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Growing Chenille Plant

Written by Mindy on February 19th, 2018

This plant goes by many common names, which includes chenille plant, red hot cat’s tail, foxtail, and Philippine’s Medusa. But regardless of what common name you know it as; its scientific name is Acalypha hispida. This plant can be grown outdoors permanently in warmer areas or as a houseplant. While the foliage is the typical green color that creates a monochromatic backdrop for the real show piece of this plant, which are the flowers. Believe it or not, the flowers do look like red hot cat’s tails drooping down over the side of the foliage.

growing.chenilleGrowing the chenille plant is not difficult. To begin with, this plant is propagated by semi-ripe wood in the summer. Once rooted, plant this plant in a hanging basket so that the drooping flowers can be displayed properly.

While your chenille plant outside was placed in full sun, indoors it will need to be placed in an area that receives indirect sunlight. Room temperatures are also important and are really no problem in the indoor environment. The nighttime temperature needs to be a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit while the daytime temperature need not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The chenille plant likes a soil that is evenly moist all the time but not wet. To accomplish this, simply water the plant until you see moisture come out of the bottom of the hanging basket but………do not get the flowers wet.

Feeding your plant will keep it looking its best. But there are months that you need to avoid due to the fact that the growing season has passed. Instead of wasting your fertilizer, avoid feeding October through February. What do you feed this plant? Well a 1:2:1 fertilizer formulation is fine.

To spur new growth, prune back the plant heavily in the spring.

When comes to pests and/or plant diseases, the chenille plant is pretty much safe. The only time that problems really appear is when the plant is not receiving enough sun. If this is the case, you can expect to find scale, aphids and/or mites. These problems can be treated with an insecticidal soap but if you find them on your chenille plant, make sure to check your other houseplants and treat accordingly.

While the chenille plant makes a colorful addition to your houseplant collection, do not forget to slowly introduce it to the outdoor environment when the weather warms. In doing so, you can sure the beauty of this plant inside and out.

 

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Protect your Pets – Tips on Reducing Ticks and Fleas in your Lawn Naturally

Written by Mindy on February 10th, 2018

While there are chemical treatments that be sprayed on your lawn to hopefully kill fleas and ticks, this is a haphazard approach at best. The best way to reduce the number of pet pests to deal with is through proper environmental management and this starts with allowing Mother Nature do what she does best-manage.

reduce.ticks.in.lawnThe first step is to maintain the proper grass height. Keeping the grass too tall gives the fleas and ticks areas to hide. On the other hand, mowing the grass too short chases away the natural predators of these blood sucking pests. What are these natural predators? Well, believe it or not, it is spiders and ants. Keeping your grass at the optional grass is the key to keep these beneficial bugs around but that height is dependent on the type of grass you have.

A moist environment is something else that fleas and ticks love. Not overwatering your grass and making sure that the soil remains well draining is a simple way of controlling these blood suckers.

To reduce areas by which fleas and ticks can hide is another approach. What this means is to remove any debris around the yard. This includes leaves, dead plant material along with empty pots. Also, do not forget to clean out the vegetable garden and flowerbeds. Doing this will not only cut down on the hiding places but will also not create areas by which their eggs can be laid.

Since fleas and ticks like moist place, they also love shade. Properly pruning your trees and shrubs so that you allow the sunshine in will encourage these pests to move on.

While some may feel that the old story of using cedar mulch is an old-wise-tale when it comes to fleas and ticks, believe it or not it is not. Using cedar mulch where your pets play and/or live can reduce the numbers. Using this type of mulch in flowerbeds around your home can discourage the entrance of these pests into your home. Another technique is to make a border of cedar around your property. This may not be a favorite approach; it does create that protective area.

Lastly, attracting birds to your landscape but………this too can be a problem. While birds will eat garden pests, it you are attracting the birds with bird food then you are also attracting a warm blooded creature the squirrel. This animal will carry in fleas and ticks into the environment. But do not throw this approach out immediately. You will have to weigh the benefits of birds and pest control compared to the chance of reintroduction.

 

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The Eyes have It – Growing the Eyeball Plant

Written by Mindy on January 31st, 2018

This may be a plant that you have never heard of but believe it or not, it is a really plant. Native to Brazil, it belongs to the Asteraceae family, which includes different types of daisy-like plants. The native varieties still have their daisy-like petals but they are very small. On the other hand, the domesticated types only have the center disc, which is yellow with a red dot of pollen aka the eyeball.

eyeball.plantIf you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 through 11 then you can grow this plant as a tender perennial. On the other hand, if you live in other areas you can still grow the plant but only as an annual.

When it comes to growing the eyeball plant, the first step of the process is to figure out when to plant. The best time is eight weeks prior to your local frost free date. Once you have this date, you can prepare for your planting date.

Preparation before planting begins with cleaning and sterilizing a shallow container. While this process may sound odd, it begins with placing the container in a pan of water with a capful of bleach. Allow to soak for a few minutes and then scrub to remove any soil or debris. Next, rinse in clear water and allow to dry.

While the container is drying, prepare the all purpose potting soil by misting it with water until evenly moist. Once that is done, fill your shallow container with this moist soil and gently tap on a hard surface to release air bubbles.

The next step is to plant the seeds, which are small. The easiest way to do this is to simply sprinkle the seed on the soil’s surface and secure to the soil by gently pushing them onto the soil. Mist with water and place your shallow container on a sunny windowsill. Monitor soil moisture and water when needed.

In three weeks, you should begin to see evidence that the seeds are germinating.

A week prior to your local frost free date; harden off your seedlings by slowly exposing them to their outdoor home. Once they have been outside for one full day, you can plant outside in your garden but plan accordingly. The eyeball plant grows 2 feet across so the plant spacing will need to be 18 inches for proper ventilation.

If growing as an annual, this is end of the story but if you are growing it as a tender perennial you will need to pinch it back in the summer and feed it a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.

 

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Plant Propagation – How to Pollinate a Christmas Cactus

Written by Mindy on January 21st, 2018

While Christmas cactus propagation more commonly occurs through stem cuttings, propagating this plant through seed is not an unheard of practice. If you only have one Christmas cactus or several the same color, I would stick with the stem cutting approach. On the other hand, if you have at least two Christmas cactuses then you can cross pollinate them to create a “new” type of holiday cactus.

christmas.cactusThe process begins with harvesting the pollen from the anther of one plant’s bloom and depositing it onto the stigma of another plant’s bloom. Not sure which is which?  The anther is a structure that can be seen sticking out of the flower on a stamen. The stigma is a smaller structure that is normally located farther down into the flower.

Now that you know where the breeding structures are located, the next step is to learn how to move the pollen so that fertilization occurs. This can be done in three ways. The first way is to move one plant to another and rub the anther onto the stigma on several plants. Another approach is to collect the pollen on a small paintbrush and “paint” it on the stigma. The last approach is to simply remove a complete flower and spread the pollen that way, which is the same as moving the plant approach with a flower.

When is the right time to do this plant breeding? Well, it is noted that the flower is at its peak when it first opens but the pollen is still viable up to the time the flower becomes spent.

Once you have pollinated your blooms, it is a waiting game. Pollinated and non-pollinated flowers will fade and eventually fall off. The pollinated blooms will leave a “berry” at the end of the stem, which has a strong staying power. Once the seeds have ripened, you can remove the “berry” and harvest the seeds but how do you know if the seeds have ripened? The “berry” will need to remain on the plant for at least a year up to two years. You can easily tell if the seeds have ripened by how easy it is to remove the “berry.”

After you have removed the “berry,” squeeze the fruit until the seeds pop out onto a paper towel. You will want to put the seeds on a paper towel for two reasons. First, they are very tiny and second, you want to remove the pulp. This is easily done by rubbing the seeds and pulp on the paper towel until they become separated.

For the best germination rate, you will need to sow fresh into a shallow pan that has been filled with dampened soil. Once the seeds have been planted, cover the shallow container with clear plastic wrap and place in a warm location. It will take several weeks before the seeds germinate.

Transplant the seedlings into individual pots once they are two inches in height and move to a sunny location.

 

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How to Grow the Mosaic Plant

Written by Mindy on January 11th, 2018

Fittonia argyroneura or mosaic plant is a native to the tropics. While this plant does produce little yellow blooms in the wild, you will never see it produce blooms as a houseplant. Instead, what makes this plant a beautiful addition to your houseplant collection comes from the leaves. The foliage of this plant comes in three varieties, depending on type. The base color of the leaves is an olive green while the veins can be white, red or pink.

mosaic.plant

*Please note the plant in the picture is not a mosaic plant. The purpose of the picture is solely for the terrarium.

The keep to growing this plant as a houseplant is to mimic its natural environment. The easiest way to do that is to use it in a terrarium, which will create a humidity rich environment. While this plant can tolerate a lot of different light conditions, when planted in a terrarium you will need to place it in an area that receives indirect sunlight.  If you notice that your leaves are becoming all green, you will need to expose the plant to more sunlight so that the vein color begins to appear again.

When it comes to additional care, you will need to put the plant in a warm location. Watering the plant can also cause an issue. With the plant being in a terrarium, you will not need to water but maybe once or twice during the year. When you do though, make sure the water is neither hot nor cold. Both of these extremes will shock the plant.

Yes, this plant will need fertilizing during the growing season (spring through summer). A fertilizer especially designed for tropical plants is all you need.

To keep your mosaic plant looking its best, periodically pinch back the plant. This will encourage the plant to produce side shoots and a more bushy appearance.

As easy to grow as the mosaic plant is there are times when it can develop problems. The first set of problems comes from overwatering. This includes root rot, and Xanthomonas leaf spot. Both of these will cause the leaves to die. Other problems that you may face come from plant pests. This includes aphids, mealybugs, and thrips. If the infestation is small, you can try to treat the problem with an organic insecticidal soap. On the other hand, if there are large numbers of these pests it is better to dispose of the plant. Also, since these plant pests are mobile make sure to check your other houseplants for these pests and treat immediately.

 

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