#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care

Winter Plant Care

December 13, 2017

Plants are super keen on seasonal changes, and have different needs in the winter as compared with the summer.  In the winter, the sun is setting (much) earlier, swinging lower in the sky, and is often covered with clouds. Although your plants are inside, these changes will impact them. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Mind the drafts – A temperature flux or draft can seriously stress your plants out.  Some plants are extra sensitive to drafts, and will immediately decline if it gets in the low 60’s (I’m looking at you, Tillandsia!)  Keep your plants away from heating units, radiators, fires, and from open windows or front doors that might create drafts.  Remember, if its chilly for you, it’s chilly for your plants! 

Dormancy – In the winter, the days are short- so short that most tropical plants will enter a phase of dormancy from October to February.  Because of this,  it is important to tweak your watering schedule. Allow soil to dry out completely between waterings.  This may mean waiting longer between waterings, or reducing the amount given (but try not to do both at once unless absolutely necessary).  If you know your plant prefers humid conditions, like the Bird’s Nest Fern, mist it weekly so it stays moist but not soaked. Soaked soil can lead to root rot. 

Put away the fertilizer – Give your plant a much deserved break. 

Sunlight – If your plants are leaning towards their light source, gradually rotate them to help them straighten up.  PROTIP: If your plants are spindly and reaching for the light, that means that they are not getting enough light. 

Dust – Dust off leaves bi-weekly.  Closed windows during the winter increases dust and indoor pollution.  Dust and dirt build-up can reduce the amount of light getting to your plant – which can be detrimental when days are short!  To combat extreme build-up, use water with a drop or two of lemon juice or household soap and a soft cloth.

Artificial lighting – Consider supplemental lighting.  The secret sauce?  It’s all in the bulb!  You can use any fixture so long as it’s 1-3 feet from the plant that needs it.  Although there are many lightbulbs on the market, how do you know which is good for you?  Go for a bulb that has >850 lumens of output, ideally in white. Either CFL or LED will do, but plants tend to respond to CFL better (until LED tech gets better).

Winter travel  If you’re travelling, and you’re worried about the plants getting too dry, you can simply move them away from sources of heat including the window.  Temporary light deficit while you’re gone will cause the plant to use less water.  Find more vacation plant care tips here

Some dieback is OK – With less light, plants will drop their leaves to compensate.  If light is food for plants, less light means less food, which means that the plant can’t feed all of its leaves.  Therefore it makes an executive decision to drop them.  However, your plant may have grown to a summer size during the summer, and is now dying back, but not completely dying off.  That is just the plant adjusting to the level of food that it is receiving.  PROTIP: If you know (or sense) that your plant is overgrown, you can pull off a few leaves anywhere to force the plant to not drop any extra leaves.  This is useful for keeping the plant fuller and bushier, as opposed to leggy. 

If you keep your plants happy during the winter, they have a bonus effect  studies have shown indoor plants combat SAD (Seasonal-Affective Disorder).  If you feel seasonal depression or seasonal moodiness, plants are proven to help reduce that stress and anxiety, and even bring happiness to offices, workspaces, and even homes! 

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Plant Care

Jesse Goldfarb, Plant Artist, @teenytinyterra

December 12, 2017

Our newest installment in our Tastemaker series features Canada-based plant artists – Jesse Goldfarb, aka @teenytinyterra! We came across his whimsical terrariums that he builds and wanted to know more about where his inspiration comes from. Check out our Q&A with Jesse below! photo via David Pike

Name: Jesse Goldfarb
Location: Toronto, Canada
Occupation: Plant Artist/Digital Marketer [at Hudson’s Bay]
Favorite plant:
Oh, great question. I go through little crushes with plants, but always find my way back to our
family’s Dwarf Barbados Cherry Bonsai. Making it happy enough to bloom is a fine art that is
rewarded with the sweet smell of hundreds of tiny cherry blossoms. When I first met my wife,
she had two bonsai and that’s what got me seriously into plants.

Can you share a little bit of background about yourself?
Sure. I grew up in Toronto. At school I was always bored; I wanted to do things rather than sit
around learning about the people who did them. My professional life has included a lot of
different jobs –– I’ve worked as a large-format screen printer, an apprentice to a corporate
events florist, a cold caller selling ads (which was actually fun), a DJ at raves and clubs (in my
heyday when I was way too young to be out all night), and spent too long in the salon industry
listening to stylists who believed they were saving the world. I ran social channels for mid-size
apparel companies before I started my current role in digital marketing. Now I do that during
the day, and play with plants evenings and weekends. I have a wonderfully patient wife and
daughter and another daughter on the way.

Can you share a little bit about your Instagram feed, @teenytinyterra?
@teenytinyterra is an outlet for me to share my creativity with terrariums, plants, moss and
everything tiny. I like to have fun with it and keep things fresh. 90% of my posts are shot from a
lighting shelf I installed aquarium lights on. As my plants are all very small, using this platform
makes it easy to move things around and create a different feel for each photo. My south-
facing kitchen windowsill is also a favorite spot for shooting, as the light is perfect for two hours
every day. (Timing a quick shoot using natural light is always a juggling act with a young family.)

What’s a secret skill you have?
I can whistle five different ways? Is that a skill? (Editor’s note: YES!)

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?
When I turned 18, my dad took me out for a birthday dinner with my grandparents. After the
main course he gave me a tiny model of a vintage Vespa. I thought it was great and all, but then
he threw me a set of keys to a full-size 1967 Vespa. It was a dream to drive when it worked
(which was 60% of the time). My love for both miniatures and Vespas began that day. Now I
own a 2005 150 cc Vespa. Every model manufactured after that year doesn’t seem to have the
brand’s classic look and feel.

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?
If I was alone I’d grab a picture of my mother. She died when I was four years old and all I have
to remember her are some photos. If I was home with the fam, I’d throw them over my shoulder and jet out the door. I assume you want me to say plants, but they came from the earth and would be happy to feed other plants as ash.

What’s on your to-do list today?
Booking our family holiday to our favorite place in Mexico, Azul Fives, cleaning up after a
terrarium workshop I held over the weekend, watering plants, going ice skating with my
daughter, making bread pudding for a work event called Bakemas, and watching Christmas
movies on the couch with a few strong rum and eggnogs.

Do you have a “green thumb”?
Yes, but I believe everyone does. It’s about how much you want to invest in making your thumb
green, not if you naturally have one. When people say “I kill everything” it’s actually due to a
lack of interest.

Any plant care tips you can share?

  • Easy on the water, bro! Think of it this way: a person can live close to a week without water, but they’d die if submerged for more than three minutes. Your plants need air too, so don’t
    drown them.
  • Know your space and the light within it… Buy plants to suit that light.
  • Don’t buy a plant without knowing how much light it needs. It’s easier to adjust other conditions, but not as easy to adjust light.
  •  If you name your plants or dress up a dog, it’s time to start thinking about having a kid.

What tops your houseplant wish list?
More space and better light.
By the way, where do you shop for plants?
Sheridan Nurseries, Vallyview Gardens, Kim’s Nature and Plant World.

Favorite hobby: Cooking; Plants
Favorite television show: Currently? Stranger Things
Favorite movie: Cronos
Favorite food: Burrito (Duh, it has all four food groups)
Favorite weekend activity: Chilling with the family
Favorite home decor store: Thrift stores

Thank you so much, Jesse! Follow his Instagram page here if you would like. 

P.S Check out how Jesse builds a terrarium here under 24 seconds (not really though ;)).

P.P.S You can find more of our tastemaker series here, including plant time-lapse master @houseplantjournaland the lovely plant couple @warsawjungle

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Interview, Plant History, Style Tips

Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden

December 8, 2017

Last Tuesday we had the honor to attend The New York Botanical Garden’s press preview for their annual Holiday Train Show. It was the perfect activity to do when the freezing temperatures are about to set in, and we’re all struggling to accept the long winter ahead of us.

The Holiday Train Show is an annual winter tradition at the NYBG. As soon as we walked in to the exhibit, we were dazzled by the liveness and intricateness of each famous New York landmark. We later learned that they are all made of natural materials such as bark, twigs, stems, fruit, seeds, and pine cones!

And this year, the 26th year of this beloved tradition, new replicas – Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building, and St. Bartholomew’s Church – joined the original 150 in NYBG’s collection. Being a New Yorker, there was nothing more excited than seeing all the famous landmarks and buildings in miniature sizes.

Insider Tip: You will hear different sound effects when you get closer to the miniatured landmarks. Try it!

Other visitor favorites include the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, and the original Yankee Stadium, all surrounded by large-scale model trains. More than 25 model trains and trolleys hummed along nearly a half mile of tracks! In addition, the new internal lighting schemes added more allure and wonder to the show.

After checking out the Holiday Train Show in its entirety, we wondered off to the Rainforest and Succulent showrooms. The incredible diversity of plants gives you a better understanding of how Mother Nature works.

Insider Tip: You will spot many common houseplants in their native habitats! Here at The Sill, we always say- you will make your plant happiest if you can mimic its native environment.

Here’s a short video for you to preview the show!

 

The Holiday Train Show is now open to the public and runs through Monday, January 15, 2018. For visitor information, visit their website here.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss it!

 

P.S Check out our Orchid show recap from last year here

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy

Earth Friendly Changes to Make in Your Home in the New Year – by Molly Kay

December 6, 2017

We cannot believe it’s almost time to say goodby to 2017. With the new year fast-creeping on us, we asked our friend, Molly Kay, to share how to make some friendly, earth-y changes at home. And more importantly, what changes can you make to have a big impact on the environment. Maybe make this your #newyearresolution 😉 ?

The new year is quickly approaching, and is a good time to reflect on the mark we are leaving on the world we inhabit. With so many large environmental issues that face us today, it’s normal to feel powerless and anxious about what the future may hold for our planet and its beautiful natural resources. We need champions of environmental causes, but even more so we need everyday people who are passionate about a sustainable future to know that they can have an influence as well. Here are a few small things to consider changing in your home in the new year….

 

Start a Collection of House Plants

There is something about being surrounded by greenery that makes you feel fresh and energized. Keeping plants on your desk at work or different rooms in your home can be aesthetically pleasing, and can help you feel more productive and less stressed. As you may have guessed, there is also a significant environmental benefit to bring plants into our living and working spaces. Plants help keep air temperatures down and naturally purify the air we breathe. Specifically, houseplants lower levels of carbon dioxide, benzene and nitrogen dioxide, which are all harmful to humans and mother nature. Check out this infographic for a variety of different house plants and the different benefits they can have in your home.

 

Buy from you Local Fruit Stand or Farmer’s Market

Growing up in the Northeast, I was never too far away from a local fruit and vegetable stand. My mom and I would often walk to a stand down the street from us during the spring and summer to pick up a basket of apples or half a dozen cobs of corn. As I grew older, I came to understand the impact that shopping locally can have on your community and the environment. Not only does buying from your local farmer’s market support hardworking members of your community, but it also cuts down on the amount of plastic packaging that you are bringing into your home. There are so many benefits to checking out the local market, but my favorites are cutting down on harmful waste and putting more money back into your community…a win-win for you and the earth!

 

Incorporate Eco-Friendly Furniture

If you are looking to furnish your home, or just add a few new pieces, take into consideration the environmental impact that your furniture may have. There are many furniture companies today that care about protecting the Earth and that are striving to make their products from recycled materials. Arhaus is one company that draws inspiration from the natural world and is involved in an environmental initiative with the American Forests where they plant a tree for every purchase made during their storewide sale. This could make a big difference when considering one mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year. Arhaus follows through on their mission, making their sectional couches from organic fabric and renewable material, and never from trees in our endangered forests.

 

Start your own Compost Pile

To maximize your environmental impact in 2018 and minimize your carbon footprint, consider starting–literally–in your own backyard. Starting a compost pile inside or outside of your home can have a number of benefits. When trash decays in landfills, it can contribute to Composting can make soil healthier and decreases the amount of trash contributing to landfills. When trash decays in landfills, it can release methane and other greenhouse gases. I always thought composting sounded like a daunting task, until I actually looked into it. With a few simple instructions and ingredients, you can have your own compost pile flourishing in no time.  

 

Thank you so much, Molly! Molly is a self-described tree hugger, and enjoys hiking and running on the weekends. During the week she works as the community manager at Arhaus

P.S Check out their Facebook here and Instagram here

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Holiday Gifting, Plant Care, Plant History, Plant of The Month

Meet the Norfolk Island Pine

December 5, 2017

The Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophillahails from Norfolk Island – a small island in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Norfolk Island is extremely important for botanists because it is one of the only islands left in the world with a number of surviving fossil species. Fossil species are species that have existed for so long on earth that there are fossils of them and they are still alive today. Over 50 of the Island’s native plants are endemic (exist nowhere else in the world), and almost half of those are threatened with extinction

Caption Cook Lookout on Norfolk Island by Steve Daggar

This ancient lineage of trees has been on earth for over 200 million years, evolving in the Early Jurassic period.  During the Jurassic, conifers and cone-bearing plants (gymnosperms) were the dominant plant life, and are thought to be a food source for dinosaurs.  During this time, major diversification of the gymnosperms occurred, which was due, in-part to the warming of the earth and rising of the seas.

They would have been lost to history during the Cretaceous Extinction Event (~65MYA, the same one that killed the dinosaurs and 75% of life on Earth), if it were not for a few members of the species surviving on Norfolk Island!  Previous to the mass extinction, Araucarias were spread all over the world, and as far north as Sweden!  Their propensity for growing in perfectly geometric shapes and patterns have given them (and other plants in the family) the nickname “monkey puzzle trees”, but it is no puzzle why these cone-bearing trees are great houseplants–their resilience, vigor, and ability to survive mass extinctions. Just give them plenty of natural light!

Norfolk Island Pines in their natural habitat – Credit

Strangely enough, the Norfolk Island Pine is not even a pine at all – but rather part of a more ancient lineage of cone-bearing trees in the family, Araucariaceae.  Norfolk Island Pines, being related to early pines, split off pine (Pinaceae) ancestors during the Jurassic, have been on the earth for millions of years before today’s pines even evolved. Norfolk Island Pines lack characteristic pine traits.  And although most cone-bearing trees like pines are better adapted for cold conditions, Araucaria heterophylla is actually a tropical plant!  Its quirky yet symmetrical shape has made it a fun, alternative option to the usual holiday tree. 

Norfolk Island Pine in locally-made August planter – The Sill

Norfolk Island Pines make excellent houseplants, as they are low-light tolerant, and help clean the indoor air from toxic pollutants. 

SUNLIGHT

Medium light to bright light.  Some dappled sun is fine- so is a full day of sun.  Adjust water and humidity accordingly. 

WATER

Water weekly. Allow potting mix to dry out before watering (can tolerate drying out, but not for long).  Soil about 1-2” down should be dry to touch. Water more frequently during warmer months, and fertilize during the growing season.  

Do not overwater or keep the soil wet for too long, as this will encourage root rot.  A coarser potting mix that drains well may be necessary, as they do not like to sit in water, but do like to be kept moist – i.e. aim for frequent, well-drained waterings! 

HUMIDITY

Likes higher humidity.  Normal room humidity is fine, but prefers more, if possible.

TEMPERATURE

65°F-85°F (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C)! 

PRECAUTIONS 

This plant is considered toxic by the ASPCA to cats and dogs (and humans) if consumed, but not fatal.  Best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets. 

Shop Norfolk Island Pines on TheSill.com.

Questions about the Norfolk Island Pine? Email us: help@thesill.com 

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

YOU MUST FERTILIZE YOUR HOUSEPLANTS ALL YEAR ROUND – PLANY MYTH MONDAY #13

November 17, 2017


MONDAY 11.13.17 MYTH: You must fertilize your houseplants all year round

All plants, like all humans, need vitamins and minerals to grow big and strong!  When plants are in the wild, they have plenty of access to the world, and a theoretically infinite supply of nutrients (the Earth is an isolated system, so not actually infinite).  However, when growing plants in a container, they are essentially stranded on a desert isle with no real means of going beyond the pot.  And that’s where you come in (hello plant parents)!  

Plants that you just purchase on a whim are usually heavily fertilized by the growers. They are good to stay in the same pot and soil for up to a year.  Yet, as the plant exhausts its supply of nutrients in the soil over time, you must replenish them for the continued health of the plant (you probably are not aware of this, but every time you water your plant, nutrients unavoidably leach out of the soil). This can be done by either using a fertilizer of your choice, or by changing the soil with fresh soil, which comes with a baseline of nutrients.

How to Fertilize your plant

Fertilize your plants only once a month when plants are flowering or actively growing. What that mean is, you only give plant food from the spring time to end of summer time. During the winter,  plants are generally not growing much, so giving your plants fertilizer can only do more harm then good. Also, be careful not to add too much fertilizer at once—too much can burn your plant’s roots! Finally, read the instructions carefully before you apply any fertilizer. We usually recommend applying half the strength that the label suggests. Also keep in mind that faster growing plants, like a pothos, will want more frequent applications than slow growers, like a snake plant.

Things to keep in mind

Fertilizers are not your cure-all! If you see a plant is wilting, yellowing, or browning, it may be a telltale sign of a problem. Take the time to analyze the symptoms before you feed the plant food. Think of your vitamins, you wouldn’t take extra so that you can cure your toothache, right?  Adding fertilizer when a plant does not need it, or when a plant is actually sick, can be worse than doing nothing at all.

Fertilizer will only work on healthy plants, or plants that need the extra oomph 😉 Do you have any tips when it comes to fertilizer? Please share it with us in the comment below.

P.S Read more debunked Plant Myth Monday HERE.

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Plant History

Do You know Your Corn?

November 17, 2017

Corn (Zea mays) has been a staple crop of the Americas for the past 6,500 years or so.  In fact, since its domestication from the wild teosinte, corn has been extensively bred for different purposes and three general categories of corn exist: corn for popping, corn for mash (and fodder), and sweet corn for eating.  Let’s explore a little bit about corn before getting to the glass gems bit.

Corn Field NJ Christopher Satch

A field of corn in Sussex County, NJ – Christopher Satch

Three Ways We Consume Corn

Not all corn can be popped!  Popcorn kernels have the ability to pop due to the moisture inside each kernel (and have been bred to contain more moisture than other corn).  As the kernels are heated, the water vaporizes and steam cooks the starch. The steam creates pressure in the kernel, and when the pressure becomes too great the steam bursts out of the kernel allowing the starch to expand at such a rate that the entire kernel is turned inside-out!

Corn for mash is often ground up for either animal fodder or corn flour.  This is the stuff tortillas are made of.  This corn cannot be eaten raw or cooked, as the kernels are extremely hard, and will definitely shatter your teeth!  Mash corn is also ground up and fermented, then distilled to make bourbon whiskey (other whiskeys use barley or rye).  Lower grade mash corn, or corn that is unfit for human consumption, is often used in animal fodders and feed.

Sweet corn is the good stuff—higher in sugars than starches this corn is soft when boiled, and is a staple of sizzling summers all across the Americas.  Its softness can be partially attributed to the physical properties of starches versus sugars.  When boiled, the sugars solubilize within the kernel, changing from solid to liquid, and thus softening the corn.  Starch is much less soluble, and when packed becomes much denser and harder than sugars.

transposon corn mcclintock

Variegation caused by transposon activity in corn – © 2002 Nature Publishing Group Feschotte, C. et al. Plant transposable elements: where genetics meets genomics. Nature Reviews Genetics 3, 330.

The Genetic History of Corn

So, now that you’re hungry, let’s talk genes.  Corn is currently the focus of much gene research and otherwise for its importance as a grain.  The entire genome of corn was discovered and sequenced in 2009.  You can read about that team here.  However, corn’s use in genetics goes back even further.

Dr. Barbara McClintock was one of the first few women to earn her PhD from Cornell in Botany in 1927.  Her research focused on maize cytology (cytology is the study of the cell) where she studied the chromosomes of corn cells.  By staining the cells of corn kernels, she was able to see the chromosomes clearly, and the patterns and bands on each one.  By working with an inbred line of corn (inbred lines have uniform genetic makeup), she was able to see correlations with changes in the bands of the chromosomes and phenotype (physical appearance) of the kernels.

More variegation caused by transposons in corn – Carolina Scientific

This was the physical proof for the ‘crossing over’ of genetics, even though the mechanism at that time was still unknown.  This crossing over, she theorized at the time, was due to transposable elements, or transposons – DNA that ‘copies and pastes’ into other chromosomes/locations or ‘cuts and pastes’ into other chromosomes/locations.  Transposons containing color pigment genes were proven to produce mosaic patterns on corn kernels and variegation in the leaves of the corn.  During cell division (mitosis) some cells would randomly receive pigment genes.  This explains why the mosaic patterns were never repeated in any other corn or corn progeny.

Her work would be largely ignored for another 30 years until the technology caught up with her theories in the Genetic Revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s and other scientists were able to support her theories.  In 1983, she was the first woman to outright win the (unshared) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work in the 1930’s for her discovery of transposons.

Glass gems corn can be understood with transposon, and other genetic principles that McClintock and other geneticists have discovered.  Like many species of domesticated plants, a wild population where the crop was first domesticated usually exists.  For example, corn was domesticated from wild corn in Central America.  We call this the center of origin for the corn.  At the center of origin, genetic diversity is the greatest, as wild populations still exist.

As corn was bred and its cultivation spread throughout the Americas, different native tribes were cultivating different types of corn.  It wasn’t until the 1930’s and on that huge monocultures of specially-bred hybrid corn were being planted that corn diversity decreased—heirloom varieties were not being grown because they were not as productive as the hybrid corn.

Although we did lose a lot of genetic diversity, there has been a revival since the 2010s to plant heirloom varieties.  Why plant them if they’re not as productive?  It’s because they have a wealth of random genes for different traits that we could use for plant breeding.  Certain heirloom lines of corn may have resistance to disease, or produce more nutritional corn, even if the size or other attributes are less desirable.

‘Glass Gem’ corn – Greg Schoen

Carl Barnes, a half-Cherokee midwesterner, started to plant heirloom varieties of corn in order to connect with his Cherokee roots.  He had exchanged seeds from collectives from all over the country, and had begun to select for the most colorful corn that popped up.  Over time, these native varieties had crossed with one another (as they do!) to form the Glass Gems hybrid that went viral over the internet in 2012.  The Native Seeds/SEARCH website still sells the popular seeds.

-Greg Schoen

Luckily enough, this corn can be grown successfully in large containers outdoors that’ll be sure to make you the talk of the town… or at least the talk of Thanksgiving dinner!

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Interview, Plants on TV

Liz Kirby, Host and Author, The Indoor Garden

November 8, 2017

For our latest tastemaker series, we are so honor to introduce you to Liz Kirby. We were first introduced to her by a fellow workshop attendant, we were soon hooked on Liz’s genuine personality and informative plant care tips on her Youtube channels. Liz was in the plant world before the #urbanjubgle was even a thing. She is the plant lady you definitely don’t want to miss out! 

Meet Liz

 Name:  Liz Kirby

Location:  Arlington, VA

Occupation:  Realtor, Host of “The Indoor Garden” TV series and Author of the corresponding blog

Favorite Plant:  I have such a great appreciation, in general, for all plants that I just can’t say that I have a favorite. I have favored Aralias and orchids for my home.                                         

Can you share a little bit of background about yourself?   Like many eighteen-year-olds,   I did not know what I would want to study in college. Fortunately, after I graduated from high school, a friend of mine who sold wholesale plants from Florida had the thought that I might enjoy a job in a plant store and he found one for me.  So I did that instead of getting a college degree. I truly enjoyed working there with great people who taught me a lot about indoor plants. I ended up working in the horticulture and floriculture field for twenty-five years.

For those who haven’t watched The Indoor Garden on YouTube, can you share a little bit about the series?  The idea was conceived around 1988. For a long time, I felt that the general public did not get very good specific instructions on growing houseplants. There were some books but  sometimes they just got vague or even wrong instructions. Lots of good experience and a few good  books were my best teacher.  I met many customers who truly believed they could not grow plants and I was sure they could. I thought doing a television series on the care and appreciation of indoor plants would be a great way to share what I had learned. It aired for three years on a local PBS station. When YouTube came along I saw the opportunity to share plant care all over again. The show was videotaped but translates pretty well to a digital format.

What’s a secret skill you have?   I don’t think I have any that I would keep a secret. One skill I have and wish I used more, is that I can very easily come up with a harmony to many songs. It’s one skill I couldn’t teach, it just comes naturally.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?   Friendship

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?   The living things

What’s on your to-do list today?   Some housekeeping, getting the hummingbird feeder out, finding a rental apartment for a lovely woman from New Jersey and to catch up on correspondence

What is your favorite plant and why?  It’s difficult to pinpoint one but since I began learning about them, I’ve thought that ferns were amazing. They make you think. As best we know, they have lived on the earth longer than just about any other group of plants. You can find them all over the world. They appear somewhat delicate and fragile, but are they?

Do you have a “green thumb”?  I do now. I had to cultivate it, so that enabled me to encourage others that they could too. I heard many times from others that they did not have a ‘green thumb” and I just don’t accept that. I truly believe anyone who wants to, can develop that skill.

Any plant care tips you can share?  Watering plants once a week is not a good rule of thumb. It’s usually best to start out with hardier varieties if you are just beginning to learn how to grow plants. Get good instructions and look for an expert if your plant is not doing well. Most plants will recover and thrive with the right instructions.  

What tops your houseplant wish list?  If I had the space, I would love a cymbidium orchid.

How did The Indoor Garden television series start?   I befriended a television producer who had a local TV series airing in the area. I had the thought that a television series could be a great way to teach what I had learned about indoor plants, so I started looking into how to make that possible.

Do you have a favorite episode or show memory?  I especially enjoyed having guests on the show. It was quite easy to work with them.

Do you think there’s been a resurgence interest of houseplants recently?  It seems to be going that way. There are many different types of retail outlets and online places that have been selling plants for a long time. I do believe they’d stop if interest was low.

Any words of advice for plant novices?   Don’t give up if you aren’t very successful at first. There are many easy-to-grow plants and you may want to buy your first plants at a plant store, garden center or nursery where someone should be informed enough to help you choose a plant that suits you. For example, a busy person may want a large plant that doesn’t need water often. Make sure your plants are placed in the best light situation for your particular plant. Find out how to water them properly.  Those two aspects of care, light and correct watering, are most important to success.

Thank you so much, Liz!

PS: Check out more of our tastemakers series here 

 

 

 

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

All Houseplants Have the Same Watering Requirements – PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #12

November 7, 2017

MONDAY 11.6.17 MYTH: All houseplants have the same watering requirements

image via here

With over-watering being the most common cause of death for indoor plants (RIP), it is important to first understand how over-watering can kill your plants. Imagine yourself standing still in a pool of water – your feet would get prunes after 30 minutes, right? Now imagine what your skin would feel like after 3 to 6 months standing in water… Definitely not great. When the roots of a plant are surrounded by water constantly, they can’t absorb oxygen. Plants need water and oxygen to survive and thrive. But over-watering kills the plant by rotting the roots – and preventing the plant from absorbing that much-needed oxygen.

There’s no universal answer to “how much water should I give my plant?” The amount can depend on the type of plant you have, where it is located in your space, the type and size of the pot it is potted in, your environment, and so much more… But it is important to understand generally how much and how frequently your plant likes to be watered. Different plants require different care and attention, but you can usually label them within one of two categories:

Dry-tolerant Plants

Succulent plants, like the cactus, snake plant, and aloe may only want to be watered once every few weeks. During the summer growing season, the most frequently you might find yourself watering them is once every few days. But during the dormant winter, it could be once every few months! We always recommend erring on the under-watering side, than the over-watering for these guys. Once their roots are rotted, there are no going back, sadly. So it’s best to keep them super dry – and only water when they start to wrinkle. 

Moisture-loving Plants

Ferns, air plants, and most tropical plants that are natives to environments with high humidity, may need to be watered thoroughly once a week depending on how much sun they are receiving. During the peak of summer, you may even find yourself watering even more frequently, like twice of three times a week! 

The best way to know when it is time to water your indoor plants is to touch the soil, or potting mix. Poke your forefinger down about 1 to 2 inches deep. If the plant’s soil is dry to the touch, than it is generally time to re-water! But if the soil feels moist still, almost like a sponge, you can wait a little longer to water it until the soil has mostly dried out.

Make sure to water the plant until the water comes out of the bottom of the planter (if you have a drainage hole). This will guarantee that the bottom roots in the planter have gotten water as well. However, make sure to dump out any excess water that’s sitting in the saucer! Lastly, keep in mind that if a plant wilts, it doesn’t always mean it is thirsty! Yes – you should still double check the soil before giving it water.

Read more of our Monday Plant Myths HERE, including everything you need to know about your potting soil, and why you should never mist succulents!

 

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How-to, Plant Care, Plant History

Daylight Savings Time 101

November 2, 2017

It’s getting to be that time of the year again – that unofficial holiday called Daylight Savings Time (DST). Often, it catches us off-guard, when our digital clocks reset themselves, but our bodies are still programmed to get up at what was the same time.

Ever wonder why we change the clocks in the first place?  

DST was proposed by multiple thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th century, each with their own spin on the concept, but the goal remained the same – to “save” daylight by resetting the clocks so that we can utilize the most sunlight in our day. Although towns in Canada had been implementing DST independently since 1908, the Austria-Hungarian Empire was the first to nationally implement DST in 1916, two years into WWI. Other powers soon followed suit. It is thought that energy is saved by maximizing the use of daylight, by making people get up later in winter (setting the clocks backwards) when the sun rises later, and getting up earlier in spring (setting them forwards) when the sun rises earlier. 

However, there is much controversy over DTS. Opponents claim that since the average person is up for 16 hours a day on average anyway, the time they will be up in the daytime includes when the sun will be up, and that one hour does not make any difference in average energy usage. They also argue that if we simply leave the clocks forward to maximize summer light, that it will work for winter as well without a need to turn the clocks back since the days are so short. Since there has never been any real statistics measuring the efficacy of energy savings, we may never know whether or not DST really does save energy… 

So, the burning question – how does this relate to plants? It is a reminder for those of us who live in temperate zones that the seasons are changing, and that the amount of sunlight is changing too. The sun swings lower in the sky during winter, but the sun is actually becoming more intense! That’s because during winter in the northern hemisphere, the earth is actually closer to the sun than in the summertime. So if we’re closer to a huge burning fireball, why is winter so cold? Well, that’s because angles matter! The earth’s tilting the northern hemisphere away from the sun deflects enough of the sun’s rays to keep the northern hemisphere cold. In the southern hemisphere, the summers are much more intense, being both closer and angled towards the sun. That’s why there are a lot of regions in the southern hemisphere that are not temperate – the summers are much hotter, and the winters, much drier. 

In any case, no matter where you are, be mindful of the changing position of the sun, and adjust plant positions accordingly! Winterize for drafts, and mind your watering as well. If your plants start to drop a leaf or two, take it as an opportunity to give your plant a little more attention then usual, and figure out if it’s just seasonal shedding, lack of light, or a watering issue. 

Plant questions? Shoot our houseplant hotline an email at help@thesill.com! Make sure to include photos if your question is plant-specific.