Saturday, February 13, 2010

List: Houseplants With Heart-Shaped Leaves

This would possibly have been more helpful to people, or at least more timely, if I'd posted it earlier, but you know how things go sometimes.

Houseplants with heart-shaped leaves are surprisingly uncommon. I looked through the "yearbook" expecting to find them all over the place, but actually, most of the stuff that looked heart-shaped were actually either round (orbicular) or lens-shaped (elliptic) leaves, that only appeared to be slightly heart-shaped when viewed from a particular angle (e.g. Saxifraga stolonifera). I was really expecting to find a lot more than this.

Even a lot of plants that have leaves which are technically the right shape are a little more elongated than people normally think of as heart-shaped. More spear-shaped (hastate) or triangular (deltoid) than cordate (the botanical term for "heart-shaped"), really.

There's also a word, obcordate, which means heart-shaped-but-with-the-petiole-attaching-at-the-"bottom"-of-the-heart-instead-of-at-the-"dent." You can see why having a shorter word is useful. I'm counting obcordate leaves too, because the shape isn't any different, it's just the point of attachment that changes.

I am, no doubt, forgetting some plants here (in which case please, remind me in comments), but here's what I came up with:

Anthurium crystallinum 'Mehani.'

Anthurium andraeanum 'Pandola,' plus some other Anthurium andraeanum cvv. (bonus: many have flowers with heart-shaped spathes, too! Including some that are both red and heart-shaped!)

Cyclamen persicum cvv. (florist's cyclamen)

Hedera helix (English ivy), some cvv.

Hemionitis arifolia (heart fern).

Monstera deliciosa 'Cheesecake' (variegated split-leaf philodendron), as well as other Monstera deliciosa cvv. Mature leaves will develop splits, but the overall leaf shape remains cordate.

Peperomia caperata (ripple peperomia, Emerald Ripple), all cvv. (also the very similar P. griseoargentea)

Philodendron gloriosum.

Philodendron hederaceum 'Brazil' and other P. hederaceum cvv. (heart-leaf philodendron)

Scindapsus pictus (satin pothos).

We'll be doing anti-recommendations for this set, because most of these are perfectly nice folks, who would fit in just fine in most households. However, Hemionitis is not easy to grow at all -- miss one watering, even by half a day, and it'll tell you it hates you and will never forgive you before stomping off to its room to cut itself and write bad angsty songs on the guitar you bought it for its birthday. And it doesn't like direct sunlight that much either. I don't know how they are about humidity because I've only ever seen one in the greenhouse, but it's a fern, so, make your own guesses.

I've also never owned a Cyclamen, though I know of enough people who have that I'm thinking they may not be that bad. I'm a little scared to try, because plants with serious dormant periods freak me out. Maybe someday.

Finally, Peperomia caperata and I have had a bit of a falling-out since I wrote the profile for it; a few plants have failed to survive repottings (repottings that they actually needed, and were requesting), one got knocked over and broke off a good 80% of its leaves (it might be coming back, though), the one in Nina's terrarium got too dry, or too wet, or both, and went ffffft on me, and so I'm down to a small fraction of the number I had originally. In the right circumstances, they're still okay, but I don't have the kind of time available to deal with a Peperomia caperata anymore. Which is a shame, 'cause I think they're really pretty. (If I do get a new terrarium for Nina, though, I'll probably attempt to stock it with at least one Peperomia, either a caperata or argyreia.)

Not pictured:

Alocasia cvv. (elephant ears), to some degree
Anthurium 'Faustino Giant'
Anthurium 'Nikki'
Anthurium clarinervum
Anthurium luxuriens
Anthurium radicans x dresslerii
Most Caladium cvv.
Ceropegia woodii (string of hearts)
Cissus discolor (begonia vine)
Colocasia cvv. (elephant ears), to some degree
Dischidia ruscifolia (million hearts) (?)
Epipremnum aureum (pothos), mature leaves: juvenile leaves are lens-shaped
Ficus pumila (creeping fig), sometimes
Hoya carnosa 'Chelsea,' under some conditions (switches back and forth between cordate and elliptic)
Hoya kerrii (sweetheart hoya) (*obcordate*)
Some Oxalis spp. have compound leaves with heart-shaped leaflets
Peperomia incana, sometimes
Syngonium podophyllum cvv. (arrowhead vine). More hastate than cordate, but younger plants could sometimes go either way.

Saturday morning Nina picture

I am beginning to think that Nina may be the single most-photographed Anolis sagrei in the history of the world.

Not that I imagine a particularly fierce competition for that title in the first place. But you never know.

This was a fairly bad picture that I attempted to salvage through fancy asymmetric cropping. Cropping helped, but didn't save the picture entirely. Oh well. Next time.

Stay tuned for a very special Valentine's-related List post this afternoon.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Have just discovered scale on my Ficus benjamina 'Midnight' as well. Which was in a different room entirely from the Neoregelia, and to the best of my recollection had never been near them. Which means I probably have multiple independent infestations, and should spend the rest of the day examining each plant, one at a time, with a magnifying glass.

Very torn by this, as the Ficus, while more replaceable and less sentimental, has also been around for quite a while (since October 2007) and had only recently begun to start looking good and Ficus-y.

Recent good picture of the Ficus in question.

I should throw it out. Possibly I will throw it out. But give me some time to process and grieve first. (I'm still optimistic about the Neoregelia, however unrealistic this may or may not be.)

Also, this is the perfect day for this to happen, as we've got contractors in the house today to tear apart the bathroom next to my office (good in the long run, insanely bad in the short). So when I'm not thinking about scale, I can be thinking about strangers standing around with the door to the plant room wide open (current outdoor temperature: 23F / -5C). Or covering my ears against the noise of people knocking in walls. Or involuntarily breathing fumes of something. I don't actually know what their plans are and what's going to happen, but clearly it's going to be a bad day.

UPDATE: It's to be noise, with a side of cold.

"Blogalong" plants

I noticed recently that Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens, has a word for a concept I didn't know needed a word (she actually has a lot of those: Carol's a big word-coiner): blogalong plant. A blogalong plant, or just blogalong, is: "A plant you learned about through garden blogging and planted in your own garden. If the plant was given to you by another blogger, it is a blogalong passalong." [emphasis mine]

So since I saw her post, I've been thinking about my own plants, and whether any of them would qualify as blogalongs. Mostly, the plants I've got, I have because I had to look at them every day for weeks at a time, while caring for them at work, and eventually I just couldn't take it anymore so I bought them. In a few cases, I got them by trade through Garden Web, and WCW and I exchanged a few plants, I impulse-buy occasionally, and there are a couple plants I became interested in through Garden Web or another plant forum.

I can't think of very many cases, though, where I went out and got something I would not otherwise have been interested in specifically because somebody blogged about it. What few plants I can think of that qualify as blogalongs are all either cactus or Euphorbias, which is probably coincidence, but somehow it seems meaningful.

I bought Myrtillocactus geometrizans because Cactus Blog said something about them once (and also bought Stenocereus pruinosus because I thought it was Myrtillocactus, before realizing it wasn't, which maybe counts as another half-plant for Cactus Blog).

Myrtillocactus geometrizans.

Stenocereus pruinosus.

I'm pretty sure Mammillaria spinosissma is with me because of Dee at A Desert Observer, who has posted about hers from time to time.

Mammillaria spinosissima.

Aiyana, at Water When Dry, is responsible for me getting the Euphorbia bougheyi variegata, and also gave me a blogalong passalong in the form of Euphorbia anoplia variegata.

Euphorbia bougheyi variegata.

Euphorbia anoplia variegata.

The more common situation for me seems to be that I see a plant and think about buying it, but don't, and then when I post about it, one (or several) of y'all talk me into going back for it. This has happened, notably, with Hoya pubicalyx, Leuchtenbergia principis, Monstera deliciosa 'Cheesecake,' and Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum,' and I bet I could think of more if I tried. It's possible that the whole point of me writing the walkaway posts is, on some subconscious level, so that y'all will "force" me to go back and buy stuff anyway, which if that's the case then we've reached some new and disturbing heights in the plant-obsession. But I digress.

So now I'm wondering: is PATSP responsible for any of the plants in your home right now, either by telling you about a plant you wouldn't otherwise have heard of, or by praising a plant you hadn't liked very much initially? And if so, which ones? Do I need to be more careful about using my powers for good? Less careful?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

List: Houseplants With Finely-Divided, "Fluffy" Foliage

This list is another request from Joseph Tychonevich at Greensparrow Gardens, and I'm not sure if he was meaning anything fluffy-looking (in which case Soleirolia soleirolii, baby tears, would count) or anything with pinnate/bipinnate/tripinnate foliage, in which case Zamia spp., cardboard palms, would count). So I've tried to restrict myself to stuff that qualifies either way, stuff that both looks fluffy and soft (doesn't mean it actually is soft, by the way) and has finely-divided foliage.

In practice, this seems to mean mostly ferns and palms, but I found a couple other options too. It's a tough category. Additional suggestions are welcome.

Araucaria heterophylla. (Norfolk Island pine)

Asparagus plumosus (shown) and other Asparagus spp. (asparagus fern)

Chamaedorea elegans. (parlor palm)

Davallia tyermanii (shown) and other Davallia spp. (rabbits-foot fern)

Pogonantherum paniceum. (house bamboo)

Polypodium formosanum 'Cristatum.' (ET fern)

Polyscias fruticosa var. elegans. (parsley aralia)

Radermachera sinica. (China doll)

Schefflera (Dizygotheca) elegantissima. (false aralia)

Selaginella kraussiana. (club moss)

I like the look of a lot of these, but have had bad experiences with quite a few of them, too, and even the ones I haven't had bad experiences with tend to be difficult plants for most people. So I can recommend Araucaria heterophylla, which is pretty agreeable if you give it decently bright light and are consistent about watering; Davallia spp., which are a bit more challenging than most plants but are pretty reasonable, as ferns go; and Polyscias fruticosa var. elegans, which, like the regular P. fruticosa, is not quite as fearsome as its reputation would suggest.

I anti-recommend Pogonantherum paniceum, because my own plant needed so much water, so often, that I could only keep it going for four and a half months, and it didn't look so hot by the end of about two. I also discourage people from Chamaedorea elegans whenever I get the chance: I know there are people out there who can grow them and find them easy, but I am not one of those people, nor is WCW. In my experience, C. elegans either get spider mites, then black tips, and die, or they get black tips, then spider mites, then die. Unless they're in a greenhouse. Where they just get spider mites. Finally, I'd suggest the reader not try Selaginella kraussiana without the aid of a terrarium. I haven't tried the plant at all, personally, with or without, but they have pretty extreme moisture needs.

Not pictured:

Adiantum spp. (maidenhair ferns)
Chamaedorea cataractum (cat palm)
Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (butterfly palm)
Didymochlaena trunculata (mahogany fern)
Howea forsteriana (kentia palm)
Nephrolepis exaltata cvv., in particular the cv. 'Fluffy Ruffles' (Boston fern)
Pellaea rotundifolia (button fern)
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (tree philodendron, selloum philodendron) (should this count?)
Polyscias fruticosa (ming aralia)
Schefflera arboricola (umbrella plant, umbrella tree) (should this count?)
Scyphularia pycnocarpa (black caterpillar fern, Davallia pentaphylla)
Selaginella erythropus (red club moss)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Unpretty pictures: spider mites and scale

WCW told me once that if you want to, you can overwinter Hibiscus by letting them go dormant: you stick them somewhere cool, let all the leaves drop, and then only give them just enough water to get by until the spring. And then in the spring you put them outside and they leaf out quickly and then you go on.

It seemed like a sound enough idea, and WCW said she'd done it herself, but I wasn't quite ready to commit to it. I figured if I could keep them growing and flowering happily through the winter, then there was no reason not to, so I'd only let them defoliate if it turned out that I couldn't keep them growing happily.

So I stuck them in front of a small window in the basement, and waited to see what would happen.

For the most part, nothing happened. Some sporadic blooms at first, then they settled down and just sat there. I gave them full, thorough waterings when the soil got dry, but they didn't seem to be doing anything with it.

Then, beginning in maybe mid-December, specific branches would defoliate rapidly from time to time. Like, everything would be fine, and then suddenly all the leaves on one branch would go yellow and drop overnight, and the house would rattle as all the leaves hit the floor at once.

There didn't seem to be anything wrong with the plant otherwise: I saw a little webbing, but it looked like fairly coarse webbing, the kind that spiders make cobwebs from, and they were in the basement, where there are often spiders, so I didn't suspect spider mites at first. Plus I didn't actually see any mites, ever. But it kept happening, and I got kind of worried. Plus it sucks to get woke up in the middle of the night by the house rattling because your Hibiscus just had a massive defoliation.

Maybe I didn't want to let them go dormant after all. Maybe they were defoliating from lack of light, and if I just put them somewhere brighter, this would all stop.

So. They came out of the basement to the living room, and I gave them a spot on the floor near the big window. Plenty of light there. (Also a heat vent, but -- not a very big one! And it wasn't blowing directly at the plants!) Looked the plants over, didn't see any webs or any mites.

Imagine my surprise when a whole branch defoliated again, and, upon examination, turned out to be completely swarming with spider mites.

This is much more terrifying full-size. You can actually make out individual little legs on one of them. [shudder]

Then imagine my depression, frustration and rage. Next, imagine my inebriation, as I drank to try to forget about the mites.

(You're really very good at imagining my mental states! Good job!)

So. Both Hibiscus got a prolonged bath: dish soap, shower, more soap, more shower, and now they're back in the basement again. Where, to their credit, no branches have gone suddenly nude again. But still. Spider mites are despicable. In that I am completely able to despic them. I despic them so hard, y'all.

So that was a bummer. Then, a few days after the Hibiscus returned to the basement, I was watering the big purple Neoregelia when I noticed some spots on the leaves that rubbed off, when I tried to rub them off. Which is a bad sign.

Roundish green dots: part of the natural variegation. Roundish tan dots: scale. White crusty stuff toward the right side of the picture: mostly hard-water spots, I think. Though there could be some immature scale running around in there, I'd never know.

Further inspection revealed that I had scale. And they were everywhere. Leaf surfaces, leaf undersides, the inaccessible spaces at the base of leaves -- everything. It didn't appear to be too far gone, but it was still a surprisingly advanced infestation to be catching for the first time.

The long-term solution was to add imidacloprid granules to the soil. I don't know if this will necessarily help, but I had them already, and in theory they should work. Eventually. (I have yet to be particularly impressed with systemic pesticides, actually. This is maybe something we could discuss in the comments.)

The short-term solution was to get a wet paper towel or two, or ten, or fifty, and try to wipe off as many of the bastards as I could. The only problem with that is -- well, look up at the first Neoregelia picture again. See the spines all along the leaf margins? Yeah. They're actually kind of sharp. And pieces break off in your skin sometimes. So it's not that easy to get a hand down in there, never mind trying to do any serious leaf scrubbing once it's in.

So that was also a bad day. I haven't had any issues with scale in something like ten years. (I bought a Caryota mitis, fishtail palm, without noticing that it had a serious scale problem. I kept waking up to find the floor beneath it sticky, but somehow didn't put it together that there might be a bug problem for a really long time. When I did figure it out, the plant was thrown away.) I have little itchy cuts all over both hands, and down the back of my right arm, and this is something I'm going to have to do repeatedly for a while.

The slightly-raised tan circles are, again, scale. The small, white, elongated things scattered around them are probably baby scale. The babies are actually so small that I can't see them with my naked eye; I can only see them after taking a picture, uploading it to the computer, and looking closely at it.

For some plants, I'd just throw the thing out, rather than try to undertake an extermination program. I'm willing to try extermination in this case because the plant would be expensive to replace, I've already had it a long time, and the scale doesn't appear to have done much permanent damage to the plant yet. It has spread to one other plant, also a Neoregelia, but as far as I can find (and I looked pretty hard at everything in the vicinity) it's only the one, and the infestation on the second plant was very, very light. So I'm sort of optimistic that this can be dealt with in a way that permits me to keep the plant.

And it could always be worse. It's not mealybugs.

Still, though. Depressing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Unfinished business: Ardisia elliptica berries

Just one final visit with the Ardisia elliptica berries on the plants at the garden center. They're now completely ripe. The pictures could be more exciting, I suppose, but this at least nearly-completes the whole life cycle. We've covered the flowers in July, then the unripe berries in December, and now the ripe berries in February. This seems like an unreasonably long time to take to make seeds, but I don't have a lot to compare to. So maybe it's faster than I give credit for.

The final stage of the life cycle would be to collect berries, plant the seeds, and get a new plant out of them, but I'm not sure I'm that interested. I mean, I'd have to buy the plant, and although it's a nice, big plant, it's also $40, which is a lot of money to spend just for a few seeds that I may or may not even be able to get to germinate.

And anyway, I have berries developing on my plant at home. They're much slower -- only now beginning to turn pink -- but that's probably to be expected; it's drier and darker here than the plant would like. Maybe in a few months.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Walkaways Part 6 / New Plants

Last Wednesday, I went back to the place where I used to work to try to find a micronutrient supplement, specifically something with iron in it. The reasons for this are long and complex and not really pertinent to the post.

This would have been a little risky even under normal circumstances, but for other complex and non-pertinent reasons, I also had basically two hours to kill while there. So naturally I wound up buying stuff, including this Davallia:

Davallia fejeensis 'Major.'

Which, okay, it's not like I didn't already have two other Davallias --

Davallia trichomanoides.

Davallia tyermanii.

-- but I didn't have this particular one, and you know how it is when you're in the plant store and you have cash in your pocket and you have to kill two hours but there's nothing to do but stare at the plants. And, again, I feel I need to emphasize that I didn't have this particular one.

(Is D. fejeensis 'Major' particularly different from the others I had? Well, the fronds are larger, and the plant as a whole seems less compact. Whether this is significant or not depends on one's expectations, I suppose, but it's different enough that I don't think I'm in any danger of forgetting which of the three Davallias is which. So . . . different enough.)

I also bought two Begonia leaves, to try to propagate from, and we'll see how that works out for me. But I walked away from a Ficus benjamina I'd never seen before, and then bought it yesterday (Sunday), because looking at this picture made me think, gosh, I think I want one of those.

One weird thing about the plant: it's apparently "supposed to" have chartreuse/yellow leaves with a darker green center (basically the opposite of 'Black Diamond,' which is very dark green with lighter green centers), but the plant I bought seems to have lost that variegation. Which is fine.

The original plant, with the original variegation, albeit not a particularly clear picture of it.

Both of these were tagged "Ficus - Margo," which is not especially helpful. An internet search for this turned up mainly articles about a nursery called Margo Nursery Farms, which has patented something it calls Ficus benjamina 'Golden King,' which from the name you'd think it would be yellowish, but it is in fact a disappointingly ordinary-looking variegated plant. The leaf margins are yellow, but most of the leaf is green, so this is not the ficus we're looking for. I think this is actually probably Ficus benjamina 'Margarita,' which according to the (linked) patent application was a mutation of 'Midnight.'

I'm not necessarily a huge Ficus benjamina fan, but 'Midnight' and I are getting along well lately, and the contrast I imagine in my head between the solid-yellow plant and 'Midnight' is quite striking. Plus I like the chartreuse/yellow plants anyway. And it's interesting to me that the two varieties are that closely related. So basically I went back four days after first seeing it and bought it because I'm hoping the two of them will enjoy seeing one another and play nicely together and all that.

This post was sort of hastily edited last night to change 'Margarita' from a walkaway to a new plant; I have seen some interesting actual walkaways recently, and will have to get to a post about those at some point in the nearish future.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Random plant event: Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi flowering

My plant at home isn't doing anything exciting, and WCW (who also bought one of these when they came in) said hers isn't either, but the three plants remaining at work (There were six to begin with, which means that one was actually purchased by a customer! This is very exciting!) have all decided to bloom. Not that the inflorescences are anything to get terribly excited about --

-- but we've certainly seen worse.

Will my plant flower at home? I'm not going to hold my breath. I'd be okay with it if the plant wanted to, though, especially if lots of offsets ensued.