Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Beautify Your Home With Amazing Houseplants

By Keith Markensen

In The Greenhouse

If you great pleasure in amazing your friends with big named plants, here is a good one for you - Graptopetalum paraguayense - and it makes an excellent house plant. It has succulent rosettes of leaves which are colored in shades of icy gray. If grown outdoors in the summer time in full sunlight, tones of rose are added to the grays. This plant is hardy only in the far South, in other areas it must spend the winter months indoors. A south window is to its liking... give it a menu of plenty of sunlight, a gritty soil and little moisture,

Each little leaflet will root easily if it so much as touches the soil, and in time a new little rosette of leaves will appear at its base.

The word philodendron was a tongue twister to all but the gardening experts years ago. Now this large family of plants of various shapes and sizes is widely grown. Some of the varieties grow so rapidly as to make them impossible for use in a small house plant collection... but there is one variety which will prove to be a delight to any window gardener. It is Philodendron scandens.

Its satiny green leaves have an overcast effect of reddish brown, no doubt resulting from the reddish undersides of the leaves. The leaves are small and heart shaped, not more than two inches wide and three inches long to the end of the long, narrow tip. The plant is slow growing. Give it enough sunlight to keep good color in the leaves, and to keep the stem from growing too fragile. Its soil should be rich, but loose and fast draining.

The prayer, or rabbit track plant, is a favorite for the shaded window garden. The commonly grown prayer plant is Maranta leuconeura variety Kerchoveana. It is called the prayer plant because the leaves fold upward at night like hands in supplication. The beautiful green leaves have bold markings of chocolate brown which remind one of a rabbits track. While it does have a small white blossom, it is very insignificant in comparison with the beauty of the foliage. A moist, porous soil, and a very light location (but not direct sun) on the window sill will create a happy home for this plant.

Marantas do not seem to take regular rest periods, but there are times when the leaves lose their bright coloring, and the plant dies down slowly to the roots. There seems to be no life left, and at this time the plant should be placed in a dark, and if possible, a cool location. Unaided, it will start new growth, but usually after a rest of several weeks. Keep its soil ever so slightly moist during this rest period.

There is something restful in a leaf combination of green and white, whether spotted, splotched, striped or marginal. In the summer time many Hower arrangements are given character by the addition of striped grasses. For winter time, St. Augustine Grass can be grown as a pot plant on the window sill, or in a hanging basket, and cut for arrangements. Botanically it is known as Stenotaphrum woundatum variety variegatum. It grows rapidly and in any exposure.

Buxus argenteo-marginata is a member of the box family of evergreen shrubs. It makes a useful house plant, and greenhouse growers find it especially worthwhile. This shrubby plant has tiny leaves edged with white, and at times at the terminal of each branch a solitary small white blossom appears. It may be missed, for its size is in scale with the size of the leaves.

Occasional pruning is necessary to keep the branches under control. It grows nicely without sun, is not particular as to soil, but does require enough water to keep the soil moist, not wet.

Outdoor plantings of plants with oddly colored leaves sometimes become confused and the individual beauty of a many-colored or oddly shaped leaf becomes lost. Foliage with unusual markings is at its best advantage in the window garden where plants are seen at close range. One of my favorite plants of this type is the begonia Dancing Girl.

Dancing Girl is of the angel wing group of begonias, and it grows into a compact, medium sized plant, ideal as a window sill plant or for home greenhouse. Individual leaves of this plant have little in common all of them are sharply pointed, but there the similarity ends. No two seem to be alike. Some are fluted, others almost flat. The greatest variation is in the silver markings on the leaves. There are dots and splotches of silver""some leaves are green with silver markings, and others are silver with green veins.

I grow this begonia in a sunny south window during the winter months, and when the sun becomes hot, I move it to an east window where there is v some shade provided by a thin curtain. Begonias like a spongy soil that is rich in organic matter. I use a mixture of clean, sharp sand, coarse peat moss, good garden loam, and well rotted leaf mold. These are mixed in equal parts, except I like to add an extra bit of leaf mold.

Dancing Girl has bright red flowers which come freely during late winter and spring. It can be summered out" doors in a protected, shaded place.

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