Plant Profile: Bamboo Palm

Most members of the palm family are easy to care for and continue to be popular houseplants. The bamboo palm is no exception and is a long-standing favorite in homes and commercial establishments. It produces clusters of small, slender canes. Its graceful fans and rich green color give it an overall lacy appearance. A bamboo palm can reach a height of of about 6 feet (1.8 meters). Bamboo palms are often chosen over areca palms by commercial interiorscapers because they are more resistant to insect infestation. They add a peaceful, tropical feeling wherever they are placed. In terms of its atmospheric benefits, the bamboo palm has an excellent overall rating and one of the highest transpiration ratings. It pumps much needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air.

Family: Arecaceae (palm)

Origin: Mexico

Care: Provide plenty of water during periods of active growth. In winter, when grown in standard containers, water just enough to keep the root ball moist. Wash the leaves periodically to prevent spider mites. Do not pinch out the tip of the stalks or cut off the newest frond as this will eliminate new growth.

Lighting: Semi-bright

Ideal Temperature: 60-75°F (16-24°C)

Challenges: Spider mites and scale insects are a risk when the atmosphere is too dry.

Propagation: Cuttings

Plant Profile: Lady Palm

The lady palm is a large palm that has fans 6 – 12 inches wide that consist of between for and ten thick, shiny leaves. The leaves are connected to a brown, hairy main trunk by thin, arching stems. Lady palm is one of the easiest houseplants to care for and is highly resistant to attack by most plant insects. It is also one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality. It grows slowly and is easy to maintain. The lady palm is so popular in the United States that some commercial nurseries deal exclusively in its production. The leaf tips can be trimmed with pinking shears to remove the salt buildup and leave the tips with their natural green, saw-tooth appearance.

Family: Arecaeae (palm)

Origin: Southern China

Care: Water well in spring and summer with room-temperature water. Allow to dry slightly in fall and winter. Feed regularly with a weak concentration fertilizer when plants are growing. Mist often, especially during winter when the air is dry.

Lighting: Semi-bright to semi-shade

Ideal Temperature: 60-70°F (16-21°C)

Challenges: Usually pest free. Occasionally spider mites. Too dry a location causes fronds to dry and turn brown.

Propagation: Cuttings

Plant Profile: Areca Palm

Also known as yellow palm or butterfly palm, the Areca Palm is one of the most popular and graceful palms. It is tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air, removes chemical toxins, and is also beautiful. One of the faster-growing palms, the areca features a cluster of cane-like stalks that produce feathery, yellow-green fronds. Because of its all-around good qualities, the areca is commonly found in commercial settings as well as in the home. An underplanting of golden pothos or English ivy adds to its aesthetic appeal. In a houseplant setting, a 6 foot (1.8 meter) areca palm transpires approximately 1 quart (one liter) of water every 24 hours. The areca is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins tested. It also has the unique ability to move salt accumulations to selected branches. When saturated, these branches die and should be quickly removed. Its high marks in all rated categories make the areca one of the top eco-friendly houseplants.

Family: Arecaceae (palm)

Origin: Madagascar

Care:Keep the root ball damp. Provide a complete fertilizer on a regular basis, except in winter. Mist regularly to give a fresh appearance and to provide humidity to discourage insect infestation.

Lighting: Semi-bright

Ideal Temperature: 65-75°F (18-24°C)

Challenges: Spider mites and brown tips on fronds from over-dry atmosphere

Propagation: Cuttings

Plant Profile: Rubber Plant

Formally known as Ficus Elastica, the rubber plant was a favorite plant of the Victorians and remains equally popular today. Bred for toughness, it will survive in less light than most plants its size. It will tolerate dim light and cool temperatures. This plant is easy to grow and is especially effective at removing formaldehyde. It receives high marks in all categories and is an excellent overall houseplant. Its common name is derived from its thick, leather-like, dark-green leaves that contain a rubber-like latex. Given proper conditions, it will eventually reach a height of 8 feet.

Family: Moraceae (fig)

Origin: India, Malaysia

Care: Feed regularly during the summer months only. Water regularly from mid summer to fall, allowing the soul to dry slightly between waterings. Then, water sparingly. The rubber tree does not tolerate overwatering.

Lighting: Medium to Bright

Ideal Temperature: 60-80°F (16-27°C)

Challenges: In dry, centrally heated air Rubber Plant is susceptible to attacks by scale insects, spider mites and thrips.

Propagation: Air Layering

The Right Light

One of the easiest things to overlook as a plant parent is making sure your plants are getting the right amount of light. There is a such thing as too much and there is definitely a such thing as not enough. Lighting is very important for a plant because that is how it provides energy for itself(photosynthesis) but that does not mean it needs bright light all the time. Pictures are not the only thing that need the right light.

There are plants that love to basque in the sun and there are those that prefer there was none. Knowing the type of light(brightness) prefers can come in handy because it can help you with decorating as well. For example, you may have a bathroom you’d like to spruce up with a plant but you are concerned there just is not enough light to keep it happy. Find a plant that does not need much light or actually prefers the dark. You may have an area that gets sun for the entire day the sun is out–find plants that like to be in areas that are bright.

Keep in mind that it is possible for light to burn a plant, no matter how far from the source the source the plant is situated. You will know your plant is sunburned by looking at the leaves as they will be thinner, possibly browning, and starting to develop holes(assuming the plant is not one that has holes in the leaves naturally). If you notice this, move the plant further away from the source. It is also possible that your plant is not getting enough light and this can be noticed by the plant growing slower than normal or growth stopping long before the growing season ends. Some plants that do not get enough light will even have leaves that turn a dark shade of green.

Feeding Your Plants

Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and potassium are the main minerals of fertilizer

Plants have four basic needs: light, water, and air. All of these elements can vary by plant but the complete lack of any one of them can be detrimental to a plant. But wait, that’s only three? AH! Yes, nutrients! Plants need nutrients to grow strong and reach their full potential.
Feeding plants properly can be quite tricky. There are ideal times of the growing season that it should be applied.

Most plants will benefit when nutrients are applied during the growing season. The growing season is different from plant to plant. There are many, many fertilizers on the market and it can be hard to determine which one is best but there is one good rule of thumb to follow: research what your plant needs.

Most plant food packages will have a set of numbers on the label indicating the strength of the fertilizer. The first number is nitrogen(N), the second number is phosphorus(P) and the third number is potassium(K). For example, a label reading 20-20-20 means the total mixture is 20% nitrogen, 20% phosphorus, and 20% potassium. This number is based on the total weight of the entire mixture as fertilizer often has other trace elements and ingredients involved. A 20-lb bag of fertilizer may read 20-15-25 which means the mixture is:

4 pounds of nitrogen

3 pounds of phosphorus

5 pounds of potassium

It is very important that you feed your plants the types of fertilizer they are meant to have. Not all fertilizers are created equally and you can actually severely harm your plants by feeding them the wrong types of fertilizer or too much fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can burn a plant.

Research your plant and fertilizer before applying and always follow the instructions on the label.

Is your plant thirsty?

Plant that needs water

Caring for plants can be fun. You can be rewarded with beautiful growth, flowers, fruit, and fragrance. As with any other living thing, plants have needs and sometimes it is easy to forget the most important: water

Forgetting to water your plants is one of the most common problems plant parents encounter. Life gets busy. The weather changes. You go on vacation. All of these things can result in a thirsty plant and they can happen fast. What’s worse? You don’t realize your plant is thirsty until it shows signs. Some plants are more forgiving than others. Some are dramatic when they need water (Peace Lily, others just give up and die quickly before you can do anything.

Even the most experienced plant parents can forget to water and anyone telling you they never forget is telling your a lie! So, what can you do to make sure you keep your plants quenched? Here are a few tips:

  • It starts with the soil. Use soil that is designed for your particular plant. Most big box stores and even small nurseries carry soil that is specially formulated for different types of plants. You’d be surprise how the soil can make such a difference in your plant’s health.
  • We all want to be creative with our plant placement but keep in mind that drafty areas or areas near air vents will dry out a plant much faster than other areas. You don’t have to keep your plants away from those areas but you should be mindful of how those areas affect your plant.
  • Look at your plants. Do they look thirsty? Are a bunch of the leaves looking a little dry? It may be time to water.

Is your plant drowning?

Overwatered plant

Caring for plants can be fun. You can be rewarded with beautiful growth, flowers, fruit, and fragrance. As with any other living thing, plants have needs but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!

Over-watering is one of the most common problems plant parents encounter. It can be difficult to know when your plant needs water just by looking it at it. Some people water on a schedule, some people water when the plant begins to droop, some people water every day! Depending on the plant, any or all of these approaches can be wrong!

Over-watering a plant can result in root rot. Just like you and I, a plant roots need to breathe. If the roots are in soil that does not drain or does not drain well, the roots will soon not be able to breathe. When this happens, the roots begin to rot and soon after, the plant will show signs.

The bad news about over-watering is that it is very easy to do, can kill a plant quickly, and can be very frustrating however, there is good news! It is easy to correct over-watering if it is detected early but it is better to prevent than to cure so here are a few tips when it comes to watering your plants:

  • Know your plant. All plants are not made equal. Some plants like lots of water, others do not. It is good to know what your particular plant requires when it comes to moisture.
  • The soil holds secrets. A lot of people think just because the soil looks dry that the plant needs water but always remember: the roots are deeper and it is much more moist around the roots. If the top is dry, the roots may not be. A moisture meter can help determine if the plant does indeed need water. It also helps to get soil that matches the plant. There are many soils on the market that are designed to hold enough water for the plant the thrive but not hold on to the excess.
  • Drainage! Drainage! Drainage! Plants, especially those kept indoors, should be in containers that have adequate drainage holes. Good drainage will allows the excess water to drain out of the container preventing your plants from sitting in water too long. Do I mention drainage?

Water is very important for a plant. Do not be afraid to water your plants just be mindful that there is a such thing as “too much, too often.”