when they left. Take my advice and find a trustworthy someone to keep an eye on your house plants when you take that much deserved break. Your houseplants will stay in line and you will both be much happier when you return.

Here is a short video that will show you what just may happen if you leave those house plants unattended on your vacation. I hope you enjoy this tongue-in-cheek video and it brings a smile to your face today.

Now that you know what the consequences may be, what are your plans for your houseplants while you are gone? Leave me a comment and share.

Houseplant Basics 101: Fertilizer

All houseplants need fertilizer to supplement their diets. Think of it as a good shot of vitamins and minerals. Although your houseplants feed on light and the nutrients in the soil, a boost of fertilizer can help to promote and support strong, healthy growth.

Fertilizers contain three major nutrients to support stem and leaf production, flowering and healthy roots. These elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Whenever you look at a container of fertilizer, pay close attention to the fertilizer analysis which is represented by three hyphenated numbers. For example, it may look something like this: 20-20-20 or 10-6-16, or 10-15-10 like on this bottle of “SCHULTZ” LIQUID PLANT FOOD PLUS . The first number always represents the available nitrogen in the fertilizer. The second number always represents the available phosphate and the third number always represents the available potash in the fertilizer. The higher the number, the greater the percentage by weight of that nutrient.

Houseplants require nitrogen for leafy growth. As a general rule, houseplants that are grown primarily for their foliage will require a fertilizer with a high first number, a lower second number and a third number that is comparable to the first. Houseplants that are grown primarily for their blooms are given a fertilizer with a high third number (K or potash) that promotes flower development.

Fertilizers are most beneficial to a plant during its growing season, which is February to October. During the winter months when there is less light, you will want to hold back on fertilizing unless your houseplant is beginning to show signs of new growth. Your houseplant’s consumption of fertilizer will follow its growth curve, which in turn follows a light and temperature curve.

General Rules for Fertilizing

  • Granular and liquid fertilizers work similarly. Be sure to read the instructions and mix and feed accordingly.

  • Hold off fertilizing for at least a few weeks after houseplants are repotted. It isn’t that your houseplant doesn’t need food; it is that they only need so much. Most soils contain unknown amounts of fertilizers and it is easy to overfeed your transplant.

  • Water until water flows out the bottom of the container. This step will flush out any built up soluble salt deposits. As salts become more concentrated, it becomes harder for a houseplant to take up a proper supply of water.

What is your favorite fertilizer to use in your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

PODCAST: How to Build a Terrarium

podcast.jpgIn this podcast, we are focusing on how to build a terrarium. Building a terrarium is both fun and easy. However, because a terrarium is a self-contained ecosystem, you will want to be sure to set it up properly the first time, making sure to use the correct materials. Take the time to buy a high quality potting soil and select the plants which will be the most appropriate for your terrarium.

Here is a list of the supplies you will need to build your terrarium:

  • One terrarium with air holes or a glass jar without a lid. A glass fishbowl or a pickle jar will do nicely.
  • Small gravel or aquarium gravel
  • High quality potting soil
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Plants—two or three plants for every 3 L of space. Be sure to avoid any fuzzy leaved plants as they will hold water and are susceptible to rotting.
  • Decorative accessories such as stone or driftwood. Use your imagination!

If you have a question for us here at Her Gardening Blog, please leave a comment below the podcast. We will be happy to answer your questions and build an entire podcast around them. Enjoy!

how-to-build-a-terrarium.mp3

Houseplant Basics 101: Soil

potting-soil.jpgThe quality of the potting soil you use can mean the difference between life and death for your houseplant. This means that you will want to invest in a high-quality potting soil that offers the correct balance of water and oxygen. This balance is important because the soil must be able to retain moisture long enough to sustain your houseplant between waterings as well as allow for proper drainage.

Be sure that you do not reuse potting soil from the pots of previous houseplants. If the houseplant died because of pests or disease, the potting soil could be contaminated. Even if the houseplant died because you let it dry out one too many times, do not reuse the soil. The soil may have far to few pore spaces, which are pockets of open spaces that can be filled with water, to sustain a new houseplant. As soil decomposes, it starts to lose pore space and it becomes too dense for air to infiltrate and for roots to grow properly. However, your pots can be reused. Just be sure to scrub them clean and then soak them in a solution of 10% bleach and water.

Potting Mix vs. Soil Mix

Soil is the term that most people use to describe the black medium in which we pot plants. But the truth is that most of the soil to which we refer is actually soil-less. It is completely free of what we traditionally think of as garden soil. It looks like rich garden soil and it even smells like it, but it is completely different.

Most potting mixes contain at least one of the following material: peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, sand and lime to neutralize the peat moss, bark, pumice or compost. On the other hand, soil mixes contain a blend of soil. So when you’re looking for soil, be sure to read the bags carefully and choose a high quality soil-less potting mix.

Specialty Potting Mixes

There are some houseplants that require special potting mixes like orchids, cacti and African violets. Since these houseplants are so popular, distributors have come up with special commercial blends of each type.

Orchid mixes: To the uninitiated, this planting medium might look unable to sustain anything other than a beaver. Many contain two or three types of bark, coarse sphagnum peat, fine grade pumice and sponge rock. It is a rather odd combination, but it is one that serves an important purpose.

Some species of orchids grow on trees in their natural habitat. These orchids are referred to as epiphytic plants, which are those having their roots exposed to the air. One of the reasons that orchid mixes contain bark and moss is to allow the air to move freely through the medium. This air movement allows the roots of an orchid to absorb moisture and nutrients from the humid air.

Cacti mixes: Even someone who doesn’t know much about cacti knows that these plants prefer dry soil. It should therefore come as no surprise that the standard potting medium for cacti is composed of coarse sand, potting mix, peat and perlite. Although the formula varies from one commercial mix to another, all cacti mixes are designed to provide rapid drainage.

African violet mixes: African violets like a soil that is light, loose and porous. Most African violet mixes consist of three parts peat moss, two parts vermiculite and one part perlite. Lime is also often added to bring the pH level to the 5.8 to 6.0 range. African violets hate having their roots sitting in water, so the loose, porous soil is important for the health of these plants.

What is your favorite potting soil to use with your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by anitapatterson

Houseplants…Bach or Rock?

Have you ever wondered what kind of music your houseplants prefer to listen to? There have been many studies over the years, both formal and informal, that have tried to find out this very thing. As I was pondering this very topic, I came across a video put together by a couple of teenagers in Idaho. They thought it would be fun to do an experiment and try it out to see which type of music their houseplants preferred.

Here is the video I watched and I must warn you to prepare to have a laugh or two. They put their experiment to music and this is a very enjoyable video.

So which type of music do you plan on playing to your houseplants? Do you have a preference? Do they? Leave me a comment and share.

Houseplant Basics 101: Watering

watering-can.jpgThere are several tools and gadgets on the market today that are designed to measure the moisture in the soil of your houseplants. However, be advised that there really isn’t any secret method to checking whether a house plant needs water. All you really need to do is walk over, stick your finger into the potting soil, scratching down around 2 to 3 cm into the soil. If the soil is moist, it will feel about as wet as a damp sponge. In fact, the soil should also feel a little spongy too. Even when the top of the soil is dry, there may actually be enough moisture just beneath the surface for your houseplants.

How much water your houseplants need and how often they need it will depend on the following factors:

  • Type of house plant
  • Size of house plant
  • Size and type of container
  • Soil composition
  • Humidity of the growing environment
  • Season
  • Location of the plant in the room
  • Average room temperature

You will need to know your houseplants preferences and water them accordingly. Don’t forget that although most houseplants will forgive a missed watering here and there, not all houseplants are as forgiving and tolerant. For example, Boston ferns hate soil that is dry, while cacti hate being too wet.

Watering Methods

Most houseplants seem to get watered from the top, but that is really more about the preference of the person watering it than it is about the houseplant’s preference. In fact, most houseplants could care less if they are watered from the top or from the bottom as long as they are watered regularly and sufficiently.

Generally, in order to check that you are giving your houseplants enough water, you will want to check for water running through the drainage holes at the bottom of your container. This runoff is especially important as it flushes the excess salts from the soil. Be sure to drain any water that remains at the base of the saucer.

Watering from the top

  • Consider grouping your houseplants together in the bathtub and giving them a gentle watering and shower. After you have watered, leave your houseplants in the tub for a few hours. This will allow them to drain properly and will help you to not track water all across your home.
  • Do not water form high above your plant. Place the spout of your watering can close to the lip of the container and water from a different side each time. Watering from the same spot each and every time will wash away sections of topsoil and leave craters behind.

Watering from the bottom

There are some plants, such as African violets, that prefer to wick water through the drainage holes in the bottoms of their pots. They will essentially draw up water until the soil is moist. This method is particularly beneficial to fuzzy-leaved houseplants that tend to blemish whenever they come into contact with water.

Whichever method you choose, your houseplants will thank you and be grateful for a regular and consistent watering schedule. Which method do you prefer? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by kevinrosseel

Houseplant Basics 101: Temperature & Humidity

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If you were providing your houseplants an ideal world, then you would help them to feel at home by adjusting the temperature of their indoor environment to mimic their natural environment. However, this is not really practical and your own comfort will most likely come before your houseplants. And even if you were to choose the comfort of your houseplants over your own, the reality is that your home has warmer and cooler spots that are just waiting to present problems.

Since there are so many species of houseplants, it would follow that there is a wide range of ideal growing temperatures. Lucky for us that houseplants are fairly tolerant and reasonable when it comes to variations from their ideal. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to keep temperatures during the nighttime a few degrees cooler than the temperatures of the daytime.

The cooler nighttime temperature is important because it allows your houseplants to store energy. When the temperature at night is hot, your houseplants have no choice but to burn a portion of the energy that they worked so hard to accumulate during the day. Flowering houseplants especially appreciate a cool rest in the evenings because it prolongs the life of the flowers and the intensity of the colors.

Here is a list of conditions that your houseplants will generally NOT like:

  • Extreme changes in temperature
  • Cold drafts from windows or exterior doors
  • Hot air blasts from fireplaces, heat registers or exterior doors
  • Close proximity to hot or cold window panes
  • Night temperatures that dip below 57?F (14?C)
  • Daytime temperatures in the upper 68? to 86?F (20? to 30?C)

Relative humidity is simply a measure of the amount of water that the air will hold in a given temperature. The reason that it becomes an important factor in the health of your houseplant is that it affects the amount of moisture that your houseplant may lose.

The ideal relative humidity for the majority of houseplants is about 60%. However, during the winter when our homes are much drier, a more realistic percentage to aim for is 25%. Do not try to raise the relative humidity to 60% during the winter as your windows will have more condensation that you would probably want or enjoy. Although your plants may appreciate your efforts, remember that you can grow a beautiful houseplant in a dry home or office. Keep in mind that there are both deserts and rainforests in nature and plants will thrive in both types of environments.

Here is a list of ways to maintain an ideal humidity level for your houseplants:

  • Use a humidifier
  • Group plants closely together so they can benefit from each other’s transpiration
  • Keep plants away from heat sources such as registers and fireplaces
  • Grow plants that are extra sensitive to humidity in a terrarium if they are small enough

Some of the symptoms that you may see that may indicate that a houseplant is suffering from a lack of water, including relative humidity are brown leaf edges, abnormally small leaves, misshapen plant growth and drooping or wilting. It is important to remember that in most cases, the real problem will be a lack of soil moisture and not a low relative humidity.

How do you address the problems of temperature and humidity in your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo Provided by bluekdesign

Houseplant Basics 101: Light

flower-light.JPGWhen it comes to houseplants, they have several basic needs: light, a temperature that is comfortable, humidity, soil, water, fertilizer and physical space. When you place all of these needs into one list, it can seem a little daunting to just cover the basic needs. However, understanding their significance requires a very small investment of your time. And when it comes to houseplants, a little knowledge really does go a long way.

I will cover each of these aspects for you over the next few days. Today we will begin with the first one: Light. Houseplants, just like people need energy to grow. But whereas people seem to obsess over avoiding carbohydrates, plants obsess over making them. I am referring of course, to photosynthesis, or the process by which plants take energy from the sun and convert it into sugars that can be used to grow. This is perhaps one of the most important chemical processes in the world.

Measuring Light

Light is the single most important factor in determining whether your houseplants will thrive or die. It is also one of the most misunderstood factors. It simply comes down to understanding that the amount of light your plants receive will determine if they are rapidly dying plants, slow-dying plants, plants that neither gain nor lose growth, slow-growing plants or rapidly growing plants.

Because light is not able to be held in your hands or poured into a glass and measured, you will need to think about it in terms of intensity, quality and duration. So what does that mean? Here is a general rule of thumb:

  • Intensity of light: the strength of light available
  • Quality of light: the wavelengths or colors of light
  • Duration of light: the amount of time plants are exposed to light in a 24-hour period.

The relationship between these three factors is important to consider. For example, if the quality of light is high, but there isn’t much of it (intensity), pr it doesn’t last very long (duration), will your houseplant do well? Most definitely not. In an ideal world, you would want to give your houseplants the perfect intensity of the highest quality spectrum light for the optimal amount of time. But since that will never happen, you will need to compromise and manipulate it for your houseplant. Although a short burst of perfect light is wonderful, it is better for your houseplant to have 12 hours of lower quality light.

Light Factors

The greatest challenge that you will have is providing your houseplants with enough light. Although initially it may seem like a fairly easy task to provide your houseplants with the ideal quantity of light, it can actually be just a little more complicated. You may want to consider factors that will complicate and reduce the amount of natural light that gets to the leaves of your houseplants. These may include the following:

  • Not as much sunlight enters your home in the winter as it does in the summer. In fact, winter light may only be 20% of the light you receive in the summer.
  • Moving plants even a few extra feet away from a window will cause a dramatic reduction in sunlight. A few feet may not sound like much, but it is not uncommon to see a 100-fold drop in light when a houseplant is moved from a windowsill to a table a few feet away.
  • Windows are not a source of sunlight. They merely allow light to pass through with, at best, 93% sunlight transmission. The sunlight transmission may drop to 50% if your windows are tinted.
  • Windows which face the south will usually provide the greatest amount of sun exposure.

There are many other factors that may contribute to inconsistent natural light throughout the year. These include things such as fog, cloud cover, elevation, drapes and window treatments, the presence of ultraviolet-blocking coatings, dirt or dust on the window, reflections from light-colored interior paint and the presence of awnings, overhangs or shade trees near the windows.

In tomorrow’s podcast, I will discuss more about your houseplants and the light they receive by making the most of the artificial light you may have available in your home. What are your biggest challenges with light sources for your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo Provided by Ali

A Houseplant Tour

The other day we talked about choosing a houseplant and how we need to think about our purchase before we make it instead of making an impulse buy. There are so many different houseplants to choose from, that you are sure to find one that you like and that will work in your home. You will probably find several!

Today, I have provided you with a video that shows you several different houseplants that you may choose to purchase for your home. A houseplant can go just about anywhere as this video will show you. So sit back, relax, turn up the volume and enjoy the show!

Which of these many plants did you enjoy the most? Which ones do you already have in your home? Which ones are you interested in adding to your home? Leave me a comment and share! :)

Choosing a Houseplant

houseplant.JPGMany times houseplants are impulse buys. You may see a beautiful plant and before you know it, it is in your cart, paid for at the checkout and in your car on its way to your home. The best way to ensure the longevity of your houseplants is to think before you buy. By simply taking a few minutes to think about what you want from that houseplant and what it will need from you will greatly increase the odds that you will bring home a houseplant that you can enjoy for years to come.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right houseplant for you:

  • Go to the store prepared. Know which directions your rooms face and how much sunlight they each get. Light is the key to growing all plants, so knowing the intensity of the light that shines through your windows is very important when you are selecting houseplants that are appropriate for your home.
  • Be sure that you know the temperature of your room—both daytime and nighttime.
  • Consider the amount of space you have for your houseplant. Don’t choose a plant that will outgrow your available space too quickly.
  • Be honest with yourself about the time and care that you will be able to devote to a houseplant. If you know that you will not be watering your houseplant regularly, then choose the plant accordingly. There are several houseplants that will be forgiving and will grow anyway.
  • If you don’t know, then ask. Many garden stores or florists will have staff available to answer your questions. Take advantage of their knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask what you may feel is a stupid question. Most of the time you won’t be asking anything that hasn’t already been asked. The staff is there to help. Use them.
  • Choose your houseplants according to their light requirements. Different houseplants need different amounts of light. Read the tags and follow the suggestions you find there.
  • Closely inspect the leaves of the houseplant for general health.
  • Look closely for any pests or blotches that may indicate fungal or bacterial problems. Generally, the leaves of the houseplant should look shiny, and not dull, dusty or covered in residue.
  • Look for any new leaves on the houseplant. At times it is difficult to distinguish a new leaf from an older one, but the color of the leaf is a clue.
  • Check for buds on flowering plants. Plants need to be healthy to support bud production. An abundance of buds is a great indicator that the plant isn’t under any stress.
  • Ask about delivery services. It can be difficult to transport large houseplants, so take advantage of any delivery options that may be available.

Choosing a houseplant can be fun if you have taken the time to think about your purchase before you make it. By taking a little time before, you are sure to choose a houseplant that will make you and your home happy. What are some of your favorite houseplants and why?

Photo provided by jmbrice