Ferns

I killed off many of these before I got the hang of growing them. They do not like heat, nor do they like to have the soil be dry.

Soil should be kept moist. Do not let the soil go dry. Put the fern in the sink, let the water run over it. Once the water stops coming out of the bottom of the pot hang it back up.

They prefer it to be both cool and damp. So if you have a drafty window or door you can place the plant near it’ll be much happier. Or place it near your humidifier.

Light needs are minimal for ferns. They will be happy in a north or east facing window. Or you can place them in the interior of a well lit room. They are one of the few plants that can do well indoors away from a window.

Ferns are excellent plants for cleaning the air in your home.

Snake Plant aka Mother In Law’s Tongue ( Sanservieria trifasciata )

I planted these Mother-in-law’s tongues out into the yard late last summer. While they can handle a few hours below freezing occasionally, long or repeated frosts will kill them. They died back to the ground last winter and didn’t re-appear until June.

Flowers are tiny, white and grow in bunches on long stems. The plants will grow 4′-5′ tall.

They prefer light shade. Mine only get a small amount of dappled sunlight early and late in the day.

You should go easy on the water, especially during the winter they are prone to rotting. They will do just fine during droughts and can be kept almost as dry as a cactus for short times once established.

Occasionally you may find a leaf that is damaged. I cut off the damaged part of the leaf and leave the rest. The rest of the leaf often will do quite well after trimming.

These will fill in and form a thick, dense border in time. If you are planting them, leave at least a foot between them for future growth. These make a nice background border for smaller plants.

Propagate by division. Once these plants get too big, you can dig them up or take them out of the pot and divide them. Use a very sharp knife to slice the plant into sections giving each section a clump or more of leaves and as much roots as possible.

Or you can just remove a leaf, cut it into 3″ sections and plant each section in soil – be sure to keep the top up and the bottom down same as it was growing. Keep the soil moist but not wet until you see new growth, then slowly taper back the watering until you are watering them only when dry. Replant them then.

These plants were once used for the purpose of making bow strings.

Dracaenas

These plants have green leaves with red or white edges and grow slowly.

Most, not all dracaenas prefer lots of sun. Some of these are in a north-east facing room that has a covered porch around all its windows. If you can read a newspaper in the room using only sunlight, it is probably bright enough for these plants. Too much light will bleach out their leaves. Move them to a less sunny location if this happens.

They like soil that is moist, so water when the top inch of soil is dry, letting water run out through the bottom of the pot. Do not let them dry out.  But do water a little less in the winter to prevent rot from setting in from a lack of sunlight.

The white edged dracaena shown here seems to need more humidity than the red edged ones.

Dieffenbachia

( aka Dumb Cane )

Inexpensive and easy to grow, these plants can grow to room height in about five years. But most will only reach 6′ tall. The leaves will get larger as the plant grows, becoming several inches across as it reaches room height. If it grows too quickly you’ll need to give it a post or string for support. Rotate it as needed to be sure it grows straight. If your plant is growing quickly and too weak to hold itself up it probably wants more light.

They want medium to bright light so east or west facing windows work wonderfully. The brighter the light the more white will appear in the leaves. Depending on your home it will take southern window exposure, especially during cloudy months.

Dieffenbachia likes the soil moist, water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry.

Chewing the leaves can cause a burning sensation in your mouth and swelling possibly making it impossible to breath so consider this plant toxic to pets and children. The sap causes temporary speechlessness as well, which is how it received the name ‘dumb cane’.

Watch for mealy bugs ( they look like cotton on the plant )

Leaf drop starting at the bottom and working up is usually from too little light.

Leaves turning white, yellow or grey are getting too much light.

Edges of leaves turn brown when there is salt damage. Because these plants get large it may be hard to water them in the sink. If you can do so, let the water run through the pot and out the bottom. If not, you may want to repot it with fresh soil a few times a year.

Soft, squishy areas on the stem or soft squishy spots on leaves are from bacterial damage. Usually this is too much water in the winter when the plant is not getting sufficient sun. Remove damaged areas with a clean knife, repot and give the plant more light or less water.

Spider mites can spot your leaves, or yellow them. Orange oil or washing with soapy water, then rinsing with clean water usually takes care of them.

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.