Philodendron

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On Friday I talked about pothos. Today it’s philodendron.

These two plants are often confused because they are both green, often variegated vining plants that are sold just about everywhere. And there are a lot of similarities. Both are easy care. Both are great at cleaning the air.
Philodendrons are known for removing formaldehyde from the air.

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But of course they do look a little different. Here are two variegated types that have recently come into vogue. The one at the top–the heart leafed type with the interesting striped leaf is a variety called ‘Brasil.’

Philodendron will grow in bright light but no direct sun. They will take “regular” watering, which for my house means about once a week, (so they can dry a little in between, unlike the calatheas we saw last week which like it evenly moist).

In their native habitat (or the “wild,” as I like to think of it) some of them actually are semi-epiphytic, which means that they use their long roots to attach themselves to pockets in trees branches–almost the way an orchid would. They live in tropical rain forests where they are drenched and then dry–so remember that.

And if they are languishing in your warm, dry home, increase the humidity around them. I am never a fan of misting. I prefer putting small saucers of water around to evaporate. It’s less work and less mess.

Pothos

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Happy National House Plant week. Who even knew there was such a thing? But what a great thing to celebrate!

This plant is NOT in my collection under my table–it’s hanging in my kitchen. This is a variety called “Snow Queen.”

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These are the plants you may remember from that window collection. The variegated variety is “Marble Queen.” The lime green one is “Neon.”

These plants are real throw-backs to the 1970s when everyone had the variegated green and yellow variety with long stringy tendrils draped over something. Of course I had one too back then. I think it probably had vines growing 5 feet in either direction off the top of a book case.

At my first apartment I had a hook in the ceiling. I had to be 20 feet back from a window–but yet, a pothos grew there, no problem.

And of course, this is one of the plants that NASA tested as an air cleaning plant.

It’s a real workhorse–it cleans formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide (just don’t discard your detector in favor of a house plant!)

That makes these plants both beautiful and practical as we get into the indoor heating season.

Calatheas

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These plants, as you can tell by the photo, come in a variety of different types. They all take low light, which is nice because you get a lot of color and texture from a plant that essentially will grow in a dark place.

One thing that I will caution you about: they do want to remain “evenly moist,” which is a lot harder to do than it sounds.

As a general rule, plants are killed by over-watering, so don’t just water every day. Yet you do want the surface of the soil to be moist at all times. What I do is to check the pots a couple of times a week and when they are dry, I water the plants from the bottom. That seems to be working.

Another way to do this–since these are rather small pots and the plants are fairly full in them–is to soak them completely by letting them fill with water several times at a sink until the water drains completely through. That will hold them for quite some time for me (there’s no way for me to tell you how long it will work in your house–my house may be warmer–or cooler–or brighter–or darker than yours. You will get to know after one or two waterings like this).

These plants are readily available online, which is where I got mine. Good garden centers should also have some varieties of at least one or more of these. Even box stores occasionally carry them. I definitely recommend them, provided you observe the careful watering.

Color From House Plants

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All summer, this was the display of house plants in my living room. It changed a little bit as I shifted them around trying to decide on the best placement and a sort of symmetry. Don’t get me wrong–I am not the sort of person who has to get everything perfectly symmetrical—especially if it’s detrimental to plants–but some arrangements do look better than others. And of course, some of these so-called “low light” house plants take more light than others.

Things will change again when I bring in my summering house plants. The table up above will have a fuller load of plants, reducing the light getting to these “low-light” plants. SO I might have to rearrange them again to be sure everyone is growing happily.

You’ll notice that the more highly variegated or more brightly colored plants are toward the front–or the light. As a general rule, the more variegation a plant has, the more light it can take. This is true even in outdoor “shade” plants like hosta.

At the same time, you need to be very careful about too much sun. The second that the white fusion peacock calathea gets a little too much sun–at the same time that it is a little too dry–its leaves brown. Very ugly. SO it is good to know little cultural tips and tricks about these plants (it helps to know that in general, caalthea prefer it a bit moist).

If that last paragraph was all mumbo-jumbo, come back next week. I’ll showcase all these individual house plants and talk about what they like!

Seasonal Plant Migration

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This is about as intense as it gets outside, but I have plants all over outside. They need to come in, and the sooner the better–because although the calendar and the temperatures may still say “summer,” the length of visible day (to use a meteorological term) is rapidly declining.

Why is that important? A couple of reasons. Just as it’s important not to put the plants outside in the spring and plunk them down into full sunlight because they’ll burn–even full sun plants can’t go from inside the house to outside because outdoor light is so much stronger–once I move these plants indoors, it will be much darker for them even if I move them into a bright, sunny south window.

It will also be much darker for me! All my nice, bright bay windows, which have been relatively open without plants all summer, will now be filled up again. But that can’t be helped. I don’t live in a climate where I can grow these tropical beauties outside all year round. Memorial Day to Labor Day is their summer vacation–and mine–most years.

The question I get most often when I lecture is what do I do–how do I prepare these plants to come inside? And the truth is that unless I know that a plant has a particular problem (for example, my citrus usually come outside in the spring with scale on them, so I might give them an extra hard spray with the hose before they come in–but they’ll soon be coated in scale again–I just know that and watch for it and try to wash them down regularly), I do absolutely nothing.

I will water the plant thoroughly outside and wash off the outside of the pot–that’s it. But truthfully- nature is far better at taking care of plant pests than we are, usually. That’s why my citrus do far better outside than in my house.

And yes, occasionally I will bring in a cricket–that’s about the worst of it–that I listen to the “cheep” for a few nights until it finds its way out or dies. But nothing terrible–no swarms of insects come in. Those seem to find a way to breed on their own, unrelated to anything, except, perhaps the age and the health of the plants.

And if you know to watch for the first signs, generally as the sun gets stronger in the early spring, you should be fine.