Ti plant, Hawaiian Good Luck plant ( Cordyline terminalis )

There are about 20 species of cordylines which are part of the agave family. These are some of the more colorful houseplants you’ll find. These are slow growing plants. So purchase a good sized plant.

Provide high, direct light, so a south facing bright window is wanted. The better the light, the better colors you’ll get in your leaves.

Keep the soil moist to keep this plant happy, and give it as much humidity as you can. It can be sensitive to fluoride. So use bottled water to water it. If you give it too much fertilizer the colors will dull.

This is one of the better air cleaning plants. It can reach as tall as five feet.

Not to worry about this plant losing its lower leaves, they do that even in the wild.

Brown tips on this plant mean salt build up, repot and be sure to let water run out the bottom of the pot a couple of minutes each watering. Spider mites may also bother this plant. Just wash them off with a bit of dish soap in water, then rinse.

It can be grown outside but will not survive freezing.

Ikenobo class

… As Moscow watched the Soviet empire collapse around it in 1991, an expert in the ancient art of ikebana flower arranging flew in from Japan.

For most of the 16 years since, Midori Yamada has taught Russians to search for harmony in the lines of branches, flowers and vases as attempted coups, and spectacular booms and busts played out on the streets outside.

“Our school is very strict, each flower has its laws,” she said.

“With constant work you finally learn them, but it is not the head that learns, but the heart,” she said in an interview in a northwestern Moscow apartment, transformed to feel like a little corner of Japan . . .

Today I took a class in Ikenobo down in Houston proper.

Ikenobo translates to ‘flowers kept alive’. It is the oldest of the ikebana schools which were founded by the Buddhist priest Ikenobo Senkei. It dates back to the 15th century. ( see Ikenbana )

The class we attended was at the Tachibana School. It was fun and the class was only $10. You should bring a container for your arrangement and a frog. I found a frog at Garden Ridge. The school supplied the flowers and greenery.

This was my first flower arranging class, and it shows. But that’ll give me an excuse to take more classes.

Though it was warm and spring like this morning, the wind chime has been ringing almost non-stop since I returned home so I can hear the cold front moving in here.

Mexican (false ) Heather ( Cuphea hyssopifolia )

Mexican (false) Heather

This had totally taken over one of the flower beds when we moved here. I’ve beaten it back to the edges of the garden and kept it there. Last February I cut it back almost to the ground to keep it from getting out of hand again. The bees love it and the cats spend hours hiding in it hitting the bees.

It grows to between 1′ and 2′ in mounds and loves humidity.

It likes light to medium shade and doesn’t seem to mind the dry areas, it does not like wet areas.  It does well in shade and can be used as a ground cover under trees.

It does not do well in droughts, especially if it is also windy. So if you can choose a protected location for planting.

Protect from cold, it does not like to be below freezing for any length of time.

It is deer resistant, so they have to be very hungry to munch on this one.

Heather can be found in most mountain ranges worldwide.  It was brought to North America by Scotsmen who wanted a reminder of home.  While the Scotsmen consider heather their own, most varieties of heather are found in South Africa.  Very few South African varieties of heather are found far from home.

I find this to be invasive so plant with caution.

This is a plant well loved by bees.  All summer it is covered with bumble and honey bees.  Consider it as an addition to your bee or butterfly garden. More importantly it is one of the few winter bloomers providing a much needed cool weather resource for bees.

It is often used to edge beds, especially butterfly beds.

The heather was not doing well before the cold winter of 2009-2010, it died back to the ground during the cold. As of mid May about half of the heather plants have re-appeared. It’s now June and about 3/4s of the plants have come back to life.

Died, it wasn’t able to handle the 3 month temps over 100’F and drought of summer 2011.

Burrageara Orchid

Burr Stefen Isler
Burr Stefen Isler
Burr Stefen Isler
Burr Stefen Isler

Burrageara orchids are not found in nature but are a cross of Cochlooda, Miltonia, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium.

Burragearas want as much light as possible in the winter, here in New England that means a south facing window. The rest of the year protect the plant from direct sun. An east or west window should do.

Water these orchids when the moss is dry to the touch at the top. They do not do well in planted in bark indoors. If you do plant one in bark, check daily to be sure it doesn’t need water. Do not allow these orchids to get totally dry, neither allow them to sit in water.

At the bottom of the plant, where the leaves come out, is a pseudo bulb. If this is becoming shriveled and wrinkled the plant wants more water. The older bulbs will be slightly but not excessively shriveled. New pseudo bulbs should not be shriveled but instead be smooth.

The best potting medium for orchids grown as house plants indoors is sphagnum moss. But I find this plant does well in dirt too, probably because he so hates getting dried out.

Peace Lily ( Spathiphyllum )

Peace Lily is an easy to care for plant that does an excellent job of air cleaning.

It can grow in medium or low light. The flowers will be whiter in a brighter light. Peace lilies who have too little light will not flower at all. If your peace lily flowers but the flowers are green rather than white then it needs a little bit more light.

Peace lilies like to go almost dry between waterings. When it wants water it will sulk, letting its leaves slump down, it can be quite dramatic about it. Peace lilies perk back up a few hours after being watered.

Some people put these plants in vases of water and put betta fish in the water of the vase. It is a beautiful way to grow both. Peace lilies make great indoor water garden plants. The betta fish will need food. They are meat eaters not plant eaters. Be sure to get betta food when you pick up the fish.

The tips of these plants will turn brown from salt damage, re-pot and let the water run through the pot and out into the sink when you water them.

Peace lilies contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause your mouth to burn, difficulty in swallowing, nausea and skin irritation.  Be careful handling this plant and don’t eat it.

Purple Passion aka purple velvet plant ( Gynura aurantiaca )

This plant is a strange vine, it has purple fuzz on its leaves and the more sun it gets the more purple fuzz it will have on its leaves. If it is not hanging in a basket it will max out in height at less than a foot. You ‘ll need to trim it to keep it neat. It will get orange-yellow flowers with enough sun, but they are not the best smelling of flowers.

It likes bright light and to have the top inch of soil dry before watering.

To propagate, cut a piece of vine, remove lower leaves and place it in a glass of water, as you would for any vine.

Watch for mealy bugs on this plant, they will look like white dots or cottony areas. Wash them off the plant or treat with insecticide.

Yellowing leaf with green veins

I noticed this happening on a few plants late last summer.

There are many reasons this could happen. One is too much Round up. Another is too much phosphorus. The other is too little of magnesium or iron or zinc or nitrogen some combination of them.

If this is a magnesium deficiency then Epsom salts ( magnesium sulfate ) are needed. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of Epsom salts to 1 gallon of water. You want to do this 3 times at 6 week intervals. Older leaves are most effected by magnesium deficiencies.

If this is an iron deficiency new leaves are most likely to show the symptoms.  Adding organic material helps with iron deficiency or any other treatment that breaks up the soil and lets more air get in.  Adding peat moss and or 1 pound of sulphur per 100 sq feet of garden will also help by lowering the soil pH slightly.

For zinc you want to add fertilizers for acid loving plants. Too much phosphorus or alkaline soil can cause problems with plants getting enough zinc.  Often leaves will also be smaller and or curled.

Nitrogen deficiencies show in older and lower leaves first.

If your soil is alkaline, pH > 7.0 as most clay soils in the area are, you’ll do better to apply zinc, magnesium and iron as liquid fertilizer sprayed on the leaves. Alkaline soils tie up the nutrients faster than the plants can take them up.

The best thing you can do is a Soil test then you know for sure what the problem is and what you need to do to fix things.

I find some of my plants do this when they require nitrogen and that tells me it’s time to fertilize.  The plants in my garden that show the need for fertilizers first are: Mexican Bleeding heart, Passion vine, Gardenia.