Brrrr….It’s a Cold Winter! part 1
Brrrrr. It’s been one cold, snowy winter here in Wisconsin! I look outside at the lovely white blanket of snow and can hardly believe that all those beautiful, colorful flowers and plants are just under the surface waiting for the snow to melt, the days to grow longer and the temperatures to warm!
If you live in a northern climate like I do you might be asking yourself, “What gardening can I do now?”. Well, there are several things you could be doing!
How about house plants! You are undoubtedly tending to any you have-watering them, cutting off any dead leaves, etc…
Or maybe you don’t have any house plants, but might consider getting some. With all the cold winter days your house is pretty closed up. Plants growing inside your home can help improve the air quality of your home! And they’re pretty!
Just make sure you get any houseplants home quickly and covered so they don’t get cold during transporting.
I’ve seen lots of lists of ‘easy to grow’ houseplants and I can honestly tell you that what is easy for one person might not be a successful plant for another. It’s kind of a trial and error thing to see what works best for you! It starts with understanding the existing environment in your own home.
What temperature do you keep your home at?
What kind of light would my plant/plants be able to get (right by a window? Window facing north? South? East? West?)
How much care/time do I have to devote to plants? (I know this sounds silly, but a person (been there) can get too many plants and then it’s just not fun anymore-it’s a chore.
*Is this plant safe around children/pets?
You can check out plants online and see what strikes your fancy and what conditions that plant requires. Make a list of the ones you’re interested in and go check them out at a reputable store.
*make sure if you have children and/or pets that you do not buy any plants that can be harmful to them!
Here is a partial list of indoor plants that could be harmful to your children and/or pets:
Aloe Vera…can cause vomiting, diarrhea and tremors
Asian Lily (Easter Lily)… vomiting, lethargy, kidney failure or death to cats
Asparagus Fern…ingestion of the berries could cause vomiting and/or diarrhea
Begonia…can cause irritation in the mouth, vomiting, etc.. The tuber (root) is the most toxic.
Baby’s Breath (not grown as a house plant but commonly in flower arrangements)…can cause vomiting and diarrhea
Calla Lily… irritation of the mouth, vomiting and difficulty swallowing
Corn Plant…vomiting (sometimes with blood), excess salivation, depression-cats
Cycads (Sago Palm, Fern Palm)…vomiting, bloody diarrhea, jaundice, liver failure, death (1 to 2 seeds can be fatal!)
Daffodil…vomiting, diarrhea (consumed in large amounts it can cause convulsions, tremors and cardiac arrhythmias). The bulb of the plant is the most poisonous.
Dieffenbachia or Dumbcane…oral irritation, drooling
Geranium…vomiting, depression and dermatitis
Ivy…berries are toxic; foliage can cause allergic reactions
Jade Plant…vomiting, ataxia
Pencil Cactus…mouth irritation, stomach irritation, sometimes vomiting
Ribbon Plant/Dracaena/Dragon Tree…vomiting (sometimes bloody vomit), salivation, depression-cats
Rubber Plant….vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, loss of appetite
Tulip…vomiting, diarrhea (most of the toxin is in the bulb)
*The number for the National Poison Center is 800-222-1222
There are links telling you more about some of these plants and others. If you are unsure about a plant don’t hesitate to look it up to make sure it is safe for your children and pets.
Some of my favorites that I’ve had success with are:
Begonia Begonia Rex
Not usually a long-lived plant (@ a year or two), but worth growing!This type of begonia
is grown for its foliage, which is beautiful! They like an average temperature; not below 55
Put them in a bright spot without direct sunlight. Remember to turn the pot every once in a while to keep the plant looking balanced.
They like it humid-so placing them on a pebble tray is helpful. A very light occasional misting is also helpful. When watering make sure you avoid wetting the leaves.
Spider plant Chlorophytum
A popular houseplant for a couple of hundred years!
This is a great plant for a hanging basket! They like an average temp., not below 45.
Spider plants aren’t too picky about light, so a well lit spot with no direct sun would be fine.
Water them liberally from spring thru fall, but sparingly in winter. They like humidity, so will appreciate an occasional misting in the summer
The one cool thing is how easy it is to propagate these plants. Just peg a ‘baby’ down on top of a small pot of loose potting soil and it will root there! Once it has some good established roots you just clip it off from its parent.
There are soooooooooo many different types of coleus with different leaf patterns!
They like an average temperature, not below 50.
Indoors they like a lot of light, so give them a sunny window (if/when you put them outside in the summer make sure you always give them shade from the noonday sun). They like their soil kept moist (a little less in the winter). Coleus like to be misted year ’round. This tells you they like it humid, so this is another plant that would benefit from being on a pebble tray.You should probably keep them no taller than 10″ or so, so just pinch them back, otherwise they will get ‘leggy’…. oh, and those pieces you pinch off can be rooted in water for more coleus if you want!
These are a variety of coleus I planted in a plastic container and then placed that inside an old wooden tool carrier.
Purple Passion Vine, Purple Velvet Plant Gynura sarmentosa
This is a beautiful plant that has greenish leaves covered with purple fuzzy hairs. It can bloom in spring or early summer but you’ll want to remove any flower buds due to the bad odor they give off.
They like bright, but filtered sunlight. If it doesn’t get enough light it will start to fade and lose it’s purple color.
Optimum temps are 65-85.
As far as watering, this plant has delicate roots; soil should be kept moderately moist at all times. Let the soil’s surface dry slightly between waterings. Avoid over watering as the plant is very prone to root rot.
It likes humidity, so will benefit from occasional misting.
propagation is easy through stem cuttings. Cuttings can be kept in water until the roots have grown. You can also place the cutting into a good quality potting soil. Roots will normally appear within one to two weeks.
Prayer Plant (Rabbit Tracks) Maranta leuconeura kerchoveana
Herringbone Plant Maranta leuconeura erythrophylla/M. leuconeura massangeana
These plants all have beautiful foliage. Rabbit Tracks have green leaves with dark brown spots that look like tracks. The first type of Herringbone has green leaves with red veins, the second type has very dark green leaves with silvery veins.
The prayer plant is fairly easy to care for. It likes it warm and humid during the warmer months of the year, so placing it on a pebble tray would be beneficial. In the winter is will slow down and ‘rest’. The ideal temperature for the Prayer Plant would be between 65-70F/ in the winter make sure it’s kept above 55.
In the summer it likes a generous amount of water; in the winter you only water it sparingly.
It is an ‘understory’ type plant, which means it would normally grow in nature under taller plants, which tells you that it needs bright indirect light-direct sun will burn its leaves.
When it comes time to repot it, it likes a loose, well aerated soil-so don’t pack it around the roots too tight; these plants will benefit from re-potting every couple of years.
If it becomes leggy, it would probably benefit from some pruning. Fall is the best time to do this.
This is one I bought at a nursery, brought it home and re-potted it. A year later it looks like the pic below.
There are several different varieties, one I of my favorites is P. caperata aka Emerald Ripple. It has green leaves that are deeply furrowed-very cool.
Peperomia are compact and slow growing, originally from the South American Jungle so they like average temps, not below 50 and they like humidity. Bright or semi-shaded light suits them. Let soil dry between waterings and mist occasionally in summer. They prefer a loose, peat based soil.
Wax Plant Hoya carnosa
The wax plant is a vining type of plant with thick green leaves that are sometimes splashed with silver or cream specks. (There’s also a lovely variegated type that has leaves with lots of cream color along with the green). They are probably best grown in a hanging basket or in a pot with some small type of hoop or trellis to wind the vines around (just loosely tie them to structure with florist wire).
They like bright light, but not direct sun. I keep mine outside on a shaded porch in the summer and they seem to love it. Water liberally spring to fall, but sparingly in winter. They like humidity, but don’t want to be wet.
You can trim them back in early spring, but don’t prune off the leafless stem (spur) because that’s where flowers are produced. The flowers will form in a cluster on the same spurs year after year. They look like a bouquet of light pink stars with dark pink star centers! They almost look like they’re not real and made of wax!
Only re-pot when they have completely outgrown their pot and not when they’re in flower. They really don’t like to be disturbed at that time.
African Violet Saintpaulia
This one seems to be a lot of folks’ favorites! It’s a compact plant with fuzzy leaves and can flower at almost any time of year with white, pink, purple single or double flowers (or some ruffled and some having an accented edge color!). They need warmth, not less than 60 in the winter, and they don’t like drafts. An east or north window is probably best. You’ll want to keep the soil evenly moist, and water from the bottom to prevent leaf browning from water spots.
Christmas Cactus Schlumbergera x buckleyi (there are other varieties)
This is one that my father-in-law just loved. I don’t think I could ever see a Christmas Cactus and not think of him. He had a couple of gorgeous plants that he kept most of the time on his enclosed front porch (until the temps dropped, then they went in the basement by a sunny window).
What has worked best for me with the Christmas Cactus is to move it outside in the shade when temps warm up to above 50. They stay outside all summer/fall, until the temps start to drop to 50 again, then I bring them back inside and put them in a sunny window. I try to keep them in a room where they mostly get natural light. They seem to need shorter daylight hours to set their buds.
Always allow the soil to dry between waterings. And fertilize only in the spring/summer. I water them more in the summer and cut back their water some once they start setting buds.
They like it warm in summer but cooler in the winter. And they, like most plants, don’t like drafts.
As far as soil goes, they like a light, humus-rich, somewhat acidic soil.
close-up of flower
Old pic of one of my father-in-law’s plants
So, these are some of my favorites…what are some of yours?