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African Mask: Where It’s From, What It Wants, How To Help It Thrive

african mask leaves Ted Lare

African Mask is a houseplant that is quickly gaining popularity. Its striking leaves are exotic and lush. It’s a step-up in the houseplant game because it’s a bit more challenging to care for than many other popular houseplants

If an African Mask plant charmed you into taking it home, and now it’s not looking too happy, we’ve got your back. If you can create its ideal environment, you can turn things around and live happily together!

Family History

African Mask is a member of the Alocasia plant family, originating in tropical and subtropical regions from Asia to Eastern Australia. African Mask has a lot of cousins, with over 79 unique native species. Alocasia are very popular as a houseplant and are cultivated all over the world.  

African Mask grows from rhizomatous or tuberous roots. While the plants bloom in the wild, the flowers are fairly inconspicuous. It’s pretty uncommon for them to bloom as a houseplant. They’re prized for their gorgeous patterned foliage; their name comes from their beautiful, bold markings. 

 

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The African Mask Dating Profile

If African Mask had a dating profile, it would be highly curated with photos of its lush leaves taken from flattering angles in perfectly diffused light. It would write stories reminiscing about its tropical homeland and enjoy cooking complex and fancy meals with the perfect balance of nutrients. It would also be very diligent about staying hydrated!

African Mask might also claim to be laid back and easygoing—but everyone thinks that about themselves! While they’re not necessarily difficult, easy might be stretching the truth a little bit.

So, You Swiped Right for An African Mask Houseplant…

…And you moved it in right away. But now that you’ve had it home for a few weeks, it’s starting to show more of its true colors—and it’s a little more needy and complex than you expected. 

Don’t give up on it just yet!

African Mask plants may seem dramatic and difficult, but they just need the right match. If you can set them up with their preferred environment, they’ll reward you handsomely, sometimes producing a new leaf every week during the growing season. At the most basic level, they want warmth, humidity, and bright indirect light. Here’s a few more details so you can pick the best spot for your new favorite houseplant.

African Mask plants Ted Lare

 
Light

The first thing you need to know is that African Mask plants want lots of bright light, but they do not want to sit in any direct sun. An idea spot would be in a room with a large south or west-facing window, but not too close to the window. A sheer curtain will allow you to keep it closer to a window while still protecting its delicate leaves from burning. 

 

Temperature

African Mask plants come from tropical and subtropical regions, so they’ll do best where it’s warm. While they’ll be okay at average household temperatures, they’re more likely to thrive around 70-80 degrees.

 

Humidity

Think about those rainforests in tropical regions; they’re usually pretty humid! The average humidity levels in most of Iowa are close to, but a little under, what the Alocasia would be used to in the wild. They can probably survive without extra humidity in the summer, but they’ll enjoy all the moisture they can get, and they’ll definitely need it in the winter. A pebble tray or a nearby humidifier will keep them satisfied during the dry winter months. 

 

african mask plants Ted Lare

 

Water & Food

African Masks like their soil to be consistently moist, but they do not like to sit in water. It’s best to water your Alocasia from the bottom in the morning and let it soak up what it needs. Make sure to empty its drip tray after an hour or two.

Fertilizer is your friend during the growing season. Give it a balanced feed every two weeks from spring until the end of summer. 

In winter, Alocasia will do best with a rest period. During these months, cut back on watering but don’t let it dry out completely. 

 

Soil

African Mask likes rich, but loose soil so the roots can breathe easily. If your African Mask is growing quite a bit every year, you may need to repot it every spring. When repotting, make sure to go up only one pot size at a time. 

Red Flags for African Mask

African Masks are poisonous, so make sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets. 

They can also be susceptible to most common houseplant pests, so keep an eye out for them, and treat with insecticidal soap. 

Overwatering can lead to fungal issues, so if you notice brown, black, or yellow spots on the leaves, cut them off. If you need to treat a fungal infection, quarantine the African Mask away from other plants.

 

close up on African mask leaf Ted Lare

Is it Love at First Leaf?

If you’re head-over-heels for this stunning tropical plant, and you’re up for a bit of a challenge, meet your Mask at our garden center! Our staff can introduce you to the specimens we carry in-store, and set you up with the supplies you’ll need to live happily ever after. 

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7 Fabulous Philodendrons for Your Home

Philodendron Brasil in hanging macrame Ted Lare

Philodendrons are a classic houseplant that has been popular for ages. Many people start their houseplant collection with a Philodendron cutting from a friend. They’re an excellent first plant because they’re resilient, forgiving, and can tolerate surprisingly low light. But Philodendrons are not just for beginners.

Philodendrons add lush tropical greenery to a collection and have an air of stoicism and reliable stability to them. They’re also an excellent air cleaning plant! There’s a good chance your Philodendron might even outlive you; they’re pretty long-lasting. It’ll be quite the confidence boost to be able to say you still have the very first houseplant that started your collection over 30 or 40 years ago. You could even pass it on as a family heirloom.

There are two different types of Philodendrons, vining, and non-climbing or upright Philodendrons. Vining Philo’s need something to climb, like a trellis, or lattice, or the wall of your house if it’s growing close enough. Non-climbing Philo’s can get quite bushy, even wider than tall, over time, so make sure to give them plenty of space.

Philodendrons are often confused for Pothos, and while they do appear to look fairly similar, they actually belong to separate plant families. 

Here are a few of our favorite Philodendrons. 

Philodendron Birkin 

Birkin might be one of the most beautiful Philodendrons available. One of the top trending Philo’s of the year! It’s a more compact non-climbing Philo, and it features chic green and white pin-striped leaves. This unique beauty grows fairly slow, so you can keep it in a beautiful pot for a long time before it will need to be transplanted.  

Philodendron Birkin and Philodendron Green Ted Lare

 

Philodendron Green 

Philo Green is a classic traditional vining type with rich green heart-shaped leaves. Green is the perfect Philo for anywhere, really. It has an understated elegance and minimalist appeal that’s the ideal plant element for almost any space. 

Philodendron Brasil 

Brasil is a fast-growing vining variety, with beautiful heart-shaped variegated leaves, featuring shades from rich dark green to vibrant lime green, and everything in between. Philo Brasil is perfect for the top of a bookcase or in a hanging planter where the vines can trail down over the edges. 

Philodendron Brasil and Philodendron Lemon Ted Lare

 

Philodendron Lemon 

Philo Lemon’s leaves are so vibrantly colored that they’re almost neon! Lemon is a vining variety with leaves in shades of bright yellow to chartreuse green. Lemon starts out as a fairly upright plant when it’s young, but its stems will drape and trail or climb as it gets older. 

Philodendron Bloody Mary, Philodendron Moonlight, and Philodendron Burle Marx Ted Lare


Philodendron Bloody Mary 

Bloody Mary is a particularly gorgeous and unique variety of Philo. It is an upright variety, though it will spill over the edges of its pot. Bloody Mary features dark maroon-red stems. New leaves emerge a rich burgundy color, and transition to dark green with a distinct red hue as they mature. The undersides of the leaves stay a dramatic dark red. 

Moonlight Philodendron 

Moonlight is an upright Philodendron with very large leaves that start out bright yellow and transition to beautiful lime green as they mature. This beautiful bush-type Philo is perfect for adding a new and vibrant shade of large green leaves to your houseplant jungle.  

Philodendron Burle Marx 

Philo Burle Marx has unique leaves that are a prominent spade shape. The leaves are quite long, growing up to 18”, and are a beautiful deep green. Burle Marx is an upright variety, though it may spill over the edges of a pot like Bloody Mary. 

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Philodendron Care

Philodendrons are one of the easiest and most tolerant houseplants to care for. 

  • Light: bright, medium, low, or even artificial light, as long as they are protected from direct sun, they’ll be happy. 
  • Water: only water Philo’s when the first inch of soil feels dry. 
  • Humidity: they do like humidity, so running a humidifier near them during the winter is a good idea.
  • Fertilizer: you don’t need to fertilize Philo’s, but if you want to, you can give them a basic all-purpose fertilizer during the growing season. 
  • Soil: they prefer a loose and light potting soil with lots of organic matter, but they’ll grow in almost anything. 
  • Repotting: fast-growing Philos will probably need a new pot once per year, but slower growing varieties may not need to be transplanted for up to 2 years. 

 

If you’re thinking you need to start your houseplant collection with a tough and beautiful Philo, or if you just want to add one to your growing houseplant collection, visit the garden center. We regularly get new stock in, so you never know when we might have an exciting new variety.

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Picture Perfect Peperomias: 3 Adorable & Easy Varieties

Ruby Cascade Peperomia Ted Lare

Peperomias are quickly stealing the houseplant spotlight. They’re beautiful, easy to take care of, and there are over 1,000 varieties in the world! These succulent-type plants have thick fleshy leaves that make them drought-tolerant, so they’ll be just fine if you forget to water them for a little while. 

With so many different types of peperomia available, you could have a whole collection, and each plant could have a completely unique look and growing habit. There is so much variation amongst different peperomia that some of them don’t even look like they belong to the same family.

While there are many peperomia to choose from, we’ve got a few favorites. Here are 3 plants that we think you might want to add to your houseplant collection. 

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Ruby Cascade

Peperomia Ruby Cascade is a beautiful trailing type of peperomia. It features leaves that are a rich dark green on top and a gorgeous ruby red on the bottom. The stems are also dark red. 

Ruby cascade is one of the smaller types of peperomia; the leaves only get to about half an inch across. While the leaves are small, the vines are very vigorous, and with the right light, they can grow several feet long. 

This peperomia is perfect for a hanging pot or sitting on a high shelf near a north, west, or east-facing window. It does need bright light, but it doesn’t like direct sunlight on its leaves. This peperomia is a fairly fast grower, and it’s tough. You don’t need to water it very often; you can let the soil dry out before watering. If the soil feels damp, wait, and check again in a few days or a week.

 

Variegated Peperomia Ted Lare

Variegated Peperomia

Officially, the name of this plant is Peperomia obtusifolia Variegata. Commonly, it’s often called Variegated Peperomia, or Variegated Baby Rubber Plant. It features large amazing leaves with a thick, waxy feel. The variegation on each leaf is unique, featuring a different pattern and combination of shades of green, from dark green to a lovely creamy pale green. 

Variegated peperomia features larger leaves than Ruby Cascade, with leaves getting as big as 3 inches long and wide, in an oval shape. This peperomia grows a bit more slowly than other types, but will eventually develop itself into a bushy plant. 

This is a low-light dream plant. It does not like direct sunlight, and will happily thrive in a room with a window or under artificial light. 

Also drought tolerant, this peperomia does not need water very frequently. Check the soil first, and make sure it’s dry before giving it more water. 

 

Pilea Peperomiodes Ted Lare

Pilea Peperomioides

This last one is technically not part of the peperomia plant family, but it has similar appearances and care requirements as peperomia, and it’s also super popular. The Peperomioides part of the name means that it resembles peperomias. Also known as Chinese money plant, coin plant, pancake plant, friendship plant, UFO plant, and simply: pilea, it is a unique and easy care plant. 

Pilea features large, perfectly round leaves on long slender stems in a rich, vibrant green shade. These plants do like a bit more bright light, but they also don’t like direct sunlight. They’re quite drought-tolerant but will probably need slightly more frequent watering than peperomias because their leaves and stems are a bit thinner. Check the soil, and if it feels dry to the touch on top, give it a watering. 

Pilea Peperomiodes close up Ted Lare

Pilea’s are often called friendship plants because they put up new plant pups around the base on the regular. If your plant does this, you can either leave the pups to grow, creating a fuller-looking bushy pot of plants, or you can remove them. 

To remove pilea pups, wait until they are at least an inch or two tall, then carefully remove the plant and all the soil out of the pot. With a clean, sharp knife, cut down between the pup and mother plant to separate them, making sure the pup has a chunk of root with it. Then repot them both and let them get back to growing. 

If you’d like to add either of these peperomias or a pilea to your houseplant collection, stop by the garden center for a visit. We’ve got a wide selection of gorgeous houseplants available. 

 

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Monstera adansonii: 2020’s Top Trending Houseplant

monstera adansonii ted lare

Monstera adansonii has quickly become the top trending houseplant for 2020. Everyone wants one, and they can be tricky to find. If you’re thinking “hang on, wasn’t Monstera the top trending plant of 2019 as well?” You’d be correct, but that was a different type of Monstera!

Last year, Monstera deliciosa was everybody’s favorite. While they’re both commonly called Swiss Cheese Plant, they’re a little bit different. Monstera deliciosa gets up to 8 feet tall indoors, with leaves up to 2 feet long, while Monstera adansonii is much smaller yet still features the bold perforated leaves.

Monstera adansonii still allows you to have the bold, beautiful foliage of Monstera, even in a tiny apartment. Adansonii is great for hanging baskets or a trellis. While it may be shorter, with smaller leaves, this Monstera can still take up space with vines that can reach up to 20 feet long!

 

Swiss cheese plant in hanging basket and close up of monstera adansonii leaves ted lare

How To Care for Monstera Adansonii

Most Monsteras that are sold as houseplants have pretty similar care requirements: lots of bright light, lots of humidity, and they like to have their soil to dry out a bit between waterings. This is mostly true for adansonii, although it prefers indirect sunlight. Keep your adansonii near a window, but don’t let it get too much sun on its leaves. You can even send it outside for summer vacation, if you want, just keep it somewhere with a bit of shade.

If the air in your home is dry, the best thing you can do for your Monstera is run a humidifier close by. A pebble tray can help as well, but a humidifier is the most effective option. If misting is your only option, do it, but you’ll need to mist the air around your Monstera many times a day. 

There are plenty of choices for potting your Monstera, but a terra cotta pot with a drainage hole is one of the best options. Terra cotta’s porous material helps to wick moisture away from the roots. Monstera’s don’t like to have soggy bottoms. 

Like most plants, you can’t really water your Monstera on an exact schedule. How frequently it needs to be watered varies depending on the season, how much light it gets, how humid and warm your home is, and how rootbound the plant is. 

The best way to know if your Monstera needs water is to stick your finger in the soil, up to your second knuckle. If it feels just barely damp, it’s time to water. Adansonii doesn’t like to dry out quite as much as other varieties. Be sure to check the soil at least once a week. 

 

monstera adansonii climbing on a pole ted lare

Supporting Monstera Adansonii

Monstera Adansonii loves to climb. It is beautiful in a hanging basket, and that might be the best way to keep it from crawling all over your walls. If you prefer to see it climbing, you can give it some support. 

You can support a Monstera adansonii with a trellis or lattice, plant stakes, or even a moss pole. Moss poles are great because you can regularly saturate them with water, which helps raise the humidity level for your plant. A trellis can work wonders as well because it makes it easy to train the vines where you want to create a beautiful display of those dramatic leaves. 

You can also let adansonii’s free spirit go wherever it wants. They have strong roots along the vine that cling to nearly anything, even a bare wall. The only problem with this method is that those little roots are really strong, and there’s a good chance they’ll pull little specks of paint off your walls if you ever decide to move it. 

 

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If you’ve been wishing you had space for a Monstera, here’s your chance! Stop by the garden center or shop online to add a Monstera adansonii to your houseplant collection.

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5 Best Low-Light Tolerant Houseplants For North Windows

houseplants ted lare

Having houseplants in our homes has a multitude of benefits. They can help boost our mood, improve concentration, and inspire creativity. They add life and personality to our homes and give us a connection to nature. When choosing houseplants for your home, it’s important to consider how much light each room in your home gets.  

All houseplants need light, but some are better suited to low-light locations than others. How do you know what is considered low-light? Well, in our homes, the only areas that can be regarded as bright light are right next to a large south-facing window. Just a few feet back from the window, in the middle of a room, we’re already at medium-light. And the opposite wall is the beginning of low-light.  

But don’t let that discourage you from keeping plants in rooms with North, East, or West facing windows. While all plants need light, some houseplants can thrive surprisingly well in very low-light locations, like near north-facing windows. Some plants can also thrive quite well under artificial light, as long as the lights are on for a solid 14-16 hours per day.  

Here are some of the best low-light tolerant houseplants to add to your home in Des Moines. These options are tolerant of very low-light, so you can include these even in rooms with only north-facing windows, or that have artificial light on all day. 

 

zz plant, calathea, and nerve plant ted lare

ZZ Plant 

ZZ Plant a popular low-light houseplant because it is one of the most resilient plants. It can even survive in a location with only artificial light. While it can survive in these conditions, it will be happier in an area with a window. Somewhere near a window is perfect for a ZZ Plant, though it does not like direct sunlight. ZZ Plant is super easy to care for as well, only requiring watering once every 3-4 weeks.   

Calathea 

Calatheas, also known as Prayer Plants, add gorgeous color and unique leaf patterns to your houseplant collection. Prayer plants are also different in that they move quite a bit, folding up their leaves every evening, like hands folding in prayer. With many different species available, you’ve got tons of options. Calathea are pretty low-maintenance, they like their soil to dry out a bit between watering, and will do best near a north- or east-facing window, or far enough back from a south- or west-facing window so they don’t get direct sun on their leaves.

 

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Nerve Plant 

Nerve Plant, or Fittonia, is another easy-care low-light plant, with a little more visual interest. Fittonia features small leaves with veins in either bright white or bright red. Their high-contrast leaves are beautiful to look at. Nerve plant is fairly low growing and will live happily near any window. They’ll flourish particularly well in a high-humidity environment. 

Snake Plant 

Snake plants, in all their beautiful variations, are another popular option. They’re a beautiful structural plant that also prefer indirect light. From the short wide leaves of birds nest snake plant to the taller tubular leaves of Sansevieria cylyndrica, or the gracefully arching leaves of Sansevieria gracilis, or the beautiful Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii.’ Snake plants are another easy-care succulent type, only requiring water every few weeks.  

 

snake plant and spider plant ted lare

Spider Plant 

Spider plants are also a resilient houseplant that can survive quite low-light situations and still happily grow. Spider plants will do better in a higher-humidity location. They come in a few different varieties, with plain green leaves, or variegated white and green. There are also different leaf styles, from the long and straight to the gorgeous curly varieties.   

If you’re looking for some houseplants to add to your home, stop by the garden center and have a look through our wide selection. 

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How to Grow Brilliant Begonias Indoors: Care 101

begonia leaves-ted-lare

Begonias are as gorgeous as they are versatile. With flowers and foliage that work just as well in hanging baskets, porch pots, or garden beds, they’re a workhorse of the gardening world! Most of us think of their luscious tropical-looking flowers when we imagine Begonias in our minds. However, the kinds that people keep indoors as houseplants are not quite the same as those with the showy flowers that thrive outside. 

Begonias fall into three main types, with many sub-categories, and over 1,000 species worldwide. They are primarily classified based on their root system, either tuberous, fibrous, or rhizomatous. Fibrous and rhizomatous Begonias are usually the easiest to grow indoors. They have showy leaves, but less significant flowers. Tuberous Begonias are the ones with the big showy blossoms that do best outside. 

If you’re eager to enjoy fibrous or rhizomatous Begonia as a houseplant, it’s always best to review the care needs of the specific variety you have your eye on. In general, however, you can follow these rules of thumb for taking care of these colorful, elegant, low-maintenance plants indoors!

Best Location For Begonias in Your Home

All Begonias need bright, indirect light. This means the indoor varieties prefer a spot near a large window with a sheer curtain to protect them from any direct sunlight. Direct sun can burn their leaves. However, the light levels in our homes are drastically reduced compared to outside, so they also won’t do well in a dark corner.

During the winter, you may need to provide extra light from a lamp with a full spectrum bulb for about 14 hours per day.

Begonias like consistent temperatures between 60-70°, so keep them away from drafty doors and windows.

 

Humidity & Water for Begonias

Begonias are native to places where the humidity is high, so they do not push water to the edges of their leaves as well as other plants would. This characteristic makes them ideal for terrariums. The drier prairie air here in Iowa can be a challenge for humidity-loving plants, especially during colder months. Make sure to provide a pebble tray under the pot or a nearby humidifier when the air is dry.

The best way to know when to water your Begonia is to check the soil with your finger every few days. Begonias like evenly moist soil, but they prefer to dry out just a bit between waterings. Stick your finger in the soil up to the first knuckle—if it’s dry, water it. When watering your Begonia, opt for distilled water or rainwater if possible, as the plant can be sensitive to the dissolved salts in tap water. This sensitivity can cause some browning of the leaves, which is typically not fatal to the plant, but can detract from your Begonia’s appearance.


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Make sure your Begonias have ample drainage so that their roots are never sitting in standing water. Soggy roots will cause them to drop leaves and can make them susceptible to root rot, pests, and other diseases. If there is still water in the catch tray 30 minutes after watering, dump it out. 

Provide fertilizer according to package directions when your plant is actively growing, which is typically during the summer months.

 

When to Re-pot Your Begonia

Begonias prefer to be root-bound, so don’t put them in a big pot! If the soil stays damp for several days after watering, you may need to re-pot down a pot size. When you bring a new Begonia home, only put it into a larger pot if it is already root-bound in its nursery pot. If it’s not yet root-bound, put it in a pot the same size as the nursery pot. 

Whichever variety you choose, Begonias are excellent houseplants with an incredible ability to bounce back from the brink of death. We’ve been shocked many times by how tough and adaptable these delicate-looking plants truly are! With a little bit of care and a good location, your Begonia will thrive for many years.

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How to Give Your Houseplants a Summer Vacation

We love to feel those soft summer breezes, the warm sunshine, and that refreshing, cool air after a summer rainstorm. Houseplants enjoy those same things just as much as we do! Most of our houseplants would do well with a little outdoor summer vacation in Des Moines every year. There’s nothing like being outdoors to give houseplants a little boost during their growing season and help them load up on good healthy energy for the rest of the year. 

But, it’s not quite as simple as carting them out to the yard and setting them down for the season. You’ll need to transition your houseplants outdoors for the summer, and then back indoors at the end of the season. The transition process for sending them outside is called hardening off, and it’s critical for your houseplants, especially for tropical varieties. 

Why Harden Off Houseplants?

You might think your plants near a south-facing window get plenty of sunshine, so they should be fine to go out into the sun. But that’s not true. Our windows, especially in newer homes, block quite a lot of the strength of the sun getting through to our plants. Taking them directly outside is going to be shocking, and will cause your houseplants significant stress. 

Before you send your houseplants outdoors for the summer, do some research to find out what sort of environment they prefer in the wild, and try to find a location in your yard that replicates that. Then, check if any of them need repotting. Many of them will put on a growth spurt once they get outside, so they’re showing signs of being rootbound, give them a little bit more room by going up one container size. 

We do not recommend moving moth orchids or African violets outside as they may be a bit too tender for the weather fluctuations in Des Moines. 

 

Hardening Off For Houseplants

Hardening off your houseplants is the process of slowly transitioning them to full exposure outdoors. Don’t start this process until we’re a minimum of two weeks past the last frost. Hardening off is a gradual process that can take 10-14 days. 

Start by finding a spot that is shady and protected from the wind. Place your houseplants in that space for 30 minutes to an hour the first day, then bring them back inside. The next day, add a little bit more time, and every day you can leave them out a little bit longer. Shade or low-light plants should stay in a shady location for the summer. Sun-loving plants should be eased into full sun locations the same way you slowly transitioned them outside. Start with half an hour to an hour of sun exposure on the second day, then gradually increase time in the sun as you increase the time outside. 

It might seem like a fun idea to pop houseplants here and there throughout the garden as accents for different areas. But, keep in mind your houseplants will need more regular watering through the summer than other plants. Watering will be easiest if you can keep groups of your houseplants close together. You’ll want to make sure you check the soil in pots every day. Houseplants that have been in the same container for a long time are probably a bit rootbound and will drink up water fast. On really hot days, you may need to water twice.

 

Tips for Transitioning Your Houseplants Back Indoors

You’ll want to start transitioning your plants back to indoor life sometime in early to mid-September. If you’ve got really delicate tropicals, start early in the month. Transitioning them back indoors shouldn’t take as long as hardening off, but its still a good idea to do it over a few days. There are also a few other essential things to keep an eye out for. 

  1. Check every plant thoroughly for pests. While they’re outside for the summer, houseplants can pick up common outdoor pests like aphids, gnats, or slugs. If possible, quarantine the plants you’re bringing in, away from plants that stayed inside, for two weeks, to make sure no one is infested with pests. Before you bring them inside, check the bottoms of the containers for slugs.
  2. Transition to lower light locations gradually. The light levels in the house are drastically lower than outside, so it’s a shock for plants to move immediately. Over 4-5 days, slowly move your plants back to a shady and sheltered location, like the spot where you started your hardening off process. 
  3. Watch your watering. With no wind and less direct sun, your houseplants won’t use up water as quickly, so make sure to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. It’s still a good idea to check the soil moisture level daily for the first week that they’re back indoors. 

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If you need any tips or advice, or tools or materials for transitioning your houseplants outside for the summer, give us a call at the garden center. We’ve got all the supplies you might need, from soil to pots to plant stands. 

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Calathea: Your Guide to Collecting & Caring for Them

Calatheas have become an incredibly popular houseplant in recent years, and it’s easy to see why! They are beautifully colorful, often featuring striking patterns of green, white, pink, and purple. There are many different Calathea varieties available, each with their unique pattern, color scheme, and leaf shape. People also love the way the leaves fold up at night, like hands folding in prayer—a fairly unique feature since most plants don’t move much on their own! They also tend to be low-maintenance houseplants in that most varieties can tolerate fairly low-light situations and don’t need frequent watering. 

Prayer Plants Have So Many Names

There’s sometimes a little confusion about the common names of plants in this family. Prayer Plants are the overall large family of plants. The scientific name for the family is Marantaceae, which is also known as ‘Arrowroot’ because some varieties are grown to make arrowroot powder. Within the family of Marantaceae, or Prayer Plants, are several different genera that include Calathea, Stromanthe, Ctenanthe, and Maranta. There are actually 29 different genera in the Marantaceae family, and each of those genera has many species in it. In total, there are over 500 known species in the Prayer Plant family. So all Calathea are Prayer Plants, but not all Prayer Plants are not necessarily Calathea.

 

Calathea General Requirements

For the most part, different varieties of Calathea have similar care requirements. Some species have more specific needs, so make sure to check the care requirements before deciding which type you’d like to buy.

In general, Prayer Plants prefer bright indirect light. This sort of location might be on the windowsill of a north or east-facing window, or possibly a yard or two from a south- or west-facing window. They also can be placed closer to sunny windows with a sheer curtain, which protects the plant from direct sunlight. If you don’t have a sheer curtain, make sure to position your Calathea far enough back that it doesn’t get direct sunlight on its leaves. 

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Knowing how to water Prayer Plants takes a bit of practice. Overwatering will do more harm than drying out, but allowing it to dry out completely isn’t good either. They like soil that is moist, it should feel like a sponge that has been wrung out well. Because Prayer Plants grow from rhizomes, they store quite a lot of water in their root system, so they can last quite a while before needing water. Get in the habit of pushing your finger into the soil about once a week. If the soil feels dry, water your Calathea. If it feels quite damp, check again in a couple of days. They do like a lot of humidity, so if you can provide a humidifier nearby or a pebble tray, they’ll be happier for it.

Interesting Varieties of Calathea

With over 500 known species of Prayer Plants, it can be fun to start a collection! They’re some of the most visually interesting houseplants out there, and their moving leaves seem to take on their own personality! Prayer Plants are also capable of blooming, but it happens pretty infrequently. We carry several unique Calatheas available for you to start building up your collection.

Our first option is one of the more common varieties of Prayer Plant Calathea. It’s fun to watch its leaves fold straight up in the evening! The leaf pattern featuring different shades of green and bright red striping makes this plant a popular choice. 

Calathea Starshine features a wide border of really light green with dark green edges and centers, with a lighter stripe right in the middle of the leaves.

Calathea lacifolia, also known as Rattlesnake Calathea, has unique dark green dots on its narrow ruffled leaves.

Calathea Zebrina features beautiful bright green veins on dark leaves and is one of the easiest varieties of Calathea to care for.

Stromanthe Trio Star is not a Calathea, but, it is a beautiful member of the Prayer Plant family. It features variegated leaves with combinations of white, green, pink, and dark red. It has similar requirements to Calathea, and it is also fairly low-maintenance. 

If you’re ready to start a Calathea collection or add a new member to the family, you can choose your favorite from our online store. We’re offering curbside pickup or delivery within Des Moines metro area, and contactless payment. 

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Houseplants That Improve Air Quality

We all love to breathe fresh air, but if you’re stuck inside a lot, you might not be getting as much as you’d like. Besides being stuck with recycled indoor air, there’s a chance that some less-than-desirable chemical particles are floating around in your air. Things like paint fumes, the adhesives used for flooring, and the chemicals used to treat upholstery fabric can off-gas chemicals that aren’t exactly beneficial for your lungs. 

The NASA Experiment

But, thanks to NASA, you don’t have to be stuck breathing in stale recycled air. In the ’80s, NASA built a fully bio-sealed home model—the kind of thing you might need to live in if you decided to move to Mars. But, to make this “space house” functional, the home had to be made entirely of synthetic products. People who entered the facility started to complain about sore eyes and breathing problems right away. The last thing anyone wants is for their home to make them sick! So NASA added some air-cleaning plants and did a study. Within just a few days, people could enter the facility without symptoms.  

Why was this so effective? Plants breathe, just like we do, but their “breathing” process is called transpiration. When they take in the air with toxic chemical particles, those chemicals are pulled down into their root systems. Bacteria and beneficial microbes in the soil can feed on these toxins, and in turn, keep the plants healthy. So, in addition to consuming carbon dioxide, some houseplants remove toxins and put out clean and healthy oxygen. Plus, plants can help reduce stress levels and improve your mood.

NASA’s study included 12 different houseplants, but these are our top 5 favorites:

  1. Areca Palm, or Butterfly palm, is a pretty palm with big frondy leaves. They’re often grown in clumps of several stalks that resemble bamboo. Areca palm does require a lot of light, but it can’t handle much direct sunshine. They’ll do best near a south or west-facing window with a sheer curtain to protect them from direct sun. Palms need good drainage and are vulnerable to overwatering, so let the top of the soil dry before watering again.

  1. Rubber plants are an easy houseplant to grow. Their large, waxy leaves are minimalist and architectural. It likes lots of bright light and can handle morning sun, though they should be shaded during the hottest part of the day. Rubber plant likes evenly moist soil, so don’t forget to water this one regularly.
  2. Janet Craig Dracaena has broad, glossy green leaves. It can tolerate lower light situations, although if it doesn’t have enough light, the new leaves will be much narrower than others. This dracaena likes evenly moist soil, but good drainage. It will suffer if overwatered, but if the tips start to get brown, go ahead and water it a tad more often. 

  1. Philodendron is super easy to grow and can also tolerate relatively low-light. Its heart-shaped leaves look beautiful on its long, trailing vines. There are several different varieties of philodendron available, and they’re all pretty tough. They do need good drainage, and the top of the soil should be dry before you water.
  2. Dwarf date palm has arching fronds densely packed with narrow leaves. This unique palm does very well indoors and can tolerate quite low light. It’s an excellent choice for offices. During spring and summer, the soil should be kept evenly moist, and during the winter months, the surface should dry out a bit.

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Adding houseplants to your home give it a welcoming feel, and having plants around makes us happier, not to mention all that wonderful oxygen production! If you’d like to add some houseplants to your home, give us a call. You can order online, or give us a call for concierge shopping. We’ll get everything you need ready, from plants to pots to soil, and arrange for curbside pickup. Alternatively, we can now deliver to you within the Des Moines metro area. 

 

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How to Create a Meditation Room with Houseplants

Meditation and mindfulness are habits that can help us relax, lower stress and blood pressure, and give us a little escape from our daily frustrations. If you haven’t meditated before, there’s no time like the present to get started. 

Meditation for Beginners

Not sure how to meditate? It can be helpful to set up a designated space that feels calming and relaxing for you. If you’ve got an extra room, it can be nice to set it up as a designated meditation space. However, even if you don’t have a whole room to dedicate to your meditation practice, you can set up a small space somewhere in your home that is reserved for calm, quiet reflection. 

Learning to meditate doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. There are several apps and websites available, many of them free, that can guide you through the process of learning to meditate. Many meditation apps have beginner programs with guided meditations that you can listen to whenever you feel like you need a break. 

Creating a Meditation Room 

Before setting up your meditation room, choose a space that has a simple, non-distracting view. It can be nice to have a window that looks out onto a green space, or a calming piece of art, or even a blank wall. Aim for a space with calming colors, like pale blues, greens, grays, or tans. Vibrant colors can be quite jarring and can make it hard to focus and calm your thoughts.

Choose a seat for your meditation space. Select something that feels comfortable to you. Meditation doesn’t have to happen while cross-legged on the hard floor. It is good to sit with good upright posture if you can, so choose a chair or cushion that is fairly comfortable and promotes good posture.

Add some calming elements to your space to remind you to relax. Lighting can help create a sense of calm in your meditation space. Usually, dimmer light on the warm side of the color spectrum is more calming, but you can use any lighting option that makes you feel most at ease. Candles, string lights, and fairy lights are great options. 

Using Houseplants in Your Design

Houseplants are a perfect addition to a meditation space. They can give you a sense of calm and a connection to nature. Plants with beautiful leaves can also be used as a bit of a screen to provide you with some privacy. If you don’t have a separate room, but you do have large potted plants, you can set a few around your chosen space to create separation from the rest of the room. 

If you have smaller plants and a small bookcase, you can use the bookcase as a small wall to give your space some privacy. Line up some plants along the top of the bookcase to create that connection with nature while giving yourself a privacy screen. 

If you like aromatherapy, consider adding scented plants to your meditation room, like jasmine, scented geraniums, or herbs. If you don’t have scented houseplants, you can use other aromatherapy options in your space as well. 

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Find yourself a quiet space that you can retreat to for meditating in your home, and make it a comfortable and calming space with houseplants, candles, and items that are special to you. Setting up a small space dedicated to self-care is a great way to ease anxiety and stress levels, and help find some peace in your days. If you’d like to add some houseplants to your new space, remember that our garden center has online and concierge shopping available, as well as curbside pickup or free local delivery for orders of $50 or more within the Des Moines metro area.