Houseplants 102

Sonia Uyterhoeven is NYBG‘s Gardener for Public Education.


Gardenia jasminoides

Gardenia jasminoides

Last week we discussed some houseplant basics—covering light and water. This week we will look at a few more important factors for successfully growing indoor plants.

Let’s turn the heat down…
As general rule, most houseplants do best when grown at a daytime temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and at a night time temperature that is 10 to 15 degrees cooler at 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Many plants require a 10-degree temperature fluctuation to grow and flower successfully.

Your house is full of microclimates. Locations near windows may be sunny during the winter, but they are also cool (usually 10 degrees colder than the center of the room). In the summer, a south-facing window can get too hot for plants. Your alternatives are to open the window to let the air circulate or invest in a sheer curtain to block the intense rays of the summer sun. Investigate your home’s microclimates in order to place your plants in the best spots.

Some plants such as Clivia miniata and Dendrobium nobile need specific care in order to flower properly. They need a resting period in the fall which lasts for approximately 3 months. During this time fertilizing is stopped, watering is reduced and they are placed in a cool (45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit) location in full sun.

If the orchid—the dendrobium—doesn’t receive this temperature drop, it will often produce baby plants (Keikis) instead of flowering. The bush or Kaffir lily protests by not extending the flower stem upwards and the blooms hide in its foliage. You will also notice that your jade plant (Crassula) also flowers best when it realizes that the seasons are changing.

Moisture matters…
Humidity is just as important as temperature for growing healthy plants. In the summer the humidity in your home is probably between 30 to 50%. When your central heating comes on in the winter, the humidity drops to 10 to 20%—about the same as a desert. Tropical houseplants will need some assistance in these adverse conditions.

Several ways to help your plants are:

  • Group plants together—plants transpire (release water) and will raise the humidity in their general area
  • Create a drywell—place plants on a pebble tray and add water to the tray so that the water level rests just under the tops of the stones or pebbles. You do not want the pots submerged in water
  • Invest in a humidifier—it is not only good for the plants, it is good for you too

You will know if your plants are in need of some remedial care if the tips of the leaves are starting to brown or if the flower buds collapse before they get a chance to bloom. Remember that plants do not like sudden changes in temperature or cold or warm blasts of air. Keep them away from the dry heat of the heater and away from the cool dry air of the air conditioner.

Some household favorites such as the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) are very sensitive when in bud. Their buds will drop before they open if the humidity is too low or the temperatures are too high. They look easy compared with gardenias (Gardenia) who demand high humidity in order to thrive in your home.

Crassula ovata jade

Crassula ovata

Time for a healthy diet…
Food—or more aptly, fertilizer—is an important topic. Potting soil generally contains enough nutrients to last a plant for two months. After two months, you will need to start fertilizing. There are two main types of fertilizers: water-soluble and time-release. Choose the one that fits your schedule and your lifestyle. Time-release fertilizers are good for busy, forgetful gardeners, while water-soluble fertilizers are perfect for people who love to fuss over their plants or have control issues.

Here are some simple rules for fertilizing:

  • Less is more – when in doubt give your houseplants less fertilizer than more. The fertilizer’s label often suggests the maximum amount – they are in the business of selling fertilizer. You can dilute the dosage by half and they will be fine. You don’t have to dilute organic fertilizer
  • Over-fertilizing is worse than under-fertilizing
  • Never fertilize a plant with a compromised root system. It is struggling to establish new roots and most fertilizers are heavy in salts. It will be detrimental to the rejuvenation process
  • Do not fertilize your plant immediately after you have re-potted them. You have just preformed minor surgery. Give the patient a few weeks to recuperate by not fertilizing and keep your plant out of bright sun until it settles back into its new home
  • Change with the seasons. Growth in many plants will slow down in the winter; slow down the fertilizer as well. They are not pushing growth at that time of year. Don’t fertilize plants that are going through a dormant or resting phase

Last week, I mentioned that I spoke to Mobee Weinstein, a Foreman at the Garden and an avid houseplant grower. She told me that with most of her plants she gives them an organic fertilizer which provides not only macronutrients, but also trace nutrients. She stops fertilizing in October and only resumes in March when the plants are actively pushing growth. She fertilizes her plants anywhere from once a month to once every two to three months, addressing their fertilizing needs on a case by case basis.

While she stays away from fish emulsion because it stinks, she will use liquid kelp which doesn’t have the strong odor. A few of her plants have special needs. She has a lime tree which has different feeding requirements from the rest of her plants, particularly if she wants it to fruit; she gives her lime special treatment which includes iron chelate that is recommended for citrus.

Getting your hands dirty…
One of the most overlooked yet important ingredients for houseplant success is soil. Plants get nutrients, water, and stability from their potting mix. The structure of the mix is important; plants generally need good drainage. Never use soil from your garden, it is usually too heavy and contains weeds and pests that could harm your plant.

There are many good potting soils on the market. There are soil-based mixes (sterilized) and soil-less mixtures (that tend to be peat based). Soil-based mixes are heavier and suitable for larger plants that need weight in the containers. Soil-less mixes are lighter.

Many ingredients go into potting soils and the one you choose should depend on what you are growing. Peat moss is light-weight with good water retention; charcoal absorbs toxins; coarse perlite and/or vermiculite are added for drainage and aeration; coarse or sharp sand is added for drainage; sphagnum moss aides in water retention; fir bark is good for drainage—and the list goes on. You will not find all of these ingredients together in one mix, but find the combination that works best for you and your plant.

With the tips that I have provided over the past two weeks, I think you are probably well-equipped to embark on a project to green up your home. Remember to not just grab the first pretty thing that comes your way—do some research on the plant’s growing requirements and make sure that it is a good match for your home.

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/horticulture-2/houseplants-102/

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Morning Eye Candy: A Chorus of Flora

These eight little buds almost appear to be singing! Try your hand at macro plant photography and enter our Wild Medicine Photo Contest.

Euphorbia didieriodes
Euphorbia didieriodes in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/photography/morning-eye-candy-a-chorus-of-flora/

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This Weekend: Photography Tips & Tricks in the Tropics

New York Botanical Garden What's Wonderful in WinterThe grounds are looking spectacular this week beneath a fresh blanket of snow, and this weekend features two unique walking tours designed to enhance your experience of the season. The Tree Tour and the Landmarks Tour present two opportunities to take in NYBG’s gleaming winter landscape with the benefit of a Garden Guide.

Meanwhile, in the warmth of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Wild Medicine in the Tropics continues its journey through the many remarkable medicinal plants of the rain forest. Get an in-depth look with NYBG’s award-winning app, Wild Medicine.

And next Tuesday we announce the first round of weekly winners in our Wild Medicine Photo Contest! The two categories are “Macro” (close-up) and “Sense of Place” (wide shot), upload your contributions to the NYBG Flickr Group Pool and join in the fun! You could be one of the Grand Prize winners to be awarded a seat in the NYBG Adult Education photography class of your choice. Join fellow photography enthusiasts every weekend for Photography Tips Tricks in the Tropics, led by one of NYBG’s photo experts. Check out the contest rules for complete details.

Experience NYBG through your own lens and share your vision with us! Read on for the full schedule of special tours and programs this weekend.

Saturday, January 31

Cochliostema odoratissimum Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Wild Medicine in the Tropics

Wild Medicine in the Tropics Guides  Roaming QA – 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Take a trip through paradise with a Garden guide who will highlight the interesting plants of our permanent collection in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Bird Walk – 11 a.m.
Meet at the Reflecting Pool at the Leon Levy Visitor Center
The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer visitors a chance to see dozens of species of birds throughout the year. Bring your binoculars and walk the Garden grounds with an expert to learn about bird-friendly habitats, migrating species, and birds that make a permanent home at the Garden.

Winter Wonderland Tree Tour – 12:30 p.m.
Meet at the Reflecting Pool at the Leon Levy Visitor Center
Even in cold weather there’s plenty of interest in our gardens and collections. Meet at the Reflecting Pool and embark on an invigorating 45-minute walk to view the Garden’s stately conifer collection and old growth Forest amid the beauty of winter.

Photography Tips Tricks in the Tropics – 1–3 p.m., with tour at 1:30 p.m.
Meet at the Conservatory Palms of the World Gallery
Join our expert on hand in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory who will dispense garden photography tips, encouragement, and critique for budding photographers. Advice on perspective, lighting, and composition will be provided. Participation in the online photo contest is encouraged!
Please note: All-Garden Pass admission is required. No monopods or tripods are allowed in the Conservatory.

Conservatory Tour – 2:30 p.m.
Meet at the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Explore the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, an acre of plants under glass, with one of the Garden’s Guides. Take an ecotour around the world through 11 distinct habitats, including two types of rain forest, deserts of the Americas and of Africa, and aquatic and carnivorous plant displays.

Sunday, February 1

Tulip Tree Allee snow

Wild Medicine in the Tropics Guides Roaming QA – 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Take a trip through paradise with a Garden guide who will highlight the interesting plants of our permanent collection in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Landmarks of the New York Botanical Garden  – 12:30 2:30 p.m.
Meet at the Reflecting Pool at the Leon Levy Visitor Center
Join us for a fascinating overview of the Garden’s history and its importance as a vital New York City cultural destination. With an expert guide, explore the Allee, the Fountain of Life, and the Mertz Library.

Photography Tips Tricks in the Tropics – 1–3 p.m., with tour at 1:30 p.m.
Meet at the Conservatory Palms of the World Gallery
Join our expert on hand in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory who will dispense garden photography tips, encouragement, and critique for budding photographers. Advice on perspective, lighting, and composition will be provided. Participation in the online photo contest is encouraged!
Please note: All-Garden Pass admission is required. No monopods or tripods are allowed in the Conservatory.

Ongoing Children’s Programs


Tropical Discoveries – 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
In the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden
Inside the cozy William and Lynda Steere Discovery Center kids of all ages can take a closer look at the differences between tropical and temperate plants. Pot up a tropical plant to take home and compare its characteristics with foliage in your neighborhood. Make bark rubbings, count tree rings, and head back into the winter garden with a field notebook to discover the vital sparks of life that lie just below the surface of this quiet season in the Northeast.

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/garden-programming/this-weekend-photography-tips-tricks-in-the-tropics/

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Morning Eye Candy: Making Macro Magic

Here’s just one of the tropical flowers that’s ready for its closeup in Wild Medicine in the Tropics. Snap your own macro shot and enter our photo contest!

Saurauia madrensis Enid A. haupt Conservatory Wild Medicine in the Tropics

Saurauia madrensis in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/photography/morning-eye-candy-making-macro-magic/

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Formalism Meets Naturalism, with A French Flair

Water Theater grove at Versailles Louis Benech

The rendering of the new Water Theater grove at Versailles features beeches and holm oaks in the landscape. (By Louis Benech)

Tomorrow we say bonjour to Louis Benech, a renowned French landscape designer and first speaker in our 15th Annual Winter Lecture Series, Le Jardin Français. Benech has carried out some 300 park and garden projects worldwide, including his celebrated reimagining of Louis XIV’s Water Theater grove at Versailles.

Louis Benech

Louis Benech. Photo by Eric Sander, 2012

In his lecture, “The Graceful Garden,” Benech will share his approach to garden creation and restoration, highlighting 10 gardens from his portfolio. His technique combines French formalism with a loose naturalism, two seemingly contradictory styles, with designs coaxed almost intuitively from the existing landscape.

We’re excited to see his masterwork for his project at Versailles, Louis XIV’s Water Theater grove, last designed by André Le Nôtre in the 17th century. So meticulous is his design that Benech ensured the height of the trees in the grove would not exceed 17 meters (56 feet) tall, so that the landscape is invisible from the Chateau de Versailles and in proportion to its location.

Another project we look forward to viewing is the Mas Sainte Anne, a garden in Provence, France, where Benech created a luxurious summer garden overlooking the Gulf of Saint Tropez, using strategically placed Mediterranean plants that direct the eye out toward the water.

Louis Benech Mas Saint Anne Gulf of Saint Tropez

Benech’s landscape design at Mas Sainte Anne leads the eye to the Gulf of Saint Tropez. (courtesy photo)

But Benech’s work isn’t limited to France. He’s designed outdoor spaces internationally, including the Pavlovsk’s rose pavilion in St. Petersburg and the Achilleion in Corfu. For homeowners in the U.S. who desire the elegance of French design firmly rooted in natural settings, Benech also has designed residential gardens, one of which he will visually treat us to tomorrow.

Louis Benech’s lecture begins at 10 a.m., Thursday, January 29, in the Ross Lecture Hall. Don’t miss this glimpse into his delightful work. See our 15th Annual Winter Lecture Series page for more information or to register to attend.

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/adult-education/formalism-meets-naturalism-with-a-french-flair/

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Morning Eye Candy: Tropical Fire-Breather

Hibiscus rosa sinensis 'Red Dragon'
Hibiscus rosa sinensis ‘Red Dragon’ in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/photography/morning-eye-candy-tropical-fire-breather/

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Morning Eye Candy: Tiny & Tropical

Wild Medicine in the Tropics opens January 24!

Rheedia acuminata

Rheedia acuminata in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/photography/morning-eye-candy-tiny-tropical/

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Morning Eye Candy: Fiery Flower

Kleinia fulgens

Kleinia fulgens in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – Photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen

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This Weekend: Wild Medicine in the Tropics and our 2015 Photo Contest!

Wild Medicine in the TropicsStarting tomorrow, visitors will enter the lush rain forest under glass at NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory for Wild Medicine in the Tropics, an exhibition that explores the many medicinal plants in the Garden’s permanent collection. Enjoy the full experience with a guided tour, or at your own pace with NYBG’s award-winning app, Wild Medicine.

Saturday also marks the beginning of our Wild Medicine Photo Contest! Bring your camera to the Conservatory and take your best shot at capturing the many beautiful subjects within. The two categories are “Macro” (close-up) and “Sense of Place” (wide shot). Join our NYBG Flickr Group Pool to upload your contributions, and the weekly winners will be announced right here on Plant Talk. One winner in each category will be recognized each week—and for the Grand Prize at the end of the exhibition! The Grand Prize winners announced on Tuesday, February 24, will each be awarded a seat in the NYBG Adult Education photography class of their choice. Join fellow photography enthusiasts every weekend for Photography Tips Tricks in the Tropics, led by one of NYBG’s photo experts. Check out the contest rules for complete details.

Experience NYBG through your own lens and share your vision with us! Read on for the full schedule of special tours and programs this weekend.

Saturday, January 24

Hibiscus rosa sinensis 'Red Dragon'

Wild Medicine in the Tropics Guides – 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Take a trip through paradise with a Garden guide who will highlight the interesting plants of our permanent collection in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Bird Walk – 11 a.m.
Meet at the Reflecting Pool at the Leon Levy Visitor Center
The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer visitors a chance to see dozens of species of birds throughout the year. Bring your binoculars and walk the Garden grounds with an expert to learn about bird-friendly habitats, migrating species, and birds that make a permanent home at the Garden.

All Aboard! with Thomas Friends™ – 11 a.m., 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 p.m.
In Ross Hall
Join Thomas and Driver Sam on a fun-filled, sing-along, mini-performance adventure by helping them decorate the station in time for the big Sodor surprise party before the guest of honor arrives! Bring your camera to capture the moment during a photo-op with Thomas or purchase a souvenir photo from our professional photographers.

Winter Wonderland Tree Tour – 12:30  p.m.
Meet at the Reflecting Pool at the Leon Levy Visitor Center
Even in cold weather there’s plenty of interest in our gardens and collections. Meet at the Reflecting Pool and embark on an invigorating 45-minute walk to view the Garden’s stately conifer collection and old growth Forest amid the beauty of winter.

Photography Tips Tricks in the Tropics – 1–3 p.m., with tour at 1:30 p.m.
Meet at the Conservatory Palms of the World Gallery
Join our expert on hand in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory who will dispense garden photography tips, encouragement, and critique for budding photographers. Advice on perspective, lighting, and composition will be provided. Participation in the online photo contest is encouraged!
Please note: All-Garden Pass admission is required. No monopods or tripods are allowed in the Conservatory.

Conservatory Tour – 2:30 p.m.
Meet at the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Explore the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, an acre of plants under glass, with one of the Garden’s Guides. Take an ecotour around the world through 11 distinct habitats, including two types of rain forest, deserts of the Americas and of Africa, and aquatic and carnivorous plant displays.

Sunday, January 25

Enid A. haupt Conservatory

Wild Medicine in the Tropics Guides – 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Take a trip through paradise with a Garden guide who will highlight the interesting plants of our permanent collection in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

All Aboard! with Thomas Friends™ – 11 a.m., 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 p.m.
In Ross Hall
Join Thomas and Driver Sam on a fun-filled, sing-along, mini-performance adventure by helping them decorate the station in time for the big Sodor surprise party before the guest of honor arrives! Bring your camera to capture the moment during a photo-op with Thomas or purchase a souvenir photo from our professional photographers.

Conservatory Tour – 12:30 2:30 p.m.
Meet at the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Explore the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, an acre of plants under glass, with one of the Garden’s Guides. Take an ecotour around the world through 11 distinct habitats, including two types of rain forest, deserts of the Americas and of Africa, and aquatic and carnivorous plant displays.

Photography Tips Tricks in the Tropics – 1–3 p.m., with tour at 1:30 p.m.
Meet at the Conservatory Palms of the World Gallery
Join our expert on hand in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory who will dispense garden photography tips, encouragement, and critique for budding photographers. Advice on perspective, lighting, and composition will be provided. Participation in the online photo contest is encouraged!
Please note: All-Garden Pass admission is required. No monopods or tripods are allowed in the Conservatory.

Ongoing Children’s Programs

NYBG Orchids
Evergreen Express
Saturday – 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m.; Sunday – 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

In the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden
Hop aboard the Evergreen Express for lively activities in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, where each station stop offers something new to create or explore! Build your own train puppet with master puppeteer Ralph Lee, join a musical marching parade around the collection, and visit the William and Lynda Steere Discovery Center, where a hands-on workshop with cones, needles, and other winter plant parts helps you craft your own miniature balsam fir pillow.

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/garden-programming/this-weekend-wild-medicine-in-the-tropics-and-our-2015-photo-contest/

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Morning Eye Candy: New Skin

Look for hints of amber in the Native Plant Garden, where exfoliating trees create unique winter colors and textures.

Tree bark

In the Native Plant Garden

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Article source: http://blogs.nybg.org/plant-talk/2015/01/photography/morning-eye-candy-new-skin/

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