Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I tried to get a picture of Nina yesterday, but I did something dramatic with the camera that freaked her out. She ran away, under the Episcia, and then when I tried to nudge her out of there she ran into a corner. And I do mean ran into a corner. She hit the wall and then tried to continue running for a bit even though she wasn't getting anywhere, before deciding that that wasn't working, so obviously the thing to do was to try to intimidate me instead.

Sadly, none of the pictures turned out particularly well. This was the best one:

She's got her mouth open and tongue out, she's arching her back a little, and for a while she was doing something with her throat that I can't really describe, though she doesn't seem to be doing it in this photo. (Male anoles have a dewlap that they can extend during courtship; she sort of seemed to be doing that, except I don't think she actually has a dewlap to extend, and I couldn't really see it very well to begin with.)

Just in case anybody was worried: she calmed back down once I went away, and appears untraumatized by the experience.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pretty picture: Oncidium Twinkle 'Golden Fantasy'

[Taps microphone] Is this thing on?

Not a lot of comments lately. What would you like me to be writing about?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Five More Plants I'm Not Currently Mad At (H through Pn)

As explained in the first of these posts, I'm currently trying to convince myself that despite a pretty catastrophic spring and summer, some of the plants are still doing reasonably well.

Also I'm trying to justify all the new pictures I've taken recently, since sorting through them all and getting them presentable has taken a lot of my time in the last three or four weeks.

1. Haworthia limifolia var. limifolia

Haworthia spp. and I are not always pleased with one another. Watering is often an issue: their need varies depending on the time of year, and although I know this, I have a hard time remembering when it's time to switch from more water to less water. Most of my plants get the same watering year-round, so there's a tendency to try watering the Haworthias that way too. Then I overwater, and they die, and I remember oh yeah, it's [whatever season it is].

Date: September 2012.
Pot size: 3" / 8 cm (along diagonal).

H. limifolia var. limifolia hasn't had as much of a problem with this as some of the others (it's especially been a problem for H. cymbiformis and Haworthia limifolia var. ubomboensis), though, and in fact has managed to make the most dramatic progress of any of them. Here's what it looked like five years ago:

Date: October 2007.
Pot size: 3" / 8 cm (along diagonal).

Part of the reason it does so much better than the average Haworthia in my care is that it gets better light (from shop lights in the basement) than most of them do. Most of the others have been in my office or in the plant room, and I suspect1 I've misjudged how much light some of those locations actually receive.

Aside from the light and water issues, H. limifolia var. limifolia has been trouble-free: no insects (that I've seen; it was exposed to the ongoing scale infestation, though I've yet to see any scale on the plant), no complaints about temperature or humidity. I feed by splashing with a little bit of fertilizer at the end of a thorough watering. I haven't had a chance to propagate, though I would like to -- they produce plantlets on runners beneath the soil, which can be removed and potted up individually. Unfortunately, mine has yet to produce any plantlets.

2. Leuchtenbergia principis

I actually have two specimens of Leuchtenbergia principis. The first I bought because it was a cool plant, and I had been assured by PATSP readers that I would like it. The second one I bought because it was an 8-inch (20 cm) pot for $5 (the original was a 6-inch / 15 cm for $25), and I couldn't pass up that deal, duplicate plant or no.2

They're not, as you'll see, particularly rapid growers.

The original plant.
Date: September 2012.
Pot size: 6" / 15 cm.

I probably ought to at least look at the roots sometime soon, if not do a soil replacement or move it up to a bigger pot, but I've been holding off because I'm nervous about it. And fall is a bad time to be doing that anyway.

Date: somewhere between August and November 2009.
Pot size: 6" / 15 cm.

The other plant is in similar shape:

The later-arriving plant.
Date: September 2012.
Pot size: 8" / 20 cm.

In both cases, the plants have splayed outward a bit in the middle, to try to collect more light. They're in a south window, but there are a lot of things (houses, garages, other plants, walls) blocking the light before it reaches the Leuchtenbergias. Perhaps next year they'll get to spend the summer outside.

The later-arriving plant.
Date: December 2010.
Pot size: 8" / 20 cm.

Other than the splaying, they haven't complained about anything. I wind up watering the 6-inch one about every two weeks, though I slow that down some during the winter. The 8-inch plant gets watered about every four weeks, though it's closer to every two weeks in the summer. Fertilization is as described for the Haworthia. Neither Leuchtenbergia has ever given me any other problems.

3. Pachypodium lamerei

Pachypodium lamerei got to spend the summer outside this year, and responded by growing much more and much faster than I thought it was capable of. The down side to this is that it got top-heavy, and as a result, it got knocked over a lot. On occasion, other plants got knocked onto it, too, hence the lopsided appearance of the plant here:

Date: September 2012.
Pot size: 8" / 20 cm? I'm not sure, and I'm too lazy to get up and measure the pot.

And here it is five years and two repottings ago:

Date: October 2007.
Pot size: 4" / 10 cm.

I've definitely had some problems with P. lamerei in the past: mild cases of spider mites, occasional droplets of a dark brown liquid of unknown origin or significance,3 a tendency to defoliate partially in the winter,4 the way they're impossible to handle because of all the stabby spines, etc. But on the other hand, it's still alive and growing after five years, it's looking pretty good, and none of the problems have ever gotten out of control or anything.

Indoors, I water it every two weeks, year-round (unless the soil feels wet -- I do still always check the soil first), with light fertilizer splashed on after the watering, as described for the Haworthia. I try to keep the temperature at or above 60F / 16C. I'd love to propagate this, but it's probably just as well that I can't.5 Light is my main problem: last year, it sat in a west window with a bit of supplementary artificial light, and seemed to be okay with that. This year, however, it's gotten too tall to fit in that spot, so I have to give it a less-satisfactory location. It might be a good year to try inducing dormancy, but I probably won't: see footnote 4.

4. Philodendron pinnatifidum 'Spicy Dog'

First up, I have to say: Philodendron pinnatifidum 'Spicy Dog' isn't quite what I'd hoped it would be when I bought it. Nothing wrong with how it's turned out, but it's a lot closer to P. bipinnatifidum now than it was when purchased, and we already had a P. bipinnatifidum. The leaves are a lot more deeply lobed, and the stem's lengthened inconveniently. (I have to prop it up against a wall now, which is only going to become more difficult as the plant grows.)

Date: September 2012.
Pot size: 10" / 25 cm.

It's not really visible in the above picture, but if you were looking at the plant from the side, you'd see that the stem has a fairly pronounced "S" shape to it.

Inconvenient though it is, I'm not mad at it right now because it's always grown well and been problem-free. I mean, if it's too big and has a different appearance than what I wanted, it's hard to argue that those things are the fault of the plant.

Date: April 2010.
Pot size: 6" / 15 cm.

The younger leaves were cooler, though.

It's been getting watered about once a month lately (it might be overpotted a bit). For light, it has four separate windows (east, south, south, west), but they're all at least 6 feet (1.8 m) away, and three of the four are heavily obstructed by plants. How it manages to get by on that is something of a mystery to me, but maybe it's highly motivated: perhaps it knows that it's too big to go anywhere else in the house.

It appears not to mind the temperature and humidity here; I can't recall any pests. Propagation is out of the question, for the same reasons as Pachypodium, but there'd be no space for more of them even if I could propagate.

5. Plectranthus verticillatus

Perhaps an odd choice, but I've been appreciating P. verticillatus a lot lately even though it's one of the few plants that's actually decreased in size since I've had it.

Date: September 2012.
Pot size: 4.5" / 11.5 cm.

The original plant made it up to an 8-inch hanging basket --

Date: July 2010.
Pot size: 8" / 20 cm?

-- and then I took cuttings to make a second 8-inch hanging basket. Plus a whole bunch of 4-inch pots I'd propagated from cuttings. The 4-inch pots all grew a little too well, to the point where I couldn't untangle them from one another, and they were always dry, and I realized nobody was going to buy them, so I threw them all out. And then the two hanging baskets both just kind of fell to pieces. I suspect that was a temperature problem, because I'd put them in one of the worst spots imaginable for a tropical plant: near the floor of the room with the least insulation in the house, and directly in the path of a heat vent. So when the heat was on, they got blasted with hot, dry air, and when it wasn't, they were in a cold draft.

Stupid of me, I realize, but it seemed like something they'd be able to handle (they're ordinarily very tough plants), and I didn't have anywhere better to put them. I took cuttings from those before they had completely died, and those salvaged cuttings have turned into two plants, one of which is pictured above.

As to what it's doing on this list, well, they've been living in the basement for a few months now, and the other day I picked them up to water them and I was like, hey, that's actually really pretty, all dark-green and shiny like that. And they're almost too easy to grow, if you're at all trying: mine get water and fertilizer every two weeks, normal household temperatures and humidity (except when they don't), I've never had a pest on any of them, and they're easy to propagate. They're so fast-growing, it can be difficult to keep them under control, so they require some maintenance, but the fast growth is one of the things I liked about the species originally, so I can't really complain about that too much.

Honorable mentions to:

Haworthia NOID (possibly related to H. truncata)
Hoya bella
Hoya lacunosa
Hoya obovata
Huernia schneideriana
Huernia zebrina
Isolatocereus dumortieri
Myrtillocactus geometrizans
Neofinetia falcata Amami Furan
Pandanus veitchii
Peperomia clusiifolia
Peperomia pereskiifolia
Phalaenopsis NOID
Philodendron gloriosum
Philodendron hederaceum 'Aureum'
Pilosocereus pachycladus

As before, this is not an exhaustive list, whatever it might look like: these are just the plants that I happened to take photos of in September and that are still doing well for me.


1 (really more like know)
2 I've recently been tempted again, because the ex-job got in two or three three-inch (8 cm) pots, and they're so cute that I just about can't stand it --

-- but so far I've been able to resist.
3 Which has happened both indoors and outdoors, and at different times of the year. It also seems to happen mostly near the growing tip, though I've seen it as low as halfway up the stem. It's relatively infrequent: I think I've only seen it four times? There haven't been any signs of bugs, and the last time, this summer, it happened after a particularly bad falling-over, which makes me think it might be related to physical injury, but on other occasions nothing had happened to it before the appearance of the spots, so I'm stumped. I'll try to get a photo the next time it happens.
4 The defoliation isn't necessarily a bad thing: they can go dormant if you withhold water, and then come back to life again in the spring. I don't do that because there's no compelling reason for me to do so. That, and I have trust issues about letting plants go dormant, because I always worry that they won't come back again.
5 Supposedly they can be propagated from stem cuttings (though I have no idea how in the hell you'd cut one of these stems) or seeds, and there are on-line sources for seeds, but I doubt I could provide enough light to keep seedlings from etiolating, and I don't especially want to cut my plant down, so we'll let it keep doing what it's doing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pretty picture: Phalaenopsis venosa x Phal. Dawn Hunter

I didn't look into why, but Phal. venosa x Dawn Hunter seems to be a popular combination. Allegedly the flowers are yellow, too, which is a big deal for Phalaenopsis, though for the flowers in this particular photo, I think "yellow" would be irresponsible exaggeration.

Not my favorite, though at least it hasn't been dyed blue.