Oct 20, 2010

Caring For Houseplants While On Vacation

When You’re Away, Houseplants Will Play!
Keep your plants healthy and happy while you are away using these helpful tips:

If you often vacation in the summertime (when temperatures are warm), put temporarily orphaned plants outside. They appreciate the warm temperature and fresh air just like we do!

Water all your plants (both indoors and out) thoroughly before you leave the house. Some plants will be fine with just the one watering. Others will need constant moisture to some degree (to provide this, use the tub method, below; or try the wicking system, also described below).

If you have potted plants outside that concern you because you aren’t able to bring them in, sink the pot and all directly into the ground (especially if the pot is clay or terracotta) – The pot will soak up the surrounding moisture in the soil and utilize it for your plants.

To do this, simply dig a hole slightly larger than the diameter of the pot, and the same depth. Sink the pot into the hole; firm soil around it. If it rains, your plant will love the drink! When you return, dig up the pot and rinse it clean.

**Warning**  Just in case you are in a wet climate or swampy type area, I recommend you do not leave cacti or succulents outdoors while away – even if they are potted. Do not use the sinking pot technique with cacti! The wet area will prove too moist for a succulent (such as Aloe Vera or Jade Plant). If you insist on putting these plant types outside, place them in a shaded area on a table or surface away from the ground; you wouldn’t want them going mushy!

Outdoor plants don’t do well in direct sun. Choose good places such as under a tree, or at the side of the house in the shade. They will use much less water than normal when shaded.

Your outdoor plants will also be watered by the sprinkler (assuming you have one!)

Also, it's a good idea to place those moisture loving plants in a kiddy pool filled with a bit of water to give them plenty to drink!

Try to be gone no longer than 2 weeks. If your trip lasts longer, have someone come to house sit.

You can place plants (that are in clay pots) in the tub to water them while absent. Use unglazed bricks to set them on in the tub with just a few inches of water. Make sure water is touching the bricks. Your plants will absorb the water through the bricks (they are porous, just like terracotta) and then on up through the pots to your plant.

If your plants are in the bathroom for the duration of your trip, be sure to leave the lights on in the room. They will benefit from the fluorescent lights (even if the bulbs are standard types, the plants will still appreciate the light) which will effectively replace natural sunlight.

Setting Up a Simple Wicking System

A. Place plants in a circle around a large container of water

B. Use cotton twine and place one end deep into the water, with the opposite end set into each pot; bury this end a little bit in the soil

C. Make sure the water container itself is higher up than the actual pot. Gravity will drag the water down to your plants via the string

D. Be sure the leaves do not touch the string! Otherwise, they will get too wet and rot! Your plants should stay nice and evenly moist for those shorter trips! Tip: For water loving plants like a Peace Lily, set 2 water containers nearby, and wick 2 strings into the pot instead of one. That should easily satisfy Peace Lily's never ending greed for more ((and still more)) water!

With these easy tips for plant vacation care, you'll never have to worry about coming home to a bunch of dead houseplants ever again! Vacation with confidence!

Oct 16, 2010

Just a Few Wrinkles! - Blog of Note

Hey everyone, click below to check out my Mom's blog. It's called Just a Few Wrinkles!

There, you will learn all about health and fitness, wisdom and aging, beauty care, how to find the best beauty products, gardening, yoga, happiness, and much, much more! So go on over, pull up a chair, and spend some time at Just a Few Wrinkles!

Mom's veggie garden!

Orchid Care 101

Orchids (Orchidaceae spp.) grow naturally in tropical environments like a rain forest. They are a  large group of flowering plants with over 22,000 known species, and are perhaps the second largest group of flowering plants in the world. Some orchids even grow on rocks near rivers or streams where they receive constant moisture. Orchids also grow dangling from the branches of trees. Over time, these beautiful plants have adapted to warm, humid places. The easiest way to care for orchids is to try mimicking these conditions as closely as possible in your home. 

They have a reputation for being difficult to care for, but given the  right conditions, and assuming their needs are well met, they can live for years just like any other exotic houseplant. What most people don’t realize is that orchids love water and humidity. Because of this, orchids need a good draining mix and lots of air circulation – both down in the roots and around the entire plant. Orchids DO NOT grow in potting soil – this would most assuredly kill them! Instead, they are grown in a light, airy bark mix and clay, terracotta or glazed pots. Orchid pots have holes throughout the pot, in order to let the plant's roots breathe.

Most orchids love bright, indirect light (but not full sun). A southern window is the ideal location for most orchids, except Lady’s slipper and Moth orchids, which prefer less light (East or West facing windows are best). Place your orchids back a bit from the window to avoid direct sun.

Northern light would not be good for any type of orchid – In order to grow well they must have lots of bright light. Consequently, a northern exposure does not offer this important requirement. In case northern light is all you have, you can successfully grow orchids using only fluorescent lighting.

Although many orchid tags state “just three ice cubes every week” is enough water for your orchid, this is not true! Don’t believe it! The fact is, orchids need more water than just three measly ice cubes can provide.

That said, overwatering is probably the number one reason orchids (and in fact all houseplants) die. The second reason (magnified if the plant is already being overwatered) is lack of proper light. While watering your orchid isn’t an exact science, learning the needs of you particular plant will help you to better meet its watering needs. All orchids have slightly different needs. Even so, your best bet is to drench the plant and let it dry out slightly before the next watering. In general, it’s good to water your orchid every 7 - 10 days.

There are two good ways to water your orchid. The first is to bring it to the kitchen sink. Run it under water until the bark (or whichever growing media you have for your orchid) is thoroughly saturated. Drench well. It should drain freely – the last thing anybody wants is a soggy, wet orchid mix! These beauties need a steady supply of moisture. However, be careful not to overwater. It’s better to forget a watering than it is to water too much.

The second way you can water your orchid is: submerge the plant pot into a stock pot or bucket of room temperature water. The water level should come up to just above the lip of the pot. Leave the plant there for about 10 minutes. Take the orchid out of the bucket and allow it to drain thoroughly.

One symptom of underwatering is wrinkled leaves. If you notice the foliage wrinkling, try watering your orchid a bit more next time.

Symptoms of overwatering include yellowing foliage. If you notice this symptom, it means the roots are slowly rotting; the plant can’t handle too much water! Let it dry out thoroughly before you water again. However, yellowing leaves can also indicate underwatering, so try and keep track of how often (and how much) you water. I’m not asking you to measure the water out, just keep it in mind!

Checking the Moisture Level
Use a pencil (point side down) in the media to check the moisture level of the orchid. Leave it buried for about 10 minutes. If the pencil is dry on the end when you check it, you need to water the plant. If the pencil is moist, wait before you water again.

Orchids love humidity since it reminds them of their natural growing conditions. There are several ways you can boost humidity around your orchid:

1. Use a humidity tray. These can be purchased specifically for orchids, African Violets, and other humidity-loving plants. Or, to save a trip to the plant shop – create your own humidity trays using a plastic drip tray filled with glass gems, stones, bark, or even sea shells. Set the orchid onto the stones, and then fill the tray to just beneath the bottom of the plant pot. Change out the water every two weeks and keep an eye out for empty trays… The more often you fill the tray, the better your orchid will do!

2. Mist your orchid whenever you water, or more even frequently if you live in a hot, dry place. If your home has very dry air, try misting daily

3. Use a humidifier in the same room as your plant. This will boost the ambient humidity around your plants, and they will reap the rewards! Leave it running whenever you feel your plants need a humidity boost
Use something like this tray filled with gems and shells (above), which also works well for African Violets. Of course, for your orchid you will surely need something a lot larger than what's above!

4. Group your orchids close together, even on the same humidity tray. The plants will benefit from the moisture expelled and take it in through their leaves

A Specialized Plant Part
Some orchids have a feature on the base of the plant called a psuedobulb, which stores water (exactly like cacti and succulents store water in their leaves). These orchid types love water. When you water, just drench the plant. Before you water again, allow the orchid to approach some level of dryness. This is very important, since psudobulb orchids will utilize the water they already have stored. A psudobulb is exactly like the hump on a camel’s back. Remember this fact the next time you water! (Keep in mind: some orchids don’t have a psudobulb, so it’s a good idea to look at the base of your orchid to see which type you have)

Media and Fertilizer
Orchid growing media is usually composed of some combination of: Fir bark, perlite, and charcoal. Occasionally you’ll see coconut husk fibers included in the mixture. Orchid planting mix/media will drain very generously. Fir bark is very low in nutrients, so your orchid will need to be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer (such as 20-20-20 or 10-10-10) from time to time to maintain its beautiful blooms and foliage. When fertilizing an orchid, please remember: a little goes a long way! Use a water soluble fertilizer every other time you water – even in the winter! Shock! You won’t hear me say that very often! Be sure to fertilize monthly in the wintertime.

Types of Orchids
There are many kinds of orchids available for you to choose from. If you have eastern or western facing windows where you already keep plants, your best choices are the Moth or Slipper Orchid variety (since these prefer less light). If you have a southern or western window, look for any of the other plants listed below. Florescent lights are also available if you don’t have a South, East or western exposure to take advantage of.

Buttonhole Orchid
(Epidendrum spp.)
Blooms: Clusters of small flowers
Light: Bright light is best
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Cactus Orchid
(Epiphyllum spp.)
Blooms: Large, bright flowers
Light: Medium to bright light is best
Water: Keep this plant barely moist at all times (slightly wet); water less than other orchids

Corsage Orchid
(Cattleya spp.)
Blooms: Big, frilled blooms used to make corsages, hence the name.
Light: Bright light is best. Direct sun in the morning is okay, with just a bit in the afternoon
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Clamshell Orchid
(Encyclia spp.)

Blooms: Clusters of numerous small flowers

Light: Bright light is best

Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Cymbidium Orchid
(Cymbidium spp.)

: Long lasting flowers, grass-like foliage

Light: Bright light is best

Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Dancing Lady Orchid
(Oncidium spp.)

Blooms: This orchid’s flower actually looks like a little dancing lady in a dress, hence its name. The plant can produce up to 100 small blooms at once! Colors include red, white and yellow. The flowers have the scent of chocolate!
Light: Bright to intense light is best. Protect from direct sun if placed outdoors in the summertime
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings. Can have pseudobulbs.

Dens, Spray Orchids
(Dendrobium hybrids)
Blooms: Attractive flowers last for weeks at a time. Yellow, red, pink, or violet colors.
Light: Bright to intense light is best.
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings. Keep in mind their cane-like stems store water! Some varieties also have pseudobulbs.

Jewel Orchid
(Ludisia discolor)
Blooms: Maroon colored leaves with silver veins
Light: Medium light is best
Water: Keep plant evenly moist (drench, then water again just before the media dries out on top)

Moth Orchid
(Phalaenopsis spp.)
Blooms: Flowers last 6 weeks or longer and come in colors of white, pink or yellow, with a network of colorful veins throughout the petals. The flowers are moth shaped, hence the name
Light: Medium to bright; less light than most other orchids. Place the plant in an eastern or western exposure
Water: Allow media to go dry (about 1 inch below the surface) between waterings

Odontoglossum Orchid
(Odontoglossum spp.)
Blooms: Dramatic arching flower spray
Light: Bright light is best
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Lady’s Slipper Orchid
(Paphiopedilun spp.)
Blooms: The blooms include a pouch which looks like a slipper, giving this orchid its name. Blooms can last for 8 weeks, sometimes more. Strap-like leaves with large, waxy flowers. Comes in pink, brown, or white colors.
Light: Needs less light than most other orchids, on the moderate side. An eastern or western exposure will do nicely. Protect from direct sun if placed outdoors in the summertime
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Spider Orchid
(Brassia spp.)
Blooms: Spider-like flowers with graceful stems
Light: Bright to intense light is best
Water: Allow media to go slightly dry between waterings

Tailed Orchid
(Masdevallia spp.)
Blooms: Showy tailed flowers
Light: Medium to bright light is best
Water: Keep plant barely moist at all times

Vanda Orchid
(Vanda hybrids)
Blooms: Large long lasting flowers
Light: Bright to intense light is best
Water: Allow media to go dry between waterings

This post was made especially for one of my readers, Joe's Blog, who asked me a question about her orchid. Thanks for reading! And to all of you, good luck caring for and selecting your orchids! Have an awesome day =)

Oct 15, 2010

Lucky Bamboo 101

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is actually a member of the Dracaena family, and is not really bamboo at all. The kind of bamboo people confuse it with is in fact a grass which is eaten by pandas in Asia. They do look very similar, though! This type of Dracaena is a popular houseplant. Legend has it this plant will bring good luck to your home and family.

Most Lucky Bamboo plants are sold potted in clear glass containers with decorative glass gems all around the roots. These are ideal since they are pretty to look at, and they help hold your plant up! If you see Lucky Bamboo sold another way (i.e. in soil, bare root) try to look for little glass gems at the dollar store or online to help hold up your plant. Stones or pebbles also work for this. Simply repot the plant into a glass container with water instead of soil. (Lucky Bamboo potted in water is easier to care for than one in soil -- due to the fact that soils carry bacteria and many fungal diseases).

If your Lucky Bamboo container or pot hasn’t been cleaned out in a while, it’s a good idea to do from time to time, both for cleanliness reasons and the health of your plant. As the plant gets larger, its roots will grow longer and begin to fill the pot. It’s a good idea to give these leggy roots a trim. Also, because this plant is (usually) potted in water alone, algae will build up over time on the inside of the container and must be cleaned properly.

Read on to find out how to change the water and clean out your bamboo pot!

You'll need:

Lucky Bamboo
A large bowl
A cup with high sides
Your kitchen sink (or a place with running water)
Soap and water
Clean water for your plant

1. Lightly grasp your bamboo in one hand (see above).

2. Hold plant pot over the bowl.

3. Gently pull bamboo out of the container. Let all glass gems/stones fall into the bowl. Next, clear off all gems from plant roots.

4. Set bamboo into the cup (right); high sides prevent your plant from toppling over. Set aside.

5. Rinse out the container with soap and warm water. Next, rinse gems or stones free of any debris.

This step helps remove algae buildup and refreshes your gems (which surround the plant and are in direct contact with it); It is important the gems and container remain clean so bacteria doesn’t harm your plant! Changing the water periodically is also useful in preventing plant diseases.

6. If needed (using scissors) trim excessively long roots to a uniform length. You can remove up to (but no more than) 1/3 of the plants’ roots. Doing this keeps the plant from sucking down a whole ton of water, and also makes it aesthetically pleasing when displayed in glass containers.

7. Replace plant into the clean container. Hold the stalks straight and make sure they are centered.

8. Then, replace gems around the roots and stalks to stabilize the plant

9. Finally, water your bamboo with clean water (at room temp). Be sure to change the water every 3 weeks or so and always keep the roots covered in water!

General Care
Give Lucky Bamboo good light, but not direct sun; this will kill your plant! A western or eastern facing window works very well. Keep an eye out for any spotting or discoloration of the stalks. If you notice this, it means one of two things: either too much water, or the plant is getting too much sun. Fill the container with less water and move the plant to a less sunny location.

Watering and Your Container Size
Depending on the container size, the plant may need more or less water. Clear glass containers work well to help you keep track of the water level. For example, if your plant is small (less than 5” tall) the container won’t need to be filled to the top. If your plant is larger (7-10” tall or taller) you can safely fill the container to the top. (Be careful if the stalks are mostly inside the pot -- filling it with water all the way can cause rotting. If, on the other hand, the stalks are completely above the pot and not really inside [that is, underwater], your bamboo will be safe from rotting)

So generally speaking,
Shallow container – fill to top with water
Deep container – cover roots and fill about ¾ way up

Keep in mind, there are exceptions to this rule; I'm speaking generally here! Be careful when watering, but always keep roots covered. The leaves tend to get a bit dusty, so rinse them off occasionally. Yellowing of leaves does happen sometimes. I find this to be a normal occurrence with Lucky Bamboo. Simply trim them off with scissors to keep it looking nice!

One of the major mistakes people make with Lucky Bamboo is letting the roots dry out. Although the plant can stay alive for weeks (sometimes months) in a dry state, the plant needs regular watering to thrive. On the other hand, I have seen bamboo get too much water – this causes the stalks to turn yellow and rot. Once this happens, the only option is to buy another plant!

I hope this little guide will provide you with some tips on care and maintenance for your plant. If anyone has questions or comments, please let me know!

Oct 13, 2010

Samhain Lore and Recipes for Halloween!

Halloween Lore
Below are some excellent recipes for Samhain, the Celtic festival to honor those who died in the past year (and friends, family, or acquaintances who've died at any point in your lifetime). It is celebrated from October 31st to November 1st. The word Samhain is pronounced 'sow-en' and literally means 'summer's end.' It is held sacred by pagans and witches as the Witches' New Year, since it marks the ending and beginning of the Wheel of the Year, always constantly turning. It is common for witches to hold rituals at this time to honor or commune with the dead. The festival Samhain actually directly influenced the celebration of Halloween as it is known today (but that's a VERY long story, so I won't get into it here!)

The night of October 31st (Halloween) is a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is at its thinnest; therefore, this is truly an excellent night for divination. Parlor games involving apples are another popular pastime at Halloween, due to its associations with love divination. The apple has always been a symbol of sex, fertility and romance. Back in the day, people who underwent Handfasting (a pagan wedding) would sometimes exchange an apple as a symbol of their bound and love for one another.

El dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is traditionally celebrated in Mexico on November 2nd. The Day of the Dead is a time of remembrance, prayer and celebration to honor the deceased. Mourning is frowned upon - Mexicans believe one should celebrate death through life, rather than fearing or feeling saddened by it. Home altars to the dead are decorated with photographs, skeleton figurines, candles, foods, and much more. Many of the items are things the deceased person loved or cherished in his/her lifetime. Feasting, listening to music, singing, and dancing (all things associated with a fiesta) are all permitted activities during the holiday. Visits to grave sites often last all night long, and many families even sleep in the cemetery with their loved ones until morning.

Let me mention that Samhain is not a diabolical rite, a Black Mass, or a dance with the Devil. We do not worship the devil, make pacts with him, brew poisonous potions to taint the water supply, or feast on the flesh of human babies. Nor do witches sacrifice animals, unless they have no idea what they're doing. Witches who do any of these activities I have just mentioned will only get themselves into a slew of trouble, so please don't! My point is to clear up a few of the misconceptions people have about pagans/witches. And believe me there are a lot of them! We'd be here all night if I tried listing them all.

The Recipes:
Recipe from: A Witch's Halloween by Gerina Dunwich

5 lbs potatoes
1 head cabbage
1 onion
1 1/3 cups milk

1 stick butter
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

1. Wash and peel the potatoes. Remove the eyes, sprouts; cut into quarters. Put potatoes in a large pot of salted, boiling water.

2. Wash and chop the head of cabbage and the onion. Put them into the pot with potatoes. Cook and cover, 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Drain all this in a strainer and return to pot. Stir in milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mush together until blended.

Serves 6.
Chocolate de los Mexicanos
(Mexican Hot Cocoa)
A traditional treat for El Dia de los Muertos celebrated on November 2nd.

Recipe from: Sabbats by Edain McCoy

4 ¼ cups milk
4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
5 tbs sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
⅛ teaspoon allspice
1 shot tequila
Cinnamon sticks
Whipped cream

Serves 4

Melt chocolate over low heat. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. With a mixer or wooden spoon, beat mixture until it stops boiling and becomes frothy. Stir in tequila. Serve immediately in mugs garnished with a cinnamon stick. Dust whipped cream with cinnamon.

Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup canned, mashed pumpkin
2 tablespoons milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside. Cream together shortening and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy, using electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in egg. Combine pumpkin and milk in small bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture to creamed mixture, stirring well after each addition.

Spoon batter into paper-lined 2 1/2-inch muffin-pan cups, filling 2/3rds full. Bake in 350 degree F. oven 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot with butter and homemade jam.

Baked Harmony Apples

Recipe from: Halloween by Silver RavenWolf

8 Macintosh apples
1 cup brown sugar
10 tbs chopped raisins
1 stick butter
2 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream OR
Whipped cream

Wash apples. Core apples at one end only. Mix together sugar, raisins and butter. Place apples in a baking dish, cored end facing up. Fill with brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle apples with spices.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, combine water with wine. Pour around apples. Bake for 45 mins, basting occasionally. Top apples with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 8.

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)
(Another treat for El Dia de los Muertos, used as an ofrenda [offering] to the dead.)

Makes 1 large loaf.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/4 cup graulated sugar

1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1. Heat the milk and the butter together in a medium saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add them warm water. The mixture should be around 110 degrees

2. In a large bowl combine 1 cup of flour, yeast, salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture, then add the eggs and orange zest, beating until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour, and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

4. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into a large round loaf with a round knob on top. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.

5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then brush with glaze.

6. To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with sugar.

Samhain Oil

This oil recipe is for a very large amount of oil. If you wish, cut down the proportions of the ingredients to suit your needs. **Warning: Not for consumption. Do not ingest under any circumstances!**

1/2 dram Pine Oil
1/4 dram Frankincense oil
1/4 dram Patchouli oil
1/4 dram Lavender oil

Mix well and bottle. A good high altar oil for your rituals and anointing candles.

A Herbal Journey - Blog of Note

Here is a great blog I just found through a friend connection: it is called A Herbal Journey, and has some excellent information on herbs and their use, particularly in the pagan community! Lists of plant folk names abound! Please enjoy! The link is below.

A Herbal Journey

Oct 12, 2010

Peace Lily 101

Here are some basic tips for keeping your Peace Lily looking its very best:

1 - Keep the plant evenly moist (not dry to the touch, not soggy, but lightly damp)

2 - Water Peace Lily frequently

3 - Fertilize each time you water for increased flowering production

4 - Wipe leaves clean with a damp cloth or sponge

5 - Shower or rinse this plant monthly, but especially in the spring and summer

6 - Remove the flowers when they turn green

7 - Avoid leaf tipping by watering only with distilled water or filtered

8 - Trim the leaves to mimic natural leaf shape without cutting into healthy green tissue

9 - Repot into any good potting soil. Amend soil with sharp sand (aka builders' sand) for increased drainage

10 - Do give the plant ample light but not full sun

11 - Avoid shaded areas!

12 - Do display as a centerpiece (in any room you'd like) in a decorative or seasonal pot

13 - Slightly rootbound conditions may help flowering

You Should Repot Your Plant If...

Here are some signs you will want to see before deciding whether or not it's a good time to repot. If you see only one of these signs, you may not need to repot just yet; however, if your plant exhibits MANY of these signs, repotting is a wise move! This list is intended as a general guideline for repotting, and does not include all signs a plant may exhibit when in need.

If you find I have left out an important sign, please let me know and I will add it to the list (please leave a name so I can credit your contribution!). Leave a comment or drop me a line: My email

You should repot a plant if...
1) Roots are coming up above the soil surface

2) Roots emerge from the drainage holes

3) The plant is heavy but has not been recently watered

4) Your plant's growth isn't as vigorous as usual (lack of flowering, less leaf development)

5) Leaves appear bleached of color (also this can indicate a need for water), are brown or yellowing

6) The plant is pot bound, meaning the small size of a plant's container has sufficiently inhibited or stunted the growth of the plant. Usually if this is the case, a great part of the plant beneath the soil will be solely roots, with very little soil evident.

7) The plant droops but is sufficiently watered (NOT overwatered! Be careful: a plant can also droop if watered too much!)

8) The pot has little to no drainage, or otherwise drains poorly after watering

9) You dislike the pot in general, or the plant needs a style update

How to Repot A Houseplant

Repotting a root bound plant can be very helpful to a new plant that’s outgrown its living quarters. Every two years or so, you will need to repot smaller plants (12-24 inches tall); repot larger plants less often. Plants such as African Violet or Peace Lily often need to be root bound to bloom, so repot these carefully and with caution! Spread out some papers or other type of protection for your table surface – repotting a plant can sometimes be a little messy!

1) Choose a pot for your plant. You can buy a porous clay pot like terracotta, or a glazed pot if preferred. Clay pots are susceptible to breakage if dropped, and also very heavy. Another consideration is that clay dries out very quickly, so you’ll need to water the plant more frequently. Glazed pots will dry out slowly and are nice to look at. Plastic pots are easy to clean, light in weight, and extremely durable.

2) Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage! Drainage holes allow a plant to drain excess water once it has been watered. Be sure to have a saucer or something to catch the water. If you like a special plastic pot, you can easily create your own holes using a drill or nail. This is very important: too much water will cause problems for your plant.

3)  Use good potting soil that is plant specific (i.e. cactus mix for most cacti and succulents, African Violet mix for African violets, etc). MiracleGro potting mixes are very good – I’ve had excellent results with this brand myself, so I highly recommend it!

4) To increase drainage, you might want to put some broken pottery (a coffee mug you don't use anymore, or the shards from a broken plant pot) or large stones into the bottom of the pot -- make sure they're large enough so as not to fall out the holes. Shards/stones etc. in the pot allow water to drain more freely. Put about 1" of soil into the bottom of your pot. Wet the soil slightly so it doesn’t fall out the drainage hole(s). Note: Repot the plant into its new container at the same level it was when in the original container. You may need to add more or less soil on the bottom of the pot to accomplish this.

This Dieffenbachia plant badly needs repotting, since the roots have almost completely filled the pot. Some fresh soil will be a great help to our green friend! If necessary, you can remove up to 1/3 of a plant's roots. Cutting away the bottom third of this root ball off would encourage the plant to create newer roots and promote healthy growth. Use a sharp serrated knife to do this.

5) Place the root ball of your plant into the new pot and surround it with more fresh soil. Make sure the plant is straight and well situated in the pot. Place a bit more soil on top of the root ball and press down LIGHTLY. Compressing too much soil around the roots doesn't allow them ample breathing room! Be sure to cover the roots COMPLETELY with soil (1-2 inches should be enough on top).

6) Leave about 1-inch of space at the top to accommodate for watering. You have repotted your plant!

7) Be sure to give the plant some water, so it can get used to its new home. A dry plant is a sad plant!

8) Choose a good location for your plant. Most plants thrive in a window that gets good morning or afternoon sun, but not full sun. Too much sun can sunburn leaves, so be careful!

9) To repot a plant you already have well established, you will need to knock out the rootball from the pot. This may require some muscle, so go do some weightlifting first! Just kidding...

To remove an established rootball (these tend to be a bit stubborn), place your fingers over the top of the soil with the plant leaves in between your fingers (see diagram).  Be careful not to bend or break any leaves! Next, find a table edge or corner to rap the pot against. This loosens the roots from the sides of the pot. If necessary, use a hand to further encourage the rootball to vacate -- just tap the bottom of the pot. Finally, the root ball should slide out into your hand. Then, simply follow steps 5 - 8 to repot the plant!  =)

Oct 2, 2010

Raising Plant Humidity

"How do I love thee, let me count the ways!"
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

There are many ways to 'lovingly' and effectively raise plant humidity. Some plants thrive in a humid environment more suited to a greenhouse or jungle than your home. But don’t worry, here are some simple steps you can take to ensure your plants have a higher humidity level !

1 – Place your plant on a humidity tray with rocks or pebbles, and fill the tray with slightly warm water, or room temp – but NEVER hot! Make sure the plant sits on top of the pebbles in the tray, but not submerged in water. This can cause the roots to become too wet, and will lead to root rot. Change the water every few days.

2 – Use a humidifier in the room(s) where you keep plants. You can raise humidity this way by leaving the humidifier going while you’re at work, or whenever. Your plants will surely love the benefits.

3 – Mist your plants daily, sometimes even twice a day (depending on the plant), especially in winter when conditions are naturally drier. The misting helps plants to absorb moisture through their leaves, and also serves another purpose: the leaves of some plants get a bit dusty, and misting them will help keep them looking good. Remember: A lot of house pants are tropical in origin, and will benefit from a moist, rain forest type atmosphere! Try to duplicate a plant’s original environment the best you can using humidity.

4 – Misting also helps prevent spider mites from attacking your houseplants. Specific plants, such as English Ivy or Majesty Palm, are particularly susceptible to spider mite attack. Spider mites are tiny, red insects that spin webs on your plants and damage them by discoloring the leaves, scorching them, or causing individual leaves to die. An infestation of spider mites can even lead to plant death! They only attack in very dry environments, so if you mist regularly and raise humidity, they will most likely not bother your plants.

5 – Group several plants together on a table or other surface. I can best explain this by relating a true-to-life situation: Think about what happens when you walk into a room filled with several people – say, like six or more. You spend some time in the room, realizing there’s no fresh air filtering in, there’s no breeze, and you start getting a bit hot. You realize that body heat is to blame! The ambient temperature has definitely gone up, due to humans giving off heat.

Okay, so a lot of people = a rise in room temperature. Similarly, a lot of plants = a rise in humidity

Plants don’t really have a temperature, but they do absorb moisture and carbon dioxide from the air. They also give off oxygen (good for us!) and lose water through their leaves, so other plants nearby can benefit from this natural evaporation coming from another plant. So, if you group them close together (within a foot of each other) you automatically raise the ambient humidity around your plants.

6 – Grow your plants in a terrarium or other enclosure, such as a fish tank. Each of these items function much in the same manner: They trap moisture around your plants, raising their humidity level. This also means you won’t have to water the plants as much. And also, terrariums make a great way to display your plants!

7 – Place your plants outside during rainstorms. Plants that benefit from the occasional shower will love a bit of rain! Plants that love humidity include: ivy, palms, ferns, and many others.

8 – Place plants in rooms such as the bathroom or your kitchen: these rooms are naturally moist, since features include sinks, toilets, baths and showers – all of these in close proximity to plants help increase humidity! A hot shower can be excellent for plants in the room, so be sure to keep the door closed and build up the steam!

Just be sure to never put your plants INTO a scalding hot shower. When rinsing plants, stick with slightly warm water, so as not to damage tender roots.

Cacti and Succulent Care

Let me ask you a question: do you love cacti? Are you utterly intrigued by the odd, weird shapes and flowers produced by these plants, but somehow you always kill them? Read below to find several ways to prevent this, and to help your beloved plants thrive!

1 - The most important step to not kill your cacti is this: DO NOT OVERWATER! You may want to water all your plants at the same time, on the very same day. However, this can’t be done with cacti (that is, unless cacti are the only plants you keep) because they typically need much less water than other houseplants.

I've said it before, I'll say it again (and again, and again): Overwatering is the NUMBER ONE cause of houseplant death, particularly cacti!!

Most cacti don’t like a lot of water. The reason for this is that cacti hold water inside their leaves and stems. Over time they use this stored water until it is depleted. If you accidently give your plant too much, the roots may begin to rot, so be careful.

2 - If your plant is very small, only give it enough water to completely cover the top of the soil, about once every 2 weeks or so (when it’s located in a sunny window - read on to learn about how much sunlight cacti needs). This may seem like too little, but don’t worry!The plant will tell you when it needs more water by ‘thinning out’ or wrinkling its leaves. Over time, you will anticipate the plant’s need for water and be able to water it before this occurs.

3 - If it is a larger plant, cover the surface of the soil with water – fully and evenly – until it sinks to the bottom. *Larger plants will need more water than smaller ones, since their size causes them to utilize more water. Make sure the soil is fully saturated. Water these larger plants once every month or so, unless the plant is plump and cold to the touch. This means the plant has sufficient water stored.

4 - Let the soil dry out between waterings! If your plants’ soil feels wet to the touch, don’t give it any water yet. Simply use your index finger to check the moisture in the soil. Place your finger down into the soil itself. Is it wet or dry? This method will help you keep track of your plant’s moisture level.

5 - Make sure your cacti are planted in the right kind of soil. Cactus soils are lighter and contain perlite (little white bits) which help make the soil airier and also allows for greater drainage. The soil usually contains sand as well, further adding to plant drainage. Drainage is VERY important to cacti – they prefer to be left on the drier side (i.e. think desert conditions!)

Regular potting soil will not cut it! It will retain too much water and rot your plants! Taking the extra step to have the right kind of soil will help make all the difference! If you buy a new succulent plant, check the soil. Most of the time, these plants will already be in cactus mix, but it’s a great idea to check just in case.

6 - Mind the plant pot! If you need/want to repot your plant into a decorative container you bought specifically for your new purchase, check the pot to be sure it has a drainage hole. If you leave it in the pot from the store, check for drainage holes!

7 - Give your cacti good sunlight! A western or southern window will do nicely for these houseplants. Cacti need lots of (direct) sunlight to do well, so be sure to put them in a bright, sunny window. If you don’t have a west/south window, put your plants in the brightest location you have! Shaded areas are not good for cacti, so keep this in mind when you go plant shopping! Follow these simple steps, and you'll never suffer another dead cactus ever again!

Snake Plant 101 - Taking 'Easy' to a New Level

Snake plant (Sansevieria), A.K.A Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, is a succulent plant, which means the leaves retain lots of water, similar to a cactus. You can recognize snake plants by their long, pointed, upright leaves which look very much like snakes, giving the plant its name. It is green in color, but sometimes has yellow edges.

1) When it’s time to buy a new plant, be sure to select a healthy looking plant that is a deep green. Pale leaves mean the plant may already be suffering at the store, and there’s no reason to waste your money on snake plant that’s growing poorly before you even get it home!

2) Often times when you buy a new houseplant, you should repot it into a new pot with fresh soil ASAP. If the roots appear above the soil, the plant definitely needs to be repotted. Also, if the pot from the store is simply a cheap plastic pot, I recommend you repot your new plant. It will be much happier that way!

3) Give snake plant sufficient light. The plant will thrive in a sunny window facing east, west or south. If you have only a north facing window, don’t despair! Snake plant handles a variety of light situations very well. If you can only provide minimal light, the plant will be fine. Later, when the opportunity presents itself, move snake plant to a sunnier window. The more sun it gets, the faster it will grow!

4) Water sparingly. A succulent holds lots of water inside its leaves, and if you give it too much water, the plant will rot. By sparingly, I mean water every two to three weeks (In the summer time, the plant will use more water, especially if it's in a very sunny location. In winter, the plant uses less water, so be sure to adjust accordingly). Use room temperature water so the roots don’t get shocked. Wet the top of the soil thoroughly, but be sure not to drown the plant! You are better off watering the plant too little than too much!

5) Feed the plant with a tiny amount of general all purpose plant food (the kind you dissolve in water) in the spring and summer. Because this is the primary growing time for snake plant, it will thank you for the extra growth boost the fertilizer provides. Put the fertilizer in your favorite watering jug, and just fertilize every time you water. In fall and winter, stop fertilizing – snake plant doesn’t need to be fed at this time of year.

6) Snake plant is extremely forgiving, and in fact will thrive more on neglect rather than too much attention. If you miss a watering, don’t worry! Water the next time you remember. Snake plant will survive in low light conditions, or even full sun! Therefore, snake plant is one of the most common and easy-to-care-for plants you can buy.

Important tip: As I already mentioned, do not overwater! The plant will die if it can’t absorb excess water in the pot. Overwatering is the number one cause of plant death!

If you be sure to give good light and small amounts of water to snake plant about every two to three weeks, it will prosper and bring you joy for many years!