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The Best Pet-friendly Houseplants

For most, pets are a member of the family. And like any other family member, we’ll do whatever it takes to keep them happy and safe. Since our furry friends don’t always know what’s best for themselves, it’s up to us to petscape and create a safe environment they can roam freely in.

To remove some of the guesswork, we have comprised a list of plants that add beauty to your home and are problem-free for your pets. Just because these plants are pet-safe, doesn’t mean a mischievous cat still won’t knock your favorite plant off the table or dog might decide to take a bite. If your pet does get into any plants, even the nontoxic kind, be alert for signs of an allergic reaction.

5 Houseplants Safe to Have Around Pets

  1. Spider plant

This classic, indoor plant is a staple in many households because it grows fast growers and improves indoor air quality. Spider plants do need regular waterings, but can live in most light conditions and temperatures.

  1. Bamboo

In addition to being non-toxic to dogs, cats and horses, bamboo adds beauty to any household. The plant prefers a location with indirect, bright light, but can thrive under artificial lighting as well.

  1. African violet

The blooms of African Violets are delicate and come in hues of vibrant purples and pinks. They can thrive in windowsill container gardens and are very easy to care for. Keep them in a warm place in the house where they can get lots of sunlight to ensure year-round flowers.

  1. Boston ferns

Only true ferns are safe for pets, so when shopping make sure to look for this fern. These non-toxic plants can survive in cool, humid, dark places. Humidity is key for these plants, so lightly mist them once or twice a week and be sure to monitor the soil and keep moist.

  1. Phalaenopsis orchids

These orchids are great because they are both pet safe and human safe. This popular edible flower is found often in Hawaiian dishes and tropical drinks. They require indirect, bright light and need water once a week, but don’t overwater.

Now that you’ve taken care of indoor plants, learn how to petscape your yard.

Hanging Plants: Make Your Own Kokedama

Houseplants that you don’t have to think about are the best. And extremely low maintenance ones that look great are even better. Enter Kokedama. This traditional Japanese art form encloses a plant’s roots in moss to retain moisture.

Kokedama literally mean “moss ball.” The style originated from the Nearai and Kusamono bonsai styles and today, this design goes one step further when the moss balls are suspended with string.

You can use almost any small indoor plant for this project. When choosing your plant, think about where you will display your Kokedama and keep lighting needs in mind for your plant.

It’s not hard to make your own. Follow along with these instructions.

For this project, you will need:

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6 Steps to making a Kokedama

  1. Mix it. Kokedama uses heavier soil and we recommend using a ratio of 70 percent indoor potting soil with 30 percent garden soil. In a bucket, mix soil well. Add a small amount of water to bond the soil together so it has a clay-like feel. Soil should be sticky and pliable once all ingredients have been mixed.
  2. Ball it. Depending on the size of your plant, form a ball ranging in size from a plum to a grapefruit. Gently insert your thumbs into the middle of the ball, keeping the sphere intact. This is where your plant roots will go.
  3. Plant it. Remove plant from container, gently shaking off excess soil. Dunk roots in water. Place your plant’s roots into the soil ball, gently forming the soil around roots and adding more soil if necessary.
  4. Cover it. Dip moss in water, then squeeze out excess water. Place and press the damp moss around the soil ball. Leave enough space around the plant for breathing room.
  5. String it. Once your ball has taken shape, securely wrap and tie it with twine. Now, add a piece or wire or twine at your desired length for hanging.
  6. Soak it. Place the Kokedama in a bucket and cover the moss ball with water without submerging the plant. Let it soak for 10-15 minutes then you’re ready to go! Do not let the Kokedama dry out completely before soaking again. Depending on the plant and environment, soak Kokedama about once a week.

Once you’re done with your Kokedama, try your hand at this succulent planter DIY!

Succulent Success – What’s the secret?

You’ve probably heard the words cacti and succulents thrown around interchangeably. However, this is a common misconception. Technically, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Cacti are simply one of the many types of succulents.

Succulents are defined by their water retaining cells. Which is one of our favorite things about them because it’s what makes them so low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Another common misconception is that cacti are defined by their prickly needles. Many succulents have spikes similar to cacti, and not all cacti are prickly.

If you’re looking specifically for a cactus, the determining factor is called an areole. They are small, cotton-like lumps on a cactus where the spines grow out of. All cacti have areoles, making it easy to distinguish them from other prickly succulents.

Now that you know the difference, let’s talk about care. Although they’re different plants, cacti and succulents have similar needs. When caring for cacti or succulents, remember they love everything in moderation – not too much, and not too little.

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Light

Cacti and succulents thrive in a spot by the window or outdoors in the garden. Too little sunlight will cause loss of color or strange growth patterns. Lack of sun can lead to root rot as the soil may stay  moist for too long.

On the other hand, too much direct sunlight and heat can cause succulents and cacti to sunburn! These burns can change the color and texture of the plant. While most succulents can handle direct sunlight, it takes time for them to become accustomed to a new environment. Don’t move them from a windowsill to full sun in the garden without conditioning them. Gradually place your plant in brighter locations and allow it some time to adjust to its new surroundings.

Water

The same Goldilocks rule goes for watering – not too much, but not too little.

While succulents and cacti are drought tolerant and can survive without water, that doesn’t mean they’ll thrive. They will do best when watered in moderation.

It’s safer to stay on the lighter side of watering rather than giving too much. If you notice the succulent starting to shrivel, its most likely because they are using up the water reserved in their cells. Add a small amount of water to the soil to help them replenish.

Too much water will cause your plant to become mushy and potentially develop root rot. Your succulent or cactus can fall apart right in front of your eyes!

Avoid these problems by using very little water and determining later whether they need more. If you have your plant in a double pot, water it and after a few minutes empty all excess water. Over-watering is just as common of a cause of plant death as under-watering. Use Espoma’s Organic Cactus Mix potting soil to keep roots healthy and to reduce drought-stress in between watering.

Temperature

Succulents and cacti are very flexible when it comes to temperatures. Just be sure to adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

When plants are in cool temps, soil won’t dry as fast. Remember root rot can occur if the soil is too wet for too long. If succulents or cacti are planted outdoors in the hot summer sun, you may need to water more often.

Now that you know the difference between succulents and cacti and the proper care, add some to your garden today!

Feed plants with Espoma’s Cactus! Succulent Plant Food for best results and let us know how your succulent garden turns out!

How to Create a Mini Gnome Garden with Garden Answer

Laura from Garden Answer designs a tiny gnome garden that is sure to delight and inspire. While fairy gardens get all the glory, gnomes also enjoy living in mini villages filled with plants and whimsy.

Want to see more from Garden Answer’s trip to Philadelphia? Check out this video from The Philadelphia Flower Show.

6 Tips for Stunning Succulent Containers

The options for succulents are endless. You can spend an entire afternoon at your favorite garden center picking out succulents in all shapes, sizes and colors. And once you have one succulent plant, you can grow even more plants from it!

While planting succulents is a pretty straightforward process, there are a few tricks to ensuring they stay healthy in their new homes.

6 Tips for Creating a Succulent Container

  1. Choose a container. Almost any container can be used for succulent gardening if it has proper drainage. Terra cotta, glazed pottery and wooden boxes are some traditional choices. If you’re feeling crafty, check out our Garden Answer tutorial and create your own.
  2. Don’t let water pool. When placing the plant in the container, the succulent needs to sit above the rim of the pot. If your soil is low and your container has poor drainage, water can pool on top and damage the plant. Don’t let your succulent rot! Make sure to use Espoma’s Cactus Mix when filling your container.
  3. Add Plants. It’s up to you to choose how many plants to put in your container. Succulents that are crowded and planted close together often grow more slowly; and these plants are slow growers to begin with! More space between plants means it’s easier to water and there will be better air flow.
  4. Thriller, filler and spiller. This classic gardening concept can be applied to succulents, too. Add some oomph to your container by choosing a “thriller,” a tall plant that will add a vertical element such as aloe. Next, place a medium succulent such as echevarias. For spillers, look for trailing succulents that will “spill” over the edge such as sedum or string of pearls.
  5. The final touch. For a finished look, top off your container with decorative stones or dried moss.
  6. Feed ‘em. Give your succulents a boost by fertilizing as needed with Espoma’s newCactus! Succulent plant food.

Now that your container is complete, find out what succulents need to keep growing!

Give Succulents Some Light

Succulents make the perfect houseplants. They come in a variety of sizes and styles ranging from leafy to spiky and even fuzzy. They’re pretty low-maintenance, and only need sunlight, water and nutrients from time to time. Somehow, things can still go wrong.

The number one sign your succulent isn’t growing as well as it should? It’s looking stretched. While you might think your succulents are growing, they’re actually stretching out for more light.

Succulents stretch when they aren’t getting enough sunlight, which actually causes the plant to grow faster. First, the plant will bend toward the sunlight it is receiving, and then you’ll notice it continuing to grow taller, leaving more space between the leaves.

If your succulents are stretched, they won’t go back to the way they were before. You can continue to grow them as is, just move them to a spot where they’ll get more indirect light. You can also start propagating to grow new succulents. Unless plants are placed where they will get enough  light, the new cuttings will eventually stretch out, too.

4Tips to Make Sure Succulents are getting the right light

  1. Succulents love sun. These desert plants thrive in hot climates with plenty of sunlight. A dimly lit apartment or shady part of your home just isn’t going to cut it. Place succulents near windows that let in lots of natural light throughout the day.
  2. Keep succulents close to windows. They’ll soak up the sun for hours when given indirect light. Don’t lean succulents right up against the window or they may get sunburned.
  3. Add a grow light. If you can’t count on natural light to keep plants healthy, consider investing in a grow light. This will keep your plants happy and give you the option of moving them to dimmer areas in your home.
  4. Try out different kinds of succulents. They’re not all alike. Some will thrive in indoor conditions that others might not like.

Next time you notice your succulents leaning or stretching, go ahead and start some new ones and try again with better lighting.

Now that you know how to give succulents the best light, learn how to have success with succulents

6 Easy-to-Grow Indoor Succulents

Succulents are a trendy decorative addition to any home. This diverse group of plants offers endless color variations, as well as low maintenance options for your indoor space. Most plants need a wet environment to survive, but succulents are able to store water for longer periods of time. This ability makes succulents practical to grow in the dry and warmer conditions typically found in the home.

Succulents are perfect plants for beginners. Coming in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures, succulents have an enticing quality. Here are six succulents that are easy to grow indoors year-round.

6 Succulents to Add to Your Home

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Jade Plant. Native to South Africa, the jade plant has thick stems and glossy green leaves. Keep jade in bright light and water when the soil feels dry. Be cautious, as jade is commonly killed by over watering.

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Aloe Vera. This prickly plant has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The sap found on the inner leaves is used to heal wounds and soothe burns. Aloe Vera should be kept in full sunlight and should be watered when the leaves feel dry or brittle. Keep this medicinal plant by a bright kitchen window to enjoy its beauty every day.

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Echeveria. This desert native comes in a variety of colors and does best in dry conditions. Echeveria should be watered only once it has dried out. Unglazed clay pots are the ideal growing condition for this succulent, as the clay allows water to evaporate. For optimal results, place echeveria in full sun and ensure the soil is well drained.

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Zebra Plant. This striking succulent gets its name from the horizontal stripes covering its leaves. Growing about 5” tall and 6”wide, the zebra plant is tidy, contained and a perfect addition to any small space. Zebra plant requires a moderate amount of sunlight and water.

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Panda Plant. This plant is characterized by little white hairs, giving it a fuzzy texture. A Madagascar native, panda plant loves the dry, winter air in heated homes. Water as necessary, but just enough to keep the leaves from shriveling.

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Crown of Thorns. Add a splash of color to your room with this beautiful plant. With enough sunlight, it can bloom year-round producing red or yellow bracts surrounding its tiny flowers. Crown of Thorns has low to moderate watering needs and should be placed in direct sun for best bloom results.

Ready to start your own succulent collection? Watch this video on growing succulents!

 

5 Reasons to Give Orchids This Valentine’s Day

There is more to a beautiful bouquet of flowers than what meets the eye. For centuries, flowers have been used as a means of expressing romantic sentiments and are symbolic of a beautiful, lasting relationship between two people.

Luckily, for this day dedicated to expressing your devotion and admiration there is a better option than cut flowers, choose orchids that will last all year! Delicate and graceful, orchids are a symbol of luxury, love, strength and beauty. Here are 5 reasons you should give orchids a chance this Valentines’ Day.

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Five Reasons Orchids are The Best

  1. They’re Long-Lasting: An orchid’s blooms serve as a daily reminder that someone is thinking of you long past February 14th. When cared for properly, this exotic flower can last for several months and will continue to bloom year after year.
  2. Orchids are Easy to Care For: Your valentine does not need to be an expert gardener to keep an orchid alive. Even in the winter months, orchids are low-maintenance. For more blooms and better health, you can your plant feed bi-weekly with our liquid orchid fertilizer. Your orchid will need to be repotted each year after flowering, and Espoma’s Organic Orchid Mix will give them the nutrients they need to grow. Who knows, your gift of an orchid could inspire someone to take up gardening as a hobby!
  3. The colors are stunning: Orchids come in a variety of spectacular colors and unique shapes. They have a dramatic presence whether they are a solid color, or have splashes and speckles. Coming in everything from white and light pink, to vibrant reds, oranges, and purples, you will be able to find the perfect orchid to match your valentine’s personality.
  4. Orchids have exotic flair: Coming from far off places such as Hawaii and South America, orchids are said to be reminiscent of the tropics. Their exotic nature sets them apart from the traditional rose and will send a special message to your significant other.
  5. They perk up your home: An orchid’s lifespan combined with its beauty makes it a great way to add an affordable splash of color to any room without spending significant time and money on redecorating efforts

This Valentine’s Day, tell your significant other how valued they are by giving the gift of an orchid.

Help orchids stay beautiful year-round. Watch this video to find out how!

How to propagate succulents from individual leaf cuttings

Why have just one succulent when you can have many? Luckily, it’s easy to grow an entire garden of these hardy plants when you propagate them from leaf cuttings.

All you need are a few simple materials and a single succulent. Get started now!

Propagate Succulents in 7 Steps

  1. Select healthy leaves. Pick a leaf from your succulent that has no rips or blemishes and looks healthy. It’s best to choose larger, mature leaves rather than under-developed ones.
  2. Make the cut. Remove the leaf using a razor blade or craft knife. Sterilize the blade beforehand with rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of any disease that could harm the plant. You can also use “volunteers” from plants that occasionally drop their leaves like Jade does. The entire succulent leaf must be cleanly broken off the plant or it won’t root. If the part that was attached to the stem is broken off, discard the leaf and try again.
  3. Let leaves dry. Allow leaves to dry on a baking sheet for 1-3 days after removal, until the raw ends have calloused.
  4. Get ready to grow. Place dried leaves on top of a container filled with Espoma’s Organic Cactus mix. Do not bury in the soil. Place the container in a spot where it will be protected from full sun exposure.
  5. Keep soil moist, without being watered too much. Water leaves when the soil is dry to the touch.
  6. Wait. In about a month or so new roots will appear and the parent leaf will wither. Remove the parent leaf carefully, avoiding damage to the new roots.
  7. Replant. Once your propagated succulents have taken root, they can be replanted. Show them off in a repurposed planter. Feed regularly with our Cactus! Succulent Plant Food for best results.

And just like that you’ll have plenty of succulents. Grow enough to decorate your home and garden and give a few away as gifts.

The growing doesn’t stop here! Learn how to care for succulents here.

Orchid Care 101

Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to care for moth orchids, also known as Phalaenopsis orchids. Repot, fertilize and give orchids exactly what they need to help them thrive.

For this project, you will need:

Moth orchid

Organic orchid mix

Orchid pot with holes

Watering can

Orchid! Bloom Booster