Tag Archive: Elisabeth Ginsburg

  1. Cool House Plants for Hanging

    Tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes spp.)

    Are you a house plant fanatic who wants new and different ways to show even more green specimens? Do you live in a small space with limited room for indoor greenery? Are you looking for new and different living accents to perk up your decorating scheme?

    If the answer to any or all of the above is “yes”, lovely hanging house plants are the perfect solution. Cheerful and practical, pendulous plants are also the height of horticultural fashion. No matter what kind you prefer—flowering, foliage or ferns—you can find species and varieties that lend themselves to hanging display. All you have to do is choose the right plant and container for your indoor situation, install a hook or other mounting arrangement, and revel in your hang-ups.

    When shopping for hanging house plants, look for species and varieties with naturally sprawling or vining habits. Take note of the plant’s mature dimensions so that you can plan for the right pot and appropriate amount of space. Matching your plant’s light and humidity requirements to available home conditions is critical. And finally, site plants in places where their foliage or flowers will shine but the planters will not be repeatedly jostled by passing family members. A hanging plant should not be a head banger.

    The following are a few of the many hanging house plant options:

    Flowers on High

    Chenille Plant

    Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida)

    The red, bottlebrush-flowered chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) goes by the tantalizing nickname, “red hot cat’s tail”. It combines dramatic good looks with a long flowering period and an affinity for indoor culture. The fuzzy, red “tails” can grow to 18-inches long, dangling dramatically from the plant. Medium-green, oval leaves finish the attractive picture. Bright indirect light, average water, and regular misting will make the red hot cat happy.

    Goldfish Plant

    Goldfish plant (Columnea spp.) (Image by Wildfeuer)

    Pendulous Goldfish plants (Columnea hybrids) give you the bright color of the dazzling aquatic namesake aquatic but without the fishbowl. A member of the same plant family as African violets, goldfish plants sport a crown of pendulous stems ending in orange-yellow flowers that bear a striking resemblance to orange or red fish. Give your goldfish indirect light, regular misting and an absence of drafts. Cut back on watering during the winter months, when plant growth slows.

    Tropical Pitcher Plant

    For something completely different, try growing a tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes spp.), with long green leaves that end in colorful, dangling pitchers, which are not true flowers but attractive nonetheless. If grown in a hanging basket and watered regularly, pitchers will thrive if misted to increase ambient humidity. Make sure the individual “pitchers” also have water inside them. South-, east- or west-facing windows or exposures are best. Do not fertilize, as pitcher plants prefer low fertility situations.

    Lipstick Vine

    Lipstick vine (Aeschynanthus radicans)

    Brightness conquers indoor space when you grow lipstick vine (Aeschynanthus radicans). Lipstick-red flower clusters dominate the ends of the arching stems, which are ornamented by fleshy green leaves. Hang your lipstick plant basket in the brightest indoor spot available and keep the soil consistently moist. Make sure the plants are away from drafts and prune the stems back to six inches after flowering to spark new growth. In the winter, growth slows and so should watering. This will stimulate the flower bud formation cycle.


    Flashy Foliage

    Satin Pothos

    Satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus ‘Argyraeus’)

    The elegant satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus ‘Argyraeus’) is a vine that ornaments hanging baskets with cascades of marbled, heart-shaped leaves on trailing stems. Pothos, an easy-care plant that thrives in high-quality potting media, like Fafard® Natural & Organic Potting Soil, is in active growth during the spring and summer months, but the foliage is beautiful year-round. Position the basket in bright, indirect light and water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Fertilize during the active growth period with a balanced product, like a water-soluble 20-20-20 diluted according to manufacturer’s directions.

    Purple Spiderwort

    Purple spiderwort (Tradescantia pallida)

    If you are passionate about purple foliage, try purple spiderwort (Tradescantia pallida). The ‘Purpurea’ variety is among the most common. Plants feature cascading segmented stems and long purple leaves. Plant them in a large hanging basket, because purple spiderworts are vigorous and reach out in all directions. Though most plant lovers grow this house plant for foliage, it also produces small, purplish pink flowers in the summer. The plants flourish best in bright indirect light and can be quite drought tolerant, though regular water is recommended.

    Dramatic Ferns

    Staghorn Fern

    Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)

    For brightly lit, high-humidity situations, including bathrooms with sunny windows, nothing is more dramatic than a staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum), with green fronds that bear a striking resemblance to deer or elk horns. Often seen mounted on boards, staghorns are equally at home in hanging baskets. Because the plants are epiphytic and grow naturally on tree branches, they absorb moisture through both roots and fronds. Staghorns do best planted in a free-draining medium like orchid bark. Water sparingly—once a week or so during the growing season and less in the winter, when growth slows down. Orchid fertilizer, diluted to half strength and applied according to manufacturer’s directions, will keep your stag in the pink of health.

    Boston Fern

    Boston fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata)

    Whether grown indoors or out, Boston fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata) features large, lacy fronds that spring in lush profusion from the plant’s center. Like the staghorn fern, Boston fern also benefits from regular misting but prefers relatively cool household conditions. Like many other hanging specimens, Boston ferns thrive in bright indirect light and like a peat-enriched potting soil like Fafard® Professional Potting Mix. That soil should be kept consistently moist. To promote overly lush growth, hold back on fertilizing, restricting the application to two or three times per year.


  2. Clivia for Glorious Winter Flowers

    From the last week of November through the first of the New Year, many of us are surrounded by colorful seasonal decorations.  But then January arrives and all that glitters is gone.  To stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder, or at least help tide you over until the first crocuses push up through the cold earth, invest in house plants that bloom naturally during the winter months.  Clivia miniata, occasionally called “Natal lily” or “fire lily”, but most often known as just plain “clivia”, is one of the best.

    With bold orange or yellow clusters of trumpet flowers blooming atop tall (18-24”) stalks and strappy green leaves, clivia is reminiscent of other well-loved Amaryllis family members, like Nerine and Crinum.  It is a perennial, but is only winter hardy in USDA Zones 9-11.  The upward-facing clivia trumpets are somewhat smaller than those of another relative, the showy amaryllis (Hippeastrum app.), but each cluster contains more flowers.  Clivia colors are dramatic—bright orange is the most common—but it is not hard to find pale or bright yellow varieties.

    Clivia History

    Clivia is winter hardy in USDA Zones 9-11, but it is also a popular house plant.

    The genus was named in honor of an Englishwoman, Lady Charlotte Florentia Clive, wife of an early nineteenth century Duke of Northumberland.  Clivia is native to coastal areas in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa, where the orange-flowered form was discovered by English plant hunters in the early 1820’s.  The first plants to bloom in England did so in 1827 in a greenhouse at Syon House, one of the Northumberlands’ residences.  Much later, in 1888, a rarer, yellow-flowered clivia was discovered, also in the Natal.

    The colorful flowers were a hit and clivia became a “must have” for wealthy Victorian plant collectors.  As the nineteenth century progressed, the cheerful orange blooms made frequent appearances in conservatories and greenhouses.  Fast forward nearly 100 years, to the second half of the twentieth century, and breeders in the United States, Australia and elsewhere were hard at work enlarging the number of forms and colors, especially in the yellow range.  Hybridization has also resulted in peach, pink and red-flowered forms, though they are quite expensive.  While clivia hybridizing is not difficult, it takes many plant generations to produce strong, reliable new strains that come true from seed.

    Clivia Sources

    These days, orange and yellow clivia are available at reasonable prices from many traditional and online outlets.  For instant color, buy blooming specimens, which are the most expensive.  However, if you are willing to be patient and play the long game, you can get a smaller plant for relatively little and nurture it to blooming size.  Remember that the pictures you see online or in catalogs are probably photos of mature plants.  Your clivia may not have as many blooms, especially in its first year or two of flowering.

    Clivia Care

    This deepest orange-red clivia is a real show stopper.

    Whether your clivia is mature or somewhat smaller, pot it up using a high-quality potting mixture, like Fafard® Professional Potting Mix.  The size of the decorative pot should only be a little larger than the nursery pot.  Clivia is fond of close quarters.

    The care regimen is reasonably easy.  If yours is already in bloom, position the pot where you can see the flowers best, water when the top of the soil feels dry, and enjoy the show for up to a month.  Afterwards, place in a sunny window and continue to water and feed once a month with a balanced fertilizer diluted according to package directions.  If you can do so, let your clivia have a summer vacation outside in a lightly shaded location that is protected from wind and other weather-related disturbances.

    If you live in a cold-winter area, bring the plant indoors before the first frost.  To stimulate winter bloom, stop watering around October 1, and put the clivia in a cool place, ideally with a temperature between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, for at least five weeks and preferably a bit longer.  When the dormancy period is over, bring the plant back into the warmth and light and begin watering again.  Flower stalks should appear after a few weeks.  Keep up this routine for a few years, and you will most likely see more flowers every year.  When repotting, which should only happen after several years, do not increase the pot size dramatically or flowering may be affected.

    Unlike some other decorative plants, clivia is an excellent long-term investment.  It is well worth it to see some floral light at the end of the mid-winter tunnel.

  3. Bringing Herbs Indoors for Winter

    Summer vacation is wonderful for people with culinary herbs.  While you enjoy longer days and uninterrupted stretches of shorts-and-sandals weather, your plants are basking in summer sunshine and warmth.  Basil grows bushy, thyme exudes powerful fragrance, and mints threaten to take over the landscape.  You can harvest herbs whenever you need them, secure in the knowledge that the summer garden will provide an ever-ready supply.
    Read the full article »

  4. Beating Tomato Pests and Diseases

    Nothing’s better than a happy, fruitful tomato, but keeping pests and diseases at bay can be a challenge.

    All winter long, tomato lovers suffer, eating supermarket fruit with the taste and texture of foam packing peanuts.  Finally summer arrives, bringing a harvest of tart, sweet, sunshiny tomatoes.  You can buy these edible jewels at the local farmers’ market, but there is something incredibly satisfying about growing your own.  A just-picked tomato, still warm from the sun is nirvana in a red wrapper. Read the full article »

  5. Flowers for Coastal Gardens

    Rugosa rose is one of the classic hardy garden plants for coastal gardening.

    The phrase “coastal gardens” evokes a host of memorable images, billowing daisies flanking gray-shingled cottages, bright “dune roses” blooming against an ocean background, or pots of brilliant red geraniums on a wooden pier.  North America has an abundance of coastal areas that are home to a wide array of coastal gardens.
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  6. Managing the Six Worst Garden Animal Pests

    Hungry deer will eat practically any garden plant, especially in scarce winters.

    Gardeners beware, the enemy is among us.  Operating by stealth, they wait for opportunities to transform our gardens from points of pride to scenes of devastation.  They eat our cabbages and sweet corn, destroy our hostas, and root up our tulips.  They are ravenously hungry and untroubled by human scruples. Read the full article »

  7. Gardening Tips for Dog Owners

    Garden borders and paths can make it easier to teach dogs to stay out of beds.

    You love your dog.  You love your garden.  Sometimes, though, your dog and garden just don’t get along, and it is harder to feel the love.  The dog follows his instincts and digs, pulls up plants, romps over delicate specimens and relieves himself in the wrong places.  You follow your instincts and get frustrated.
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  8. Technicolor Gardening: Vibrant Garden Flowers

    Colorful Benary’s Dreamland Zinnias are lined with deepest blue edging lobelia.

    Sometimes gardening life is just a little too pastel and predictable.  A day dawns when all those pale pinks, powdery blues, and dreamy pale yellows look washed out, and you yearn for exuberant flowers that pop out of beds and containers with bursts of bright color.  By adding a few “technicolor” flowers with deep, saturated colors, you can create explosions in the garden without scaring the neighbors. (Those same neighbors will probably also enjoy the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators drawn to your vibrant blooms.) Read the full article »

  9. Growing Scented Geraniums

    Citronella-scented geranium deters mosquitoes.

    In the centuries before sewers and daily bathing were common, rank odors were everywhere.  That is probably why Europeans were so excited when scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) first arrived from their native South Africa in the early 17th century. With aromatic leaves exuding the fragrance of roses, citrus, or spice, the plants were immediately pressed into service as weapons in the ongoing battle against undesirable smells.

    Scented Geranium History

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