Wordless Wednesday–The Promise of Summer


I bought this plant in flower in February 2016. It was spectacular.

But as with any tropical plant– and my less than tropical-like home–I always wonder if I will be able to recreate the conditions it needs to re-bloom.

Happily in the case of this medinilla magnifica, I did manage to do something right. By summer,  this is what the flower should look like. 20160827_081202

Let’s hope this works!

Wordless Wednesday


Do you grow this plant?  You might be right in asking “which one?” because there are a jumble of plants in this photo.

I mean the one with the trifolate leaves and the tiny white flowers. It’s oxalis–but it’s not a pest like the tiny, clover-like weed with the little yellow flowers that grows in your lawns and flower beds.

This is a pretty ornamental.  They sell it this time of year as the “Shamrock Plant.”  It’s really a bulb.

But if you have the weedy type,  don’t be afraid to try this plant.  It is completely different.

House Plants That Clean the Air of Ammonia

Now this seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Many of you are saying, “But I don’t clean with ammonia, or use ammonia, so why do I need this?”

And I pray you need never know. But ammonia is not just a cleaning product, of course. It is also a by product of pet waste and human waste. And as someone who knows that pets are forever, I have had my share of sweet elderly dogs and can tell you first hand about how ammonia is a by-product of that.

So how to freshen the air after you have cleaned up the accidents that the poor pets (or elderly humans) can’t help? With plants, of course. (Just make sure to check out this chart, here, if you have pets that are likely to chew on plants so that you use the non-toxic ones!)

There are not a lot of plants that clean the air of ammonia–surprisingly, lilyturf grass (liriope spicata) is one that would be a non-toxic choice for pet owners (or those with young children). It is also a choice for low light situations.

Another good choice for low light situations is the Lady Palm (rhapsis excelsa). This one is going to be a little more finicky about humidity, however.

If toxicity is not a problem, our old friend the Peace Lily is a great choice and is tough as nails for low to intermediate light situations.

And if you have a sunny window, anthurium, often known as flame flower, is a great choice–but it too is toxic so be cautioned about that. They are often sold at the holidays and Valentine’s day because of their heart shaped red, pink or white flowers.

This concludes my series on house plants that clean the air. Next, let’s look at some garden trends for 2017!

Wordless Wednesday–Plants that Clean the Air and Need Medium Light

Last Wednesday, I talked about plants for low light situations that were good air cleaners. Today I’ll talk about plants for “medium” light situations–so filtered sun, or an east or west window, generally. Sometimes even a south window will do if that window is shaded by trees. You’ll know your light and your plants after awhile.

Although I don’t have any photos, all of the dracenas–which I seem to talk about incessantly–fit into this category. Dracenas don’t like my water, which is “hard” water, and I don’t have time to mess with leaving out a special container or watering with special water for them. But they are usually fairly easy care plants.

while orchid

Another good choice for these windows, although generally at my house I grow these plants in east windows are the phalaenopsis, or moth orchids. These generally grow and bloom just beautifully in an east window–and they are often in bloom most of the winter, which is a great thing!

Red Stem Aglaonema

The final plant that is a great plant for medium light situations is the Chinese evergreen.  I have photos of a red-leafed variety on the blog just about every Christmas season. I call it the “anti-poinsettia.” It makes a great house plant and it’s nice to know that it cleans the air as well.

House Plants that Clean the Air of Xylene and Toluene

On Friday, we finished the survey that NASA did of house plants that clean the air. But that’s not the end of the story. Other scientists have since expanded on that study and added other chemicals that they wanted to study, bringing to the final number 6 chemicals that house plants remove from the air.

This later group was studied BC and JD Wolverton. BC Wolverton was one of the principal investigators in the 1989 NASA study. You can find a great chart showing a list of all the plants studied, the chemicals they remediate, and whether they are toxic to pets, summarized here.

Why would you have xylene or toluene in your home or work space? These chemicals are primarily found in copiers, printers and beauty products–so most of us come in common with them in daily life.

And while I do not have a microgram comparison for these plants, some of the best plants for removing these chemicals (which appear to have been studied together) are as follows:

Spider plant, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo palm, dracena marginata, snake plant, florist mum–in other words, most of our old friends from our other studies. Interestingly enough, dendrobium and moth (phalaenopsis) orchids also seem to work well for this purpose.

So once again, there is a plant for just about everyone in this list if you are concerned about removing these very common chemicals from your home, work space–or home office!

House Plants That Clean the Air of Formaldehyde

So far we’ve looked at plants that clean the air of TCE and benzene. Today we’ll look at formaldehyde. Unlike the other two chemicals, formaldehyde is still readily present in most of our homes and work spaces despite our best efforts. It can be found in all sorts of things from insulation and particle board furniture to grocery bags, waxed paper, tissues and paper towels. It’s used as fire retardants in our clothing and our furniture and as wrinkle resistant treatments as well. It’s even used in the glues backing our rugs! It too is found in natural gas if you heat or cook with it. It’s used in make-up products and nail polish–it’s pretty much everywhere around us!

Luckily, lots of plants remediate formaldehyde (which I wish I had known back when I had to take labs in high school and college since it gives me a splitting headache!) But now that I do know, I know how to cope if the carpet is being changed out, for example–and it really works!

NASA found these plants to be the top 5 best for removing formaldehyde from the air:

Bamboo Palm was the winner this time–it removed a whopping 76,000 plus micrograms (mcg) from the air over a 24 hour period. No other plant even came close to that number.

Janet Craig dracena was the next best plant–it removed over 48,000 mcg from the air.

The snake plant (sansevieria) came in third in this group. It removed over 31,000 mcg from the air. This is a good choice because it can live in a variety of light settings.

Dracena marginata came in next, removing over 20,000 mcg from the air.

And the Peace Lily removed over 16,000 from the air.

All of these plants are readily available just about anywhere and will grow just about anywhere. Of them all, I think the palm is probably the most finicky, simply because it needs more humidity than the rest to look good. But otherwise these plants are intermediate to low light plants that would do well in most home or office settings–but not in full sun!

Wordless Wednesday–Plants that Clean the Air but Don’t Need a Lot of Light

I’ve been talking about plants that clean the air of specific chemicals. These posts have gone into detail about the best plants to remove certain chemicals, and at times even how much certain plants removed from the air. But what the posts don’t do is have photos of the plants or cultural requirements. So on the Wednesdays in between, I thought I would address some of those–because while these are all common plants that most folks can find just about anywhere, sometimes photos do help.

Today we’ll start with plants that can grow in dark corners, as I like to think of them. Most of these plants would do fine in northern exposures. Does that mean they won’t grow in other windows? No, of course not. But if a low light room or apartment is all you have, these are the plants for you!20160821_100803

You’ll hear a lot about snake plants (sansevieria) in the upcoming weeks. Here are a couple of mine growing not in a north window but in a west window. What does that say? Plants are adaptable. So while these plants can take dark corners, they don’t always have to be grown in them!

peace lily

You’ll hear a lot about the peace lily (spathyphyllum)too. When I lecture, I often say that these can grow in a closet. Not really, but almost. I have one of mine–this one in fact, on a landing in an eastern exposure. The other is in a room with a northwest exposure and it is way back from the window–at least 5 feet back in fact–and it still flowers. That’s what I mean about growing in a closet. This is one of the few plants I would ever put in a situation that dark.

Spider Plant

And then there’s this plant–the spider plant. If you’re old enough to remember the 70s, you probably had one of these. They’ve made a remarkable comeback. In the 70s, they were all green. Now they’re at least variegated. This one is hanging in a south window, if you can believe it. But I have the same plant hanging in a north window and it does just fine.

As we go through the next few weeks talking about the air-cleaning plants, look out for these. You’ll see the snake plant and the peace lily several times. I think the spider plant is less common. But it’s nice to know that they’re great for air-cleaning, isn’t it?