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.

Deferred Maintenance

There has been a lot of “turnover” as they call it, in my neighborhood. Houses that were owned by older couples are being bought by younger families with children. And this is nice to see. Things like that always reinvigorate a neighborhood.

What’s always a wonder to me, however, is when a growing family buys a house with a meticulous landscape and then, clearly, lets that landscape deteriorate.

We have such a situation–or two–in my neighborhood. And mind you, this has nothing to do with the fact that these folks aren’t maintaining the homes.

In the first instance, they have a lawn service mowing, so that’s fine. What I object to–and perhaps it will be remedied eventually–is that they have ripped out every shrub around their foundation and sunk the home in a sea of black dyed mulch. They’ll discover the consequences of that shortly as the artillery fungus shoots spores all over their yellow home.

In the second instance, the couple bought a house that had shrubs that had been neatly manicured to within an inch of their lives. It wasn’t to my taste, but at least it was a “look.”

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These folks are barely mowing the lawn–and this is one of their specimen rhododendrons. I am sure they haven’t got a clue but I hate to see ancient shrubs killed off under weeds like this. This just makes me sad.

This isn’t a question of money–there’s a huge hulking Lexus SUV in the driveway and the guy roars by me in his Jaguar sports car (an oxymoron?) every morning.

I suspect that they just don’t know plants–or don’t care. But what a shame.

I hope the folks are at least enjoying living in a lovely place.

But at least I know this is not just happening in my neighborhood.

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You can barely see the gold thread cypress under all the Virginia creeper here. There’s even some poison ivy mixed into this mess which is probably why no one will deal with it.

Sadly, this shrub is at a commercial building near my vet. It’s a doggie day care place. I am not sure I would leave my dog at a place where the shrubs are over-run with poison ivy.