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Hello honeydews, and happy Thursday. Welcome back to the Good to Grow plant blog, and thanks for being here.

Yesterday, I ranted about Home Depot and all the crappy plants I found there. I visited the one by Cottonwood Mall on Tuesday, and every single houseplant was in the throes of death. It made me furious – what a blatant example of corporate waste. Assholes!

I tend to the naive side. After reading some of the comments left, I get that there’s no way I’m going to save the company millions of dollars. Duh. It’s not because I’m a nobody and they won’t ever hear my idea (eliminate their houseplant department), although those are true. It’s because they’re making piles of money regardless. They have no financial reason to care about a bunch of dead plants.

From my point of view, it’s plant genocide. Houseplants are living, breathing creatures, 100% dependent on a human’s care. They’re not like trees and shrubs outside, they can’t fend for themselves. Once we as humans put a living breathing creature into a situation where they are dependent on us, it’s our responsibility to care for that creature – whether it’s an infant, a puppy or a seedling. Put a plant in a pot and bring it indoors – you better water it. Or it will die.

Really, I don’t have much of a beef with Home Depot’s outdoor plant selection. That’s because you go, buy your petunias or sages, then you bring them home and plant them outdoors, where for the most part, nature takes over. Yeah, they need you to remember to water them, but at some point, you can sorta forget about them and they’ll still grow. Indoor houseplants – plants in containers indoors – are not like that. They’re completely dependent on someone giving them water and attention.

I don’t get why no one understands that. Are we really so disconnected from nature, collectively as humans, that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Am I the only one who believes killing is wrong, period?

If Home Depot thought of plants the way I do, as friends, they’d see that they have tremendous amounts of blood, er, leaves, on their hands. But the reality is, no one in that company gives a shit. So on it goes.

Oh, crap. Yesterday I promised to write something more cheerful. Even a casual glance at the word genocide is the opposite of cheerful. Not really happy Thursday, is it? My bad.

I guess I’ll do what I always do when things aren’t going the way I hope. I’ll get back to work.

For you, a cheerful photo:

Dear Black Thumb,

You’re not a loser. Really. I know you think you are, but it’s not true! I know you feel cursed, like there’s no way you can ever learn how to grow houseplants. But I promise, if you have the desire, I can show you how to turn your black thumb green.

With much love,

Liza, aka “The Plant Lady”

I was at the cereal factory, one of my very favorite accounts (it smells oh-so-delicious), and struck up a conversation with one of the employees. I offered him some Pothos cuttings.

Pothos cuttings

“No thanks, those would die at my house,” he said.

“Really? Because Pothos are one of the easiest houseplants to grow,” I answered. “There aren’t even windows in parts of the factory, but they grow fine there.”

He joked about he felt worse now, knowing they could survive in a windowless office but not his house.

Did I mention this guy is an engineer? Super smart fellow! But he’s convinced himself there’s no way he can ever learn how to take care of plants.

So today’s post goes out to him (I won’t use his name, lest the other engineers tease him endlessly, but he knows who he is). Before I get to how, let’s look at why houseplants are a wonderful addition to anyone’s home.

Why Bother with Houseplants?

1) Beauty. They’re gorgeous, why wouldn’t you want to be surrounded by pretty things?

2) Cleaner air. Houseplants clean the air, which keeps you healthier.

3) Companionship. What? You heard me – companionship. Houseplants are living breathing beings that are 100% dependent on your care. Just exactly like dogs or cats, except they don’t slobber, bite, claw, bark or meow. They also eat less and cost less. Houseplants need your nurturing, just as you need to nurture.

How To Turn Your Black Thumb Green

First, keep it simple. Those Pothos cuttings above? They can live in water forever.

Pothos cuttings in water

You don’t need to know a thing about soil. Or fertilizer. Or vitamins. All these cuttings need is water. Now, they will drink their water, so you have to pour more in from time to time (everyone knows how to pour!), but that’s literally all there is to it.

So let’s say our engineer took those cuttings, put them in water, and realized that he liked the splash of green that now brightened his house. He also realized how easy it was. Now he wants to learn more.

I would graduate him to plants in soil. (Although, as Martha at Water Roots says, most plants can live in water forever.)

There are lots of houseplants that require very little effort. I’ve talked about many of them on this site. For a beginner, I would recommend Sansevieria, commonly known as Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue (because they are difficult to kill).

Sansevieria, or Snake plant

Snake plants require very little care. In fact, they thrive on neglect.

Not that I’m recommending neglecting them. I’m just saying they don’t mind if you forget to water them for a month or two.

Cacti and succulents are also great plants for beginners. They require very little water (especially in the winter). The main thing they do require is sunshine. If our engineer has a sunny windowsill, that’s a perfect spot for a cactus.

If our engineer does not have a sunny windowsill, I would pick out a dark-leafed plant for him. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the leaves, the less light a plant needs.

In upcoming posts, I’ll explore more houseplants that are perfect for beginners.

The Simplest, Best Way to Grow Houseplants

As for houseplant care, there is one rule that will change your relationship with plants forever: Pick one day a week to check on your plants. Yup, that’s it. Make say, Sunday your plant day. Then, every Sunday, go over and say hello to the little guys. Look at them – do they look healthy? Stick your finger in the soil. Is it dry? Give the plant water. If it’s moist, don’t.

Plants, like kids and pets, thrive on routine. So if you get in the habit of checking on them once a week, you are giving them the routine they crave. That’s one of the nicest things you can do for your plants.

So what if my engineer gets worried about fertilizer, or whether he has the right kind of soil, or that he doesn’t know how to repot plants? Since he’s a beginner, I would tell him to ignore those worries. There’s plenty of time for him to learn the nuances of what plants need or want. For now, he should just get to know the plants, and experiment with them. Keep it simple – give the plants water and watch to see what happens.

Simply by paying attention, he can learn much about plants. He will eventually realize the plant gives plenty of clues as to whether or not it’s happy. If you don’t believe me, check out this ode to baby leaves.

Once he gains some confidence with plants, I’ll point him to more specifics (that he can find on this site) such as how to prune, how to repot and how and when to fertilize.

See? That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Go ahead, give it a try!

How are your outdoor gardening skills? Probably much better than mine. It is not my forte. That’s why I prefer indoor plants.

Because gardening in Albuquerque is particularly challenging, I don’t do much of it. However, I have a deal with the landlady to maintain what’s already here, which is a bunch of things I wouldn’t have planted and a Spanish Broom and some Mexican Feather Grass that I did plant.

Overgrown desert front yard

Overgrown desert front yard

Yikes, my yard got out of control. I may not be great at maintaining the garden through the fall, but I do know how to prepare it for winter.

How to Winterize Your Yard

1). Don’t procrastinate. A garden is not the place to procrastinate. Yank a weed when it first comes up, or it’ll spawn five thousand more. The lesson repeats itself over and over.

2). View winterizing as a (necessary) cleaning task. The thought of yardwork is off-putting to me, so I view it as an organizational task. I don’t tolerate clutter in my house, so I’m not going to tolerate it in my yard.

Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day, so I cleaned.

[photo]

3). Break the task into smaller, easier-to-handle sections. There’s no way I’m going to be able to do it all in one day, so I broke the yard into  different sections.

4). Prune, Prune, Prune. Take another look at that picture. Essentially, I hacked away at all the plants until they were back to tiny. This provides the “neatness” I want to see all winter, and it also helps the plants. Believe me, they will spring to life again in February.

The only plant I didn’t hack was my Spanish Broom in the bottom corner. Here’s a closer look:

Spanish Broom

Spanish Broom

I really love this plant – it produces the most divine smelling blossoms in the spring. So I pruned it carefully. I started by removing all the lower, older branches, then trimmed everything else. I’m hoping for double the amount of blooms!

5). Take lots of before and after pics, so you can see exactly how much you accomplished. As you can imagine, I’m a big fan of before and after pics.

Overgrown yard

Overgrown yard

Yuk, what a mess.

Uncluttered lawn

Uncluttered lawn

Yay! All better. (By the way, I deliberately left some of those Mexican Feather Grass clumps there because there’s a certain furry friend of mine who loves to hide there.)

6). Keep your goals realistic. I heard on the news last night that there’s a storm coming in this weekend. My goal is to work on the yard for an hour or two a day until it hits. “Winter” storms are good motivators, because if you can get your work done beforehand, you can forget about yardwork entirely until spring.

7). Don’t get overwhelmed. You should be able to tell by the above pictures that a lot of work went into that yard yesterday. But it doesn’t mean a lot of time did – I spent only two hours. You can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time, really!

Plum tree in the desert

Plum tree in the desert

I’ll prune the Plum tree today, and get it ready for winter. Hopefully it will reward me with even more delicious plums in the spring.

Again, if you clean your yard now, it’ll be nice and neat all winter long, leaving you with more time to snuggle in front of the fireplace.

This chunk of yard is designated for tomorrow.

Groan. More cleaning to do.

Groan. More cleaning to do.

Ugh. Even though it’s a good investment, it’s still hard work.

Do you have garden winterizing tips to share?

I know, it’s Sunday, not Saturday. Sorry, I got sidetracked yesterday. Plus, I had decided that this was way too dorky of a post, and rejected it.

But somehow in this early Sunday morning light, the idea cracks me up again. Please note, no plants were harmed in the making of this post.

Spider plant and Colts fan

Spider plant and Colts fan

Oh yeah, I’m well aware of how dork this makes me look. I’m ok with that.

Danny the Diffenbachia

Danny the Diffenbachia

He looks like a private investigator.

Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew

I don’t know why, but this photo makes me sooo happy. Probably the aforementioned dork thing.

I think this is a Cereus jamacaru, I just call it "the cactus Mom gave me."

I think this is a Cereus jamacaru, I just call it "the cactus Mom gave me."

Aren’t you glad you stopped by here to see these educational, riveting photos? Yeah, I’ll admit it’s not my A game.

Stylish Christmas Cactus

Stylish Christmas Cactus

You should probably count yourself lucky that I didn’t try to put shoes and boots on the plants. That could’ve been scary!

Ok, one more, then I can dedicate the rest of my day to football. Aaah, I love Sundays.

Silly Asparagus Fern

Silly Asparagus Fern

If you missed Friday’s debut of Ask the Experts, it was pretty funny.

And the only one! You’ll have to forgive me, I’m so excited. It’s just that I’m terribly proud of them! Today is their debut, so give ’em a hand!

Here’s how it will work. We’ll start with a question from a reader (me, obviously, as this site is brand new), and will repeat it for each member of our esteemed panel to answer for you.

High-end graphics

High-end graphics

Ready to meet the experts?

Up first is my great friend Tina Quintana. Tina and I both started our small plant businesses here in Albuquerque shortly after Conroy’s went belly up, and have been trading information and help ever since. She’s the one I call when I have questions about houseplants, plus she knows everything about outdoor plants, too (not my forte). Her business is Total Plant Management.

(There will be photos of all the experts coming soon!)

Our next expert is “EZ” Ed Johnson. Ed and I have been friends since our days working together in the sports department of the local paper. He’s still a sportswriter, and so much more. He doesn’t really know that much about houseplants but he agreed to be on the panel anyway.

Another expert is my dear, dear friend Dottie Correll. Dottie and I used to work together in the office of the Mid-Rio Grande chapter of the American Red Cross. Now 83, Dottie has volunteered for the Red Cross since 1963. She should be declared a National Treasure. She also has quite the green thumb.

Our last but in no way least expert is Lewis Casey. Lewis is a Disaster Action Team Captain for the local Red Cross (meaning, if your house burns down in the middle of the night, he shows up to take care of you). He also has a long and storied history with plants, farming, greenhouses and breakfast rice.

I’m Liza, the moderator and author of this blog. I’m honored and touched that everyone agreed to join my project. Thank you guys! Shall we get to today’s question? Ok!

Liza: Our first question comes to us from Albuquerque. (Me, we went over that already.) The question is, “How much sunlight does an Aloe plant need?” Here’s what an Aloe looks like:

Aloe Plant

Aloe Plant

Aloes are great plants to have in your house. According to folklore, an Aloe in your kitchen will protect your house from fire. And if you burn yourself, break off a chunk of Aloe and let its salve sooth the burn. Ok, let’s get back to the question!

Q: How much sunlight does an Aloe plant need?

Tina: Aloes are succulents, and with all succulents, they prefer a sunny window. They thrive in desert-like conditions, meaning lots of sunshine, a little water, and airy soil.

Liza: Thanks so much Tina for your obviously well-informed, educational answer!

Q: How much sunlight does an Aloe plant need?

Ed: An Aloe you say? Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know.

Liza: First question I get about sports goes right to you buddy!

Q: How much sunlight does an Aloe plant need?

Dottie: I remember this one time, we had a Mynah bird named “Himalaya Harry.” He was an outstanding talker.  Mimicked the human voice perfectly.  He had a great repertoire:  He could sing over 20 songs, had a huge vocabulary – learned from 6 willing children —could whistle –the boys taught him the wolf whistle followed by “what a doll, what a doll!  On warm days, I would put Harry (in his cage) outside on a stone table to enjoy the sunshine and prune his feathers.  When he got bored or wanted attention, he would start through his whole repertoire. That day he decided on his whistle routines. I had a lovely, shapely neighbor friend who lived kitty-corner across the street from me and she loved to garden in her short shorts.  Across from her lived a less desirable neighbor — a dirty old man — who had made unseemly remarks to her in the past.  AT any rate, my friend was working in her garden (in her short shorts) and Harry starts with his routine whistle and finishes with –the wolf whistle and “What a doll, What a doll” My friend did not know Harry was out nor did she know about his whistle routines.  She immediately thought it was the ” dirty old man” across the street and promptly told her husband, who stomped across the street and verbally throttled the “dirty old man” neighbor — who, understandably was completely speechless at her husband’s attack.  It wasn’t until several weeks later at a party at my friend’s house that the story was revealed and the truth became known  that “Harry” was in fact the culprit and the real “dirty old man.”

Liza: Hahahahahahahahaha! Good story, Dottie!

Q: How much sunlight does an Aloe plant need?

Lewis: Don’t block driveways. It’s just not a good idea.

Liza: Thanks for the safety tip, Lewis! Not sure how that answers the question, but ok!

Thank you very much panel, that was fantastic! We’ll see you next Friday.

That was fun, I’ve been looking forward to that for weeks. Now, before I go, here’s another Friday blog debut: It’s a little segment I like to call “Name That Plant Problem!”

Here’s your clue:

Name That Plant Problem!

Name That Plant Problem!

Overwatering? Underwatering? Lack of sunlight? Something’s wrong with that plant, what is it? Here’s a closer, albeit a little fuzzier, look:

Name That Plant Problem!

Name That Plant Problem!

Leave your guesses in the comments section. There are no prizes for guessing correctly. Obviously. But there’s glory. And my gratitude for playing.

I’ll reveal the answer next Friday right after Ask the Experts!

I’ve been having so much fun coming up with ideas for this blog. Not only can I make obscure references to Conner Prairie, which was pretty much the only place we ever got to go for field trips (except the occasional visit to James Whitcomb Riley’s house – yipee) growing up in a small Indiana town, but it has re-ignited my love of plants.

Dad used to get soooo mad at me when I was in high school. I’d moved my bedroom into the sunroom, and therefore was supposed to take care of the plants he had in there. I viewed them as pieces of furniture. He would come storming in and scream, “Can’t you see how thirsty they are?” I remember blinking and being like, “What?”

Thirsty Pothos

Thirsty Pothos

Thirsty? In need of attention? Whatever, I was 15. After college, however, living on my own with a teeny paycheck, I realized plants were great cheap decorations for my 1st apartment. That’s when the love affair was born. Back then, I never would’ve predicted that I’d end up running my own small plant care business one day in Albuquerque.

My point in telling you this is that if I can learn, you can learn. Houseplants are living breathing magical creatures that are 100% dependent on your care. If it’s in a pot and in your house, treat it like a pet – it can’t fend for itself.

Here are some basic plant care tips that will put you on the road to happy indoor gardening:

1. Pick one day a week to check on your plants. Make say, Sunday, your Plant day. If the pot is 6″ in diameter or bigger, you should be able to manage once a week watering. If the plant is in one of those tiny little pots on your kitchen window sill who require, as my friend Molly said “a teaspoon of water” every few days, this once a week rule obviously does not apply.

2. Baby leaves should be perfect. If they’re not (if they have marks on them, turn black or turn crunchy) then something’s wrong, it’s most likely too much water.

3. Pruning is essential. It’s the equivalent of a haircut. Get comfortable with scissors and pruners.

Pruning is essential, here's an example of pruning a Schefflera

Pruning is essential, here's an example of pruning a Schefflera

Worried you don’t know where to make the cut when pruning? Think aesthetics. If you trim close to the base, or close to where a leaf sticks out, it’ll be neater. If you trim just under a leaf, you have a big empty stem that looks awkward. Pick the prettier option!

4. Speaking of aesthetics, when leaves die, either from overwatering, underwatering, old age or suicide, remove them right away. I like to remove them when I can see they are dying, so the plant doesn’t expel any more energy trying to save them. The reason I recommend doing this isn’t only for beauty, it’s so you can easily spot new problems when they arise.

5. Go easy on yourself. If I can go from clueless teen to a plant care business owner, then you, too, can turn your black thumb green. It starts with the most simple advice – pay attention to your houseplants.

You may just be rewarded with a Christmas Cactus that blooms for Halloween.

Easter the Christmas Cactus blooming for Halloween

Easter the Christmas Cactus blooming for Halloween

I hope you continue to share this plant blog journey with me. Tomorrow is the debut edition of Friday’s Ask the Experts. I’ve assembled a panel of experts to answer your plant questions, and I promise the answers will be very funny, and sometimes even helpful. You have questions about plants? Fire away!

 

I’m not a horticulturist, but I have been taking care of plants at offices and homes in Albuquerque for several years now. I’ve learned a lot.

One of the reasons I started this blog is because so many people struggle with their houseplants. I can show you easy ways to turn your black thumb green.

Pretty Pothos plant in Susan's office at KOBtv

Pretty Pothos plant in Susan's office at KOBtv

Step one is don’t be so hard on yourself! Think of your relationship with houseplants as a cheerful experiment. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, and the plant dies, oops. Start over.

I’m going to let you in a secret. I think most plant industry people know this, but I doubt the general public even knows it exists. I do have a green thumb, but I also get an extraordinary amount of help from one product.

Liza the Plant Lady's Secret Weapon, Superthrive

Liza the Plant Lady's Secret Weapon, Superthrive

That’s right, Superthrive. Plant vitamins. Have you ever tried Superthrive? It’s crazy, I call it cocaine for plants. You’ll see new growth in record time. They guarantee that if the plant has even one leaf that’s healthy, Superthrive can bring it back to life.

Before I started my own plant business, Good to Grow, I used to work at a place called Conroy’s, which at the time was the largest indoor and outdoor landscaping business in Albuquerque. That’s when I learned of this magic potion. I was told that it was just vitamins, and that it had been intended for use for humans but for whatever reason, the FDA wouldn’t approve it. I remember Rex drank some to prove it was safe. That would’ve made me gag – the stuff smells awful.

You can find Superthrive at your local nurseries, and probably at your big box gardening centers, next to the MiracleGro (which works fine, but Superthrive works about a thousand times better). It’s expensive, about ten bucks for four ounces. But you only need to use a couple of drops at a time (I use a dropper to put two or three drops into my watering bucket, about once a month).

Plants love it. It’s not like fertilizer which can burn a plant if you use too much. Superthrive seemingly has no negative effects, even if you accidentally dump a bunch of it into your watering bucket.

If you don’t want your plants to grow, don’t use it.

Here’s another one of my secret weapons, courtesy of Tina back in the day.

Liza the Plant Lady's Secret Weapon

Liza the Plant Lady's Secret Weapon

“The Houseplant Expert,” by Dr. D.G. Hessayon. Most plant books are mindbogglingly terrible, with such language you just can’t understand. “The Houseplant Expert” is easy to read, easy to understand.

If you’re just experimenting with houseplants for the first time, or if you’ve had a long but unhappy relationship with plants, try again. But this time, give yourself a leg up with Superthrive and “The Houseplant Expert.”

And let me know if you have questions. Ok, I’m off to the wholesale nursery now to check the progress of their poinsettias for Tuesday’s Flowers and Flowering Plants post. I hate poinsettias.

 

 

Just as gardeners and farmers toil for vegetables, most houseplant lovers live for new growth and blossoms. If you’re not a plant lover, but would like to be, let me introduce you to the babies. They are a rich source of information on the health of the plant (I’ll explain that in a minute).

Baby Schefflera leaf

Baby Schefflera leaf

Isn’t it adorable? Scheffleras are not outdoor plants (at least not in Albuquerque). This one was outside only because I took it out to prune it. They don’t like the hot sun, so I pruned it in the shade of the tree in the back yard.

Here’s another baby:

Dragon tree baby shoots

Dragon tree baby shoots

This Dragon tree is in one of my mortgage offices. Someone broke off the stalk and took the top part. Cleaning crew? Employees? Not a clue. All I know is I came in a few weeks ago and found a broken stalk. Happily, the plant responded as if it had been pruned with clippers and I have two babies.

Here’s what the older stalks of that plant look like:

Dragon Tree

Dragon Tree

Yeah, he’s all wild, but they like it that way, so I haven’t stalked him to stand him up straight.

Here are some baby Philodendron leaves from that same office:

Baby Philodendron leaves

Baby Philodendron leaves

See how perfect they are with that glorious color and shape? Baby leaves, regardless of what kind of plant, should be perfect. There should be no marks on the leaves, no discolored patches, no tears. If there is anything wrong with the baby leaf, chances are, the plant is being overwatered. Not always, but usually.

Here’s a leaf I showed you two weeks ago. It’s getting so big!

Baby Aglaonema leaf

Baby Aglaonema leaf

There’s another blossom coming where I cut the other two off, can you see that? This baby leaf makes me happy because it’s so healthy. This Aglaonema plant tells me when it’s thirsty by letting its lower, older leaves get brown and crunchy. If there’s anything wrong with a new leaf, I check the soil for moisture right away.

This is a general rule of thumb that can be applied to all sorts of houseplants. If it’s thirsty, the older lower leaves will turn brown and crunchy. If it’s getting too much water, the new leaves will be disfigured or discolored. They might even turn black before they unfurl. Stick your finger in the dirt to find out for sure, or get a moisture meter.

If you have questions, please let me know!

Look how big her blossoms are getting!

Easter the Christmas Cactus is blooming for Halloween!

Easter the Christmas Cactus is blooming for Halloween!

That’s Easter, my Christmas Cactus. Blooming for Halloween. I love it. I also have no idea when or how to expect blossoms – they show up on their own.

Christmas blossoms in time for Halloween

Christmas blossoms in time for Halloween

And one more. I live for blossoms and new leaves! It’s a slow plant world, but rewarding.

Blossoms are the best!

Blossoms are the best!

 

My friend Travis asks me over about four times a year for maintenance on his enthusiastic plants. He has a couple of towering Euphorbias that needed pruning, his Bird of Paradise was so big it was falling out of its pot, and his yucca has scale (a really gross pest). Lots of work.

Look at his funny Bird of Paradise. I’m guessing it makes sitting on his couch a little on the nerveracking side.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

I pushed the stalks back, and added dirt to support the stalks from the front. Then I used a series of stakes to secure the plant. I used green velcro tape from Home Depot to tie the stakes together. Worked pretty well!

Stakes offer support

Stakes offer support

Those stakes shooting off to the sides are Travis’s fake flowers. He’s a regular riot.

Staked Bird of Paradise

Staked Bird of Paradise

I didn’t leave that velcro hanging out there, I cut it short. Up next, his Sansevieria, commonly known as Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue (because it’s so hard to kill). I’ll bet you recognize this one:

Sansevieria, Snake plant, Mother-in-law's Tongue

Sansevieria, Snake plant, Mother-in-law's Tongue

One reason I love Snake plants, besides their obvious sturdiness, is they make it so easy for you to care for them. See that leaf that’s fallen over out of the pot? I snipped it off like so:

Sansevieria propogation

Sansevieria propogation

Then I just stuck it in the dirt. It will grow. No messing around with getting roots to form in water. It’s instant gratification.

Snake plants don't need to root before you plant them

Snake plants don't need to root before you plant them

In the coming weeks, I’ll feature lots more plants (like Jades and Wandering Jews) that share this amazing rootless feature. Imagine – a leaf falls off, and you can just stick it back in the dirt.

Even the most amazing plants are susceptible to bugs. So gross. Spidermites, mealy bugs, scale – all are disgusting, and will eventually kill a plant left unattended. I have a super easy solution, that’s non-toxic as well.

Non-toxic pest control

Non-toxic pest control

That’s an empty spray bottle and plain ol’ rubbing alcohol from Target. Costs about a buck fifty. I poured half the bottle of alcohol into the spray bottle, added the same amount of water. Then I took Travis’s dish soap (I think he had Palmolive, but it doesn’t matter what brand) and added a few drops to the alcohol/water (50-50) mix.

Then I shook the sprayer. The alcohol will fry pests on plants. The plants don’t seem to mind the alcohol at all. The dish soap helps the alcohol stay on the leaves and also helps clean the plant at the same time! Win-win!

Here’s what gross scale looks like on Travis’s plant:

Bug-infested Yucca. Ew.

Bug-infested Yucca. Ew.

The alcohol/water/dish soap mix isn’t going to kill scale on the first try. I sprayed the whole plant and its stalks, but Travis will have to keep spraying the poor little guy, at least once a week for the next several weeks. The alcohol makes the apartment stinky for a few minutes, but that’s about it. We’ll check back in on this plant in the coming weeks.

Ok, on to the big project, his Euphorbias. They can get so big, especially if they’re vying for sunlight from skylights and high windows, both features of Travis’s apartment. Here’s the bungled mess his became before I pruned it.

Overgrown Euphorbia

Overgrown Euphorbia

Pruning is always tricky with Euphorbias. For one, they have a sticky white sap that will swell your eyes, irritate your skin and stain your clothes. Wash your hands often! Oh, and of course, let’s not forget the thorns!

I have these great old firefighter gloves someone gave me awhile back. They’re perfect for thorny plants like Euphorbias. You make the cut as close to the base as you can. Again, be careful of the sap!

How do you prune a Euphorbia? Very, very carefully.

How do you prune a Euphorbia? Very, very carefully.

Tongs work, too.

Tongs can be helpful when pruning Euphorbias

Tongs can be helpful when pruning Euphorbias

Pruning is a lot of work, but the plant needs it to be healthy. It’s the human equivalent of a haircut. This plant grew dreads in the few months since I last pruned it!

There are lots of cuttings leftover!

Euphorbia cuttings

Euphorbia cuttings

Don’t worry, they won’t go to waste. Lots have already been given away, some will move to the cereal factory, and I just thought of an adorable gift idea for them. Check back this weekend, and I’ll post pictures of the gift project.

The key to the cuttings is to let the cut dry for a couple days, so it scars over the fresh wound. I just leave them on the newspaper (which is my transport system, by the way) and after a couple days, they’re ready to go straight into the dirt. No waiting for roots for this great plant, either. Do you sense a theme here? It’s not that I’m a lazy gardener…

Here’s what the plant looked like after the trim:

Happy Euphorbia

Happy Euphorbia

You see I could’ve cut it back even more, but this was a good trim. I don’t want to overwhelm the poor guy – I’m sure he’s quite attached to those limbs!

After the pruning, I rotated the plant 180 degrees so the back of him faced the light. That’s so he’ll stand up more straight on his own. Plants don’t like leaning toward the light in just one direction – you have to rotate them!

Now, here’s me happily taking my cuttings home:

One handy way to transport things with thorns

One handy way to transport things with thorns

Well, you can’t see my face, but I am smiling!

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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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