5 Factors for Happy Houseplants - Cheekwood
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We have 3 pets at our house. Our boxer and 2 middle-aged cats. However, the only one who seems to be a threat to our green things is Miss Oakie Bobby, the Maine Coon with a healthy appetite for chlorophyll. She’s experimented with everything from cutting out perfectly canine-shaped holes from the foliage (and leaving green spit-up as a bonus) to using our bigger plant containers as toilets. Yes, she is lucky that she’s cute. Of course, there are plants that are toxic to cats and dogs and other animals (a natural defense mechanism), causing various degrees of vomiting as well as extreme discomfort to their gastrointestinal tracts. The most popular houseplants poisonous to both cats and dogs are aloe, pilea, pothos, cyclamen, peace lily, kalanchoe, philodendron, coleus, and dieffenbachia There are many more, and I recommend checking out the ASPCA website to get a full list. Petmd.com is a wonderful resource to refer to as well. After you’ve distinguished the harmful plants from the benign and arranged them accordingly to safeguard your furry friends, it’s time to use tactics to deflect your pets’ interests if deemed necessary. Adding undesirable effects to your container plants such as tin foil or other sorts of material that your cat finds disturbing can work. Spraying foliage with diluted vinegar will also help repel your pet from wanting to eat it. Did you know there is a product that is manufactured with lion dung to act as a deterrent for cats? It is called Silent Roar and you sprinkle it onto the soil. Humans cannot detect the scent, but the felines can. It will give them the impression that the plant is someone else’s territory. Cayenne pepper can be used in the same manner. Cats abhor the scent of citrus, too. I don’t have to tell you that dogs are generally easier to train than cats. You can tell your dog “no” when they closely approach your plants and reward them appropriately when they obey your command. Like cats, dogs are sensitive to cayenne pepper and citrus scents, too.Again, it’s always prudent to understand your plants individual needs. While ferns will love you for providing them consistent moisture all throughout the year, other plants are not so appreciative. Overwatering during any season can be fatal, especially during the winter when indoor flora prefer to dry out between watering.houseplant2 If thinking in terms of a spectrum helps, consider ferns on one side with cactus and succulents all the way (miles and miles away) on the opposite end of that spectrum. Adopt the habit of checking the root zones of plants (and not just the soil surface) for water needs. Get a feel of your houseplants’ weights when just watered versus dry and, of course, there are plenty of books and online resources if you need to research a specific plant’s requirements.First, it’s important to understand individual plant needs. houseplantHouseplants enjoy lower light intensities than most other plants and by definition are tropical plants; their native homes are deeply shaded rainforests. Move them around until you find that sweet spot of light if you need to. Just this past year I’ve had to experiment with different placements for an asparagus fern and its good buddy, a pothos vine. At first, I had both plants in the bathroom, but I soon discovered they needed just a bit more sunlight than was being offered in that vicinity. Next stop was my office. This new location also involved a larger friend group: a jade plant, rabbit foot fern, and a rex begonia.Reflecting Pool
Pontederia cordata / Pickerel Weed

Pickerel weed is native to eastern North America and the Caribbean. It has soft blue blooms, resembling hyacinth, punctuated with yellow spots on each petal. A freshwater-aquatic plant, it will thrive in your rain garden or backyard pond, and, much like horsetail plant (Equisetum), it can spread rapidly. With its dense root system, it does an amazing job of controlling erosion by keeping sediment it place. Grow in containers, either out of water or in, if spread is a concern.

The leaves of Pontederiaare shaped like arrowheads and, when young, can be used in salads. Its seeds are also edible, and tastes best when roasted, though waterfowl will eat them raw. Butterflies are big fans of this perennial; dragonflies and damselflies commonly lay their eggs on plant stems near the water’s surface. Fish, reptiles, and other water creatures seek shelter in the clumps of these plants. It is often seen in the same habitats as the pickerel fish, hence the common name.Many avid gardeners, in the spirit of perpetually nurturing plant life and getting dirt beneath their fingernails, will focus their attention more acutely on that of houseplants during the winter months. This can involve the transformation of one’s living space into an outright floor-to-ceiling jungle. At my household, this is most certainly the case, since not only do I have an obsession with chlorophyll-driven organisms, but so does my spouse. We have our mainstay houseplants: rex begonias, air plants, majesty palm, peace lily and several mother-in-law tongues, orchids, and terrarium projects. From the deck we have recently brought in for the winter the ferns, the passionflowers vines, the kokedamas we made in the early summer, and the jasmine bonsai. We also brought in a few plants that are likely dead from the looks of it, but where there is light and carbon dioxide, there is hope…right? I would be remiss not to mention the propagation stations we are operating in various sunny nooks around the house, future full-sized Christmas cactus, coleus, and begonias rooting in small water-filled bud vases. While your home may involve a few more or less houseplants than mine, there are a few basic factors to take into consideration when caring for your plants. Below are the biggest things to consider in helping your houseplants live their best lives.Robinson Family Water Garden
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ / Panicle Hydrangea

One of the most winter hardy of all hydrangeas, ‘Tardiva’ is very similar to ‘Floribunda’, although the sepals surrounding the base of the blooms are mostly in sets of four and not five. The panicles of showy white flowers become tinged with rose and lavender coloration as they age. The leaves of panicle hydrangeas are handsomely ovate and dark green. There is excellent cut and dried flower potential with this shrub which will grow up to 10 feet tall if conditions are right. Use in a mass hedge or back border for the grandest effect. If larger flowers are desired, prune shrub to 5-10 primary shoots in late winter or early spring. H. paniculatais native to China and Japan.Wills Perennial Garden
Cortaderia selloana‘Pumila’ (Ivory Feathers®) / Pampas Grass

A dwarf form of pampas grass with creamy white flowers, the plumes of ‘Pumila’ reach about 3-4’ above the evergreen foliage. The panicles of flowers first appear in August and they remain not only intact, but very attractive throughout much of the winter. This dwarf form is perfect for small spaces and, of all available cultivars, this is one of the most floriferous. This tough ornamental grass is easy to grow and maintain.Petite Swan Lawn
Picea abies‘Pumila Nigra’ / Dwarf Norway Spruce

This dwarf Norway Spruce is of unknown origin, but it can be traced back to the late 1800’s when it was first documented in large collections and arboretums. The needles are darker than those of the species, hence the name ‘Pumila Nigra’. Ruby-red colored female flowers can be seen spreading on the crowns of the tree in May. Moderately moist, well-drained soil is the best condition for a happy Picea. They do prefer colder climates (hardiness zone of 2-7) and full sun is much appreciated. Though a small amount of shade is tolerated, it will become very thin and raggedy in too much shade.

This cultivar is the perfect addition to rock gardens, fairy-themed gardens, and front borders. It will grow to an average of 3-4 feet wide and high and is deer resistant.Turner Season’s Garden: Fall section
Acer palmatum ‘Willow Leaf’/ Japanese Maple

With a similar branching habit to that of flowering dogwood, Japanese maples can present a similar attractively layered architecture. Grown as either a tree or shrub according to personal preference, more of its ornamental attributes can be seen when grown as a shrub. A very versatile plant, Acer palmatumcan be used as a shrub border, container element, specimen planting, and bonsai. With bright orange-red leaves that turn deep purple-red in summer, ‘Willow Leaf’ is perfectly placed among the beautyberries in the Fall section of Turner Seasons Garden. The upright, rounded, small tree can grow up to 8′ tall with semi-pendulous branches.In closing, I’d like to ease any worried minds by saying if you have at least an inkling of intuition or any observational skills at all, your houseplants will be fine. First, start off with not forgetting about them. Follow up by taking a close look at each one, getting to know the signs of health versus signs of distress. And lastly, have fun! Curating your home with houseplants can bring so much joy, not to mention all the health benefits related to air quality and mental well-being, which is a whole other article entirely.Temperature is a factor often overlooked during the winter. Because we humans are not necessarily standing by drafty windows all day (and night) long and most of us have the advantage of being mobile, therefore creating heat, it’s easy to neglect this aspect for plants. Most houseplants like the thermostat set to 65 – 75 F for daytime temps, and about 10 degrees cooler during the night, not so different than our preferences. Practice extra caution for plants in colder climates. Avoid placing your plants too close to windows letting in a considerable amount of cold air or windows that frost overnight. Remembering to move them away each evening before dusk could be difficult but pulling down a shade or other type of insulation before sundown may be more manageable. Also, be aware of plants’ sensitivity to extreme heat. Plants in near proximity to fireplaces and other heat sources can become scorched and desiccated.Joining this larger group sitting upon my bookshelf not only provided a better light level and expanded social circle, but it also resulted in a higher humidity level, which is another important environmental factor within the scope of tropical plants. An easy fix for increasing air moisture as well as an attractive way to display plants, creating different groupings around the house can be a fun way to design with similar and/ or contrasting textures, colors and leaf sizes. Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, a self-proclaimed houseplant-a-holic, suggests another method to2. H maintain a happy humidity level. Take the saucers or trays used to hold your houseplants, add pebbles and water to the trays, and then place the potted houseplants back on top of the tray. She is a wealth of knowledge on anything concerning indoor plants and can be found at http://www.thehouseplantguru.com. Lastly, keep in mind that when a plant is exposed to more humidity, it will need less water.

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