Friday, February 24, 2012

General Houseplant Care

While taking care of houseplants can vary greatly between different varieties, there are some general guidelines that apply to most houseplants.   There are two general types of houseplants: the “green” plants and the “blooming” plants.  Green plants are generally grown for their foliage.  Some examples of green plants are philodendron, ferns, dracena, peperomia, and schefflera.  While not considered “blooming plants”, most green plants do flower.  However, in a home situation this is generally rare or nearly unnoticeable.  Blooming plants, on the other hand, are known for large or showy floral displays.  Blooming plants can often be grown after they finish flowering and will flower again if given a good healthy environment.  Some examples of blooming plants are cyclamen, kalanchoe, African violets, spathiphyllum (peace lily), anthurium, bromeliads, and orchids. 

Green Plants  

In general, caring for a green plant is a simple process that requires a small amount of work every few days. Selecting the proper location for your plants is a good way to reduce the amount of care that they require and can increase the overall health of your plant. This includes choosing a plant that will grow well with the amount of light that it will receive in the location in the house. The largest part of caring for your green plants is watering. Improper watering habits, both over-watering and under-watering, are detrimental to plant health. The best way to tell if your plant is watered correctly is to stick your finger into the soil near the plant’s root system and feel if the soil is moist an inch or so below the surface of the soil. Visual signs of both under- and over-watered plants include wilting and generally droopy plants. Over-watering a houseplant can lead to an increase in soil born insects and diseases as well as a reduced root system. Under-watering a house plant can lead to stunted or no growth and excessive leaf dropping.

Most green plants are fairly light feeders and thus only need to be fertilized every 8-10 weeks during the active growing season and every 10-12 weeks during the fall and winter.

Beyond watering and fertilizer, green plants require a bit of quick cleaning in order to keep them looking their best. This would include a gentle dusting with a damp cloth and the removal of dead, dying, or damaged leaves. As your houseplant grows larger it may occasionally outgrow its container or location. Depending on the type of plant, there are a couple solutions to this. If the plant requires repotting, a larger container may be used. Some plant species may be divided and placed into 2 or 3 separate containers if a single larger plant is not desired. Other plant species can be cut back to prevent them from overtaking their location in the house. Please talk to a plant professional about any questions regarding trimming or dividing your houseplants. 

Blooming Plants

Blooming plants require much of the same care as described above for green plants.  Due to their flowers, there are a few added things that need to be done to keep a blooming plant looking its best.  As individual flowers finish their life cycle, they can be removed to keep your plant looking healthy.  This process is often referred to as “deadheading”.  Depending on what type of plant you are growing, deadheading will take on a slightly different process.  A plant professional can give you specific advice as to how, when, and where to remove old flowers.  By maintaining your blooming plants properly, you can often extend their blooming and encourage growth and re-blooming.

Because of the added energy that producing flowers requires, blooming plants often require fertilizer more often than green plants.  A good baseline for how often to fertilize blooming plants is once a month, however, variations in fertilizers and plants can change that. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Salt Tolerant Plants for the Midwest

Even though we haven’t had much snow in our area this year and we don’t live by the ocean, we still think about Salt Spray Damage and how to prevent it.  Salt spray off of busy highways can travel up to 60 feet away from the road.
Here are some things you can do to prevent salt spray damage to your plants this winter:
Improve drainage.
Plant salt tolerant plants (see listing below).
Put up barriers, either natural (i.e. berm) fencing or burlap.
Gypsum can help bind the salt particles and slow its uptake through the plant.
Calcium and dolomitic lime are also believed to help.
Flush plant area with water after area has been in contact with salt.
If possible, don’t use salt at all. Use as little salt as possible, or use a salt substitute like calcium chloride.
Use a sand deicer mix to increase traction.

Here are some signs to look for when trying to determine if your plants have salt spray damage:
Either outer burning or scorch.
Moisture sucked out of leaves or needles.
When the plant takes the salt up into the vascular system it can cause toxic effects or tissue death.
Browning or yellowing plants.
Witches broom or deformed growth on the tips, lack of vigor.
Stunted growth.
Plants are more susceptible to disease and/or insects.
Death of plant.

List of Salt-Tolerant Plants

English Ivy –Hedera helix
Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Virginia Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Daffodil – Narcissus

Blue Lyme Grass - Leymus arenarius
Little Blue Stem - Schizachyrium scoparium
Miscanthus – Miscanthus sinensis
Switch Grass - Panicum virgatum
Fountain Grass - Pennisetum setaceum


Blue Giant Hyssop – Agastache foeniculum
Artemesia – Asteracea
Blanket Flower – Gaillardia
Blue Star – Amsonia

Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa
Candytuft – Iberis sempervirens
Creeping Phlox – Phlox subulata
Daylily – Hemerocallis
Dianthus -
Spindle Tree - Euonymus
Hens & Chicks – Sempervivum tectorum
Hibiscus hardy –
Hosta -
Ice Plant - Delosperma cooperi
Indigo Plant - Baptisia australis
Lamb’s ear – Stachys
Lavender Cotton – Santolina chamaecyparissus
Leadwort – Plumbago
Border Grass - Liriope spicata
Purple Cone Flower – Echinacea purpurea
Red Hot Poker – Kniphofia
Russian Sage – Perovskia atriplicifolia
Salvia -
Elderberry - Sambucus
Sea Thrift – Armeria
Goldenrods - Solidago
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium

Black Gum – Nyssa sylvatica
Black Locust – Robinia pseudoacacia
Catalpa - Bignoniaceae
Eastern Red Cedar – Juniper virginiana
Ginkgo -
Hawthorn - Crataegus species
Hedge Maple – Acer Campestre

Honeylocust – Gleditsia triacanthos
Hophornbeam - Ostrya
Hornbeam - Carpinus caroliniana
Kentucky Coffee Tree – Gymnocladus dioicus
Magnolia -
Mock Orange - Philadelphus x virginalis 'Natchez'
Pawpaw – Asimina triloba
Quaking Aspen - Populus termuloides
Purple Leaf Sand Cherry – Prunus X Cistena
Serviceberry - Amelanchier
Shagbark Hickory – Carya ovata
Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
Witchhazel – Hamamelis

Austrian Pine – Pinus nigra
Blue Spruce – Picea pungens
European Larch – Larix decidua
Jack Pine - Pinus banksiana
Mugo Pine – Pinus mugo
White Fir - Abies concolor
White Spruce - Picea glauca

African Lily - Agapanthus
Aspargus Fern - Asparagus densiflorus (Sprengeri group)
Canna Lily - Canna x generalis
Coleus - Coleus blumei
Blue Daze - Evolvulus
Gaura - Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies'
Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica
Joseph’s Coat – Alternanthera
Mexican Heather – Cuphea hyssopifolia
Moss Rose - Portulaca grandiflora
New Zealand Flax - Phormium
Oleander - Nerium
Pentas – Pentas lanceolata
Purple Heart – Setcreasea pallida
Autumn Sage - Salvia gregii
Verbena - Verbena bonariensis (tall), Verbena x hybrid (short)

Shrubs – hardy Zone 5
Alpine Currant - Ribes alpinum
Beautyberry – Callicarpa
Chokeberry Brilliant - Aronia arbutifolia
Clethra – Clethra alnifolia
Cotoneaster -
Japanese Spindle/Green Spire - Euonymus japonica
Mopheads - Hydrangea macrophylla
Japanese Barberry - Berberis thunbergii
Chinese Juniper  - Juniperus chinensis
Lilac - Syringa
Cinquefoil - Potentilla
Firethorn - Pyracantha
Rugosa Rose - Rosa rugosa
Rose of Sharon - Hibiscus syriacus
Mountain Ash - Sorbus domestica
St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum
Sumac - Rhus
Weigela florida
Willow – Salix

Sources:    Bartlett Tree University of Illinois Extension