Tag Archive | Plant in Focus

‘Clean Air Plants’ or Sansevieria trifasciata in bloom

The Stay-at-home Scientist

Sansevieria trifasciata, otherwise known as the ‘snake plant’ or ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’, is a common ornamental plant, for a few very good reasons. Like all easy houseplants, it thrives on neglect. Low light and infrequent, irregular, waterings serve this plant well, which is great for those who want the tropical look, without the bright light and humidity to support it.  Many people who have grown Sansevieria for years have never seen it flower because they are ‘too good’ to it.  A rough repotting (or conversely, letting it get too root bound) is often enough to trick Sansevieria trifasciata into flowering (because if it thinks it might die, making offspring is a good idea), although once flowered, new leaves will not grow from that particular rhizome.  While the care is easy and the flowers beautiful, one of its main draws for me originally was its reputation as an “air cleaner”.


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Episcia ‘Jim’s Patches’ in Semi-Hydro

All Andrew's Plants

We’ve traditionally had problems meeting the consistent moisture demands of Episcia, especially the hybrids with pink in their leaves (‘Pink Panther’ and ‘Unpredictable Valley’ being two that have died as a result). The problem is that they are awesome, and I want to grow them. Semi-Hydro seemed like a good method to try, so when I got a cutting of ‘Jim’s Patches’ in mid December I figured it would be the perfect time to try it out.

Episcia 'Jim's Patches'
December 12, 2010

Episcia 'Jim's Patches' - Full Plant
February 13, 2011 (that’s a 5″ orchid pot for reference)

Episcia 'Jim's Patches' - New Growth
You can see how quickly salts and minerals can build up in SH – very important to have a way to flush the media regularly.

Episcia 'Jim's Patches' - Stolons
My original cutting is now a grandparent. I’ll warp the stolons around the pot for the first little bit to keep it looking bushy.

Episcia 'Jim's Patches' - Roots
The roots growing down below the waterline have no problems at…

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The Green Thumb 2.0

Some plants are so common while others are seldom seen and difficult to find. For years I’d heard of achimenes and read about them in gardening books but I’d never seen them in garden centers. When I went on an internet search to find them, I only discovered one bulb site and a few eBay sellers who sold achimenes rhizomes. After finally growing them last year, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular.

Achimenes are part of the Gesneriad family along with african violets and gloxinias. The tubular pansy-like blossoms come in a range of colors including reds, purples, blues, whites and pinks. They grow from small rhizomes (underground stems) and are at home in any bright spot. The plant gets about a foot tall but the stems are not very strong so they’re best in hanging baskets or other containers that allow the plants to spill over the sides. While they need bright…

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The Green Thumb 2.0

My favorite flowering houseplant is the gloxinia. You don’t see them very often in the garden centers, probably because their large, stiff  leaves make them hard to ship. I’ve also noticed that the large plants that I used to get back in the 70’s just don’t exist anymore – florists and garden centers don’t grow their own plants any longer. But while the plants might be smaller than I remember them, I still enjoy growing them.

Gloxinia isn’t the true name of these amazing flowers. They are a tuberous member of the family Gesneriaceae. I share this information because this is a plant family that I love which includes achimenes, streptocarpus, goldfish plant and african violets and I’m sure to be making more posts about gesneriads in the future. The common gloxinia was once named Gloxinia speciosa but is now named Sinningia speciosa. If you’re shopping at a place that specializes in gesneriads, you’ll want to…

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eBay Violets

The Green Thumb 2.0

You can get anything on eBay. I’ve been using the site for years and have recently expanded my eBay experience. Last summer I ordered some iris rhizomes from a grower in Indiana and they were better than anything I could have bought locally. Yesterday I received something else from eBay – african violet leaves.

I’ve been growing african violets for a long time but all of the plants that I have are generic plants that I’ve acquired from garden stores. While I have a nice assortment of plants, I wanted to start growing some named violet varieties. You can order small plants from a number of internet sites but eBay offers a large selection of african violet leaves at a much better price. While it takes a little time, propagating a violet leaf is very easy, so I decided to place an order.

When I opened the box I was surprised…

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African Violets – eBay Updates, Repotting and Offsets

The Green Thumb 2.0

The vegetable garden is planted, the flower beds are growing and the rain is falling. It’s good day to spend some time with the african violets.

I noticed that one of the eBay violets has a small plantlet emerging from the potting mix. I planted them in early March so it’s a two or more month process to go from a leaf to a plant. Now how long it’ll take this tiny plant to bloom is something only time will tell – I’m thinking late fall or early winter.

I’ve been reading about violet care on two sites: Optimara www.optimara.com and the Violet Barn www.violetbarn.com. Both provide great information on growing african violets. I’ve been growing violets for years but after checking these sites, I realized that while I thought I was repotting my plants, the fact is that I’ve never repotted a plant in my life; I’ve alway up-potted. When…

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That’s a Streptocarpus?

The Green Thumb 2.0

There is so much variety in the plant world. You can think you know a plant only to find out that there are a whole host of different species and varieties that you knew nothing about.

I learned this lesson with streptocarpus. While I’d never grown this plant, I knew about it. I’d seen lots of pictures of this member of the Gesneriad family in various gardening books. The streptocarpus that I knew was a houseplant with long leaves that grow in a rosette. The flowers are tubular, have 5 lobes and are an inch or more in diameter. They come in a rainbow of colors, many with unique variegation. In my mind, this was a streptocarpus.

Last Mother’s Day I was working at a florist shop and encountered a plant I’d never seen before. The leaves were oval and covered with fuzz. The plant was growing as a hanging basket…

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Potting Phalaenopsis Orchids

The Green Thumb 2.0

Orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants with over 20,000 different species. When you focus only on orchids that are grown as houseplants, the number is much smaller. The easiest of all orchids to grow is the phalaenopsis, sometimes called the moth orchid. This genus of orchid has become very common and easy to find. You can go to a garden center, a grocery store or even a home improvement store and find a good selection of phalaenopsis plants.

When you’re growing a phalaenopsis, it’s helpful to know how it grows in the wild. This orchid is an epiphyte, meaning that in nature it grows on tree branches. Its roots are used to adhere to the tree bark and also to absorb water and nutrients from the air. A phalaeonopsis has to have a potting mix that’s very loose and airy; it needs as much air as…

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Miniature conifers inspire big imaginations

The Amazing World of Conifers

I believe that my love of miniature gardening began in the late 1960s or early ’70s. Terrariums were reemerging as a popular and low-care way to enjoy houseplants. I checked out several books on the subject from the local library, some of which included lists of where plants and supplies could be obtained through the mail. I ordered a few catalogs and a whole new world of plants was revealed to me.

I remember planting my first terrarium, with its multi-layered soil which included fine crushed rock for drainage and horticultural or activated charcoal to keep the soil “sweet.” My desire was to create a self-contained miniature world in a bottle. I found that the empty, clear glass gallon jugs, that were readily available near the dumpsters of the local drinking establishment, worked quite well as the vessels for my new experiments.

When my first planting was complete, I found great…

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The Palm Room



Echeverias are beautiful succulents and there are so many varieties of Echeveria that it makes the genus seem infinite.

The majority come from higher elevations in Mexico – where humidity is low and temperatures do not get too hot.  Their growth season is summer and they should be watered somewhat regularly during this time, and given a strong drought in winter months.

This plant grows in large and small colonies of closely growing offshoots.  In time, offshoots will fill a pot and often spill over the sides, creating a beautiful boquet.


Echeverias are mostly outdoor plants but also look great in a succulent terrarium.  When grown indoors, keep a close watch for mealy bugs, which tend to appear when these plants are grown in shady conditions and when there is a low amount of air circulation.  The mealy bug situation can be dealt with, but since Echeverias…

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