Parenting Advice for New Plant Parents

Plants can be just as baffling as children for those who’ve never cared for them before. New plant parents may find themselves wondering if their plant’s growth is normal or stunted. And questioning their abilities to give their plants what they need. Let’s look at some common growth questions so you can be the best plant parents ever.

Time for a New Pot

Your baby’s growing up and it’s time for a new pot. Generally speaking, you should give your plants a new pot and fresh soil every year. Choose a pot that’s one or two inches larger than the one it’s in. Make sure it has a drainage hole in the bottom and a saucer to put underneath the pot. You don’t want water marks to staining your furniture.

Photo courtesy of Homestead Brooklyn

A Solid Foundation

Fresh soil is really important, think of it like the foundation of a house. Your plants health depends on the nutrients and soil structure of your potting soil. Espoma’s Organic Moisture Mix is the best all-purpose soil. If you happen to be repotting cactus or succulents, orchids or African Violets you’ll want to buy a special blend of soil that’s been created specifically for their special needs.

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Make it Your Own

Gently remove your little one from the pot, loosen the roots and shake off some of the old soil. You’ll want to plant it so that the old surface and the new surface are at the same height.  Work in soil all around the sides so it feels solid and there aren’t any air bubbles. Some people like to top dress their plants with a decorative layer of moss or colored pebbles. Feel free to experiment and make it fit into your decor.

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Feeding Your Baby

Naturally, you’ll want to feed your babies the best food possible so, they’ll grow up big and strong. Feed them once a month with an all-purpose fertilizer like Organic Indoor! Houseplant Food. Always follow the directions, more isn’t better when it comes to plant food or people food for that matter. And, just like the soil some plants have special dietary needs like Cactus and succulents, orchids, and African Violets.

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Succulents Going Through Puberty?

Sometimes plants go through awkward stages. Their growth slows in winter and they may pout and look a bit lack luster. Summer light and warmer temperatures should cure that. Some plants get stretchy trying to reach out for the sun. Succulents that don’t get 4 to 6 hours of strong light per day are especially prone to this. Here is a video from Garden Answer to show you how to save your naughty succulent and propagate a bunch of new babies too.

Think it’s time to repot your own plant? Garden Answer shows you how! https://youtu.be/nPhNOi-LsAE

Where to Buy

Espoma Products for New Plant Parents

Potting Soil

Moisture Mix

Cactus mix

Orchid Mix

African Violet Mix

Indoor!

Cactus!

Orchid!

African Violet!

How to Dry Herbs

A simple, inexpensive way to enjoy your herbs beyond the growing season is to dry them!

When talking about herbs, we’re referring to the leaves of certain plants that are usually green in color. Spices, on the other hand, are the flowers, fruit, seeds, bark and roots of tropical plants and  are typically more pungent than herbs.

While the best flavors come from freshly picked herbs, however there is always an abundance that you cannot use in one season. Drying your herbs is the next best thing!

Dried herbs can be used for anything from flavoring recipes to making a fragrant fire starter.

When to Harvest:

We recommend growing organic herbs in Espoma Organic’s Potting Mix. To get the most flavor from herbs you need to harvest them at just the right time. The fullest flavor comes from herbs harvested before they flower. If you use a lot of freshly picked herbs, they may never flower. If that is the case, and you want to savor that flavor during the non-growing months, be sure to harvest them by the end of summer before the weather cools to get the most flavor out of them.

Focus on one type of herb at a time and remember to only cut back what you need. Try to avoid cutting back the entire plant, unless you are ready to replace it.

8 Steps to Harvesting and Drying Herbs:

  • Cut healthy branches from your herb plant.
  • Discard any damaged leaves as they have already lost their flavor. Yellowed leaves aren’t worth saving.
  • Gently shake the cut branches to remove insects and excess soil as you won’t be washing the stems.
  • Remove the bottom inch of the stem and the lower leaves to allow room for tying. Place the leaves aside – you can add them to the bag on their own.
  • Tie 5 or 6 stems together with either string or a rubber band. Make sure to check in on them as they dry as herbs shrink down and may slip out of the band.
  • Place herbs in a paper bag, stem side up. Tie the end of the bag closed, being sure not to squish herbs.
  • Poke a few holes in the bag for ventilation.
  • Hang the bag by the top in a warm, well ventilated room.

Once your herbs are dry enough to crumble, they are ready to be stored. Keep dried herbs in an air tight container, like a small canning jar or a zippered bag.

There you have it: freshly dried herbs to enjoy all year long!

Learn what to plant next with Laura from Garden Answer.

Products for Healthy Herbs

 

Are You Ready To Plant?

You’ve waited all winter, and spring is so close! It’s just about time to start sowing early spring crops.

You can sow cool season crops directly in the ground as soon as the soil temperature is at or above 40ºF. If the soil is wet and muddy, you’ll want to wait a few days until things dry out. Working wet soil can ruin its structure. Some people use polythene tunnels to warm the soil and give them an even bigger head start.

While you sow, don’t forget to feed your soil. Use Espoma Organic’s Garden-Tone, it is perfectly formulated for your vegetable garden.

Here are our top vegetables for early spring:

Spinach

Spinach sprouts fairly quickly and is remarkably frost resistant, especially when grown under cover. Plants like the morning sun and are happy to have some afternoon shade. Fresh baby spinach is tasty and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Try a springtime salad with spinach and strawberries or put them in your favorite breakfast smoothie.

Swiss Chard

This beet relative is another excellent early spring crop that is easy to grow from seed. Once the leaves are 6 inches tall, you can begin to harvest the outer leaves. Let inner leaves stand for a later harvest. Chard contains 3 times the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and 44 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin A. Eat it raw or cooked.

Lettuce

There are hundreds of different kinds of lettuce; they come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Harvesting baby greens is quick and easy. Look for varieties  you can cut back that will regrow. Many can be harvested in just 30 days. They won’t flourish during cold snaps, but they won’t die unless temperatures dip below 28ºF.

Radishes

Radishes are one of the fastest vegetables you can grow. They’re fun to grow with little ones because they come up before you know it. You can plant radishes alongside lettuce or other spring greens. As you harvest the radishes, the greens have more room to grow. Use them as an addition to salads and tacos or roast them for a delicious treat.

Kale

We all know kale is a super food — cooked kale delivers more iron than beef. Lucky for us it grows easily from seed. Harvest the outer leaves for baby kale and let the rest of the foliage grow to full size. It can produce a great deal of food with little effort. Sow kale early and protect from hard frosts.

Peas

Fresh grown peas are so sweet and delicious, even your kids will love them. And, the seeds are big enough for little hands to plant them. Plant them in the ground around St. Patrick’s Day or 4 to 6 weeks before that last frost free date. Some varieties will need a low trellis. Check the seed packet to see how tall they’ll grow. Grow sugar snaps or snow peas if you don’t want to do all the shelling regular peas require.

 Learn more about starting a kid friendly vegetable garden.

Products

Fern Care Guide

We all love ferns, they are a classic houseplant. Ferns come in all kinds of sizes, textures and colors. Yet as far as plants go, they can be fussy. Laura from Garden Answer has the scoop.

If your fern is happy and healthy, great job! You can probably skip some of the topics toward the end.

Now let’s take a look at your fern and double check it is living its best life.

Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you tend to your fern:

Light Exposure

Contrary to popular belief, ferns need quite a bit of light. Though, they don’t like to be in direct sunlight as their foliage will change to a lighter yellow color or burn. Keep them near a place that receives plenty of sunshine throughout the day.

Only few varieties can handle shade and moisture like most people think. Check your plant tag for the most accurate information for your fern.

Temperature

Ferns like their surroundings to be similar to what we like between 65 and 75°F, matching the temperatures in our home. They don’t like it too drafty so keep them away from doors that lead outside and away from air vents.

Humidity

This is the most important thing to be aware of for keeping your fern healthy, especially if you live in a dry climate. Placing your fern in a bathroom or kitchen near the water source can help, since they typically get more moisture in there naturally.

For a more decorative option, place pebbles in tray with some water and place your fern on top. The moisture will carry up to the foliage as it evaporates. Add water to the tray as needed.

Soil Type

Use Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix for your ferns. Organic potting mixes have the right kind of drainage, and will hold just enough water that is needed without drowning your fern.

Repotting

Typically, ferns need to be repotted every two years. Check its roots once a year. If the roots are starting to circle around the container, it is time to repot. If there is still soil around the edge of it, it should be fine for another year.

When it is time to repot your fern, only go up one size for your container. Be sure there is a drainage hole at the bottom of your container. Place a small layer of Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix in the bottom and fill around the sides as needed.

Watering

Ferns like to be consistently damp, but not wet and soggy like many people think. Each fern and home is a bit different, especially this time of year. Water your fern and keep an eye on it. If the soil at the top feels dry, water it again.

Fertilizing

Ferns like to be fed about once a month during their growing season. Each zone and climate will have a different growing season, which you can ask your local garden center about. Feed your fern with Espoma’s Organic’s Indoor! liquid plant food. Check the label for instructions on how to use.

Grooming

All houseplants should be groomed about once a month. Remove any foliage that looks damaged, unhealthy or is turning brown or yellow. Discard any leaves or debris that is  on top of the soil to keep insects and disease at bay.

Insects

The most common insects to watch out for are mealybugs, aphids, fungus mites, white fly and spider mites for just about any houseplant. If you are unsure of the insect you are dealing with, take a picture and take it to your local garden center. They will be able to offer suggestions on how to get rid of it.

Toxicity

Ferns are non-toxic, but it is still a smart idea to keep your pets and kids away from eating or playing with a fern. That might just cause a tummy ache or a mess in your home!

Drop any other questions below in the comments and we will help you out the best we can!

 

Your Plants are Trying to Tell You Something

Did you know houseplants can communicate? We talk to our house plants in hopes they can tell us what’s wrong. Thankfully, plants communicate with us all the time. If your plants’ leaves are wilting, they’re saying “Please water me.” Yellow leaves are saying “Hold off on the water. You’re killing me with kindness.” Let’s look at a few things your plants are trying to tell you.

Leaf and Flower Drop

No one likes stress, not even plants. A common sign your plant is stressed is if it’s dropping leaves and flowers. Stressors can include lack of water, over watering, temperature change, less light – you name it. If the problem isn’t too little or too much water, or something else easy to identify, have patience. The plant will likely adapt to its new situation.

Wilting

Wilting is usually a sign that your plant needs water. Some plants, like peace lilies, wilt so terribly you’d think it was dead. But don’t worry, it’s just being dramatic and will perk up after a good watering.

Stretching

We’re not talking about yoga here. In the plant world that means long and spindly stems. The plants are literally stretching themselves toward the light. Sometimes older leaves will fall off. Check on your plants requirements — chances are it just needs more light. It could also mean that your plant needs pinching. It’s not mean, it’s kind of like pruning. Pinching off the top inch of your plant’s stem will encourage it to grow laterally and become fuller and more beautiful. Pinching off spent flowers is a good idea that will help your plant save energy, too.

Salt Build Up

Have you noticed some white stuff on the side of your clay pots? As you water and fertilize your plants, salts and other minerals can build up. It may cause the foliage tips to turn yellow or brown. Watering your plants in the sink and allowing the water to run through a few a few times helps flush then out. You can use a scrubbing pad on the outside of the pot. Repot regularly.

Brown Leaf Tips

Leaves get brown tips because water isn’t reaching that far. Too little water or too much fertilizer is usually to blame. Make sure you’re watering consistently. Use Espoma’s Indoor! House Plant Food for its slow release formula to ensure your plant isn’t being overfed. Always follow the package directions as more is not better. Do you remember the last time you repotted it? If you can’t, maybe it’s time for fresh soil and bigger pot.

Think your houseplants need some extra space? Check out this video about repotting house plants.

Where to Buy

Products for Healthy Houseplants

Indoor Liquid

Potting Mix

Houseplants that bloom – 5 orchids that put on a show

Orchids are the perfect way to introduce a stunning houseplant into your home. They bloom for up to four months, which make them the perfect plant to add some color and flair to any home. They love indirect light, a little bit of water and to be away from any drafty windows, air vents or ducts.

Plus, they will continue to rebloom every year with a little love and patience and fertilizer.

An organic fertilizer, such as Espoma’s Orchid! liquid plant food, will help keep your blooms looking fresh and colorful year after year.

There is a HUGE variety to choose from, all in different sizes, colors and fragrances so you can find one that you absolutely love.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry; we’ve collected our favorite show stopping orchids for you.

 

Five Orchids That Put on a Show

Pansy Orchid

This flat-faced flower is one of the friendliest looking orchids you can choose. They bloom early in the spring and, in some varieties, will bloom again in the fall. Producing up to 10 flowers, each growing 4 inches across, this orchid will provide a stunning display. Mist weekly with water to give it the moisture it needs.

Sharry Baby Orchid

Growing best in filtered light, this orchid has small, but striking chocolate-colored petals. Unlike typical orchids, its flowering stalks will reach lengths up to four feet. Fertilizing regularly will encourage growth. Mist it lightly once a week to keep moderate humidity.

Image courtesy of Costa Farms

Moth Orchid

Its blooms look like butterflies and it’ll look great individually, but is stunning en masse. Gather a few different colors and textures and have every houseguest talking. They love bright, indirect sunlight, so near a window with a sheer curtain would make them happiest.

Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Coming in dozens of varieties, you can really play around with color combinations. Small enough to place anywhere in the home, we even recommend placing one a bathroom sink. It is beautiful from all angles, so mirrors can be beneficial. Plus, it enjoys low light with lots of humidity. After watering, be sure you allow it to drain completely.

Cattleya Orchid

This orchid thrives off a barky soil, so be sure to use Espoma Organic’s Orchid Mix, as it will wilt in regular potting soil. It is a light lover, so keep it near a window, but out of direct sun. It is happy in the same temperature as your home, around 65-75 degrees.

 

Laura from Garden Answer shows us the basics of caring for orchids.

 

 

 

Products for Happy Orchids:

Espoma Organic Orchid Mix

 

How to Care for Your Monstera

Monstera is commonly called Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron referring to the beautifully cut leaves. It’s a must have for its Caribbean feel. The foliage is deep green, lush and tropical. With time the foliage can become quite large and exotic looking. There is also a rare white variegated form that is slower growing. They generally don’t bloom indoors but in its natural environment they will produce edible fruit that is said to taste like fruit salad.

Light and Placement

As a tropical plant it’s no surprise that your Monstera likes warm indoor temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. A little humidity makes them feel right at home, too. Bathrooms and kitchens can often supply a touch of humidity or you can simply mist your plant now and then. These plants grow naturally in the dappled light of the forest floor. To mimic that, place your Monstera in bright or filtered, indirect light. They can actually grow in deep shade, but may not exhibit as much of the cut leaf foliage. If you live in zones 10 or 11, you can grow it outdoors in a shady spot.

Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

Food and Water

Monstera likes moist soil, but not one that stays soggy or overly wet. Make sure the pot has good drainage. Water weekly, when the top inch of the soil is dry. Make sure any excess water drains away. In spring and summer, when the plants are actively growing, it’s a good idea to feed them once a month with a liquid fertilizer like Espoma’s Organic Indoor!  plant food.

Repotting

Repot young plants every year to encourage growth and add soil nutrients. Gradually go up in pot size by 2 inches per year.  Once your plant has reached its optimal height for your space, you can give it a top dressing of new soil once a year and only repot it about every 3 years. Always use a quality potting soil to help keep the soil moist but free-draining. These are natural climbers that use their aerial roots to hold on to trees. When you do repot your plant, be sure to add a trellis or moss covered plant stake for support.

Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

Pruning

Young plants often have compact, bushy habits. As they grow, they will begin to show their vining nature. You can either give them support to climb and become a tall and dramatic or if you prefer, you can pinch them to rein in the lankiness. Pinch off the new growth tip with your finger at the height you’d like it to stay at. Feel free to prune out stems that are producing few or no leaves. If you can’t tuck the aerial roots back into the pot, you may remove them as well.

Pest and Disease

Monstera is rarely bothered by pest or disease. Wipe off the leaves with a damp cloth from time to time or give it a shower to remove dust. Check for spider mites when you do. This is a long-lived house plant that will give you years of pleasure with little care.

Ready for more houseplants? Check out Garden Answer’s Top 5 Low Light House Plants.

 

Best products for Monstera

 

Not your average houseplant – Bromeliads

Growing bromeliads indoors is a wonderful way to welcome vibrant colors and live foliage into your space. While they have a reputation for being difficult to grow, they are just different than the average houseplant. They are adaptable to their surroundings, low maintenance and offer long-lasting blooms.

Bromeliads that grow in soil are best to use as houseplants. There are four varieties that are best for bringing indoors: Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Guzmania, and Neoregelia. These are most recognizable for their spikey blooms and can be solid in color or have a variegated stripe to them.

Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

How to Grow Basics:

  1. Light

Each variety grown indoors likes their light a bit different. Generally placing them in bright, indirect light is fine, but be sure to check plant tags as some prefer shaded areas.

  1. Potting

Bromeliads should be potted at the base of leaves to give the roots enough to secure it to the soil. A 4-6 inch pot is a great starter, but keep an eye on your plant and place it in a bigger container if it begins to lean or fall over. Use a barky, airy, well-draining soil, such as Espoma’s Orchid Mix for orchids and bromeliads.

  1. Temperature and Humidity

Potted bromeliads adjust to the temperature around them. They are happy in the temperature you keep your home – anywhere from 35 degrees to 95 degrees. When the temperature increases, increase the humidity around your plant by misting water or using a pebble plant tray. Like most plants, you should keep them away from heating and air vents so they don’t dry out.

  1. Fertilizer

Use a slow release fertilizer, such as Espoma’s Indoor! liquid fertilizer once a month. Simply mix it in with your watering can and follow the instructions on the bottle.

Already have a bromeliad that needs more room? Watch Summer Rayne repot her bromeliad.

 

Products Needed:

Espoma Organic Orchid Mix

 

Dress up Your Desk with Succulents

Everyone likes to dress up their desks and it is fun to bring a little of the outdoors inside. Succulent arrangements can be chic or playful. Jurassic Park dish garden anyone? You may want to make one with a holiday theme by mixing in tiny holiday ornaments. Go hunting for unique containers.

Succulents are simple to grow with a little care and knowhow. They only need a small amount of water about every 10 days or so. . Good drainage is a must. Always use Cactus Mix, Cactus! soil.

A trick to find out if your plant needs water is stick a dry toothpick into the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. If it comes out dry, it’s time to water. If there are bits of soil stuck to it, wait a few more days. It’s exactly like testing to see if a cake is done.

Always put them in the sunniest place possible. That can be tough in an office situation, unless you have that spacious, corner office. Happily, they’ll respond to that florescent light above your desk. LED light is fine too.

Photo courtesy of Costa Fams

Aloe

Plant several is one container to create a contemporary design. They would also be easy to combine with other succulents in a dish garden. Fertilize a few times in spring and summer to keep them happy. They grow 6 to 12 inches tall and wide.

Albuca

Albuca has a unique growing habit. It produces a thick bulb above ground. Thin grassy foliage rises from the bulb and blooms with green and white flowers. Try growing them with small succulents like Echeveria elegans. They grow 8 inches tall and wide.

Perle von Nurnberg Echeveria

Echeveria is a small succulent, just a few inches high. The overlapping leaves of this echeveria species are beautiful in color. A greyish brown base with light pink and purple highlights creates contrast between the leaves.  In the summer, the flowers can become coral to red with a yellow interior.

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe is a beautiful succulent that can have colors of red, cream, and even yellow in its large, round leaves. No wonder they call them flapjack plants. One plant is all you’d need to create a show stopping display. It grows 1 to 2 feet tall.

 

Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

Haworthia

A big name for a small plant but the deep green leaves with white stripes really is a stand out. They look brilliant on small containers top dressed with a layer of five white gravel. They don’t like direct light so they work especially well in an office setting. They grow 2 to 8 inches tall and wide.

Products to Buy:

 

Create the Perfect Centerpiece for Fall Gatherings

Between the excitement of Halloween and the wonder of winter, fall can sometimes be pushed to the wayside. Not anymore.

 

While your fall decorating usually may be limited to a few gourds, this season, deck out your tablescape and call on family, friends and neighbors to come to your place. The table will make any meal special, especially when created with items from your home and garden.

 

Ways to build your centerpiece:

  1. Use your harvest. Build your own kind of cornucopia full of your hard work of the summer. Take a look at the items you grew in your garden and bring them to the table.

  1. Bring in the pumpkins. Whether you grew them in your garden or brought them in from the pumpkin patch, pumpkins aren’t finished after Halloween. Since they come in different shapes and sizes, you can have fun making a beautiful tablescape. Don’t like orange? Paint them in any color you desire!
  2. Make a flower arrangement. Your fall cutting garden is finally ready to shine. Make a wild flower centerpiece by mixing dahlias, golden rod, sneezeweed, coneflowers and more. Add branches and berries, too.
  3. Fall foliage. The trees in and around your home are putting on a show. Why not bring that inside? Grab colorful leaves, branches with leaves or even boughs of an evergreen shrub and bring inside to add texture.

    Photo courtesy of Costa Farms

  4. Don’t forget houseplants. Used on their own or with a mixture of other items, houseplants can steal the show. Take a houseplant you already own and repot it in a festive container. Refresh the soil with potting mix, first! Find a houseplant with fall colors, such as croton or aglaonema. Give them a bit of Indoor! liquid plant food a few days before the gathering to help perk them up.

 

Need some inspiration? Laura from Garden Answer creates a succulent arrangement that would be perfect for any table.