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  • Paddy
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.

A - Z Plant List

A - B - C - D/E

F - G - H/I/J

K/L - M - N/O

P - Q/R - S

T to Z


The A - Z of House Plants is currently under construction. Plant names will be linked to their corresponding articles as they are added. Please be patient - there are a lot of plants, and there may be days when only one or two articles can be added at a time. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of these general care articles:


A brief Guide to Potting Mixes


When and how to repot House Plants


Grooming House Plants - the Basics


Indoor House Plants and Light


Ten House Plants tolerating low Light Conditions


Indoor House Plants and Humidity Levels


Watering Indoor House Plants


Fertilising House Plants


To save readers having to scroll through the whole alphabet when looking for a specific plant, each section will be moved to its own page once all corresponding articles have been added. 


Yet to come: 




(Haworthia species)

Heartleaf Philodendron

(Philodendron scandens)


(Helleborus niger)


(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Hyacinth Flower

(Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids)


(Hydrangea macrophylla)




(Impatiens hybrids)

Iron Cross Begonia

(Begonia masoniana)

Ivy Geranium

(Pelargonium peltatum)


(Ixora coccinea)



Jade Plant

(Crassula ovata)

Janet Craig Dracaena

(Dracaena deremensis)

Japanese Aralia

(Fatsia japonica)

Jasmine Plant

(Jasminum polyanthum)

Jerusalem Cherry

(Solanum pseudocapsicum)



Kaffir Lily

(Clivia miniata)

Kentia Palm

(Howea forsteriana)



Lady Palm

(Rhapis excelsa)

Lantana Plants

(Lantana camara)

Lily of the Valley                                      

(Convallaria majalis)

Lipstick Plant                                          

(Aeschynanthus lobbianus)

Living Stones                                           

(Lithops species)

Lucky Bamboo                                        

(Dracaena sanderiana)



Madagascar Palm                                    

(Pachypodium lamerei)

Maidenhair Fern                                       


Mandevilla Plant                                       

(Mandevilla hybrids)

Martha Washington Geranium                   

(Pelargonium domesticum)


(Medinilla magnifica)

Ming Aralia                                              

(Polyscias fruticosa)

Miniature Roses                                        

(Rosa chinensis hybrids)

Mona Lavender                                        

(Plectranthus hybrid)

Money Tree Plant                                     

(Pachira aquatica)

Moses in the Cradle                                 

(Tradescantia spathacea)

Mother of Thousands                                

(Kalanchoe daigremontiana)

Mother-in-Law's Tongue/ Snake Plant        

(Sansevieria trifasciata)



Nerve Plant                                              

(Fittonia verschaffeltii)

New Guinea Impatiens                              

(Impatiens x hawkeri hybrid)

Norfolk Island Pine                                   

(Araucaria heterophylla)



Oleander Plant                                         

(Nerium oleander)

Orchid Cactus                                         

(Epiphyllum species and hybrids)

Ornamental Chili Pepper                           

(Capsicum annuum)



Paddle Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe thyrsiflora)

Panda Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe tomentosa)


(Viola x wittrockiana)

Paperwhite Narcissus                               

(Narcissus jonquilla)

Papyrus Plant                                          

(Cyperus papyrus)

Parlor Palm                                             

(Chamaedorea elegans)

Parrot Flower                                           

(Heliconia psittacorum)

Passion Flower                                        

(Passiflora caerulea)

Peace Lily


Peacock Plant                                         

(Calathea makoyana)


(Peperomia caperata)

Periwinkle Flower                                     

(Catharanthus roseus)

Persian Shield                                         

(Strobilanthes dyerianus)

Persian Violet                                          

(Exacum affine)

Piggyback Plant                                      

(Tolmiea menziesii)

Pink Calla Lily                                         

(Zantedeschia rehmannii)

Pink Quill                                                

(Tillandsia cyanea)

Pitcher Plant                                           

(Nepenthes hybrids)


(Plumeria rubra)

Pocketbook Plant                                    

(Calceolaria herbeohybrida)


(Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Polka Dot Plant                                       

(Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Ponytail Palm                                          

(Beaucarnea recurvata)

Pothos/ Devil's Ivy                                    

(Epipremnum aureum)

Powder Puff Tree                                      

(Calliandra haematocephala)

Prayer Plant                                            

(Maranta leuconeura)

Primrose Flowers                                     

(Primula hybrids)

Purple Heart Plant                                    

(Tradescantia pallida)

Purple Passion Plant                                

(Gynura aurantiaca)

Purple Shamrock                                     

(Oxalis regnellii)

Pygmy Date Palm                                     

(Phoenix roebelenii)



Queen's Tears                                         

(Billbergia nutans)



Rabbit Foot Fern                                      

(Davallia fejeensis)

Rex Begonia                                            

(Begonia rex)

Rosary Vine                                            

(Ceropegia woodii)

Rubber Plant                                           

(Ficus elastica)



Sago Palm                                              

(Cycas revoluta)

Satin Pothos                                           

(Scindapsus pictus)

Scarlet Star                                             

(Guzmania lingulata)

Scented Geranium                                   

(Pelargonium species and hybrids)


(Schefflera actinophylla)

Sensitive Plant                                         

(Mimosa pudica)

Shamrock Plant                                       

(Oxalis species)

Shrimp Plant                                           

(Justicia brandegeana)

Siam Tulip                                               

(Curcuma alismatifolia)

Spider Lily                                               

(Hymenocallis littoralis)

Spider Plant

(Chlorophytum comosum)

Split-Leaf Philodendron                             

(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

Staghorn Fern                                          

(Platycerium bifurcatum)

Strawberry Begonia                                  

(Saxifraga stolonifera)

String of Pearls                                        

(Senecio rowleyanus)

Swedish Ivy                                             

(Plectranthus species)

Sweet Potato Vine                                   

(Ipomea batatas)

Swiss Cheese Plant                                 

(Monstera deliciosa)


Thanksgiving Cactus                                

(Schlumbergera truncata)

Ti Plant                                                   

(Cordyline terminalis)

Tiger's Jaw                                              

(Faucaria tigrina)


(Tulipa hybrids)


U - V - W

Urn Plant                                                 

(Aechmea fasciata)

Venus Fly Trap                                        

(Dionaea muscipula)

Wandering Jew                                        

(Tradescantia albiflora)

Wax Begonia                                           

(Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)

Wax Plant                                               

(Hoya carnosa)

Weeping Fig                                            

(Ficus benjamina)

Windmill Palm Tree                                  

(Trachycarpus fortunei)


X - Y - Z


(Yucca elephantipes)

Zebra Plant                                              

(Aphelandra squarrosa)

ZZ Plant                                                  

(Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Sad News...


Stop Animal Cruelty

Instead of protecting the precious diversity of life on our planet, many countries, groups and individuals delight in performing acts of incredible cruelty to and on animals. To help stop this insanity going on, please go to The Petitions Site and add your voice to the thousands of individuals who are prepared to stand up and say: ' Enough is enough. Stop this now!' 

December 8 2012 7 08 /12 /December /2012 11:30

Plant Summary

flame-violetBotanical Name: Episcia cupreata

Type: Flowering

Origin: Episcia cupreata originates from Colombia and Venezuela.

Height: Flame Violets will grow to around 15 cm (6 in) in height.

Soil: Ideally, Flame Violets should be potted in a peat moss based or African Violet potting mix.

Light: Episcia cupreata should be given plenty of indirect bright light.

Humidity: This plant requires high levels of humidity. Levels of relative humidity below 50 per cent need to be raised with the help of humidifiers or wet pebble trays. Misting is not an option, as water will cause spots on the leaves, which are also prone to fungus infections.

Temperatures: The Flame Violet prefers to be kept cool, especially when blooming. Night temperatures should range between 13 and 18 degrees C (55 to 65 degrees F), and day temperatures should not exceed 24 degrees C (75 degrees F).

Water: From spring to autumn, the potting mix needs to be kept evenly moistened. Watering should be reduced during the winter months.

flame-violet-gtFertiliser: Episcia cupreata needs feeding with a diluted (half and half) liquid 10-10-10 fertiliser once a fortnight from spring through into late autumn. 

Propagation: Flame Violets can be propagated from stem cuttings (single leaf) taking during spring, or via their stolons, or runners, which have little new plants on their ends.

Description and Care Tips 

The showy leaves of Episcia cupreata combine varying shades of coppery brown and green, often marked with silver or pale green veins. Growing in a rosette and reaching length of 5 to 8 cm ( 2 to 3 in), the have a lovely metallic-sheen, which makes this plant simply irresistible, even before its tubular, dainty bright flowers start emerging in spring.

Typically red, though pink, yellow or orange on some varieties, these flowers rise up above the foliage on their stems. With their tips flaring out like little trumpets, each flower features a yellow eye deep in the trumpet's centre, and some may feature fringed edgings. With a little loving care, Flame Violets will continue to bloom throughout the summer and into autumn.

Direct sunlight may scorch this house plant's leaves, and should therefore be carefully avoided, as should drafts and blasts of hot/ cold air from heat or AC vents. To prevent flower buds from shrivelling before they get a chance to open and leaves developing unsightly brown edges, humidity levels must be kept fairly high. 

flame-violet-woIf a plant refuses to bloom, it often helps to remove the stolons, or runners, it produces. There is no need to discard the removed runners, as they can be used to propagate Episcia cupreata (see below).

To prevent soil sickness, the Flame Violet should be repotted every two years or so. As it roots shallow and tends to spread, a shallow, wide pot is ideal. Alternatively, this plant can be placed into a hanging basket, allowing its stems to trail down the side. A similar effect can be achieved by placing the plant's pot onto a pedestal or the edge of a shelf.

Pinning the Flame Violet's stolons down into the pot/ hanging basket will create a much fuller, beautifully lush appearance. Once the container is adequately filled, additional stolons can be allowed to hang over the side, where they will continue to grow and eventually produce their own flowers and runners. The effect of this display is stunning, to say the least.

There are two effective ways of propagating Episcia cupreata. One method is to dip the cut end of stem cuttings first into water, then into hormone rooting powder. The cutting is then placed into moist potting mix, which needs to be firmed down around the stem to keep it upright. 

With the pot completely covered in plastic to retain moisture, root development should begin within around one month. A month or so later, it should be possible to see formation of small plantlets from the cutting's base.

flame-violet-stAs mentioned earlier, the stolons produced by the Flame Violet offer another opportunity for propagation. They can be either cut off and rooted in moist soil (again in a pot covered in plastic) independently from the parent plant, or rooted while still attached. To root the plantlet on the end of a stolon still attached to the original plant, a small pot filled with moistened potting mix needs to be placed close to the parent. 

The free plantlet-end of the stolon is then placed on top of the soil in the little pot and pinned into place. Paper clips or hair pins are ideal for this purpose. Once roots have been established, the stolon can be cut away from the parent.

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December 8 2012 7 08 /12 /December /2012 03:21

Plant Summary

fishtail-palmBotanical Name: Caryota mitis

Type: Foliage

Origin: The Fishtail Palm originates from Malaysia and Burma.

Height: Kept as an indoor house plant, Caryota mitis will grow to a height of approximately 1.8 m (6 ft).

Soil: Any quality potting mix is suitable, although adding some horticultural sand (1 part of sand to 3 parts of potting mix) will assist speedy drainage.

Light: Caryota mitis needs plenty of bright light.

Humidity: This house plant prefers levels of humidity to be average to moderate. Should levels drop to under 50 per cent, it may be necessary to use a room humidifier or stand the plant on a wet pebble tray.

Temperatures: Fishtail Palm Trees can be kept in temperatures between 18 and 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F).

fishtail-palm-gtWater: The Fishtail Palm should be watered thoroughly after allowing the soil to dry slightly. As chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals contained within tap water may damage this plant, it is best to use distilled or filtered water. When the plant's growth slows naturally during the winter, watering should be reduced.

Fertiliser: Caryota mitis should be fed once with a slow-release fertiliser at the beginning of summer. Indoor palm food spikes are perfect, as they supply all the necessary nutrients to keep this plant green and lush.

Propagation: Fishtail Palms can be propagated from seeds or offsets. Seeds should be sown in spring/ early summer. The soil should then be kept moist and warm until seedlings appear. 

Description and Care Tips

Caryota mitis owes its common name of Fishtail Palm to its unique triangular leaflets. Featuring a ribbed texture and ragged edges, these dark-green leaflets grow on the plant's upright stems and will gradually and naturally develop split ends similar to the tail of a fish.

fishtail-palm-woThis plant grows in a clump, from the base of which several upright stems bearing the leaflets will rise. Requiring comparatively little care, Fishtail Palms are among the easiest palms to grow indoors. 

When watering, it pays to remember that this palm will tolerate slightly dry soil better than over-watering. Drainage holes in the pot, adding sand to the potting mix and allowing the soil to dry a little between watering session will prevent the soil becoming too soggy.

Should the plant be allowed to get too dry, leaf tips may start to turn brown, although dropping humidity levels are even more likely to be the cause of this. To prevent or remedy this problem, humidity needs to be raised to adequate levels. While a wet pebble tray may work, room humidifiers usually prove to be the best solution.

fishtail-palm-stPalms should not be pruned, as they grow from branch tips. Pruning or pinching off new fronds from where they are attached to the stems will effectively stop any new growth. Naturally, an older branch that has died off can be removed through pruning. 

Caryota mitis prefers to be slightly root-bound, and should only be repotted when the roots start growing out through the pot's drainage holes.

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December 3 2012 2 03 /12 /December /2012 13:48

Plant Summary

firecracker-plantBotanical Name: Russelia equisetiformis

Type: Flowering

Origin: Russelia equisetiformis has its native habitat in Mexico.

Height: The Fire Cracker Plant will grow to a height of between 90 cm and 1.8 m (3 to 6 ft), with trailing branches up to around 1.8 m (6 ft) in length.

Soil: Rapid drainage is essential for this plant, so a quality potting mix with added sand or perlite is ideal.

Light: This house plant likes a lot of bright light and will cope well with full sun.

Humidity: As far as humidity is concerned, Russelia equisetiformis does not have any specific requirements and is content with average levels.

firecracker-plant-gtTemperatures: Firecracker Plants are happiest in average temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F). If moved outside for the summer, they will cope easily with heat. They do, however, not like to be cold and will not tolerate freezing temperatures at all, so they must be returned indoors at the onset of autumn. 

Water: The top of the soil - approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) should be allowed to dry between thorough watering sessions. It is better to err on the dry side, especially with drought-tolerant mature plants, as over-watering will quickly result in serious problems. Watering should be reduced during the winter, when the plant's growth naturally slows down.

Fertiliser: From spring to autumn, Russelia equisetiformis should be fed with a balanced fertiliser (half liquid fertiliser/ half water) every 14 days. During the winter months, feeding should be reduced to once a month.

Propagation: Russelia equisetiformis can be propagated in spring from stem tip cuttings.

Description and Care Tips 

This gorgeous weeping shrub - also known as Coral Plant, Coralblow, Fountain or Coral Fountain Plant - owes its name Firecracker Plant to the long sprays (up to 30 cm/ 12 in) of approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) long, tubular and narrow orange-red flowers emerging from its pendulous, slender branches. 

firecracker-flower-woSomewhat lacking in foliage - the leaves of this lovely plant are merely bracts - these branches are finely textured and pleasantly coloured (as are the bracts). They will cascade beautifully from hanging baskets or tall plant stands, and, if placed outside for the summer, will be a delight to anyone who passes by, as well as attracting bees, bumble-bees, butterflies and - obviously depending on location - hummingbirds with its 'rain' of little flowers.

The stunning display of flowers will typically begin to emerge late in spring and last right through into autumn, although adequate amounts of light and warmth may result in the plant flowering almost all year round. Full sun will certainly encourage copious amounts of blooms. Pruning off spent flower stems as soon as the flowers have faded will also encourage new flowers.

Once all flowers have faded, small, inconspicuous fruits will appear, again in clusters. With the approach of autumn, the Firecracker Plant should be returned indoors, as it is frost tender and is unlikely to survive freezing temperatures. While indoors, it needs to be kept warm and in a location where it will receive as much sunlight as possible.

firecracker-plant-stIf necessary, Russelia equisetiformis can be pruned back fairly hard in the first few weeks of spring. This will help to control the size of this plant, which can - and will - take up as much space in width as it grows tall.

Regular checking for pests is also recommended, as the Firecracker Plant is a favourite haunt for chewing insects, various mites and nematodes (a selection of microscopic, unsegmented worms featuring elongated oval bodies that are come to a point at either end; most of these creatures are free-living, but some are known to lead parasitic lives). 

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December 3 2012 2 03 /12 /December /2012 12:26

Plant Summary

firecracker-flowerBotanical Name: Crossandra infundibuliformis

Type: Flowering

Origin: The Firecracker Flower originates from the tropical regions of Sri Lanka and Southern India.

Height: Crossandra infundibuliformis will grow to a total height of approximately 60 cm (2 ft).

Soil: Firecracker Flowers are quite content in any general purpose, high quality potting mixes.

Light: This house plant requires plenty of bright light and will even tolerate a little direct morning sunlight.

Humidity: Humidity needs to be raised to moderate to high levels in order to keep Crossandra infundibuliformis well and happy.

firecracker-flower-gtTemperatures: Being of tropical origin, Firecracker Flowers tend to prefer year-round temperatures ranging between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

Water: This type of plant needs to be watered thoroughly, although the top of the soil (2.5 cm/ 1 in) should be allowed to dry out from one watering session to the next. Allowing the soil to become soggy will invariably result in the plant dying, and should therefore be avoided at all times.

Fertiliser: A 20-20-10 diluted (50:50) liquid fertiliser should be fed to the Crossandra infundibuliformis once a fortnight during the months of spring and summer.

Propagation: Firecracker Flowers can be propagated from stem tip cuttings, which should be approximately 7.5 cm (3 in) long. The best time to propagate the plant in this manner is during the spring.

Description and Care Tips 

firecracker-flower-woWith proper care under suitable conditions, the stunning Firecracker Flower can be depended on to bloom for months on end, from spring onward right into autumn. Unlike many other house plants, even young Crossandra infundibuliformis will eagerly send up clusters of gorgeous flowers during this period.

Growing in opposite pairs, the leaves of this attractive plant are glossy and deeply veined. They will grow up to a length of around 13 cm (5 in) and feature wavy edges. 

The asymmetrical petals (ranging between three and five in numbers) of the Firecracker Flower's unusual, fan-shaped blooms - held upright from tubular, green tracts on stalked, four-sided spikes- may be pink, coral, red, yellow, apricot, salmon-pink, turquoise or orange in colour. 

After the flowers have faded and dried, seed-pods will emerge. These pods will - given the surrounding humidity is high enough - burst, or 'explode', to scatter the contained seeds. The Firecracker Flowers owes its name to this 'explosion'.

Warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year are essential to keep this house plant healthy looking. Exposure to cold air and drafts from windows, doors or air-conditioning vents may cause it to drop leaves. Insufficient levels of humidity will cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown. Keeping levels adequately high will not only prevent this, but will also assist in the prevention of spider mite infestations (spider mites prefer dry conditions).

firecracker-flower-stPlacing the Firecracker Flower among a group of other tropical plants not only makes a striking display, it will also help to adequately raise surrounding humidity levels for all of the plants involved.

In spring (before the first buds appear), Crossandra infundibuliformis may need repotting. It is best to use a fairly small pot, as the plant will bloom more abundantly when its roots are slightly crowded. Naturally, a pot with drainage holes should be used to prevent soil from becoming too soggy.

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December 2 2012 1 02 /12 /December /2012 19:21

Plant Summary

fiddle-leaf-figBotanical Name: Ficus lyrata

Type: Foliage

Origin: This beautiful long-lived indoor tree originates from Western Africa.

Height: Even when kept indoors, Ficus lyrata can grow to heights ranging between 90 cm and 3 m (3 to 10 ft).

Soil: Fiddle Leaf Figs are content with any quality general purpose potting mix.

Light: Ficus lyrata needs indirect bright light all year. Turning it (a quarter turn) once a week or so will ensure all sides receive adequate light, avoiding 'crooked' growth.

Humidity: The Fiddle Leaf Fig does not have any specific requirements with regards to humidity levels, and is generally happy in normal, average room humidity conditions.

fiddle-leaf-fig-gtTemperatures: Not terribly fond of the cold, Ficus lyrata likes to be kept at temperatures between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

Water: The potting mix should be kept evenly moistened, taking care not to over-water. Yellow, drooping leaves indicate too much water, while browning leaf tips indicate that the soil is too dry.

Fertiliser:  This house plant requires fertilising - using a diluted balanced fertiliser (diluted to half the strength) - only three times per year, once each in spring, summer and autumn.

Propagation: Propagating these large leafed trees can be quite difficult at home, but can be done by air layering or from stem tip cuttings. Either way, rooting will be slow and require incredible patience.

Description and Care Tips 

This rather fussy member of the Moraceae family can grow up to heights of as much as 12 m (40 ft) in its native habitat, but will grow extremely slow and typically stay much smaller than this when kept as an indoor plant. 

fiddle-leaf-fig-woPruning the top off young plants will help to limit its growth, as well as promoting branching. Keeping the Fiddle Leaf Fig in a comparatively small container will also help to limit its size, although it is important to use a heavy container to prevent toppling, as this plant does tend to get a little top-heavy.. 

The bold, violin-shaped and prominently veined naturally glossy leaves of this striking plant feature wavy edges and will grow up to 15 cm (6 in) in width and 30 cm (12 in) in length. They can be kept clean by frequently wiping them with a soft, damp cloth. Ficus lyrata also appreciates a misting once in a while.

Like many of its relatives, this house plant is prone to dropping its leaves when being moved. Bringing it home from the garden centre is therefore likely to result in at least some of the leaves disappearing. This is quite normal, and, with good care, the plant will recover.

Once at home, it is best to find the Fiddle Leaf Fig a nice, bright spot away from direct sunlight, drafts and AC/ heat vents and then leave it there, because any change in temperature or light will have it dropping its leaves.

fiddle-leaf-fig-stFor this reason, Ficus lyrata should also only be repotted (into a pot that will just hold its roots) when absolutely necessary. Best done during the spring months, repotting is not a solution to shedding leaves. Extra fertilising or over-watering will also not help, but instead add extra stress to the plant. The best way to deal with a tree shedding its leaves is to let it get used to its new environment in peace. It may take a few weeks, but it will get there eventually.

Once fully adjusted, the Fiddle Leaf Fig will provide a beautiful, dramatic accent to any home for many years. To keep it looking its best, it is also a good idea to check regularly for pest invasions - both scale insects and spider mites are commonly known to invade this lovely house plant whenever they get an opportunity.

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December 1 2012 7 01 /12 /December /2012 15:46

Plant Summary

ficus-aliiBotanical Name: Ficus binnendiijkii 'Alii'

Type: Foliage

Origin: This house plant does not exist in the wild. It is a 'man-made' hybrid created just a few years ago.

Height: Left to its own devices, Ficus Alii will grow as tall as 3 m (10 ft), even when kept indoors. Its height needs to be controlled through regular pruning.

Soil: Most quality potting mixes are suitable for this plant, although some growers prefer to use mixes based on peat moss.

Light: Ficus binnendiijkii 'Alii' needs bright, but indirect light throughout the year.

Humidity: Average levels of humidity will be sufficient to keep this house plant happy.

ficus-alii-gtTemperatures: This lovely indoor tree prefers normal room temperatures of between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

Water: After watering thoroughly, the top of the soil (2.5 cm/ 1 in) should be allowed to dry before watering again. The water used should be tepid, as cold water may shock the plant into dropping its leaves. Softened water should be avoided, as the salts contained may harm Ficus Alii.

Fertiliser: A diluted (half and half) liquid fertiliser (balanced) should be fed fortnightly from spring into autumn. 

Propagation: Ficus Alii can be propagated from stem tip cuttings or by air layering. As this tree is very slow to root whichever method is used, patience is required.

Description and Care Tips 

ficus-alii-woThe slender, long and deep olive-green leaves of this beautiful tree taper to a point and have a natural glossy sheen. Less fussy than some of its relatives (such as, for example, the demanding Ficus benjamina, which will drop its leaves at the slightest whim), Ficus Alii is comparatively easy to care for. As a rule, it will only drop leaves if it does not get enough water or light.

As the plant matures, it will, however, drop some of its lower leaves, revealing a woody trunk and giving it a somewhat palm-like appearance. Some growers take advantage of this by braiding trunks to give the tree a topiary-like look.

To control the height of Ficus Alii or create a specific shape, stems/ branches can be trimmed off in winter, using sharp pruners. Cuts should be made just above leaf-nodes/ branches. Weak growth or dead branches can be removed in the same manner.

ficus-alii-stRelatively slow growing, Ficus Alii trees prefer to be slightly pot-bound, making repotting -preferably done in spring - only necessary once every two to three years. The new pot should have adequate drainage and be just large enough to comfortably hold the roots.  

Although this tree is fairly resistant to pests, it is advisable to watch out for whitefly, scale insects and falcifer ground mealybag, as these little blighters do tend to bother Ficus Alii. It is also recommended to look out for Pytium blight (Fusarium, Helminthosporium and Pythium), as well as black root rot (or Thielaviopsis basicola), as there is a potential risk of the plant becoming infected with these diseases.

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December 1 2012 7 01 /12 /December /2012 14:29

While most people are quite adept in varying methods of propagating house plants from seeds, stems or leaf cuttings, few are familiar with the idea of air layering. 

The Concept of Air Layering

Essentially, air layering allows growers to root the branches of plants that are difficult to propagate through cuttings - in particular woody plants like Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig), Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) and Ficus binnendijkii (Long Leaf Fig); Dracaena fragrans (Corn Plant), Ficus elastica (India Rubber Tree) and Yucca elephantipes (Yucca, Elephant Yucca), as well as Schefflera arboricola (Umbrella Tree) and many others - while they are still attached to their parent plant. 

materialsThis method is also useful if the goal is to have a new plant that is larger than a plant a stem or leaf cutting could provide in the same amount of time.

Required Materials and Tools

The following materials and tools are necessary to begin air layering plants to be propagated:

  • Sphagnum moss (available from most garden centres/ nurseries)
  • Bowl of water
  • Sharp knife
  • Piece of hard, thin plastic (a little longer than the diameter of the branch to be rooted; a piece cut out of a yoghurt pot, plastic bottle or plant tag will do)
  • Transparent plastic foil/ bag, approximately 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in) in size
  • String 
  • Scissors

The Technique

cut1The first step is to soak enough of the sphagnum moss to create a fist-size ball when pressed lightly (after squeezing out excess water) in the bowl of water. While the moss is soaking, the plastic foil or bag can be cut to size, followed by cutting two pieces of the string long enough to wrap a few times around the branch and tie with ease - around 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in) should be sufficient - and cutting the piece/s of plastic to size.

cut2After selecting the branch to be rooted, an upward slanting cut (approximately 45 degrees) needs to be made (using the sharp knife) just below a leaf-node (the spot where a leaf was/ is attached to the branch). As around 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 in) of leaf-free branch is required, it may be necessary to remove some leaves. 

The cut should go between half and two-thirds of the way through the branch. It is vital to ensure the cut is not too deep, as the branch may break if cut too far. Next, the small plastic piece is inserted into the cut. Doing this will prevent the cut from healing shut and encourage the branch to develop roots instead.

plantThe soaked moss is now wrapped around the cut and the area around it, taking care not to wrap it too tightly. When finished, the moss should feel soft and sponge-like. Holding the moss-ball in place, the clear plastic now needs to be wrapped tightly around the moss (it may help to get some assistance at this point) and secured above and below the moss with the prepared string. It may also be a good idea to support the branch by tying it to a stake/ cane just above the moss-ball to stop it from snapping.

Depending on the species of plant, roots should begin to develop and grow into the moss over the next few weeks/ months. The clear plastic covering will make it easy to check on progress without having to disturb the process by unwrapping the moss-ball. If no roots show within the expected time period, it may become necessary to carefully open one end of the plastic and check whether the moss-ball is still moist enough. 

rootsOnce the roots are well developed, the branch can be cut off below the wrapped moss-ball, and after removing the plastic foil - taking care not to disturb the roots/ moss too much - the new plant can be potted up in a suitable quality potting mix. The pot/ container should not be much bigger than the root ball, as the soil in a larger pot will hold too much water for the young plant's roots to cope with, causing them to rot.

For the same reason, watering should also be done with care, especially for the first three or four weeks. While the soil should be kept slightly moist to prevent wilting, it should never be allowed to be really wet or soggy. 

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November 30 2012 6 30 /11 /November /2012 18:53

fiber-optic-grassPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Isolepis cernua (Scirpus cernuus)

Type: Foliage

Origin: Fiber Optic Grass, or Fibre Optic Grass, originates from parts of Northern Africa and Southern Europe.

Height: Isolepis cernua typically grows to a height of around 30 cm (12 in).

Soil: This plant likes to be kept in a potting mix based on peat moss.

Light: Fiber Optic Grass needs lots of bright light and can be placed into direct sunlight.

Humidity: Moderate humidity levels will be sufficient for this house plant.

Temperatures: Isolepis cernua likes to be reasonably warm, with year-round temperatures of 18 to 27 degrees C (65 to 80 degrees F). If placed outside for the summer, this plant must be brought back indoors before temperatures drop, as it will not tolerate frost.

fiber-optic-grass-gtWater: Isolepis cernua is a marsh plant, so the soil needs to be kept moist, even wet, at all times. This is one of the few house plants that will actually tolerate soggy soil.

Fertiliser: A diluted (1:1) liquid fertiliser (balanced) should be administered once a month from spring onward through until the end of autumn.

Propagation: Fiber Optic Grass can be propagated from seeds or by division of mature plants. Seeds should be sown in spring and barely covered with potting mix. The soil constantly needs to be kept moist and warm - at around 21 degrees C (70 degrees F).

Description and Care Tips

fiber-optic-grass-woAlso known as Live Wire Grass, the fountain-like Fiber Optic Grass plant is a type of ornamental sedge. It grows in clumping mounds that gradually spill over the pot's side, making this showy, evergreen perennial an eye-catching addition to hanging baskets, tall planters and groups of flowering/ foliage plants.

The silvery-white flowers located at the tips of the blades - which will begin to emerge in spring and continue on into autumn - give this unusual house plant its name, as they provide it with the distinct appearance of a fibre optic lamp.

To get this plant to thrive and bloom, it needs to be given plenty of light; be kept warm and be watered generously - as mentioned above, it will survive soggy soil, but it should never be allowed to dry out. Dry soil will result in the leaves yellowing, then turning brown.

fiber-optic-grass-stWhen the pot becomes a little crowded (around every two to three years), repotting into a pot just one size larger than the original container becomes necessary. This is best done in spring, which is also the best time to divide mature plants.

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November 30 2012 6 30 /11 /November /2012 16:16

false-araliaPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Schefflera elegantissima (Dizygotheca elegantissima)

Type: Foliage

Origin: New Caledonia, South Pacific

Height: Indoor False Aralia may eventually reach heights of approximately 1.8 m (6 ft).

Soil: Schefflera elegantissima can be planted in any all-purpose, high quality potting mix.

Light: This house plant needs plenty of bright light, although it must be kept out of direct sunlight.

Humidity: Humidity levels need to be moderate to high for the False Aralia.

Temperatures: The False Aralia likes to be kept warm and needs temperatures between 18 and 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F) to be comfortable. It should never be exposed to temperatures below 16 degrees C (60 degrees F), as this will cause the leaves to drop off.

false-aralia-gtWater: Though thorough watering is necessary on a regular basis, the top of the potting mix (2.5 cm, or 1 in) should be allowed to dry between watering sessions. Over-watering will result in wilting leaves.

Fertiliser: Throughout spring and summer, feed every two weeks with a diluted (50:50) liquid balanced (10-10-10) fertiliser. Reduce feeding to once per month during autumn and winter.

Propagation: Schefflera elegantissima can be propagated via stem tip cuttings or seeds. Best taken in spring, cuttings dipped into hormone rooting powder (cut end) before being placed into moistened potting mix will provide the best results if kept warm, out of direct sunlight and covered to retain moisture (a plastic bag will work well).

Description and Care Tips

false-aralia-woThe slender, serrated leaflets of the False Aralia give it an almost lacy, graceful appearance. Growing in circles around the top of the plant's stem, these leaflets look almost like fingers, or the legs of a spider, which gave rise to two of this house plant's common names, Finger Aralia or Spider Aralia. 

Coppery brown to begin with, the foliage of this lovely plant turns into a deep, blackish-green colour as the False Aralia matures.

Schefflera elegantissima does not like to be moved around too much, and may respond to being moved into a new position by dropping its leaves. Low levels of humidity will also cause the leaves to drop. Standing the pot on a wet pebble tray or misting the plant daily (preferably in the morning) will prevent this problem. Misting will also assist in the prevention of spider mites, a pest prone to infest this house plant.

As the False Aralia is fairly slow-growing, it usually does not need pruning, unless the aim is to control its height. More mature plants will drop their lower leaves to reveal a tree-like trunk. Pruning the plant yearly (best done in spring) will keep it short and bushy. It is quite safe to cut the plant as far back as approximately 15 cm (6 in) from the top of the soil for this purpose, as this encourages the growth of new offsets from the plant's base.

false-aralia-stGrowing best with its root confined, the False Aralia typically only needs repotting (in spring) every three years or so. Using a well-draining pot no more than twice the size of the root-ball will help to prevent the plant developing health problems. For tall plants, a heavy container is recommended to prevent toppling. 

False Aralias make a striking accent, and can be grouped with other humidity loving plants - such as Heart-leaf Philodendron or Nerve Plants - to make a gorgeous display. Smaller plants can also be used to add a palm-like, upright form to dish gardens, and seedlings placed under the fluorescent light of a terrarium will thrive wonderfully.

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November 24 2012 7 24 /11 /November /2012 17:15

hedgehog-1Anyone remotely interested in local wildlife may already have noticed that hedgehogs seem to be fewer in numbers. While some may have assumed that the reason for not seeing them is simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, David Wembridge's report 'The State of British Hedgehogs' confirms that hedgehog populations are indeed in the decline. They have, in fact, dropped by a quarter (25 per cent) in as little as 10 years. No-one is sure just why this is so, and there are many likely reasons, some of which will be dealt with later. Let's begin by taking a closer look at this lovely creature.


hedgehog-5The British Hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, has the official common name of European Hedgehog. Widely spread across the continent, this lovely mammal is also often referred to as the Western European, Western, or Northern Hedgehog.

The hedgehog is the only spiny animal in Britain, and can not be mistaken for anything else. Growing up to between 20 and 30 cm (8 to 12 in) in length, hedgehogs can weigh between 1.5 and 2 kg (3.3 to 4.4 lb). Their upper side is covered in literally thousands of about 2.5 cm (1 in) long spines - a small hedgehog weighing just 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) has 5000 to 6000 spines - that are brown close to the body and gradually fade into white at the tips. They also have a roughly 2 cm (3/4 in) long tail, and 2 to 3 cm (3/4 to 1 2/10 in) long ears.

Rarely seen at full length - partly because they are hidden by the grey-brown, coarse fur covering the animal's chest, belly, legs, face and throat, and partly because hedgehogs tend to not extend them fully unless necessary - hedgehog legs are approximately 10 cm (4 in) long. This makes hedgehogs excellent short distance sprinters. Although they tend to amble about when foraging for food, they can reach speeds between 3.22 and 9.66 km/h (2 to 6 mph) if late for appointments.

Biology and Behaviour

Being predominantly nocturnal, the typically solitary hedgehog has comparatively poor sight. This lack of sight is, however, well compensated for by the animal's excellent sense of smell and above average sense of hearing. 

While their sense of hearing is very well developed - the sound of an approaching worm would be perceived as loud - and partly used to detect both potential prey and danger, the sense section of hedgehogs' brains is taken up mostly by smell centres, indicating just how important this sense is to these creatures. 

hedgehog-2They use smell to recognise each other, detect potential predators (including humans - when the wind is coming towards them, they can smell people from several metres/ yards away), and - first and foremost - find food. 

Constantly sniffing both the air and the ground, a hedgehog can smell a potential meal as far as 2.5 cm (1 in) below the surface. Hedgehogs also have a sense of taste, although they apparently do not care what their food tastes like - they will eat many insects other insectivores prefer to leave on their plates.

Quite noisy eaters (a hedgehog feeding under your bedroom window can be most alarming), hedgehogs have a fairly varied diet, including, among other things:

  • Bees
  • Beetles
  • Birds
  • Birds' eggs
  • Caterpillars
  • Earthworms
  • Earwigs
  • Millipedes
  • Slugs
  • Small mammals
  • Snails

Beetles, caterpillars and earthworms are, however, favourite food items on this interesting hedgehog menu. 

Living in temporary nests during the summer, hedgehogs spend most of the night foraging for food. If they sense approaching danger, they will roll up tightly into a ball, completely covering their soft undersides and heads. Few predators take the risk of attempting to break into this ball.

Their breeding season lasts from April right up to September, although most of the activity will take place during the warmer nights of May and June. After a gestation period of approximately 4 1/2 weeks, the females give birth to between 4 and 7 babies (there seems to be no official name for baby hedgehogs, although they are occasionally referred to as kits, pups, piglets, hoglets or hedgehoglet. 

hedgehog-3The hoglets are born blind, and their spines are just underneath the skin (nature's way of preventing injury to the mother during birth. Around two weeks later, their eyes open, and their spines begin to grow. A week later, they loose their baby teeth. At the age of four to five weeks, they leave the nest and learn to look after themselves.

Sadly, many of these babies die within the first few weeks of their life, often before they leave the nest. This means that, in spite of being capable of having two litters a year, most females will only raise two or maybe three babies a year. Those that do survive have an average expected life span of around three to five years, with a few fortunate individuals making it to the ripe old age of 10 years. This is, however, a rarity, mainly because hedgehogs have only one set of adult teeth and, once these teeth are worn down or lost with age, they can not feed properly and effectively starve to death.

hedgehog-4With the approach of winter, hedgehogs prepare for hibernation by piling on as much fat as they can. They then retreat into a nest - called hibernaculum - made from grass, various plants and leaves, and go into a deep sleep. During this sleep, their metabolic rates drop drastically, allowing them to survive the cold, mostly insect-free winter months with no or very little food. They may wake up from time to time and move to another nest. Many hedgehogs will build at least two nests, so it is often possible to find many empty nests. 

Threats and likely Causes for the Decline of Hedgehogs

Ironically, while designed by nature to help them survive the winter, hibernation is one of the biggest threats to a hedgehog's life. The reasons for this range from their inability to defend themselves against freezing temperatures, floods and the destruction of their nests by other causes to the dangers they expose themselves to by building these nests in piles of logs or leaves and other man-made or semi-man-made structures. 

hedgehog-6.jpgAll too often, they are burnt together with garden rubbish, or on bonfires. This can be prevented by checking for hedgehogs before lighting up. Many of them become trapped in sheds, greenhouses and garages after building their nests in these inviting, warm and typically comparatively undisturbed places. Unable to get out, they can not find food and starve. Keeping doors closed at all times will stop them from getting in to begin with.

In addition, changes in agricultural practises and increasing urbanisation are continually reducing their natural habitat. Although hedgehogs tend to adapt fairly well to urban life, they do need places to hide, and well manicured, overly tidy gardens offer little in this respect. Making gardens hedgehog friendly by keeping at least part of them a little 'untidy' will give them somewhere to go.

Slug pellets and other pesticides also claim the lives of many, and carelessly discarded rubbish - especially those plastic rings around multi-packs of cans; plastic bags and cups; tins and yoghurt pots - poses a serious threat, as these inquisitive animals will scramble into them (particularly if smells promise a tasty morsel), get themselves stuck and end up either suffocating or starving.

Disposing of rubbish properly and keeping bin bags out of their reach (they will often tear bags open and climb into them to investigate, either ending up suffocating or being compressed when the bags are collected) will do much to prevent these unnecessary deaths.

Ponds, swimming pools, car inspection pits and fencing holes - in short, any deep holes with steep sides - are lethal traps for these gorgeous little creatures, as they are unable to clamber back out if they should happen to fall into them. Keeping one side of such features sloped offers them a chance to climb out. 

hedgehog-7.jpgThen, of course, there are cars. Growing numbers of roads and ever increasing traffic claim thousands of hedgehogs each year. What can be done? It really is quite simple. Chances are, drivers will meet hedgehogs during night travel, when traffic is typically at a low. Slowing down and being prepared to stop for an animal could prevent many roadside casualties - not only hedgehogs, but also badgers and other animals.

How YOU can Help 

There are many ways to get involved in trying to stop the decline of hedgehogs. In addition to helping hedgehogs in your own garden, you could become a hedgehog champion; adopt a hedgehog and/ or learn how to care for hoglets. The sources listed below will provide additional ideas on how to successfully invite, care for and ultimately protect hedgehogs.








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Published by Paddy - in Endangered Species
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