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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...


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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 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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June 30 2012 7 30 /06 /June /2012 18:58

Many people shy away from having house plants because the majority of rooms in their homes are not filled with direct sunlight for most of the day. This is, however, not really a problem, as there are many house plants that will not only survive, but thrive in low or poor light conditions.

There are many excellent house plant encyclopaedias online, offering advice on which plant needs how much light, etc, but just for starters, here is a list of ten indoor plants that will easily tolerate or, in some cases, even prefer low light locations. This includes east and north facing windows, positions between three and five feet away from south or south-west facing windows, and artificially lit office environments.

Aechmea Bromeleads, or Urn Plants

Surprising as it may be, this tropical plant much prefers moderate shade or indirect light to direct sunlight. Commonly sold already flowering, the Aechmea will usually hold its shape and bloom for months on end in artificial or poor light conditions.

Aglaonema commutatum, the Chinese Evergreen

Chinese Evergreen is easy to please, with little light being required. It prefers moist soil, and likes to have its roots confined for optimal growth, so it rarely requires repotting.

Aspidistra elatior, the Cast-Iron Plant

This is a tough plant that can survive not only low light, but also high heat, dry air and infrequent watering for prolonged periods. It does, in fact, prefer not to have soggy soil.

low-light-plants.jpgAsplenium nidus, the Bird Nest Fern

Moist, partially shaded environments are ideal for the easy going Bird Nest Fern, which easily shatters the myth of ferns always being fussy in their requirements.

Chlorophytum, the Spider Plant

One of the most undemanding house plants, the spider plant, is perfect for beginners, as it is almost impossible to kill. It generally prefers fairly bright light (although too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves), it will quite happily tolerate semi-shaded, low light positions. 

Cyclamen persicum, or Florist Cyclamen Plant

Cyclamen bloom only for a short time and do not like too much direct sunlight, making them an ideal choice for adding a spot of instant colour to groups of non-flowering foliage house plants in shaded locations. 

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana', the Corn Plant

This hardy plant will tolerate all sorts of abuse, including low light, but it does not like over-watering or over-fertilising. It much prefers to be left to dry out a little before being watered.

Dracaena sanderiana, the Lucky Bamboo

Technically not actually a bamboo, the Lucky Bamboo will tolerate low light better than too much light. If, however, the green starts fading or the plant starts to stretch, a little more light may be necessary. This plant, which can be placed directly into water or soil, is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals present in tap water, so it is best to use bottled water, or leave tap water standing for 24 hours to allow evaporation of the chlorine before watering this plant. 

Epipremnum aureum, the Devil's Ivy, or Pothos

Quite content with comparatively low light, the Devil's Ivy is a hardy plant that is fairly easy to keep. It may loose a little of its variegation on the leaves in low light, but apart from this minor problem, it will be relatively happy.

Epipremnum pinnatum, the Golden Pothos Vine

This house plant acts somewhat unlike any other plant by thriving in dark, dry conditions. Its leaves do, as a matter of fact, lose their yellow, distinctive marbling if exposed to too much direct sunlight, making the Golden Pothos Vine a sure winner for shady locations.

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June 21 2012 5 21 /06 /June /2012 20:36

Regular maintenance and grooming will help to keep a house plant looking attractive and healthy. In addition, cleaning, deadheading (flowers), pinching and pruning plants will assist in preventing harmful diseases and pests.

Cleaning House Plants

a-violet.jpgCleaning the leaves of house plants may seem to be a strange task, but removing dust from the leaves will not only ensure the plant gets adequate light exposure, it will also help to get rid of tiny insects. 

Smooth, shiny leaves can be cleaned with a damp cloth or sponge. To avoid transferring insects from one plant to the next, the sponge or cloth should be given a quick rinse before moving on to the next plant.

Hairy leaves, such as those of the African violet, for example, need to be gently cleaned with a dry, soft brush, as using water may cause irremovable water spots. For plants with fine foliage, a gentle, all-over spray with water will do the trick.

Obviously, it is necessary to ensure the soil does not get soggy in the process. Excess water should be shaken off gently, followed by allowing the plant to dry away from direct sunlight to prevent scorching.

Deadheading Flowers

Removing dead flowers from house plants using sharp, clean scissors or pruners will stop the plant from looking unsightly and prevent dead flowers from rotting and becoming targets for grey mould. Removing flowers as they begin to fade will prolong blooming times by allowing plants to devote their energy into growing new buds.

This process naturally also prevents the plant's energy from being wasted on seed production, so if the idea is to collect and use seeds, the flowers should not be removed until after the seeds have been developed and collected.

Pinching House Plants

coleus.jpgPinching, or removing the young tips of stems by using the forefinger and thumb, will help a plant to become fuller and bushier. Especially effective on soft-stemmed plants, such as the coleus, for instance, pinching just above the growing point where leaves are attached (the node) will force branching below the pinch or cut. This prevents plants from becoming too 'leggy'.

Pruning House Plants

corn-plant.jpgHouse plants with woody, thick stems need to be pruned using pruning shears. Preferably done when the plant is in an active growing period, any dead branches or stems need to be pruned off to prevent decay, which may cause fungus attacks. Yellow or brown leaves, which will attract insects and diseases, should also be removed.  

While serious pruning is best done during spring or early summer, a light trim to keep things tidy can be given to the plant at any time throughout the year. Brown and yellow leaves should, of course, also be removed whenever they happen to appear. If they tend to appear en-masse at frequent intervals, it may be a sign that the plant is not happy and needs repotting, so it helps to keep an eye on how often they have to be removed.

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June 19 2012 3 19 /06 /June /2012 21:02

Every now and then, it becomes necessary to repot house plants, because unless adequate space for the plant's roots is provided, they can become pot bound. Pot bound roots form a tightly packed, cramped mass and will eventually inhibit the growth and well-being of a plant.

Signs that a Plant has pot bound Roots

pot-bound-roots.jpgIt is usually possible to notice that a plant is ready for a bigger pot when roots start appearing on top of the soil, or when they start growing out of the drainage hole at the bottom. If a plant's growth seems to slow down or stop altogether, easing the plant out of its container to inspect the roots will determine whether repotting is needed or not. 

When to repot Plants

Freshly purchased plants should not be repotted, as they need to acclimatise to the humidity, light and temperature of their new environment first of all. It can take a couple of weeks before a plant gets over the shock of coming into a new home, and repotting it would do it more harm than good. If the plastic container it came in is considered to be too unsightly, it should be placed into a cache pot for this period.

Actively growing, young plants should be given a slightly larger pot and new potting mix once every 12 months, while large, established house plants are repotted at two year intervals, or when they appear top heavy, As long as a plant is thriving, it can be safely assumed that it is happy in its current pot.

In general, it is best to repot plants at the beginning of active growth periods, such as in spring; or, in the case of winter-blooming plants, early autumn. 

Choosing a new Pot

growing-plants.jpgThe new pot should be no more than 2 in deeper and 2 in wider than the current pot, because if a pot that is too large is chosen, the top of the plant will not grow until the roots have filled the excess space in the pot. In addition, a pot that is too large will hold too much water, which could potentially cause the roots to rot.

It is vital to ensure that new pots have drainage holes. If these holes are quite large, placing a large pebble or a piece of broken pottery over the hole will prevent soil from falling out, while still allowing excess water to escape. If pots without drainage holes are used, some drainage can be provided by a layer of pebbles underneath the potting mix. 

Previously used pots should be scrubbed thoroughly to prevent diseases. Pots can be disinfected with a solution of nine parts water and one part of chlorine bleach. Naturally, they will have to be rinsed extremely well with clear water afterwards. New terra cotta pots need to be soaked in water for several hours before placing plants into them, as they tend to be quite dry and may rob moisture from the plant. 

Repotting a House Plant

The first step of successfully repotting a plant is to ease it gently out of its old pot. This can usually be done quite easily by turning the pot on its side and gently pulling the plant as close to the soil as possible. If it refuses to budge, a tap on the bottom of the pot tends to help. If all else fails, running a knife around the edge of the pot - taking care not to damage any roots - should do the trick. 

Any roots coiled around the bottom need to be pulled straight, again taking care not to damage them. Pruning the roots a little before potting the plant again will stimulate their growth and help the plant to settle in the new container. 

The new pot is then part-filled with new potting mix, after which the plant is centred in its new home, followed by adding mix and tapping it down around the plant. The plant then needs to be watered thoroughly to settle the potting mix (this will determine whether more mix needs to be added) and moisten the roots.

Repotting After-Care

Plants can get seriously stressed and weakened by the repotting process, and they will need a little extra care to begin with. A newly repotted plant should, for example, not be placed into direct sunlight, as this may be too harsh for an already weakened plant. 

The soil should be kept moist, without getting it soggy. Too much water will turn the leaves yellow, while too little water will make them go limp. High humidity usually helps plants to recover, so it may be a good idea to raise humidity slightly for a while. 

As fertilisers can burn the pruned roots of freshly repotted plants, they should not be fertilised until at least a month after they have been repotted. By this time, the root system will have established itself and will be able to deal with the fertiliser without suffering damage.

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June 17 2012 1 17 /06 /June /2012 07:39

The variety of potting mixes available for house plants at garden centres can be confusing, to say the least. In spite of the fact that potting media is generally referred to as potting soil, most mixes do, in fact, not contain any kind of soil at all. The reason for this is that soil can compact easily, and when packed into a plant pot will end up robbing the plant of the oxygen it's roots need.

The Triple Threat of Garden Soil

Garden soil should never be used as a cheap alternative to potting mixes, because first of all, it will compact and starve plant roots of oxygen. Secondly, the soil may contain the seeds of weeds, which will very quickly thrive and make the pot look like a patch of wasteland. Finally, garden soil may contain insects that may ultimately harm a house plant. This is not how a house plant should be started off in its new home by anyone's standards.

The Benefits of Potting Mixes

ingredients.jpgPotting mixes not only provide a house plant with the support it requires to stop it from falling over, they also store and provide the nutrients and water required by the roots. At the same time, potting mixes ensure plants do not get water-logged by providing good drainage, as well as allowing sufficient air to circulate within the potting medium to allow vital oxygen to get to the roots.

What's in the Bag?

Most good potting mixes do not contain any soil, but consist of a base of peat moss or other partly decomposed plant material (hence the term 'potting compost'), such as, for instance, fir bark. As a rule, other components, like sand, perlite and/ or vermiculite are added to this base in order to improve drainage and air circulation.

The Ingredients of Potting Mixes

  • Peat moss, the base ingredient of the majority of potting mixes available today, is a coarse brown powder consisting of ground up, partly decomposed bog plants. It keeps the mix light and improves overall water retention, making it perfect for plants that prefer a moist potting medium. Begonias, African violets and ferns, for example, particularly like peat moss mixes.
  • Composted bark, which is easily recognisable within a potting mix as large chunks, assists drainage and also helps to stop the potting medium from compacting, thereby improving air circulation. Potting mixes for orchids and bromeliads typically contain composted bark.
  • Sand assists in speeding drainage and dries out very quickly, making potting mixes containing sand perfect for cacti, other succulents requiring comparatively little water and palms native to sandy habitats. It is, of course, essential to use washed or horticultural sand, in order to ensure that there are no impurities or salt lkely to damage thee plants contained within the sand.
  • Vermiculite, which looks a little like small flakes of gold, consists of natural mineral deposits. In addition to assiting air circulation, Vermiculite can also absorb minerals and water at a rate of several times its own weight. The water and minerals are then gradually released back into the mix.
  • Perlite consists of expanded volcanic rock and looks like little white puffs. Thousands of minute air pockets allow perlite to soak up and release water rapidly, making it perfect for water regulation and drainage. While most potting mixes contain a certain amount of perlite, those for succulents typically have an extra helping of this ingredient.
  • Horticultural charcoal is used to absorb odours and keep soil from becoming sour in bottle gardens and terrariums. It is only required below the potting mix in enclosed plantings, as they do keep in moisture that may in time cause the soil to become sour if no charcoal is added.

Basically, it is important to consider what a particular house plant needs in terms of drainage and nutrients, and carefully studying the details listed on bags of potting mixes before making a purchase to ensure the right type of mix for the plant is provided. 



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June 7 2012 5 07 /06 /June /2012 12:01

Light, water and the right amount of humidity alone are not enough to keep a house plant healthy and growing strong, it will also need nutrition provided by the right kind of fertiliser. The type of fertiliser required will depend on the type of plant, and it is essential to choose the right sort of food for a plant by reading the labels very carefully.

Basic Ingredients of a Fertiliser

Most fertilisers carry a set of three numbers, typically looking something like this: 10-15-10. These numbers respectively represent the percentages of the main nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (or potash) - contained within the fertiliser.

The nitrogen will promote growth and allow the plant to grow lush, green foliage, while the phosphorus is a nutrient designed to keep roots healthy and strong, as well as promoting flowering. The potassium content assists in fighting off diseases and keeps the plant's stem strong.

As a rule, fertilisers for flowering house plants will contain more potassium and phosphorus, with lower amounts of nitrogen. Some fertilisers are designed specifically for one particular type of plant, such as orchids, for example, but most house plants prefer a fairly balanced, 10-10-10 formula fertiliser.

House plants also need other nutrients, generally referred to as trace minerals. These micro-nutrients, as they are called, include calcium, sulphur, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron, the former three of which can be found in high quality potting mixes, while the latter three will only be present in minute quantities. House plants that are not re-potted frequently will need to have these micro-nutrients replenished via a fertiliser.

Types of Fertiliser

fertilisers.jpgThe most common and easy to use fertilisers for house plants are water soluble and come in the shape of crystals or granules, liquid, powder or sticks. Slow release granules are simply sprinkled onto the soil and will gradually dissolve as the plant is watered. 

The sticks or spikes work in a similar way, but are pushed right into the soil, preferably close to the edge of the pot, as this prevents the plant's roots from being damaged. While most nutrients are absorbed by the roots, some can be absorbed by the leaves. It is, however, vital to use only a specifically formulated foliar fertiliser to spray the leaves, as regular fertilisers may scorch the leaves if sprayed directly onto them.

Signs that a Plant needs Fertiliser

There are several signs pointing to a house plant needing some fertiliser. These signs include pale or dropped leaves, small flowers or no flowers at all, weak stems and weak new growth. It should be noted that too much fertiliser can be damaging, so it is essential to be careful. Signs of over-fertilising include wilting or mis-shaped leaves, scorching along the edges or brown spots all over the leaves or a white crust on top of the soil. 

Points to Remember

Strangely enough, manufacturers tend to suggest a maximum amount to use. While this is great for their sales, it is not quite so grand for the plants, and as a rule, it is quite sufficient to use half the recommended amount. 

New, or freshly re-potted plants should not be fertilised for at least a month or two, as they are stressed and need to settle for a while. The nutrients contained within the soil will keep them happy for quite some time before fertilising becomes necessary. Plants suffering from insects, diseases or root damage should also not be fed until they have recovered.

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January 22 2012 1 22 /01 /January /2012 13:50

Indoor house plants have been cultivated from plants that are found in the wild all over the world. Just like they all have different needs with regards to watering and lighting, they also require different levels of humidity. In particular during the winter months, when hot air is being blasted into rooms, the air can get too dry for some tropical plants.

High Humidity-loving Plants

The list of plants that prefer comparatively high levels of humidity is endless, but some of the most common tropical indoor house plants needing high humidity include, for example, the Silver Nerve plant, Fittonia verschaffeltii 'Argyroneura' (and other Fittonias, like the red variety, for instance), Maidenhair Ferns, like the Adiantum capillus veneris, and some species among the Pilea family.

hum1.jpgOther indoor house plants with high humidity requirements are, to name but a few, coffee plants, such as the Coffea arabica or Coffea canphora, which is more commonly known as the Robusta; Stromanthes, such as the Stromanthe sanguinea 'Tricolor; various Heliconias, including Heliconia rostrata and Ginger plants, Zingiber officinale. Musa banana plants such as the Musa basjoo, Musa cavendishii and Musa zebrina, also prefer relatively high humidity.

Increasing Humidity

Naturally, it is necessary to raise humidity levels within the home if these plants are to survive. If plants are all over the house, a whole house humidifier may be advisable, but for plants in a single room, a room humidifier will be quite sufficient. Alternatively, humidity loving indoor house plants plants can be kept healthy by misting them daily - or as often as required - with a fine mist of water at room temperature.

Setting the plant container on a tray with wet pebbles will also increase humidity around the plant. For this purpose, the tray should be filled with just enough water to leave the bottom of the pot and the top of the pebbles dry. The water evaporates, creating the required humidity for the plant. Humidi-Grow trays offer another alternative. Here, the overflow of pots with drain holes is collected through a grid, then evaporates, creating an effect similar to the pebble tray. 

hum2.jpgPlants also create their own humidity by emitting moisture. Placing indoor house plants together in groups will assist them in generating some of the humidity they need for each other. This will help, but it may still be necessary to employ one of the above methods to help them along, especially if there is a fireplace blazing away in the room as well.

Signs of Plants lacking Humidity

Tropical indoor house plants are rarely cheap, and it would be a shame to lose them as a result of low humidity. Any proud owner of such plants will therefore want to look out for the most common signs indicating that a plant is suffering from conditions that are too dry. These signs are easily spotted, and include wilting, edges and/ or tips of the leaves turning brown and poorly developed flower buds. Flower buds that wither soon after opening may also indicate that the plant's environment is not humid enough.

By looking out for these signs and taking the necessary steps to increase humidity, owners of tropical, high humidity loving indoor house plants will ensure that they can enjoy the beauty of their plants for many years to come.

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January 21 2012 7 21 /01 /January /2012 17:08

It can be seen in lots of gardens, people can smell it as they are walking by... Lavender. This gorgeous, versatile plant is not only lovely to look at and smell, it also has excellent healing properties, its fragrance calms the mind and it has a range of culinary uses, making it an excellent addition to any garden. 

Using Lavender to get Sleep 

Hanging a few sprigs of lavender in the bedroom, or making a little sachet with the dried flower heads and sticking it under a pillow will provide a good night's sleep. These sachets are also excellent for adding a little fragrance to linen drawers. As a matter of fact, placing a bundle of lavender sprigs into any room will calm the mind and help to relax after a hard day's work.

lavender.jpgLavender, Stings and Bites

Anyone who managed to get stung in the garden and has no essential oil handy (see below) can simply crush a few lavender leaves and rub them over the sting. This works just as well for nettle stings as it works for insect stings or bites. When it comes to open wounds, the essential oil is typically better, although it is possible to use the plant directly. In this case, however, it is necessary to wash the plant material well before applying it. 

An alternative method is to boil some flower heads, then straining the liquid into preferably dark bottles. The bottles can be kept in the fridge for emergencies. It is best to prepare only a small quantity at a time, as lavender water will only keep fresh for a limited amount of time. Lavender water can be applied to cuts, stings and bruises, or used to mist pillows to aid sleep.

Incense Cones

02.jpgThe pulverised dried flower heads combined with pulverised dried holly-leaves make a wonderfully fragrant incense to help a person to get some sleep. To make the incense cones, it is necessary to dissolve 1 part of gum arabic in 2 parts of water and leave it to soak for about 3 hours. 

The plant powder is then mixed into the liquid until it is firm enough to shape it into cones. They then need to be left in a warm place to dry. If it is not possible to find any gum arabic, simply mixing the dried, pulverised plant material with a little lavender oil will also work. The mixture will still shape, dry and burn quite well, but the whole thing is a little more fragile and will crumble easily.  

Lavender in Cooking

To top it all, lavender can also be used in many tasty recipes. The author's favourite among recipes using lavender is a lavender cheese cake, which uses crushed flower heads as an ingredient of the biscuit base. The base is then covered in a mixture of cream cheese, natural yoghurt and double cream. 

By the time this mixture has set for a few hours in the fridge, the fragrance of the lavender will have permeated it, giving it a dreamy flavour. The whole thing is served with either strawberries or raspberries, which have been soaked over night in a lime juice syrup. This tasty, light dessert is without a doubt heavenly and will delight family and friends alike.

Lavender Oil

Comparatively cheap to buy, lavender essential oil, which is steam distilled from the flower tops, is a real must in any first aid box! Cuts, bruises, minor burns, insect bites and stings - whatever the problem may be, lavender oil will help! 

Being a 'safe' oil, it can be used even on children and applied directly to the affected part, where its antiseptic, anti-stringent and anti-spasmodic properties will quickly bring about healing. 

A few drops placed onto a pillow will calm the mind and aid restful sleep. This effect can also be achieved by lightly misting pillows with a mixture of ten drops of lavender oil and about half a pint of tepid water. 

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January 21 2012 7 21 /01 /January /2012 15:36

The Buddleia, otherwise known as 'Butterfly Bush', can be a right pain due to being an aggressively invasive plant. The author's Buddleia started out as a small, rather decrepit looking thing in the corner of her garden, but soon began a process of forming a small copse. 

As she and her husband like wildlife and butterflies in particular, they decided to let it carry on growing wild. It regularly provides an ever growing sea of colour, attracts a wide variety of different butterfly species, bumblebees and a range of other insects - and the smell of honey outside their backdoor is wonderful. 

Making Buddleia Jelly

While being off work for 5 weeks to look after her husband after a triple by-pass operation, she decided that it was time she used some of this abundance! Knowing that it is possible to use the petals of most plants, while the greenery can be poisonous, she began by cutting the little purple flowers of the flower heads. This is a tedious task, to say the least, but it is well worth the effort! 

PIC_0026.jpgShe then dropped the flowers, about about 12 flower heads worth for every six pints of water,  into boiling water and left them there just long enough to let them go almost white. After straining the fluid, she added 1 lb (about 450 g) of sugar per pint (about 1/2 litre) of fluid, a dash of lemon juice and a little extra pectin ( it works without, but will set much better with it!) and boiled it to setting point. 

Once she had removed it off the heat, she added the flowers of a single flower head, just for visual effect. Into the jars it went and there it was - eat your heart out honey-bees. It tastes deliciously like honey and, after eating a jar of it all by herself (she discovered it is wonderful just 'piled' onto digestive biscuits!), she can say it is definitely safe for human consumption! Anyone who likes a bit of honey will love this! 

Buddleia Wine

The next idea to strike was to make Buddleia wine. Never having made any kind of wine before, the author had no special equipment or ingredients available. Unsure if things would work, she only prepared approximately two pints worth of fluid and placed it into a plastic juice container with a flip-lid for ventilation. She then added about a teaspoon of dried yeast (the type used for baking) and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.

The airing cupboard seemed a perfect place to leave it, and after two weeks, fermentation appeared to be finished. After straining the liquid into bottles, she left them for nearly a year before trying the result of her effort. The taste is again reminiscent of honey, and it was certainly potent enough. So much for needing lots of expensive equipmenPIC_0037.jpgt to make wine. 

Needless to say, she will be making more than two small bottles of Buddleia wine this year, especially as several family members have already requested at least one bottle of it each. As for the jelly, her grandchildren love it and her daughter has just 'stolen' the last few jars from last year's harvest. 

To put it in a few short words, rather than cursing a Buddleia for the invasion and getting rid of it, why not use it to make some delicious treats, as well as allowing it to bring in the most gorgeous butterflies and bumblebees. It is worth it in every aspect. 

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January 21 2012 7 21 /01 /January /2012 14:37

While watering indoor house plants may appear to be fairly easy, more plants die as a result of too much or too little water being supplied than for any other reason. The problem is, different plants have different needs. Indoor house plants with lots of lush, soft foliage or masses of large leaves, for example, will need far more water than those with few, small leaves, or leaves with a leathery or waxy feel to them.

Factors affecting how much Water Plants need

bpvsc.jpgObviously, water requirements will vary depending on the species of plant and the natural habitat it derives from. A cactus, for instance, will never require as much water as a leafy plant originating from a rain forest. The soil in which indoor house plants are potted, the amount and intensity of light they are exposed to and the humidity and temperature in the room will equally affect their need for watering.

potsThe plant's growth cycle will also have an impact. During cycles of growth, the plant will absorb greater quantities of water than during rest or dormant periods. The type of pot it lives in also affects how much water needs to be provided. A pot that is too large may retain too much water, while a tiny pot may dry out too quickly for the plant's needs. Indoor house plants in plastic or glazed containers will require watering less frequently than those in porous clay pots, because much of the moisture will be lost through the pot's pores.

Knowing when a Plants needs Watering

Naturally, all indoor house plants will have slightly different needs when it comes to watering. For specific types of plant, it is therefore important to follow grower's instructions, or read up on what the plant likes in one of the many encyclopaedias for indoor house plants and their requirements.

Generally, though, plants should be watered thoroughly, using water at room temperature, then left to dry out a little before they are watered again. To determine whether a plant is ready for more water, all the caring owner needs to do is to stick a finger into the soil, right up to the first knuckle. If it feels dry, the plant may need watering; if it feels damp, it should be left a little longer.

Over-watering - The Number One Killer

The majority of indoor house plants are killed through over-watering, rather than through lack of water. This is because the roots of the plant can not absorb any more water than the plant actually needs. All the excess moisture in soggy soil will replace the vital oxygen normally present in the soil, thereby basically suffocating the plant and leading to the roots rotting away. 

If it looks like a plant may be waterlogged, placing tissues on top of the soil can help to absorb some of the excess moisture. The tissue needs to be replaced as soon as it becomes saturated, to allow for moisture to be drawn out. Should this fail to do the trick, and the plant begins to wilt or drop leaves, it will be necessary to take it out of the soggy soil and pot it in fresh, well drained soil as soon as possible. 

Mixing Plant Species in Containers

mixPlacing a selection of different indoor house plants into a single large container can achieve a very attractive look. Naturally, it is best to choose plants with similar requirements for such an attractive indoor garden. Combining plants that will require lots of watering with others that rarely want a lot of water, can and will lead to disaster, at least for some of the species used. 

By carefully selecting only indoor house plants with similar needs, this kind of disaster can be prevented. A simple, basic rule of planting such a container is 'if in doubt, leave it out'. The same principle can, by the way, also be applied when considering how plants will spread. Some species will literally take over a planter, strangling everything else in the process. Determining which type of plants will live happily in a communal planter is made easy with a good book on indoor house plants, online encyclopaedias or getting advice from staff at any good garden centre.

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