Friday, October 31, 2014

Scary Plants

Today is Halloween so I decided to mention a few plants that have names that conjure up thoughts of evil or actually are kind of evil.
The first one is the carrion flower or Stapelia gigantea. Its flowers actually smell like carrion or dead flesh, thus attracting its pollinator, the fly. As you can see from this picture a couple of flies have been lured to pollinate this flower. Yuck!
Carrion flower or Stapelia gigantea
This next plant is called devil's backbone. As you can see at the bottom of the picture, the stems are definitely not following the "straight and narrow" path. It is commonly called the zigzag plant, as well.
Devil's Backbone Pedilanthus tithymaloides
This is the green worm or caterpillar plant. I love the footed ferns and have blogged about them here: Ferns with Feet.
Polypodium formosanum or green worm fern

Polypodium formosanum rhizome up close
This plant below is the dead stick plant and it is a hanging succulent. It does look like a dead stick. It is Cynanchum marnierianum.

Cynanchum marnierianum or dead stick plant
 Another dead stick plant is Euphorbia platycada. I love the color of this plant in the sun. Plants that resemble dead sticks are just trying to stay alive. Most herbivores don't want to eat a dead stick. Pretty intelligent plants, huh?
Euphorbia platycada or dead stick plant

Chlorophytum comosum

 Everyone knows about the ubiquitous spider plant or Chlorophytum comosum. It makes new babies which hang off the mother plant by long stems, resembling little spiders hanging from webs, thus the name.

The next plant is the rabbit's foot fern or Cynanchum marnierianum. Why do I have this plant in the scary plant category, you ask? Because my sister-in-law turned around in her chair while having dinner at my home and this plant was behind her. She shrieked, thinking it looked like some kind of tarantula leg or something. Lol! It is pretty creepy looking.

Davallia fejeensis
The crocodile fern or Microsorum musifolium 'Crocodyllus' is up next. I wouldn't want to mess with a crocodile, would you? This close up of the leaf makes it obvious how it received its common name.
Microsorum musifolium 'Crocodyllus'
I call this "Shrek's ears" but it is really a jade, Crassula ovata 'Gollum' . We just had a fall fun festival at our nursery and the each child that came could plant a spider plant in a chalkboard pot or these "Shrek's ears" in a green pot. They loved it. Check it out- they really do look like Shrek's ears.

We also all are familiar with Sansevieria - snake plant or mother-in-law plant. You may think both names apply. (Not to my mother-in-law. She's the best!)
Sansevieria or snake plant

 Another slithery plant is the rattlesnake plant or Calathea lancifolia. I guess the pattern on the leaves and the long thin shape made someone somewhere think of a rattlesnake. Not me.
Calathea lancifolia
The next plant is called devil's ivy or Epripremnum aureum and the cultivar I have is 'Neon'. Why do a lot of plants have a common name with devil in it? That may be a blog for another time.
Epipremnum aureum 'Neon'

The stag horn fern Platycerium superbum below doesn't really have a scary name or anything. I just thought this one looks like it has a huge mouth coming out to eat someone.

The last one I have to share with you is this bonsia with a little gargoyle caught in its roots. I love it! I hope you have a Happy Halloween and enjoyed these "scary" plants.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Christmas Is Over- Now What?

'Red Glitter' Poinsettia
 This is a little early, but as we all know, the holidays are right around the corner, whether we want them to be or not.  You probably will buy or receive a poinsettia. I work at a nursery, so I bring home quite a few. I won't lie, this didn't used to be a plant I even liked, (could there be a houseplant I don't like?) but I have learned to love them. 
Your poinsettia is beautiful, colorful, and has brightened your holidays. The holidays are over and your poinsettia is starting to turn yellow and now what do you do with it? Most people throw them away and I will admit that in the past I have done just that. Believe me when I say it is not easy for me to throw any plant away. So last year after Christmas, I decided to keep my poinsettia. I had been on a garden walk and saw a beautiful houseplant, and lo and behold, it was a poinsettia. I decided to keep my poinsettia, not worrying about whether or not it ever had it's colored bracts again or not. 
Poinsettia on garden walk
 I kept my plant looking good well past Christmas. When the plant started looking unattractive and the bracts and leaves started yellowing and falling, I cut it back to about 6" tall. It was just a bunch of sticks- not so attractive. Yet, a few weeks later it was leafed out and not looking so bad. It is still growing and is a very attractive houseplant. Am I going to put it in a dark closet for 14-15 hours a day for weeks to make it color up again? Absolutely not! Who really has time for that? Not me. I'm just going to enjoy it as a houseplant and you might want to, as well.
Poinsettia up close-love the red petioles!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Euphorbia-Not Just Poinsettias

Euphorbia francoisii
I have to say, I am enamoured with Euphorbias. I do like poinsettias, but I'm not referring to them. There are so many more kinds of Euphorbia and I have quite a few. The Euphorbias I'm talking about today are from Madagascar primarily and they are very interesting plants. I have all 5 of them on my West kitchen windowsill. This is reserved for my favorite plants and of course they have to be small enough to fit there, too. 

Euphorbia francoisii up close. 
This first one I bought at the Phipps Conservatory in August of 2011. It has at least tripled in size since then, which isn't much. It is a slow grower. 

Euphorbia francoisii with spiky stems
Euphorbia francoisii flowers

Euphorbia suzannae x bupleurifolia
I bought this Euphorbia above at the Root System Nursery in Michigan. I don't know much about it. I think it looks like a little pine cone with green leaves on top.  It would fit  on the windowsill with the other Euphorbias, so I bought it. Works for me....
Euphorbia suzannae x bupleurifolia


Then next one I bought when I was lucky enough to go to Glasshouse Works in Stewart, Ohio in 2007. This is the plant that started the collection. My daughter's college soccer team was playing near Stewart and since I was only about 30 minutes away, I went. I asked the girls if they wanted to go. I had no takers-big surprise. This one has grown quite a bit, but it is still only about 4" across. The caudex is getting a lot bigger. ( A caudiciform is a plant with a swollen, water-storing stem (caudex))

Euphorbia cylindrifolia tuberifera flower (with dust...embarrassingly enough)

Euphorbia decaryi var decaryi

These next two look a lot alike but were bought at the same place and had different tags. The decaryi is more prostrate than the cap saint mariensis, but I'm not sure it will stay that way. I love the wrinkled leaves on both of them.
Euphorbia decaryi var decaryi

Euphorbia cap saint mariensis
Euphorbia cap saint mariensis

This small statured plant comes from the Cap Sainte Marie peninsula at the southern tip of Madagascar, thus the name.
Euphorbia leuconeura
Euphorbia leuconeura

This Euphorbia leuconeura or Madagascar Jewel, can get very large, but seems to be a pretty slow grower. As it loses its leaves the leaf scar that is left is very pronounced and adds character to the plant. I've read that it can grow to 5' tall, but mine is just a baby at about 10". Mine has not flowered yet, but I'm not losing hope. It disperses its seeds by shooting them out away from itself. It also can take quite a bit of shade as in its native habita in Madagascar, it grows in forests.

I hope you learned something about Euphorbias that aren't  poinsettias. Maybe you didn't even know poinsettias are Euphorbias, in which case you learned a couple of things today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Are There Ants in Your House(plants)?

Hydnophytum formicarium

I was at my cactus and succulent society meeting this past week and this plant was a show and tell plant. It is so interesting. Hydnophytum formicarium is an epiphytic ant plant. In its natural habitat (SE Asia), it grows on trees. You probably know what an epiphyte is, but what is an "ant plant" you may ask. An ant plant is a plant that has a symbiotic (mutually beneficial)  relationship with ants. 
The plant forms a huge caudex that is filled with tunnels and chambers. There are smooth chambers and rough chambers. The smooth chambers are where the ants live and the rough chambers are where they put their garbage and excrement. The ants have a warm, dry home and the plants receive nourishment from the waste products. A win/win situation for both the plant and the ants. 

Hydnophytum formicarium caudex
Hydnophytum formicarium caudex a little closer

Hydnophytum formicarium
In the picture below you can see the orange fruit. They have white flowers, but my picture was blurry. The bright color of the fruit attracts fruit eating birds. The unusual thing about the seeds in this fruit is that they are sticky. When birds eat them they stick to their beaks and they rub them off on tree bark or twigs, thus the seeds sprout on trees. If grown as a houseplant, the seeds can be started in soil, but eventually they need to be grown in a media such as that which orchids are grown in.
Of course, we have no ants in our plants (or pants) when we grow these in our homes,  but in their native habitats, the ants are definitely in the house(plant).
Hydnophytum formicarium

Monday, October 6, 2014

Awesome Orchid!

What makes this orchid awesome? The fact that it blooms every year for me and I really do nothing other than water it. The picture below is from today.

Dendrobium hsinying cruenzuki  October 6, 2014

The next two pictures are from late March 2013. It did bloom this spring, as well, with multiple flowers and this one flower is just a bonus this fall. When I bought this plant, I never dreamed it would be so easy to take care of. This is one of the  first orchids I ever purchased and I'm sure I assumed it would never bloom again. I had heard how hard it is to take care of orchids. Well, this one must be the exception, because I really am not doing much. 
Dendrobiums are epiphytes, so I know it needs good drainage. It is potted in bark and I've repotted it once in the years I've had it. It is in the West window with no blockages outside, so it likes bright light. I water it  once a week when I soak my miniature orchids and it gets a diluted fertilizer a lot of the time when I water. It is over the sink so it loves the extra humidity.  Since it blooms every year, I can assume it is a happy plant and I'm giving it what it needs.  When you go to the orchid shows, try a Dendrobium. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Dendrobium hsinying cruenzuki  March 2013

Dendrobium hsinying cruenzuki

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chirita? No. Primulina

Yes, it is annoying when the powers that be change plant names. Chirita, another African violet relative, is now Primulina. Don't ask me why. I just bought one a couple years ago and guess what? It is still alive! Yahoo! I can't say the same for the African violets I bought at the same time. The picture below is the one I bought. It blooms regularly for me.

Primulina 'Crossroads'

Primulina 'Crossroads'

Primulina 'Destiny'
 The Primulina above is the one I bought a couple of weeks ago. I just love the foliage, so wouldn't care if it didn't bloom. On line it says that it will have a blue flower. I'm sure it will be beautiful.

Primulina dryas 'Hisako'
The 'Hisako' was taken at the national convention here in Detroit in 2012. Love this foliage.

Primulina 'Patina'

The picture above was taken at the Ohio show in 2011 and at that time they were Chiritas. I've read that the name changed in 2011, so it must have been after this.
Primulinas are native to Sri Lanka, India, China, and SE Asia. Their care is pretty much the same as for African violets. I find that they are even easier. Because of their thicker leaves, they are more drought tolerant. I have mine on the same light stand as my violets, which receive 12 hours of light per day. Plus, they aren't fussy about humidity, probably because of those same thick leaves. They also prefer to be snug in their pots, like violets. I have 2 of these plants now, but will be adding more to my collection.
Hopefully, I've persuaded you to start your collection.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Not An African Violet

Petrocosmea cryptica
At the African violet show and sale, African violets aren't the only plants for sale. There are all kinds of gesneriads, as well as miniature terrarium plants, such as begonias. (I will show you pics of those later.) 
Above is the Petrocosmea I purchased at the show. I've always admired them, especially the foliage. They do bloom, as you can see from the following pictures, but I wouldn't care if they never bloomed.
Petrocosmea forrestii


The plant to the right and above belong to my friend Alice, from the African violet club in my area.

Petrocosmea rosettifolia

I read that Petrocosmea rosettifolia is the same as my cryptica above. It has been renamed. This picture is from the Ohio show in 2011.

I'm not sure which one this is, but notice how the leaves curl up. They are very hirsute or hairy, as well.
So what are Petrocosmeas? They are gesneriads, related to the African violet. They grow in the mountainous areas of  China, Burma, and other regions of SE Asia. Petrocosmeas like cooler temperatures so I placed mine on the bottom shelf of my light stand. They grow among rocks and some even "on" rocks, so that conveys to me they need good drainage and shallow pots. They would also like over 50% humidity.  I placed mine on a mat watering system and will water them about once a week, wetting the mat. Growing them on the mats will greatly help with the humidity. If you look at the leaves, you can see they are quite succulent, so letting them dry out a bit between watering will be necessary. I think rotting will be the biggest problem if I have one.  I'm excited to finally own one of these and will keep you updated as to the progress, hopefully all good.
Petrocosmea winner at the Ohio show in 2011

Petrocosmea menghangensis

Petrocosmea rosettifolia

Petrocosmea minor

Notice how shiny this one is compared to the one below, but yet it is still hairy. This is such an interesting plant and with the succulent rosette form, reminding of the echeverias,  it should be more popular.

Petrocosmea 'Short'nin' Bread'