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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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Overwintering Tropicals in Iowa

“You can’t get too much winter in the winter”
– Robert Frost

Winter in Iowa can be a bittersweet time for most of us – while we won’t say no to a delicious cup of hot chocolate or the frozen, but stunning, winter aesthetic, it’s hard to say goodbye to our gardens and spending warm evenings outside. Once we start to feel that chill in the air, we know that our plants are getting ready for the season change. However, this doesn’t mean saying goodbye to all our plants quite yet. Bringing a few of your tropical plants inside for the winter is the perfect way to save them for next year, while allowing you to hold onto a slice of summer heaven all year.

How to Overwinter Your Tropicals:

The obvious answer to overwintering your delicate tropicals – who are much happier in a heated oasis than in our snowy Iowa prairies – is to simply bring them inside for the winter, and there are even a few different ways to do so. This makes it easy to find a method that is tailor-fit for your favorite plants, as well as your home and indoor lifestyle.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Overwinter as a Houseplant:

For tropicals of most shapes and sizes, bringing them indoors as a winter houseplant is a popular method to protect them. Plants like crotons, palms and philodendron will reap the benefits of your cozy indoor lifestyle, without the chilly winter weather, but you will also get to enjoy its beauty all year!

Simply repot your plant from your garden, shaking all the garden soil from the roots before moving to an indoor pot. For the best results while potted over the winter, always use fresh soil from a bag, not from your garden – this will also help to manage any pests from outside. Place your new temporary houseplant near a window to give them the sunshine they crave and water them as needed throughout the season – keeping in mind that they may need a drink more frequently in a pot than they would in your garden.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Start Fresh With Plant Cuttings:

Some of our bigger plants are simply too large to manage indoors, like hibiscus and mandevillas, but that doesn’t have to prevent us from saving them in some way. Rather than struggling with a large mother plant, trim off a few healthy growths to repot and start growing them over the winter.

Take your cutting, remove the lower leaves, dip the stem in rooting hormone and plant them in new potting soil. With the warmth of your home and a little humidity (consider misting them to really encourage successful growth), you should see your cuttings taking root and thriving over the winter season.

Let Your Plant Go Dormant:

Allowing your plants to go dormant and hibernate through the winter will let you save your favorite tropicals without all the fuss of nurturing them in your house all winter. Whether it be a canna, begonia, or banana, leave your plant outside in the cooler weather this fall for a little longer, to let it know that it is time to hibernate – though, never past freezing. Once your plant has been chilled – but not killed with frost or snow (keep and eye on the forecast) – repot it in fresh soil and place somewhere cool and dark for the season. Although your plant is hibernating, it will still need some water, so don’t forget to check the soil for dryness periodically. Once the winter passes and the weather warms, you’ll have a gorgeous tropical plant that is ready to shine in your garden again after its beauty sleep.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Potential Pest Issues:

Before you bring your plants indoors make sure to look them over good for any pests that might be trying to hitch a ride indoors for the winter. Common pests often include mealybugs and spider mites and you’ll want to remove or treat them before bringing them inside where they can spread to other plants.

Mealybugs are fuzzy, white bugs that grow in the branches or crevices of plants.  Check the undersides of leaves for a fine webbing or mottled tiny leaf spots – signs of a pest problem – and remove any you see with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Spider mites can be treated by spraying your plant with organic insecticidal soap, which can also be used to treat a wide host of other potential pest problems on tropical plants, such as aphids and whiteflies.

Pictured below from left to right: Mealybugs, and spider mite damage.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Getting Adjusted:

Moving your plants from one climate to another normally causes a little bit of stress. To have healthier and more attractive plants through these transition periods, you can help them through their adjustment period from outdoors to indoors and back. Successful transitions start with happy plants. Try to get your tropicals as much sunshine as you can before you move them, and aim to keep their conditions similar to what they will experience in your home. Once you’ve moved your plant inside, keep them in as much sunshine as you can, and even consider using a sun lamp to help out, if you need additional light. Stressed plants show their dissatisfaction by wilting, browning, or dropping their leaves – making the adjustment easier is an investment in a healthy plant that looks great all year.

Once winter is over and the weather has warmed up again, it’s time to reintroduce your tropicals to your garden. For the best results, take your time to do this over a few weeks. Your plants will be spoiled with the consistency of your home climate and will need time to get used to the variability of our Iowa weather. If possible, shift them into a seasonal area, like a sunroom, or begin by taking them outside for only a few hours each day, leaving them for longer each time. Once they’ve had the chance to get used to outside temperatures and conditions, they’ll be happy left outside in the garden for the rest of the season, allowing you to enjoy them and the rest of your yard when the weather is mild.

We associate winter with freezing temperatures and the end of our garden, but it doesn’t have to be the end for all your plants. With the right overwintering, you can keep your tropicals to enjoy year after year beside all your favorite hardy garden perennials. All you need is a little know-how and extra care for your garden to continue to flourish every year, enhancing your outdoor experience with each new season, and saving a touch of greenery to get you through the frozen winter.

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Fiddle-Leaf Figs

close-up image of fiddle leaf

“Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it.”
– Diane von Furstenberg

The Fiddle-Leaf Fig has become the hallmark of classic style and grace in the contemporary home. It’s become the newest, designer “it” plant, and it isn’t hard to see why everyone is so in love.
This fig brings an elegant atmosphere to whatever room it’s in, all while maintaining a cool and tropical undertone with its luscious, deep green leaves. They take center-stage in any well-lit room, but can also transform your patio into a luxury oasis in spring and summer.

Getting the Fiddle-Leaf Look:

Like any fashion icon worth their salt, these plants might need a little nurturing to look their best, but your efforts will be well-rewarded. With any sunny room, though, you’re already on your way to bringing home the designer beauty of a fiddle leaf fig.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Light:

Enough of the right kind of light is the key to keeping a fiddle-leaf looking fabulous. These elegant beauties aren’t meant for sprucing up the basement – they thrive best in a bright room with some South or West exposure. The trick is that, while your fig loves light, its luxurious leaves are quite sensitive to burning and will scorch under direct sunbeams.

If your fig isn’t getting enough light, it will certainly let you know, though without much warning, by dropping leaves. While many fig owners panic at the idea of their beloved plants suddenly balding, it’s just their way of telling you that they need more light to keep looking their best.

Once your fig is comfortable in their spot, try not to move it. While redecorating is always tempting, these plants prefer to keep things consistent once they find a location they like. The one exception to this rule is rotating your plant if it’s getting all its light from one side. Gently turn your fig every few months if it starts reaching across the room towards the light.

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Water and Fertilizer:

The amount that you water your fig very much depends on how much light it is getting, but no matter what, it never wants to be soggy. Wait to water until the soil is dry to the touch. When you do water, do it thoroughly until the water flows out of the bottom of the container, washing away any salts before they accumulate on the fig’s sensitive roots. Remember to empty the water dish when you’re done so your beautiful plant isn’t sitting in water that could rot its roots.

While figs aren’t big feeders, a little touch of nutrition will help keep them vibrant, lush, and ready to impress. When your fig is growing (spring through fall), it’ll love a pick-me-up with a monthly dose of all-purpose fertilizer. Keep the fertilizer at half strength to give your plant a gentle boost, rather than a kick, of nutrients. In winter, your fig will hibernate and it won’t grow nearly as much, so it won’t need the added fuel for growth.

Growth and Transplanting:

A happy fig will grow quickly if it is given the chance, sometimes reaching eight or nine feet tall, and, eventually, it is bound to outgrow its pot.
Your fiddle-leaf will make it pretty obvious when it has outgrown its current home and needs a larger container. When the roots start to wrap around the inner edge of the pot, it’s time to transplant to something larger. The best time to move your fig is in the spring when the growing season has it primed and ready to fill out its new container. Sometimes you can’t wait, though. If the roots start to grow out of the bottom drainage, you’ll need to transplant right away.

Only jump one pot size at a time (aim for growing 2” larger in diameter). If you move more than that, the outer soil could end up water logged and damage your fig’s delicate, fibrous roots.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

For a consistent indoor look, consider keeping your fig in a pot with good drainage inside a more decorative container that is a few sizes larger. You’ll get to keep the same aesthetic for multiple container changes, and your fig will get all the healthy drainage it needs, without impeding on your style.

Other Tips for Fiddle-Leaf Figs:

We absolutely adore the fiddle leaf’s luscious, tropical leaves – especially in the midst of our chilly Iowa winters – but they are just as good at catching dust as they are at catching sun rays. A build-up of too much dust is not only unattractive but can prevent your fig from photosynthesizing as it needs. Clean up their leaves every few months with a clean, damp cloth to keep it looking and performing its best.

A pale and spotty fig might not be getting enough light, or could have come down with a pest. Have a careful look at your plant for any obvious problems, or move it to a brighter spot to clear up the blemishes.

We can’t blame everyone for suddenly wanting to take these gorgeous plants home – they are simply irresistible and add that accent of natural color and style to your indoor decor. We certainly understand why they’re so popular right now, and are happy to help you bring your own fiddle-leaf fig home without the hassle! Visit us in-store today to pick one up or to learn more.

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Easter Decorating Tips

Eggshell succulent easter design creative DIY projects

Easter is a season all about rebirth and, as the doorway to spring, it’s the time to start ushering in new life at home. Now is the best time to revive your home for visiting friends and family, and to sweep out all the lingering hints of the long winter behind us.These are some of our favorite easy DIY ways to welcome spring into your home this year.

Wheatgrass:

This is the easiest and freshest trend to bring some vibrant greens indoors. It’s so easy, even the kids can help with bringing a bit of spring into your indoor decor! Growing wheatgrass at home offers a beacon of health and new growth.

All you’ll need is a container, potting soil, and some wheatgrass seed. If you don’t plan on eating your wheatgrass in a tasty smoothie, catgrass is a great alternative that might be easier to source – giving the same visual effect. Here’s how to make it happen at home:

  1. Soak your seeds in water for 12-24 hours to soften them up. Softer seeds will give you faster-growing grass.
  2. Add soil to your container. You’ll only need a few inches. If your container is significantly deeper, feel free to fill the bottom with gravel or other fillers.
  3. Moisten your soil before planting and layer your seeds so thick that you don’t see any soil. Too thin and your decorative grass could end up looking sparse or patchy.
  4. Place your container in a window and wait a few days to enjoy the green vibrant growth of fresh grass. With this display at home, you’ll want to take a deep breath of fresh air every time you see it.

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Eggshell Succulents:

This DIY craft combines the season’s trendiest houseplants with the classic design of easter eggs! Not only does the eggshell make a chic and adorable statement piece, but it even adds nutrients that help your succulents thrive.

You’ll need some eggs (we recommend six or a dozen so you can use the whole carton) and succulents. You’ll be looking for young, small succulents, around 2” in size. Choose whatever variety you fall in love with, as any type works well.

  1. Use a dull knife to carefully notch and then cut the top off of the pointy side of the egg. Make a hole just large enough to pour out the egg – we recommend pouring it out on to a sizzling frying pan to add more enjoyment to your craft. Wash the inside of the shell and let it dry for a day or so.
  2. Carefully remove the succulents from their pots and very gently plant them into the shell. Chopsticks are great improvised tools to help push the soil into all of the air pockets and work the delicate succulent roots into their new soil. We recommend using a cactus or succulent blend of soil, or mixing some soil half-and-half with sand.
  3. Water your succulents sparingly, only until the top is moistened. You now have an assortment of easter egg succulents, with happy plants munching away at calcium. Enjoy this low-maintenance, trendy glimpse of spring all year!

Indoor Fresh Air:

Spring is the time that we get to break out of the house or open the windows to enjoy the fresh air. This Easter, you have the chance to bring the freshest of outdoors air inside with you to clean out the staleness of winter.

Houseplants have recently been celebrated for their ability to clean the air around them and have even enjoyed a boost in popularity, thanks to these hidden purifying abilities.  If you make a garden of these popular and attractive plants, they will bring some spring air indoors for you, stripping the air of toxins and boosting humidity and oxygen levels around them.

Many of these plants are very low-maintenance and easy to find. Some of the best varieties include:

  • Spider plant
  • Peace Lily
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Ferns (Bostons are best)
  • Palms (look for a Parlour palm)
  • English Ivy
  • Mum

Plant these air-cleaning machines together, with some optional fresh spring ornaments, for a boost that lasts all year. Don’t we all want that fresh spring feeling for ourselves no matter what season it is?

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Houseplants in the Winter

winter houseplant care home interior design

Are you feeling a little of those winter blues? When the winter temperatures drop and the outside world gets frosty, our houseplants are the green aesthetic boost that we need. However, the darker and drier winter conditions can be hard on your beautiful houseplants. Understanding the needs of your plants can help you keep them gorgeous and lush all winter.

Winter Hibernation

With how short our winter days are, everyone is getting less natural Vitamin D from the sun than usual. We may even be feeling the difference, getting a little sluggish and tired on darker days. The indoor plants in your house also rely upon the sun to boost their metabolism, so many of them may even be hibernating these days.

You might notice your plant taking a short break: leaves might fall, and growth slows down. Don’t worry too much, as your plants will perk up with the return of more sunlight in the spring. 

In the meantime, watering less will help your houseplant’s dormant roots to avoid being overwhelmed. If you poke your finger into the soil and it is dry up to the first knuckle, it’s time to water your houseplant.

Dry Air

On the other side of giving your plant the water it needs, the drier winter air can be very stressful for your houseplants. With the exception of succulents and cacti, most houseplants are from tropical forests, where they enjoy nearly 100% humidity. If the air gets dry enough in the winter, it can even pull moisture out of the leaves of your plants, leaving them parched.

If possible, keep your tropical houseplants close to together to let them benefit from each other’s moisture (with the added bonus of creating an attractive tropical oasis in your home). Boosting the humidity of the air can also help, either through the use of a humidifier or by letting your plants enjoy evaporating air nearby. For a quick pick-me-up, your houseplants will love a brief misting to keep them healthy and lush.

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Cold Drafts

Another thing your favorite tropicals struggle with is temperature changes. Back in their rainforest homes, the temperatures barely change a few degrees over an entire year, while our homes can change several degrees in a single day.

If your houseplants are close to cold windows or in the way of icy drafts from doors, they’ll appreciate moving away from sudden, cold temperatures. Keeping attractive and healthy plants sometimes calls for being flexible about where they are displayed to keep them rich and green, especially this time of year.

Houseplants are one of our favorite ways to add winter interest to our indoor living spaces. We get to bring something green and colorful inside to enjoy every day of the year. Keeping your houseplants healthy in winter conditions will ensure that they are lush all season and better than ever when they come out of hibernation in the spring!