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Marimo 101

January 2, 2018

The name Marimo (毬藻, Aegagropila linnaei) originated from Japanese botanist Tatsuhiko Kawakami: 毬 ‘mari’ = ball and 藻 ‘mo’ = generic term for aquatic plants!

The Marimo ‘Moss’ Ball, as it’s commonly called, is not moss at all – but a freshwater, filamentous green algal colony! Native to previously glaciated areas of the world including Japan, Russia, Iceland, and parts of North America – the Marimo’s round shape is the result of freshwater lake motion. And although Marimo live in water, they’re not as slimy as you’d think they are. They’re actually quite fluffy, almost velvety, in nature.

Pet Marimo - The Sill


1. How do I care my Marimo at home?
Clean, cool water – and minimal light!

The lakes that Marimo have evolved in are alkaline, calciferous lakes – so for the optimal health of your Marimo at home, always use filtered water. Because Marimo balls live at the bottom of lakes, and roll along the bottom with the current, they receive very little light. In caring for your Marimo – keep it out of direct sun. An hour or so of direct sun is tolerable, as long as the temperature of the water stays cool. Freshwater lakes, especially at the bottom where Marimo live, are cold – and temperatures can range from 5C to 35C.

2. What type of light source do I use?
Moderate to low, natural or artificial light will help keep your Marimo happy and healthy. An hour or so of direct sunlight is fine, as long as it is far away from a window, and the Marimo’s water doesn’t heat up.

Trio of Marimo balls - The Sill

3. Do I need to change the water? What water do I use?
Although tap water is OK, we prefer to use either brita-filtered water, or bottled water. If possible, change your Marimo’s water once every two weeks.

4. What should I do when changing water?
Gently squeeze your Marimo to remove any dirt trapped in it’s fluff, then roll your Marimo back and forth on a soft surface, like your palm, to help it retain its circular shape.

Gently roll your Marimo in your palm to help it retain its circular shape - The Sill

5. How long will my Marimo live?
Marimos are slow growers – growing one or two tenths of an inch a year. However, the world’s largest Marimo is almost 40 inches in diameter, making it an estimated 200+ years old. Your Marimo can last for decades with the proper care and environment.

6. Help! My Marimo is changing in color. 
A yellow or brown Marimo is a sick Marimo. Your Marimo could be receiving too much sunlight, have an infection, or its water quality could have decreased. We recommend washing your Marimo under running water, replacing its water, and adding some salt. Make sure to use aquarium salt – not table salt! You can find it on Amazon, or at your local pet store. Add this directly to your Marimo’s container – about 5% of your water volume.

7. How long can a Marimo last without water? 
If conditions are ideal – Marimos can live for one month without water.

Marimo balls - The Sill

8. Will my Marimo float or sink?
Your Marimo will spend its majority of time at the bottom of its container, like it would in its native lake environment. However, a Marimo does perform photosynthesis, and makes oxygen. These oxygen bubbles may make your Marimo float up to the surface of the water for a period of time. The more sun your Marimo receives, the more oxygen it will produce. You can also make your Marimo float by squeezing the water out of it, but we don’t recommend toying with them too often – they’re happiest when left to float or sink on their own.

9. Will my Marimo reproduce? 
Your Marimo might reproduce when large enough and kept in a large container. You will see a bump growing on your Marimo – that’s a baby Marimo in the making. We do not recommend forcing your Marimo to reproduce by splitting it in two – more often than not, it will not be able to bounce back.

10. Is there anyway to get my Marimo to grow faster?
Marimo are slow growers! Be patient. Lower water temperatures, better water quality, and an extremely diluted amount of fertilizer can help. More light equals more growth, so a few hours of sunlight can also give your Marimo a boost, but be very careful not to cook your Marimo in direct light.

11. Can my Marimo survive in a fully sealed container?
A Marimo can survive in fully sealed container, but we recommend picking one with a loose lid, which will allow your marimo to breathe with its environment.

Happy Marimo - The Sill

12. Fun Fact
According to a Japanese legend, there were two lovers who longed to be together. One, the daughter of a tribe chief; the other a poor commoner. When the chief forbade them from being together – the couple ran away, fell into the water, and became Marimo balls – able to live together forever. Because of this, Marimo balls, sometimes referred to as ‘love plants’, are thought to bring luck, love, and happiness, and have the ability to heal a broken heart.



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Meet Poinsettias (and know them once and for all)

December 19, 2017

You have seen it every year. It represents the happiest and jolliest time of the year. It is particularly well known for its red foliage. It is widely used in Christmas displays (huge giveaway), but no, it is not a flower. Ok..fine, meet Poinsettias. 🙂

image via here

Where did Poinsettias come from?

Poinsettias, native to Mexico, received their name in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the United States in 1825. Poinsett, an amateur botanist, came across the poinsettia south of Mexico City, where it is called “Flor de Noche Buena”, or Christmas Eve Flower. He brought the vibrant red and green plant back to his South Carolina plantation where he continued to cultivate them and gave cuttings as gifts to friends. The plant later became a holiday staple.

Are Poinsettias a plant?

Yes, in fact, Poinsettias are a type of “succulent” – they are in the Euphorbia family. Botanically, it is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima. In addition, many mistake its colorful foliage as flowers, but they are in fact leaves called bracts. They are traditionally red, but you can find white, pink, orange, pale green, or multi color. You can find over 100 cultivated varieties of poinsettias available in the market now.

What about the toxicity?

Poinsettia plant has received a bad rep. Most believe that it is poisonous, which is quite a misunderstanding. Remember we said it belongs to the Euphorbia family? The genus Euphorbia itself is a highly-toxic family, but the popular poinsettia itself is not toxic in the same way. It oozes out white sap that is dangerous to people and animals who are allergic to latex. As always, seek medical attention immediately when digestion occurs. FYI, this applies to any type of plants.

So there you go – now you truly know and understand Poinsettias. Enjoy it!

P.S Did you know December 12th is Poinsettia Day?



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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


#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. 


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


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! 


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


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


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

Questions about the Norfolk Island Pine? Email us: 




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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!

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! Make sure to include photos if your question is plant-specific.

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Holiday Gifting, Plant History, Style Tips

Behind The Names of Our Planters and Plant Pots

October 27, 2017

Meet the movers and shakers in the botanical and landscape world that our locally-made, designed-in-house, indoor planters and plant pots are named after!


The August planter is named after Augusto Weberbauer (1871-1948), a German botanist and professor that began his career studying Peruvian seagrass. On Weberbauer’s first trip to Peru, he collection over 5,200 seagrass species. He also spent time teaching at Peru’s National University of San Marcos.

The ceramic August planter is locally made in New Jersey through the method of slipcast. The tapered bottom of the pot gives it a classic feel, yet its simplicity makes it quite modern. It comes paired with a matching saucer to catch extra water that escapes its drainage hole.



The Olmsted pot is named after Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), an American landscape architect who is considered to be the father of American landscape architecture. Olmsted is most famous for co-designing Central Park in New York City, along with Calvert Vaux, and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Although deceased, his work continues to influence landscape architecture in the U.S. today! 

The rectangular, ceramic planter was designed in-house and is manufactured locally in New Jersey through the method of slipcast. Because there is no drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, we ship the Olmsted with lava rocks to line the bottom with before potting.



The Calvert pot is named after Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), a British-American architect and landscape designer who is best known for co-designing Central Park in New York City along with Frederick Law Olmsted. Together, Vaux and Olmsted also co-designed Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, and Morningside Park in Manhattan. Unfortunately Vaux met his untimely fate when he drowned in Brooklyn’s Gravesend Bay. 

Similar to the Olmsted in shape, but smaller in scale, this ceramic pot is manufactured locally in New Jersey through the method of slipcast. Because there is no drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, we ship the Calvert with lava rocks to line the bottom with before potting.



The Jules planter is named after Jules Cardot (1860-1934), a French botanist and bryologist who was considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on Antarctica’s mosses during his lifetime. Cardot named about 40 genera and 1,200 species. Unfortunately, his collection of plant specimens was looted and damaged during the first World War. 

The ceramic Jules planter is a petite triangular shape with a matching seamless saucer. It is locally made in New Jersey through the method of slipcast. Its triangular shape lends itself to being grouped together to create a circle or semicircle – but it also looks great solo.



The Ezra planter is named after Ezra Cornell (1807-1874), the founder of Western Union and Cornell University. A lifelong enthusiast of agriculture, he also served as President of the New York Agriculture Society. Fun fact – it is claimed that Ezra Cornell wrote over 30,000 letters in his lifetime.

The ceramic Ezra pot and saucer are portioned to fit almost any sized sill. The petite pot is perfect for a starter plant, or for propagating a leaf cut from a larger plant. The locally made slipcast pot comes with a matching saucer to catch extra water that escapes its drainage hole.



The Tillandz stand is named after Elias Tillandz (1640-1693), a Swedish-born doctor and botanist who wrote Finland’s first botanical book: Catalogus Plantarum. As a doctor, Tillandz relied heavily on his extensive knowledge of plants to prepare medicines for his patients. The air plant genus Tillandsia was named after him. 

Locally made in New Jersey, the Tillandz stand is cut by a CNC plasma cutter and then powder coated. It can sit upright on a flat surface, or be attached to a wall for a solo or multi-piece display. It is lightweight enough to adhere with a single Command Strip, or there’s a small hole on the back of each stand that can accommodate a screw. 


Shop our locally-made indoor planters and plant pots empty HERE – or potted HERE





Behind The Scenes, Plant Care, Plant History

Pumpkin Spice Season

October 23, 2017

It’s officially Pumpkin Spice season! Which makes us curious, if not Starbucks, where did pumpkin spice come from? And what about it makes it so popular? To begin, we have to go back a few thousand years… (pre-Starbucks, that is.

view from above: latte and succulent

view from above: latte and succulent

Pumpkins are within the plant family Cucurbitaceae, and are related to cucumbers, squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, and gourds. The species, Cucurbita pepo, produces the pumpkin. The pumpkin itself is botanically a fruit – not a vegetable – as it comes from a flower, and has seeds. Being native to the New World, pumpkins were first domesticated in Central America about 7,500 years ago. These pumpkins were small, hard, and bitter – dramatically different from the pumpkins of today. They were grown primarily for their flesh, rather than their seeds.

Cucurbita pepo is a vining annual, able to be planted in most parts of the United States after the danger of last frost passes. It will take the whole season to produce pumpkins. It has been a vital part of the Native American planting tradition called “three sisters” – where gourds (pumpkins), corn, and beans are planted together. The corn provides a trellis for the beans, which provide the nitrogen for the corn to use, and the gourds cover the base of the bean and corn plants, and the surrounding area, suppressing any weeds that might try to grow. 

pumpkins galore

pumpkins galore

Like many plants that were domesticated, the wild ancestor of today’s bright orange pumpkin was small and came in different colors. Through selective breeding, the largest and most orange colored ones, and least-bitter ones, were chosen, consumed, and regrown.

After French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.” When the European settlers came to America, the native peoples shared with them the pumpkin as a food.  Spices were added to the pumpkins to make them more palatable.

today's traditional pumpkins

today’s traditional pumpkins

Pumpkin spice is actually a spice for pumpkins. In-fact, pumpkin spice contains no pumpkin at all! It is made up of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Merely a flavoring for pumpkin, the spice was marketed in the 1930s as “pumpkin pie spice” by popular spice and seasoning companies like McCormick. It was eventually shortened to simply “pumpkin spice”.  

So does your pumpkin spice latte actually contain any pumpkin? A little pumpkin puree, maybe.





#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Plant History

A Horticulturalist’s Halloween

October 20, 2017

In honor of Halloween, meet twelve strange and bizarre plants from around the globe below!

1. Buddha’s Hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis
This extremely fragrant citron-variety of shrub or small tree has long thorny branches from which hang fruit segmented into finger-like sections! The rind of the fruit is commonly used in cooking for its zest. Its origin can be traced back to northeastern India and China.

2. Split Rock (Pleiospilos nelii)
The common name of this flowering succulent refers to the appearance of its leaves. Stemless, there is a deep fissure in the middle, with two or four opposite leaves surrounding it. Its resemblance of a small rock might have evolved as a defense mechanism against predators. It is native to South Africa.

3. Brain Cactus (Mammillaria elongata f. cristata)
The eery shape of this cactus generally occurs due to injury at a young age or a mutation which causes a hormonal imbalance within the plant.  The normally dormant lateral buds start to grow unregulated and out of control. It is covered with harmless but prickly spines, and should be handled with care (or gloves). In its native habitat of central Mexico, it produces white or yellow flowers in the springtime.

4. Old Man Cactus (Cephalocereus senilis) 
This tall, columnar species is categorized by a shaggy coat of long, white hairs. Historically, the hair has been used as a cheap alternative to cotton! As the plant ages, it beings to lose its silvery mane. It is native to Guanajuato and Hidalgo in eastern Mexico, although its mass appeal means it is now threatened in the wild.

5. Sticks On Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli)
Here at The Sill, we call the Euphorbia tirucalli by its other common name – Pencil Plant. This plant, native to Africa, produces a poisonous latex which can be converted to the equivalent of gasoline! The white, milky substance is used in traditional medicine in many cultures – yet research shows it might actually suppress the immune system… Bottomline: look but don’t touch… and don’t consume either.

6. Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes
This carnivorous plant has dangling pouches filled with a syrupy fluid that captures and drowns prey! Another common name for it is Monkey Cups, which refers to the fact that monkeys have been observed drinking rainwater from them in their natural habitat, across the Old World tropics.

Photos via Wikipedia 

7. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula
The carnivorous flytrap’s leaves are trigged by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces that help them know to snap shut, trapping prey! Although the speed of closing leaves vary depending on the environment and type of prey – it can generally be used as an indicator of the plant’s health. It is native to wetlands on the East Coast!

8. Dracula Orchid (Dracula sergioi
The name Dracula means “little dragon”, which refers to the two long spurs of the sepals enclosing the orchid’s piranha-like mouth. It is a epiphytic species of orchid in the genus Dracula, and is said to smell like mushrooms! This is to help trick mushroom-pollinating fruit flies, to populate the orchids as well. Most Dracula Orchids call Antioquia, Colombia home.

9. Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora
This herbaceous perennial plant, also known as the corpse plant, is commonly white or pale pink with black flecks. It does not contain chlorophyll – instead it generates energy through parasitism! – making it great for dark environments, like dense forest floors. It is native to temperate regions across the world, including North America.

10. Doll’s Eyes (Actaea pachypoda)
This herbaceous perennial plant and its globular white fruit with black, iris-like center are poisonous to humans! The fruit contains cardio-genic toxins which have a sedative effect on the human cardiac muscle tissue – but are harmless to birds, the plant’s primary seed dispersers. They are native to North America – although we haven’t yet seen one in the wild!

11. Black Bat Flower (Tacca chantrieri)
The Tacca chantrieri is a species of flowering plant with rare, black bat-shaped flowers that can grow up to a foot across while its ‘whiskers’ can grow over two feet long! They are native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia, like Thailand, Malaysia, and the Yunnan Province of southern China. Understory plants – they prefer to lurk in the shade.

12. Devil’s Tooth (Hydnellum peckii)
This inedible fungus has a mutually beneficial relationships with its host trees – it gives out minerals and amino acids in exchange for carbon. When the fungus is moist and healthy, its fruiting bodies ‘bleed’ a bright red juice, while poor health and age make it become brown and nondescript. You can find this funky-looking fungus in places in North America, Europe, and – more recently – Iran and Korea.










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

Meet Our Fall Plant Pick – Ferns

September 15, 2017

Ferns – we have all heard of them, yet we fail to completely understand, and maybe even appreciate, them. It seems that people either love them, or hate them. But ferns, as houseplants, are relatively easy to care for once you get to know them! They might be a little needy, in comparison to say snake plants, but that can be great for people who enjoy taking care of their plants everyday. (I am looking at you, overwaterers!) Either way, they have became one of the most popular houseplants. If you are looking to add a new addition to your sill this fall, try a Fern!

So What is a Fern?

The ferns that we see and know today are actually quite ancient and mysterious. They first appeared on Earth as far back as 360-400 MYA! Fossil records indicate that they have outlived dinosaurs, saw the civilization of man, and survived numerous extinction threats. Before ferns – there were mosses, lichens, algae, and fungi scattered about, but nothing taller than those grew on the landscape. Ferns became the dominant plant life form because unlike their predecessors, the mosses, they had evolved a primitive but true vascular system. And around 360 MYA, the landmasses of the earth collided, forming the supercontinent Pangaea. Ferns spread throughout Pangaea, covering it almost entirely! Interestingly enough though, most surviving ferns that we see today actually evolved much later, during the Cretaceous Period, after flowering plants existed (about 100-70 MYA).  Many of the original ferns went extinct due to the several ice ages.  And to this day, there are still new fern species being discovered yearly!

Image via earthlyuniverse

How are ferns different from most plants?

Ferns are their own lineages. What that mean is they do not grow seeds, nor flowers, but reproduce by splitting, rhizomes, and spores.

Fern spores via here

Because the spores have no protective shell to protect it, unlike seeds, it also explains why they love high humidity environment. In addition, they are more primitive than other plants.

Common Ferns

Staghorn Ferns

Platycerium spp., natives to tropical South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. They are different from most ferns because they are epiphytes-living on trees instead of in the soil. They have pronounced sporophytes (the stags) and pronounced gametophytes (the shields), and both are separate parts in the staghorn fern’s life cycle.  Not to get to scientific-y here, but each ‘stag’ frond is created upon successful fusion of gametes produced by the gametophyte. Staghorn fern looks great, and does well, in hanging and mounted planters.Shop Staghorn Fern and Olmsted


Boston Fern 

Photo via Pinterest

Birds Nest Fern

Asplenium nidus, Birds Nest, is another easygoing fern that is native to tropical regions such as southeast Asia, Australia, east Africa and Hawaii. The fronds emerge coiled up from the center of the plant. As their unique ruffly leaves unfurled, they create a vase-like or bird’s nest shape. Hence the name, birds nest. Given the right indoor environment-high humid and medium to bright light-they will thrive.  They also make a great gift since they are known for the love ferns.

  1. Shop our Bird Nest Fern

General Ferns care

SUNLIGHT: Medium indirect bright light to low light.  Never direct sun, unless the species demands it.

WATER: Water weekly. Allow potting mix to half-dry out before watering.  However, soil can be moist or wet, but not sopping-wet.  Water more frequently during warmer months and drier months and fertilize during growth.

HUMIDITY: Any humidity level other than dry will do, but it prefers very moist air that will help lead to larger leaves and faster growth. A regular misting with a squirt-bottle will help raise the humidity.

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

In general, Ferns have been known to purify the air, and are excellent starter plants due to their low maintenance. There are thousands of fern species today. I am curious, do you have ferns? What’s your favorite? Comment below.