Okay, this isn’t the most glorious looking poinsettia you’ve ever seen but what if I told you this is its third year blooming–and it’s blooming here in July?
So what does that say about these plants? First, that you don’t have to put them in dark closets or under a box to get them to bloom–you can see that this one is sitting on a file cabinet in my office.
Next, that they are so much more than the finicky plants that we buy at the holidays and then discard. They actually grow into shrubs in tropical countries like Mexico and central America (so, no putting them in closets or putting boxes over them there, clearly).
So that’s myth number one–that poinsettias need to be kept in artificial darkness to rebloom.
The next myth gets us toxicity–a subject I touched on with respect to children and pets on Monday. While it’s just never a good idea to eat any plant unless you’re sure of its consumability (there are a few truly toxic plants out there–I even own some!) poinsettias are not toxic. They may give you a stomach ache–but they won’t kill you.
And despite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely reputable sources (here ite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely repurable sources (here ite all sorts of articles all over the web from completely repurable sources (here is one from the Poison Control Center, for example) this myth persists.
In fact, I would have to say that it is second only to hydrangea questions for me. Again, if I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “Oh, I can’t have a poinsettia, because I have a dog/cat/child,” I wouldn’t be posting about this, I would own a place on a warm sunny island where I would no longer worry about poinsettias or winter!
If fact, if you don’t want to believe the poison control center, perhaps you’d prefer what doctors at the Mayo Clinic have to say about poinsettias. Again, they can cause mild irritation, some stomach upset, a skin rash–but then again, so can any plant in the euphorbia family.
And as we know, lots of plants, such as the dreaded poison ivy, can do far worse to those susceptible to its oils.
So please, people, let us stop the craziness. And if you like these plants, please buy them and enjoy.
If you have read this blog for a long time, you know that I am a huge fan of the genus sanseveria. Call these plants what you like–I usually call them snake plants but I know Mother in laws tongue is pretty common too–these plants are having their “moment” right now.
And they should. They always travel with me to lectures. I use them as examples of plants that will “almost grow in a closet.” In other words, they will grow in a very dark corner, completely neglected, and un-watered for weeks. Isn’t that where most of us encountered our first one, maybe in childhood or in a commercial building?
However, while they will grow in dark corners, these plants will also grow in east or west exposures–at least in my northern climate. And that’s where they really begin to shine and look glorious. They will bloom for you–mine bloom every year. And they will take on interesting coloring, even in the so-called boring green varieties.
Here’s one of the variegated varieties with the bloom stalk about to open.
Incidentally, they also make great container plants for outdoors. I generally plant them with plants that tend to like it on the drier side–succulents, heuchera or even annual pelargonium (geranium) would work. But I wouldn’t plant them with something that’s going need a lot of water.
Snake plants are some of my favorites. Their interesting shapes and colorful leaves brighten a room year round. The fact that mine bloom is just an added bonus.
This collection of plants was part of a dish garden that my neighbor received a little over a year ago when her husband passed away. She has nurtured it quite beautifully, but she professed to be “no good with plants” and passed it along to me for transplanting and safekeeping.
What you might be able to tell from this photo is how pot-bound it was. Look at the tangle of roots where I have already cut out one of the plants. Despite that, the little dish garden was really thriving. I only had to remove a little bit of decay from the palm and some die back on the maranta (prayer plant–and they can be a little finicky anyway) and the rest of the plants were in really good shape.
What’s also very interesting about the collection of plants in this dish garden is that with the exception of the maranta, they are all known to be great plants for cleaning the air.
Perhaps it’s not easy to see what’s in the dish garden from these photos. There was the little palm that I previously mentioned, and the prayer plant. There were 2 dracaenas, a variegated one and a variety called ‘Janet Craig,’ which is smaller. There was a philodendron and a peace lily (spathophilum). It’s really a nice little collection of plants.
And this is the end result once the plants were all separated and potted up. I asked my neighbor if there was at least one that she would like to keep but she said no. So my house plant collection has been significantly enriched by this!
One of the things I always talk about when I lecture is the importance of foliage in garden design. Even when I am talking about house plants, foliage is the star–I will often bring 20 or 30 plants to display–and after everyone is done “oohing and aahing,” I will remark that it’s important to notice a couple of things about my display: first, how colorful it is and second, that there are maybe only one or perhaps two at most flowering plants int he whole thing (and if there are, I guarantee you one is a phalaenopsis orchid so that I can talk about proper watering technique–not the “ice cube” method.)
For example, here’s a grouping of plants from my living room. There’s not a flowering plant among them but the grouping is vibrant and colorful. This photo is from last year so it’s changed up a little bit, but it’s still substantially similar–and still no flowers in this low-light area beneath a window.
The same results can be achieved outdoors as well. In fact, when I have the time and energy, I find that it’s almost more fun to create all foliage containers. I have not created anything at all this year–as I type, I am nursing a 3″ scar across the my arm–and I am right handed–that is preventing me from doing anything outside at all, including watering. That’s where the Spoiler comes in handy. But I knew this was coming so I didn’t make this an intensive gardening year. There’s always next year.
For inspiration, however, check out these lovely, mostly foliage containers at Avant Gardens. And then plan for your foliage containers in the future!
I had this photo of my clivia miniata up just a little over a week ago on a “Wordless Wednesday.”
I’m posting it again today for a different reason. As we begin to fully enter spring in the northern hemisphere, I want to remind everyone to take time to really look at flowers. (So I guess you can tell that while I am a little too young to have been a “hippie,” I definitely believe in that stopping to smell the flowers–and to look closely at them–is a good thing!)
I remember distinctly a time when I said to someone how much I loved tulips because there were so many colors held within just one flower.The person looked at me as if I had 3 heads. But I would say the same thing about this lovely clivia flower.
Of course it’s a screaming orange color at first glance. That’s what attracts our gaze. But I am willing to believe that is what attracts pollinators to this beautiful flower (in its natural habitat, of course–not in my living room!)
Once the pollinators notice, I suspect they are lured in by the other coloration. I have read that bees don’t see red very well–they see it as a muddy dark color–and that’s why hummingbirds know that red flowers will have nectar left, for example.
There are some fabulous internet videos of the way bees see color–if you’re interested, take a look!
But the yellow throat of this clivia probably shows up as screaming, shocking fuschia to a bee!
And I adore the three delicate white scallops leading to the yellow throats of each petal.
Next time you have a flowering plant in bloom, take a closer look. Who knows what you’ll see?
Happy Spring! From here on out, were are in the 3 months most likely to be “spring-like,” hence this day, March 1, begins meteorological spring. It’s all going to get better–or warmer–from here, no groundhog required.
Gardeners know that plants can be helpful in many different ways so the title of my post is kind of silly, really. But this particular plant, a tropical pitcher plant called nepenthes ventricosa is helpful in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.
First, I want to say that it’s looking a little wimpy right now. I just cut the last of the big red pitchers that it had from last summer off. That’s really what led me to this post. The pitcher was full of liquid so I dumped the liquid into the sink and out came a dead hornet. Aha! I thought. That’s where that hornet that was bumbling around in here about a month or so ago went.
These tiny green pitchers have all formed since I brought the plant in for the winter. Any hornets who find their way in now are on their own until the plant goes back outside for spring.
There was a vendor at our Flower and Garden Show offering these for sale. I suspect folks who bought these might have been given the instruction to collect rainwater or some such thing. I know every time I acquire a carnivorous plant, that’s what I am told.
That’s nice to do if you’re not in the middle of February in the freezing north. What I do instead is I fill a watering can with tap water and let it sit overnight at least. Longer is better. Many of the harmful “stuff” in the water evaporates out that way.
Something must be working–this plant is 2 years old. Maybe it likes its diet of scavenged hornets.