Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pretty picture: Crassula ovata flowers

Yesterday, I "should" have stayed home and worked on writing stuff, but I didn't want to. The husband didn't especially want to do whatever it was he was supposed to do either, so we googled for "greenhouse Burlington IA," or something like that, and then took a road trip to Burlington and Mount Pleasant.

In Mount Pleasant, we found a garden center that was going out of business, and so I scored a couple years' worth of Osmocote 14-14-14 fertilizer at half-price. In retrospect, I should probably have grabbed all their vermiculite and perlite too, but it seemed . . . greedy? at the time? But now I wish I had. Ah, well.

In Burlington, we went to two garden centers, and I took this photo at Zaiser's Florist and Greenhouse, who were very nice, and answered questions for me about how old the greenhouse was (built in 1950, and remarkably well-maintained) and other stuff relating to the business. Which was very nice of them. We'll be back at some point in the spring.

Zaiser's also had a blooming Crassula ovata, which I don't think I've seen in person before. It turns out that they look pretty much the same in real life as they do in the pictures, but it's nice to know this as fact, not theory.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Random plant event: Euphorbia drupifera flowers (again)

The Euphorbia drupifera has decided to bloom once more. The blooming of the Euphorbia drupifera is something that's really been covered to death on this blog already, first with crappy pictures in 2008, then with much better pictures in 2009. Now we're back to crappy pictures again, for 2010. But not just crappy pictures, because there is History! also!

Ancient PATSPians celebrated the blooming of the Euphorbia drupifera with feasts of frozen pizzas and rum-and-cokes, followed by live cricket sacrifices offered to the Anole god, Ninahuatetl. Then they watched TV. According to legend, the five brown petals (bracts?) of the Euphorbia flower represent the five shitty commercial network TV stations of the ancient PATSP civilization (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Paramount/WB/CW/"other"), and the paired thorns below each leaf refer to "rabbit ears," or "antennas," which were stick-like devices made of metal which attached to the television set, probably as part of a ritual to increase crop and livestock fertility (nobody really knows, though).

The exact date of Drupifera's Day moves around the calendar, but typically happens in the second half of January or the first half of February. We're fairly traditional observers here, though we substitute Dr. Pepper for Coke. Because I like it better. And also we skip the turtle-curling, for animal-cruelty reasons, and also because it's usually cold outside.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Random plant event: Callisia fragrans flower bud

The winter of previously-unseen flowers continues, apparently, with Callisia fragrans. Supposedly, one needs greenhouse-like conditions in order to get these to bloom indoors, or at least that's what Google says Glasshouse Works used to say. I don't think the plant room is really all that greenhousey, or at least it's not as greenhousey as I would like sometimes, but clearly it's working out somewhat.

I've never seen the flowers before in person; I've barely ever even seen the plant. WCW has a very large one, and obviously I have one (which I obtained through a trade), but I've never seen one for sale in a store. I like the plant, but I kind of understand why they're not more common: its habit is weird, and kind of unwieldy: little rosettes of leaves at the end of crazy-long runners that flop all over and get tangled in things. Still. The flowers are supposed to be fragrant, and it's incredibly easy to grow. I'll let you know if it lives up to the hype when they open.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pretty picture: Tradescantia zebrina flower

If all goes well, today will be the last day of plant-watering for this particular cycle, after which point I will be able to write for the blog again. I'm hoping to get the Phalaenopsis profile up relatively soon (UPDATE: Done!), though I will have to write a lot of it first, unfortunately: I had only barely begun on it when the plants started going dry. I have 42 posts sitting in Blogger right now as drafts, waiting for me to get to them, and instead all I do is water. Clearly I've made a bad life decision or two, somewhere along the way. (Looked around the house at some point last week and was like, holy crap, how did all these plants get in here?)

But anyway. One of the Tradescantia zebrinas has been trying to bloom off and on for the last month or so. It's not the most fascinating flower. Very similar to the Cyanotis kewensis flowers, actually, just a little less fuzzy and pink instead of blue-purple. But I think it still qualifies as pretty.

I was occasionally asked, at work, how to convince a wandering Jew to bloom, and I never had a particularly good answer, because I've never been able to discern a pattern to it. Bright light seems to be necessary, though not enough by itself. It doesn't appear to be related to day length or temperature that much either, because the ones at work flowered at all times of the year. Fertilizer, maybe? It wouldn't surprise me if fertilizer was the key to flowers. Googling yielded no answers. Clearly more experimentation is in order.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Random plant event: Kalanchoe bracteata 'Silver Teaspoons' propagation

Some Kalanchoes, like K. tomentosa, K. orgyalis, and K. bracteata, are able to produce a new plant from a single leaf, and I've seen this process get started any number of times and then abruptly fall to pieces. And most of the Kalanchoes I've had (the above three, plus gastonis-bonnieri, luciae, and beharensis) don't get along that well with me anyway, for one reason or another. So I'm trying not to hope for too much here, but this leaf got broken off of the original plant some time back, and I figured it was worth a shot to try to propagate, and so far here's what we have:

There are also a few baby plants in the pot with the original, also from dropped or broken leaves, which will (I hope) go on even if this one doesn't. It's a nice enough plant. In fact, considering how I've historically gotten on with Kalanchoes, which have a tendency to die of Teh Ugly, it's a fucking amazing plant. We'll see how it works out.

The parent Kalanchoe hildebrandtii bracteata 'Silver Teaspoons,' some time ago.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

List: Houseplants Which are Highly Prone to Spider Mites

There's no official or definitive list for this; spider mite susceptibility isn't something I've ever tried to quantify. That said, though, there are definitely some plants which are more likely to have mites when you buy them, or more likely to develop a raging case of mites once you get them home.

Thick-leaved succulent plants and cacti tend not to have mite problems; spider mites don't seem to be able to pierce their thicker, waxier epidermises. Consequently, the plants most susceptible to mite attack have broad, thin leaves (like Musa or Dieffenbachia) instead of small, fleshy ones (like Crassula or Hoya). Certain families are apparently also a lot tastier than others; the Araliaceae, Marantaceae, and Apocynaceae seem to be particularly delicious.

(I realize that it would probably be a lot more useful to the reader to present a list of plants which are highly resistant to spider mites, as opposed to plants highly susceptible to them, but that's actually much tougher to do. Even if I've never seen a bad mite infestation on, say, an Aglaonema, I can't really be certain that they're that resistant. Maybe the Aglaonemas with whom I've personally been acquainted have just been really lucky, you know?)

Alocasia 'Frydek.' (also other Alocasia spp.)

Aspidistra elatior 'Milky Way.' (cast-iron plant)

Calathea roseo-picta, possibly cv. 'Rosy.' (also other Calathea spp.)

Chamaedorea elegans. (parlor palm)

Codiaeum variegatum 'Petra.' (croton) (also other Codiaeum variegatum cvv.)

Cordyline fruticosa 'Kiwi.' (ti plant) (also other Cordyline fruticosa cvv.)

Assorted Hedera helix (English ivy) cultivars.

Pachypodium lamerei (Madagascar palm).

Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree).

Strelitzia nicolai. (white bird of paradise)

Severity of infestations vary, enough that I really adore some of the above, and refuse to let others in my home. I consider Cordyline fruticosa worth the trouble, and both Pachypodium and Strelitzia are welcome, because they tend not to get out of control mite populations as rapidly as others on the list. Codiaeum variegatum, on the other hand, is a definite planta non grata here, mostly (though not entirely) because of its attractiveness to mites, as are Hedera helix, Calathea spp., and Alocasia spp. All four of those gave us ongoing, substantial problems where I used to work, to the point where I stopped bringing them in. (They've started ordering them again since I left, though, with predictable results.)

Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments.

Not pictured:
Acorus spp. (sweet flag, Japanese rush)
Adenium obesum (desert rose)
Alternanthera spp. (including A. dentata 'Purple Knight')
Aspidistra elatior (cast-iron plant)
Breynia disticha cvv. (snow bush, snow on the mountain)
Brugmansia cvv. (angel's trumpet)
Chamaedorea seifrizii (bamboo palm)
Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy)
Colocasia cvv. (elephant ears)
Datura cvv. (devil's trumpet)
Dieffenbachia spp. (dumb cane)
Dracaena marginata (Madagascar dragon tree)
Dracaena thalioides
Gardenia jasminoides (gardenia)
Hedera canariensis (Algerian ivy)
Heliconia psittacorum cvv.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (tropical hibiscus)
Impatiens spp. (impatiens)
Jasminum sambac (jasmine)
Maranta leuconeura cvv. (prayer plant, rabbit tracks)
Musa spp. / Ensete spp. (ornamental banana)
Plumeria cvv. (frangipani)
Polyscias balfouriana (balfour aralia)
Polyscias fruticosa (ming aralia)
Primula vulgaris (primrose)
Ravenea rivularis (majesty palm)
Schefflera arboricola (umbrella tree)
Schefflera elegantissima (also known as Dizygotheca elegantissima) (false aralia)
Stromanthe sanguinea cvv.