Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Plant Lover's Heaven on Earth

Sinningia 'Peridots Darth Vader'
What could be better for a plant lover than two plant shows and sales on the same day? Not much in my opinion. So, I found a friend who loves plants as much as I do, and made a day of it.
 Our first stop was at the African violet show and sale,  put on by the Michigan African Violet society. The event included not only a sale of fabulous African violets and other gesneriads, but also a mini flower show. Having classes about the care and cultivation of African violets was an added bonus. And the best part, it was all FREE! Yes, I said free. Of course, if you buy plants, its not technically free, but that is beside the point. You could see beautiful flowers and learn about them for free, if you could control yourself. I know I did.......
Streptocarpus sale table

The members of the society grow all these gorgeous plants in their homes and then bring them to the sale to tempt we unsuspecting plant nerds. This really isn't too hard for them to do. Who could resist these gorgeous flowers? Not me.

African violet show table

Educational board at the show
African violets for sale

Sinningia 'Peridots Darth Vader'

Euphorbia neohumbertii in desert house

Since this show and sale was held at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, we couldn't possibly leave without making a quick trip through the conservatory.....They've done so much trimming and cleaning up in the plant beds, it was like visiting a new conservatory. I'll show you a couple of pictures.

Myrtle topiaries with New Guinea impatiens

Flowering bonsai at Matthaei

Orchid display

Next, we grabbed some lunch and headed for the orchid show, hosted by the Michigan Orchid Society. Unfortunately, these shows are on completely different sides of town, but its okay; we plant nerds are willing to drive great distances for plants. This event also has a show, which included not only orchids, but also flower arrangements and art pieces incorporating the orchid. And, of course, there are the vendors, selling (hopefully), the orchid you saw in the show that you can't live without.
Let me tell you, the people that attend these shows are very serious about buying plants. You may have to elbow your way to the table to get the plant you're after. Being one of the first people through the door does help. We couldn't be in two places at one time though, so I guess we'll never know what we missed. There was still plenty to tempt us even at the end of the day.

Flower arrangement at orchid show

The classes at these shows are exceptional. They are taught by  people who are passionate about growing African violets and orchids. They show you how to get your plants to bloom, re-pot correctly, and the best lighting conditions to make your plant grow and bloom. The orchid show was also free, if no purchases were made.

I had a wonderful day. I learned more about houseplants, and shared the day with a friend. We talked to the vendors, who grow these plants to sell. They have tips and tricks no one else has  and we learned that by going at the end of the day, they had time to talk to us. They love to talk about their plants and I took notes!
Next time you get a chance to go to a plant show, don't hesitate to go, and of course, take some money for these "free" events.

Rhy. digbyana orchid

Art at the orchid show in Lansing

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gesneriads Are Great!

Sinningia 'Peridots Sand Pebbles'
I love being a member of plant societies! Why? Because, that is where I learn. I will never be the person that says, "I know everything about houseplants." I know a lot, more than the average person, but I know there is always more to learn. Much more. That is why I join societies. I'm in two African violet clubs, and the cactus and succulent society. I plan on joining an orchid society this month. Believe me, these people are passionate about their chosen plants and know more than I could ever learn. My problem is that I like (okay, am obsessed) with ALL houseplants. I try to learn as much about every plant and plant family as I can.
 A few weeks ago,  at the African violet meeting I attended, we learned about  gesneriads other than African violets. Many of these plants are grown more often for their fabulous foliage rather than their flowers. The flowers are gorgeous, but many are just not that floriferous.

Sinningia 'Peridots Sand Pebbles' tuber
Sinningias are grown from tubers and are quite easy to cultivate. Sinningia speciosa is incorrectly known as "florist gloxinia'. They are grown like African violets but do need more light to stay compact. Instead of 10-12 hours, 12-14 hours of fluorescent light daily would be better. The tubers can go dormant, and if they do, move to lower light levels and water less until new growth appears. Fertilize regularly and let them dry slightly between waterings.

Sinningia 'Peridots Darth Vader'

Sinningia 'Merry Christmas'

Petrocosmea forrestii

Petrocosmea are beautiful symmetrically growing gesneriads. To me they look like water lilies. They do flower, but it wouldn't matter to me if they didn't. The flowers resemble those of wild violets, but with better foliage. The leaves overlap each other and the entire plant is very flat.  These plants can be placed at the end of the light tubes needing less light, and on the lowest level, where it is cooler. 


Streptocarpus 'Brooklin's Bubble Gum'
Streptocarpus are some of my favorites after African violets. They are easy to grow and I love the flowers, since they look like pansies. Streptocarpus are commonly called cape primrose, as they come from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and the foliage resembles that of the common garden primrose. These plants take the same care as African violets, but are more forgiving of drying out. It has been said,  you know it is time to water streptocarpus when they have wilted. Now, I will tell you, that isn't the best policy, but they do bounce back. A more consistent watering schedule does make for a happier, healthier plant.

This Streptocarpus flower resembles a pansy.

Streptocarpus 'Gwen'

Episcia 'Lemon Zest'

Episcia 'Kee Wee'

Episcia 'Kee Wee' leaf
Episcias have the most beautiful foliage of all the gesneriads. The flowers are pretty, but it really is all about the foliage with this group of plants. They are commonly called "flame violets" as their flowers are usually red tubular flowers. These plants need  to be placed in a bright window, or need 14 hours of fluorescent light a day. This helps keep their colors at their brightest, though too intense light can bleach their foliage. Humidity is the key to happiness with episcias. They prefer very high humidity, so they are quite often grown in terrariums. They are stoloniferous plants, meaning they send out stems with miniature plants on the ends. These can be pinned to a pot of soil to make more plants. Because of this habit, they also look good growing in hanging baskets.

Episcia 'Cleopatra'

Kohleria 'Peridots Mango Martini'
Kohlerias are grown from rhizomes. Bearded or German iris are also grown from rhizomes if that helps visualize it. These are planted horizontally, and the rhizomes or rootless stems send foliage up from the top and grow roots on the bottom side. Kohlerias can go dormant for a period of approximately 3 months and then start to grow again.

Primulina (Chirita) 'Crossroads'

Primulinas, formerly chiritas, are very easy plants to grow. I have found from first hand experience, that these plants are very adaptable. Mine is on the same light stand as my African violets and blooms well there. They can be grown at the end of the light tubes, as they need less light and on the bottom shelf, where it is cooler. Their thick, quilted leaves are quite beautiful and I've found them to be less demanding of water.

Columnea 'Orange Prince'

Columneas are beautiful plants, usually grown as hanging baskets. That is how this 'Light Prince' was growing when I purchased it. Read more about this particular plant here: http://www.houseplantguru.blogspot.com/2013/02/heres-to-you-fabio.html .

Whether you stick with the ever-popular African violet or venture into the world of its gesneriad cousins, I think you'll find these are an easy to grow group of plants. They ask for no more than bright light, consistent water, and regular fertilizer to keep them happy, blooming, and healthy. What more could you ask for?