Sheri Ann Richerson's exotic gardening, elegant cooking, crafty creations, food preservation and animal husbandry... all on two and a half acres in Marion, Indiana!

Houseplants

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Two pineapple plants and a small Worsleya rayneri inside a rustic looking metal birdcage.

Fall is here which means winter isn’t far off and it’s time – once again – to bring your  tropical plants indoors. We all know the drill – move the plants out in spring, redecorate, then panic once the nights begin to cool down. If you’re like me, not only have the plants you moved outdoors last spring grown drastically but you’ve added more plants to the list. Space is tight here and sometimes I truly wonder how the heck I managed the winter before – even with a greenhouse – because as we all know, in cold climates like Indiana you just can’t rely on keeping your greenhouse hot enough to keep the really tropical plants alive. Never mind the ice and heavy snowfalls that often knock the power out – and believe me, a greenhouse cools down real fast when it’s dark outside and the heater quit working.

So, what’s a plant lover to do? Make room of course. Donate or store the stuff you can’t use or don’t need. After all, the plants deserve a place in your house. The other option is to get creative. Choose indoor decor that looks good with or without plants. Now, you may be thinking what the heck does she mean. Bird cages are a great example.  You can decorate with them by themselves or fill them with live plants, nicknacks, candles or even silk flowers.

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Plants clean the indoor air and add a touch of elegance to indoor decor. The holidays are a wonderful time to incorporate a few extra plants into your living areas. Plants make ideal centerpieces. They liven up a corner of a room – just make sure you have enough light for the plants you choose – and don’t forget to mist or water them as needed to keep them looking good. It’s so easy to create a festive Christmas terrarium. Even after the holidays are long gone, the terrarium and the plants inside it will continue to bring you joy.

Poinsettia are a typical holiday plant. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes. My personal favorite is the rose poinsettia because the bright red flowers – which are really bracts – resemble a rose. Unfortunately the poinsettia is not fragrant, however placing a few scented pinecones throughout the room certainly makes up for that.

 

These days you can find poinsettias in all sizes from miniatures that will grow into full size plants over time to large plants that make a statement on their own. For a terrarium, choose the size that best fits inside the one you own. My terrariums are rather small so a miniature rose poinsettia was the perfect size for it.

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Keep house plants healthy by inspecting them for pest and disease.

When summer quickly starts coming to an end, many of you will be bringing your plants back into the house or to go in search of houseplants that you would like to grow this winter. If you are bringing your plants back indoors, it is a good idea to put some new dirt in their pots, possibly trim their roots a bit, fertilize and thoroughly water them before bringing them in.

Even if you don’t put new dirt in your plants this year, it is a good idea to pull each plant out of their pot, trim their roots and break the soil up a bit. This helps them grow, plus it will give you a good idea of whether they are root bound or not.

Doing this will also give you the chance to sell off some of those extra starts before winter sets in.

This a good time to buy those last minute exotic house plants that may need to be shipped. Many greenhouses stop shipping right around October, depending on the weather, so although you can still purchase the plants, you can’t get them until spring. What plant nut wants to wait all winter to get their plants?

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The holidays are just around the corner and who can resist the brightly colored blooms on the holiday cactus? Flowers in shades of red, purple, pink, white and yellow seem to glisten as they dangle, first as tightly closed buds, then as fully opened flowers, from the end of the green segments of stem.

Schlumbergera truncata, the Thanksgiving cactus, aptly named because it begins to flower in November, which is a month before Schulmbergera bridgesii, the Christmas Cactus begins to flower.

When you first purchase your plant, look for ones that are already in bloom or at least have little buds forming. To convince your plant to bloom in consecutive years you will need to make sure nighttime temperatures are below 68 degrees F but above 60 degrees F. If the temperature is too low the flower buds may fall off. Temperatures that are too high at night will cause a delay in flowering.

Schlumbergera prefer full sun in the winter months. In the summer, move your plant to an area where it will be shaded. The hot summer sun can scorch the leaves of these plants.

Holiday cactus are epiphytic plants which means they typically grow in decaying matter in their native environment. When they are grown in container culture they need a potting mix that drains well. The ideal potting mix would be a combination of perilite, vermiculite and peat moss in equal amounts.

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In my never-ending search to brighten up the dull days of winter, I have come across a group of winter blooming plants. After all, if you can have beautiful blooms in the summer, why not in the winter? It makes perfect sense, and with the holiday celebrations right around the corner, what better way to spruce up your house? It should give your guests something to talk about for quite a while!

 

Most of the plants I am going to cover today are rather rare. However, a few more common ones may appear along the way. The first plant I came across caught my attention because of the apple-scented foliage. A definite plant to add to your scented garden collection! The Angelonia Salicariaefolia is a tropical flowering shrub that prefers to be grown in a warm greenhouse with temptures of 60 to 65 degrees. The best method of propagation for this plant is with softwood cuttings due to the rarity of seed. It must be grown in moist soil. I was struck by the beautiful variegated flowers of this plant! Very unique! This plant is a late winter or early spring bloomer.

 

Another late winter or early spring bloomer that caught my eye was the Babiana or Baboon-Root as it is commonly called. Hailing from South Africa, this cormous plant is from the Iris family. It is a low-growing plant and the blooms come in shades of pink, lilac, red or purple, with clusters of six or so on each plant. This plant prefers temptures of 50 to 55 degrees.

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