Posted in houseplants, loreeebee.ca

Houseplant Care: What I’ve Learned

I’ve learned lots since I decided to replenish my collection of houseplants almost two years ago. I had given up on them years ago when my boys were young, mainly because my middle son destroyed most of them by pouring stuff into the pots. I even caught him urinating in one once.

Facebook Groups

I have to admit, most of my new found knowledge of houseplant care has been gleaned through a few Facebook groups I joined. Houseplant Help is just one of many, simply submit a request to join on their page.

Pandemic restrictions have spawned many of these groups, a therapy of sorts for some of us not used to being stuck at home.

Insect Infestations

Houseplants do attract bugs, so if (tiny) bugs flying around gross you out, houseplants may not be for you. These tiny bugs include fungus gnats that love wet/damp soil, spider mites, thrips, you name it.

There are, however, numerous ways to combat the bugs, depending on how big of an infestation and how many houseplants you have. I have not yet tried the repellers but like the idea. They work using sound waves, so no chemicals, radiation, smell etc. They are more expensive than other methods as you need one per room; they simply plug into an electrical socket. They also deter other pests like mice, spiders and other unwanted guests you might not want in your home. I might consider these to keep mice, chipmunks and squirrels from the cozy warmth inside our cottage.

A second, less expensive option, are sticky traps. Like their name implies, the bugs get stuck on the sticky surfaces of these traps. Some people might find the sight of the bugs stuck to the traps offensive. The traps come in many shapes, I have this butterfly version in my home. My husband is one of those people that hate the sight of them covered in little black dots. The bonus to these is that they work for fruit flies too, something (I’m sure) everyone finds bothersome in the summer. I keep one stuck to the underside of my kitchen cabinet above the spot I store bananas. Works wonders, and you don’t see the proof that they work…

Another way to minimize insect infestations on your houseplants is to spray the soil and leaves with insecticidal soap. This is especially important when transferring plants from the outdoors to inside your home. Here in Canada we like to put our houseplants outside for the summer to let them flourish in the fresh air, rain and sunshine. When frost threatens we bring them back inside to overwinter. However, if you fail to treat the soil and leaves before bringing them inside, you will bring in much more than just the plants!

Watering Tips

Most experts will tell you overwatering houseplants is the fastest way to kill them. To determine how often to water them, stick your finger in the soil of each potted plant to determine how dry the soil is. Each pot will be different based on the type of plant, type of pot (clay pots dry out faster than plastic), where in your home it is located (sun exposure), and even what the weather is like outside (plants need less water in cooler months here in Canada).

Repotting Do’s and Dont’s

One of the biggest mistakes I made was repotting my houseplants into pots that were too large. Apparently you must only move up one pot size at a time to avoid root rot. I lost several plants going too large too fast; my impatience got the best of me. I chose large planters to complement my decor, not to suit my plants.

I have since managed to salvage a few of these mistakes by removing the struggling plants from the large pots, then tucking them into smaller pots. I have several small pots sitting on top of the larger, decorative pots that I purchased. Eventually, they will fit into the large pots…

Unfortunately, the plant on the left did not survive in the too large pot.

Another repotting tip involves washing the roots of your plant before repotting it. Root washing is especially helpful if the plant was not thriving in its previous pot. This practice of washing the roots is also recommended when planting perennials and annuals in your outdoor gardens and containers. Although I have just started to do this in my outdoor gardens, I can see how root washing is beneficial to remove excess fertilizer and relieve root bound plants, not to mention flushing out any diseases or pests inadvertently transported home from the nursery or a friend’s garden.

Did I forget anything? Do you have any tips for houseplant care that I did not mention?

Posted in houseplants, loreeebee.ca

Houseplant Obsession

This past month I have been obsessed with houseplants. I’m not sure if it is because we have been under lockdown for so long, due to my love of anything green or my love of nature and gardens. Probably a combination of all three, much to the chagrin of my husband who keeps reminding me “the gardens are outside.” Hmmmmm, I can fix that, I do love a challenge…

Indoor Potting Station

Typically I take stock of my houseplants in winter, when my gardening business is snowed in, but this year I think I have taken this obsession to a whole new level. Recently, a large box of soil bags, plastic saucers that go under plants to protect floors, and pots has taken up space in my front hallway. The floor there is easier to clean up after spills, so this spot has become my potting station.

Research Your Options

The internet is a great resource for which houseplants to buy (or trade with like-minded friends for), what window to place them in and how and when to repot and take cuttings. I love this site in particular; it provides lots of “how to” videos for all sorts of plantings.

I have also joined a Facebook group of other individuals in Ottawa that are as houseplant obsessed as I am.

Propagation Techniques

My granddaughters and I have started seeds, with some progress. Currently we have success with zinnias, strawberries, lemons, and lots of hibiscus. We will have to restart some in a warmer spot in the house; my basement kitchenette appears to be too chilly.

There are several other ways to propagate all plants, including houseplants. I am currently attempting a few methods to increase my own houseplant population.

Leaf Cuttings

Taking leaf cuttings and putting them in water (changing it often) until roots develop is just one way, but by far the simplest. This method works best on plants with hardy stems such as African violets.

Adding rooting hormone to leaf cuttings and inserting the stem into perlite (lightweight, volcanic glass pieces used to hold air in soil) or potting soil also works well. Sanseveria work well with this method; several sections can be cut from one leaf, just be sure to keep track as you cut them into sections so they are planted right side up. It does make a difference; if you plant the sections upside down (easy to do when removed from the plant), they will rot.

Air Layering

Air layering is another propagation method, but a bit more complicated. Make a slit on a stem (2/3 of the way through the stem) between two leaves, cover the wound with damp sphagnum moss and wrap the area in plastic wrap to create a humid environment. When new roots form, cut the new plant off and pot it up.

houseplant obsession
photo credit

Simple layering

Simple layering involves pinning runners or long stems into soil while still attached to the parent plant to form new root systems. When the new roots and new shoots form, sever the connecting stem between the parent plant and the new roots/shoots and pot your new baby up. Pothos, ivy and spider plants propagate well with this method.

Houseplant Obsession
photo from Pinterest

Division

Sometimes when repotting your plants the roots just naturally fall apart (divide) into separate clumps, creating another easy way to propagate and grow your collection or to share with others. Sanseveria (snake plants) and ferns lend well to this division method.

My perennial gardens outside are very familiar with the division method, with spring being the perfect time to do so.

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring, but until then I will remain houseplant obsessed.

Posted in houseplants, loreeebee.ca

How to Make Your Orchids Rebloom

If you have you purchased (or been gifted) orchids with beautiful blooms, but the blooms are now gone, follow these easy steps to make them rebloom to their former glory.

Water

The easiest way to kill your orchids, and most other houseplants, is to overwater them.  The best way to water orchids is to take the pot to a sink, pour approximately 1/2 cup of water into the pot and then let ALL of the water drain out.  Do this every 7 to 10 days, letting the soil dry out in between watering.  Of course, this means your orchids should be in a pot that drains well.

Light

Another important requirement of orchids is the amount of sunlight they receive.  Direct sunlight is too harsh and will burn them, but too little sunlight will prevent them from flowering well.  Orchids prefer sunlight (not directly) from a south-facing window in the winter months, and an east or northwest exposure in the summer months.

Temperature

Preferred temperatures vary between types of orchids.  Read the labels on the ones you have to ensure optimal temperatures for your orchids. None of them like temperatures below 60 degrees F though, and none like to be near cold air drafts.  If you do not know whether your orchid is a cool, warm or intermediate type, keeping it between 65 and 80 degrees F should work.

Food

Keep in mind that the rest periods in between blooms allow for the plants to restore their energy levels.  After the blooms have faded and fallen off, wait until the stalk has completely turned brown before cutting it off at the point where it meets the plant.  

Food is important though to keep your orchids blooming their best.  There are commercial forms of orchid food available which contain a higher phosphate (the middle number) level than nitrogen (first number) and potash (third number) for optimal blooms. 

Feed your orchids every second watering while in bloom, otherwise once a month.

Repotting and Air Roots

Orchids may need repotting after two years, depending on how compacted its roots are. Most orchids are grown in clear plastic pot liners (that sit in more decorative pots) with lots of drainage holes. This makes it very easy to determine if your orchid needs repotting. Simply lift the pot liner out of its outer pot and check for crowded roots.

If you have air roots forming, you may need to repot, although air roots are common and not necessarily a bad thing. They do indicate a low humidity level though. If the air roots are white or pale green and firm, they are healthy and of no concern. Leave them alone. They absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. The green colour is from the chlorophyll which is essential for photosynthesis.

You can tell a lot about the health of your orchid by the colour of its roots. Green roots mean your orchid is healthy and has recently been watered. As they dry out, the roots will become paler in colour. If your roots are yellow or brown and appear shriveled or mushy, they have been overwatered. If roots are brown and crispy, they are dehydrated. Neither are healthy and should be removed, but only when your orchid is not blooming.

Conclusion

I just finished repotting and reevaluating all of my houseplants, including one orchid I received as a birthday present a few years ago. This orchid was not doing much, so I followed my own (researched) advice and moved it to the bright, indirect light of a south facing window. I also repotted it as it was pot bound and exhibiting air roots.

It now has a new leaf emerging; I can’t wait for new flowers!

Hopefully the tips above will help you keep your orchids looking great.  If you have put off buying them because you thought they were too difficult or fussy, give them a try.  They cannot be beat for their spectacular blooms!

Let me know if you have any other tips, I have to admit I am new to this reblooming orchid experience.

Posted in houseplants, loreeebee.ca

Houseplants Deserve Some TLC Too

Houseplants deserve TLC too, this time of year is as good as any to give them the attention they need. As we are still in lockdown here in the Ottawa area, with strict “stay home” orders, my green thumb is coming out this week.

Over time, the soil in houseplants gets depleted of nutrients and compacted, similar to the soil in your gardens and containers outdoors. As I cannot get out into my gardens yet, my front hall way is currently lined with bags of soil, pots and plants. All of my houseplants will be getting fresh soil and bigger pots to spread their roots and strut their stuff with a chaser of diluted fertilizer to encourage root growth. If you are really ambitious, or you discover any rotting or dead roots, you can rinse your plants off before repotting them. A set tub works well for this job, although I prefer to do it in the summer, outside.

For an introduction to a few new houseplants (one can never have too many) and some soil I shopped online at the House of Plants, a small business here in Ottawa. Currently offering curbside pickup or local delivery with nationwide delivery resuming in the spring, House of Plants has not missed a beat during the pandemic. They offer a wide selection of houseplants, suitable for many different light conditions.

A while back I wrote about the role houseplants play in removing toxins from the air in our homes. With windows and doors closed tightly against the cold air and our furnaces running constantly, this air cleansing is more important than ever during the winter months.

Last summer gardening was a new found hobby for many, during the winter months houseplants are now on trend. Whether you want to add to your existing houseplant collection or start one, contact House of Plants for all your needs and support their new business.

Posted in houseplants, loreeebee.ca

What to do with your amaryllis when it stops blooming

If you have ever purchased or been given an amaryllis plant, you know how beautiful they are.  Amaryllis make spectacular houseplants, especially at Christmas time.  I like to plant several each year to give as Christmas and hostess gifts.  After they finish blooming, you can save the bulbs for a similar display next year.  Just follow the simple steps below…

Once the blooms have all faded, cut off the flower stem just above where it comes out of the bulb. You might notice that the bulb is slightly softer or smaller than when you first planted (or received) it.  That’s because it has used up a lot of the material inside the bulb to make the flowers and stems you’ve just witnessed.  To bloom again, it must begin the process of restoring that material and fattening the bulb to its former state.

To do this, you should treat your amaryllis bulb like a houseplant. If it is in a pot without drainage holes (many of my Christmas planters use inexpensive pots without drainage) transplant it to one with holes.  As it grows more leaves, water it sparingly, only when the soil looks very dry. Once a month, add fertilizer to the water to keep the supply of nutrients available.  Give it as much bright light as you can during the winter months.  In summer, take it outside, and put it in bright or filtered, but not direct sunlight.

By the end of the summer, the bulb should feel much plumper and fuller.  At the end of September let the amaryllis bulb go dormant.  Bring it inside, and stop watering it. Once the soil has dried out, the leaves will begin to die. When they have all turned yellow and then brown, the bulb is dormant. You can cut off all the leaves just above the neck and pull the whole bulb and root ball out of the pot. Shake off the soil and trim the roots back to about two inches. The bulb will look just like it was when you first got it.

Leave the bulb somewhere cool and dry until the beginning of November (if you want blooms for Christmas), when you can plant it in a pot of fresh soil and start the flowering process all over again. Plant the bulb so the top third of the bulb is exposed.  Mine take about seven weeks after they are planted to bloom.  November 6th is my plant day for a Christmas bloom time, you can adjust accordingly.  Add a stake to attach to the growing plant in your container since many of the stalks get top heavy.  If you’re careful, you can keep this flowering-and-replenishing cycle going for years. The bulb will grow larger each year and gradually start producing second and sometimes even third flower stalks.

If you try this method, please be sure to let me know how it works for you!

 

Please be sure to visit my other blogs:

Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at YOUR DAILY CHUCKLE

and

be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW

Posted in health and wellness, houseplants, loreeebee.ca

Rid your home of toxins by adding houseplants to your decor

Toxins are present in your home in the form of cleaning products, paints, furniture, synthetic building materials such as particleboard and insulation, carpets, and even your printer and photocopier!  Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases released by all of these common household items listed. Exposure to these VOC gases can cause lethargy, skin rashes, headaches, drowsiness, itchy eyes, asthma-like symptoms, and even cancer.

My body reacts to these toxins with cold and asthma-like symptoms.  Almost immediately upon exposure, I start off with a heaviness in my lungs, a vague headache, and a tickle in my throat.  I then develop a dry cough which can last up to four days after the exposure, as my lungs try to eliminate the toxin I have inhaled.  I have learned to avoid many of the toxins I was exposing myself and my family to by switching cleaning products.  Since switching to non-toxic cleaning products my mild asthma symptoms have disappeared.

You can also make your home healthier by adding house plants to your decor. This will help remove toxins you have less control over.  Not only do plants look nice, but they can also help keep your family healthy.  Carbon dioxide and the VOCs described above, as well as other harmful gases such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene are absorbed through the roots as well as through pores in the leaves of plants.   In exchange, beneficial and healthy products like oxygen and moisture are released into the air for us to breathe.

Choose plants such as spider plants, dracaena, English ivy, mother-in-law tongues, bamboo palms, and other tropical plants; they are all easy to grow and readily available.  Tropical plants are suitable for indoors in homes and offices because they are used to growing and processing gases in reduced light under the canopies of jungles and rain forests.  Water your plants thoroughly with warm water and let the soil dry out between watering; too much water is the easiest way to kill your house plants.

Some houseplants are suitable for a bright, sunny room while others prefer less natural light. Do your research to be sure you choose the right plants for specific areas of your home.

Fifteen medium to large houseplants (greater than six-inch pots) can greatly improve the air quality in an average-sized 2000 square foot home. What are you waiting for?   Get growing and remove the toxins from your home!

Posted in houseplants, loreeebee.ca, nature

How to make your indoor orchids rebloom

If you have you purchased orchids with beautiful blooms, but the blooms are now gone, follow these easy steps to make them rebloom to their former glory.

Water:  The easiest way to kill your orchids, and most other houseplants, is to overwater them.  The best way to water orchids is to take the pot to a sink, pour approximately 1/2 cup of water into the pot and then let ALL of the water drain out.  Do this every 7 to 10 days, letting the soil dry out in between waterings.  Of course, this means your orchids should be in a pot that drains well.

Light:  Another important requirement of orchids is the amount of sunlight they receive.  Direct sunlight is too harsh and will burn them, but too little sunlight will prevent them from flowering well.  Orchids prefer sunlight (not directly) from a south-facing window in the winter months, and an east or northwest exposure in the summer months.

Temperature:   Preferred temperatures vary between types of orchids.  Read the labels on the ones you purchase to ensure optimal temperatures for your orchids. None of them like temperatures below 60 degrees F though and none like to be near cold air drafts.  If you do not know whether your orchid is a cool, warm or intermediate type, keeping it between 65 and 80 degrees F should work.

Food:  Keep in mind that the rest periods in between blooms allow for the plants to restore their energy levels.  After the blooms have faded and fallen off, wait until the stalk has completely turned brown before cutting it off at the point where it meets the plant.  Food is important though to keep your orchids blooming their best.  There are commercial products available for orchid food which contains a higher phosphate (the middle number) level than nitrogen (first number) and potash (third number) for optimal blooms.  Feed your orchids every second watering while in bloom, otherwise once a month.

Hopefully the tips above will help you keep your orchids looking great.  If you have put off buying them because you thought they were too difficult or fussy, give them a try.  They cannot be beat for their spectacular blooms!

pictures courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

copyscape picture