Finicky Ficuses

Finicky ficuses

One thing that I realized as I was bringing in the house plants and trying to get them placed around in various windows, was that I tend to collect groups of plants.

I suspect most of us with room for a good number of plants will do this. We start out with just lots of house plants and over time decide to add more of certain kinds that we like deliberately.

My two biggest collections have to be either snake plants or “holiday” cacti in the schlumbergera genus. I have about a dozen of each–nothing crazy.

I do have about 6 or 7 different types of ficus though as well. Some, like ficus elastica–the well known rubber plant–are very easy. Even my old ficus benjaminii–the weeping fig–doesn’t give me issues.

But the 3 pictured above–you see ficus lyrata, the fiddle leaf fig, most prominent–are very finicky. I find it to be finicky about everything! It’s fussy about temperature, which you can’t be as a plant in my house. It can’t be overwatered or it rots (not usually a problem for me). And spider mites are a perpetual problem. I need to keep it showered–which doesn’t help with the “don’t over water” issue in my cold house.

Ficus Audrey

But the fiddle leaf fig looks good compared to ficus Audrey. This is one of my “OMG, this plant was over $30 so it can’t die!” plants. But from the moment I got it a year ago, it’s been nothing but trouble! In addition to all the issues that the fiddle leaf fig has, (you can actually see the spider mite damage on the lower leaves–yuck!) It also gets mealy bugs. Great. If I weren’t so “invested ” it would be compost.

Variegated saber leaf fig

This plant is actually fairly trouble free–it just doesn’t grow much. I know variegated plants are slow but this is an 18 month old plant for me. It actually doubled in size over the summer, which is good or it would have become compost. I was getting very discouraged. Obviously nothing will happen now until next summer–and I have moved it away from its 2 pest prone friends to try to safeguard it. The last thing I need is another finicky ficus!

“Come See Our Amazing Blooming Snake Plants!”

Earlier this summer, one of our local garden centers had this headline in an Instagram post. And I just smiled.

The posted photo looked great with a whole cluster of blooming snake plants (I hesitate to call them by a botanic name at the moment because what we have known as sansevieria for years has been subsumed into the dracena genus. And when plants get muddled up botanically–or cleared up, but it seems muddy at first–the good old fashioned “common” name seems pretty good all of a sudden!!)

Snake plant flowers

But as anyone who has been around a blooming snake plant knows, those small flowers pack a powerful fragrance! They are especially fragrant in the evening. That’s generally how I know one of mine is blooming–I will smell it first when I walk into the room–then I look over to the windowsill and see it. You’ll notice my photo was taken at night, when it was the most fragrant, of course.

What I am trying to say is while the garden center had a great marketing headline, anyone with enough light can make a snake plant bloom. Just about all of mine in this west window have.

The conditions they need are higher light (many people grow then in dark northern exposures because they tolerate it–but this is a western exposure and I have grown then in an eastern exposure too.) They also like to be tightly potted so don’t keep increasing the pot size.

If you notice the right side of this cheap plastic nursery pot, this plant has actually broken through it twice! Heaven help me when I go to re-pot it! At this point, it’s almost all plant and roots–I will need to cut the pot off to re-pot it. And it’s a little overdue. But I can’t go much larger or I literally won’t be able to lift it. This is one heavy plant. That’s why I chose the cheap plastic to start with–I had to get it upstairs and into the window somehow.

So I will enjoy the blooming–and try to ignore the re-potting issue.

But if you would like to get your snake plant to bloom, try giving it a bit more light. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Blooming Snake plant

Summer Vacation for the House Plants is Over

Aglaeonema grouping

I am always stunned when I bring my house plants back in after their very brief time outdoors. In my climate, they really are house plants–they are inside from early September through the middle of May each year.

So it wouldn’t seem that a brief few months outside would make so much difference. And yet it does.

In certain plants, like my giant medinilla, it promotes flowering, almost immediately. In others, like the aglaeonema, above, it enhances the colors, even though they summered in the deep shade of a dogwood tree.

Tropical pitcher plant

Then there is this, my nepenthes. It went outside as a single strand of pathetic looking ropey leaves, and no pitchers. This is how it came back in. By next May, we’ll be back to a single strand of ropey leaves, I suspect.

I would say that it was the natural rainwater that helped it, but we had too little this summer for that to be a factor. Maybe it liked all the heat.

In any event, not everything did well. My citrus went outside with lots of lemons and came back with one. The drought and tropical storm winds were not kind to them. Critters thought that lemons might be a good moisture source.

Still, on the whole, my plants almost always come in far better than they went out. This year, the house plants had a better vacation than a lot of people, sadly.

House Plants–To Compost or Not?

I mentioned on Monday that this is about the time when I cast a critical eye on the house plant collection and decide what’s coming back inside and what’s becoming compost.

Windowsill space is always an issue and there’s no reason to look at plants that I don’t love. Several of the windows are already nicely filled and no plants have come inside yet.

Many of you may wonder why I take the plants in so early. As a general rule, I try to begin transitioning them in on Labor Day weekend. It doesn’t have so much to do with temperature as it does with light.

If I leave them out a few weeks later–as I have on occasion– when I bring them in, they drop a lot more leaves. So I try to avoid that.

Ruella

This ruellia may not make the cut. There’s nothing really wrong with the plant, but it does nothing for me and the drooping habit is depressing. Who needs depressing plants right now?

Dracena

It’s a good bet this one is gone. Again, the problems speak for themselves (I think). I could try to salvage and root the top, I suppose but why? It’s such a common plant.

Aglaeonema

This is the one I am not sure about. Something–chipmunks? Squirrels? Keeps making a mess and using the pot to cache their nuts. In the process, pieces of the plant are broken and uprooted. I may try to salvage it just before I bring it in. We’ll see.

And there may be others. Because after all, I will need room to aquire a few new plants too.

Do Plants Stress?

Do plants feel stressed? Well, yes and no. Actually I’m not going to tell you that they don’t feel stress in ways similar to humans. There have been some studies where plants have had leaves hooked up to electrodes and then were pruned and there was evidence that they reacted.

There is also evidence that a plant under attack from an insect sends chemical signals to its neighbors. Is that stress? Is it a warning? We’re not quite sure.

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But there’s this. Here’s a healthy, normal looking zygocactus (otherwise known as a non-blooming Christmas cactus).

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Occasionally they look like this. This is what happens when they get too near a window (in other words, get chilled by glass–at least in my climate).

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And there’s this, which is what happens if they’re getting too much sunlight.

Are they stressed? Somewhat, but not so much that they might be overly susceptible to insects or disease (which is what happens when a plant is stressed).

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And then there’s this. This probably doesn’t look all that odd to you, because these zygo cactus can bloom randomly throughout the year.

But this is ‘Holiday Cheer’ the first of the plants to bloom for me. It bloomed for me last October. I remember posting a photo with it’s tag and the rather snarky comment “what holiday?”

I would say that it’s the Columbus Day/Easter cactus but Easter cacti are an entirely different genus!

Do You Know Princettia?

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On Monday I talked about the un-poinsettia or the anti-poinsettia. Today I am going to talk about a new cultivar called Princettia.https://princettia.eu/shop/compact/Princettia

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What are Princettia poinsettias? They are trademarked poinsettias developed by Suntory of Japan. But basically they have been developed to be shorter, with more compact stems but much more floriflorous bracts (the colorful things that look like flowers.)

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Right now they come in a few heights of white (yes, you read that correctly–not colors of white, but varying heights), a six different shades of pink (from pale pink through a more true pink to a deeper dark pink that’s almost fuchsia) and of course, a red.

If you remember the “rose” poinsettias from the last decade, these are probably comparable to those in number of petals–but of course, those were still like regular poinsettias in that they were tall–maybe even taller and narrower than some of the other varieties.

These are compact plants just covered in blooms–as one look at the web site reveals–and in person, they are stunning (as my unfortunate photography just doesn’t do them justice!)

They have been in cultivation for a few years but are just becoming readily available for gardeners. This holiday season, since we now know that poinsettias are not poisonous, perhaps you might like to try one?

The Un-Poinsettia

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Each year, I post photos of aglaeonema, commonly known as Chinese evergreen plant, and call it something silly like the un-poinsettia or the anti-poinsettia.

Let’s face it: growers are losing the battle with poinsettias. Many people still believe the old myth that they are poisonous (they are NOT!)

But even if you don’t believe that myth, you may be like me, and may be limited by a cold house.

Or you simply may not want to look at a screaming red plant well into April–or longer. If any of these things is the case, aglaeonemas are the plant for you.

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Usually I post a photo of this one because its color scheme is most “Christmas-like.” This is the appropriately named red stem variety.

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If this is even too much red for you, this variety tones it down a bit. This variety is called Lipstick.

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And if you just like the plant and don’t care about a holiday color scheme, this bright variety might be for you. This is Red Valentine.

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All of these variations were developed from green plants, if you can imagine. Here’s a lovely green and white variety called Silver Queen.

If all of these choices don’t give you something to choose from when decorating, perhaps silk is more to your liking?

Grower’s Results without the Fuss

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Here’s a zygocactus that I recently got from a grower. It’s lovely and full of buds, a few of which have already opened.

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Now here is one of mine that I’ve had for a couple of years–also full of buds. I may have 10 or 12 this size and you’ll see most, if not all of them on my “Wordless Wednesdays,” no doubt over the next few months.

If you’ll notice, mine has a many–or more–buds than the one I got from the grower. While you may say “so what?” you need to remember a couple of things: first I am a totally organic grower and next, I don’t fertilize.

So how did I achieve this? Simple. I put these plants outside this year, something I hadn’t done in the past.

I had never put them outside because they are “succulent-like,” and I was concerned that they would get too much moisture and would rot. But this year, with surgery on my arm, I had a little more time to pay closer attention to my container plants (since I couldn’t do a lot of the heavier work in the garden) so I was able to monitor them closely.

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So they never got too wet–and rainwater obviously did them a word of good. Several shoots are double-budded like this one. This may be my new care regimin–so long as we don’t have a monsoonal rainy summer.