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Enjoy your house plant this winter

Keeping your houseplants healthy during winter months may seem difficult. Light from windows is reduced, days are shorter and humidity may be lower due to heating. But by making a few changes, you can help keep your houseplants healthy.

Keeping things light


In winter, your plants receive sunlight for less time and in less intensity. Houseplants native to rainforests that are used to lower light will be fine with that, but most plants need more light. Try to move your plants near a brighter window (S/SW exposure) to get them more sunlight.

If you have no brighter windows (due to shade trees or apartment living), you might want to consider the purchase of plant lamps that are designed to provide the full spectrum light your plants need. They can be mounted under shelves, over plants or on specially-designed plant stands. Leave them on about eight hours a day, and they'll give your plants the light they need.

You can also use cool fluorescent bulbs as close as 6 inches from the top of plants.



Most plants do not do well when subjected to rapid fluctuations in temperature. Keep them away from hot air sources and cold drafts alike. Run ceiling fans on low if the house is closed up. Fans break up stagnant air; that's healthier for both you and your plants.



Some symptoms of low humidity are brown leaf tips and wilting. Low humidity makes your plants work harder to get moisture from the air and soil, as well as keep what they have inside.

One way to give your plants some extra humidity is to put a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a tray and fill the tray with just enough water to cover the bottom of the tray (below the top of the pebbles). Place potted plants in the tray.


Other Tips

Fertilizing should be done less often for most plants in winter.

Give your plants a good washing. Dirt, dust, grease, and other particles can settle on leaves. Dirty leaves can't absorb as much sunlight as clean ones. Gently wipe clean the leaves with a soft sponge or cloth dipped in plain tepid water. Sturdier plants can even be given a quick shower in the bathroom with tepid water. Enjoy!



Yucca a great indoor plant

If you are looking for an indestructible houseplant that loves the sun, look no further than the yucca plant. This plant at first look resembles a tree type plant with thick heavy stems and long narrow thick leaves with a point on them. It looks like a plant that is tough enough to live in the desert. Yucca loves the sun indoors or out, so take it outside during the summer and put it on your deck. When the kids go back to school in September, bring it back into the house and put it in a sunny window. It will tolerate a bright room with light painted walls but if you have a sunny and hot window where everything dries up, this is the plant for you. The yucca is considered an architectural plant because it fits right in with Modern style homes to Ranch style.

Most house plants are grown from seed or cuttings but this plant is unique. Plants grow wild in Mexico and Central America and in large clumps up to ten feet tall. While in Florida visiting my sister several years ago, we went to visit some local growers of tropical plants; this is what they were doing. The greenhouse grower received these plants in a bundle eight to ten feet long--like a bunch of 2 by 4's in the lumber yard. The bottom of the stem was marked with paint to insure quick root development. If you try to root the top of the stem, it will not form roots, so top and bottom are marked carefully. Using a chainsaw, the grower cut the tall stems in 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 foot long pieces. The part of the stem to face up was dipped in hot wax to seal the end tight. The end of the stem that was to go into the soil was dipped into rooting powder and put into a pot filled with soil. Some pots had a 2, 3, 4 and 5 foot tall piece planted in them. Many combinations of height are used, depending on demand. In a month dormant buds begin to develop new foliage that resembles a rosette of long sword-like, pointed leaves at the top. In three to four months, the plant is ready for your home.

This is how you grow this wonderful tropical plant in your home. First thing, look at the leaves, because they are pointed and stiff. If you have small children running around the house be sure to get a tall plant with foliage high up the plant, so they do not poke themselves in the eye. Place the plant in a corner of the room--it will soften the wall and is less likely to be knocked over. The pot should have drainage holes and a saucer under it for better drainage to prevent root rot. This plant does not like wet roots and you should keep the plant moist but never wet, or the thick stem will rot in the soil. Fertilize monthly all year long with Dr. Earth house plant food or use Dynamite pellet fertilizer. Dynamite fertilizer will last for 6 months, as it is time release with each watering you do.

As the plant grows, the rosettes will grow many stems covered with leaves. This will give you the look of a thick stem with a ball of foliage at the top. The staggered height stems in the pot gives the plant a lot of character. Insects are not a problem, and diseases are not a problem unless you keep the soil wet. Water your plant every two weeks but test the soil first by pushing your index finger into the soil and feel for moisture. Keep the room warmer than 50 degrees during the winter and enjoy this plant.  Enjoy!




Neil Diamond & Barbara Streisand, You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Neil Diamond & Barbara Streisand, You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Croton's brings color into your indoor gardening

I know the winter is long and cold, so let's look for a tropical plant that can excite you with unbelievable colorful foliage. The croton is such a plant--and available at most greenhouses year round. It can be purchased in 4 inch pots to 5 gallon containers that will fill a sunny window with yellow, orange and red leaves that will give you hope during those long gray days of winter.

The leaves are leathery and tough. No two leaves are alike, but all begin with a variegation of green and yellow. The colors can change to variegated and even striped. As they age, the colors begin to change to shades of orange that will blend into the yellow. In a few weeks, they change again to shades of red with the orange and yellow. There are many varieties of the croton and the foliage shape is different with each variety. Their shapes vary from long and pointed to short and broad. Newer varieties can be slender, wavy and some look like ribbon--all wavy. Most varieties' colors change with age and the older foliage has more green color. The new growth is more changeable to the yellow, orange and red.

The croton is originally from the Pacific Islands. In the South, it is a foundation plant around the home or used for low hedges growing to about 3 feet tall and just as wide. As a houseplant, it will grow just as tall and wide if repotted in the spring every other year. Use a general purpose potting soil when repotting and increase the pot size by 2 inches each time. If the plant gets too large for the window or floor, you can prune it back in the spring and the new growth will fill it in again with new colorful foliage. Then, take the cuttings from the pruning and dip them into rooting powder. Pot them in fresh potting soil and in 3 weeks the new roots will form to give you a new houseplant. Place 3 to 5 cuttings per pot to give the container a full appearance.

Crotons love the sun and the leaves will be more colorful with more sun. Less sunshine, and the colors will fade to shades of green. Keep plants at least 60 degrees during the winter and away from drafts. During the spring to fall,keep the soil moist at all times but never wet or standing in water. During the winter, less moisture is needed, so cut back on the watering but do not let soil dry up. If your house is heated with forced hot air or wood stove during the winter daily misting and placing pot on a tray of filled with stones with water added daily will be very helpful to the plant. Fertilize every 2 weeks during the spring to fall and once a month during the winter months.

Insects are few on this plant and when present are easily found on the underside of the foliage. One insect, called scale, is found on the midrib of the leaf underside. Scrape it off with your fingernail and treat the plant with all season oil by Bonide. Mealybugs and spider mites may be a problem if the humidity around the plant is low. So keep the air humidity high to help keep the insects away from the plant.

I like to wash the foliage once a month to make the colors stand out better, and this cleaning will let you know if insects are a problem. In mid-May, put your plant outside on your deck and its colorful foliage will put to shame any container of flowers you have out there. Keep the plant outside until the kids go back to school in September. If potted plants are in a saucer, be sure to drain off extra water that may build up in it during rainy weather. If you should lose some lower leaves on the plant and it looks woody, plant a couple of English ivies in the pot and train them up the stems to fill the spaces around the stems. Enjoy!




Moses in the bulrushes

If you're looking for a small-growing colorful foliage plant for your home this winter look no further than the "Moses in the Bulrushes." The foliage is in the shape of a sword that will grow about 12 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide; the tip of the leaf will come to a point. The top side of the leaf will have bands of white and green stripes running the entire length of the leaf. These bands of color will differ on each leaf; some will have more green while others have more white bands on them and the width of these bands will also differ. The underside of the leaf is also colorful with shades of purplish-red; this color will differ depending on the light in your home.

This plant loves a room that is bright but not sunny. It will tolerate morning sun but not the hot midday sun, as it will bleach the color of the foliage and the plant will lose its character. If kept in a north facing window, it will do fine also. Keep the plant in a room with temperatures above 64 degrees during the winter. It can go outside during the summer, if placed in a shady spot on your deck or porch. When you put the plant outside for the summer, do not place the plant in a saucer, because heavy rains or over-watering could rot the roots.

The plant will do best with high humidity, so keep plants out of rooms that have a wood or coal burning stove in them. If you have forced hot air heat, keep plants away from heat vents. When you water the plant, use warm water only as cold water could spot the foliage as it does too many other houseplants. Misting will help if your home is hot and dry. Keep the plants moist most of the time, but during the winter months keep them a bit on the dry side.

Fertilize spring to fall with Dr. Earth house plant food every couple of weeks or use Dynamite fertilizer pellets, and the plant will be fed every time you water it. Fertilizer is not necessary during the winter months but I feed mine monthly like I do the rest of my houseplants. A well-fed plant has more colorful foliage.

The plants will look like and grow like a Dracaena spike if you remove the side shoots that develop at the base of the plant. I prefer the side shoots on the plants, as it give the look of a multi-stem plant, almost like a clump of foliage. If you remove these side shoots from the plant you can start new plants easily and this is best done during the spring, as the plant is more actively growing with the longer days.

Now, the name "Moses in the Bulrushes" comes from the small boat-shaped or pocket-shaped bracts that develop deep down in the axils of the leaf where it meets the central stem. This is very unique in nature, and this boat-shaped growth contains the flowers of the plant. Think back to your poinsettia, as the colorful leaves on that plant are also called flower bracts. The actual flowers are the tiny yellow button shaped flowers on the tip of the plant, not the colorful leaves. This boat-shaped growth called the bracts contains the delicate white tongue-shaped flowers.

These bracts will have the same purplish-red color of the underside of the leaves, and as the boat-shaped bract matures, the top will open up, revealing the flowers. The plant flowers from June to August but unless you look closely, you will not notice the flowers on the plant. With the many leaves on the plant it does look like the bulrushes growing in wet areas. The boat-shaped bracts represent the basket that baby Moses was put into to hide him from the Egyptian soldiers.

If you are going to repot the plant or divide the plant, the spring is the best time . Be sure to use a good potting soil with a lot of organic matter in it. When you divide the plant, use a sharp knife to cut shoots from each other rather than pulling the plant apart. Once potted, the plant should be kept in a shaded spot for a few days to allow it time to adjust to the division. Also fertilize and water the new soil well to force all air pockets out of the pot and help settle the new soil in the pot.

The plant is easy to grow and will survive and thrive in most homes with minimal care, and is a good houseplant for a new gardener. The name is easy to remember because it was given to it after a story from the Bible. Enjoy.

"I want my words to illuminate like the sun, as I give my daily lecture on photosynthesis to my houseplants." 
     Jarod Kintz, I Want    
Clivia, a wonderful late winter flowering plant

I have always been fascinated by clivia, the wonderful flowering houseplant that most of us have never seen or grown but have heard a lot about. It has a bad name because it takes too long to come into flower and most of us have no idea how to make it flower. Today you will learn the story about this plant: where it comes from, its relatives, and, yes, how to make it bloom every year in your home.

Clivia is native to the forest, where it grows in damp, shady places between rocks where the soil is well drained and temperature fluctuates during the four seasons. It comes from southern Africa where temperatures stay a relatively cool 70-80 degrees during the summer and 50 to 60 degrees during the winter. If you can copy these growing conditions, you will have flowers on your plant in just 3 to 6 years depending on the size and age of your plant. This plant is not for immediate gratification but is well worth the wait; once it does begin to bloom, it will happen every year.

If you can find a plant and it needs to be repotted, make sure the soil is rich and well drained. The pot or container you select must have drainage holes in it. Contrary to what I was once told, the young plant should be repotted every spring to give the plant roots room to grow. Repotting is best done in the spring as pot-bound plants will not flower as easily.

The clivia plant has foliage that looks like dark green straps, which grow 2 to 3 inches wide and 12 to 18 inches long. The tip of the leaf can be blunt or have a bit of a point--but not a sharp point. These leaves come out of a central stem and grow opposite each other from a main base. When you look at this plant, you will think of the amaryllis plant that we all grow during the Christmas holidays. There is a reason for this--because it is in the amaryllis family. Like the amaryllis plant, the flower develops in the center of the foliage each winter. Unlike the amaryllis, this plant does not go dormant or rest; it will stay green and grow all year long.

The clivia plant has trumpet-shaped flowers 2 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The flower has 6 bright orange petals with bright yellow pollen sacks in the center of the flower. The flowers develop on the top a thick stem that grows 10 to 18 inches tall. These flowers grow in a cluster of 5 to 10 individual flowers; their number depends on how you treated the plant during that year. The better you care for the plant, the more flowers the plant will make.

Clivia will normally flower from February to May if you follow these directions. From September to February it is important that you keep the plant cool, in a room with bright light but not sunny, like a north facing window! Room temperature of 50 to 55 degrees is best to encourage flower bud development; maintain this until you see a flower stock form. Once the flower forms, move it to a room with half bright light and half shade, like an east or west window. Warmer temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees will help to lengthen the flower stem and help the flowers to open.

In the summer, place the plant outside on a deck or patio that is shady, NO direct sun except early in the morning or late in the afternoon--or the foliage will get sunburned and turn white. The plant can stay out from mid-May to mid-September or until first threat of frost.

Watering is important; during the time it spends outside during the summer water often but avoid soggy soils. Provide good drainage, no saucer under plant pots to prevent plant from sitting in water. When you bring the plant inside from September to February, it needs to rest so keep the soil almost dry. When flowers form keep plants moist but again not wet.

Fertilizer is also important and you should ONLY feed the plant from March to August and every 2 weeks. Use Dr. Earth house plant food when watering the plant or Dynamite pellet fertilizer during this time period. It is important not to feed the other months as the plant will go dormant and needs to rest.

Flowers will not develop if you do not provide a rest period or if you begin to water the plant more too early in the spring indoors, or you did not water enough while the plant was outside during the summer. Flower stalks should be growing before you begin to increase the watering of the plant.

Growing a clivia plant is like growing a Christmas cactus, but a bit more work. Well worth the effort if you are a gardener who likes spectacular and unusual flowering plants in your home. Enjoy!



Potato Gratin with rosemary crust





This Potato dish will have everyone talking even before the meal starts. You can use a spring form pan for the "WOW" factor or a casserole dish for every day. I have a spring form pam and never knew what to cook in it until I cooked this Potato pie. If you're looking to impress your friends or in-laws this is the one that will do it!




One box of Pillsbury pie crust, 2 pie crust

1 Tablespoon of fresh Rosemary, chopped as fine as possible

Teaspoon of fresh ground Pepper

2 Cups, 8 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese, divided

1 to 2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes

1 to 2 pounds of sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2/3 cup of heavy cream

1 garlic clove minced well

A few sprigs of Rosemary for garnish once cooked




1} Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Unroll your 2 pie crust on a lightly floured counter. Sprinkle Rosemary, pepper and cup of cheese over the first piece of pie crust and spread evenly. Now place the second piece of pie crust on top of the first piece. Roll the two pieces together so it is about 13 inches in diameter. Place the crust sandwich into your spring form pan or casserole dish. Press the crust on the bottom and up the side of the spring form pan or casserole dish and fold the edges under to shape the edges of the pie crust. Now chill in your refrigerator.


2} While your crust chills, peel your potatoes, and slice your Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes as thin as possible with your mandolin and be careful.


3} Layer your potatoes, 1/3 of the Yukon Gold and Sweet potatoes, and salt in the prepared piecrust. Keep them tight and fill in spaces with pieces of sliced potatoes. Sprinkle cup of cheese over the potatoes layers. Repeat layers 2 more times and press down layers slightly to fit the crust.


4} Microwave the heavy cream and Garlic in a 1 cup microwave safe measuring cup at HIGH for 45 seconds. Pour over the layers of potatoes in the crust. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese and cover with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the oven.


5} Bake at 450 degrees for one hour. Uncover and bake for another 25 minutes more or until the potatoes are done and crust is nice and brown. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes and then carefully transfer to a serving platter or a cake stand. If you're using the spring form pan, remove the side of the pan once on the platter or cake stand, in a casserole dish serve in the dish. Garnish with sprigs of rosemary and display on your table. Cut the Potato Gratin like your cutting a piece of pie and watch the eyes of your guest as you serve them, the meat or fish your serving will become secondary! Enjoy!!









              Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.

Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95!  special!

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  Written by Paul Parent                         Produced by Christine Parent

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