Essential Supplies and Other Helpful Items for Beginning Houseplant Growers

Essential Supplies and Other Helpful Items for Beginning Houseplant Growers

*This post may include affiliate links.  That means if you make a purchase through one of them, I will be compensated.  Using affiliate links does not result in a higher price for the consumer.  If you choose to purchase through one of my links, I thank you in advance for your support of my small business.

If you are new to growing houseplants or are considering getting started in the near future, here are some items you are likely to need for plant care:

Quality Pots

For beginners, I recommend that the pots your plants are actually growing in should have drainage holes and removable water catchment saucers.  The saucers should be large enough to hold a fair amount of water without it spilling over the edge and onto your furniture.  I use pots like these in my houseplant workshops.  They have good drainage, and are attractive enough to display in the home without being placed inside a more decorative pot. They come with matching saucers, and they can be purchased in bulk which is convenient if you plan to be growing more than just a few plants and you want all matching pots.  I would prefer that the saucers be a bit larger, but these work fine if you are careful to only apply a small amount of water at a time.  When your plants need a thorough soaking, water your plants in a plastic tub in the sink.  Allow the water to drain out of the pot for several minutes before placing it back on the saucer.  Find this favorite of mine here:  https://amzn.to/3mNwaiB

 

Plant Pot Coasters

In order to protect your furniture, avoid placing the pots directly on the furniture.  Furniture can be ruined by water stains or scratches caused by moving the plant pots.  Protecting your furniture doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you don’t need everything to be matching or fancy.  Many common kitchen items such as trivets, pie plates, or plastic food containers can be repurposed even if only temporarily.  Here is an example of some basic plant coasters you might consider if you want them all to be matching:

 

Soil Mesh Screen

Some pots have very large drainage holes.  These pots will not hold potting mix without something being placed in the bottom of the pot to serve as a screen.  The least expensive option would be to repurpose items you may already have around the house such as a coffee filter, a paper towel, or a scrap piece of shade cloth or weed barrier fabric. You could also use broken pieces of terra cotta pots or rocks to partially block large holes. There are soil mesh screen products made specifically for this purpose such as this one:

 

 

Potting Mix

When you purchase new plants, it is likely that they will need repotting right away or soon after you get them home.  The type of potting mix you need will depend on the type of plants you are growing.  Many tropical houseplants can be grown in a standard houseplant mix.  Other plants such as African Violets or succulents are best grown in special potting mixes that meet their specific needs.  One way to minimize expense when just getting started growing houseplants is to start with plants that can all thrive in the same type of potting mix.  The least expensive will be the standard houseplant mixes made for typical tropical houseplants.  Keep any unused potting mix in tightly sealed bins to protect them from pests.  When purchasing potting mix, the larger the bag you purchase, the lower the cost.  Smaller bags are easier to handle, but the cost for the same amount will be higher.  I use this product, Espoma Organic Potting Mix, which I buy in 1 cu. ft. bags (Sorry, the link is for two 8qt bags, so just do a search for the 1 cu. ft. bag if that is what you want.)

 

 

Fertilizer

To minimize expense, I encourage beginners to start their new houseplant collection with plants that can all be fertilized with the same general purpose houseplant fertilizer.  Some plants such as African Violets or succulents require special soil mixes and fertilizers which can increase the cost of getting started. is a general purpose fertilizer suitable for many common tropical foliage houseplants and garden plants as well.


 

Gloves

Among other things, gloves protect our hands from getting splinters from the potting mix.  Some people prefer to feel the plants and soil with their hands.  If you use gloves, be sure to clean them or change them before moving from plant to plant. This will help prevent the possible spread of pests and diseases from one plant to another.   For working with houseplants, I prefer disposable vinyl gloves such as these:

 

Pruning Shears 

For trimming houseplants, a tool with a straight, narrow blade works best because the straight blade allows easier access to the interior stems and leaves of the plant.  The straight bladed tool is also ideal for trimming and harvesting soft-stemmed herbs and greens such as basil, oregano, lettuces, and spinach.  Bypass pruners (with a curved blade) work well for pruning thick stems or roots of pot-bound plants.  A set like this is ideal especially for those who also garden outdoors.  I’m very happy with mine.  The quality is excellent, and I paid less for this set than I had for one pair of bypass pruners sold by a popular major brand.

 

Small Watering Can With Narrow Spout

For watering houseplants, a small watering can with a narrow spout such as this one is ideal.  If you don’t need something fancy, these can be found at discount stores for a few dollars or less.

 

Soil Moisture Meter

Overwatering is the most common cause of decline and death of indoor plants.  The ideal amount of water to give a plant is enough for it to thrive, but not more than that.  One key to getting it right is getting to know your plants, and that takes some time.  Another key to success with watering is being able to accurately assess the moisture level of the soil.  A helpful tool for assessing soil moisture is a soil moisture meter.  There are several types available in a wide range of cost. I find that those with a corded probe are easiest to use.  For beginners, I recommend an inexpensive one like this:

 

Houseplant Journal

I encourage new houseplant growers to keep a houseplant journal.  This can be as simple as recording certain information in an inexpensive notebook.  The important thing is to do the recording so you can refer back to the information later.  Recording things such as the botanical name of the plant, the date acquired, and when it was fertilized or treated for pests will be helpful for learning about your plants and diagnosing plant-related problems that may come up.  When recording fertilization or other treatments, be sure to include the name and amount of the product used.  If you want a journal made specifically for use with houseplants, you might consider one like this which I created as a supplement to my Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants eBook.

Click here to see my Houseplant Journal and Care Logbook.

 

For Pest Management:

Magnifying Glass

When we see a plant in decline, there may be multiple causes.  Taking a closer look at plant foliage may reveal some possible causes of problems.  It is difficult and sometimes impossible to correctly identify pest organisms or disease pathogens without the help of a microscope.  However, using a standard magnifying glass will be much more helpful than using only the naked eye.  For inspecting plants, a minimum of 10X magnification is recommended.  Here is one that has 30X magnification and comes with a light.  It requires two AA batteries:

 

Yellow Sticky Traps

Yellow sticky traps are helpful in trapping adult fungus gnats and other flying houseplant pests.  Using the traps continuously will alert you to the presence of pests before a major infestation occurs.  The best value for your money will be found in purchasing a large quantity of large sticky cards.  Large cards can be cut to fit your needs.  Holders for the cards may be sold separately.  To make handling easier, I leave about an inch wide strip of the paper in place at the top and bottom on each side of the card.  One benefit of doing this is that it will keep the holders clean.  (This will make sense when you start using them for yourself!)

 

 

Rubbing Alcohol, Lemon Oil, Cotton Pads, and Q-Tips

Rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad can be used to clean disinfect pruning tools.   Applied using a Q-Tip, it can also be used to kill mealy bugs on plant leaves and stems.  Lemon oil is great for removing stickers from plant pots.  I keep these items in my gardening caddy so that they are always handy.

Additional Helpful Items:

These items would be good to add to your wish list.  They aren’t essential for getting started growing houseplants, but may make houseplant care easier or more enjoyable:

 

Portable Storage Caddy

A divided organizer like this is convenient for storing and carrying frequently used items.  I have one that I use to hold many of my smaller tools and supplies such as gloves, plant labels, pruning shears, etc.  When I’m ready to work with my plants, I can quickly grab that tote from the garage.

 

 

Portable Potting Tray or Bin

Houseplant care can get messy!  I like to contain the mess by working in a plastic tray or tub.  These portable potting trays (shown in the first photo below) are specifically designed to contain soil, water, or plant debris while repotting or pruning plants.  I use a large rectangular storage bin (such as the one in the second photo below) when I’m repotting plants. Using a tray or bin like these is especially helpful when working indoors on a kitchen countertop or at the dining table:

 

Large Rectangular Storage Bin

In addition to storing supplies, storage bins like this can be used as a portable potting tray.  I use one like this when I’m repotting or pruning my houseplants indoors.  I also sometimes set my plants in a container like this when I water them.  I do this to prevent any soil from going down the drain.  These are also handy for carrying several plants at a time such as when you need to give them all a rinse in the shower!  These can be pricey.  Look for them on sale, at discount retailers, or estate sales.

 

 

Large Containers for Storage

I use large, clear containers like this one to store my pots and open bags of potting mix, perlite, or similar products.  These can sometimes be found at estate sales or yard sales at bargain prices.

 

Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants

If you are a beginning houseplant grower, consider gifting yourself a copy of my Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants eBook.  I wrote the guide to help people choose the best plants for beautifying their indoor space and learn the basics of plant care in order to keep their new plants thriving!

 

If you have a question about the information in this post or a comment to share, please let me know in the comments below.  If the comments are not showing, enable commenting by clicking on the title of this post.

Thank you,

Melanie

 

Think you can’t grow houseplants?  Let’s change that!

Think you can’t grow houseplants? Let’s change that!

You may have heard the common myth, “I have a brown thumb.  I can’t grow anything”!

If thoughts like that have led you to give up on growing houseplants or kept you from ever trying, I’d like to help you change that!

Below are four steps to help you overcome feelings of doubt related to growing plants and set yourself up with resources to help you move forward if you get stuck.

Step 1:  Believe you can!

The first thing to do is change any negative thinking or fear you might have around your ability to grow plants.

This famous quote by Henry Ford emphasizes how much attitude determines our success or failure: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”.

I believe this to be true in my own life.  Many times when I have thought, “I can’t do this”, sure enough, I was not successful at it.

When I find myself believing I can’t do something that I absolutely know I’m capable of, the first thing I do is change my thinking.  That is something that often feels hard.

However, if I don’t take the time to change my attitude, I may as well not bother attempting to accomplish whatever it is I have set out to do.  It would be a total waste of time for me to spend any more time “trying” to do something because if I’m thinking I can’t, I most likely won’t.

So, whenever you notice yourself thinking that you can’t grow plants, stop that thought!  Do whatever works for you to replace thoughts of doubt with thoughts of positivity and belief in your own ability.

Repeat this as needed!  Negative thoughts can come back, so just expect them and be prepared to stop them, replace them, and move forward.

It may seem silly, but believing in our own ability really is the most important first step in having success growing plants or accomplishing anything else we want to do.

Step 2:  Find a resource for learning the basics of growing houseplants.

Plants are very similar to humans in that they have specific needs that must be met in order for them to survive, thrive, and reproduce.

At the most basic level, people need air, water, food, shelter, and love.

The basic needs of plants are sunlight, water, nutrition, air, and temperatures & humidity within a certain range.

To get started growing houseplants, find a resource that will introduce you to some beginner-friendly indoor plants, and help you learn the basics of houseplant care.

For example, you might check out my ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants, in which I introduce 13 of my top recommended plants for beginners and share a chapter on Plant Care Basics.

The guide comes with email support from me.  If you have a question about something in the guide or anything houseplant-related, I’ll try to help you out.  🙂

Step 3:  Get Started!

Once you have some basic knowledge of houseplant care, get started actually growing something!

When it comes to growing plants, hands-on experience is essential to learning.  So, the sooner you get started, the faster you will progress in your success.

If you are brand new to growing plants, start small, and keep it simple.

Start with just a few plants at most.  Learn how to care for those, then gradually add to your collection.

A common mistake people make is to buy a whole bunch of plants at once and think they will just figure out where to put them and how to take care of them.  This can turn out to be a huge waste of money and a big disappointment.  So take it slow, and learn as you go.

 

Step 4:  Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

The fear associated with not knowing how to care for plants can be very intimidating for beginners.

Keep in mind that learning how to care for plants takes time, and there is help available if you need it.

If you have internet access, there is a wealth of information instantly available on the internet and most houseplant lovers are happy to share their knowledge!

When a plant-related problem comes up, look into it as soon as possible.  One key to success in growing plants is responding to plant needs sooner rather than later.

A common mistake beginners make is to put off dealing with a plant-related issue because it feels overwhelming.

Here are some ways to get help with a plant-related issue:

  • Check the resource you selected to help you get started in learning about houseplants.  If that resource has a search feature, a user forum, or another place to submit a question, ask there.
  • Google it!  Simply enter a question into the Google search field, and you will get a list of results showing possible answers to your question.  Here is a sample question:  “Why is the foliage color fading on my houseplant”?
  • Ask a plant-loving friend or neighbor, or perhaps post the question on your own social media.  Doing so might lead to making a new plant friend!
  • Join an online houseplant group and post your question there.

I have a gardening group on Facebook called Central Valley Gardening Friends & Neighbors.  The group was originally created as a place where people could connect with other gardeners in our local area (California Central Valley:  primarily USDA Zone 9 / Sunset Zone 14) and support each other in our gardening efforts by sharing information.

Our main focus is gardening & landscaping, however, we talk about houseplants too.

I invite you to check us out.  You may find the group here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/709831455776403

 

You don’t need a “Green Thumb” in order to be successful at growing plants.  With the right information, you can learn to care for your plants.  With time and experience, you will get to know your plants and learn more about plants in general.  Plant care can be learned, just like anything else!

If you would like to be growing houseplants, I encourage you to give it a try.

Caring for plants can be very enjoyable and fulfilling, even therapeutic.  You might just discover a new hobby for yourself!

Do you want to be growing houseplants, but haven’t yet started?  What’s holding you back?  Have you tried before and given up?  What did you try growing and what happened?

If you are already growing houseplants, I’d love to hear about how you are enjoying them in your life. Do you grow them because you enjoy caring for them?  Do you grow them because you want to have live plants as part of your decor, but plant care doesn’t really light you up?  Do you grow them and sell them for extra money?  Do you grow them with your kids?  Which plants are your favorites?  I’d love to see pics!  Let me know what you’re up to or what you’re dreaming about for yourself.  🙂

Thank you, and enjoy!

If commenting isn’t visible, click on the title of this post.

 

14 Easy Care Plants for Introducing Kids and Teens to Growing Plants Indoors!

14 Easy Care Plants for Introducing Kids and Teens to Growing Plants Indoors!

There are many ways in which children and teens can benefit from the experience of growing plants indoors!

Here are just a few:

  • Growing living plants provides connection to nature, and an opportunity to focus and enjoy the present moment.
  • Caring for plants teaches patience, gentleness, and responsibility.
  • Growing indoor plants can stimulate early interest in nature, gardening, and science.
  • Indoor plant gardening is a great outlet for creative expression.

 

Growing indoor plants provides wonderful opportunities for teaching and learning.
The possibilities listed below can be modified to fit the readiness level of your child: 

 

Introduction to Plant Names

Begin by explaining that plants have names just like we do, and that plants actually have two names – a common name, and a scientific name (botanical name).  

For young children,  focus on common names first.  Botanical names can be introduced later.

The following plants would be good selections for introducing plant common names to young children:  Spider Plant (Variegated Spider Plant is included in this post), Watermelon Peperomia, Hens & Chicks.

Here is an activity you can do with very young children who don’t yet read or write.  Set two or three plants on a table.  Simply introduce the plants by the common name.   Then, point to one plant, and ask the child if he/she can repeat the plant name back to you.

Children learning to read and write can write the plant common names on flash cards (one plant name per card).  Set up the corresponding plants on a table.  Review all the names with the child.  Ask the child to place one card with a common plant name in front of the corresponding plant that it belongs to.

Learning plants by their botanical names and being able to spell them correctly would be an advantageous first step for teens who may be interested in growing indoor plants as a hobby, getting a summer job in a nursery or garden center, starting a plant related business, or considering horticulture as a career.

Note:  As you may know from your own experience, some plant names seem to make sense while others don’t seem to “fit” at all.  Considering the Swedish Ivy plant (Plectranthus verticillatus) for example, the plant is native to Australia and Africa, not Sweden.  It is also more closely related to mint than Ivy.  

 

Spelling and Memorization

Learning the spelling of plant names is good exercise for the brain!  Begin with plant common names, then add the botanical names later.

 

 

Geography

Research a plant to learn where it originates.   Find that location on a globe or map.  Determine the native growing conditions of the plant.  For example, does the plant originate from a desert environment, rainforest, etc.?  Learning the conditions of a plant’s native environment can help us understand the care requirements for the plant such as whether it can thrive in direct sunlight or must have only indirect light, or whether it is a low water user or it must have consistently moist soil.

 

Beginning Botany

The possibilities are endless here.  There are many resources available online or in parent/teacher supply stores for teaching about the Identification and function of plant parts (Leaves, roots, stems, flowers, seeds and more).  Life on earth is powered by the sun.  Plants capture energy from the sun, and use it to create food for themselves.  Plants also transform the sun’s energy into forms that can nourish animals and humans.  Plants are the beginning of the food chain.

Plants also provide the oxygen we need in order to breathe.  Plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.  This is the opposite of what humans and most animals do.  Humans take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.  Without an abundance of thriving plants on the planet, we humans would perish.

Learning about botany at an early age could inspire a young person to explore a plant related field of study or career such as floriculture, organic gardening/farming, regenerative landscaping, herbology, nutrition, wellness coaching, horticultural therapy, or integrative medicine.

 

Observation and Attention to Detail

Here is an activity to help a child notice and compare differences in the appearance and texture of various plant leaves.  Set up several plants in a row on a table.  Ask your child to look at them all, and tell you anything they notice about them.  (Write down the answers you are given).

Depending on the child’s answers, ask additional questions such as, “what can you tell me about how the leaves feel?”
Ask comparison questions such as, “Which leaf is flat, and which one is plump”, or “Which leaf is smooth, and which one is fuzzy”, etc.

 

Record Keeping 

Kids can keep a simple plant journal!  As your child acquires new plants, have them enter information into their plant journal such as the date,  plant name (common and botanical – parents can help with botanical names as needed), and who the plant was received from if it was a gift.  There is all kinds of other information that could be recorded in a plant journal such as when the plant was watered, fertilized, or moved into a larger pot, etc.  Record whatever suits the purpose for your child.  The objective is to help the child develop consistency in recording information.  The information recorded will be especially valuable to a child or teen who chooses to grow indoor plants as a hobby or start an entrepreneurial project.

I created a Houseplant Journal and Care Logbook as a supplement to my Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants ebook.  Although initially created for use by adults, this journal can also be used by teens or by an adult and child working together to learn about plant care. Tracking of plant care activities can easily be done by a child with guidance from an adult. Simply allow the child to do most of the filling-in of the plant care log pages as appropriate to their skill level.  There are also several coloring pages and blank pages for drawing and doodling!

 

Plant Reproduction

A child can observe the natural process of how plants make new baby plants.  There are actually many different processes or methods by which plants reproduce.  For simplicity, we will consider one such process, called vegetative reproduction, which could be easily observed in either of these two plants:

Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum  (Variegated Spider Plant) and Sempervivum tectorum  (Hens & Chicks or Houseleeks).

When Spider Plants and Hens & Chicks reproduce vegetatively, they send out stolons on which new plants grow.  This is the same process that happens when strawberries send out runners.  🙂

 

Idea for Hobby or Entrepreneurship Project

Help your child or teen build a collection of beautiful and unusual plant varieties, propagate more of them, and then gift, trade, or sell them!  Plant lovers will pay more for hard to find varieties, or be thrilled to receive one as a gift! 

This is something that could be developed slowly over the long term with a child or teen who shows interest and has already developed the skills needed to keep easy care plants (such as those in this post) alive and thriving. 

Begin by acquiring some plants that can easily be propagated such as the beginner-friendly favorites listed below.  Consider these plants “Mother Plants” from which new plants of each variety can be propagated.  Mother plants are typically kept for years (not sold or gifted unless it is no longer needed for providing propagation material).

  • Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’   Variegated Spider Plant  
  • Plectranthus verticillatus  (Swedish Ivy)
  • Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’  Marble Queen Pothos
  • Crassula ovata  Jade Plant  
  • Sempervivum tectorum  (Hens & Chicks)

 

Next, assist your plant hobbyist or budding entrepreneur in learning plant propagation.

There are many resources for learning propagation on YouTube.  Search on YouTube by entering the terms, “How to propagate (the plant name)”.

As skill at propagation develops, new plant varieties can be added to the collection!
Consider any plants of interest as well as less common varieties of those listed above.

As mentioned previously, unusual or rare varieties are highly sought after by plant lovers!

 

Let’s Check-out Some Plants!

The majority of plants included in this post are beginner-friendly, easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and easy to propagate (start new plants from the stems, leaves, seeds, or other parts of a plant).

The experience of growing plants will be more fun for kids if they are allowed some freedom to choose their own plants.  Perhaps young children could make a choice between some that you “pre-select” while at the nursery, and teens could choose their own from this post.

 

Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’  (Variegated Spider Plant)   

An exciting feature of this fast-growing beauty is that when mature and thriving, the flowers will transform into new plant-lets.

These “Baby Spiders”, can be grown and later given as gifts to friends and relatives, traded for other plants, or sold! 

If you wish to propagate (grow new plants) from your Spider Plant, allow the flowers to turn into new leaves.  When roots (about ¼” long) appear below the leaves, snip the plantlet from the stem of the mother plant and place it in a shallow container of water or directly into a small plant pot filled with potting soil.

Whether growing the new plantlet in water or potting soil, be sure the leaves are not submerged under water or buried below the potting soil. Ideally, the leaves should not be touching water or soil.  Keep the newly potted plantlets evenly moist.

When the plantlets growing in water form roots about ½ – 1 inch long, transfer them to a small pot filled with potting soil.

Spider plants are best displayed in hanging baskets or elevated plant stands. They look amazing when they have an abundance of plantlets hanging in the air!

The Spider Plant is ideal for learning about all of the following topics:  the ability of certain plants to  store water in their roots, plant reproduction (how a plant makes more of its own kind, plant propagation (the process of growing new plants from seeds, stems, or leaves), gifting and sharing, and entrepreneurship.  🙂

Light:   Medium to Bright Indirect 

About six hours of morning light from an east-facing window would be ideal.
No direct afternoon sun.

Water:  Low 

Mature plants store water in their roots.  For mature plants, allow 50% of the soil to dry between waterings.  With too little water, leaves will fade and droop. With too much water, leaves will turn yellow and mushy.  Avoid watering with flouridated water.

 

Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’  (Marble Queen Pothos)  

Once growing this popular plant at home, your young plant enthusiast will likely recognize it growing in restaurants, offices, and the homes of family friends. This beginner-friendly superstar can often be found growing up the walls and along the ceiling in restaurants.  

There are several varieties of Pothos available with differences in leaf colorings.  Most have heart-shaped green leaves with marbling in some shade of creamy white to bright gold.  There are some varieties with solid color leaves and no marbling such as Epipremnum ‘Neon’ (bright chartreuse) and Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’ (blue-green).

Pothos can be grown on tabletops when small, then in hanging baskets, or on elevated plant stands when larger.

 Pothos is very easy to propagate using stem cuttings, which makes it great for sharing or selling.

Note:  Pothos is toxic to people and pets when ingested.  Also, there is another plant sometimes labeled as Scindapsis pictus (Silver or Satin Pothos) which is highly toxic.  Take appropriate caution if you have young ones or pets in the home who may be tempted to eat plants.

Light:  Low to bright indirect (If leaf coloring fades (and plant is not dehydrated), it may need more light).  If leaves look bleached out, they are getting too much sun.

Water:  Medium – water when the top inch of soil is dry.

 

Peperomia caperata  (Emerald Ripple Peperomia)

Emerald Ripple Peperomia has thick, dark green leaves with deep fissures that provide interesting texture.  Every time I see one, I want to touch it!  This would be another good plant to use when teaching about similarities and differences or textures.  You could have a child feel the leaves of various plants and have them tell you what they notice about how they look and feel.  

Like many Peperomia plants, this one stays small and compact.  It would be ideal as a tabletop plant.

Light:  Bright Indirect 

At least six hours from an east or west-facing window is ideal.  Not enough light will cause this plant to stop growing.

Water:  Medium to Low 

Allow the top 50% of soil to dry between waterings.  Try to water the soil without getting the leaves or stems wet.  This could be done by adding a small amount of water at a time, and allowing it to soak in before adding more.

 

Peperomia argyreia  (Watermelon Peperomia) 

Watermelon Peperomia is easy to grow, stays small, and has pretty leaves with silver stripes that resemble the skin of a watermelon.

Here’s a fun way to use this plant in an observation exercise with a young child:  Place this plant along with a few others onto a table.   Ask your child to tell you anything they notice about any of the plants.  (Let them know they can gently touch the leaves if they like).  If the child doesn’t mention that the leaves of this one looks like a watermelon, ask if any of the plants have leaves that look like a sweet fruit that people may eat in Summer.  When finished, be sure to remind a young child about the plants in the home that we don’t eat.

Light:  Medium to Bright Indirect

Leaf color and patterns will fade and look bleached out if the plant is getting too much light.  With too little light, leaves will become darker green.

Water:  Medium 

Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry between waterings.  If leaves droop, the plant may need water.  Leaf tips turning brown could indicate over-watering.

 

Peperomia obtusifolia  (Baby Rubber Plant)

Although named, “Baby Rubber Plant”, this plant is not tree-like in form and is not related to the Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant).  The Baby Rubber Pllant is small and compact.  If stems are not pruned, they will grow long like a vine.

There are over 1000 varieties of Peperomia plants with vast differences in form, leaf color, size and textures.  All varieties are considered non-poisonous.  Most have small root systems so they will stay small, and not require frequent re-potting.  A child who enjoys growing plants might want to try out other varieties, and grow their own personal collection!

Light:  Bright Indirect  

About six hours of indirect morning light from an east-facing window would be ideal.  No direct sun.

Water:  Low 

Allow the top 50% of soil to dry between waterings.  Peperomias are similar to succulents in that they store water in their leaves and stems.

 

Pilea involucrata ‘Moon Valley’  (Friendship Plant)  

The look and feel of the leaves of this plant are very interesting.  This is another plant that I want to touch every time I see one!  🙂

The leaves are thick,  appear quilted, and have saw-toothed edges.  The center of the leaves are reddish brown, and the edges are bright green.  

Because of its unusual appearance and texture, Friendship Plant would be a good one to include in an observation exercise for young children such as comparing the visual and textural differences in the leaves of a group of plants, or perhaps looking at leaves under a microscope.

Light:  Bright Indirect

Water:  Medium – Water regularly when the top 25% of soil is dry, but be careful not to overwater.  Try to avoid getting the leaves or stems wet.

 

Pilea numulariifolia   (Creeping Charlie)

Creeping Charlie is my number one favorite indoor plant!  This beginner-friendly super pretty plant is a trailing vine that can be used as a tabletop plant when young, then moved to an elevated plant stand or hanging basket.

Creeping Charlie is fast-growing, and easy to propagate from stem cuttings.  Creeping Charlie stem cuttings will also root in a jar of water.

Light:  Bright Indirect

Water:  Medium – Water regularly when the top 25% of soil is dry.

 

Plectranthus verticillatus  (Swedish Ivy)

I have seen Swedish Ivy sold under the name of Creeping Charlie and vice versa.

The plant I know as Swedish Ivy has leaves that are smooth to the touch.  The leaves of Creeping Charlie are covered with fine hairs, and have deep fissures which form a somewhat quilted appearance. 

Swedish Ivy is one of those special plants that brings joy to my heart every time I see one!  There are many things I love about them.  First, they are very fast-growing and super easy to grow.  Second, they have pretty, bright green leaves with scalloped edges, and mature plants will produce 2” spikes of white or very pale lavender  flowers in early summer.  A large hanging plant in bloom is an eye-catching sight!

This plant can be used on a table top when young, and an elevated stand or hanging basket when larger.

Swedish Ivy may not be easy to find.  Its stems break easily so it does not transport well. You may have the best chance of finding this plant through friends, neighbors, and hobby growers (people who grow plants and sell them yard sale style or online through platforms like Facebook).

This plant is super easy to propagate (start new plants) from cuttings.  Broken stems can easily be turned into new plants!  Swedish Ivy would be a great plant for a teen interested in propagation as a hobby for gifting or selling plants.

Note: the sap from this plant will temporarily stain the skin orange, but it is harmless.

Light:  Bright Indirect 

About six hours of morning light from an east-facing window is ideal.  No direct sun.  Plants will become leggy (long thin stems with wide spaces between the leaves) if they are not getting enough light.  Leaves will scorch if light is too bright for too many hours.

Water:  

Medium – allow the top 25% of soil to dry between waterings.  If the plant foliage (leaves) fade and droop, the plant needs water.  If  the leaves turn yellow, the plant may be receiving too much water.  Err on the side of too little water.  Over-watering is a common cause of death for these plants.

 

Succulents!

Aloe vera (Common Aloe)

Aloe vera is super easy to grow.  The most critical factor in growing Aloe successfully is to avoid over-watering.

Aloe plants are very easy to propagate.  In fact, a mature plant will produce new baby plants called “pups”.  These new plants can gently be separated from the mother plant, and potted into their own containers.  That’s all there is to it!  It doesn’t get easier than that!

Light: Bright Indirect.

Light from an East facing window that gets several hours of morning sun would be ideal.  Aloe can be grown in west or south exposures as long as the plant is not right up against a window in direct afternoon sun during summer.  Plants too close to a hot window in summer will burn.

Water:  Very Low

Aloe can hold water in its leaves for very long periods of time.  Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.  This could mean that it may be as long as a month between waterings.  When in doubt, don’t water.

When in need of water, the leaves will become puckered rather than plump, firm, and smooth.

When an Aloe plant is receiving too much water, the leaves will turn brownish toward the tips.  Eventually, the leaves will turn completely brown and will droop rather than standing upright.

Aloe plants have small spikes on the leaf edges that are soft when young, but get sharper with age.  Mature plants with sharp spikes would not be safe for handling by very young children.

 

Crassula ovata  (Jade Plant)  

Jade would make a great starter plant for kids because they don’t need much attention.  They are also very common, and fairly inexpensive to purchase.

Although they don’t often flower indoors, they may produce pink or white flowers in December.   

There are several interesting varieties of Jade Plants available including Crassula ovata ‘Variegata’  (Variegated Jade Plant) which has pretty green and white leaves.

Jade plants are easy to propagate (start new plants) using stem or leaf cuttings. 

Healthy leaves can be removed from the plant, and planted directly into a pot of fresh potting soil.  Keep moist like a damp sponge. 

In addition to being a super easy, beginner-friendly indoor plant, Jade also makes a great container plant for the patio in full sun or part shade.

Jade is considered safe for kids, but toxic to pets.

Light: Bright Direct 

Jade plants are somewhat adaptable to lower light conditions.  Jade plants can live in low light, but they won’t put on any new growth.

Water:  Very Low 

Jade plants are succulents.  Allow soil to dry between waterings.  Indoors a plant may need water only once in two weeks during summer.  The plant leaves will fade and shrivel if they get too dry.  Leaves will turn yellow and drop off when over-watered, and the stems will become soft and mushy.

 

Portulacaria afra  (Elephant’s Food) 

As the common name suggests, this plant really is eaten by elephants in South Africa.

Elephant’s Food Plant is similar to the Jade Plant in appearance and has the same care requirements.   Elephant’s Food Plant has thick reddish brown stems and fleshy green leaves like the Jade Plant, but is faster growing and more loosely branched.

In this photo, there are actually two plants in one pot.  Portulacaria afra is the tall plant with reddish stems.  The plant with blueish green leaves and pink flowers is Delosperma cooperi.  Both plants have the same light and water requirements.

Outdoors in the ground, Elephant’s Food can grow quite large (6-8’ x 3’ or more).   It will be much smaller indoors when growth is restricted by a pot and indoor lighting.  Use it as a tabletop plant when young, then as a floor plant when it grows large.

This plant might be appealing to a teenager who favors minimalist decor, or who is interested in learning Bonsai (the art of growing trees or shrubs in miniature through regular selective pruning).  For a teen interested in earning money or establishing a business, selling bonsai plants is a good opportunity.  People pay good money for beautiful bonsai plants.

Light:  Bright 

At least six hours of direct or indirect light from an east, west, or south facing window should allow this plant to thrive.  In its natural outdoor environment, this plant grows in hot full sun desert areas.  It is also known to thrive in humid areas with high rainfall such as Florida.  If you find your indoor environment doesn’t provide enough light for this plant, try growing it outdoors on the porch or patio.

Water:  Low 

Although categorized as a succulent, this plant is also known to thrive in humid areas with high rainfall such as Florida.  I have noticed that my plant seems to prefer more frequent watering than my Jade plant.   Check your plant weekly, and allow soil to dry between waterings.  The plant leaves will fade and shrivel if they get too dry.  Leaves will turn yellow and drop off when over-watered, and the stems will become soft and mushy.

Additional Varieties of Portulacaria afra to Explore:

Portulacaria afra ‘Aurea’ – very low growing plant with chartreuse (yellowish-green) leaves.

Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ – very pretty plant with deep red stems and light green leaves outlined in creamy white.  This variety stays low, and has trailing stems which would make it ideal for hanging baskets or as a “Spiller” in a container planting.  For example, Portulacaria afra (or any upright growing plant with similar light and water requirements) could be planted in the center of a pot, and Portulacaria a. ‘Variegata’ could be planted closer to the side of the pot and allowed to spill over.  

 

Sempervivum tectorum  (Hens & Chicks)

These eye-catching succulents form beautiful rosettes, and are fun to grow!  The main plant (Hen) produces clusters of baby plants (Chicks).  Because these plants spread via underground runners, the best type of pot to use to grow them in would be a shallow wide dish or bowl.

There are many varieties of Sempervivum available with vast differences in appearance.

A young person might enjoy creating a personal collection of favorite varieties which could then be shared, traded, or sold!  I would love to have a collection of these myself.  There are so many that I like!

Light:  Bright Direct or Indirect

At least six hours of bright light from a west or south-facing window would be ideal.  In their native outdoor environment, these plants can grow in full sun or part shade.

Water:  Very Low 

Avoid over watering.  Allow soil to dry between waterings. 

Hens & Chicks also make ideal rock garden plants.  If your young plant enthusiast grows an abundance of “Chicks”, you might suggest experimenting by growing some outdoors.  If space allows, grow some in full sun and some in part shade, then compare the results. 

 

Edibles!

Generally, edible plants and herbs require a minimum of 6 hours of bright light per day during the growing season.  Many are normally grown outdoors in full sun, so the challenge when growing them indoors is providing enough light.

Here are a couple of herb plants you might try indoors:

Ocimum basilicum  (Basil)

Basil is a wonderful plant which might be most appealing to teens who are interested in trying out new foods and flavors, or who are just beginning to explore the worlds of cooking or nutrition.  Popular in Italian and Greek cooking, Basil has a very distinctive flavor used in many common favorites such as pizza, lasagna, pesto, salads, bruschetta, and hummus.

There are many varieties of Basil which have their own distinct flavors.  For a person who likes Basil, it might be fun to grow several different varieties.  Perhaps some could be grown indoors, and others could be grown outdoors in the garden or in pots.

For beginners, using established plants grown in a nursery would be the easiest way to get started growing herbs.

Light:  Bright Direct 

Six or more hours of direct light from a west or south-facing window would be ideal.

Outdoors, Basil can grow in full sun all day.

Water:  Medium to High

Basil needs regular water.  Keep soil moist like a damp sponge.  Water when no more than the top inch of soil is dry.

Tip:  Basil is a summer annual.  It grows during the warm season, then dies when it gets too cold (or when it does not get enough light when grown indoors).  Once the flowers form, the plant will set seed and begin to die.  Flowering may change the taste of the leaves.  Some people don’t like the flavor after flowering.  To prolong the life of the plant, trim it regularly before flowers form.  

Trimmed stems can be rooted in a jar of water.  Place the jar where it can receive some morning light.  Leaves from these rooting stems can be used fresh.   Change the water every couple of days, and the stems will stay alive for months.

When roots form, the rooted stems can be transferred to pots of fresh potting soil, or planted in the garden.

The leaves that are trimmed off can be used fresh, or preserved. Basil and many other herbs can be preserved by drying,  or by making a pesto using olive oil.  The pesto can be frozen in single serve portions (2 TBS is the amount I often use when cooking).  Instructions for various methods of preserving herbs can be found on YouTube.

 

Thymus (Thyme)  

Thyme is a perennial herb.  Perennial plants can live over many years, as opposed to “annual” plants (such as Basil) which complete their entire life cycle in one year (or season).  Thyme is commonly used to flavor meat, fish, vegetables, and salads, and has become one of my essential herbs.  Variegated Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus ‘Variegata’) is an especially beautiful variety that smells and tastes wonderful!

For herbs you use frequently, it is ideal if you can grow them in a kitchen windowsill or outdoors close to the house.

Light:  Bright Direct 

Six or more hours of direct light from a west or south-facing window would be ideal.  If you try growing Thyme indoors and find that it is not getting enough light, try growing it outdoors.  Outdoors, Variegated Lemon Thyme can grow in full sun or afternoon shade.  Note:  Potted plants will dry out faster than those growing in the ground,

Water:  Medium to Low

Water when the top 25% of soil is dry.

 

A Note About Plant Toxicity

With the exception of our known food plants, all plants used to beautify our indoor or outdoor spaces are potentially toxic to humans and pets to some degree.

Even some plants we consider “edible” can be seriously problematic for some individuals.

Those most vulnerable to toxicity in plants are infants, young children, and pets.  Ideally, plants should be kept out of reach of babies, toddlers, and pets.

Be sure to talk with your children about the difference between plants we eat and those we don’t eat, and point out those that may be growing in your home or yard that should not be eaten.

If you suspect a child (or adult) has eaten any part a plant, or if you notice symptoms of illness or dermatitis after handling a plant, call your Poison Control Center for additional information:  800.222.1222

The University of California provides lists of poisonous garden plants on their website including plants toxic to pets and those considered least toxic for young children:

https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/

 

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about growing indoor plants or Plant Care Basics?  Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants!

 

Let’s Connect!

I’d love to hear about your experience growing indoor plants with your kids.  If you have a question about the information in this post or comment to share, please let me know in the comments below.  If the comments are not showing, enable commenting by clicking on the title of this post.

 

Thank you, and enjoy!  🙂

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautify Your Indoor Space with Plants and Improve Your Well-being!

Beautify Your Indoor Space with Plants and Improve Your Well-being!

*This post may include affiliate links.  That means if you make a purchase through one of them, I will be compensated.  Using affiliate links does not result in a higher price for the consumer.  If you choose to purchase through one of my links, I thank you in advance for your support of my small business.

 

Does your indoor space feel like your sanctuary, or is it stressing you out?  

Having a space where we can unwind, recharge our energy, and express our individuality is good for our health and happiness.

Even if we don’t realize it, our surroundings have an impact on how we feel.  What we see day in and day out is going to have some influence on whether we feel calm or unsettled.

If our space is cluttered, dirty, or simply doesn’t have a positive vibe for us, that can cause stress. One of the simplest things we can do to improve how we feel on a daily basis is to beautify our personal space so that being in it feels good to us.

Transforming a space to one of positivity may not necessarily have to be expensive or a huge undertaking.  Start small with perhaps one room of your home or just a section of a room such as your office space.  The idea is to create a space that can be your own personal place of tranquility.

An inexpensive first step may be to simply give the space a good cleaning.  A thorough cleaning can often make a huge difference.  A clean space is calming, inviting, and inspiring.  A cluttered, disorganized, or unclean space can trigger anxiety, and is not welcoming or inspiring to most people.  There’s nothing like a dirty kitchen to squash the desire to cook a meal!  🙂

Self-care is key to our health and happiness, and sometimes finding our way to wellness involves removing things from our lives that don’t contribute to our happiness and well-being so that we can focus on the things that do.

If you are having difficulty cleaning because you are overwhelmed by clutter, remove anything you don’t absolutely love or that doesn’t serve a purpose in your life right now. Make a place for everything you are keeping, dispose of the trash, and give away the rest.

Josh Becker, creator of BecomingMinimalist.com has a great book, The More of Less and a step-by-step course to help people remove clutter from their lives. The course comes with access to a supportive online community of fellow students who are de-cluttering their homes and simplifying their lives.

Once clean, one way to quickly and easily beautify a space is to add living plants.  Plants not only help clean the air, they provide instant beauty and connection to the natural world.  Also, because they are alive, caring for them can provide a special sense of fulfillment.  If you need a new activity to enjoy, perhaps growing indoor plants would be a good hobby for you.  Growing plants not only allows a person to care for living things, but it can also lead to meeting new people and making new friends if that is something you would like to do.

As with other items of decor, keep it simple when decorating with plants. Depending on the size of your space, one or two plants may be all you need.

On the other hand, if you want more because you love them or you are growing them for fun, then go for it.  It’s your space!  🙂

How to Decide Where to Place a Plant

When decorating a room, place plants first because they have to have adequate light in order to thrive.  Other decorative items can be used in spaces that don’t get the best light.

Prime space for many indoor plants is about six inches from a window that gets good morning sun.  Strong afternoon sun during summer might be too much for some plants so you’ll need to keep an eye on them, and move them if you notice that their leaves are becoming scorched.  Lowering the light intensity by adding a sheer curtain or adjusting blinds in the afternoon during summer may be an option.

There are many plants that can grow in the low light conditions typical of many homes and offices.  If you don’t have space right in front of a window, work your way back from the windows, and look for other available spaces that still get some sunlight. In these areas, you will need to use plants that can tolerate low light conditions.  The farther away you get from windows, the less natural light there will be for your plants.

When deciding on where to locate plants, look for empty spaces that could use some color.  Trees or other large plants soften the look and feel of a room, and can be used to fill corners and other large spaces that have good light.  Several smaller plants can be placed around large ones to create an attractive grouping.

Small potted plants can be used on table tops and desks.  Trailing plants can be placed on the top of bookshelves, wall units, or elevated plant stands.  Avoid placing plants on top of or right next to televisions, computers, office machines, or other electronic devices.  The electro-magnetic energy given off from such machines is not good for plants, and it can also be a safety hazard when watering especially if children help water plants.

There are many attractive plant stands available now that can accommodate a good number of plants.  They are available in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes, and can be used in corners, along walls, or directly under windows.  Some are lightweight and easily portable or come in sets of multiple sizes that nest together for compact storage when not in use.  Discount retailers such as Big Lots and Tuesday Morning, as well as yard sales, thrift stores, and consignment boutiques are good places to find plant stands, pots, and baskets at bargain prices.

To help you get started choosing specific plants, check out ten easy to grow indoor plants here:

10 Great Plants Easily Grown Indoors

 

Many of these plants are commonly available at plant nurseries, garden centers, or even grocery stores.  Use this list to help you determine which plants might be the best fit for you and your space.

If you would like to learn more about how to choose the best plants for your indoor spaces, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Beautifying with Indoor Plants.  My goal for the guide is to provide you with the information you need to choose plants that are likely to work well for you over the long term, while minimizing potential stress or overwhelm related to the plant shopping experience.

I would love to hear how your project worked out and see your before and after photos!  Please share in the comments below.

Thank you, and Enjoy!

If the commenting text box is not showing below this post, access commenting by clicking on the post title.  🙂

 

 

10 Great Plants Easily Grown Indoors

10 Great Plants Easily Grown Indoors

Plants add quality to our lives on so many levels.  Indoors, they soften the environment, add living beauty to a room, and provide us with connection to the natural world.  All of the plants listed here are easy to grow even for beginners, and most are easy to find wherever indoor plants are sold.

 

Table Top Plants (Many can be used as floor plants when larger.)

Aloe vera  Common Aloe

Aloe Vera Plant for indoor spaceMay every family enjoy the presence of an Aloe plant!  Aloe is one of the most medicinally valuable plants on the planet, and it is super easy to grow indoors!  In addition to being spiky, bold & beautiful, you can’t beat fresh Aloe gel for minor burns on the skin.

Aloe is a succulent plant that can hold water in its leaves for long periods of time.  Like most succulents and other low-water using plants, Aloe prefers to “live on the dry side” when it comes to watering.  Over-watering is the most common cause of death for these plants.  Allow the soil to dry between waterings.  If you see the leaves begin to pucker and the soil feels dry, the plant needs water.  Browning at the tops of the leaves could indicate that the plant is suffering from over-watering or it’s too cold.

The Aloe plant is easy to propagate (start new plants).  Mature plants will produce baby plants or “pups” which can be gently separated from the mother plant, and planted into their own pots.

 

Crassula ovata  Jade or Money Plant

Jade is amazingly resilient, and pests are rarely a problem for this easy to grow plant! The Jade plant has thick stems with succulent leaves, and may produce white to pink flowers over winter if they get enough light.

Jade plants can get quite large (up to 6′ indoors).  Small ones can be used on desktops.  Large ones work well as floor plants.

Jade plants thrive in bright light.  They will tolerate low light, but may not grow any larger.  The leaf coloring will also vary depending on how much light a plant receives.  For example, Crassula ovata (the variety shown in this photo) will have almost yellow-green leaves with red on the edges when growing in full sun.  Indoor plants won’t be in full sun, but they may receive enough light to cause some change in the leaf coloring.

Jade, like the Aloe, is a low water user that prefers to live “on the dry side”.   Allow the soil to dry between waterings.  If the leaves fade and start to shrivel, the soil has gotten completely dry and the plant needs water. The ideal would be to water just before you see the leaves shrivel.  For example, if you notice the leaves shriveling after three weeks without water, try watering at two weeks apart.

Jade plants are very easy to propagate by stem or leaf cuttings.  Propagating plants might be a fun activity for kids or adults!
To make stem cuttings, simply cut a stem about 4 inches long.  Cut off the tip down to the second set of leaves from the top.  Remove the lowest set of leaves from the very bottom of the stem.  Place the cutting into a pot of fresh potting mix, and keep moist like a damp sponge.  The leaves you cut away from the stem can be placed directly into fresh potting mix (cut side down).  Keep moist until roots become established, then lower the frequency of watering.  You’ll know there is some root growth if you gentle pull the stem up, and you feel resistance.  You don’t want to actually pull the stem out of the soil if you can help it.  Just barely pull up on the stem, and see what you feel.

 

Peperomia species

There are so many beautiful varieties of Peperomia with vast differences in form, leaf color, size, and textures!  Most stay relatively small (about 18″ x 18″ maximum).  So they would be ideal on tabletops or elevated plant stands, but probably wouldn’t get large enough to use as floor plants.

The plant in this photo is Peperomia caperata ‘Emerald Ripple Red’, a red-leaved variety of which there are many.  Leaf colors vary from red tinged to dark burgundy!

A few additional eye-catching varieties include the following:

Peperomia c. ‘Jeli’ – upright growth and bright green & white leaves

Peperomia caperata – thick dark green leaves with deep fissures that provide interesting texture.

Peperomia argyreia – green and white stripes on the leaves that look like a watermelon.

Peperomia plants work well in bright indirect to low light conditions.

Generally Peperomias can hold water in their leaves and stems so if you forget a watering, they are likely to be fine. (Their care requirements are similar to succulents).  They are sensitive to over-watering.  Try to water the soil without getting the leaves and stems wet.

Most peperomia plants have small root systems so they will stay small, and not require frequent re-potting.

 

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Variegata’  Variegated Snake Plant

This beauty will tolerate some neglect and is very forgiving!

Sansevierias thrive in bright indirect light, however, they are also one of the best plants for low light environments.

Sansevierias come in many varieties with differences in leaf markings and coloring. Leaf color and markings will look best with bright indirect light.  If you notice the leaf coloring and markings are fading to solid green, the plant probably needs more light.  Avoid direct sun.

This plant is a low water using succulent. and would be ideal for frequent travelers.

Sansevieria plants have stiff upright leaves with sharp points on the tips so take care when choosing their location.  Don’t use it as a floor plant if you have a toddler in the home who could accidentally fall into it.

 

Trailing Vines for Hanging Baskets or Elevated Plant Stands

Cissus rhombifolia Grape Ivy

Grape Ivy is a beautiful vining plant with highly divided diamond shaped leaflets that have reddish hairs on the undersides which give the leaves a bronzy tint.  The vines of this plant can grow to 5′ long!  This plant will tolerate some neglect, but will flourish with just minimal care.

Although usually grown in hanging baskets, this plant can climb and support itself by tendrils that will wrap around a trellis or other support.  Create a living wall or room divider by growing it in a large pot with a decorative trellis!

Prune plants occasionally to keep them full and bushy.

Grape Ivy prefers medium to bright light.  If you notice that your plant seems to be stretching toward the light or the spaces between the leaves are getting longer, try moving the plant to a location with more light.  Avoid direct sun.

Allow the top 2 inches of the soil to dry between watering.  Try to water the soil without getting the plant wet.Crispy leaves on Grape Ivy could mean the plant has been over-watered. Premature leaf drop could also be caused by over-watering.

Grape Ivy is rarely bothered by many common houseplant pests, but is somewhat susceptible to powdery mildew.  A fairly new variety called Cissus rhombifolia ‘Mandianna’ is resistant to powdery mildew, and may be easier to find than the original Cissus rhombifolia.  ‘Mandianna’ is more upright growing than other varieties, so it may not be ideal for hanging baskets, but it would be great with a trellis.

Grape Ivy may produce bluish black berries in summer.  Keep plant out of reach of young children.

 

Hedera helix  English Ivy

English Ivy is an evergreen vine that comes in many varieties with different leaf shapes and markings.

All are easy to grow, and thrive with bright light and regular watering.  Water when top 25% of soil has dried.

English Ivy can be used as a tabletop plant, in hanging baskets, elevated plant stands, or as fillers with other plants in a dish garden or potted arrangements.  Ivy is also commonly used to make topiaries (plants trained into specific shapes or forms such as hearts or animals).

Some of the prettiest varieties of English Ivy include the following:

Hedera ‘Needlepoint’ –  very pointed green leaves that will stay small.

Hedera ‘Glacier’ – grayish green leaves with creamy white markings

Hedera ‘Teardrop’ – very pretty solid green heart-shaped leaves.

 

Tradescantia species  Inch Plant

This fast, easy care vine looks great in a hanging basket or elevated plant stand.  The leaves may be solid green or striped with a mix of purple various shades of  green, white or silver depending on variety.  The plant in the photo is Tradescantia zebrina Purple Inch Plant.

Tradescantia plants as a group are quite adaptable.  Indoors they thrive in bright light.  They will tolerate lower light, but the leaf coloring may not be as bright.  They will revert to solid green if the light is too low.

The key to keeping these plants happy is in the watering.  They like regular watering, but are susceptible to rot.  Water when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry, and try to wet the soil without getting the plant wet.

The name Inch Plant originates from the fact that when growing in the ground, these plants will root where each leaf meets the stem (about every inch along each stem which can ultimately grow to 6 feet).

Because these plants can set roots at every leaf, they are easy to propagate in water.  To make stem cuttings, use clean (wipe blades with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol) pruning shears or sharp scissors to cut a 6″ piece from a healthy stem.  Cut the top to remove  the top set of leaves so that what remains is a firm piece of stem.  The reason for doing this is so that the plant will put energy into growing new roots rather that trying to continue adding new leaves.  Also, the soft growth at the top would probably die as a result of the stem being cut from the rest of the plant.

Working from the bottom, remove the lower sets of leaves until only one or two remain towards the top.  This is done so that there will be no leaves submerged in water when you place your new cuttings into a jar of water.  Leaves under water will rot.  Put your new stem cuttings into a jar of water, and make sure none of the leaves are under water.

New roots should begin to grow in about a week.  When roots are about an inch long, plant your cuttings into a pot filled with fresh houseplant potting mix.  Placing several cuttings in one pot will make a fuller plant.  About five cuttings could be placed into a small pot (about a 4″ size), and up to 10 cuttings could all go into a six inch pot.

This plant has many other common names including all of the following: Wandering Willie, Purple Queen, Wandering Jew, Spiderwort.

 

Trees

Beaucarnea recurvata Ponytail Palm

Considered nearly indestructible, the Ponytail Palm adds instant interest to any room.  These slow-growing plants are sold in a variety of sizes from tabletop to tree size.  As they grow, the leaves will get longer, and the plant may need to be placed on an elevated stand so that its fountain-like leaves can hang naturally.

Ponytail Palms do well in bright light, and require very little water.

The leaves have very sharp edges, so keep them out of reach of young children.

 

Rhapis excelsa Lady Palm

Rhapis excelsa is one of the best palms for indoor use.  This tropical-looking palm will instantly beautify a room!  Commonly known as Lady Palm, this plant is somewhat adaptable in its ability to thrive in a variety is somewhat adaptable in its ability to thrive in a variety of temperature, soil, and lighting conditions.

Lady Palm thrives in bright indirect light, but will grow in a lower light situation.

This plant will tolerate some neglect, but will look best with regular watering.  Allow the soil to dry somewhat between waterings.  Water when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry.

This plant is slow growing, and therefore may be pricey.  If you want the immediate impact of a large plant, it may be worth the cost to purchase a large one.  If you don’t need the instant gratification of a large plant, you could purchase a small one and enjoy watching it grow.

Because it is slow growing, this plant is also known to be able to be able to live in the same pot for many years.  That means you could enjoy watching a small plant grow into a large one without frequent re-potting (transferring the plant into a larger pot).  Just note that if you want the plant to grow larger, it would need to be re-potted before it becomes pot-bound (a condition in which the roots of a a potted plant begin to circle around the inside of the pot and the plant growthhas outgrown its pot and stops growing larger)

There are some newer varieties available with variegated leaves or a dwarf growing habit.  If you want an upright tree-like form, be sure to specify that when shopping at the nursery.

 

Schefflera arboricola  Dwarf Schefflera

Schefflera arboricola has 1-3″ solid green leaves that grow in clusters of seven or more. This plant will tolerate less light than the variegated varieties of Schefflera (Variegated varieties have leaves containing more than one color).

As a group, Schefflera arboricola plants can be grown in a variety of ways.  As an indoor tree, they can grow into beautiful specimens up to 6-8′ tall!

Smaller plants can be used as bushy floor plants or on tabletops.

Tiny, young plants can be used in dish gardens.  These are commonly seen in offices and other commercial locations as well as floral gift arrangements.

This plant prefers bright light.  Without enough light, the plant will grow very slowly, and will become leggy (having stems or branches with long spaces between the leaves).  Direct sun may burn the leaves if the plant is too close to a window in summer.

Allow the top third of the soil to dry between waterings.  New growth will turn black and green leaves will fall off if plant is over-watered.

Regular pruning will help keep plants full and bushy.  These plants take well to pruning.  If a plant gets too big or leggy, prune it back.  Early spring is the best time to do pruning to reduce the size of these plants.  Light pruning to maintain fullness can be done anytime.

The variety Schefflera arboricola ‘Tribute’ has green and white leaves.

‘Gold Capella’ has dark green leaves with splashes of gold. 1-3″ leaves that grow in clusters of 7 or more.

Schefflera arbicola is one of several plants that may also be know by the common name of Umbrella Plant.

Although Scheffleras rarely flower indoors, they can produce flowers and tiny black berries which are toxic to kids and pets.

 

Please note: All plants or parts of them may be potentially toxic to pets and humans, especially young children.  Some plants are more toxic than others, and some can be deadly if ingested.  Take care when selecting and locating plants.  Keep plants out of reach of young children and pets. 

More information on toxicity of plants can be found here: http://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Toxic_Plants_by_Scientific_Name_685/

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