Plant of the Month – Succulents Indoors

In what other plant group can you find such an assortment of foliage shapes from green globes to finger-like forms to tree types? The patterns and colors of leaves or stems are amazingly varied, and the often-spectacular flowers; some like water lilies or daisies; appear in striking contrast to the fascinating plants.  Succulents Indoors has got to be one of the most unique plant families that can create spectacular arrangements your guest will without a doubt “oooooow” and “ahhhhhh” over.

Many succulent plants come from the Tropics and Subtropics such as semi-deserts and high deserts, so they have a tolerance for surviving longer in dry conditions and little soil. This makes them low-maintenance, tolerant and easy to care for, perfect for the stress a home or office can take on a plant!  Succulents like bright indirect light indoors, if exposed to direct light they can sometimes sunburn.   Water these gems thoroughly, but let the soil completely dry before watering again.  Avoid soils with high organic content and stick with a fast-draining cactus mix.

There are so many uses for such a large family of plants from the Cactaceae Plant Family.  But as always, I have to give my two cents and let you know my personal favorite use of Succulents Indoors is in orchid arrangements.  They make the perfect pair not only visually, but also their light and water requirements are surprisingly similar.  A delicate Phalaenopsis (Moth) Orchid planted with trailing and rosette-formed succulents at the base of it’s graceful stem keep your eyes in a constant state of attention.  You can match the rainbow of colors that an orchid comes in with the equally colorful foliage of the succulents or create a sophisticated arrangement with a simple white orchid and succulents in various shades of green.   Mixing and matching is part of the fun and the possibilities are endless.

Other great ideas for Succulents Indoors:

  • Dish gardens – create a miniature landscape of texture and form.
  • Low table arrangements – Pick 1 variety of succulent and repeat it in small individual containers or a long thin container to give a modern appearance.
  • The Vintage Look – Use soup cans or mason jars as containers for succulents and it will give your plants a rustic look.
  • Modern Succulents – Plant succulents in a clear glass vase, it can be short or tall, but be sure to fill the vase with some charcoal at the bottom and sand or small pebbles at the top with soil in between.
  • The Finishing Touchdon’t forget to top-dressed your creation with large or small stones, river pebbles, designer glass pieces (upscale nurseries carry this in various colors), black, white or colored sand, lava rocks or sea-shells for a beach feel (it’s amazing how much succulents looks like coral and sea anemones).

Plant of the Month – Chamaedorea plumosa ‘Baby Queen Palm’

Baby Queen2Chamaedorea plumosa ‘Baby Queen Palm’ is perhaps one of the best new palm introduction for it versatility and appearance.  A moderately fast growing palm, with a vertical profile ideal for today’s space-constrained interior environment.  Also, an exceptional exterior palm for Southern California, not overcrowding or overgrowing our ever-common world of smaller yards.

Chamaedorea Plumosa, is its real name but better known as ‘Baby Queen Palm’ has fronds like a queen palm, but with a truck that looks like a bamboo! Using this palmBabyQueenPamExterior indoors, like any palm, requires a high light area near a window or skylight.  It prefers not to get too much heat and would definitely do better in a sub-irrigation container.

You will not seem design-challenged when adopting the Chamaedorea Plumosa into your home/office.  It makes a perfect specimen plant in a Modern, Asian or Tropical Designed home or office. Although, even more stunning would a grouping of these plants look as a loose screen to divide a room!  Just be sure you have tall ceilings because Baby Queen Palms can grow up to 15’ in their life, leaving their gorgeous trunks exposed down below.

Plant of the Month – Rhapis humilis

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rhapis-humilis-in-potResembling it’s not so distant and more common cousin  Rhapis excelsa, this Slender Lady Palm has thinner stems and slightly drooping leaf segments that make for a more graceful appearance.  The dark green leaves of Rhapis humilis are about the same size as R. excelsa, but are more divided and split into about twelve leaflets per leaf.  The thin stems are wrapped with light brown fiber and shoot up from the soil like bamboo, giving R. humilis an elegant and somewhat far east look.

Slender Lady Palm is thought to be a native to China, but has completely become extinct fromrhapis-humilis-leaves living in the wild and only now survives by propagation of a single male plant that survived.  As a result, every plant in the world is derived from a division or culture of this plant, making Rhapis humilis impossible to grow from seed.

Growing Rhapis humilis is similar to growing Rhapis excelsa.  They are both slow growing and enjoy well drained soil that is moist but not soggy.  They need bright light, but like any palm will deteriorate if the air is too dry and stagnate.  R. humilis is not as easy to locate as R. excelsa or as available in large specimen sizes.  Being such a rare beauty in the interior industry, I have mostly seen them in 5 or 7 gallon containers growing around 4-6 feet tall and not more than 3 feet wide.

rhapis_humilisSlender Lady Palm is quite a looker and used as a screen or a stand-alone specimen plant in your abode you most definitely will not be disappointed.   I would recommend a topdressing of stones, glass or mood moss to really show off how stunning this plant can be.

Plant of the Month – Chlorophytum Amaniense ‘Fire Flash’ (aka Orange Spider Plant)

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Orange Spider PlantHalloween being my favorite holiday and just around the corner, I felt it my duty to find a plant that I not only love, but could also match this spooky time of the year.  What better plant than, an Orange Spider Plant.  This exotic beauty is relatively new to the interior plant world coming into the US in the late 90’s, but not really seen mainstream (yet).  It’s unfortunate because other than it having a spooky name, Chlorophytum ‘Fire Flash’ (aka Orange Spider Plant) is really a wonderful and hardy little gem.

Chlorophtum ‘Fire Flash’ was love at first sight for me.  In fabulous contrast with a rosette of broad green foliage is stunning orangey (coral) hues of the petioles and leaf midribs, that appear to be glowing centrally beneath, hence the name ‘Fire Flash’.  These colors Orange Spider Plant 2remain all year round and ‘Fire Flash’ does great indoors as long as it has medium-bright indirect light.  Only growing up to 12 inches I’ve mostly seen ‘Fire Flash’ available in 4” and 6” containers but becoming increasingly more available.  Although, I’d recommend that when you spot these little plants on the shelves, you should grab them up quick because they will not sit around for long.

Once you have a Chlorophytum ‘Fire Flash’ in your possession, keep the soil moist without over watering it.  ‘Fire Flash’ is the distant cousin of the well-known Chlorophytum Comosum ‘Spider Plant’ and although you can’t see much of a resemblance from the surface, they both have a drought tolerant root structure with swollen water-storing nodules.  ‘Fire Flash’ seems to resist most insects and diseases, but can be susceptible to browning foliage or spots caused by fluoridated water.  To avoid this, use rain or bottled water from time to time to flush the soil.  Occasionally you will spot small unattractive white flowers emerging from the center of the plant.   It’s best to remove this so that the plants energy remains in the leaves and not in seed production.

Orange Spider Plant 3Some other names you may find this plant listed as:  Chlorophytum orchidastrum, Chlorophytum amaniense, Chlorophytum amaniense ‘Fire Flash’, Chlorophytum orchidantheroides, Chlorophytum filipendulum amaniense or simply Chlorophytum ‘Fire Flash’. Then there is the list of common names: Fire Flash, Mandarin Plant, Green Orange, Tangerine, Fire Glory and Sierra Leone Lily.  There may even be more for all I know, but giving plants multiple names seems to be what horticulturists do for fun just to confuse the public.   It drives me crazy!

Now go get yourself an Orange Spider Plant, stick it in a black pot, buy a plastic black widow spider to place on a leaf and TA-DA! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Plant of the Month – Anthurium Otazu

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Anthurium-OTAZUKnown commonly as the Flamingo Flower, Anthurium ‘Otazu’ is native to Colombia and Ecuador, the newest cultivar of the Anthurium andraeanum family.  What makes this elegant gem a stand out plant is it’s almost black, dark burgundy flowers that command attention with their tall petioles rising above their leaves.  These naturally glossy flowers have a white spadix with yellow tip that contrasts with the deepening flower color as they age.

Anthurium flowers are often used in tropical bouquets as cut flowers because of their long lasting color, but until I started maintaining interior plants, I hadn’t realized what an easy plant they can be to grow in containers.  To care for these evergreen perennials, they need little care other than giving them high indirect light indoors, a warm environment, and a well draining soil with moderate moisture.  Since they thrive in a tropical environment and actually live as epiphytes in the wild, I treat them as I would an Orchid (see our Tips for Easy Orchid Care).  But, if you are reading this and thinking, “Orchids are not that easy to grow.”  Well, I agree and disagree….I think Orchids are easy to grown given the proper environment, what’s hard is making them re-bloom!  Anthuriums however seem to re-bloom on their own during the warm months and in Southern California we have a lot of those….so imagine that, a plant with gorgeous glossy leaves and long lasting flowers most of the year!!  You can’t get much better.

You can find Anthurium andraeanums in a variety of colors such as, Purple, White, Pink, Orange-Red, Red, Green, Peach and now Black-Red or Blood-Red if you want to sound dramatic.

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