Showing posts with label indoor plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indoor plants. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Reviewing The Care Of Living Stone Flowers or Lithops As Houseplants

My Little Living Stone Plant

I bought a living stone flower or Lithop a few months ago and it is so beautiful! I used to grow these as a child from little plants and from seeds, but most of my adult life since I got my own garden has concentrated on outdoor gardening.

However last winter and this winter I have felt frustrated at not being able to get out in the garden due to poor weather conditions and leaned more towards learning about houseplants -so that I can still garden - even in winter  :)

I now love my houseplants as much as my outdoor plants. I take great joy in seeing them grow and I care for and propagate them. However, a return to living stones is a new venture for me. So I am relearning about these wonderful, beautiful, funny little plants.


Lithops Plant

Why Are Lithops Called Living Stones?

The name  Lithops is derived from the Ancient Greek λίθος (lithos), "stone," and ὄψ (ops), meaning "face". As a child, I always knew them as Living Stone Flowers, because well they look like little stones!

They are amazing to me as they have developed a clever strategy of looking like stones in their natural environment of Southern Africa in order to not be eaten by the local wildlife!

They can be hard to see in their native environment as they disguise themselves so effectively which allows this very vulnerable plant, with no defenses to survive and thrive. I find this fascinating and clever! 


Growing Conditions For Lithrops

Where living stones grow in the wild in South Africa they receive very little rainfall, often less than two inches a month across the whole year. 

This is really important to know because as gardeners we must try to emulate the same or similar conditions a plant would have had in its natural environment. This for me means curbing my natural urge to get out the watering can and being extremely careful not to overwater!   

For plants I grow in the garden I always try to grow Right Plant, Right Place, meaning to grow plants that will be happy in my garden conditions and not forcing an acid-loving plant in an alkaline situation or a bog plant in a dry situation.

However, when it comes to houseplants they can never be in a truly natural environment, so we must create the correct environment and give them all they need.  

  

Caring For Lithrops 

So what does this mean for us trying to grow and appreciate these fascinating little plants? Here are some aspects to bear in mind.

They do seem to be happier in the company of other Lithops which is of course how they would grow in the wild, so it is best to build up a nice group of them in a container.  

The fact they need very low watering requirements does not mean we do not need to water at all. Drought will also hurt these little plants. They simply need a correct watering regime to keep them happy. 

Living Stone Flowers must above all else have free-draining soil. This means soil that when you water it will pour through drainage holes quickly and not get heavy, soggy or waterlogged.  

You can buy special soil for Lithops which will give it the perfect conditions for growing, or if you can't get that, mix up the compost you have with lots of sand and grit.

I like to top dress with vermiculite or perlite so the leaves do not get splashed with soil. It suppresses weeds, assists drainage and looks good. 

The plant must never be in standing water. So if you keep a saucer or container underneath please check that it is always completely dry. 

 Any potting on should be done around May but is only necessary if the plant is overcrowded.  Otherwise, it is best to leave it alone.

  


Living Stones In Sun And Shade

These little plants require at least five hours of direct but not scorching sunlight each day if possible. Sometimes in my climate in autumn and winter, this is a struggle. However, my little one has survived the winter on much less sunlight than that! 

The best conditions are sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. So if you have a position in your home like that it's ideal. Otherwise, if you keep Lithops in a sunny position all day, do provide extra shade in the afternoon. This can be as basic as a piece of folded cardboard, or maybe a drinks umbrella if you like a fun element!

These little plants, just like us can be badly sunburned! Think of yourself sitting in the scorching sun unable to move out the way. It is unbearable for these little plants and can be devastating.

Too much shade is always preferable to too much sun. You will need to monitor yours while you check the correct position in your house. If you ever see whitish scar tissue this is a serious issue and the plant may die. You must get it out of the sun as soon as possible for any chance of recovery. 


Watering Lithrops

If we water Lithrops like many other house plants we will undoubtedly kill it quite quickly. We have to remember in the wild natural conditions it receives a minute amount of rainfall and is uniquely adapted to that. Getting the watering right is key to the well-being of this plant. 

So all they require is very light watering in late Spring allowing the soil to dry out totally in between. During the summer we do not need to water at all. 

By early autumn/fall when they begin growth again, we can start doing deep watering allowing the water to drain right through and for the soil to dry completely in-between times. 

Watering over winter is minimal, maybe a very light misting once a month.  

When watering I now use a small watering can, or a mister is very good. In fact, using a mister will help those of us who are tempted to overwater! You will see in the photo below that one leaf has been damaged through my overzealous watering, which I remedied very quickly. 

If in doubt always water less than you think you should.   


A little too much watering left one Lithops leaf damaged

The Question of Lithrop Flowers.

We need to be patient gardeners for stone flowers. The plant may need to be mature before it will flower. 

I love my little plant as it is and flowers are a bonus, but if you are eager for flowers right now do ask how old the plant is when you buy. 

If you must have flowers it might be an idea to buy when it is in flower so you can be certain. To encourage flowering I have learned we should add a diluted cactus fertilizer in spring when we start watering again.

 

Growing Lithops From Seed  

Online you may find it easier to buy Lithops in the form of seeds. It is amazing to watch them grow into little plants. You will need to be very patient though. If you buy from a good seller then you should expect most but maybe not all of the seeds to germinate and you will need to take care of them and follow the instructions carefully.   

The seeds are really tiny, even dust like in some cases so do not be disappointed. Handle carefully with a toothpick or tweezers and plant ideally in a very sandy-based, light,  medium. This should be kept just moist but not damp for several months as the seeds germinate into tiny plants. The caution against overwatering still stands. 

Germination should in general take one to three weeks. I take extreme joy in seeing any seeds germinate into those tiny shoots. When it is a plant like a Lithops it is even more exciting!! Once they are little plants you will be so proud! 

There is no doubt that growing from seed requires more skill, attention and patience than buying a full-grown plant. However, anyone can do this and if you love to grow plants this can be a great way to have more mini plants and the pleasure of knowing them from day one.  

If you are interested in learning more about Lithops there are some good and interesting books on the subject.             



Living With Lithops as A Houseplant

I only have one little Lithrop so far in a small pot but I am keen to build up my collection with a mix of seeds and young plants and I feel in a year or two I will have a wonderful display! 

I love them best when there is a group of Lithops in a shallow bowl at waist height or above which shows them off at their best and allows us to get close to them. I love the look of them and they are so soft to the touch as well. Now people are never struggling to find a gift for me! 

Lithops are perfect little plants, very little trouble really but they do require just enough garden know-how and the willingness to learn and experiment a little with them to make you feel you are a gardener!

Stone flowers are great plants if you do not have much space inside or do not like large houseplants or simply as a fascinating unusual addition to your houseplant collection. From my research, the best online sellers seem to sell out quickly as Lithops are becoming increasingly popular. So do look around and keep checking back if they have sold out.  

If you do not have any outside space they are perfect little plants to enable you to develop quite a collection and satisfy your need for a garden and exercise your skills as a gardener. I am certainly still learning a lot about them!  I hope if you decide Lithops are interesting, you too enjoy your little "stone flowers".


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Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Spider Plant As A Houseplant Reviewed

 

Spider Plant With Spiderlings

I have grown up with spider plants or Chlorophytum in the house for as long as I can remember. My Mum always had at least six spider plants in the house all with a myriad of little baby spider plants hanging from the parent in glorious abundance. 

My Mum was a true master of caring for houseplants so that they grew healthy and abundant. All I knew as a child was that they were pretty and indestructible! 


Spider Plants In Our Home

Now I have six spider plants in our home, one in the bathroom, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, two in the dining room/study and one in the kitchen! I could have many more and probably will over time. In the meantime, I give away the little baby spiderettes potted up as gifts.

All mine are variegated, though you can buy all green ones as well. Four of mine are young plants taken from the parent so they do not have any offspring yet. I think they really brighten up a room!

Two are more mature and have beautiful little spider plants or spiderettes hanging down from the main plant. You may need to wait a while for the plant to mature enough to have offspring and a little patience will reward. Once you have a mature spider plant you will always have more! 

 

Mature Spider Plant With Many Spiderlings!

Where To Site Spider Plants.

As when I was a child these plants remain pretty indestructible! Ideally, they like well-drained soil and light but not too sunny position. They do prefer a slightly cooler environment, so I never place a spider plant in direct sunlight on a sunny windowsill or directly above a radiator.

In winter with the central heating on it can be a little more difficult to keep them cool, but as long as they are not directly on top of the radiator or heat source they seem to cope. They are the easiest and most forgiving plants I have ever looked after. 

If any of the leaves go brown I just gently pull them out and if the tip of the leaves only goes brown I just snip off with a pair of scissors. 


Young Spider Plant 

Watering And Feeding Spider Plants

They do need watering well but also like to dry out between waterings. I have a tendency to overwater but this can lead to soggy roots and make them very sick.

If this happens I have found the best thing to do is to take the plant out of the pot, allow it to dry out a little, then repot in fresh dry soil, then water normally, meaning lightly. All mine recovered this way but you do need to catch it early or the plant will be sick.  

The best thing is not to overwater in the first place and always let the soil dry so it is just slightly moist in between waterings. 

The opposite issue is if they get too dry. If this happens you will see them visibly droop and the leaves will start to go yellow and then brown.

 This is easily remedied by giving them a light watering over several days. It may also be advisable to mist them now and again if you know the atmosphere in your home is dry.

If they get to this stage of drought, it is better in my experience not to give them a big drink all at once as it seems to overwhelm them a bit, rather just a small drink to begin.

Then simply pull or trim off any dried leaves and the spider plant will look good as new.  You will soon see them perk up again! 

So with normal care, they respond to watering only when necessary, allowing any excess to drain off and then leaving it until the top of the soil feels dry before we water again. 

We can feed spider plants but they do not need it very often. Mine get a feed perhaps once or twice a month, only in the growing season of spring and summer when I remember and they are fine with that. Any general houseplant feed will do in either liquid or granular form. I give them a far weaker solution than is recommended on the bottle as too much feeding can result in browning of the leaf tips. There is no need to feed in Autumn and Winter. 

I only repot when the original pot has become obviously overcrowded. You will either be able to see the roots on the surface or bursting out of the bottom of the pot, or it will be so congested it becomes tricky to water them.  Then it's time to just pot on into the next size pot into compost that will drain well. This should only be necessary every two to three years.


 


How To Propagate Spiderettes!

I do love the name Spiderettes! Usually in spring when daylight hours increase they start out as tiny white flowers on the parent plant and then develop into a fascinating mini spider plant attached to the parent with a long stem. They can remain like this as they grow bigger for a long time and do look beautiful. 

However, I have found it best to propagate at least some of them before they get too large or too many of them and drag the parent plant down. The one in the first photograph now has a lot of young and really needs some spiderettes propagating this Spring. 

Propagation is so easy. Simply prepare a pot with well-drained soil and without detaching the spiderette from the parent, lower the spiderette roots into the soil, cover and keep watered. Once you see growth and roots developing well, you can snip the long cord from the parent. You can make so many new spider plants by this method! 

Alternatively, if when still attached to the parent, there are already good strong roots visible on the spiderette, you can snip it from the parent plant and pot on by itself. 

When spider plants are very young they have a more upright habit but as they mature they tend to hang down and so I like to place them on a bookshelf, cupboard or shelf so that they and their spiderettes can show off to their full glory.  

They also look great placed in lovely natural macrame baskets that can be hung in the house. This can make them look even more special. 

I like the white macrame baskets which make them stand out and pick up on the white variegation of the long leaves. This is a lovely selection of macrame baskets to suit many hanging houseplants and spider plants would love them. 

 

 


If you don't like macrame then a hanging pot like these  La Jolie Muse Planters in a speckled white colour is lovely to pick up on the white stripes in the spider plant leaves and will look modern and beautiful.

They are lightweight enough made of recyclable plastic and stone powder to hang with a beautiful spider plant inside. These planters come with drainage holes and a water reservoir to ensure that the plants get what they need. 


 


Spider Plants Are Good For Us! 

Spider plants are well known to be a cleanser of the air inside our homes.  It is a great idea to have one in every room. Our homes have more pollutants and chemicals than are good for us from everyday cleaning products to our technology.

Many of us do not open windows and ventilate homes enough especially when it is cold in winter and central heating can dry out the air. 

I especially like to have a spider plant in the bedroom and also in any room where we use technology. They are perfect for a home office.

Houseplants are fantastic at absorbing carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen and some are very good at cleansing the air. Spider plants have been shown in tests by NASA to be able to clean formaldehyde for the air. Tests were conducted under sealed conditions and those tests showed that one plant per 100 square feet would be required.

However, in the less controlled and much more changeable environment of our homes, this may be a bit different. I think if we have a spider plant per room it can do no harm and only help towards a healthier environment for us.   

Spider Plants are a great house plant gift for anyone starting out in their new home or for a student going to University. They cope admirably with conditions that are not quite optimal for them and can amazingly survive a degree of neglect. 


 Young Spider Plant With A Small Spiderling


They are one of the few plants I do not worry about when I go on a two week holiday and ours were all perfectly fine when we went away for a month once. 

I just watered them well in the weeks beforehand and left them in a shady spot.

If you would like pretty, low maintenance, evergreen and interesting all-year-round houseplant that is healthy for us and looks especially good where it can cascade down from a high surface, or in a hanging basket, then spider plants are well worth considering. 


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