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Ah, June. Probably my least favorite month in Phoenix. 106 degrees today, 110 all next week. Last year, it got up to 120 degrees in June. On my thermometer outside, I remember that the red went all the way to the top and looked like it wanted to explode!

Haha, still wouldn’t trade it for humidity.

I spend every day thinking about what will grow in this type of heat. Everyone knows Vincas, of course, and sweet potato vines. But lots of plants can take the heat.

My current favorite? Portulaca. (In my head, it’s a little song, Port-u-la-CA, Port-u-la-CA.) Known as moss rose, or desert rose.

I’ve loved Portulaca for many years. Traditionally, you would have a mix, so pink flowers and yellow flowers and orange flowers – all on one plant. Lately, I’ve been using a lot of white Portulaca for borders and for spillers in certain containers. Whether it’s multi-colored or single-colored, Portulaca rarely disappoints.

So I already loved the plant, right? Then some breeders went out and made me fall in love with it all over again!!!

Look at this!

Portulaca lemon twist

How stinkin’ adorable is that flower? White with yellow stripes. I can hardly stand it!

It’s Colorblast Lemon Twist Portulaca. I ordered some 4″ plants from Armstrong Growers. It looks like patented it (maybe?).

The tag says, “Full sun. Features: Vibrant flowers bloom on ground-hugging plants with thick, succulent foliage. Tolerates heat and dry soils. Uses: Excellent as a seasonal ground cover, in rock gardens, or in containers.”

Portulaca Lemon Twist

“Grows best in full sun. Grows 4-12″ (10-30 cm) tall, space 8-10″ (20-25 cm) apart, water weekly during dry spells.”

Grows best in full sun? In Phoenix? Yes, please! I’ll take a thousand!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Double cuteness

Mom, Amy and I were shopping at anthropologie in ABQ Uptown yesterday when we saw this badass succulent display planter:

The store often has great plants for display (which they get from Osuna Nursery, I asked) but these succulent concrete block planters are brilliant.

Bravo, awesome designer person from anthro, bravo!

“What’s in a name?”

I recently met a woman named Elizabeth, who told me that when she was a kid, she wished that her name was Liza. I laughed and told her that when I was a kid, I wished for a “normal” name that people wouldn’t make fun of or mispronounce.

She got me thinking about the importance of names.

When it comes to the names of plants, I’ve been making a concerted effort to identify plants by their proper names.

It’s not easy. Consider Exhibit A:

You would think that if a plant comes with a tag, that tag would be accurate. You would be wrong. Here’s what an Echeveria hybrid, ‘Electric Glo’™ actually looks like:

The image above came from the Proven Winners website, they own the trademark for the hybrid. Their plant has much more pronounced ridging around the edge of the leaves than mine. And mine has fat, flat leaves, not curled skinny ones like theirs.

The tag that came with the plant was not a Proven Winners tag, it had the name of the local nursery on the other side. Did it come to the nursery from Proven Winners, then an employee switched the tags? Or did it come from another grower who simply took the name?

I’ll see if I can find out, but I’m not optimistic about my chances of success. Recently, I was at a different local nursery and a cute little Sedum caught my eye. I asked an employee, who turned out to be the buyer for the nursery, what its name was, and she told me she didn’t know. She said she asked the grower, who’s here in New Mexico, but he didn’t know either.

Whaaaaaaat? The grower doesn’t know what he’s growing?

She said it drives her nuts – he hardly ever knows the names of the plants he sells them. She’s been pressing her boss to switch growers because of it.

Names are important, they define us.

I may never know the name of this Echeveria, but I’ll keep trying. I know I’ll go back to the nursery where I got her and at least let them know of the mislabeling.

And in the meantime, I’m calling her Mary.

I’ll be back manana, I hope to see you here.

Hi bees, and happy Thursday!

Ah, living pieces of art. I love everything about them. Especially making them. Especially if I can recycle otherwise worthless items, like this weird wire basket:

Occasionally I like to peruse our local thrift stores in search of potential plant containers. The price tag on this says $1.99 but it ended up costing only 50 cents (score!).

I was drawn to the basket because it’s metal, so I knew it would hold up fine in my garden during the summer. It’s also fairly deep, which makes up for its otherwise petite size. The mesh would make hanging and watering of the planter easy.

I started out lining the basket with coir:

I also used moss around the edges, which serves to help hold the plants in place, and also for decoration:

A porous potting soil mixture goes into the middle – I packed a lot in there.

With pieces of living art, there will come a time (years later) when the plants outgrow the container. Because this container is so small, packing in extra dirt buys me a little extra time. It also helps to get the soil wet so you can pack in more.

In case you’re wondering why the soil mix looks dry, I didn’t bother to wet the soil for this particular container garden:

Placing the plants is the best part. I had several small succulents that I thought would get along well in the same container. Their needs (Echeverias and Sedum) aren’t exactly the same, but close enough that I believe I can train them to thrive.

I tucked coir around each plant to hold it in place:

Coir alone won’t hold the succulents in place if I want to hang this container now. But that’s ok, because I plan on keeping the container horizontal for a few months until the plants roots are strong enough to hold themselves vertically.

It’s not a lot of room for the plants to grow and spread, but so what – it’s pretty!

I propped it against the wall so you can get an idea of how it will look vertically:

Wouldn’t this container look adorable hanging in, say, the kitchen?

Creating succulent gardens is not only therapeutic, but it’s a great craft to do with kids…it’s fun and you can make it as easy or as complicated as you want. I urge you to experiment on your own and see what magical gardens you can create. Please let me know if you make one of your own!

I’ll be back manana with an all new Ask the Experts panel. You still have time to guess last week’s plant puzzler if you haven’t done so already. You can do that by leaving a comment here. The prizes may be imaginary, but the glory of winning is oh-so-real.

Hope to see you back here.

Congratulations, you were smart enough to buy a houseplant during the winter sales at your local nursery. Oh, you weren’t? Well, you still have time – lots of local nurseries clear their stock this time of year.

Let’s say you did decide to welcome a new plant into your home. Now what? Most people’s first instinct is to repot the plant immediately.

That’s ok to do if the plant is obviously rootbound, or in a teeny tiny pot. Or if you have the time on your hands. But you shouldn’t have to hurry.

Consider this little guy:

There are actually two succulents in the container, an Aeonium and what I think may be a Sedeveria, a cross between Sedum and Echeveria. Because succulents hold water in their leaves, and usually have a shallow root system, they can survive just fine in a small pot for a few weeks or months.

I think some people buy a few plants at a time, then get overwhelmed trying to transplant them all at once. Instead of setting yourself up for failure like that, take your time. Transplant when you have the free time – don’t do it because you think the plant is in desperate need. Some plants actually like being rootbound. As long as you make sure they’re watered, they’ll be fine.

Indoor gardening should be relaxing, not stressful.

I recently got an Aeonium arborescens from Jericho Nursery for a dollar:

She was a little beat up – lots of crunchy leaves, as if she’d been thirsty. The reason I decided to transplant her was because I could tell she would be an enthusiast grower. If she could get that big in such a small container, imagine how she’d grow if she could stretch her “legs” a little.

In my years working with plants, I’ve found that a lot of people believe that repotting a plant is the solution to anything that’s wrong with the plant. That’s not true. The main reason to transplant a houseplant into a bigger container is to get the plant to grow bigger. But what if you have a Ficus tree and it’s already in a huge pot and hitting the ceiling? You don’t want it to get bigger. Instead of repotting it, you replenish its soil over time.

Everyone has their own methods of transplanting houseplants. I’ve more or less said all of this before in previous posts. But there may be people out there who are nervous to repot, so I’m going to walk you through it with the Aeonium, which I’m calling Annie.

How To Transplant a Succulent Houseplant

First, remove the current container:

Then you want to tickle the roots and open up that compacted soil:

By tickling the roots, I mean spread them out a little, gently, like you’re stretching their “legs” for them.

You want to pick a container that’s a little bigger than the plant’s former one, but don’t jump to a giant one.

For succulents, I recommend using a mixture of high-quality potting soil and perlite or vermiculite. For Annie, I used FoxFarm and perlite in a 6″ container:

Fill the container about 3/4 of the way full, plop the plant on top, then add more of the potting mixture, pressing it down to stabilize the plant.

You can dip the roots in a root stimulator before you plant, but I almost always forget to do that.

Some people say don’t water right away after repotting the plant, but I do. I like to drench the soil, actually.

That’s all there is to it – transplanting houseplants is pretty easy. Granted, Annie doesn’t have thorns, which makes the process a lot more pleasant.

Additional notes on transplanting: Moving a plant to a different container is stressful for the plant. So I try to do it during times of the year when the plant is chillin’. Fall and winter are good. Since I’m in the southwest, I can get away with transplanting plants outside in January. Obviously, if it’s freezing where you live, don’t take it outside to repot it, do that indoors. Also, some plants are extremely susceptible to heat. Dracaenas, (Corn plants, Janet Craigs, Dragon trees, Warneckiis) for example, will melt if you take them outdoors in the summer, and it only takes a few minutes in the sun.

I also don’t like to transplant a plant while it’s blooming or trying to bloom. I figure if it’s spending all that energy throwing up blooms, I should leave it alone. But I could be wrong – does anyone have an opinion on that?

Let me know if you have any questions about how or when to repot a plant.

I’ll be back manana with a brand new edition of Ask the Experts. You still have time to guess last week’s plant puzzler, until midnight MST time tonight, that’s 2am EST. If you look at Saturday’s post, you’ll find a hint to the puzzler.

Most of these are succulents, because I’m obsessed with them right now. From recent journeys to a couple of nurseries in town:

There are so many things to love about succulents and houseplants. The different varieties, the textures, the shapes and goodness, what spectacular flowers!

Mother Nature, I am impressed. You grow girl!

Haha! Anyway, I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.

Hi pumpkins, and happy Tuesday! Welcome back to my latest theme week, Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork!

Today, we’re going to play with succulents. Before we get started, a big fat disclaimer, aka, covering my ass:

Caution – Danger! Danger! Danger! Many succulents contain sap so it’s important to wear gloves when handling them! The sap can irritate the skin and make your eyes swell, so be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly and often, and don’t touch your eyes! Houseplants in general are apt to be poisonous, so tread carefully. I don’t want anyone to get hurt or swollen or itchy while experimenting with houseplants, succulents or otherwise.

Danger aside, I still think succulents are a great way to introduce kids to nature. They’re juicy, they grow really fast, and they’re funky. You can get a kid hooked on gardening for life with succulents, just play it safe, ok? Ok, good, we have a deal.

How To Create A Succulent Wall Hanging

There are a thousand ways to build your own wall hanging, there are a thousand containers and a thousand plants from which to choose. I’m going to show you how I made my most recent succulent garden in hopes that you get the general basics, and from there, you can let your creativity explode.

I knew I wanted to create a design to hang outside in my garden, so I started with a basket that I liked the shape of -it was deep, but not so deep it would look weird hanging on a wall.

I gathered the basket and the plants on my work station in the back garden:

The plan is that after it’s all planted and rooted in, I can take it off the wall (or fence), drench the whole container with a hose until it’s thoroughly soaked, then hang it back up again. I suppose I could just spray it with the hose while it’s on the wall, but that seems, I don’t know, rude or something.

By planting these little guys in a basket, I’m ensuring they’ll have good drainage. I wanted to make it easier for them inside the container, too. So I lined the bottom with gravel from my driveway:

Then, I’m not kidding, I made a mixture of Fox Farm Ocean Forest Potting Soil and gravel from my driveway. I really did, look:

How dork is that? Like mixing cake batter. Anyway, it was effective. Succulents appreciate a porous mix of regular potting soil and tiny rocks or sand even. You don’t want to plant in all sand or rocks, because they won’t retain enough moisture for the plants to thrive.

I decided not to secure the soil mixture like I had in yesterday’s post for a couple of reasons. One, I know this planter is going to stay indoors until spring, because it’s already September, and I don’t want to take any chances on these little guys getting too cold. By spring, their roots will have secured so well in the soil, that I won’t need anything to help hold the soil in place. There’s one more reason, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

The planter was ready for the plants:

I love this first juicy fella. He was labeled “Haworthia,” which is not really very helpful:

Haworthia what? cooperi? cymbiformis? bayeri? I mean, I don’t care, I’m going to love him anyway. I’ll probably name him Larry and forget all about his particular cultivar. But I’ve been trying to get the correct names for my readers who like to know.

I looked at the labels while I was at the nursery, and asked an employee about them. He was about as useful as the label.

This one was labeled, “Echeveria.” Thanks, that’s again super helpful.

What type of Echeveria is it? I don’t know – after scrolling through pages and pages of pinkish bluish rosette succulents, they all start to look a little alike to me. My bad!

I planted five plants total, and added more of the potting soil mixture around the plants:

Aw, they look cute in there!

Ok, remember when I said I had one more reason for not securing the plants in the soil? It’s because I had another layer I wanted to add in order to help both secure the plants and retain moisture.

See, I’m already wondering how these guys will do in our hot desert summers. Once they’re outside, even if they’re not in full sun, the heat is brutal.

I had some moss leftover from previous plantings, so I decided to try using it:

Well, it sure looks pretty now. I’ll be mindful of watering through the winter months. And if the moss turns all brown and gross looking, I’ll pluck it off. No harm, no foul.

I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at what it will look like:

Ok, I can’t stand it completely upright right after I planted it, but did it spark your enthusiasm? I’d love to know if you decide to try making a living wall hanging of your own. For indoors or out.

I’ll be back manana to continue Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork week. Instead of looking at my creations, we’ll check out what brilliant designers around the globe are creating – hint, they’re breathtaking projects! Hope to see you here!

Hi cucumbers, and happy Tuesday.

A few days ago, Claude over at Random Rants and Prickly Plants made a comment about my Hens and Chicks (sempervi). He said they die after they flower.

Here’s what they looked like when I got them at the end of May:

I separated out several of the Chicks and used them in my vertical gardens. Right away, they started growing strangely. Up, up, up, instead spreading out like they normally do. Then one by one, they began to flower. So did the ones that were still in the original pot.

Here’s the pot today:

I know, right? They’re the goofiest Hens and Chicks I’ve ever seen.

Here’s what Claude originally said, “Liza… that’s a sempevivum, and semps, like agave, die after blooming… however, by this time they should have produced many offsets, which is why you should only buy and plant smaller semps. They have to be 2 or 3 years old before they bloom, and that gives them plenty of time to produce ‘chicks’ before they bloom.”

Boy did I feel like an ass – I didn’t know that about sempervi. So, they are all dying? Wait, what? Every one?

It just doesn’t seem right. I mean, if they are dying, they sure are going out in a blaze of glory, which is great. I like that. But every single one of them is humming along fine at the nursery, and the moment they get to Liza’s house, they all start to die? Like they all drank the kool-aid?

I can’t get my little brain around that. So after a few email exchanges with Claude (I wasn’t doubting his expertise, I was seeking it), I set out to visit the nursery where the plants used to live. I wanted to see if any of the other gallon containers had flowering semps.

Nope. They all looked totally normal and obedient.

I went inside to talk to the employees about it, and they just looked at me like I was crazy. “Hens and Chicks don’t die after they flower.” One lady said she’d never seen a flowering sempervi and peppered me with questions about it, “What color are the blossoms?” “How many are there?” I wish Claude had been there to defend the semps. I just left in frustration.

But I’m going back. With the plant. Haha, I can’t wait to see what they have to say to that. If nothing else, I want to show that lady what the flowers look like. Maybe they can explain what’s going on – why mine are so ridiculous and theirs are so orderly.

Have you ever seen plants this goofy? Do you know if they died? I was drawn to these little guys because of their red-tipped leaves. Was that a sign of their age and imminent demise? Evelyn? Matti? Megan? Noelle? mr_s?

Let me know what you know about semps, if you have a moment. I’ll let you know what happens at the nursery.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to work.

Hi chickpeas, and happy Thursday.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to this ridiculously silly succulent once the horizontal garden goes vertical. Should be interesting to watch, though.

Did you know it was going to grow so tall? I didn’t. I might’ve chosen a different plant for the vertical garden had I known! Or maybe not.

Tomorrow there’s an all-new Ask the Experts panel. Hope to see you back here then.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.