Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pruning Your Umbrella Plant (Schefflera Arboricola)

How to Prune Your Umbrella - Plant 
Schefflera Arboricola, Umbrella Plant
Schefflera Arboricola

I recently received an email from a visitor to my website asking how to prune her Umbrella Plant. She sent along the picture to the right.

Here is her email and my answer:

I'm just wondering how to prune an umbrella plant. My plant is getting out of control, growing upwards and I can't seem to get it to grow like a bush. I'm afraid to cut it to shape cause I might kill it. I've had this plant for over 10 years and from the picture I sent you can see it's still growing good. I just want to trim it down but I want to do it properly. Thanks!

Hi Julia

When pruning an Arboricola (umbrella plant), cut just above a leaf stem or node. I usually cut the tallest stem back into the center of the plant, leaving some leaf nodes for new growth to start. Doing this every once in awhile keeps the plant fuller and shorter.

You can cut the really tall stem that you have growing past the top of the door to maybe 12 inches or so in height. Cut just above a leaf node.
If you wait too long too prune back, the plant can look kind of bad for a time as you wait for it to grow back out.
Cutting it should not kill it, it will just promote some new growth. It also keeps it from getting so tall that the stems start to fall over.

I usually cut anything that has gotten tall enough or leggy enough that it no longer can stay upright without some type of support.

Turning the entire plant/pot once a month will help to keep it growing evenly on all sides.

Hope this helps, send along any other questions.
Thanks for visiting the website, like our Facebook page if you get a chance!

Laura The Plant Lady

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

House Plant Care - Questions and Answers

House Plants - You Have Questions, I Have Answers, But...

Rhapis Excelsa Palm on My Model Home Account

Hi Plant People, hope you all had a nice October. Hard to believe it is already November 2016.

Just realized that since I started working as an interior landscape technician in 1986 and it is now 2016, I have been taking care of, installing, warehousing, replacing, selling or unloading indoor tropical plants and flowers for just about 30 years.

Most of that was direct, day to day care of different types of tropical plants in many different locations, from the west coast to the east coast.

There has been a break here or there for a year or two but for most of the past 30 years I have been involved in all aspects of the interior landscape industry. That's a lot of plants!

On my website, I offer simple, straight forward advice on caring for your indoor plants. As you can tell from the first few paragraphs, I have had lots of experience to work from.

I do offer to answer questions for readers and they sometimes ask things I could not possibly give a definitive answer to because, with indoor plants, you need to be the person standing right there in front of that plant, taking care of it every week, to be able to figure out what is causing any problems it may be having. That is why I ask people to read the pages about lighting, watering and root health before they send a question. Those things are really all you need to know if you started out with a healthy disease and insect free house plant.

HOUSE PLANTS CARE QUESTIONS OR PROBLEMS? You can send an indoor plant question but before you do, please read this information on watering your indoor houseplants, how to help keep your house plant's root system healthy and lighting for your houseplants. These are most important for your house plant's health and this is some of the information I will refer you to when you send an email.

So, please read those pages, and if you still have a question, I will try to answer but please remember, I work during the day taking care of plants so sometimes it takes a little while for me to get out the answers to your emails. So please be as patient as you can and thanks for visiting my website, I do appreciate it and I hope it is helpful to some of you...

Laura The Plant Lady

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Indoor Plants and Gnats! So Annoying...

How to Combat Those Little Flying Bugs - GNATS!

Although fungus gnats can be a problem with indoor plants at anytime of year, they can be a bigger problem during the warmer months as they are also outside in greater numbers and, no doubt, plotting an invasion of your home...  :)

Aglaonema Silver Bay Indoor Plant
Not a Fungus Gnat-Just One of My Plants
Here is a little information about fungus gnats:
  • Fungus gnats are small flies, about 1/8" long, black or dark colored. Adult females may lay up to a few hundred eggs in a 7-10 day period. And they will lay them in the moist topsoil of your indoor plants, if they get a chance.
  • Fungus gnat eggs hatch in about six days, producing small, white maggots.
  • Larvae will grow to about 1/4" in two weeks and then form pupae.
  • Then adults will emerge from plant media in a week or less. And the cycle begins again!
While adult fungus gnats do not damage your indoor plants, they can be very annoying. You may see numbers of them about your plants, if they are disturbed. They also seem to be attracted to lights, computer monitors, etc.

The larvae feed on organic material, including your houseplant's roots and can cause damage to your houseplant's health. This damage can allow disease to enter plant tissue.

Your plant may or may not show signs of decline. It is possible to have leaf loss, stunted growth and yellowing of foliage.

Properly watering your indoor potted plants (not keeping plant media constantly soggy) can help ease the problem to some extent. Using sub-irrigation containers for your plants is also a good way to keep these little pests from becoming a problem.

If you are having a problem with gnats in your indoor plants, one of the things you can do is remove the top inch or so of soil from your plants and replace with fresh, sterile soil. Gnats reproduce mainly in the topsoil of your plants so removing this and replacing with sterile potting soil should remove a large part of the problem.

It is best to use sterile soil for your indoor potted plants. Here are some ideas for sterilizing your own potting soil:
  • Place slightly moist potting mix in an oven proof tray. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes in a 200 degree oven. Turn on the fan! Remove and allow to cool before using.
  • During the hot summer months, you can sterilize using the energy from the sun. Dampen soil and place in black plastic pot. Cover any drainage holes with plastic first. Set in the sun and cover with a sheet of clear plastic.This will adequately heat the soil and it should be ready to use in about a week. Saves electricity too!

One other helpful, non-chemical way to fight fungus gnats that are already present is to use sticky trap cards. These attract the fungus gnats, they get stuck and can not get away. Basically just fly paper in card form. I use these in my interior landscape accounts by placing them just inside the grow pot, usually stuck to the side. This catches the fungus gnats and keeps them from bothering anyone and from reproducing.

Hope this helps you with any problem you may have with these little, flying creatures.

Happy growing everyone!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dracaena Marginata Plant Care

Plant Care for Dracaena Marginata

Potted Dracaena Marginata Plant

My last post was about the Mother-In-Law Tongue plant, the most searched and researched indoor plant and its care, at least on my website.

This post is about Dracaena marginata, the second most searched for indoor plant. The dracaena marginata is sometimes called Dragon Tree. We just call her Marginata or Marg... 

Marginata is my favorite Dracaena, I just love the thinner, long, delicate and arching leaves of the marginata.

If your Marginata has been growing in really good light in a nursery, the leaves may be thicker and stiff. As it grows in new foliage acclimated to the lower light in your home (or office), the leaves will thin and become more graceful and arching. That is the way I like them best!

Dracaenas in general are really easy to care for once you get them settled in and learn how to water them properly. Many of the plants that we use in our interior landscapes are dracaena varieties. They adapt well to the lower light available in many business offices. 

It might interest you to know, if you don't already, that the plant sold as "Lucky Bamboo" is not bamboo at all, but a dracaena! I guess Lucky Bamboo just sounds better than Lucky Dracaena??!!

Anyway, one question I often get about Marginata is how to prune them. That is very easy as you can just cut back the stalk, or cane, at any point above the soil level and a healthy Marginata growing in sufficient light will produce new heads from just below where you cut the cane. Not immediately, of course, you will have to wait a little while. :)


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Mother-In-Law Tongue Plant Care

Plant Care for Mother-In-Law Tongue

Mother-In-Laws Tongue Plant

The most searched for plant care information on my indoor plant care website is for the Sansevieria plant. You may know it as Mother-in-Law Tongue or Snake Plant as those are common names for sansevieria trifasciata.

The Mother-In-Law Tongue is one of the easiest indoor plants to care for and is quite forgiving if you forget to water it every once in a while.

As with any indoor, potted plant, providing your plant with bright light and proper watering is going to reward you with the best growth. Light is essential for plant growth so always provide the best light you have available for your houseplants.

Although you can place Mother-In-Law Tongue in low light, you are going to have a plant that becomes thin, leggy and weak over time.

One important thing to note when caring for your Mother-In-Law Tongue and other houseplants is that the light your plant receives will be a major factor in the watering of your indoor plant.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving (and Receiving) Plants for the Holiday Season

Christmas Cactus Plant

Christmas Cactus - Zygocactus truncatus

The Christmas Cactus is a beautiful, flowering type of forest cactus. In their natural environment, a forest cactus will attach itself to trees in wooded areas and jungles. So it is not too surprising that they are so different looking from their typically spine-covered desert cousins.

The Christmas Cactus is one of many popular plants to give or receive during the winter holiday season. If you know someone who loves plants, you might like to give them a beautiful Christmas Cactus for the holidays.

This beautiful plant is usually in full bloom when received as a gift. Zygocactus truncatus or Schlumbergera truncata are botanical names for the Christmas Cactus. It is called Christmas Cactus because it blooms between late November and mid-January.

When in full bloom, this is one beautiful plant. Flowers may be white, red, pink or purple.

This plant (similar to its close relative the Easter Cactus) has branching, arched stems made of leaf-like, flat segments. Each segment is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. The segments of the Christmas Cactus have a distinct, toothed edge, while the Easter Cactus has more of a scalloped edge. And, of course, the Easter Cactus blooms in April or May.

Although we don't typically use this plant as an interior landscape plant, we do often give them as gift plants to our wonderful, interior landscape customers during the holiday season.

If you receive one of these flowering, forest cacti as a gift, you may have a hard time inducing it to flower again. If you want your Christmas Cactus to flower again in the following year, you will have to follow a few rules. Provide a dry and cool resting period, do not move once buds appear and allow to harden outdoors during the summer. You will need to keep your plant in good light, also.

Here is the Christmas Cactus Schedule:

  • Mid November - mid January, Flowering Period. Water normally, minimum temperature of 55 degrees F.
  • Late January - March, Resting Period. Water infrequently, keep in cool temperatures, 55 degrees F.
  • April - May. Maintain regular watering schedule. Water thoroughly when potting media begins to dry out.
  • June - mid September, Hardening-Off Period. Place outdoors in a shady spot, protect from slugs, snails, earwigs, etc.
  • Mid-September - mid-November, Pre-Flowering Period. Move to a well lit location where you can keep it thru the flowering period. Keep potting media on the dry side and temperatures to the cool side until flower buds form. Then increase water and temperatures.
Now you are back to the first step, mid-November through mid-January, continue to water normally and maintain at a minimum temperature of 55 degrees F. Then start it all over again!!

Have a happy holiday season and give beautiful flowering plants to the plant lovers in your life. Thanks for reading this and I hope you have beautiful blooms on your Christmas Cactus next holiday season!

If you need any help with your indoor house plants, whether it is an indoor plant identification or house plant care assistance, come visit at ...Happy Holidays!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

House Plant Care - How to Have Great Looking Plants

Watering for Healthy Plants

Watering Rules, House Plant Care

Working in the interior landscape business for more than 20 years has gotten me lots of questions about how to care for indoor potted plants.

Customers ask about their own plants at home...why does my plant have yellow leaves... what causes brown leaf come the new growth on my plant is dying...I water my plant everyday but it still isn't doing much should I water my house plant?

It can be hard to diagnose every indoor plant problem when you do not have access to the plant itself. So I generally find myself asking them questions about how they care for their plants. Most often, the problems are solved by changing watering habits. 

In almost every instance, changing the way they look at watering their indoor plants gives them positve results with their houseplants.

I care for indoor plants as my job and I know that there are not many plants that I care for that always use the same amount of water or need watering on a rigid schedule. Many different things influence a plants water use.

Customers turn off the lights, leave the lights on, turn off the air conditioning, turn up the heat, close the blinds, open the blinds. All of these things, and many other things, influence the way you need to water an indoor plant.

There are many things to consider when you are watering your house plants. Read more about watering properly for good results with your indoor house plants... 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Dracaena Plant is Too Tall, Now What?

Dracaena Warneckii Plant

Plant Questions and Answers

Here is a recent email question from Grace, someone looking for some help with her houseplant...

"I got a plant for my moms funeral and now it's very tall and don't know if and how to split it. Any help? I attached a picture of it. Card that came with it says it's a dracaena but couldn't find any helpful information on line."

Hi Grace,

Thanks for the picture. Your plant is a dracaena Warneckii. You can cut back the stem any place that you want to and it should regrow from that point.

Is that what you wanted to know? Your plant looks nice and healthy! Good job.
Let me know if you have any other questions or if I did not tell you what you wanted to know....

Hi again Grace,

Forgot to mention that you can root the piece you cut off in moist sand, then you can plant into its own pot when the roots get a few inches long.
You should remove the leaves (from the cut piece) when you are rooting. The leaves often die anyway, so help your dracaena grow some new roots faster and remove them.
You can cut the dracaena cane into smaller pieces and root them all.  Three to four inches long is a good size. Using a rooting hormone is also helpful
good luck with your plants and thanks for visiting

Sunday, August 16, 2015

One Very Popular Houseplant-Dracaena marginata

Dracaena marginata plant

Dracaena Marginata Plant Care

The marginata plant is one of the most popular houseplants. It is one of my favorites and I get so many emails asking questions about Dracaena marginata that I have to think it is one of everyones favorite indoor potted plants.

One of the care questions that I get most often about this beautiful, indoor plant is about pruning. Is it alright to cut it back if it is too tall? Where should I cut the stem?

The answer to the question is yes, you can cut back the stems or canes of dracaena marginata. You should cut the stem just above the height that you want new growth to start. It is best to do this in the spring time when most plants do much of their growing.

If you look closely at the stem you will see rings that encircle the stem. This is where the leaf nodes are and where your dracaena marginata will push out some new growth. You will most likely get a few new "heads" starting before you know it.

It is best to do this before your plant gets so tall that it needs support to stay upright. Also, it may be a shock to you when you see your plant cut back so far. It also encourages healthy new growth and keeps your plant fuller and healthier looking. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Best Indoor Houseplant For Beginners

Snake Plant - Houseplant

As an interior landscape technician, I get a lot of questions from people during the work day. Some want to know why their plant is not doing well. Others ask what the little bugs on their plant are and how to get rid of them. Some people want to know the best way to prune or propagate their houseplants.

Another common houseplant question is: What is the best houseplant to get if I have never had an indoor plant before?

That is one of the easiest questions to answer as it doesn't require finding out alot of other information. The answer to this question is undoubtably...The Snake Plant!

Snake plants are great indoor plants as they will tolerate an owner that doesn't pay them much attention. They will live in lower light but they will become thin and leggy over time if the light is not sufficient.

However, if you are one of those people that likes to water their plants everyday, you should not get a Snake plant! There are not many indoor plants that will last long with everyday watering!

Snake plants are known as Sansevieria. The long tall foliage looks something like a snake and that is no doubt where the name Snake plants come from. Another name is Mother-In-Law Tongue. Someone will have to explain that one to me.

Anyway, if you are looking for a houseplant that does not need a lot of attention, try a Snake plant. Read about Snake Plant care, Sansevieria houseplants...