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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!' 

October 4 2012 5 04 /10 /October /2012 12:46

crocusPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Crocus bulb hybrids

Type: Flowering

Origin: The corms of hybrids available originate from Asia, Europe and North Africa.

Height: A Crocus will grow up to a height of approximately 20 cm (8 in).

Soil: Any general purpose, good quality potting mix is acceptable for Crocus bulb hybrids.

Light: During their cold treatment, corms need to be kept in the dark. This needs to be followed by accustomising the young plants to brighter conditions (see below). Blooming plants like bright light, but need to be kept out of direct sunlight.

Humidity: Undemanding, the Crocus is happy with average levels of humidity.

crocus-gtTemperatures: This is one house plant that prefers to be a little cooler - temperatures ranging between 6 and 16 degrees C (40 to 60 degrees F) will encourage blooming for weeks.

Water: Until growth emerges, watering should be done sparingly. Once growing, the soil needs to be kept moist evenly. It is vital to check regularly, as these flowering plants tend to be very thirsty.

Fertiliser: From the moment the Crocus is planted until it begins to bloom, the Crocus should be fed once a month with a balanced, diluted (1:1) liquid fertiliser. Fertilising should stop once blooming.

Propagation: Indoors, corms will not bloom more than once, although they may produce offsets (which will mature over a few years). They can, however, be kept and used outside. Once the foliage has died back, they should be stored somewhere dry and cold. In autumn, they can be planted outside and left to the care of Mother Nature. When they are ready, they will bloom. 

crocus-woDescription and Care Tips

Crocus hybrid bulbs are not actually bulbs, but corms. These corms produce masses of gorgeous cup-shaped flowers in a range of colours, including white, yellow, lavender and purple. Some blooms are plain coloured, while others feature stripes. All of them have bright orange stigmas. The leaves of the Crocus are upright, slender and usually striped in green and white.

One of the first flowering plants to herald spring, the Crocus often pops its lovely, colourful blooms through the last remaining layers of snow. Luckily, it is not necessary to wait for spring in order to wait for these lovely blooms, because the Crocus can be forced to flower indoors during mid-winter. The best time to start the forcing process is in October.

crocus-bloom.jpgThe first step of the forcing procedure is a 12 week cold treatment. Naturally, if pre-chilled corms are purchased, this step can be omitted. To begin, a shallow pot - which needs to be a minimum of 7 cm (3 in) deep - is filled loosely with a good potting mix, leaving enough space to accommodate the corms on top  - the tips should end up roughly at the same level as the rim of the pot. 

Several corms can then be set closely, but never touching, into the pot with their pointed end facing upwards. They should not be pressed into the soil, as it needs to remain loose enough to allow the roots to grow easily into and through it. The corms are then barely covered with additional soil. While it is tempting to mix Crocuses, it should be noted that different varieties tend to have different flowering periods. It is best to keep each pot to a single variety.

After watering thoroughly and allowing excess liquid to drain off, the pot needs to be moved into a cool - around 4 degrees C (40 degrees F) - and dark spot. A refrigerator, an unheated garage or a basement are ideal, as long as temperatures will not drop to freezing point. They can be kept in the dark by placing another pot, a box or a black bin liner over the pot, but it is necessary to allow for access, as the soil needs to be kept moist throughout this stage. 

crocus-stOnce the shoots reach a height of around 5 cm (2 in), the pot can be moved to a slightly warmer - around 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) place. Light conditions in the new location need to be low to begin with. The little plants can then be accustomised to brighter light by gradually moving them closer to a sunny window over a few days. 

To ensure even growth, the pot should be turned every day. When the Crocus is in full bloom, it needs to be in a bright place, but out of direct sunlight. This, and keeping temperatures comparatively cool (see above) will prolong the blooming period substantially.

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October 3 2012 4 03 /10 /October /2012 13:14

creeping-figPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Ficus pumila

Type: Foliage

Origin: The Creeping Fig originates from Japan and China.

Height: This plant trails up to around 90 cm (3 ft).

Soil: Ficus pumila is quite content with any quality potting mix.

Light: Although the Creeping, or Climbing, Fig likes bright light, it should be kept out of direct sunlight, as this may cause the leaves to become dry and shrivel up. This house plant will tolerate low light conditions if need be.

Humidity: Levels of humidity need to be moderate to high for this plant.

Temperatures: As far as temperatures go, this house plant is easy going, tolerating temperatures ranging from 13 to 29 degrees C (55 to 85, degrees F).

creeping-fig-gtWater: From early spring until the end of autumn, the soil should be kept slightly moist. Watering should be reduced for the winter months.

Fertiliser: For the period from spring into autumn, the Creeping Fig should be fed monthly with a diluted (by half), well balanced fertiliser (liquid).

Propagation: Stem cuttings should be taken in spring. They will root nicely in fresh potting compost.

Description and Care Tips

The heart-shaped, small leaves densely cover the long, trailing, creeping and climbing stems of the Creeping Fig. Growing fast, this lovely plant needs to be pruned regularly to keep it in shape and under control. In addition, pruning will also encourage the growth of new branches, resulting in a much fuller plant. Up to a third of the growth can be trimmed back at a time to keep the Creeping Fig compact. 

creeping-fig-woOne of the main things to remember when caring for this house plant is to make sure it does not get over-watered. The top of the potting mix should be allowed to dry out approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) deep before watering thoroughly. Obviously, adequate drainage is essential to prevent the soil from becoming soggy, which may cause the plant to rot. In winter, watering should be reduced to a bare minimum, just stopping the soil from drying out completely.

Repotting should be done in spring, but only when it becomes absolutely necessary, as Ficus pumila prefers to be a little pot-bound. It should, in fact, only be necessary to repot it once every three years or so. It is often possible to use the same container and just refresh the potting mix, but if a new container is used, it should only be one size larger than the old one.

creeping-fig-stThe beauty of Creeping Figs can be shown off in various ways. This house plant looks excellent spilling out of a hanging basket, for instance. Another option is to allow the aerial roots to grip onto a topiary, trellis or moss support. It usually helps to initially tie them loosely to the intended support with soft florist's wire. How the Creeping Fig will look is really only limited by its owner's imagination.

Alternatively, Ficus pumila can be planted underneath a taller house plant as a type of ground cover, allowing the trailing stems to spill out over the container's sides. Ficus benjamina (the Braided Weeping Fig) or Norfolk Island Pines, for instance, are particularly well complimented by the addition of Ficus pumila.

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September 28 2012 6 28 /09 /September /2012 18:47

corona-prayer-plantPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Calathea sp. 'Corona'

Type: Foliage

Origin: Corona Prayer Plants originate from Brazil and Central America.

Height: Typically, Calathea sp. 'Corona' will grow to around 45 cm (18 in) tall.

Soil: This house plant appreciates a good, well draining general purpose potting mix.

Light: Direct sunlight should be avoided. The Corona Prayer Plant prefers moderate to bright light.

corona-prayer-plant-gtHumidity: Humidity levels need to be moderate to high for this house plant. A wet pebble tray or a room humidifier should help to raise levels adequately.

Temperatures: Calatheas like to be fairly warm, with temperatures ranging between 18 and 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F) being perfect.

Water: As this plant is sensitive to salts and fluoride in tap water, it is best to water it using distilled or rain water. The soil has to be kept evenly moist, but should not be allowed to become soggy.

Fertiliser: Dilute a liquid 10-10-5 fertiliser with equal parts of water and feed once every 14 days to the plant during the spring/ summer months. Reduce feeding to once a month during autumn and winter.

Propagation: The rhizomes of matured plants can be divided in spring/ early summer to propagate this plant. 

corona-prayer-plant-woDescription and Care Tips

One of the most popular named varieties within the Calathea genus, the tropical Corona Prayer Plant certainly deserves its place among the Marantaceae (or Maranta) family's showy plants.

The silvery green, broad leaves of this house plant taper down to a point and are edged with a dark green band. Emerging new leaves are curled, revealing purplish-red undersides. Like all the members of this family, the Corona Prayer Plant will fold its leaves - like hands in prayer - at night. 

The real secret in keeping this house plant happy is to keep humidity levels at a minimum of 60 per cent. This can be easily achieved with a room humidifier or a humidity tray. Misting the Calathea with rain water (preferably at room temperature) will also be more than welcome.

Keeping humidity levels high will also help to keep spider mites away. Highly attracted to Corona Prayer Plants, spider mites tend to prefer dryer conditions and will subsequently be less likely to attack the plant if humidity is high.

Corona-spider-miteBarely visible to the naked eye, spider mites can do extensive damage to the leaves of plants, typically appearing as brown or yellow spots. If not treated, the plant may eventually stop growing and die. Normal pesticides are likely to make matters worse, as the spider mites are resistant to them, and only bugs that might eat them will be killed off. Spraying the plant using a nozzled hose is often enough to knock of the mites, but if all else fails, dormant, horticultural or insecticidal oil (such as, for instance, neem oil) should work. Miticides will also kill spider mites.

Corona Prayer Plants look extremely effective displayed on their own, perhaps on a pedestal, or grouped with other plants that like high humidity, such as, for instance, ferns and bromeliads. In spring, the plant should be repotted to provide it with fresh soil. New pots rarely need to be much more than a size bigger. This is also a good time to divide mature plants.

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September 28 2012 6 28 /09 /September /2012 16:55

corn-plantPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'

Type: Foliage

Origin: Corn Plants originate from tropical East Africa.

Height: Slow growing Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' can eventually reach a height of up to 1.8 m (6 ft).

Soil: Any well draining quality potting mix will keep the Corn Plant happy.

corn-plant-gtLight: Although it usually prefers bright light, this house plant will tolerate low light conditions if need be.

Humidity: Corn Plants like to be kept in environments with average to moderate humidity levels.  

Temperatures: Average temperatures of between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F) will be just fine for this plant, but it is essential to ensure it is not exposed to temperatures below 13 degrees C (55 degrees F).

Water: Dracaena fragrans needs to be watered regularly - keeping the potting mix moist without getting it soggy - from spring through into autumn. In winter, allow the top 5 cm (2 in) of potting mix to dry out from one watering to the next.

Fertiliser: A diluted (by half) balanced fertiliser (liquid) should be fed to this house plant once a month, from beginning of spring through to the end of autumn.

Propagation: Stem tip cuttings (approximately 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) long) can be taken during spring/ early summer and rooted in moistened potting mix.

corn-plant-woDescription and Care Tips

Hardy and relatively easy to care for, the Corn Plant is a tree-like (though unbranched) plant with arched, sword-shaped leaves. The leaves will grow to an approximate length of 60 cm (2 ft) and a width of around 10 cm (4 in). They are dark green in colour, with a wide, creamy-yellow stripe down their centre. 

In its native habitat, the Corn Plant occasionally produces strongly scented flowers, but this is rare with plants kept indoors. 

As Dracaena fragrans grows, it will lose lower leaves bit by bit, eventually leaving a bare stem with just a cluster of arched leaves at the top. New plants will need time to adjust and get over the shock of moving into a new home. They may lose a few leaves as a result - this is perfectly normal. To prevent the leaves being scorched, the plant needs to be kept out of direct sunlight and away from drafts. 

Corn Plants will withstand a lot of abuse, but they will not tolerate being over-watered. Too much fertiliser may also prove damaging. If the leaves turn yellow and begin to droop, it is likely that the plant is being over-watered it may even indicate root rot. Using a pot with drainage holes is vital, and the plant should never be left standing in water.

corn-plant-stIf Dracaena fragrans gets too tall, it can be pruned back in spring/ early summer. The cane may be cut off at any desired height - it will simply grow new leaves from wherever the cut was made. The stem tip cuttings can be used for propagation if desired.

As this is a slow growing house plant that prefers to be a little root-bound, repotting will only become necessary once every three years or so. The new pot should be kept comparatively small, but needs to be heavy, as Corn Plants can get top heavy.

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September 27 2012 5 27 /09 /September /2012 20:33

coral-berryPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Ardisia crenata

Type: Foliage/ Flowering

Origin: Ardisia crenata originates from Southeast Asia.

Height: A Coral Berry may grow up to 90 cm (3 ft) tall.

Soil: This house plant is quite happy in any good, balanced potting mix.

Light: Like many other house plants, the Coral Berry likes bright like. It is acceptable for the plant to get a little direct sunlight.

coral-berry-gtHumidity: Humidity levels should be moderate - around 50 to 60 per cent - for this plant. Standing the pot on a wet pebble tray will boost levels.

Temperatures: Similar to the Coral Bead Plant, the Coral Berry prefers to be kept fairly cool - average temperatures should be around 7 to 18 degrees C (45 to 65 degrees F).

Water: The soil should be kept evenly moist throughout the year and should never be allowed to dry out.

Fertiliser: From the beginning of spring to the end of summer, the plant needs to be fed once a fortnight, using a diluted (1:1) balanced liquid fertiliser. Throughout autumn and winter, feeding should be reduced to once a month.

Propagation: Coral Berry plants can be grown from seed (sown in spring) or via stem tip cuttings. The cuttings, which should be approximately 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) in length, need to be taken in spring and have to be placed upright into moistened peat-moss potting mix. Cutting and pot should then be covered with a plastic bag to retain humidity. It should be noted that propagating this plant is not easy - it is, in fact, very much hit and miss - whichever method is used.

coral-berry-woDescription and Care Tips

The delightful Coral Berry is a slow growing evergreen. In its tropical native habitat, this plant will grow to heights of up to 1.8 m (6 ft), but as a house plant, it typically does not exceed around 90 cm (3 ft) - and it will take quite some time to get there.

Deep-green, glossy leaves - which will grow to approximately 5 cm (2 in) in width and 10 cm (4 in) in length - feature serrated edges, adding to the Coral Berry's overall beauty. In summer, tiny pale pink or white flowers emerge from the leaf axils of the plant's lower branches. Slightly aromatic, these flowers will be followed by 6 mm (1/4 in) round, red berries. 

Arriving around Christmas, these berries are the plant's main attraction, and will last more or less until the plant begins to flower once again. If the Coral Berry is reluctant to bloom, it may require more sunlight and humidity, particularly during spring, when it begins to form buds. Misting the plant regularly (with water at room temperature) will increase humidity and help to keep spider mites at bay, as they prefer drier conditions.

coral-berry-stIf the flower buds drop off, the plant may be exposed to drafts or air that is too cold. Though it likes to be kept cool, it does not appreciate temperatures below 7 degrees C (45 degrees F). 

To keep the Coral Berry compact and in shape, it needs to be pruned back in spring, before flowering begins. Repotting should be done in late winter - never while the plant is flowering - when the roots have filled the container. The new pot should only be one size larger than the previously used one.

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September 27 2012 5 27 /09 /September /2012 19:54

coral-bead-plantPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Nertera granadensis

Type: Foliage/ Flowering

Origin: The Coral Bead Plant is native to South America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Australia and New Zealand.

Height: This compact little house plant usually grows to a height of around 8 cm (3 in).

Soil: Coral Bead Plants need good aeration, making a mix of one part of perlite or sand and two parts of a good potting mix (peat-moss based) necessary.

Light: Bright light is required, but direct sun should be avoided.

coral-bead-plant-gtHumidity: A need for moderate to high levels of humidity make it essential to mist the plant daily from when the first flowers appear until the beads (berries) are formed.

Temperatures: This little plant prefers to keep a little cooler, with ideal temperatures ranging between 13 and 18 degrees C (55 to 65 degrees F).

Water: The sand/ perlite and peat-moss potting soil mixture should be kept moist, but not soggy. 

Fertiliser: While the plant is bearing berries, it needs to be fed once a month. A liquid balanced fertiliser should be diluted to half its strength for this purpose.

Propagation: Coral Bead Plants can be grown from seeds, from stem tip cuttings (which should be taken in spring), or by division. 

coral-bead-plant-woDescription and Care Tips

The dark green, tiny leaves of the ornamental, unusual looking Coral Bead Plant grow on their intertwining stems into a thick mat. Small white flowers emerge in early summer. They are followed by typically orange-red berries, although some varieties may have off-white or yellow berries. Often completely covering the foliage, these berries will last for several months. 

Due to its need for humidity and cool temperatures, the Coral Bead Plant can be fairly difficult to keep happy as a house plant. Moving it outside in spring will give it the bright light and cool air it requires to bloom and produce its lovely berries. It should be planted in a sheltered spot away from cold winds and direct sunlight. When kept at temperatures that are a little too warm, this plant will not produce berries. It will, however, still look attractive - its foliage is actually very much like that of the Baby's Tears plant. 

coral-bead-plant-stCoral Bead Plants have very shallow roots, which makes them perfect for planting in shallow containers, such as dish gardens, for example. This plant should only be repotted when necessary, and then only in spring. This is also the best time to propagate the Coral Bead Plant by division - simply pull the clump gently apart and plant individual parts into their own containers.

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September 24 2012 2 24 /09 /September /2012 11:23

Currently only classed as vulnerable, although reclassification as endangered is being discussed, the Polar Bear, which has the scientific name of Ursus maritimus (marine bear, a name it received owing to its excellent ability to swim), is the largest of all land living carnivores. 


polar-bear1Adult males can reach a length of up to 2.6 m (8.53 ft) and weigh up to 600 kg (1,322.77 lb, or 94.5 st). Females tend to be considerably smaller at lengths of around 2.1 m (6.9 ft) and weighing in at up to 300 kg (661.39 lb, or 47.25 st). A pregnant female with plenty of stored fat can, however, weigh more than 500 kg (1,102.31lb, or 78.74 st).

Immediately recognisable due to the distinctive white appearance of their fur (which is, in fact not white, but colourless), Polar Bears have longer necks than other bears, and their elongated heads feature comparatively small ears. The black tip of the Polar Bear's nose and its footpads (which are also black) are the only parts of its body that have no fur. 

Extremely strong-limbed, Polar Bears use their huge forepaws for paddling. The toes of this gorgeous creature are not webbed, but are designed to to walk on snow and ice. Non-retractable claws dig into snow not unlike ice-picks, and small indents and projections on the soles of the bear's feet help the animal to walk on icy surfaces without slipping by acting like suction cups.

Range, Habitat and Biology

polar-bear4Polar Bears are found on ice-covered waters throughout circumpolar Arctic regions, from Denmark (or to be more precise, Greenland) and and Norway through the former USSR to parts of the United States and Canada. Canada's James Bay - London, by the way, is on roughly the same latitude - is the furthest south polar bears can be found throughout the year. 

As the ice cover extends further to the south during the winter months, Polar Bears will often move as far south as the northern Bering Sea and Newfoundland. They rarely enter central polar basin areas,  as the year-round, thick ice means there is little food for them here.

The annual ice close to the coastlines of islands and continents represents the Polar Bear's preferred habitat, as this is where the largest numbers of their favourite prey, Ringed Seals (scientific name Phoca hispida) can be found.

Living solitary lives for the best part of the year, except when breeding or in family groups, stocks - or populations - of Polar Bears are distributed all over the Arctic, with undefended home ranges up to 300,000 sq km (115,830.65 square miles) in size often overlapping.

Able to detect prey up to a metre (3.28 ft) under compacted snow and up to 1 km (0.62 miles) away thanks to their extremely heightened sense of smell, Polar Bears feed predominantly on Ringed Seals, although they will not refuse a Bearded Seal (scientific name Erignathus barbatus) either. Seals are usually captured as they come to the surface of water holes to breathe, although the bears will also hunt them down in their lairs under the snow, especially when young seals are being nurtured there. If and when the opportunity arises, Polar Bears will also feed on belugas, narwhals, seabirds, walruses and waterfowl. 

While there is plenty of food around, Polar Bears can devour remarkably large amounts of food very quickly. When little food can be found, this animal has the unique ability to enter a hibernation-like, slowed down metabolic state. The ice in Hudson Bay, for instance, completely disappears from mid-July right through to mid-November. This means pregnant females typically do not feed for a total of up to eight months. They will metabolise stored protein and fat reserves, as well as recycling metabolic by-products. Particularly cold weather may also prompt this majestic animal to fast. Energy is often conserved during such periods by the bears retreating into temporary dens.

polar-bear2The mating season of Polar Bears ranges from late March into May. As the females nurse cubs for two and a half years, they are only available for mating once every three years. In order for ovulation and fertilisation to be stimulated (a process known as induced ovulation), females must mate over and over again for several weeks. Breeding pairs subsequently stay together for up to two weeks or so to ensure success. If the male is displaced, the female may mate with other males during this period.

The implantation of fertilised eggs is then delayed until some time between mid-September and mid-October. Two to three months later, the female will give birth - litters may consist of one, two or occasionally three cubs - in a snow den. Each cub will weigh approximately 0.7 kg (1.54 lb) at birth. Although they look like miniature versions of their parents, their fur is much thinner to begin with. All being well, assuming they survive the first few years of their lives, the cubs have an overall life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.


Since hunting - which at one point drove Polar Bears to near extinction - is regulated, the main threats to populations are poaching, pollution, disturbances generated by industrial activities and - first and foremost - large scale ecological changes brought on by climate changes. 

While long term effects of climate changes are as yet unclear, it is certain that even minor changes have a profound impact on the lives of these animals. More snow, for instance, could result in the bears having problems hunting for seals in their lairs. This would obviously affect survival rates of both cubs and adult bears. Less snow, and perhaps increased rainfall, on the other hand, may result in seal populations being drastically reduced as lairs may not be thick or deep enough to protect their cubs, or they may collapse, killing the cubs outright. 

Fewer seals obviously mean less prey and lower survival rates for Polar Bears. Increases of overall temperatures are also likely to have a serious effect. Polar Bears are perfectly adapted to the freezing temperatures of the Arctic. Warming of their habitat will not only affect their ability to create dens, it may also cause them to die as a result of overheating. Receding ice cover forces more and more bears onto solid ground, where food is not as easily found, often meaning bears eventually succumb to starvation.

polar-bear3The reduction of sea ice also means many bears get stranded on floating ice in their search for food. While they are good, strong swimmers, even Polar Bears can only swim so far, and many of them are already found dead as a result of drowning. 

To make matters worse, big oil companies now plan to take advantage of the reduction in sea ice by oil drilling in the Arctic. This will put the already fragile habitat of Polar Bears at an even greater risk. To protect this beautiful creature, this must not happen, and political leaders need to be pressured into protecting the Arctic. 

Greenpeace are sponsoring a petition to this effect. The names of people signing this petition will be entered onto a scroll, which, when completed, will be placed onto the North pole's seabed with a flag to demand the Arctic remains off-limits to industrial fishing and oil drilling. Readers can sign this petition at Care2 

More detailed, scientific information on Polar Bears can be found at Polar Bears International




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Published by Paddy - in Endangered Species
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September 21 2012 6 21 /09 /September /2012 18:44

coleus-plantPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Coleus blumei (or Solenostemon scutellarioides)

Type: Foliage

Origin: The Coleus Plant, or Painted Nettle, originates from Southeast Asia.

Height: Painted Nettles can reach heights of around 60 cm (2 ft).

Soil: Coleus Plants will grow well in any balanced potting mix.

Light: Painted Nettles like bright light. Although a little sunlight is acceptable, intense summer sun should be avoided, as it may scorch the leaves. If insufficient light is provided, leaf colours may dull and, in extreme cases, leaves may drop off.

Humidity: Setting the pot of the Coleus Plant onto a tray of wet pebbles will provide the moderate humidity this plant requires.

Temperatures: This house plant is happiest in temperatures ranging from 16 to 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

coleus-plant-gtWater: The soil must be kept evenly moist at all times, as thirsty plants tend to result in wilting leaves.

Fertiliser: Painted Nettles should be fed with a balanced, diluted (one part water to one part fertiliser) liquid fertiliser once a fortnight from early spring to the end of summer.

Propagation: Stem tip cuttings (7cm/ 3 in) taken during spring or early summer will root easily in moist soil or water. Coleus Plants can also be grown easily from seeds sown in spring.

Description and Care Tips

Often grown as an annual in gardens, the frost-tender Coleus Plant, or Painted Nettle, is easy to grow inside, as long as sufficiently bright light can be provided. 

coleus-plant-woThe distinctive shape of the leaves - which may have ruffled or scalloped edges - combines with intricate patterns in often dramatic colour combinations. Avaialble in an abubdance of varieties, Coleus Plants boast foliage colours ranging from creams, yellows and oranges through reds, maroons and browns to varying shades of green and even blue. 

These rich colours, the beautiful designs featuring contrasting colours and the variety of edgings make the Coleus Plant a definite rival to even the showiest of foliage and even many flowering plants. 

coleus-plant-stCaring for the Coleus blumei is comparatively easy. Plenty of bright light and continually moist soil will keep the plant looking healthy. The plant should be watered regularly and thoroughly. A pot with drainage holes will prevent over-watering. If the Painted Nettle's soil is allowed to get too dry, it is likely that the leaves will wilt and drop off.

Pinching out growing tips frequently will prevent the plant from becoming leggy and keep its appearance full and bushy. The insignificant, small flower spikes likely to appear should also be pinched off as soon as they appear, as they will only take away from the gorgeous foliage, rather than adding to the look of this magnificent house plant. 

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September 21 2012 6 21 /09 /September /2012 16:55

coffee-plantPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Coffea arabica

Type: Foliage

Origin: The Coffee Plant originates from tropical Africa and Southern Asia.

Height: Kept indoors, Coffee Plants can grow to heights of approximately 1.8 m (6 ft).

Soil: This plant needs a potting mixed based on peat moss.

Light: Coffea arabica likes bright light, but should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Humidity: Moist air is required, for this type of house plant, and using a room humidifier will provide the best possible results.

coffee-plant-gtTemperatures: The Coffee Plant likes temperatures of around 16 to 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F). It will not tolerate freezing temperatures at all.

Water: Providing good drainage, the soil needs to be kept thoroughly moist during the spring and summer months, reducing watering to keeping the soil barely moist in autumn and winter.

Fertiliser: During spring and summer, a diluted (1:1) liquid fertiliser (balanced formula) should be fed every two weeks.

Propagation: As cuttings are difficult to use for propagation, it is best to grow this plant from fresh seeds sown in spring.

Description and Care Tips

In addition to being the source of one of the most popular beverages in the world, the Coffee Plant also makes an easy to grow, beautiful house plant. One of 90 species in the genus Coffea, this evergreen shrub is a member of the family Rubiaceae. 

coffee-plant-woThe dark green glossy leaves of the Coffee Plant feature ruffled edges and grow on willowy stems. In its native habitat, this plant can reach heights of 4.5 m (15 ft) or more, but keeping it indoors and cutting it back regularly will help to control its size. Pruning should be done in spring, using clean, sharp pruners. 

Stems should be cut about 0.6 cm (1/4 in) above the the spot where the leaf attaches to the stem (the leaf axil), at an angle of 45 degrees. It is quite harmless to cut this plant back quite a bit - even harsh pruning will not affect it badly, but will encourage sufficient new growth to keep it full, bushy and shaped attractively. 

Spring is also the time to repot the Coffee Plant. The new pot should be one size bigger than the previous one, and it is essential to use a pot with drainage holes, as this will help to prevent over-watering.

coffee-plant-stIn time (typically around three to four years or so), Coffea arabica will produce white, star-shaped and sweetly scented flowers. These are then followed by fruits. Initially green, the fruits will slowly change their colour to red, then almost black as they ripen. Once the ripening process - which will take several months - is completed, each fruit will bear two seeds (beans). These beans can, after being properly roasted, be ground and used for coffee.

It should, however, be mentioned that this long lived, vigorously growing and most attractive house plant may take many years before producing enough beans to make a cup of coffee - so patience and a few more jars of the favourite instant variety will be required.

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September 21 2012 6 21 /09 /September /2012 16:07

cigar-plantPlant Summary

Botanical Name: Cuphea ignea

Type: Flowering

Origin: The Cigar Plant originates from Mexico.

Height: This house plant will grow to an approximate height of 60 cm (2 ft) within a year.

Soil: Cigar Plants are quite happy when planted in any quality potting mix.

Light: A sunny spot is ideal for this plant, as it likes bright light and is happy with exposure to direct sunlight.

Humidity: Average levels of humidity will keep this plant satisfied.

cigar-plant-gtTemperatures: Temperatures ranging between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F) are perfect. Cigar Plants can take the summer heat if moved outdoors, but do not tolerate being cold at all.

Water: Thorough watering is required from spring into autumn. The soil should be allowed to dry slightly, but not completely, between waterings. In winter, the soil should be kept a little drier. 

Fertiliser: A diluted (by half) liquid balanced fertiliser needs to be fed once a fortnight from spring to autumn. 

Propagation: Seeds should be sown early in spring, while propagation from stem tip cuttings is done in summer. The cuttings - which should be approximately 7.5 cm (3 in) long - can be rooted in moist perlite. Once roots become apparent, the little plantlets should be transferred into their own pots with  new potting mix.

Description and Care Tips

cigar-plant-woCigar Plants owe their name to their flowers, which are orange-red, tubular and rimmed with purple and white, giving them the appearance of burning cigars complete with ash on their tips. These flowers, which are approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) long, grow singly from the leaves' axils. They will appear in lush abundance from the beginning of summer right into autumn.

The Cigar Plant is a fast growing evergreen sub-shrub that will reach its full height within little more than a year. The woody stems of this plant are densely covered in 5 cm (2 in) long, narrow leaves. To keep this plant bushy and compact, it can be pruned back quite a lot. Using clean, sharp pruners (to prevent tearing of the stems), the stems can be cut back by half during late winter in order to encourage fresh growth and increased amounts of flowers.

cigar-plant-stWhen the shrubby Cigar Plant gets crowded in its pot, it needs to be repotted. This should always be done in spring, well before flowering begins. A pot with drainage holes should be used to prevent the soil getting soggy, as this will cause the base of the plant to rot.

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