July 23rd, 2009

Darlingtonia Californica

“California Pitcher Plant”

“Cobra Lily”

This exotic looking carniverous plant is native to the bogs of oregon and northern California.  The leaves are in the shape of tubes that grow to 12-20 in.  The tubes are folded over and “closed” at the end to prevent rainwater from entering them and diluting their digestive juices.

Like all carnivorous plants, the Darlingtonia gets its nutrients from digesting insects.  A colorful, usually red or purple hued flap protrudes from the tip of the tube to form an enticing shape, which to a human looks likes a snake head, and to an insect probably looks like a flower.  When an insect approaches that flower and enters to take a sip, they are confronted with the inside of the pitcher plant’s tubular leaf which is lined with downward facing hair that prevents the insect from escaping.

To grow the Darlingtonia pitcher plant in your home is a challenge, but can be done if you replicate its natural environment.

Keep the Darlingtonia humid

Remember, the Darlingtonia is native to bogs and marshlands, so it will only survive in humid air and moist roots.  Keep the Darlingtonia away from heaters, stoves and air conditioners as these dry out the air.  In normal room conditions, the pitcher plant must be misted several times a day.  This constant need for humidity makes the pitcher plant a good candidate for a terrarium, or other enclosed glass container.

Keep your Darlingtonia cool

The darlingtoniadoes not like to get too hot.  Unlike most common house plants, the pitcher plant is not native to a hot tropical climate, but rather to the cool temperate climate of the Northeast USA.  The darlingtonia pitcher plant will also die if frozen dry.  For this reason, the darlingtonia make good house plants only in certain climates, or for the most attentive grower.

Put your darlingtonia in bright, indirect light

The darlingtonia plant does not want full sun, but does need a good amount of light in order to thrive.  A cool greenhouse,  a north faceing window in a bathroom, or a spot in the dappled sunlight in a backyard in the fall might be good places for the pitcher plant in your home.

Plant your Darlingtonia in the right medium:

Darlingtonia Pitcher Plants are best grown in an equal parts mixture of peat moss, sphagnum moss, sharp sand and charcoal.  This medium shoul be kept moist at ALL TIMES.  The Darlingtonia will also appreciate being planted next to or among other plants.  This is similar to its native bog environment and the other plants help keep the pitcher plant surrounded in humidity.


Propogation of darlingtonia can be very difficult.  It is done either by seed, or by division and the starter plants should be placed in a bed of moss under glass.

Don’t Fertilize or Feed a Darlingtonia.

They get all the nutrients they need from insects and chlorophyl – if you expose them to fertilizer you will overload them.

Hanging Plants


July 21st, 2009

Stephanotis Floribunda

“Madagascar Jasmine”

Stephanotis is one of the most coveted house plants because of its intensely powerful, sweet smelling blossoms.  However, the rewards of a thriving stephanotis plant are not easily earned.  The plant is a climber and is usually trained to grow around a wire or trellis inside its pot.   It’s leaves are dark green, smooth and thick; its stem is woody and the white star-shaped flowers are tubular as buds, opening into 5 pointed stars.  If you have a blooming stephanotis plant in a room in your house, you will smell its sweet scent everywhere.  The fragrant waxy blossoms are also much desired by florists for use in weddings.

How to Grow a Healthy Stephanotis House Plant:

Keep your stephanotis plant humid:

Stephanotis is native to the tropical island, Madagascar, and is accustomed to that humid environment. Keep your Stephanotis humid and happy by:

  1. Misting it regularly with a fine-headed spray
  2. Place the stephanotis pot in a tray of water and gravel, preventing the roots from sitting directly in the water, but allowing the plant to receive the humidity as the water evaporates.
  3. Place your Stephanotis in a naturally humid place, such as near the kitchen sink or the shower.

Grow the Stephanotis in the right Medium:

Stephanotis grows in the ground in its natural environment and therefore, will appreciate a soil based potting mix or a half peat moss, half soil mix.

Maintain a constant, still environment

The delicate stephanotis plant will be disturbed by drastic changes in the temperature, strong drafts or anything that moves it or shakes it.  This is especially relevant when the plant is carrying flower buds.  These kinds of disruptions will cause the buds to fall off, before getting the chance to flower and enchant us humans with its fragrance.

Keep the Stephanotis in Bright, indirect light.

Stephanotis are used to growing in the jungle near the equator.  Here the light is strong and bright, but filtered by the tall rainforest trees’ leaves above.  Replicate this for your stephanotis by putting it in a bright window with a light sheer curtain.

Fertilize the Stephanotis plant in the spring and Summer:

To encourage blossoming and growth, provide your stephanotis with a diluted high potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks in the spring and summer.

Flowering House Plants, Other House Plants

Peace Lily

July 21st, 2009

Spathiphyllum wallash

The Peace Lily is one of the most popular house plants of all time.  It has achieved such placement in our homes for many reasons.  First, it is beautiful.  It’s large glossy dark green foliage gives a luxurious, tropical feeling.  And when conditions are right, it will also produce alluring white blossoms. As the leaves mature, they have a tendency to arch outward in a very elegant, attractive way.

But perhaps the main reason that the peace lily is such a desired house plant is its ability to flourish in low light areas, where so few house plants will grow.

How to Grow healthy Peace Lilies:

Keep the Peace Lily humid:

For a peace lily to thrive, it needs to be in a humid environment.  It is especially important to create humidity around the peace lily in the summer or whenever it is apt to be in hot, dry air.  The Peace Lily is native to the rainforests of South America, a warm and extremely humid place.  If the peace lily gets too dry, it will become vulnerable to disease and pest infestation, especially red spider mites. Tips on how to create the necessary humidity for your peace lily:

  1. Mist the peace lily foliage 2 or 3 times a day with a fine mister
  2. Place the peace lily pot on top of a tray of water and gravel: this way the roots do not sit directly in the water and rot, but they do receive the humidity as the water evaporates.
  3. Place your Peace Lily in a naturally humid place, such as near the kitchen sink or the shower.

Plant the Peace Lily in the right potting medium:

Peace lilies will grow best in a peat moss based potting mix.  This mix will hold moisture without getting soggy , and most closely resembles the rainforest floor, rich in organic matter.  Do not plant your peace lily in soil from the back yard or any other clay or sand based medium.

How to fertilize a peace lily:

Your peace lily only needs to be fertilized during its growth season, in the spring and summer. During this time, it’s best to use a balanced liquid fertilizer once every two weeks.

Keep the Peace Lily out of strong sunlight

Just as the peace lily is an excellent house plant because it will grow in low light areas, it will get damaged by high intensity sunlight.  Keep the peace lily away from very bright or hot windows.

Peace Lily Propagation:

In the spring time, remove the mature peace Lily from its pot and shake off all loose soil.  Pull the rhizomes apart very carefully, making sure that each clump of leaves has at least on rhizome.  Then plant the individual clumps in new pots of peat moss based potting mix.

Low Light Plants, Office Plants, Other House Plants


July 21st, 2009

How to Grow Cactus and succulents:

Growing cactus and succulents indoors is mostly about ensuring they have the right balance of light and water and temperature.  The cacti and succulents that are popular as house plants are native to either the desert or the jungle.  As you explore the varieties of each plant, it is beneficial to note their native environment so that you can try to replicate it for them (as much as possible) inside your home, and increase its chances of thriving.

How to Grow Cacti in ideal light

Cacti will thrive in the hottest, sunniest window in your house – conditions that would burn or exhaust most other house plants.  One of the leading causes of death for indoor cactus plants is insufficient light, so even though they would look pretty in that shadowy corner of the house, they won’t last long there without a bright hot grow light hanging above them.

How to water cactus and succulent house plants:

One of the characteristics of cacti and succulents is their extreme capacity for storing water.  This means they can survive –and even thrive- with very little watering.  If you are a person who has lost many a tropical house plant because you forgot to water it, then cactus or succulents may be just right for you.  In fact, overwatering is one of the quickest ways to kill a cactus.  It is important to let the plant dry out between watering.  If the soil, or plant medium is dark and moist looking, don’t water.  If it is light colored and looks dry, stick a finger in a few inches and only if it is completely dry, should you water it.  If you are still unsure and you want to make sure you are not overwatering, you can wait until the plant starts to show signs of distress from lack of water.  A cactus or succulent will bounce back much better from not having enough water than from having too much.

How to provide the ideal temperature for cactus house plant growth

Cacti and succulents prefer hot daytime temperatures.  Environments that are too warm for human comfort can still be perfect for these house plants.  Put them in the sunniest, south or west facing window in your house.  Though they prefer hot days, they will thrive to their greatest potential if those hot days are followed by cool nights.  The greater the difference between the day and night temperatures, the better these house plants will grow.  They should not, however, ever be exposed to freezing temperatures –  this will kill them as most cacti have very little capacity to withstand freeze.  The coldest they should ever be allowed to be is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit  or 7 degrees Celsius.

How to Select the right potting medium for indoor cactus and succulents:

All cactus and succulent house plants require a medium that is well drained. The final element to take into account when raising healthy cacti and succulents is the potting medium.  The desert cacti and succulents will prefer a sandy medium, while jungle cacti will prefer a medium that reminds them of the trees they like to grow on, for example a bark mix.



July 20th, 2009

Growing bromeliads can be tricky, but here are some guidelines you can follow:

  1. Planting medium
  2. Air Humidity
  3. Water
  4. Light

1. Choose the right plant medium

Bromeliads are used to growing on trees, not is soil. You can mount a bromeliad on a piece of wood and it will grow! You don’t need potting soil. If you’d rather have it in a pot, you can use any mix that is suitable for orchids such as bark, charcoal, peat moss, etc.

2. Pay attention to the air in your home

Bromeliads grow naturally in trees in the rainforest. They do well in humid but airy conditions.

3. Water the right way

Bromeliads like to receive water in their leaves. The spread of leaves on a bromeliad has a cup like function so that when you poor water directly down into the center of the plant, it catches it. Then it slowly distributes the water down to the roots and the soil.

4. Give your bromeliad the right amount of light

Bromeliads like indirect sunlight: not too dark and not too hot. Sunlight though a window and a sheer curtain is perfect.



July 20th, 2009

Here is what you need to consider in order to grow healthy orchids:

  1. Planting medium
  2. Air conditions
  3. Water
  4. Light

1. Choose the right plant medium

One of the quickest ways to kill an orchid is to plant it in potting soil. Most orchids are epiphytes: in nature, they grow in trees, not in the ground. So to best replicate their natural habitat, we growers need to plant them in tree-like materials. The main difference between soil and tree-like materials are how well they drain water: soil is more likely to stay soggy. Good orchid mediums include fir bark, coconut fiber, shagnum moss, charcoal granules and peat moss. Orchids can even grow quite nicely when mounted on a simple peice of wood.

2. Pay attention to the air in your home

For orchids to grow to their optimum potential, they need 2 important things from the air around them:

1) Circulation

2) Humidity

Air Circulation: Since orchids in nature grow high up on trees, they are accostumed to feeling a lot of wind. Plenty of air circulation is important for orchids because this prevents disease and fungus. It also helps the water evaporate more quickly, therefore helping the orchid roots to not rot. If the room where your orchid plant lives is sealed off from air movement, you should consider placing a small fan near them.

Humidity: Orchids are native to tropical rainforests where the humidity ranges from 60% to 90%. Most people’s homes have humidity of about 30%. Air conditioners and heaters reduce humidity even more. SInce orchids get a lot of their moisture from the air, it is very important that we provide this to them. There are many ways to easily provide your orchids with humid conditions:

  • Place the orchid near the kitchen sink or bathroom shower.
  • Purchase a humidifier and place it near the orchid plant
  • Fill a tray with water and gravel and place the orchid pot on top of it (Make sure the orchid plant rests on the gravel and is not touching the water!)

3. Don’t over water

Water your orchids thoroughly each time, so that all of the bark or moss gets wet. Make sure the water is allowed to flow through the pot and out the bottom freely. Water your orchids with filtered water that does not contain any salt: this is very important since salt is toxic to orchids. Once you’ve watered it well, leave it alone for awhile -even up to a week. Orchids don’t need a lot of water. If your orchid’s roots are plump and white with green tips, you know you’re doing the right thing.

4. Give your orchid the right amount of light

Too much light (and heat) will burn an orchid’s leaves. Not enough light will result in weak growth and no blooms. Imagine really strong sunlight filtered through leaves in a forest: that is the kind of light that is best for orchids. Place them so that they receive a lot of light through a window, but not so close to the window that they will get burned. You may need to experiment. Indoors, it is most likely that an orchid will die because of insufficient light rather than too much.


Houseplant basics

July 20th, 2009

There are two key factors involved in raising healthy house plants:

  1. Water
  2. Light

1. The main reason that house plants die is from being over-watered.

The soil in the pot should have the chance to thoroughly dry in between waterings. If the plant is perepetually soggy, it can cause rotting, fungus and disease.

The best trick to keep from overwatering your plants is to stick your finger in the soil up to about your knuckle and feel for moisture. If the soil sticks to your finger, it is still too wet to be watered again. If the soil falls like dust off your finger, it is ready to be watered. Most house plants don’t need to be watered more than twice a week.

Another problem people have with watering their plants is that they water too little at a time. Ideally, every bit of soil should get moisture during watering. If you put only a small amount of water each time, only the top layer of soil is being thoroughly moistened. This encourages shallow root growth, since the majority of roots needing water are deep toward the bottom of the pot.

In Sum: water your plants thoroughly and not too often.

2.The second most common reason that houseplants die is that they don’t get enough light.

Many plants that are suitable for the indoors are plants that, in nature, grow in rainforest undergrowth. This means they are used to intense, highly filtered light. Light through a window can be a very good substitiute for the light these plants are used to. You will have best results if you place the plant where it receives strong light through the window, without being right next to the window, since it can get too hot there sometimes.

Other House Plants


July 20th, 2009

Growing ferns can be tricky, but here are some guidelines you can follow:

  1. Planting medium
  2. Air Humidity
  3. Water
  4. Light

1. Choose the right plant medium

Ferns like a potting mix that is well drained and full of organic matter. This can include leaf mold, charcoal, peat moss and potting soil. It is also helpful to pot the fern in a clay pot or other pot that is well drained.

2. Pay attention to the air in your home

For ferns to grow to their optimum potential, they need 2 conditions to be met

1) Cooler temperatures

2) High Humidity

Ferns grow in nature usually in crevices of the forest floor. These places are humid and cool. Make sure your fern isn’t right next to a really hot window, but instead is receiving genlte, filtered light. Ferns don’t like to get too hot, so keep them away from heaters and stoves. Ferns like a lot of humidity. You can creat this in several ways.

  • Place the fern near a kitchen sink or bathroom shower.
  • Place a humidifier near the fern plant
  • Fill a tray with water and gravel and place the fern pot on top of it.

3. Don’t over water

Water your ferns thoroughly each time, so that all of the soil or moss gets wet. Most ferns like to have the soil moist at all times, but you can rot the roots if you keep the soil perpetually wet. It can dry out between waterings.

4. Give your fern the right amount of light

Too much light (and heat) will burn an fern’s leaves. Not enough light will result in weak growth. Imagine really strong sunlight filtered through leaves in a forest: that is the kind of light that is best for ferns. Place them so that they receive a lot of light through a window, but not so close to the window that they will get burned. You may need to experiment.


House Plants

July 18th, 2009

House plants make our homes feel healthy and alive. Keeping house plants indoors provides us with oxygen, cleaner air and peaceful quite company. While we enjoy their presence, it is also our responsibility to ensure that our homes provide the right kind of habitat to the house plants, especially tropical house plants. Tropical house plants are often native to places where growing conditions are very different than the conditions inside a house. Therefore, it is important to research what the individual needs of the house plants are. We choose to bring plants into our houses in order to make our houses more enjoyable places, but sometimes we kill those plants without understanding what we did wrong. It can be frustrating and even painful to watch a plant die. This site is a resource for you to get the information you need to keep your house plants living!

There are two main factors that people get wrong in taking care of their house plants: water and light. With tropical house plants, it is a good idea for us to imagine their natural environment and try to recreate it. What most people do wrong is give their house plants too much water and too little light.

Detailed information is coming soon to this site about each plant species and its natural environment. In addition, there will be tips on how to simulate it, thus enabling you to keep your house plants alive and thriving. At the moment, you will find useful information on several types of tropical house plants: getting an idea of how much water they like to drink and how much light they like to receive. You can click on the pages below to get more detailed information about how to grow orchids, ferns and bromeliads. The plant care basics page is a good place to start: it contains information that is relevant to all tropical house plants.

Please keep checking this site as more and more specific information is added. Please feel free to send questions and comments at info@livinghouseplants.com