Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Variegated Artillery Fern - 'Mini' plants for Miniature Gardens

Variegated Artillery Fern

Tenth in a series,

Common name:  Variegated Artillery Fern

Botanical name:  Pilea microphylla variegata

Height:  6”                         Width:  4”

Why would you want it?

            It is a colorful foliage plant, perfect for Miniature Gardens. Of course, not a Fern  --- It has a lacy top and shoots its seeds giving the name -- Artillery Fern.  The variegated form does not shoot seeds.

What is its best feature?

            The pink and white variegation on a normally green plant gives the impression that it is flowering.

How would you grow it?

            It is a house plant that needs bright to indirect light.  Water when the soil is dry to prevent wilting.  Extreme dry will kill the plant.  It grows half as fast as the green form so it stays in bounds for Miniature Gardens.

What would you do with it in a Miniature Garden?

            Variegated artillery fern is perfect for a tree-form.  It can grow with a main stem like a tree trunk and form a branching head to make a canopy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What are the 'half-pints' doing?

Poinsettia 'Tapestry'

Story # 117,

            The ‘half-pint’ Poinsettias will be appearing soon at Longwood Garden’s Plant Shop for the third year.  The original concept was to offer a Poinsettia slightly bigger than the miniatures from Holtkamp’s’ Greenhouse.

            Customers seem to like the idea of a small plant for small spaces.  We have many of the novelty colors, like ‘Marble’, ‘Monet’, ‘Winter Rose’, ‘Ice Punch’ and ‘Strawberries N Cream’.

            Around Thanksgiving we can start selling ‘Tapestry’ ---- a variegated leaf with red flowers.  I’m told that we will not need full color.  You decide?
            A new red – ‘Advent Red’ is being watched to see if it will be the first to reach full color before Thanksgiving. 

                                                         Poinsettia 'Advent Red'

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Sinningia 'Stone's Yulia'
Story # 116,


            Today celebrates this blog on its 1 ½ year anniversary. I've read through some of the stories and still agree with most of them.

            The title ‘10+ things that you should know about Streptocarpus & Sinningias andother Specialty Plants’ has gone into 115 stories.  I've added other plant interests --- ‘Mini’ plants for Miniature Gardens and ‘Eyelash’ Begonias.

            Writing is hard but sticking to it is easy if it’s something that you’re interested in.

            Julia and Denny asked where the new stories were when I needed to be rejuvenated and didn’t write.  That was the best compliment.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie' culture

Sinningia 'Li'l Georgie'

Story # 115,

            Sinningia ‘Li’l Georgie’ is a micro mini Sinningia that is tougher than we ever though was possible.  This hybrid made by Jim Steuerlein is a breakthrough in durability beyond the obscure small species that are its parents (S. muscicola x S. concinna).

            So how to grow this little plant?

            Sinningias grow in very bright light in Brazil where all the species are found.  So ‘Li’l Georgie’ can be in a very sunny location as a houseplant ---- bright light to moderate light.  The problem with full sun as a houseplant is not the high light but the heat which can cook the plant.      
            Serious plant hobbyists grow plants on shelving under fluorescent lights so sufficient light is on longer an issue.


            Whatever room temperature you like to live with.
            60 F  -- 85 F  Normal
            50 F – 95 F  Extreme

            Water when the soil surface is dry.  Constantly wet or setting in water will rot the tuber.  Extremely dry will cause the top to shrivel up and damage growth.

Sinningias grow a tuber for survival when conditions are not ideal.  If the top of your plant dies back, do not throw it away.  The tuber will resprout.  Water sparingly until you see new growth.  Give bright light to keep the shoot compact and grow to reflower.  The plant tends to grow off the tuber which has shallow roots.

            Any dilute houseplant fertilizer used once a month will help healthy growth.  Too much fertilizer will burn the roots and kill the plant.  Too little fertilizer will prevent green leaves and reduce flowering.

            One of my original ‘Li’l Georgie’ has flowered nonstop for 2 ½ years in a North window.  The plant is no longer attractive but it proves that continuous flowering is possible.  It is on wick watering, so I don’t have to pay much attention to it.  It has never had fertilizer.  The plants in the greenhouse have very bright light and weekly fertilizer to give dark green growth and flowering.

            ‘Li’l Georgie’ will not seed itself so you need to manage the tuber for regrowth.  Even though it appears to be no mandatory dormancy period, if the top goes bad, it can regrow. 

            ‘Li’l Georgie’ can be maintained for years to give you continuous little purple flowers.

Lights on!

Lights on!

Story # 114, O T

            Why don’t cars always have headlights on?

            It’s been known for years that headlights on in the daytime decrease accidents.  The driver doesn’t need them to see; ---- the lights are for other drivers to see you.

            No research or further study is needed.  Just do it.  All that is needed is for one brave car manufacturer to make ‘lights on’ the default and others will follow.

            Of course, there will be ‘idiots’ who won’t want to have their lights on, so there will be a switch to change the default to ‘Off’

            Can’t we just agree that it makes sense and do it.

            Lights on!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

'Eyelash' Begonias from tissue culture?

Table Top Garden with Begonia 'Tiger Kitten'

Story # 113,

‘Eyelash’ Begonias from tissue culture.

                Begonias  -- ‘Rex’ and ‘Eyelash’ --  can be easily propagated from rooting leaf cuttings.  Crop time is about 3 months to get a clump of plantlets to pot into a 4” pot.  In 8 – 12 weeks you have a nice sized foliage plant for sale.

                Should tissue culture propagation be able to compete with leaf rooting?

                Technically, it’s possible.  The only two questions are:

1.        Can ‘Eyelash’ Begonias be produced by tissue culture for less cost than leaf propagation?
2.       Will the tissue culture plantlets be multi-crowned and husky to compete with good leaf starts?

Nobody knows.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The start of the NO mildew campaign!

Table Top Garden with Begonia 'River Nile'

Story # 112,

The start of the NO mildew campaign!

            Begonias are a major plant category.  ‘Rex’ Begonias are very colorful and millions are sold as houseplants and for combination planters in the Summer.  Several major propagators feed the system with an assortment of ‘Rex’ with multicolored leaves.

            What’s the catch?  They will get mildew that makes them ugly and to the extreme --- kills the plant.

            What’s the answer?  Commercial growers spray fungicide and get the ‘Rex’ Begonias through to the retailers.  Unless the homeowner treats for mildew or just gets lucky, all ‘Rex’ Begonias will get mildew.

            The secret that has been known for 50 years is that rhizomatous ‘Eyelash’ Begonias are immune and do not get mildew.

            Why have growers ignored this fact?

            ‘Eyelash’ Begonias are not as showy as ‘Rex’.

            But what has changed is that now there are a complete range of colors and leaf sizes to compete with ‘Rex’

            We have greens in ‘River Nile’ and ‘Party Dress,  yellows in ‘Snoopy’ and ‘Golden Lime’, black in ‘Black Truffles’ and bronze in ‘Marmaduke’ and ‘Dr Block’.
            There are tiny varieties for Miniature Gardens like ‘Little Darling’.

            A new addition, ‘Angel Glow’, gives us a reddish type.  No one will confuse it with the brilliant red ---- ‘Rex’ ‘Red Heart’.  But ‘Angel Glow is red enough.

            If you want a Begonia grown for its interesting colorful leaves that will not get mildew, ask for rhizomatous ‘Eyelash’ Begonias.

            ‘Rex’ gets mildew.  ‘Eyelash’ doesn’t.

            Lead the NO mildew campaign!