Angreacum Orchid

These are are epiphytic (air plants). The leaves are like a vanda’s leaves, the flowers each have two tails, ~4″ to 5″ long hanging down. I find Angreacums love humidity (50% to 80%). If yours is having trouble try putting him in the bathroom or kitchen.

This orchid loves sun and to be fairly damp so we have him in moss rather than bark. This one has been in bloom for 2 months now and is showing no sign of slowing down. At night, right after dusk he gives off a heavy, sweet scent (like lilacs or lilies) for about an hour or two. There is no scent the rest of the time. This orchid reblooms effortlessly.

Temperature should be ~55-60F at night and ~70-85F in the day. A difference of about 15F is needed between day and night temperatures to induce blooming.

Keep this orchid in a bright window, south or west facing is best.

Zebra plant ( Aphelandra squarrosa )

This plant is not for the faint of heart. I’ve murdered many and I’m not sure this one will survive me, but it has lasted longer than any of the others I’ve had.

Give Zebra plants lots of water and lots of humidity. Find this plant a spot in your kitchen or bathroom. It drops the older leaves when the air is too dry.

Zebra plants want bright sunlight. If you have to choose between sunshine and humidity though, go for the humidity when finding this plant a location in your home.

Pinching off new growth will force it to fill back out again. When it flowers a bright yellow flower comes up from the top much like a ginger.

Usually this plant will not more be more than a foot or two in height full grown.

I saw some of these growing in the wild not long ago. They grow in large clumps of bushy plants. I didn’t even recognize them at first they looked so full compared to how they look grown indoors.

These plants are easily sun damaged, you will see yellow or brown spots on the leaves between the veins. Move it further from the light if you see this.

If the tips of the leaves turn brown, that is salt damage. Either repot it or when you water be sure to let the water run out the bottom of the pot for a few minutes. Also watch for mealy bugs on this plant.

Air Plants ( Tillandsia )

Tillandsia are part of the Bromelaid family of plants.

These are not so much grown in air as they are grown with out soil.

They still need regular soakings with water and fertilizer.

The plants have tiny scales which absorb nutrients. The more and larger the scales are the more light and less water the plant receives while out in the wild. The glossier ones want less light and more water.

Most prefer bright, indirect light. I have mine in a partly shaded east window and they are doing well there.

Some people grow these quite successfully in baskets and hold the plants under running water a couple of times a week. I find I do best with them in terrariums. I have mine sitting on glass beads in a terrarium. I keep the water in the beads but don’t let it get high enough to touch the plant. Mine are thriving this way. Use which ever method works best for you.

It is tomato plant time down here

It is after March 1st and the 15 day forecast has no night time temperatures below 50′. That means it should be safe for the tomato plants to be planted outside. It is a good thing too, they were climbing out of their pots.

I have some Mother-in-Law Tongues that were a bit frost damaged. I trimmed off the damaged leaves today. I also moved them to a drier location. They want only slightly more water than do cactus plants. I now have them in a location that is both shady and dry. They are probably my best hope of getting anything to grow there. Time will tell. You can see them on the right side of the webcam image.

Arrowhead Vine ( Syngonium podophyllum )

Arrowhead vine is an unusual plant. It has green leaves with slightly pink coloring on the top. The leaves begin arrow shaped and it has one leaf per stem in a rosette form. Later it will change in to a vine. When it does the leaves will change to a different shape with three to five finger like sections.

This one is growing well in a stained glass south facing window.

It prefers moist soil so water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Water with warm water or keep the water off the leaves, they will spot if the water is too cold.

It is invasive in bogs and wet areas in the warm parts of the US so keep it as an indoor plant.

Southern Living rated it as one of the ten easiest to grow house plants.

Spots that appear in the middle of the leaf with brown centers and yellow rings are bacterial leaf spot. Remove all infected leaves taking care not to spread the bacteria to other parts of the plant. Keep water off the leaves and make sure the plant has some air movement around it.

Watch for mealy bugs.

Nuccio’s Gem Camellia ( Camellia japonica )

Camellia’s generally bloom in the late winter to early spring down here.

They are evergreen, and grow to between 2′-20′ depending on which one you have and the growing conditions. This one should reach 10′. It’s been 10 years and it’s still about the same size it was when I planted it.

They prefer partial shade. This one is planted in a mostly sunny location out front.

Camellias prefer acidic soils and lots of water, but Camellias will not grow in wet or bog like conditions. I find they survive droughts just fine as long as they have been in the ground more than a year, because they like acidic soil and do not need much sun they grow well under pine trees.

They are extremely slow growing so it may take a few years before they are fully established.

While frosts do not bother the plant, they make drop their flower buds depending on when in the cycle the frost hits and how cold and how long it lasts.

Camellias are native to India, China, Japan and Indonesia in the woodlands. In Asia they have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. The golden ( yellow ) one is on the endangered list there. It is easily grown from seed, so consider locating some seeds and giving that one a try. It is considered the most hardy and pretty of them all by many.

Camellia hybrids, like the one here, have been grown in Europe since the 18th century. There are at least 5,000 hybrids, most derived from Camellia japonica. Other common hybrids derive from Camellia retuculata and sasanqua.

Watch for scale and aphids. If found treat with orange oil on underside of leaves for best results.

Leaf gall is a fungus that makes new leaves swell. Usually it only occurs in shady areas with no breeze. Leaves begin green then peel to revel a white powdery substance. Remove infected parts of plant.

Camellia virus starts as yellowing on leaf edges, flowers may have white spots. This is a virus. It is unlikely to spread but there is no cure either.

If newer leaves are yellow with green veins your camellia needs fertilizer and likely iron.

Red brown spots on leaves together with die back is usually from algal leaf spot. Give the plant more iron. Fertilize regularly.

Sections of plant turn brown and it spreads to other sections. This is usually from root rot. Rainy years bring lots of that to our area. There is not much you can do except to plant in a better drained area next time.

Camellias with larger leaves and larger flowers are more prone to scale than smaller leaved, flowered varieties.

If you want to transplant a camellia, January is the best month. Flowering takes place between Jan. and March for most varieties here. Mine was in the ground two years before settling on January as a time to bloom. After the cold winter of ’09-’10 it waited until February to bloom.

When you buy camellias look for a good sized root ball.

Camellias seem to do just fine during extreme drought and heat.

More Information:
American Camellia Society

Mulch time

Mulching your garden helps in many ways:
-Mulch protects the soil from eroding
-Mulch reduces soil compaction
-Mulch conserves water
-Mulch keeps soil temperature more level
-Mulch improves soil as it decomposes
-Mulch prevents weeds
-Mulch keeps you from sinking in the mud
-Mulch looks nice

In the vegetable garden:
Try using grass clippings, newspaper, leaves, hay or straw.

In the flower beds:
Try bark, pine needles which also increase acidity of the soil, and leaves.

Mulches are best applied late spring after soil has had a chance to warm up. They should be 2″-4″ deep, excepting for newspaper which should be no more than a few sheets thick.

Pine bark mulch is a much better choice than hardwood mulches, at least in the Houston area. The hardwood mulches are made from native oaks and scrub brush. Over time they get a white fungus on the chips. This fungus is hard, which makes it hard for the mulch to absorb and hold water. It is also steals nutrients from the soil that should be going to your plants. You can usually identify hardwood from softwood mulches just by looking for the white mold on the chips.