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Buffalo near Cochiti Lake, NM

We’ll be talking Friday the 13th mayhem during an all-new Ask the Experts panel manana, so that promises good times!

We’ll also be back with an answer to last week’s plant puzzler, submitted by mr_subjunctive over at Plants Are the Strangest People, in which he asked if this plant was real or fake:

If you haven’t already submitted your best guess, you still have time to do so in the comments section or on my facebook wall. The deadline is tonight at midnight MST (that’s 2am EST). We’ll have a brand new puzzler for you, too. Imaginary prizes will abound. Hope to see you back here.

Hi butterscotches, and happy Thursday. Yay, I love Thursdays, don’t you? We’re officially on the downward slide to the weekend.

Last Friday, after my Ask the Experts panel, I offered up this plant puzzler, asking if this hanging plant was real or fake. I also encouraged you to write a caption or some sort of explanation for its ugliness:

The deadline for guessing (or writing a caption) is tonight at midnight, MST (that’s 2am EST). You have a 50-50 shot at winning imaginary prizes, plus I’ll link back to your site.

Since I’ve only heard from a handful of you so far, I thought I’d throw out a bonus “puzzler”.

Anyone have any thoughts to share about this?

It’s funny lookin’, ain’t it? Haha. There’s a neighborhood here in Albuquerque that cracks me up with its “topiary tendencies.” Does it scream “1970s” to you? I took the photo a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t think how to write a whole post about it. I almost turned it into last week’s puzzler – I was going to make you guess what I thought it looked like (an Easter basket). But then I decided that was too weird. And weirdly specific. An Easter basket, really?

Today feels different, so I’ll turn the puzzler over to you. What do you think it looks like? If you feel like playing along, leave your thoughts in the comments section. The prizes may be imaginary, but the glory of winning is oh-so real.

Wisecracks welcome. Go crazy!

Hey cupcakes, happy Thursday!

My apologies for my sporadic posting lately – it’s work, I’ve been very busy. If only I could blog for a living!

I’ve also been making changes at home in the spirit of “spring cleaning.” Here, I’ll show you. This was my foyer back in January:

Notice the winter sun’s angle. Now that sun is further north, I rearranged the foyer to look like this:

Man I need to wash those windows!

Fascinating post, I know. It’s probably a good thing you’re not paying for this content – I’d have to give your money back after a post like today’s.

I’ll be back manana with an all new Experts panel. You still have time to submit your guess for last week’s puzzler, I’ll reveal the answer after the Experts.

Aaaaah, I love Thursdays. Hi chicklets!

I did a post around this time last year called “Pretty Trees in Ugly Places.” It was fun, so a few weeks ago, I began photographing pretty spring trees. Here’s an example of a pretty tree, not so pretty place:

As I drive around the city for my work, I already notice the trees, so it wasn’t much of an extension to begin photographing them.

But. The more I photographed, the more I questioned my definition of ugly places. I was finding lots of beautiful trees in places that were definitely not attractive, but they weren’t unattractive. Also, there were pretty trees in pretty places. How many blog posts was I going squeeze out of these spring trees?

So what started out as a repeat of last year’s post became “Pretty Trees in Not-That-Ugly Places.” Then “Pretty Trees in Meh Places.”

Finally it morphed into “Trees That Caught My Eye.” Which I present to you now, enjoy!

The Experts are brand new manana, hope to see you back here.

Christmas decorations have been in the stores since before Halloween, I ignored them. One of the Albuquerque radio stations started playing all Christmas music – the same boring-ass songs over and over – back in October and I haven’t listened to it since. People have been trying to jam the holidays down my throat for months now, and I don’t get what everyone’s hurry is. Well, I do, everyone’s trying to make a buck, or fifty, but jeezlouise! It’s over the top! Right?

But now that it’s December, all is forgiven. Christmas is around the corner, then the New Year. This time of year is really fun, or really stressful, usually both.

I’m one of *those* people who pick up gifts all year round, then stash them away for this time of year. The way I look at it, I know this time of year will come around again – it usually comes whizzing forward, frighteningly faster each year – so I think about that in January, and in February and on. And I have a lot of people I like to shower with affection, and I think about those people day after day. So if I see something I think they would like, even if it’s in April, I’ll buy it and put it away until December.

If you think that’s annoying, well, too bad. I think it’s smart. Since I have the majority of my shopping done, I can spend December baking, creating, hanging out with friends and family.

I know there are people out there who really thrive and love shopping at the last minute, something about an adrenaline rush, I’m not sure. But I think what happens to most of us is that we intend to pick up little things all year round, but then life gets in the way and the next thing you know, bam, it’s December again!

Suddenly, you either need a tip (cashola) or an inexpensive gift for your kids’ teachers and bus drivers, your postal carrier, your kindly elderly neighbor, your therapist, your colleagues, your hairdresser, your doctor, the list goes on and on. Then the holidays become very stressful.

If that’s you, luckily, I can help. That’s right, I have an easy, inexpensive solution for anyone who’s feeling a little overwhelmed by the holidays right now. My regular readers can probably see this coming a mile away, but if you’re new, you’re going to be wowed!! Ok, maybe that’s a little too much pressure on me – how about we say you’ll be ok’d, like, “ok, that’s a decent solution for me. It’d be better if you gave me piles of cash, but ok.”

Here we go. Are you ready?

Flower bulbs! Yup, highly predictable of me. But let me walk you through the timeline and see if you don’t start thinking it’s a great gift right about now.

I started some holiday bulbs of my own on November 15th. You can read the post about it by clicking here. But maybe you don’t want to click, so in short, I like to get glass containers from thrift stores, glass stones or marbles from a dollar store or the crafts store, and bulbs from local nurseries. Bulbs don’t need potting soil – just water and a little sunlight. So I poured the stones in the glass containers, plopped a bulb on top, then filled them up with water, so the base of the bulb was in water, but the whole thing wasn’t submerged.

The very next day, all the Hyacinths had roots growing. Four days later, the first hint of green:

The following pictures were taken on December 1st, only 10 days after starting the bulbs:

Will they be blooming exactly by Christmas? Maybe, I don’t know, but I’m impressed with their progress so far. Also, I don’t care. They’re gifts now – they don’t have to be in full bloom.

Here’s what you do. Start a whole bunch of Hyacinth bulbs today, or in the next few days, and put them in a sunny spot (just do the best you can). You fill the containers with water just to the bottom of the bulb, then add water every few days to maintain that water line. Once you see the roots go, the green will be right behind it, then you’ve got practically instant¹ tokens of your affection that will happen to smell really wonderful once in bloom.

Since I said I would help you, I’ve composed this scenario with a conversation you can use verbatim. Hey, maybe a lot of you are shy, I’m just trying to be helpful.

Let’s say you want to do something nice for your son’s 2nd grade teacher. You start a Hyacinth bulb for her, care for it until you see a little green, then you go visit her in the classroom. Here’s what you say:

You: “Hi Mrs. Boyd, you’re looking as lovely as ever.”

Mrs. Boyd: “Why thank you dear, I remember when you were a student of mine. A fine student, indeed.”

You: “Thank you for remembering me. I remember you well. Funny thing, do you remember how you caught me popping my knuckles one day in the 2nd grade and you scolded me and told me to never, ever pop my knuckles because they would turn out gigantic and horrific looking like yours? You even included a dramatic pause before you whipped your hands out so I could get a good long look at my future as an old lady, do you remember that? Scared the crap out of me! Never touched my knuckles again. Well, turns out, science has proven you wrong. Popping knuckles does not make them bigger, it does nothing at all except make a child happy to be alive. The scientists said you must have bad genes if you have big knuckles. Oh, I made a gift for you, you’ve been a great teacher for my son.”

Mrs. Boyd: “Um, what?”

You: “All you have to do is add a little water every three or four days, and in a few weeks, you’ll have a fragrant lovely flower in your house, when it’s cold and dreary outside.”

Mrs. Boyd: “Why thank you. Er, I think. Wait, what?”

You: “The pleasure was all mine. Bye now!”

Then you beat it out the door. That’s right, that’s how you handle the stressful holidays. Does everyone feel better now? Good!

I’ll be back manana with a plant puzzler. The experts in our normal Friday “Ask the Experts” panel are on sabbatical until after the new year, so it’s just me. Gosh, I hope I don’t develop abandonment issues – you should check back often to make sure I don’t!

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¹ A reference to yesterday’s assertion that while we live in an instant gratification society, Nature has her own pace.

Hello lemon drops, and happy Thursday. The best day of the week. Thursdays don’t get the glory that Fridays do, but I don’t think that bothers them. They’re sturdy workhorses, dependably growing the anticipation of the coming weekend. I like to give credit where credit is due – thanks Thursdays!

I posted a seasonal guide to watering, way back in December of last year, and a step-by-step guide to watering houseplants back in March. In the step-by-step guide, I showed you how to measure your houseplant’s container size, and from that, you can determine how many seconds to water, so watering was as easy as counting.

In the comments section of that post, mr_subjunctive over at Plants Are the Strangest People mentioned that we had opposite watering methods. He’s got a plant shower in the basement and he drenches his plants every few weeks instead of my method of giving little doses of water once a week.

What I realized from that exchange was that there are lots of different ways to water houseplants, and many of them work great. But I also neglected to talk about flushing the plants, which is an important part of their watering care. So thanks, mr_s, for reminding me.

This is the new and improved version, in which I hope to show you how to use  numbers and the weather to know how and when to water your houseplants. This guide is for newcomers to houseplants, or for people who find that they keep forgetting to water their plants.¹ I’ve found that seasoned gardeners know their plants so well that they have their own methods that work – they don’t need me to tell them how to water.²

We’ll start with all the caveats, then get to the actual watering guide. Because with houseplants, there are caveats galore! These are living, breathing creatures with myriad shapes, sizes, varieties, personalities. You can’t just say, “Water two coffee cups full for all houseplants.” No. Plants don’t work that way. But don’t be intimidated – houseplants are gentle beings who want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with them. And they’ll let you know if you’re doing it incorrectly!

Liza’s Guide to Watering Houseplants Correctly and Easily

When people ask me for advice on how to care for their houseplants, the first thing I tell them is to establish a schedule for checking on the plants, e.g., make every Sunday your “plant day.” Secondly, I tell them to stick their finger in the dirt before giving them any more water. Feeling the soil is the best gauge – if the soil is dry, give the plant some water. If it’s soaked, don’t.

Now, most people don’t like dirty fingers. Whatever! I don’t seem to have much choice while I’m on my plant route (don’t get me wrong – I was my hands all day long), so I wear lots of fingernail polish to cover up the dirt underneath until I get home and give my hands a proper cleaning.

To the people who can’t handle the dirt – don’t get a houseplant. Don’t garden. Ignore Nature altogether. If you got problems with dirt – how do you even make it through life? Anyway, they’re your issues, not mine, so I won’t pretend to understand them. I don’t want to be harsh or anything, but I should say maybe that houseplants aren’t for you. If you’re really committed to houseplants, you can buy one of those watering probes from your local garden center. But I don’t recommend them – they work for a minute and then they break.

Throughout this watering post, please keep in mind these next considerations:

Watch the Weather!

Houseplants, believe it or not, are like you in many ways. You love springtime, because it’s energizing and that’s when you want to play and start having fun outside. Your houseplants are rootbound, so they can’t start jogging or anything, but they do want to start growing and moving in the spring. So that’s when you start increasing your watering.

In the summer, it’s hot, hot, hot. You’re thirsty. So are your houseplants. Water them liberally (more on that soon). All your plants should be planted in containers that have drain holes and a saucer underneath to collect excess water. If the water sits there for more than a day, empty the tray.

Plants are still thirsty in September, and depending on where you live, maybe longer. But in October, they’re thinking about winter, just like you are. Slow waaaaay down on the watering. They naturally want to drink less water because they’re preparing for a sleepy winter. BUT, don’t forget, when you turn your heaters on, the plants, especially ones near vents, will temporarily want MORE water not less. Once they get used to the heat, they will most likely slow down again.

When February and March roll around, it’s spring again, so the cycle starts anew.

Does that make sense? Water according to season.

Watch Your Location!

If you have plants in hot, south-facing windows, they are going to drink more water than a plant in the darkest corner of your home. Consider where your plants are when you’re considering how much water to give them.

Watch Your Plant!

A cactus doesn’t drink much water. A Philodendron drinks a lot in comparison. Plants in the Dracaena family – like Dragon Trees, Corn plants, Janet Craigs – want to stay a maddening “evenly moist.” A little research on what family of plant you have will aid you greatly in deciding how much water to give it.

If you don’t know what type of plant it is, you can email a photo of it to me. Or you can just google it and get close enough to know what family it’s in (finding the specific variety, now that’s decidedly more tricky, but don’t worry about it – you’re a newbie, stick to the basics).

Let’s make sure we’ve got this straight – when it comes to watering houseplants, I want you to consider 1, what time of year it is, 2, where the plant is in your house, and 3, what type of plant it is. You with me so far? Awesome!

Now, let’s count!

Watering by the Numbers

Knowing how much to water your houseplants is as easy as 1-2-3. Or, one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand.

Step one: Measure the diameter of your houseplant:

That’s Peach, my adorable little Norfolk Island Pine. She’s in a 12″ container. That’s a fairly big pot, which means, lots of soil to hold moisture.

Step Two: Remember everything I just said about considering time of year it is, what type of plant it is and where the plant is located in your house. All of these matter!

Step Three: Based on the size of the container, and very, very generally speaking, count as you water, by saying one one-thousand, two one-thousand. Here are the approximate counts based on the time of year:

Spring:

8″ container: 2-3 one thousand count.

10″ container – 3-4 one thousand count.

12″, 14″ container – 4-6 one-thousand count.

16″, 18″ container (which is huge for the house) – 7-8 one-thousand count.

Summer:

8″ container: 3-4 one thousand count.

10″ container: 4-5 one thousand count.

12″, 14″ container: 6-8 one thousand count.

16″, 18″ container: 8-10 one thousand count.

Fall:

Reduce to spring levels.

Winter:

In winter, you have to do some adjusting to your whole routine. As I mentioned earlier, plants want to slow down, but they may get thirsty for the weeks following when you turn your heaters on (in my plant business, I want my plants to grow year round, so I don’t let them have sleepy winters. I know, mean, right? They don’t seem to mind – they’re all like, “We choose life!” and all). In an ordinary house, the plants will want a winter break. So instead of checking on them once a week, check on them every two weeks. Instead of watering every week, maybe slow it down to once a month depending on the type of plant.

Basically, just think hibernation until February.

Now, you may be thinking, what about my smaller plants and the itty bitty babies on the kitchen window sill? How often do I water those?

Special Tips on Flushing Houseplants

Flushing is a process of letting water run through your houseplant’s container as in a sink or a shower. Drench the whole thing. It’s important – it loosens the soil, it flushes away mineral buildup in the soil, and you can clean the dusty leaves at the same time.

Now, I don’t have a fancy shower in my basement for the plants like mr_s. does, but I do have a sink. Any plant in a 6″ container or smaller goes to the sink, once a week, during spring and summer. In the fall, it’s once every two weeks, and in the winter, it can be as little as once a month.

For plants in bigger containers, 8″ and up, I haul mine outside twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall, and I let them sit out in the front yard and I douse them with the hose. They love it! And don’t mind going back to weekly care afterward, but usually it takes them a couple of weeks before they want any more water, because they were just soaking wet.

Oh, keep in mind, I live in the desert – I can’t put my houseplants out on the porch for the spring and summer months, they’ll fry, it’s super hot here. In case you were wondering why I don’t keep them outside all summer.

So what about the plants in huge containers? Do I take my Corn plant, which is in a 16″ pot and stands about 8′ tall, outside to flush it? No. It has to be content with my weekly watering system because it would be traumatic for both of us to try and move him. For him, I try to do a deep drench of water twice a year, but I make sure to empty the tray so he doesn’t sit in the excess water. It’s a chore, but he’s happy so I’m happy to do it.

For kitchen windowsill plants, little babies, you may want to run water through their pots more often. I have my kitchen babies on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, although I don’t always stick exactly to it. They’re in a very hot south-facing window but they’re succulents (except for Miss Mimosa, the Sensitive Plant) so they’re doing ok with whatever schedule I create for them.

If you put your plants on a timed irrigation system, you can make your life easier. But I don’t see a lot of indoor irrigation systems. Plus, that takes away your time to bond with your houseplants.

If you develop a system where you’re checking on your houseplants once a week, you’ll get to know your plants, you’ll get to understand their personalities and their needs. Plants aren’t static – they will grow and respond to your care, that’s the best part about bringing a piece of Nature indoors. A watering schedule is an important part of houseplant care – try it and see how much you learn!

I’ll be back manana with a new edition of Ask the Experts. You still have time to submit your guess for last week’s plant puzzler. Hope to see you back here!

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¹ These instructions are intended for people who have a reasonable number of houseplants. Not 875 like mr_s. He’s in a class all his own!

² Houseplants are extremely adaptable. If you’ve been continuously over or under watering a plant, and it’s doing fine, trust your gut. You know the plant better than I do. I’ve seen plants adapt to all sorts of situations they are not supposed to.

Yeah, I know – it’s not even Halloween and I’m talking Christmas. To be fair, I have a good reason:

My Schlumbergera truncata is budding up. Her name is Easter the Christmas Cactus, which is confusing, but that’s ok, it makes me giggle.

I actually have two Schlums, they sit side-by-side, but only one of them is gearing up to flower. At some point, I’m going to do a post about the tale of these two Schlums – because one is decidedly more red and budding, but they both get the same amount of light and water. I’ve been doing some research on the redness (mostly on mr_s’s site, Plants Are the Strangest People) and there are reasons why one would be red and the other a lush green, one budding the other not.

BUT. I just started the research and there’s still so much more to understand before I can formulate an answer on why these two sisters are so different.

No matter what, though, I’m still going to love them the same.

Hi daisies, and happy Thursday.

Carol over at May Dreams Garden thought it would be nice to post pictures of what’s blooming in your garden on the 15th of each month. I’ve come to interpret that to mean the 15thish of each month.

I don’t really have a garden per se, but I do have lots of plants flowering. Still, you should consider yourself lucky that I’m not going to post 41,000 photos of Morning Glories.

Here’s what’s blooming around my casa here in Albuquerque:

I’ll be back manana with an all new Ask the Experts edition and a new plant puzzler. Hope to see you here.

Tonight in Santa Fe, Old Man Gloom goes up in flames.

People write their problems down on pieces of paper, and attach them to Zozobra (he’s roughly 50 feet tall). When the old man goes up in flames, so does everyone’s worries. Good times!

Here’s hoping you have a similar ritual to cleanse your spirit and mind. See you manana.

(Images from http://www.zozobra.com, thanks!)

Hi cheese slices, and happy Thursday!

Last June, I started experimenting with vertical gardens. I used succulents to create framed pieces of living art. It’s been so fun!

They were outside in the back yard until the rains came. Since then, they’ve been safely in the spare bedroom where they get lots of sunshine and decent care from me.

They’re still horizontal, although they could easily be hung on a wall at this point. Their roots are established and most are growing like crazy.

It’s been a learning experience. The Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks) I used in one frame bloomed and died, so I replaced them. The blooms were gorgeous – that plant sure knows how to make a grand exit.

I’ve learned which succulents require more water than others (the rosettes), and I’ve done a lot of rearranging. The great thing about succulents is that they don’t seem to mind being moved around.

The Wandering Jew I threw in a couple of frames for fun is one of the few non-succulents I used, and it has thrived everywhere. It holds a lot of water in its juicy stems so it acts like a succulent.

I added some stonecrop to the frames with rosettes, because they seem to like more moisture than some of the other succulents. Plus, they’re so cute.

Now that’s September, I may take the frames outside for some natural light, but not for long. I don’t want to risk them getting too cold. They’re like little babies! Maybe some older plants can handle the brisk fall air, but I don’t want to take chances with these little guys. More likely, they’ll stay inside until next spring.

I love the idea of being able to hang these on the living room wall one day, or hang them out on a garden wall. I’m in no hurry – I don’t mind watching as they grow and spread and evolve. That’s sorta the point with living art.

If I had to name one problem that I’m having with these pieces of living art it’s that I don’t know where to stop. I want to make another and another and another. I’m always on the lookout for frames that I can use, and I can’t help but scan the succulent displays at the nurseries I visit. It’s addicting, I tell you!

I’m also a big fan of searching the web to see what other people are creating. There’s a lot out there – people are being so creative. In the coming weeks, I’ll show you some of the cool designs people are creating.

Not today, though (sorry Bill!). This working gal has plants waiting for me. I’ll be back manana with a brand new edition of Ask the Experts and a new plant puzzler. Until then, happy gardening!

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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.

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