{ Archive for the ‘indoor gardening’ Category }

The incredible flowering hoya

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One of my most treasured houseplants is my Hoya carnosa `Snowball` or simply known as a hoya or waxflower. Native to Eastern Asia and Australia, H. carnosa is one of 100 species in the Asclepiadaceae (milkweed) family. This tropical vine has dark, green leathery leaves that leak a milky sap when damaged.

My hoya is probably over thirty years old and has been passed down like a family heirloom. It was originally my grandmother's plant, who gave it to my mom, who in turn gave it to me. hoya2

Like clockwork, it blooms twice a year, once in July and again in January. It has clusters of attractive, star shaped, white blossoms with red centres. It's spectacular when it blooms. Right now, it's covered with dozens of flowering clusters.

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I've already removed a handful of flowers that have finished blooming. The waxy flowers look fake, but I assure you they are real. Once the blooms opens, they are extremely fragrant, especially at night. I'm not sure why the fragrance increases at night, but the sweet scent easily fills my entire house. I've heard of some people removing the flowers because the fragrance is so strong.

So what's the secret to my hoya's success? Simple–I ignore it. I occasionally water it and rarely fertilize it. I did repot it a few years ago and replaced the soil, but other than that, it just hangs in my dinning room window. The new shoots grow quickly and it isn't until they've grown a few feet that they get leaves. There have been a few occasions where I've discovered new vines that had weaved their way through the strings of the blind, with full-sized leaves stuck in between. Unfortunately, the only way to remove them was to remove the leaves and pull the vines through. A hoya will bloom more frequently if placed in direct sunlight, but they'll also tolerate low light.hoya4

If you're looking for an exotic houseplant to grow, consider bringing a hoya home. Notoriously long-lived and hardy, these trouble-free plants are ideal for beginner and experienced gardeners alike.hoya5

My lonely Christmas cactus bloom

One of my favourite holiday plants is the Christmas cactus. When in full bloom, they are an absolutely gorgeous contrast of colour and interesting leaves. I've had mine now for a few years and the last two, I got one lonely bloom. So I asked Anne Marie what I can do to bring back that riot of colour next year. Here is what she had to say:

Christmas cacti are plants that respond to cooler temperatures and the length of the day (short days and long nights) to trigger them to flower. Keeping them slightly dry in the fall may also help, too.

To get them to form buds in early winter or late fall, put them where they will get night temperatures near 15 deg. C (55 F) and day temperatures below 18 deg. C (65 F). After about six weeks at this temperature, buds will form at the end of the branches. Placing the plants where they can get 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night also helps bring on the flower buds. Once the flower buds are formed, the cooler temperatures and long night darkness can be stopped.

But, don't let the plant get too hot, too dry, too cold or experience a sudden change or else the flower buds might drop off.

It's going to be a long wait, but I look forward to the challenge to bring on the blooms!

Repotting my amaryllis

I'm going to re-pot my amaryllis bulb (which has been in a dark room in a basement since last winter). I took a look at an article from the archive, and then asked Anne Marie if she has any recommendations for repotting. Here is what she had to say:

  • Repotting is fine in the late fall. The bulbs should have been dormant long enough by now so that the flower buds have formed.
  • Use a good sterilized houseplant soil and just move the bulb into a pot that is slightly larger. Amaryllis like to be in a small pot for their size (and often are top heavy because of this).
  • Clean off the old soil from the bulb roots and replant it so that ½ to ¼ of the bulb is showing above the soil. Firm the soil and water well.
  • Once a flower bud or leaves start to show, give it a diluted half-strength fertilizer application every week.
  • For reblooming bulbs, many times the leaves will grow first instead of the flower stalk. Move the bulb to a warm, bright location and enjoy.

Last year my sister’s amaryllis had three huge blooms while my bulb grew a sorry-looking little shoot. My hope is that mine measures up this year.

Help for my money tree

I have a money tree and lately I've noticed on the underside of the leaves these little tiny dots that look like water droplets and the odd little web around the leaves. Now some of the leaves are turning brown. I asked Anne Marie, if there is a way to make it healthy again. Here's what she had to say:

The money tree (or good luck plant) is botanically called Pachira glabra and is often grown in a small container with up to eight thick braided trunks. The leaves are palmate (hand-shaped). It is a tropical tree from central and South America. Even though they are native to a humid, moist tropical location, in our homes they should be kept somewhat dry and have good drainage. Make sure the plant is dry between watering–water it thoroughly then let it dry out again. The thickened stem does hold some reserves of water for dry spells. The money tree seems to grow best in containers that are undersized for their height, too. Misting the leaves will help during the winter months. Place the plant in a bright window that doesn't get direct sunlight.

The tiny dots under the leaves could be the plant's emergency moisture-release system kicking in. Called “guttation” in botanical language, these drops of sap are the result of the roots continuing to take up water, which accumulates in the plant and can't transpire enough (particularly at night). The plant releases this under pressure water through special structures in the leaf, where they form drops. High soil moisture levels at night encourage guttation. Reduce the soil moisture and this will stop. High soil moisture might be the cause of the browning leaves, too.

The odd fine webbing could be from a spider, but watch to see if the webs become numerous and small black dots appear on the underside of the leaf–if so, spider mites might be the culprit.

I'll see what I can do with Anne Marie's advice and report back. What I want to know is if I kill my money tree am I destined for a life of debt?

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