Saturday, May 2, 2015

New Website

Hi. I just wanted to let people know that I have moved. I started a new website with the help of a very good friend, Bren Haas. You can find my new website here. If you have subscribed to my blog, I hope you go to my website and subscribe there. Thank you for your follows on this blog and hope I see you on the new site!
Lisa, The Houseplant Guru

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fire Lily

Clivia in bloom at Krohn Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio
I have a Clivia blooming in my house, right now! Finally! I have had it for years and have been very disappointed that it has never flowered. I've heard everyone's tips and tricks for making them bloom, but it hasn't worked for me until this year. I was told that a cold, dry period would make it bloom, but I have a friend who has one in a sun room that is warm all the time and her plant blooms beautifully. Mine resides on the floor in my sun room which has an unheated brick floor. I didn't water it much this winter. Is this the reason it finally bloomed? I don't know. It's been in the same place for years but it finally decided this was the year. It was given to me by a customer at our nursery and I left it in the container it came in as I know they like to be root bound. It was staked and twist tied in a huge plastic pot. I really wanted to transplant it to a more attractive pot, but left it in the pot for the well being of the plant. Of course, I removed the twist ties and stakes, as it really didn't need it. I think they were trying to contain the size, but I just let it do its thing.
My Clivia on March 12th, 2015

My Clivia on March 20th, 2015

My Clivia on March 30th, 2015

Clivias are from warm, moist forests of South Africa. It has the common names of Fire and Natal Lily. The name fire lily is obvious, and the Natal lily is so called because it is from the Natal region in South Africa. The one you are most likely to find is Clivia miniata. Most have orange flowers, but yellow is also available. The yellow flowering varieties were very rare not so long ago, and very expensive. Now they are more available and definitely more affordable. They are in the Amaryllidaceae family, closely related to Amaryllis or Hippeastrum. The leaves look just like amaryllis leaves and they are both monocots. Monocots have foliage with parallel veins and include plants such as orchids, lilies, daffodils, iris, tulips, and cannas. Clivias are clump forming with dark leathery, long leaves and make  great houseplants, because they reside in the shade in their native habitat. To initiate flowering they must have bright light in our homes. They have very thick, fleshy roots and are best left undisturbed until they are almost breaking the pot. They hate to be re-potted and divided  and may not bloom the year after re-potting. Use a very well drained soil to replicate their native soil conditions. If the potting mix is kept too wet it will result in rot which will appear as pale green or bright orange cankers on the leaves. The Clivia would prefer to be on the dry side because of its fleshy roots. 
Clivia at Krohn Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio
Where did the Clivia get its name. It was named by John Lindley of Kew in 1828 in honour of the Duchess of Northumberland, Charlotte Florentia Clive (1787-1866). She was born into a plant loving family and was one herself. The Clivia was first cultivated and brought into flower in Great Britian in her garden. The plant name should be pronounced with a long "í" (Clí-via) to commemorate her name. 
I'm still not sure exactly how I got my plant to bloom, but I'm not complaining, and hopefully it will bloom again next year.  

Close up of an individual flower

Yellow Clivia at Longwood Gardens, PA

This yellow Clivia is beautiful at Longwood Gardens. I had never seen one before. The yellow is gorgeous, but I prefer the orange. Then again, I wouldn't turn one down.

Variegated Clivia at Longwood Gardens, PA

Who wouldn't love the variegated foliage of this Clivia on the right. I wouldn't care if it never bloomed. While researching this plant, I found the site of the North American Clivia Society.There are some beautiful plants on their site. Check it out.

Clivia in bloom at Longwood Garden, PA

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Playing the Fiddle

Fiddle leaf fig with a Dracaena at Kingwood Center in Ohio
When I volunteer with the kids at Belle Isle in the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, I always point out that common names of plants are quite often given to the plants because of what they resemble. The leaves of the fiddle leaf fig look like fiddles or violins, thus the common name. It helps us remember the plants.
The fiddle leaf fig or Ficus lyrata is native to lowland tropical rainforests in west Africa. It is a banyan fig, meaning it often starts life as an epiphyte high in the crown of a tree, sends roots down to the ground, and can slowly strangle the tree it is growing on. As a stand-alone tree, it can reach up to 40' tall. 
In your home, the tree will probably max out at 6', but if you up-pot it and have the room, it could get bigger. When it is the size you want it to stay, instead of re-potting it, top dress it with fresh soil to replace depleted soil. It needs as much light as you can give it for it to be happy. A South or West facing window would be best, but place it wherever you have the most light.  Because it is from tropical rainforests, high humidity is it definitely a must. That can be hard to provide in our homes, especially in the winter with our furnaces running. If it is dry, the plant will react by losing leaves. The worst reaction to dry air, though, will be an infestation of spider mites. This will be evident to you as it was to me when I saw reddish spots on my leaves . The red spots are the areas where the spider mites pierce the leaves of the plant with their mouth parts. The caustic nature of the sap cause the reddish spots when it is exposed to the air. The sap from the tree can also cause stains and be an irritant to skin so be careful when handling this plant. The picture below shows spider mite damage on my plant....:(

Spider mite damage on my fiddle leaf fig

Low humidity may also be displayed as brown edges on the leaves. 
On the other hand, if the plant is kept too wet, soft leaves with brown patches may be displayed. The key is to have your plant growing in a rich, well drained soil. Keep it well watered, letting it dry down slightly between waterings, never letting it dry out completely. To keep the humidity up, place a pebble tray under your plant which is kept filled with water. The tray should be larger than the container you are growing your plant in so the humidity rises around the plant. Never let your plant sit in the water, though. Fertilize regularly during the growing season which is March-September here in Michigan. It is sensitive to high salt content, so flush your soil regularly, or use an organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion.
Th fiddle leaf fig is a dramatic, large houseplant that can be the focal point of any room you place it in. I also have the mini version called 'Little Fiddle' if you don't have the room for a large plant but like the look of the plant. 

Ficus lyrata or fiddle leaf fig at the Veterans Memorial Library in Mt. Pleasant MI

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bees in My House

The first time I saw this adorable orchid was at a local orchid show. I was enamoured with it. The bumblebee orchid or Baptistonia echinata, really does look just like a little bunch of bees in flight.

My Baptistonia blooming 2011

Baptistonia at the orchid show

October, 2007

I went through all my pictures and found that I have pictures of this orchid back to 2007. I've had this for quite some time. The pictures of the plant in the small 2" pot is how I bought it and it bloomed every year for me. Then, I decided to mount it on cork. I think I did that about 2-3 years ago and this year is the first time it bloomed since then.

Baptistonia echinata or bee orchid bloom up close

This is a miniature species orchid from Brazil and was named after the Brazilian ethnologist Baptista Caetano d' Almeida Noqueira. It only grows about 6" tall with 1" wide leaves. I have mine hanging on the side of my cupboard in a west window. I water it once a week with my other mini orchids by soaking it in the sink.

My orchid in bud February 11, 2015

I was excited to see the buds emerging in late January, since it hadn't bloomed in a few years.

I have it hanging on a frame of chicken wire near the West window

It isn't completely open here

Completely open looking like bees flying

Most people don't even know these little orchids exist. I have quite a few because I don't have a lot more room for plants. These hang over the kitchen sink and get plenty of humidity and light. I wrote about my other mini orchids here. If you ever get to an orchid sale, check out these little beauties!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Plant Geek Day

I had a fabulous day today. My gardening friend from Ohio, Brenda Haas, came up and we visited some independent garden centers, the Michigan Orchid Show, and ended up at the Novi Home and Garden show, where I spoke at the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association garden stage. What a fabulous plant geek day! Since I am all about the houseplants, I'll show you some of the orchids from the show and  houseplants I saw at the IGC.

Ivy topiary surrounded with golden baby's tears and a Tillandsia xerographica in the glass ball

I loved the topiary above and check out these framed wall planters, left,  filled with a fern and a trailing philodendron.

Gorgeous succulent

On to the Michigan Orchid Society show......(To find out about the Michigan Orchid Society, see their website here.)

This sign greeted us as we walked in from a COLD Michigan day. And we proceeded on to the show....

There were so many orchids, we couldn't take it all in! And some of the displays smelled heavenly. I'm going to show you some of my favorites and you can see the rest on my Pinterest page.

Paphiopedilum malipoense

Epidendrum 'Princess Valley' x 'Nathan Kwan'

Oda. Harry Baldwin 'Orange King'
If you follow my Instagram or Facebook page, you know that orange flowers are my favorite. Well, this orchid was so gorgeous! The best thing about going to the judged show first, is that you then can see what you want to buy in the sale room. Unfortunately, the owner of this orchid told me that if he had one to sell, which he didn't, it would be $100 or more. Well, this picture is lovely and the only way I'm going to remember this orchid! Yikes!

Oda. (George McMahon x Shelley) x Golden Frost
His yellow one above,  in the same display wasn't too shabby, either.....

Oda. Drummer Joe 'Elana'

Ascocentrum miniatum

Aerangis lueteoalba

Ons. catatante 'Pacific Sunspots'

I was taking pictures of the orchid to the right, and was admiring it for its unique color and beauty. The owner walked up and had brought along her family to enjoy the show. Her granddaughter was so proud of her and she was so nonchalant about the fact that she was growing spectacular orchids.

Orchid in a shell arrangement

The orchid show includes a flower arrangement section. I couldn't cut my orchids to use them in an arrangement, but they are beautiful.

Another orchid arrangement

Phrag. Suzanne Decker

Slc. Crystelle Smith (Sc. Beaufort x C. loddigesii)

Lc. Granier's Blue Dream 'Gran Susan'

I hope you enjoyed this quick tour through the orchid show and garden center. It was a wonderful day, enjoyed with someone who loves plants, too. Find a gardening friend, (or two or three),  and take a garden road trip. It was a great way to spend a cold, spring day in Michigan! 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Visiting Costa Rica (by way of the Cleveland Botanical Garden)

As I moved out of the Spiny Desert room, I entered into a humid, cloud rain forest. The birds were chirping, the butterflies fluttering, and the waterfall splashing. It was magical!

I love the added movement of the butterflies in a conservatory. They flutter by as if they haven't a care in the world. It is hard to get them to sit still for a picture...

The orchids were beautiful!

Encyclia cordigera
Tillandsia usneoides or Spanish moss

The bromeliads and other epiphytes were literally dripping off the trees.

Tillandsia usneoides up close

Bromeliad flower

Small bromeliads attached to hanging vines

A Tillandsia clump growing on a tree branch

Colorful bromeliads attached to a tree branch in the canopy

My favorite Bromeliad attached to a tree trunk - love the color!
Looking up at the tree the catwalk surrounded

So what is a cloud forest exactly? I've discovered that it is cool in the highlands of Costa Rica. (This room really wasn't sweltering hot.) Clouds from the Caribbean sweep up over the mountains and cover them in mist and rain. Many times while I was in this forest, mist (which were actually pretty big drops) would come out of the ceiling and rain down on all the plants and me. At least they use purified water. Thus, by the time I left I had fuzzy, frizzy hair. Who really cares, anyway, when surrounded by such amazing beauty?

The best part of this room is being able to climb up (there were stairs-I did not climb this tree) into the canopy 25 feet above on a catwalk. Looking down on top of the plants is such a different view of the forest.

Mist machines

Looking down on the bromeliad covered tree branch. The picture below is looking up at the same branch from the floor.

Bromeliad tree from below

Looking down on the waterfall below

The were beautiful vines blooming, but you wouldn't know it unless you climbed up to the canopy catwalk. They were growing up the poles of the catwalk and then along the railings.Almost  everything in the rainforest that was flowering was there for the butterflies and birds.

 Blooming vine
Loved this curly tendril on one of the vines

Blooming vine
Petrea volubilis - Queen's Wreath or Bluebird Vine

Enormouse Papaya tree
Jatropha integerrima or spicy jatropha

Rondeletia leucophylla or Panama Rose

The Panama rose on the right, is sweetly fragrant and the butterflies love it!

Asplenium nidus or bird's nest fern
I'll leave you with my favorite picture. This spore covered bird's nest fern with the sun shining through it is so gorgeous. It is growing in a bed of footed ferns. I have posted more pictures of the Cleveland Botanical Garden on my Pinterest board here.

Remember, visit your local conservatory often. You never know what new things will be blooming and changing.