Lucky bamboo ( dracaena )

I love this stuff. I just place it in a container, toss a couple of rocks at the bottom to keep the bamboo upright and keep the bottom couple of inches under water.

Indirect light is best. It doesn’t need to be near a window, and should not be in a south facing window.

Fertilizer rarely, every few months or so and use the fertilizer at half strength, if that.

If your leaves are turning yellow, either your plant is getting too much light or it doesn’t like your tap water. Try using bottled water occasionally.

Lucky bamboo is really not bamboo, but a member of the dracaena family.

If your lucky bamboo is not doing well in water, if the stalk is wrinkling and the leaves yellowing then take it out and plant it in regular house plant soil and a well draining pot. You can cover the soil with rocks to keep the oriental effect.

Another fix for wrinkled and yellowing lucky bamboo is to give it more light. I left one that was wrinkling and yellowing in the water but moved it next to a fluorescent table lamp and it is now thriving.

More information:
Plant’s rare bloom has scent of success for restaurant ( I didn’t even know they flowered. Now I’ll have to work on getting mine to flower. )

Pruning house plants

So your house plant is taking over your desk and it is time to beat it back. Or your houseplant is growing up a storm but only on one stem and you’d like the plant to be bushier.

Most house plants are easily trimmed except cactus.

Vines can be pinched off with your fingers near the end of the vine. Or be brave and cut the vine much further back. Almost every vine will then grow a few new branches where you made the cut. If you don’t cut back far enough, the plant will be scraggly near the pot, then full at the edges so be brave.

Shrub like plants; jades, rubber trees, fittonias, etc are best trimmed by cutting some of the branches back to where they branch off from the main. Take your time, rotate your plant after each cut. You can’t stick it back on afterwards so go slowly. You want to thin the plant so that all the leaves receive light. Especially those deep inside the plant. Then make the cuts you want to make the plant less scraggly. Most will branch from the bottom if you keep pinching back the newest growth on the main stems at the top.

Orchids, Mother-in-Law’s tongues, spathes and plants of that nature must be divided. Wait till you are ready to repot the plant. Remove the dirt from the roots, washing it in the kitchen sink works well unless the plant has gotten too large. Using a sharp knife divide the plant giving each section leaves and roots. Pot up each section in a different pot.

Crown of Thorns ( Euphorbia Milii )

This plant is a succulent with a stem full of thorns. It is unusual in that most succulents do not have leaves.

It can grow 2′-4′ tall, given full sun. It will remain in bloom almost year round, given sufficient sun.

It is very cold sensitive, so keep it away from drafty locations.

This plant is part of the poinsettia and castor bean plant family ( Spurge ). It is a succulent and so likes full sun and very little water. Water only when the top inch of soil it dry to the touch, but don’t let it fully dry out.

The milky juice inside the stems can cause a skin rash.

You can gently bend the stems when they are young and grow them into a sphere or other shape. If the stems get too long they will bend over. You can easily prune the stems, cut at will. New shoots will appear.

Timor Black Bamboo

Photos 2 years apart

( Bambusa lako )

This bamboo will grow to 40′ height. That’ll put it outside both the first and second floor windows. I’m looking forward to that. I have it in a L-shaped nook outside the house. The stalks should be about 3″ in diameter when it is full grown.

The stalks are black, the leaves are green. It does not grow so tight you can’t see through it, yet it is supposed to be a clumping bamboo and therefore not take over The Woodlands. If it does I’m sure I’ll be remembered as fondly as Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that though.

Bamboo comes in running and clumping types. The running kind sends out shoots quite a distance away. It has been known to run under streets. This is the kind that has such a bad reputation. Clumping bamboo clumps. It sends off rhizomes close to its base and can generally be kept in line by just cutting off escaping rhizomes once a year.

Ad oddity about bamboo is that when it flowers it dies. Not always, but close to always. No one really understands why yet. Some advise on saving flowering bamboo is given at the link below.

Another interesting thing is that certain species all flower at the same across the planet. Pyllostachys bambusoides flowered in the 1970s and has flowered every 120 years as a group. Other species have similar behavior.

I’m told bamboo doubles in height every year, so most bamboos will reach full height about 4 years after being planted. This one has put up one new spike per year, the second reaching 20′ in height.

Watch for mealy bugs ( I just clean them off with a garden hose) and mites. Mites will have webbing and leaves will yellow. Use orange oil for them. Aphids and scale also attack bamboo and can be controlled with orange oil.

This plant tolerated the shade I planted it in, though it would prefer sun. It loves the summer heat. The more water the better, yet this and the other bamboos did amazingly well through the drought of 2009.

In the cold winter of ’09-’10 it died. I’ve cut it back to ground, no sign of life yet, and it’s the middle of June.

More information:
ABS – When Bamboo Flowers
A Cane the World Can Lean On, NYT

This was purchased from
Tropical Bamboo

Buy Local:
Carter Bamboo

Wandering Jew ( Tradescantia zebrina )

These are usually grown as hanging plants indoors. The climate they come from in Southern Mexico makes them unable to with stand cold.

Wandering Jews want bright indirect light, but will manage with very little light. Water when the top couple of inches are dry. It does not want a huge amount of water, nor does it want to be dry like a cactus.

If it is getting the right amount of water it will grow rapidly. If it is getting the right amount of sun, you’ll have nicely variegated leaves.

This plant is actually part of the spider wort family of plants.

Propagation is done by cutting a piece of the vine and putting it either in water or soil.

Sometimes these plants just die back, we know not why. Remove dead leaves and pinch back stems to get it to fill back out.

Back Yard Ponds

Backyard water gardens allow you to grow really cool plants you couldn’t otherwise grow. They also attract wildlife. We have birds and squirrels, and our cats and a local raccoon go fishing.

You want to put the pond a tiny bit up from the surrounding soil so it doesn’t get flooded during rainstorms. Also make sure it drains away from your home. The pump hoses will occasionally come undone and pump the water onto the ground. Be sure it has a safe place to go.

The USDA article recommends putting your pond in full sun away from trees. So you’ll have less leaves falling into your pond. Other sources tell you to put it in the shade so you will get less algae. We found leaves would get into the pond no matter what, the wind will take them there. Algae was a bigger problem for us.

You can buy plastic sheeting to line your pond or a preformed liner. We had good success with both methods. If you use plastic sheeting get it at least 10mm, the thicker the better. Double line it also. Be very sure to have the preformed liner level if you choose that.

Backyard ponds are small enough pumps are not an issue. We found they last about a year in New England. Down here in Houston they should last longer. We found the only successful way to treat algae and keep it under control is with a UV light filter. The pump will have a filter to catch small particles.

Plants will have to be weighted down with rocks. You’ll find a better selection online than you will at the local store.

For fish we purchased feeder fish at the local pet store. These are small gold fish at about 10/dollar. They get large quickly. They will winter over, even in NewEngland as long as there is some water in the very bottom of the pond. The top can freeze. No point in feeding the local raccoon pricey fish.

You can purchase a heater for your pond as well. The local pet stores usually carry them in the fall.