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The 7 Best Blooming Houseplants to Brighten Any Room

We’ve still got a while to wait for spring here in Iowa, but you don’t need to wait until then to enjoy some mood-lifting flowering plants! These flowering houseplants all add color and life to any room—just what you need to get you through the home stretch of winter. Here are seven of our favorite blooming houseplants.

Anthuriums: These beauties have bright white, pink, or red flowers that look like cartoon hearts. They flower periodically throughout the year, and each bloom lasts for months at a time! When not in flower, the triangle-shaped foliage has a glossy appearance that adds timeless flair to any space. Anthuriums range in height from between 1-2′ tall and wide, but even the smaller plants can produce their beautiful, signature blooms. They like to be near a window that offers bright, filtered light. Allow your anthurium to dry out a bit between waterings.

Holiday Cacti: Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus make up the trio of Holiday cacti. These plants are all similar-yet-distinct varieties of the Schlumbergera family. Each plant develops flowers when the night length reaches a certain point, which causes them to bloom near their respective holidays. The flowers are either tubular or shaped like daisies, depending on which type you get. Holiday cacti range in color from white, red, pink, orange, and yellow. Allow these to dry out considerably between waterings.

Hoya: Many know about the colorful leaf designs these wonderful plants have, but what many people don’t know is that, in the right light, hoyas can produce very unique flowers! They have little florets that resemble shooting stars, while others form a cluster shaped like a spear. Some are sweetly fragrant, while others are just eye-candy. The color palettes range from reddish-purple to pink and white. Many hoyas flower when they reach a certain age and can flower at any time of the year. Most hoyas like their soil on the dry side with moderate to full sunlight.

Bromeliads: These plants offer some of the brightest blooms you’ll see indoors! The colors range from vivid yellow, pink, red, and orange. Their large conical flowers last for a couple of months and add some tropical attitude to your indoor spaces. Both the blooms and the leaves of bromeliads have great ornamental appeal, and some bromeliad varieties have gorgeous variegated foliage. Bromeliads enjoy moderate to full sunlight, and it’s important to let them dry down before rewatering.

Crown-of-Thorns: This plant may look a bit scary at first glance, but their bark is worse than their bite. The thorns of these plants are for show only and are completely safe for your fingers! What’s awesome about this plant are their little clusters of cheerful flowers, an intriguing contrast next to the tough-looking, spiky stems. Bloom colors come in reddish-pink or yellow, and the blooms last for quite some time. This plant may look like a desert plant, but we have found they prefer to be watered deeply and allowed to dry out. To get the best show of blooms, keep them in full sunlight.

African Violets: These vintage favorites have come a long way! African violets flower in almost any color of the rainbow, including purple, blue, red, white, and pink. You can also find African violets with single or double blooms. Some African Violets have beautiful variegated leaves, while more traditional-looking varieties have solid green foliage. They require lots of light to flower, but once flowering has started, they can bloom for months under the right conditions. Try not to allow any water to touch the leaves since it can cause unattractive blemishes. Pour water directly into the soil or water from the bottom, then allow the plant to dry out. 

Orchids: A popular favorite that comes in many colors, bloom shapes, and styles. The most common colors are white, pink, black, yellow, and red. You might spot a blue one here and there, but this color can only be achieved by dying the white orchids. Some orchids have delightful scents, like vanilla or chocolate! They usually bloom annually in winter or spring. Some people may be intimidated when it comes to growing these graceful houseplants, but they aren’t nearly as tricky to grow as they seem. Planting in an orchid bark mix is a must, and make sure to use an orchid container or clay pots since these blooming beauties are used to having lots of air circulation around their roots.

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At this time of year, it’s so nice to come home to colorful flowers and lush green foliage. Find your new favorite houseplant today at our garden center in Cumming, IA! We carry a great selection of houseplants to suit your style and brighten your day.

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The Best Backyard Plants to Provide Food for Birds in Iowa

Setting up a feeding station and water source for birds in our gardens goes a long way toward helping them flourish. However, there’s even more you can do that requires even less long-term effort. Planting a variety of plants that produce seeds and berries for Iowa birds is a great way to support the local ecosystem. There’s a wide variety of plants that produce berries and seeds that birds love to eat. These types of plants support avian populations all throughout the year.

So what are the best bird-friendly garden plants in Iowa? Generally speaking, the best plants to support bird populations are native plants. Different birds like different types of plants, so its important to grow a mix of native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Birds also prefer sheltered food sources, so plants for birds should be planted where they’ll be a bit protected from the wind by other plants or structures in your yard.

Landscaping for Backyard Birds

Wide-open patches of trimmed grass have no value for birds, so consider giving up some of your lawn to grow more shrubs and garden beds. The best thing about landscaping for birds is that the best plants for them are plants that are native to Iowa. Native plants are, by definition, adapted to our climate and require very little maintenance, and next to no watering once established. Growing a dense shelterbelt, or a few large evergreens, that protect your yard from prevailing winds gives birds a place to rest and take shelter in storms and bad weather. Planting should include a wide variety of heights and shelter for different types of birds.

Here are some of the best bird-friendly plants for our backyards in Iowa.

Pagoda Dogwood produces a navy-blue berry. This tree is popular with woodpeckers, nuthatches, orioles, mockingbirds, sparrows, warblers, vireos, and thrushes.

American Basswood tree, or Linden, is popular with a wide variety of birds. It’s popular with insects, which are a primary food source for many birds. It also produces a small nut-like fruit that birds like. Woodpeckers and Baltimore orioles like to nest in these trees.

Black Raspberry is popular not only as a food source for birds but also as a source of nesting material for native bees. 

Blue Grama is a perennial grass that grows in bunches. It is popular with birds that eat seeds, like nuthatches, finches, sparrows, chickadees, and cardinals.

Goldenrod is popular with a variety of insects and is also a favorite of insectivorous birds like warblers, woodpeckers, swallows, and wrens.

Chokecherry is another shrub that grows food for not just birds, but other small critters as well. 

Buttonbush is a pretty shrub that produces a small button-like berry. The blossoms and berries attract a variety of birds and pollinators.

Common sunflowers are an excellent easy-to-grow source of food for birds. In the fall, you can leave sunflowers standing as they are for the birds, or you can cut them down and prop up the seed heads near the shrubs and trees where birds like to hang out.

Little Bluestem is a beautiful ornamental grass that produces white seed-heads that birds love. 

Prairie Dropseed grass is another attractive ornamental grass that grows seed heads that attract birds.

Juniper berries are also popular with many different types of birds. The pale-blue berries contrast beautifully with the brilliant green foliage. 

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Planting your yard with trees, shrubs, and plants that are popular with birds is an excellent way to increase the biodiversity in your backyard. A garden full of native plants and shrubs supports the wildlife in our region and offers essential support for declining bird populations across the continent. Ready to make your yard and garden into a bird haven? Stop by our garden center today to discover more trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers that your backyard birds will love!

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How To Start Your Garden from Seeds: 2020 Iowa Seed Starting Guide

It’s still pretty chilly outside here in the Midwest, and we’re feeing a little antsy about getting back into the garden. It’s not quite time to start planting yet, but it is the perfect time to start thinking about planning your summer vegetable garden. While we have a pretty long growing season here in Des Moines at about 175 days, some things need a little longer to mature. We can get a jump on the season by starting some of our seeds indoors this spring.

Here’s our guide to starting seeds in Iowa.

What You Need to Start Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors is fairly simple, but it’ll go a lot better if you have a few specific items that make the planting process easier. Here are the items you’ll need to get the best results possible when starting seeds indoors.

  • Starter soil mix
  • Starter containers
  • Plastic plant trays (with clear covers)
  • Grow lights (minimum of one 2′ light per tray of seeds, but two is even better!)
  • High-quality seeds
  • Labels
  • Seedling starter heating mat

Why Use a Grow Light?

We consider grow lights a seed starting essential because even in the brightest window, most seedlings will grow tall, leggy, and weak without supplemental grow lights. Many grow lights these days are LEDs, so they use hardly any energy, and the bulbs won’t burn out for years and years to come.

Grow lights need to be very close to the trays when plants are just sprouting, no more than 4 inches above the soil. This is to ensure the plants get enough light and don’t get too tall and spindly. As your seedlings grow, you can move the lights up, always keeping them around 3-4 inches from the tops of the plants. To make sure seedlings get enough light, keep grow lights on for 12-14 hours per day.

Using Heating Mats

Seedling starter heating mats are nice to have, but they’re not necessarily essential. You’ll have the most success with seed germination if you keep the soil temperature between 70-75°F. A heat mat makes it easy to maintain this temperature for your seedlings if the temperature in your house tends to fluctuate. 

Labels are essential, believe us! If you don’t put labels on your seedlings, the chances are that you’ll forget what you planted in each tray after a week or two. We have a few different options for planting labels that you can write the names on, or if you’ve got popsicle sticks left over from a child’s school project, you could use them.

When To Start Different Vegetables and Herbs

Many seed packets include information about when to plant the seeds indoors. Usually, they mention the number of weeks before the last frost date. Our last frost in Iowa is generally around the middle of April, so count backward from April 15 to determine when you should start planting each of your seeds indoors. 

January
January is a little too early for starting most seeds. There are a few woody herbs that are slow growers, like oreganolavenderrosemarythyme, and sage, that you can start in January if you like. 

February
Towards the end of February, you should be planting seeds for bell pepperscabbageceleryeggplantleeksonions, and tomatoes.

March
About the middle of March, you can start planting seeds for broccoliBrussels sproutscauliflowercollardscucumbers, and Swiss chard.

Towards the end of March, you can start planting seeds for cantaloupewatermelonlettucepumpkinssquashes, and sweet potatoes.

April
By mid-April, you should be able to start transplanting your seedlings outdoors, and direct seeding others into the garden.

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It might be too early to start sowing now, but it is a great time to do some research about any new vegetables and herbs you want to try this year. If you have trays and seedling containers you’re reusing this year, make sure to wash them up and rinse them with a water and bleach solution. If you already have grow lights, check to make sure the bulbs are all working. If you need to stock up or replace any equipment, visit our garden center in Des Moines! We can get you any seed starting supplies you need, as well as plenty of exciting seeds to inspire your planning. 

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The Best Colorful Trees and Shrubs for an Attractive Winter Garden

Sometimes it seems like winter in our gardens is very monotone: grey leafless trees and white snow, with a few evergreens here and there. But there are actually quite a variety of trees and shrubs that can add pops of color, shape, and texture to give our gardens a beautiful aesthetic, all year long.

We’ve got plenty of ideas on how to make your garden just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer. Here are just a few of the best trees, shrubs, and grasses for winter interest in Iowa.

Trees

Trees are an excellent addition to your garden for many reasons, not just because they’re beautiful. Trees increase property values, reduce noise, clean our air, and help lower our utility costs by shading our homes. These trees offer all of these benefits while giving your landscape four-season color.

Colorado Blue Spruce features bright blue needles on gracefully drooping branches that look beautiful under the snow. It can be trained for upright growth or a spreading groundcover form. The steely blue color is striking in winter.

White Pine features long silky-smooth needles. It looks a little fuzzy from a distance, which makes it look very cozy under snow in the winter. It is a beautiful shade tree in a brilliant warm green.

Norway Spruce is a durable evergreen with a uniform cone shape. The needles mature to a rich deep green for the winter.

Trembling Aspen is a North American deciduous native. It features striking white bark, the beauty of which is revealed when it has lost its leaves. It’s brilliant white contrasts beautifully with rich blue winter skies or evergreen backdrops.

As River Birch matures, it develops richly colored peeling bark in shades of white, brown, and golden-yellow. The unique bark adds visual texture and color interest in winter.

Red Jewel Crabapple is a small ornamental crabapple. It’s spring blooms are beautiful, but it provides beautiful color all the way through the year with brilliant red fruit that hangs on all through the winter. The fruit is a spectacular pop of color, and the Cedar Waxwings arriving next spring will appreciate them as well.

Shrubs

Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.

Japanese Garden Juniper is a spreading groundcover juniper. It features bluish-green foliage that turns a purplish-blue in winter.

Montgomery Blue Spruce is a mounded shrub that resembles a short, plump Christmas tree at maturity. Its silvery-blue foliage looks beautiful under snow in the winter.

Green Velvet Boxwood is a mounding broadleaf evergreen that can be pruned into any shape you like, from a clean and uniform hedge to a unique topiary shape. Its leaves maintain a brilliant green through winter, and a totally unique texture compared to other needle-type evergreens.

PJM Rhododendron is another broadleaf evergreen. The leaves turn a dark purple-red in the fall. The dark leaves really stand out against a backdrop of white snow.

Ivory Halo Dogwood forms a rounded mound and has four-season interest. It has showy variegated foliage during the growing season, creamy white flowers and berries in the spring, and eye-catching bright red branches in the winter.

Little Lime Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub, but the blossoms will dry on the stems and last all winter. The conical flower heads and branches fade to rich golden brown and add unique shapes to the garden.

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Grasses

Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.

Grasses add a completely different look and feel to our yards in winter. Their tall wispy fronds add structure and drama against a snowy backdrop. Their golden yellow color contrasts beautifully with evergreens and snow.

Karl Foerster Reed Grass grows in clumps and up to five feet tall and features a fine delicate texture. A row of delicate golden-tan clumps adds texture and definition in winter.

Purple Fountain Grass grows up to four feet tall and features thick bottle-brush seed heads, and rich reddish-purple color all winter long. The gracefully arching seed heads and foliage are beautiful against snow.

Northwind Switch Grass grows up to five feet tall and turns a brilliant coppery-bronze in winter. It’s rigid upright form, and brick red seed heads are strikingly beautiful.

If you’re finding your yard a little lackluster to look at this winter, come visit our garden center in the spring. Pick out some gorgeous new trees, shrubs, and grasses to fill your yard with vibrant color next year.

Please note: we are currently closed for the season. We will be open on the weekends of January 24-26, and February 7-9 and then we will officially reopen for the season on March 23, 2020. Stay informed – sign up for our newsletter. We can’t wait to see you next year!

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Beautiful Blooms for the Holidays

We’ve already talked about the classic Christmas plants like poinsettia and Christmas cactus, but they’re only a few of the many winter-blooming plants that can complement your festive decor. If you’re looking for something just a little bit different to add some bright color to your home, try one of these beautiful blooms for the holidays in Iowa.

Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orchids are an elegant and exotic bloomer. Phalaenopsis orchids, in particular, are quite easy to grow and are available in a variety of colors. The best part about orchids is that their blooms last for ages. You may still have the same blooms on your orchid well into January! Orchids can be prone to root rot, so err on the side of underwatering. Orchids like bright but indirect light, so they don’t need to be too near a window. If you’d like to try getting your orchid to rebloom later, it’s a good idea to re-pot it from time to time. They perform best in a chunky, fast-draining orchid-specific potting mix.

Bromeliads

Bromeliads are sensational houseplants. Their dramatic shapes and bright colors bring a tropical flair to any room. Their blooms also last an extremely long time, for several months usually. They also like indirect light and do prefer to be a bit drier, especially in winter. Water bromeliads when the soil is dry to about 2″ deep. When you do water your bromeliad, be sure to water into the center, where the leaves and flower stalk meet. Bromeliads also absorb water through their tank in the center. Unfortunately, bromeliads only bloom once in their life, so once the colorful central stalk starts to fade, you can cut it back. Hopefully, your bromeliad will then begin to develop “pup” plants, which you can transplant into new pots and enjoy all over again.

Azalea

Small azalea plants are another option that is commonly available around Christmas. They have large, cheerful, blousy-looking blooms. They like bright indirect light and prefer moist, but not wet soil. Azalea is best watered with a tray when the water starts to run through, stop watering. After an hour, dump any excess water sitting in the saucer. Some varieties of Azalea are hardy enough for our chilly zone 5 winters in Iowa, and you can plant them outdoors to grow into a lovely shrub. Just check the tag to make sure the variety you’ve picked out is appropriate for our climate.

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe is another popular holiday houseplant. Similar to poinsettias, they’re often kept for the season and then composted once the blooms finish in January. As a succulent, kalanchoe need excellent drainage, they’ll do best in a succulent or cactus soil. The best way to water kalanchoe is to set it in the sink in an inch or two of water and let it soak until it stops, but don’t water until the soil is dry. They’ll suffer more from overwatering than underwatering. They love lots of sunshine, so a spot near a south window is perfect for them. They can be kept and successfully rebloomed again next year. Starting in September next year, they need 12-14 hours of complete darkness to initiate the blooming process in time for Christmas.

Winter Begonias

Winter begonias are profuse bloomers through the holiday season, with pretty blossoms and showy leaves with pink, red, silver, or white centers outlined with brilliant green. Begonias prefer filtered light, evenly moist soil, and humidity. Begonias propagate very easily, so you can quickly grow yourself many more begonias just from leaf cuttings. You can pinch back some leaves and blooms (when they finish blooming) to encourage a bushier growth habit.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

If you are looking for a more unexpected holiday houseplant than the traditional choices, stop by our garden center. We can help you find a beautiful new houseplant that reflects your personal style and adds a cheerful hit of color to your home through the holiday season.

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Christmas Centerpieces for Your Table: 10 Super Easy DIYs

A beautiful Christmas centerpiece adds the final touch of elegance and style to a holiday event. There are plenty of elaborate and expensive ideas out there, but you can easily DIY a beautiful arrangement on your own with just a few supplies. You’ve probably got many of these supplies kicking around your house already, and if you haven’t, we’ve got most of them at the garden center. Swing by and pick up a few next time you’re running errands around Bettendorf.

1. Water Features

You’ll need a glass container, water, and some feature items. Simply add your feature items to a few jars or vases, fill them with water, and arrange them on your table. Cranberries are a beautiful option, but you can use almost any Christmasy thing you like. A few evergreen sprigs, some holly with berries, or even pinecones look gorgeous underwater. You can add a lid and a pretty ribbon if you like, set a floating candle on top, or fill the top with some gorgeous contrasting cut flowers.

2. Highlight the Beauty of Fruit

This delightful centerpiece doubles as an appetizer! Arrange a layer of evergreen boughs in a fruit bowl, and then pile on an arrangement of holiday fruits like apples, pomegranates, clementines, figs, oranges, or pears, and then add a few cinnamon sticks and assorted nuts to finish it off.

3. Mason Jars for Everything

Maybe it’s getting a bit cliche, but mason jars are so dynamic for DIY projects, and they’re perfect for centerpieces. You can fill them partway with white craft sand, Epsom salts, or fake snow, and set small LED candles, pine cones, or small holiday ornaments, inside. Sprinkle a little extra salt or fake snow overtop to give them a dusted look.

4. Upcycle a Wooden Crate or Box

Sometimes Christmas oranges come in cute little wooden crates. DIY them into a centerpiece. Add a 1 or 3 (odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye) LED pillar candles, and tuck an assortment of evergreen boughs, holly and berries, and pinecones around them.

5. Make Birch Cookies

No, we’re not baking anything here. Tree cookies are just a slice of tree trunk a few inches thick, usually with the bark still on. Birch is a beautiful option. You can use a few different sizes and heights and arrange them together on your table. Get a few LED candles, maybe some ribbon, and a few small Christmas ornaments, and arrange them on and around the birch cookies.

6. Birch Pole Bundle

Make a bundle of birch poles or branches about 16-20 inches long. Wrap a pretty holiday ribbon around the middle and make a bow. You can tuck in a few sprigs of evergreens to add a little extra interest.

7. Get out the Spray Paint

A couple of cans of spray paint, in white, gold, and silver (or whatever other festive colors you like) make centerpieces easy. First, collect some fallen twigs from around your yard. Bring them inside and let them dry overnight. Then, spray paint an old tin can or an old wine bottle white. Then spray paint your collected twigs gold or silver. Once everything is dry, tie a festive ribbon around the bottle, arrange the shiny twigs in it, and pop it on your table.

8. Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with Strings

Wrap some small boxes or packages in holiday wrapping paper or brown packing paper. If you don’t have any boxes, tiny painting canvases from the craft store in assorted sizes are perfect. Tie some pretty string or ribbons around them and arrange them with some greenery and pinecones on the table.

9. Mini Wreaths

Small holiday wreaths, 8-12”, are the perfect addition to classic candles. Simply lay the wreath down, add a pillar candle, or three, to the middle, and you have a centerpiece. If you want you can tuck in some extra greenery, holly berries, pine cones, or cinnamon sticks, to fill in any gaps between the candle and the wreath.

10. Upside Down Wine Glass Candle Holder

Choose a few small ornaments, sprigs of an evergreen bough, or pinecones. Turn your wine glass upside down, and set it over your feature ornaments. Then tie a coordinating ribbon around the stem of your glass, and set a candle on the base of the glass.

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Whether you forgot to get a centerpiece for the holiday table, or you just want to make your own, there are so many amazing ideas out there. Have a quick look through Pinterest and have a go at DIY-ing something that strikes your fancy. Your friends and family will be impressed when they find out the beautiful holiday centerpieces on your table were designed by you. Don’t forget, tiny twinkle lights make everything better, and since they come with battery packs they’re easy to add to any holiday arrangement.

Swing by the garden center to pick up a few supplies, or sign up for a class, and get creative!

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The Best Living Holiday Ornaments & Inspiration

Adding living plants to your holiday Christmas decor is easier than it might seem. Incorporating live plants into your holiday decor brings a sense of vibrancy and natural beauty that you just can’t get with artificial plants. We’ve put together a festive list of our favorite ways to decorate with live holiday ornaments in Iowa, and two tutorials for fun holiday decor with houseplants.

Houseplants on a Christmas Tree

We think adding houseplants to the Christmas tree gives it a unique and elegant look. Here are a few innovative ways to add some of your favorite houseplants to your tree decor. The very best part about all of these ideas is that you can keep them out well after Christmas.

Glass Ornaments

Glass ornaments with openings can act like tiny terrariums. You can find open-sided glass ornaments in a variety of sizes and styles at our garden center. You can keep them super simple, popping a single air plant or a sprig of evergreen into each one, or get more creative by crafting a miniature ecosystem.

Get the kids involved and create tiny Christmas fairy garden terrariums. Using sphagnum moss as a base, you can create a tiny holiday scene in each one. Small pieces of an evergreen branch can stand in as a tiny Christmas tree. Hanging these on your Christmas tree, or placing them around the house, adds understated elegance and simplicity to your decor.

Wire Ornaments

Simple metal or wire ornaments in classic holiday shapes, like stars or bells, are very trendy right now. Using wire, attach a grouping of air plants or succulents to one of these ornaments, and you’ve got a beautiful mid-century modern living ornament for your home.

Terra Cotta Pots & Macrame

Macrame has come back in a BIG way in the last year or two. Our favorite versions for the holidays are tiny macrame hangers for 1-2″ terra cotta pots. You can hang these on your Christmas tree for delightfully unique ornaments. If you’ve never done macrame before, don’t be intimidated. There are numerous videos online on how to make simple macrame plant hangers. Pop a tiny bit of soil and a mini succulent, “baby” spider plant, or other small plants into the terra cotta pot, and you’ve got some super cute living ornaments for your Christmas tree.

Our Favourite Live Christmas Decor

Evergreen boughs are a classic living Christmas decoration. There are so many different kinds of evergreens available, you can never go wrong with adding some branches to your holiday decor. Whether you add some to pots on the front porch, arrange them in vases on the table, draped over the mantle, or made into a wreath, evergreens always add a traditional Christmas feel to your home.

Amaryllis is a perennial favorite holiday plant. They’re elegant and simple with dramatic flower bracts, which makes them a classic central element for a Christmas centerpiece. Because their stems and leaves are tall and slender, amaryllis won’t block your view of the happy faces around the table!

Paperwhites are another classic Christmas bulb that compliments amaryllis well. They’re also tall and slim, but they feature beautiful bunches of white star-shaped flowers that complement the voluptuous, colorful blossoms of amaryllis.

We often associate floral arrangements with warmer days, but there are tons of beautiful flowers that work very well with Christmas decor. Classic red and white roses, or red and white carnations, have a decidedly Christmas-y feel when paired with greenery. Holiday floral arrangements combine nicely with sprigs of eucalyptus, ivy, or holly.

Tiny potted living evergreen trees are delightful both indoors and outdoors. You can get different varieties and place one in each room of the house, or use them to line your front walkway. It’s fun to decorate each tiny tree with a different theme. Strings of tiny fairy lights make them just as romantic as a full-sized tree.

Our absolute favorite live decor has to be our Table Top Grinch Trees. Combining living cedar greenery, a cute pot, and some adorable ornaments, these fun evergreen designs are always a bestseller. We also hold seasonal workshops in which we show you how to create your own unique Whoville tree. These stunning arrangements keep on living right into the new year if you keep them watered. Sign up for our upcoming class on December 4th to learn how to make your own. If you can’t make it to this class, we’ve got so many others coming up featuring ideas for live holiday decor, including:

Sterling Silver Snowflake Jewelry, November 30, 9-11 AM, $25-$50

Holiday Porch Pot, November 30, 12:30-2:30 PM, $20

Vintage Santa, November 30, 12:30-2:30 PM, $60

Mini Birch Evergreen Holiday Centerpiece, November 30, 3-5 PM, $25

Succulent Christmas Tree, December 2, 6-8 PM, $20

Holiday Grapevine Wreath, December 3, 6-8 PM, $39

Holiday Creation Station, December 3, 6-8 PM, $20

Holiday Angel Painting, December 3, 6-8 PM, $45

Tabletop Grinch Tree, December 4, 6-8 PM, $40

Holiday Porch Pot, December 5, 5-8 PM, $20

Garden to Glass: Holiday Part 2, December 5, 6-8 PM, $35

Holiday Porch Pot, December 7, 9-11 AM, $20

Holiday Centerpiece, December 7, 12-2 PM, $20

You can sign up for any of our workshop classes online or in person at our garden center. By the way, if you’re really set on making a Grinch Tree but can’t make it the workshop on the 4th, let us know! You can always come to the Holiday Creation Station workshop on the 3rd instead, but if we get enough interest, we may consider adding in another Grinch Tree workshop for our friends in Des Moines!

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How to Make Your Holiday Greenery Last

Festive evergreen boughs are the foundation of so many gorgeous holiday arrangements. They show up everywhere in your seasonal decor—from bouquets to wreaths, planters to garlands. Not only are evergreen cuttings beautiful, but their scents are hallmarks of the season. The only downside is they tend to dry out extremely fast and start dropping needles all over your floor.

So, how can you keep your beautiful natural Iowa evergreens vibrant and crisp all season?

Here are a few quick tips:

Buy them fresh. The sooner you can purchase greenery after it has been cut, the better. The longer boughs sit in the open air without water, the faster they dry out.

Choose boughs from evergreens that grow easily in Iowa. Try Eastern White Pine, Red Cedar, Balsam Fir, Common Juniper, and Yew.

Keep them outside as long as possible. The cold weather will help maintain their dormancy and keep sap moving through them as slowly as possible, helping your greenery to stay greener!

Soak cuttings in water before you create your arrangement. If you’re going to create an arrangement with fresh boughs, give them a good soak first. Cut evergreen stems like you would fresh flowers, then let them sit in a bucket of water for 24 hours so they can soak up as much water as possible. Even wreaths should be soaked. If you can, lay your wreath flat in a few inches of water overnight.

Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant. Anti-desiccant spray, also known as anti-transpirant, helps to lock moisture into needles and branches. You can pick up an anti-desiccant at our garden center. Giving your greens a good spray before you start arranging will help them retain moisture as long as possible.

Keep arrangements in water. If you’re creating an arrangement in a container, make sure the stems of the evergreens are submerged in water. Keep them in a vase or a bucket of some sort inside your planter. Check the water level daily; evergreens are thirsty things.

Mist evergreen cuttings daily. Especially indoors, evergreens will dry out much faster than outside. Give them a good spray over every day so they can soak in a little extra moisture.

Keep your finished arrangements in the shade, away from heat and direct sun. Direct sunlight will cause them to dry out faster. Being too warm, or located too close to a heat source, will also accelerate dehydration.

If you’re using lights in your arrangement, use LEDs. LED lights don’t produce heat, whereas incandescent lights get very warm and dry out your evergreen needles.

Consider adding non-traditional greenery. Rosemary, boxwood, and potted ferns can add a touch of brilliant greenery to your winter decor, and they last quite a bit longer than traditional evergreens. You could also use potted evergreen trees and shrubs in your decor, which could then be potted out into your yard in the spring.

If you’re not quite sure how to get started making an evergreen holiday arrangement, join us for one of our upcoming classes! You’ll learn from the pros how to make a variety of different Christmas-themed arrangements. You won’t believe how easy it is to create a stunning holiday arrangement for your home!

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Top 15 Delightful Houseplants for 2020

Houseplants have seen a surge in popularity across the states in the last few years, and they’re just as popular in Iowa as anywhere else. With 2020 around the corner, the houseplant trend isn’t going anywhere.

In 2019, the list of most popular houseplants in Iowa was dominated by tropical beauties that are super easy to grow, like Snake Plant and ZZ Plant. Now that people have gotten a taste of the joys of houseplants, it looks like they’re starting to branch out a bit and take on plants that are a little more challenging, like African Mask. Plant sharing is becoming more popular too, so things that are easy to propagate, like Chinese Money Plant, are still on the list.

Here are 15 gorgeous houseplants that are about to be wildly popular in 2020.

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Swiss Cheese Plant

Swiss Cheese Plant, or Monstera deliciosa, has the potential to grow to a massive scale. In their native environment, from Southern Mexico to Panama, they grow up to 30′ tall. It’s dramatic split leaves are visually striking, adding drama to any room. Swiss Cheese Plant is a statement piece. They will tolerate low light fairly well, but they grow faster in a bright room. Native to the dappled shade of the rainforest, Swiss Cheese Plant can’t tolerate direct sun, so don’t get them too close to south-facing windows. Now and then, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth or sponge to clean the dust off.

String of Pearls

String of Pearls are unique succulents that looks beautiful when trailing over the edges of hanging pots. It genuinely resembles a string of green pearls. This popular succulent is pretty easy to care for, too. It needs well-draining soil, like a cactus mix, in a shallow pot. Fertilizer can cause root burn, so don’t fertilize more than once a year in spring. This succulent likes bright light, but not direct sun, which can be too intense for this delicate plant. If it’s struggling near a south window, move it away. It doesn’t need much water; the soil should be dry before watering again. String of Pearls is very easy to propagate—just snip off a section of pearls and tuck the cut end into the soil.

String of Hearts

String of Hearts, or Rosary Vine, is another popular trailing plant. It has delightful soft green heart-shaped leaves with white veins. It looks beautiful in a hanging pot. String of Hearts loves heat, but not direct sun. It thrives near a west-facing window. While not technically a succulent, it likes similar care to succulents like String of Pearls, and the soil should dry out between watering. This plant is sensitive to overwatering.

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Rubber Tree 

Rubber Tree, or Ficus elastica, is another popular house plant with the potential to grow big and bold. It has shiny dark green leaves and is an excellent complement to minimalist decor. Rubber Tree isn’t actually made of rubber, but it is very easy to care for! Keep yours in a bright room but out of direct sunlight. Don’t water until the top inch or two of soil is completely dry. You can keep their size in check with regular pruning, but if left to its own devices, this plant will grow and grow. The sap from Rubber Tree is a known skin irritant, so wear gloves when pruning or repotting.

Ruby Rubber Tree

Ruby Rubber Tree, or Variegated Rubber Tree, has variegated leaves with green centers, white edges, and hints of pink. Often the middle stem of leaves will be red. Ruby has similar care requirements to the standard Rubber Tree, although its need for bright indirect light is even more critical. Poor lighting will cause the vibrant colors of this variety to fade.

Rubber Tree Tineke

Tineke Rubber Tree, or Burgundy Rubber Tree, is very similar to Ruby, but it is a little more compact with deeper red tones. It has the same care requirements as Ruby, and bright indirect light is very important for color retention. Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

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ZZ Black Raven 

ZZ Plant is probably the easiest low-light plant to care for. With its recent resurgence in popularity, more varieties of ZZ Plant are available than ever. Black Raven is a favorite because of its extremely dark, nearly black leaves. It’s a striking contrast to the classic brighter greens of most house plants. Black Raven ZZ Plant should not get direct sun. Although it does need some light, it will grow well in offices or bathrooms with less light. The new leaves emerge in a shade of vibrant green and shift to deep purple-black over time. 

Raindrop Peperomia

Raindrop Peperomia, also known as Peperomia polybotrya, Owl Eye Peperomia, or Coin Leaf Peperomia, commonly gets mistaken for Chinese Money plant, but the leaves have slightly different shapes. Raindrop Peperomia’s leaves are a distinct water droplet shape. It is suitable for smaller spaces as it won’t usually get more than 1′ tall. It needs bright light but should be kept out of the direct afternoon sun. Raindrop Peperomia is a succulent, so let the soil dry out between waterings. 

Sansevieria

Sansevieria, also known as Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, or Viper’s Bowstring Hemp, might tie with the ZZ plant for the title of “easiest plant to care for.” You can forget to water Sansevieria for weeks, and they don’t seem to care. In fact, they’re more sensitive to overwatering than infrequent watering. They’ll do well in low light situations, and are also easy to propagate from cuttings. There are many different varieties available with beautiful patterns and colors. 

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Starfish Snake Plant

Sansevieria Starfish, or Starfish Snake Plant, has thick cylindrical leaves that spread out in all directions like the legs of a starfish. The leaves have stripes of alternating light and dark green. Their care requirements are the same as all other Sansevieria.

Fernwood Snake Plant

Sansevieria Fernwood, or Fernwood Snake Plant, also has cylindrical leaves, with slightly wider strips than Starfish. The leaves grow in a tight cluster that arch out a little as they get taller. The care requirements are the same as all other Sansevieria.

Rattlesnake Plant 

Rattlesnake Plant, or Rattlesnake Prayer Plant, has light green leaves with dark purple stripes and spots, and purple undersides. The leaves have slightly ruffled edges, giving the plant an intriguing appearance. Rattlesnake Plants prefer medium to low-light locations; direct sun will burn the leaves. It likes damp, but not waterlogged, soil. Overwatering will cause it the leaves to wilt, and if it’s left dry for too long, the leaves will start to curl and may turn brown.

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Calathea Orbifolia

Calathea Orbifolia is another popular variety of Prayer Plant. It has large bright green leaves with dazzling silvery-blue stripes. This variety is a little harder to find, but it’s a beautiful addition to any home. Like Rattlesnake Plant, Calathea Orbifolia prefers medium to low-light conditions and evenly damp soil.

Chinese Money Plant

Chinese Money Plant, or Pilea peperomioides, is also a super easy-care low-light plant that happens to be absolutely adorable. It has pretty round leaves at the top of long skinny stems. Chinese Money Plant is an excellent plant for sharing with friends because it regularly sends up new little baby plants all around its base. This cheerful plant will start to turn yellow or brown if exposed to too much water or direct sunlight.

Elephant Ear Alocasia

African Mask, also known as Alocasia sanderiana or Elephant Ear plant, is a bit higher maintenance than others on this list, but its exotic colors are worth the effort. It has arrowhead-shaped, nearly black leaves with striking white veins. It offers an exciting contrast to more common houseplant varieties. Elephant Ears require bright but indirect light, and moist, but well-draining soil. It’s best to water this plant in the morning. They need plenty of humidity and warmth, and regular fertilizer during the spring and summer growing season.

If you haven’t tried any of these gorgeous houseplants, visit our garden center in Cumming, Iowa. You’ll love browsing our selection of the most popular houseplants for 2020, along with gorgeous pots to go with them.

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10 Winter Survival Tips for Your Houseplants

We aren’t the only ones struggling with the shorter days, colder temperatures, and drier air here in Iowa. Our houseplants are also affected by the lower light levels, frigid drafts, and arid air from our furnaces. 

However, these harsh conditions don’t have to mean certain death for your household greenery. Here’s how to protect your indoor plants through the winter.

Keep a consistent temperature. Move your plants away from heat registers, radiators, and drafty entryways. Most houseplants prefer between 65-75 ̊F and are fine with a little dip in temperature at night. However, drastic temperature changes, like those they might experience near a radiator, heat register, or even too close to the front door, can be shocking for plants. 

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Turn plants toward the light. As your plants seek out more light, they may unbalance themselves. If you notice them leaning towards a window, turn their pot to get them to straighten up again. You may need to turn them regularly throughout winter.

Find a sunnier spot. As the sun gets lower, some areas in our homes may get more or less direct light. If the light has changed drastically in one spot, consider moving your plants a bit to suit their ideal light preferences. If you don’t get very much light into your home in the winter, you may want to consider getting a grow light or two to help your plants through the shortest days of the year.

Don’t let leaves touch glass window panes. Glass can get really cold when it’s chilly outside, and when plant tissue sits against it, it can give your plant a nasty case of frostbite. 

Boost the humidity. Most plants thrive in 40-50% humidity, and some, like tropicals, even appreciate a little more. Furnaces dry out the air like crazy. You can recreate that humidity by grouping your plants closer together, misting your plants regularly, adding some pebble trays underneath your plant pots, or running a humidifier in rooms where you keep plants. 

Adjust your watering schedule. If you watered your houseplants weekly in the summer, you’ll need to change up your schedule for the winter. Some plants may only need water every ten days, while some may need to be watered every five days. Check the soil with the tip of your finger; if it’s dry down to half an inch or an inch, it’s ok to water. If possible, use room temperature water. Let the water sit for a day inside your watering can to allow it to come to room temperature and let any chlorine evaporate. 

Cut back your fertilizing. Houseplants in Iowa do not need fertilizer in winter. Give your plants a break on the feeding for the winter, and start back up in spring. 

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Give your plants a shower or bath. When our furnaces kick in, it seems to stir up a lot of dust that we didn’t even know was there. Dusty leaves can hamper your plant’s ability to breathe and photosynthesize. Your plants will benefit from a wipe down of the leaves or an actual gentle spray from the showerhead in your bathroom. 

Do some light pruning. Clip back tall and leggy stems and yellowing leaves to encourage new growth for spring. 

Keep your eyes peeled for pests. Our houseplants are particularly vulnerable to pest infestations as they adjust from summer to winter conditions. Keep a close watch on the stems and the undersides of leaves for signs of pests.

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Your houseplants may require a little extra care through the winter, but it’s an excellent way to keep your green thumbs active. A bit of indoor gardening is good for our health, too!

If you have any questions about how to care for your houseplants through the winter, stop by our garden center in Cumming. We can help you keep your houseplants alive through the winter so they can thrive again next spring.