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care guide plant care

Spider Plant: 7 Essential Plant Care Tips

The Essential Plant Care Guide for Spider Plant Chlorophytum comosum variegatum

A staple house plant since at least the early 1900s, spider plants purify air and are relatively easy to grow with proper plant care  – perfect for a first-time plant owner! These plants, also known as ‘spider ivies’, have leaves resembling blades of grass  that grow from the center of the plant. Depending on the variety, the leaves can grow up to 3ft (0.9m) long.

While areas with access to bright, indirect light will encourage new growth and striped leaf patterns (depending on the type), this plant thrives in the humidity of your bathroom. The steamy atmosphere after a hot shower or bath echoes the humid South African rainforests, the plant’s native environment.

Spider plants can be planted directly into the ground as beautiful (and interesting) ground cover – just be sure to shelter them from direct sunlight! They do best in Hardiness Zones 9-11, as they cannot handle any frost. These plants thrive in loose, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. Be sure to check the soil type in your garden before planting to ensure it meets the needs of the plant.

They produce small, white or green flowers in clusters, blooming during late spring to early fall. At the tip of each flower, a small bunch of leaves will form, creating a mini-spider plant, called a “pup” or “spiderette.”

They are non-toxic to humans and animals; however, cats (and dogs!) have been known to play with and nibble on the long leaves. So, if you don’t want your plant to be disturbed, it is best to keep it away from your pets!

Plant Care

1. Light
  • Prefers bright to moderate indirect sunlight
    • Will tolerate lower light conditions
      • However, the striping on leaves in variegated types will become more prominent when exposed to brighter, indirect lighting
    • Hot, direct sun will scorch the leaves, causing brown tips and spots
2. Water
  • Allow the soil to dry to the touch between waterings
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I water mine about once or twice per week
  • Sensitive to fluoride, which can be found in tap water
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: using distilled water will avoid leaf tip burn
3. Temperature & Humidity
  • Prefers temperatures between 55-80°F (13-27°C)
  • Maintain moderate humidity levels
    • Brown leaf tips may indicate that the air is too dry
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: mist the leaves to combat low levels of humidity, especially during the winter months
      • You can also bring your plant in the bathroom during your shower for a quick humidity boost!
4. Potting & Repotting
  • Use a well-draining potting mix
  • Grows relatively quickly and can easily become root bound – plan to repot about every other year
5. Pruning & Propagation
  • Little to no pruning is necessary
    • When grown outdoors as ground cover, you may need to trim the leaves in order to prevent overgrowing
  • Mature and healthy plants may produce ‘pups’ or ‘spiderettes’ – offshoots from the adult plant that can by propagated to create new plants
    • Allow pups to reach approximately 2in (5cm) in diameter before removing them from the mother plant
    • Place them in a container of water for 1-2 weeks, then plant them in soil!
6. Fertilizer
  • Feed up to twice a month in the spring and summer using a 10-10-10 mixture
7. Pests & Diseases

As I have said, there are many different varieties to choose from, including…

  • Vittatum: broad white stripe bordered by green edges; slightly curved leaves
  • Variegatum: broad green stripe bordered by white edges; slightly curved leaves; needs lots of sunlight to maintain its variegation
  • Bonnie: similar to Vittatum, but the leaves are much more curled; needs very little light
  • Zebra: yellow edges that will eventually turn white
  • Hawaiian: small in size; bright green leaves with champagne tones; also known as ‘Golden Glow’

Images of my Spider Plant

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care guide plant care

Lifesaver Cactus: 7 Essential Plant Care Tips

The Essential Plant Care Guide for Lifesaver Cactus Huernia zebrina

lifesaver cactus
Alexander and Hephaestion, my Lifesaver cacti

The unique Lifesaver cactus is easy to grow for a first-time plant owner – just place it on a windowsill and don’t overwater! The plant is named after its 5-pointed, yellow, star-shaped flowers with coppery reddish-brown stripes connected to a maroon doughnut center, which look like Life Saver candies!

The annulus – the structure in the center of the flower that looks like a life saver candy – has a rubbery texture. Usually, flowers grow to about 1.5in (3.8cm) in diameter, but sometimes can reach up to nearly 3in (7.6cm)! Buds emerge intermittently, depending on the growing conditions, but usually bloom during the summer.

The 4-sided (sometimes 5-sided) stems grow to 3in to 3.5in (7.6cm to 8.9cm) in length but can grow longer in cultivation. Their spreading is normally limited to the size of the container. The Lifesaver cactus has soft spikes protruding from the edges of its stems. The only difficulty in repotting this plant arises when handling the different sections – just be delicate! Unlike some cacti, the spikes will not harm you.

Though commonly known and referred to as a cactus – and looks like one, too, because of its spiny appearance – the Lifesaver cactus is actually related to plants such as Milkweed. Like several species from the milkweed family, this plant is toxic to animals and people – keep them out of reach of your pets and small children. When a part of a live stem breaks apart, the plant excretes a milky white latex “sap”, which is poisonous. This sap is part of the plant’s evolutionary defense mechanism!

The Lifesaver cactus is great for propagating. During the growing season (spring and summer), these cacti will grow, grow, grow! It’s a great plant to cultivate for plant swaps or gifts for your friends.

Though Lifesaver cacti can be grown just about anywhere with proper plant care, they originate from eastern and southern Africa.

Plant Care

1. Light
  • Prefers full or partial sun
    • In full sun, the stems develop a reddish or purple pigmentation, which is okay to a certain extent
  • However:
    • Too much sun = stem burn
      • The reddish or purple coloration is actually a defense mechanism for the plant to protect itself from harsh sun; move away from direct sunlight
      • Lix’s Pro Tip: Make sure you protect this cactus from the midday sun in summer!
    • Too little sun = weak, thin growth and decreased flower production
2. Water
  • Water like any succulent or cactus
    • Prone to root rot, especially during winter
    •  Lix’s Pro Tip: I water mine every 1½ to 2 weeks during the growing season (spring through summer) and about once per month during the winter
3. Temperature & Humidity
  • Lifesaver cacti are not frost hardy – they should not be exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C)
  • Humidity is not an issue
4. Potting & Repotting
  • Use a cactus potting mix with excellent drainage
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I mixed 1-part potting soil and 1-part perlite
    • You can also make your own mix: for example, mix 1-part perlite and 0.5-parts peat moss or coconut coir
  • Rarely needs to be repotted, as this plant prefers a slightly crowded environment
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: you don’t always have to size up your pot, but you should replace the soil at least every 2 years!
5. Pruning & Propagation
  • Needs very little pruning, if any at all
  • To propagate: break off stems that you want to remove (they should fall off quite easily)
    • Place cutting in a container filled with water near a windowsill
    • Once the cutting has roots about 1in (2.5cm) in length, plant it in soil!
6. Fertilizer
  • Use a balanced fertilizer – only during growing season (spring through fall) – no higher than 15-15-15 once per month
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: Make sure you dilute your fertilizer to prevent stem burn!
7. Pests & Diseases
  • Extremely prone to root rot – watch out for yellowing stems and soft brown spots, as those are the most common signs in this species
  • Prone to mealybugs

Images of my Lifesaver Cactus

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care guide plant care

Queensland Bottle Tree: 7 Essential Plant Care Tips

The Essential Plant Care Guide for Queensland Bottle Tree Brachychiton rupestris

plant care Queensland Bottle Tree

In its native habitat in Australia, the Queensland Bottle Tree, also known as the Narrowleaf Bottle Tree, can grow to a maximum height of 59 to 65ft (18 to 20m), with a trunk 6½ft (2m) in diameter! As a houseplant, these trees can reach 6 to 10ft (1.8 to 3m) with proper plant care. 

If you want to grow your Bottle Tree outdoors, make sure you live in Hardiness Zones 8, 9, or 10, as these trees will not survive in temperatures below 35°F (1°C). (Don’t know your Hardiness Zone? The United States Department of Agriculture has created an interactive Hardiness Zone map to help you determine in which zone you live.) When grown in the correct outdoor conditions, the tree offers a respite from the hot sun, since the canopy can extend anywhere from 16 to 40 ft (5 to 12m) in diameter – perfect for shade on a hot summer day!

As a container plant, the Queensland Bottle Tree is great for bonsai culture! The roots on a young plant forms a thickened caudex when the root system is exposed. However, if bonsais aren’t your thing and you prefer something more low maintenance in terms of plant care, the tree will grow straight and produce a canopy of thin, palmate leaves – which look like a palm with outstretched fingers! 

In the spring, older leaves will start to yellow and fall as new growth starts. As the tree matures, you may even begin have cream-colored flowers bloom in late summer or fall. However, Queensland Bottle Trees are incredibly slow growing, and the formation of its distinct bottle shape may not be visible until the tree is 5 to 8 years old.

Plant Care

1. Light
  • Bottle Trees prefer full sun, but they will grow in partial shade
2. Water
  • Allow soil to dry between waterings, then thoroughly saturate
    • Bottle Trees are incredibly drought tolerant both in container culture and in the landscape
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I usually wait about 2 weeks between waterings
      • When it is about time to water, I stick my finger a knuckle deep into the soil
      • If the soil is dry, it’s time to water
      • If it is still moist, I wait another day or two
3. Temperature & Humidity
  • Maintain indoor temperatures above 50°F (10°C)
    • If planted outdoors, temperatures should not drop below 35°F (1°C)
    • Make sure you live in the appropriate Hardiness Zone for Bottle Tree cultivation!
  • Bottle Trees tolerate wide swings in humidity without harm
4. Potting & Repotting
  • In container culture, use any type of well-draining soil
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I used my cactus and succulent potting mix
    • Bottle Trees can tolerate being slightly root-bound, as this will stunt their growth accordingly when grown as a container plant; however, you should replace the soil every other year or two
  • If you choose to plant your Bottle Tree outside, be sure to choose either a clay, sandy, or loamy soil mixture for optimal plant health
5. Pruning & Propagation
  • Little pruning is needed; a central leader encourages the trunk to thicken and create the ‘bottle’ shape
    • Bottle Trees do have a vertical growth habit
      • If you are growing yours as a houseplant, periodic pruning is needed to keep the height in check
    • Pruning is best done in the late winter to early spring as new growth starts to emerge
      • Lix’s Pro Tip: I pruned mine to develop – and maintain – the canopy
6. Fertilizer
  • For proper plant care, feed once a month during growing season – spring to early fall – with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer
7. Pests & Diseases
  • Bottle Trees have little to no problems with disease or pests
  • However, when grown indoors, they can be prone to spider mites and mealybugs – especially if there are other infested plants nearby

Gallery Of My Queensland Bottle Tree