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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Indoor Plants (Houseplants & more)

Amaryllis

During the holiday season many different types of plants are available for decorating and display including the spectacular amaryllis. Amaryllis flowers make a bold statement. Borne on 1 ½ to 2-foot tall stalk, the trumpet-shaped, 6-inch blooms dominate their surroundings. After flowering, the plant produces attractive, bright green leaves, and with a little care will flower year after...

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POST orchids

Orchids make elegant houseplants

I have a couple orchids at home but have not had great success with them. Sandy Mason, Illinois Master Gardener Coordinator, writes the following about orchids. She also teaches a webinar about moth orchids. I'm hoping that Sandy will show me how to make my orchids grow better. Not all orchids enjoy the temperature and humidity commonly found in homes; therefore, some may require specia...

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Bromeliad

Bromeliads

A friend of mine recently vacationed in Florida and purchased a bromeliad at a flea market. I can see why she picked it out since bromeliads are especially eye-catching. Bromeliads are in the pineapple family. There are many different types of bromeliads, each with a different exotic look. They are curvy or straight, large or miniature, dense or light, but all are bold and colorful. Mos...

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Display of seeds at the Native Seeds/SEARCH facility in Tucson, Arizona.

Test Seed Viability

I recently found some old seed in my office and wondered if they were still viable. If you save leftover seed to use the following year, here are some ways to find out if they are still good. Seed viability is a measure of the number of seeds that are still alive to produce plants. Some seeds stay viable for many years, while others might only last a short time. For example, parsley and...

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Seedlings ready for planting on May 7, 2012

Starting Seeds Indoors

Are you "itching" to start your vegetable garden? One way to jump-start the growing season is to start seedlings indoors. There are many advantages to starting your seeds indoors in addition to allowing anxious gardeners to "get their fingers dirty." In theory, plants started indoors will be bigger and produce faster than seed planted directly into the garden. Many of us wait until the cell pac...

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Paperwhite Narcissus

This time of year when paperwhites are routinely sold in stores. Many bulbs are easy to grow indoors for seasonal display and beauty. Common examples are Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus. Of all the types of narcissus, the paperwhite narcissus is the one most commonly sold for forcing indoors. This is because it doesn't need an extended cold treatment to induce flowers. Boxed...

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Banana tree with Cardinal climber on 7-13-12

Go Tropical with Ornamental Bananas

For many years I've been growing banana plants around my pool to give it a tropical feel in the summer. By autumn they have large stems with four- to five-foot-long leaves that sour to heights over ten feet tall. Bananas are grown here for their ornamental value. Although some might bloom, we don't have a long enough growing season for fruit to develop and ripen. Ornamental bananas come...

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Tillandsia (Air Plant) growing in light bulb shaped terrarium.

Air Plants Grow Well in Terrariums

On a recent trip to Ft. Myers, Florida I visited the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I toured their homes, gardens, laboratories, and museum. The plant collections there are fascinating, especially all the rubber trees they tested as possible sources for tire materials. Obviously, Edison is most famous for inventing the light bulb, so I took advantage of that by purchasing a smal...

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Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pine

The Norfolk Island Pine is commonly sold as a holiday plant. It is sometimes even used as a small indoor Christmas tree. Often the small trees are sold already decorated with little balls and tinsel. Norfolk Island Pines are very formal looking plants. The branches are horizontal forming tiers of foliage around the branches at regular intervals along the stem. It has a...

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Pothos (Devil's Ivy)
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Poisonous Houseplants

Do your pets eat nibble on your houseplants. If so, Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, suggests that you should take a good look at your houseplants to assure poisonous ones are not within reach of children or pets. Ferree states that unfortunately there are a few houseplants that are quite poisonous to humans and/or animals. Remember that there...

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propagating holiday cactus with leaf cuttings

Clone Your Plants

Do you have an annual flower in your garden this year that you especially like and definitely want to use again next summer? You might be able to clone it using vegetative propagation methods. I have a coleus plant that I particularly like in my patio containers. Each fall I take a few cuttings from the plants and grow them in my kitchen windowsill for use next spring. If you ar...

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rhonda wedding

Wedding Flowers

On June 1 st my husband Mark and I will celebrate our 30 th wedding anniversary. My Grandma Simmons told me June brides are extra special. I don't know if that is true, but I sure did feel special that day. Certainly, June is a beautiful month for a wedding. Flowers are a part of all weddings and the bridal bouquet is key. Bridal bouquets are made of many different types of...

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JP CDL 3-27-10 Easter Lily Source University of California Extension

Easter Lilies Signal Spring

Easter is just around the corner. Have you purchased you Easter lily yet? If not, be sure to choose an Easter lily with lots of unopened buds for longer bloom enjoyment. The popular Easter lily is the Christian symbol of purity, innocence, and chastity. But this particular lily has been popular for eons. In the Semitic world, it is the symbol of motherhood. It was the flower of Aphrodite, the...

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aerogarden
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The Edible Indoor Garden

Many of us have vegetable gardens that provide us with delicious, fresh produce all summer long, but do you also grow food indoors in the winter? Gardening is not limited to outside in the summer. I'll teach you how in my upcoming program The Edible Indoor Garden . As I researched and prepared for this program, I was amazed by how many food crops you can actually grow indoors....

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JP CDL 4-3-10 Lemons and limes in arrangement with hydrangea and tulips photo by Dave Crutchfield
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The Meaning of Flowers

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Do you have flowers ordered for your loved one? "Flowers are a great way to communicate your love and affection," says Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension. "Over the years, flowers have developed meaning and are known as a way to convey a special message." "Flowers can represent everything from friendship...

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Mother in Laws Tongue houseplant (Sansevieria)
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A Houseplant Anyone Can Grow…Mother-In-Laws Tongue

If you have trouble growing houseplants, the Mother-in-Laws tongue is for you. The Mother-In-Laws Tongue ( Sansevieria trifasciata ), also known as snake plant, is one of the most durable houseplants and is a plant that anyone can grow. This plant is extremely easy to grow, tolerates neglect and a wide range of temperatures. I don't know how it got the name Mothe...

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African violet
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African Violets

African violets are houseplants that most people recognize. They are very popular and easy-to-grow. Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says "African violets add a welcome splash of color indoors throughout the year." African violet ( Saintpaulia ionantha ) is a member of a large, interesting plant family known as Gesneriads. They a...

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Arrangement made with fresh, dried, and recycled decorations.  Both are examples of quick and easy arrangements made at the coming Design on a Pine workshop.
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Dried Flower Arrangements

Thanksgiving always makes me think of beautiful fall decorations. In addition to flowers, stems, and leaves that may be dried indoors, there are many materials that can be collected in the fall and used almost directly in arrangements after gathering. These include many seedpods, cones, grain, grasses, and berries found in the garden, as well as in fields and along roadsides. Here are some spe...

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Pothos (Devil's Ivy)
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Philodendron or Pothos

I am so fortunate that I had opportunities during this cold, snowy winter to visit two tropical locations. I went to Costa Rica in December to pick up my son from his semester of studying abroad and I just returned from my husband's employee reward trip to the Dominican Republic. Obviously I enjoyed the warm, sunny weather in both locations, but I also love seeing the tropical plants th...

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floral arrangment Ferree

Valentine Flower Care

Following a few suggestions can prolong the beauty of flowers given on Valentine's Day and other special occasions, says a retired University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. "Whether you are giving roses, carnations, mums, or some other type of flower, you want them to last," says James Schuster. "Start with buying young flowers. Young rose buds have just their outer petals...

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Super Foods, Super Models

As promised I'm writing each month about a 2014 garden trend. Trend two from the 2014 Garden Media Group report is "Super Foods, Super Models." Let me try to explain what that is. My interpretation is that the trend is to grow your own highly nutritious food (super foods) using nontraditional methods (super models). The main reasons people state for growing their own food is taste, nut...

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Mother in Laws Tongue houseplant (Sansevieria)
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A Houseplant Anyone Can Grow…Mother-In-Laws Tongue

If you have trouble growing houseplants, the Mother-in-Laws tongue is for you. "The Mother-In-Laws Tongue ( Sansevieria trifasciata ), also known as snake plant, is one of the most durable houseplants and is a plant that anyone can grow," says Rhonda Ferree, extension educator in horticulture. "This plant is extremely easy to grow, tolerates neglect and a wide ra...

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Recycling Food Scraps

This year I plan to write once a month about one of the 12 garden trends from the 2014 Garden Media Group report. The trends are based on many facts and figures. They include technology and smart gardening techniques meant to find balance in the garden. The first garden trend is Ground Up: table to garden to table. According to the natural marketing institute, only 25%...

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Force Bulbs Indoors for Seasonal Display

This is the time of year when various types of gift plant kits become available. The ones that I see most are herb kits and flower bulbs. Bulbs such as amaryllis and paperwhites are commonly found for forcing indoors. These bulbs are easy to grown indoors for seasonal display and beauty. The boxed bulb kit includes a pre-cooled bulb that is all ready to bloom indoors. Simply pot up and...

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IMG 7773
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Grow Food Indoors This Winter

Many of us have vegetable gardens that provide us with delicious, fresh produce all summer long, but do you also grow food indoors in the winter? I'm teaching an Indoor Gardening Series every Wednesday in October for Bradley University's OLLI program. The last session is on the edible indoor garden. As I researched and prepared for this program, I was amazed by how many...

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