Categories
plant care travel

Traveling with Plants: 4 Steps for Safe (and Easy!) Transport

Going to college nearly 300 miles away from home means a lot of back and forth for breaks and vacations. Along with packing clothes and the essentials, I have to pack my plants. Luckily, I have a car, which makes travelling with them easy. However, it has taken me about 2 years to create and perfect a system that works for me. Whether you’re visiting family for a month and don’t want to leave your beloved plants with a sitter or moving to a new city, these tips for travelling with plants will help you keep them healthy for the journey!

 

Note: This guide is based off of my own experience, mainly transporting by car. Nevertheless, you can easily adapt these tips and tricks for any way you travel!

Pre-Departure

The two weeks pre-departure is crucial to ensure that both you and your plants are prepped for travel. Environmental fluctuations can cause your plant to stress out, which can lead to a variety of common plant problems, including stunted or halted growth and leaf drop. A stressed, weaker plant is also more susceptible to pest infestations.

So, this is the time to give them some extra TLC:

  • Start by pruning – remove any dropped or damaged leaves
    • If you have a trailing variety with long vines, consider trimming stems to make traveling a bit easier
  • Gently dust foliage with a dampened cloth
  • Repot to allow ample time to readjust to their new container
  • Be sure to time waterings so that the soil will be moist – but not wet – for travel
    • The combination of a stressed plant, wet soil, and a cool, dark environment do not mix – these are perfect conditions for root rot to develop
travel - plant
Freshly repotted plants ready for travel

Packing

When traveling by car:

  • For smaller plants, place them into an open box with plenty of padding – think newspaper or dish cloths
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I strap the box in the seat with the seat buckle for extra protection
    • The padding and extra restraint ensure that they do not budge in case I have to come to a sudden stop
  • For larger plants that will not fit into an open box, place them on the floor of the car
    • Lix’s Pro Tip: I move my car seats or place padding around larger containers on the floor to ensure that it will not move during travel
travel - plant
Traveling with my plants – stuffed animals make great padding!

If you have to ship them to your new location:

  • Remove them from soil and gently shake off the excess dirt
    • Do not wash the roots
  • Wrap the roots in a few layers of moist paper towels and place into a plastic bag
  • Make sure you choose a sturdy box and label it accordingly!

That being said, you can bring a plant with you onto the plane:

  • Option 1: wrap the container in a garbage bag, popping a few holes to ensure it can breathe
    • The garbage bag keeps the soil from making a mess
    • This option is useful for larger varieties that cannot be stored in a box
  • Option 2: remove the plant from soil, wash off any excess dirt from the roots, and tie a plastic bag around the still moist roots
    • Many plants can survive hours – some up to days – like this
  • Wrap any delicate foliage in newspaper and tape to secure
  • Once you reach your final destination, unwrap and place in soil
travel - plants
Lithops preparing to travel

However, the final decision is up to TSA agents and the airlines. Be sure to research your destination and airline ahead of time. Some locations ban certain varieties or do not allow foreign species. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has information on what can be brought into the U.S. Other countries have similar traveler information lists. 

During Travel

When traveling by car:

  • Keep in mind the temperature and sun exposure

If the trip will take less than a day, your plants should be fine.

However, when transporting with multiple stops, traveling becomes trickier:

  • Foliage can be scorched by the sun, so make sure to park your car in the shade at rest stops
  • The AC sucks moisture from the air
    • To combat this, place a tray of wet pebbles under the containers
    • You can also lightly mist leaves with water if the leaves are looking dry

On Arrival

So, you’ve finally reached your destination. Do not let your plants sit in your car or a box for too long – unpacking them should be one of the first things you do. No matter how long your journey was, they will still need time to adjust to their new environment.

  • Place them in partial direct or indirect sunlight (depending on the need of the plant) for about 2 to 5 days
  • During this time, keep a close eye on them, and ask yourself:
    • Do they need to be watered?
    • Do they need to be pruned?
    • Do they need to be treated for a pest infestation or disease?

After this period, you can now put your plants in their more permanent homes. The initial shock of moving should have passed, but some may still show signs of distress. After 3 weeks, all persisting problems from travel should pass. If not, contact me, and I can help nurse your plant back to health!

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
plant care plant problems remedies

5 Common Plant Problems – PLUS Causes & Remedies!

So, There's Something Wrong with Your Plant...

Your typically happy and healthy plant is suddenly dropping leaves in the middle of its growing season – what could it be? I’ve compiled a list of potential and common plant problems PLUS causes and remedies to help nurse your plant back to health. Pictures are included at the bottom to help you identify your particular plant ailment.

Causes and Potential Remedies – Pests & Diseases

Some common plant problems are caused by specific pests, which require specific remedies to manage and deter infestations from spreading. Others can be caused by certain diseases, which can be cured using non-chemical methods, as some of these common plant problems can be resolved by changing your plant’s watering habits or by replanting the plant in fresh soil. Nevertheless, there are some chemical solutions used.

I have compiled a list of resources from the Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center about the treatments used in this post. Organic chemical solutions are still considered highly toxic to humans and animals. However, less toxic, non-chemical insecticides do exist, including insecticidal soaps and neem oil.

Note: When applying particular remedies, make sure the plant has been thoroughly watered and follow the label’s directions. Some houseplants – including jade plant and certain palms – are sensitive to insecticidal soap. Always spot test before treating the entire plant. In some cases, treatment will have to be repeated multiple times.

Common Plant Problems

1. Leaf Drop
  • Causes: 1) Over- or under-watering; 2) Significant drops in temperature; 3) Being severely root-bound; 4) Certain pest infestations; 5) Certain diseases
    • Note: Significant environmental change can cause leaf drop; however, this should last a maximum of 3 weeks
    • If after 3 weeks your plant continues to drop leaves, try some of the following remedies
  • Remedies:
    1. Change watering regimen accordingly
    2. Increase room temperature or bring the plant inside
    3. Repot the plant into a larger pot
    4. Treat for specific pest infestation or disease
2. Brown Leaf Tips & Edges
  • Causes: 1) Over- or under-watering; 2) Exposure to bright sun and/or hot, dry air; 3) Certain pest infestations; 4) Salt accumulation
    • White or grey crusty deposits on the soil surface can be a sign of salt build-up
  • Remedies: Prune leaf tips and…
      1. Change watering regimen accordingly
      2. Relocate plant away from direct sunlight and into indirect or filtered sunlight
      3. Treat for specific pest infestation
      4. Remove salt deposits and add a layer of fresh soil
    • Lix’s Tip: Wait 1 to 2 weeks for a healthier looking plant; if your plant shows no signs of improvement, repot with new, fresh soil
3. Wilting
  • Causes: 1) Over- or under-watering; 2) Root rot; 3) Being severely root-bound; 4) Over-fertilizing; 5) Salt accumulation
  • Remedies:
    1. Change watering regimen accordingly
    2. Treat root rot
    3. Repot plant in fresh soil
      • By the time you notice this common plant problem, fresh soil will save the plant’s root system from the damages that fertilizer or salt deposits that accumulated in the old soil can cause
4. Yellowing of Entire Plant
  • Causes: 1) Over-watering; 2) Too little light; 3) Under-fertilizing; 4) Certain pest infestations
  • Remedies:
    1. Change watering regimen accordingly
    2. Relocate plant to a sunnier location, like a windowsill
    3. Change your fertilizing regimen
    4. Treat for specific pest infestation
5. Lopsided Growth or “Stretching”
  • Causes: 1) Too little light; 2) Under-fertilizing
  • Remedies:
    1. Relocate plant to a sunnier location, like a windowsill
      • Make sure that all sides of your plant receive equal amounts of light
      • Lix’s Tip: When I notice that one of my plants is “stretching,” I rotate that plant 90 degrees every day so that all sides receive equal amounts of sunlight!
    2. Change fertilizing regimen accordingly

Images of Common Plant Problems

Need help diagnosing your plant problems? Comment below or send me your plant’s symptoms and a picture!
Categories
plant care soil types

Comprehensive Guide to the 6 Soil Types

The 6 Different Soil Types: Explained

Once a new plant has been watered and has adjusted to its new home, it needs to be repotted. You’ll need a good container and soil. However, soil is not a one-size fits all kind of deal; there are actually 6 different types! I have compiled a list to help you determine the right type of soil for your new (or old) plant.

Soil Types

1. Clay soils

  • Description: comprised of over ¼ clay; holds a high amount of water and drains slowly; slightly sticky when wet; takes longer to warm in the spring than sandy soils; easily compacted while wet; can bake in the summer
    • known as a heavy soil, which is a potentially fertile soil because of the amount of nutrients that are present
  • Conditioning: yearly tilling and aeration are the best ways to reduce compaction
  • Problems: low drainage capacity
2. Sandy soils
  • Description: comprised of a ratio of mostly sand to little clay; warm more quickly in the spring than clay soils; dry out quickly and low in plant nutrients
    • known as a light soil, which drain quickly and is easy to cultivate and work
  • Identification: gritty texture; fall through fingers; do not clump and stick together
  • Conditioning: add fertilizer in small, frequent applications for best results since sandy soils tend to leach nutrients that are added
  • Problems: low water retention; low in nutrients
3. Silty soils
  • Description: fertile; relatively well-draining; hold more moisture than sandy soils
    • Pure silt soils are rare, especially in gardens
  • Conditioning: yearly tilling and aeration are the best ways to reduce compaction
  • Problems: easily compacted
4. Loamy soils
  • Description: mixture of clay, sand, and silt soils; as a result of this mixture, this soil avoids the extremes of either clay or sandy soils; fertile, well-draining, and easily worked
  • Conditioning: little to no need to condition
  • Problems: little to no problems depending on the concentration of the loam mixture – clay, sand, or silt
5. Chalky soils
  • Description: largely comprised of calcium carbonate (chalk); lime-rich; may contain chunks of chalky white stone
    • can be a heavy or light soil, depending on its composition
  • Conditioning: little to no conditioning is possible; this soil can’t be acidified
  • Problems: low fertility levels 
6. Peat soils
  • Description: comprised of mainly organic matter; usually extremely fertile; holds a high amount of water; typically, extremely acidic
    • Very rarely found naturally in gardens

If you don’t know what type of soil you have in your yard, you can try these two simple tests – adapted from The Spruce – to identify your soil and its qualities. You can also  use “The Jar Test” from Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center to determine what soil type you have.

 

Soil Test 1  how to determine your soil type based on its composition.

  1. Take a handful of moist soil.
    1. Can you roll the soil into a log? Is it somewhat shiny? You have clay soil.
    2. Does the soil feel gritty? Does it slip through your fingers? You have sandy soil.
    3. Does the soil feel slightly slippery? You have silty soil.
    4. Squeeze the soil. Does it hold its shape? Now poke the soil. Does it crumble? You have loamy soil.

Soil Test 2  how to determine your soil’s drainage capacity.

  1. Dig a hole about 6in (15cm) wide and 1ft (30cm) deep.
  2. Fill the hole with water. Let it drain completely.
    1. Keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain!
  3. Fill it with water again.
    1. Make sure to keep track of how long it takes again.
  4. If the water takes more than four hours to drain, your soil has poor drainage capacity.

Now that you know what type of soil you have and its drainage capacities, you can amend it in order to create the optimal environment for your plants. 

If you have any more questions about soil types, tests, or soil conditionings, comment below or email me!
Categories
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