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Tales from a Plant Addict

Fun (& a few serious) facts, tips and tricks for every gardener, new and old.
Houseplants

Clivia

Clivia is a genus of flowering plants native to South Africa. There are six known species. Clivia miniata is the most widely cultivated species, along with various hybrids. It is one of those plants commonly found in full bloom around the holidays or soon after. If you bought one last winter and wondering if it can be coaxed into bloom again—it can, with surprisingly little ex...

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Amaryllis

One of my favorite indoor blooming plants is the amaryllis, a bulb commonly sold in the fall or around the Holidays for growing in the home. Unlike a lot of flowering indoor plants, the amaryllis is easily coaxed into reblooming year after year. As an added bonus, the bulb will produce offsets, or daughter bulbs that can be individually potted to increase your collection size or given to other...

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Rosemary

I have a love-hate relationship with rosemary. I love its scent, I love its flavor in cooking, but hate that I can't seem to successfully overwinter this shrub consistently, indoors or out. The typical young plants we use in our gardens each year are rather green and succulent, but mature rosemary is a woody shrub-like evergreen plant. Part of the lure of growing rosemary is its wonderf...

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Overwintering Tropical Plants

Tropical plants have grown in popularity for use in outdoor landscaping. Some have been a garden staple for years, like cannas, elephant ears, and dahlias. Others are less familiar, like banana, mandevilla, and bougainvillea. Most will not survive the cold temperatures of an Illinois winter without being moved indoors. Even though the weather is still very summer-like, if you have any i...

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Bay Laurel

Whether you call it a Bay Laurel, True Laurel, Sweet Bay, Laurel, or Bay Tree, they are all names for Laurus nobilis . This is the tree that is the source of Bay Leaves, commonly used to flavor soups and stews. Honestly, I never gave much thought as to where Bay Leaves came from, until I saw a Bay tree on a trip to California a few years ago. I never thought about Bay Leaves com...

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Cast Iron Plant-- Aspidistra elatior

The old saying that "everything old is new again" definitely applies to the cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior . Honestly, I had never even heard of this plant until six years ago, but it was introduced into the U.S. over 100 years ago and was very popular during Victorian times. The name "cast iron plant" is a reference to its reputation of being a tough plant that can survive...

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Chinese Hibiscus

There are several species of hibiscus that people typically grow in their landscapes, but some are native to tropical places and will not overwinter here unless brought indoors. Chinese hibiscus is one of these tropical types. Historically, the tropical or Chinese hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis , is believed to really be from China. There is some debate though as to whether ea...

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ZZ Plant-- Zamioculcas zamiifolia

The phrase "the right plant for the right place" is one way to think of choosing plants for your landscape. If you choose a plant not quite adapted to a particular space in your yard, you will struggle to get that plant to thrive, and it may not even survive. The same idea applies to houseplants. Some plants are better adapted to the typically low light conditions found indoors. These plants wi...

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Pomegranate

Pomegranates are finally getting their fifteen minutes of fame. I remember eating them in grammar school, savoring the juicy red seeds, while classmates wondered what in the world I was eating, and brave souls ventured a taste. Pomegranates have been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia. Currently, pomegranates are gaining much attention in...

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Poinsettias

Poinsettias are one plant that seems to be in Holiday decorations year after year. Have you ever wondered why the poinsettia is considered by many to be "The Christmas Flower"? If it weren't for an observant U.S. ambassador, the poinsettia, or Euphorbia pulcherrima would have remained a plant of Mexican and Central American medicine and legend rather than the Christmas decoration it is...

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Cyclamen

'Tis the season for gift giving, and as a plant lover my favorite gifts to give and receive are plants. One of my favorite flowering houseplants is the cyclamen, whose growth cycle is well suited to holiday displays. The cool days of autumn promote dazzling winter blooms in cyclamen. There are 23 different known species of Cyclamen in the world. They are native to the Mediterranean regi...

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Vanilla

Most of us don't give vanilla a second thought. Many people think of vanilla as a very "plain" flavor. But in fact, vanilla has a very colorful past that is anything but plain. Vanilla extract comes from the fruit of the Vanilla orchid, of which there are over 100 species known worldwide. Most of the vanilla grown commercially is the species Vanilla planifolia , also called "Ma...

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Not the Same Old Container Garden

This Mother's Day weekend, chances are that you or someone you know will be spending time on something related to gardening. The typical frost-free date in central Illinois is approximately Mother's Day through May 15 th . Even so, no one can predict the weather with 100% accuracy. But considering Mother's Day as the starting gun for some full-blown gardening is generally a good rule o...

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Annuals

I was shopping for plants with some friends, and as I nabbed some annuals I had been looking high and low for, one friend turned to me and said jokingly, "friends don't let friends buy annuals!" I challenged her to try and stop me! My friend was joking, but now and then I run into people who tell me they "only plant perennials" as if it is some mark of advanced gardening and good taste....

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Hoya

I've always been a big fan of flowering plants for indoors, but all too often these plants require a level of care that I cannot provide consistently. That doesn't stop me from buying them of course, having convinced myself that I will certainly find the time to provide them the proper care they need. Then reality strikes, and I am busy beyond belief and I forget to water my plants. Or I forget...

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Ficus

Mention growing Ficus , and many people assume you mean the houseplant that is a small tree native to Southeast Asia. But they're only partially right. Ficus is an enormous genus of plants containing over 800 species. Some species are trees, but others are shrubs and vines. The common name for this genus is Fig, which does include the species Ficus carica , comm...

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Rex Begonias

This time of year I find myself craving color around my house. After all the holiday decorations come down, everything is a little dull when surrounded by the winter dreariness outside. Many stores will have great specials on indoor plants this time of year. A little greenery certainly is a pick-me-up, but what about more color? You may immediately think of flowering plants, but they ca...

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"Indestructible" Houseplants

I'm sure the bitter cold this past week has made a lot of us long for the first warm spring day. Having a few houseplants around can help to satisfy the desire to have something green and growing near us when winter is wearing out its welcome. I have had even experienced, accomplished gardeners lament to me that they can't keep houseplants alive. There are a lot of factors that contribu...

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Terrariums

I think there is some truth to the saying "everything old is new again". After attending a terrarium workshop a few years ago, I was reminded how fun this type of gardening can be, even during the dark cold days of winter. I vaguely remember my grandma having a terrarium at some point in the 1970's, and there has been a resurgence in these gardens in the last few years. I've gone on to teach my...

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Keeping Gift Plants Healthy

This holiday season, you may have received a plant or two as gifts, won the centerpiece at a holiday party, or purchased a plant to decorate your home. Popular flowering plants sold this time of year include the ever-popular poinsettia, Christmas cactus, Norfolk Island Pine, cyclamen, amaryllis, orchids, and gardenias. "Everyday" foliage plants like ivy and philodendron are often sold trained i...

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Amaryllis

Most people think of poinsettias when holiday plants are mentioned. One that is often overlooked but provides years of bang for the buck is the amaryllis. These bulbs will reliably produce gorgeous large blooms year after year with a little basic care. The two most important factors to consider are light and water. Adequate light is needed for the foliage that emerges after the flower stalk to...

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Overwintering Tropical Plants

Tropical plants have grown in popularity for use in outdoor landscaping. Some have been a garden staple for years, like cannas, elephant ears, and dahlias. Others are less familiar, like banana, mandevilla, and bougainvillea. Most will not survive the cold temperatures of an Illinois winter without being moved indoors. It's not an impossible task, but will require some planning and preparation....

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"Indestructible" Houseplants

This summer's heat coupled with the associated watering restrictions in Decatur may have some of us thinking of indoor gardening sooner than expected this fall. If you have never grown houseplants, this is the perfect week to start. September 16-22, 2012 is designated as "National Indoor Plant Week", encouraging people to connect with nature by using houseplants in their homes and offices....

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Indestructible Houseplants

We've had a bit of a respite from the cold weather this week, leaving us all chomping at the bit for spring to arrive. Having a few houseplants around can help to satisfy the desire to have something green and growing near us when winter is wearing out its welcome. I have had even experienced, accomplished gardeners lament to me that they can't keep houseplants alive. There are a lot of...

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Managing Houseplant Pests

After all the Holiday decorations have been put away, our homes might look a little bare. It is the perfect time to brighten the space with a houseplant or two. Most indoor gardeners encounter unwelcome pests at one time or another. Typically problems begin to escalate during the winter months. In general, during winter our houses tend to be warm and low in humidity and light, whereas h...

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