Monday, November 25, 2013

Houseplant of the Week: Devil's Backbone

They say the devil's in the details and it would seem to be so with this week's plant, Devil's backbone.   The really cool thing about it is the way its stems zigzag back and forth, doing so each time it grows a new leaf.  That's what first attracted me to it, but I also like it because it's super easy to grow.  There are variegated leaf varieties that are especially nice.

Photo: Costa Farms


Common Name: Devil's backbone, Zig zag plant, Slipper spurge
Botanical Name: Euphorbia tithymaloides (formerly Pedilanthus tithymaloides)
USDA Hardiness zones: 9-11
Size: 1' - 3' tall and about 1' wide
Light Requirements: High
Water Requirements: Low to average (do not overwater).  Let dry out between watering. 
Soil Requirements: Well-drained
Flower: Small red flowers at the tips of the stems. 
General Description: This is a poinsettia relative and likes similar growing conditions, although it's much easier to grow, in my opinion.  It is a native of tropical areas in North and Central America, including Florida.  When used there as an outdoor plant, it is drought tolerant, once established.  Inside, it may not bloom, but the interest is in the quirky stems anyway.  It has a smaller footprint, due to its upright habit, making it suitable for small spaces.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Houseplant of the Week: Rex Begonia

I started getting into Rex begonias a few years ago, and I killed a couple of them on the way to finding out what they like. Isn't that always how it goes? Nonetheless, Rex begonias aren't really that fussy, and for the amount of class they bring to the joint, they are well worth any special care they may ask for. This is definitely a "must try" for all you foliage lovers out there — intricate veining, metallic color combos and interesting leaf textures make Rex begonias irresistible.


Common Name: Rex begonia
Botanical Name: Begonia rex
USDA Hardiness Zones: Zones 10 - 11
Size: 12 - 18" tall and wide with leaves up to 5" wide and 9" long
Light Requirements: Shade in outdoor locations, and bright indirect light indoors
Soil Requirements: Rich, aerated, well-drained soil
Water Requirements: Regular watering — but with Rex begonias, learn to water them as they need it, not by what the date on the calendar says. Don't let them sit in water or get so dry that they wilt.
Flower: Insignificant
General Description: A rhizomatous begonia featuring stunning foliage, Rex begonias are primarily used as annuals outside or houseplants in North America. Outside North America, it's grown as a shady perennial in tropical and subtropical climates. Leaves come in shades of white, silver, green, pink, purple and yellow, and often have a metallic or iridescent sheen.
Special Care: Rex begonias will appreciate some extra humidity. Setting the container on a saucer with pebbles and water will help, as will keeping them away from drafts. Use a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Indoor Plant Decor Makes Amazon's Best Books List!

We are so excited to learn this week that Indoor Plant Decor is on Amazon's Best Books of the Year in the Gardening & Floral Design category! We're officially listed at #18, and we couldn't be any more pleased.

As you can see, we're in good company with our friends and colleagues Amy Stewart, Rebecca Sweet, Karen Chapman, Christina Salwitz, Pam Penick and others. This is a real honor, and we offer huge thanks to all of you who have bought our book and made it a success! If you haven't already purchased it, you can get it at your local Barnes & Noble or from Amazon, as well as many independent book stores and nurseries/garden centers. It'll make a great Christmas gift for your houseplant loving friends.

Hope you all have a good weekend — we're off to celebrate our good news this evening!

Cheers & Happy Gardening —

Jenny & Kylee

Monday, November 4, 2013

Houseplant of the Week: Aspidistra

Aspidistra is one of those botanical plant names that's just fun to say. It's fun to grow too, because it requires so little of you and its environment. It's a low-light plant, which almost always makes for a good houseplant specimen.

Wikimedia Commons

It's commonly called "cast-iron plant," which should tell you about its ability to endure a fair amount of benign neglect. You do have to at least water it every couple of weeks or so, but even then, if you forget, it's forgiving. Its classic form fits in just about any decor, making it a social butterfly of the houseplant world.


Common Name: Cast-iron plant
Botanical Name: Aspidistra elatior
USDA Hardiness zones: 7-11
Size: 2' - 3'
Light Requirements: Low to medium
Water Requirements: Low to average (do not overwater)
Soil Requirements: Well-drained
Flower: It does flower, but not usually as a houseplant.  It isn't grown for its flowers though, which appear at soil level in the spring and are cream with burgundy on the inside.
General Description: Aspidistra is a native of eastern Asia, with wide, strappy dark green leaves which grow at ground level.  There are variegated varieties that are especially attractive.  It's rarely bothered by common houseplant pests and is known for being a very tough plant that's easy to grow, though somewhat slow.  It was used often in Victorian parlors, and was a plant commonly handed down from generation to generation. When grown outdoors, it's just as tough, as long as it stays out of direct sun.