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Welcome to the Amazon Alexa Skill: Houseplant Tips and Tricks


September 20, 2018

Today brings another top three plants! These are pet safe houseplant options that are easy to care for too! And they are all non-toxic to dogs and cats! Number one for being pet safe and easy to care for is the Spider Plant! Medium light, and a waterings every week or so, the Spider Plant works well as a desk plant or a hanging plant option. Number two is the Neanthe Bella Palm. Doing best in medium to bright, indirect light, the Bella Palm is easy to grow and only needs to be watered once a week. The third pet safe option is the Calathea Rattlesnake. Non-toxic to dogs and cats, the calathea enjoys bright, but indirect light with waterings once per week. Find pet safe plants on the ASPCA's website, and we'll see you tomorrow!

September 19, 2018

Today we're talking about our top three easy to care for plants! All of these plants are durable, resilient, and can bounce back from improper waterings and light conditions. Number one is the Snake Plant. Low water, and just about any light conditions, the Snake plant thrives as long as you don't overwater it! It literally could survive in a dark closet! Second place is owed to the ZZ plant. The Zamioculcas zamiifolia can be treated just like the Snake Plant. Low water, and low light, also! Needing to only be watered every three to four weeks! Coming in third, is the Pothos. Coming in many different colors, the Pothos needs low to medium light with watering every one to two weeks. And if you ever deprive these easy to care for plants of water, they'll bounce right back!  See you tomorrow morning!

September 18, 2018

Today is about one of the largest plant families that gives us some of our favorite houseplants! The massive Arum family, scientifically referred to as the Araceae family.  Coming from the tropics, the aroids can be identified by their spade like looking flower. Think of the peace lily, flamingo lily or anthuriums, as well as the philodendrons. All of these come from the Arum family! There's nearly four thousand species in this massive family. Many of them are air purifiers, too! Many species in this family are heat-producers, meaning their flowers can reach one hundred ten degrees farenheit, in order to attract pollinators. And also to warm themselves in colder climates! Pretty cool, huh? If you happen to live in, or be visiting Missouri, the largest collection of the Araceae family can be found at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis! This concludes your houseplant tip of the day! See you tomorrow!

September 17, 2018

Most of us have used aloe vera for a bad sunburn or burn, right? It's also used in thousands of cosmetic and medical products as the base of the product, due to its healing properties! Aloe Vera is an easy to grow plant that thrives on very little water, and bright light. Hailing from South Africa, Aloe Vera begins as a sage like green color, and as it matures turns more of a gray color, and will even bloom at maturity! If you injure yourself, you can use a lower leaf from your plant to treat your wound, or propagate it easily by sticking one of the leaflets into soil! Consider putting an Aloe Vera plant in your bedroom as it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at night, making it a suitable candidate for when you're asleep! Thanks for tuning in! See you tomorrow!

September 16, 2018

One of the best plants for beginners and experts is the legendary Spider Plant. Becoming very popular in the seventies and eighties, the Spider plant has understandably maintained its status for decades. Originating in South Africa, the Spider Plant needs semi-shade to semi-sun for light, and a watering every week or so to maintain evenly moist soil, making sure to not overwater. It is also a NASA certified clean air study plant, and will be purifying your home or office while growing! It even puts out baby plantlets that you can remove and replant to make new baby Spider Plants. Give the Spider plant a try for an easy to care for, but visually unique plant. That concludes your Houseplant tip of the day! Please give us your feedback, and let us know if there are other topics you'd like covered!

September 15, 2018

When it comes to organic versus conventional soil and fertilizer, try and use organics when possible. In gardening, they will often be comparable prices, and the benefits from organic soil is substantial. Organic soil relies on the microbes inside it to continuously break down the bark and minerals in the soil to make it available for the plant. It's best to think of conventional soil and fertilizer like a quick fix, or a magic diet pill that you'll always have to use, once you start using it. When you apply conventional or synthetic fertilizer to your soil, it kills off much of the biology in your soil. We've all seen what happens to a slug when covered in salt, right? This is exactly what happens to the life in your soil with synthetic fertilizer. It dehydrates the life in your soil! And worst of all, because the life in your soil is decimated, you'll have to always use synthetic fertilizer to feed your plants! Look into organic potting mixes with the appropriate OMRI organic markings, and use earthworm castings as a healthy general purpose fertilizer!

September 14, 2018

Today is about our most popular plant of all time. The blooming Peace Lily. Hailing from South America, the Peace Lily makes for a stunning house plant due to its waxy, dark green leaves contrasting against the bright white flowers. It is one of the few houseplants that will repeatedly, and reliably bloom indoors. And once the flower begins browning, you can cut out the flower for perfect look. It makes for a great gift, signifying peace, in times of struggle or celebration. All the better, it happens to be one of the best air purifiers; removing alcohols, acetone, benzene and formaldehyde from your air. Give your Peace Lily semi sun to semi shade, and water once or twice every week, aiming for moist soil. See you tomorrow morning!

September 13, 2018

Keeping your houseplants' leaves clean not only make them shine and look great, but it can keep pests at bay, too! For this, you're going to need a spray bottle, a clean cloth, white vinegar, and water. Fill the spray bottle with one part white vinegar, nine parts water; so a ten percent solution of vinegar to water. Out of direct sunlight, mist the leaves. Then, one by one, wipe them down gently. Making sure to remove any dust, dirt, or bugs. You'll notice this method removes any water spotting from the leaves, and the leaves will be much shinier. Try to do this every two weeks. Not only will it make your plants look great, but it will get you in the habit of inspecting for pests! Tune in tomorrow morning for another episode!

September 12, 2018

Watering in the morning, before the sun, is always the best choice. This is for a variety of reasons, but the main reasons have to do with light and temperature. Once you water, you want the plant to be able to immediately absorb that water and photosynthesize to create new growth. For the majority of plants, this happens when there is visible light available to the plants, during the day. Another important reason is to prevent root rot and moisture loving pathogens to spread and develop. If you water in the morning, the warmth from the sun or your house, will keep moisture at a more appropriate temperature for the roots, and excess moisture will be evaporated. If you can't make it out to water in the morning, just make sure to do so before the sun gets too bright. Of course, if your plants are in dire need of water, do water them as soon as they need it, independent of the time of day! Just try and avoid watering at dark, when the plant isn't getting any light! See you tomorrow morning!

September 11, 2018

The choice of where to put your houseplants is a critical one. At first, preference is given to the most aesthetically pleasing location, but eventually the most important factor is how much light a plant gets in that specific location. When choosing a window to put your plant, keep in mind south facing windows are a great option for summer, while the sun is overhead. As winter comes, the sun will become lower in the sky, allowing those long shadows to form through your south facing windows. Try and avoid the direct sunlight that comes through the south facing windows in winter. It might be a good idea to try out a north window for lower light plants. Every situation is different, but get creative with where your plants are in your home throughout the year, and switch it up! To figure out which direction is south, use the built in app on your smartphone, or download a compass from your app store. Below is a diagram of the sun's changing position through the year. See you tomorrow!

South Facing Windows


September 10, 2018

Did you know that Orchids are one of the oldest and largest families of flowering plants? So old that they are believed to have been around since before the continents split up, since they appear on every continent. It is estimated there are over twenty five thousand wild species of orchids. The vanilla plant is even an orchid; where we derive our vanilla flavoring and scent from! Orchids are very hard to grow from seed and can take years to become a flowering plant. They must create a symbiotic relationship with a fungus in order to germinate their seeds and feed themselves. Give your orchid indirect, but bright light, and water it every week or so. Their flowers and leaves will tell you when they are drying out by wilting a bit, and beginning to wrinkle. See you tomorrow to learn about where to put your plants as the season changes!

September 9, 2018

Today is about cacti. The sharp, and odd looking succulents. Did you know that the spines on a cactus are just highly modified leaves, and the primary stalk is just a stem? Cacti can hold up to ninety percent of their weight in the stem, in the form of water. Because cacti are native to such harsh, desert like environments, they have adapted to photosynthesize at night. So instead of absorbing carbon dioxide during the day, they conserve their water content, and do so at night when the temperatures are lower. Cacti thrive in bright, direct sunlight, with waterings every month or two. They can also tolerate extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures, similar to those experienced in the desert. Make sure to get a sand dominant cactus potting mix for any succulents you transplant! See you tomorrow morning!

September 8, 2018

Today we're going to talk about why you should water from the bottom up. What would happen if you dipped the bottom of a paper towel in a cup of water? As you might have guessed, the water climbs vertically, passed the top of the water level, seemingly defying gravity. This is exactly what happens when you water from the bottom of your pot. To do this, place your pot in a bowl or bucket of water, and let the soil and roots bring the water upward, in an action called capillary rise. You might remember that from science class! Give the plant thirty minutes to an hour here, and replenish the water as needed. By doing this, you're also making the roots go searching for the water at the bottom of the pot, which helps develop more robust root structures. This will also keep the top layer of soil dry, which will discourage insects from hanging out there! See you tomorrow morning!

capillary rise

Capillary Rise in Action!

(This is what your soil does when you water from the bottom up!)


September 7, 2018

Today's episode is about the Monstera Deliciosa, also known as the swiss cheese plant, or split leaf Philodendron. The Monstera is naturally found from the Jungles of Mexico to as far south as Panama. The second part of its name, Deliciosa, refers to the edible fruit it produces. Indeed, it is a flowering and fruiting plant! Although it takes a very long time for the fruit to become edible, and not toxic. All other parts of the plant are mildly toxic to pets and humans if ingested. The Monstera does well in medium to low light parts of the home, and even shady areas outdoors. A watering every one to two weeks will keep it nice and healthy, too! See you tomorrow morning! 

September 6, 2018

Today we're going to talk about the Pothos houseplant! Originating on an island in French Polynesia, Pothos come in a variety of colors and will be a great fall and winter houseplant, since it tolerates low light, and lower water. They are very easy to keep alive, and we have managed to bring many struggling pothos back to life. You can even take cuttings quite easily! When it comes to care, make sure to give the Pothos a well draining soil, that contains some perlite or vermiculite. Keep it out of direct sunlight, and let the soil get close to drying out between watering. See you tomorrow morning to discuss the Monstera Deliciosa!

September 5, 2018

Welcome to September everyone! For the areas starting to cool down, now is the time to start planning to bring your houseplants back into the home. Keep in mind, most houseplants don't do well in temperatures under fifty or sixty degrees, fahrenheit. So before it gets too cold, do the last of your transplants, and prepare your plants for the move inside. But before you bring them in, give them a rinse to make sure the leaves aren't carrying any bugs. If you have it available, use a bit of neem oil spray to make sure any insects are treated. Once inside, place them near a window that receives bright, but indirect light, always out of direct sunlight. See you tomorrow morning to talk about the easy to care for, Pothos plant.

September 4, 2018

Today we're going to talk about the three numbers on your potting soil or fertilizer bag. You'll see it written as numbers with dashes between them. That refers to the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium contained within. Now don't run off yet, we'll keep the science to a minimum. The first number, Nitrogen, is what makes up the leafy growth of a plant. Nitrogen is what gives plants their green color. The middle number is phosphorus, and is responsible for root and flower development. And the last number, Potassium, is a bit of a jack of all trades, and helps out with almost every process inside the plant! And that's all! Not so bad, right? Remember it simply as, N, P, and K. There's a lot of other nutrients, and we'll get into those a bit later on, but these are the primary three to know! Have a great day!

September 3, 2018

Happy Labor Day to those of you in the United States! Today, we're going to touch on physical soil composition. Have you ever thought about what's actually in soil? Most potting soils made for houseplants begin with a mulch; ground up woody parts of other plants. This will provide food for the plants that they can breakdown over time. Potting soil also usually contains peat moss, which is just dried sphagnum moss; another ground up plant. Peat moss helps to retain moisture in the soil.  I guess it makes sense that the best way to grow plants is with other plants! There is also usually fertilizer from rocks, minerals, or animals that will be released to the plant over time. Finally, there is an amendment like perlite, vermiculite, or sand, that retains nearly no moisture, and its sole purpose is to keep oxygen in the soil for the roots to thrive! Tomorrow we'll talk about how to read a bag of potting soil or fertilizer.

September 2, 2018

Today we're going to be talking about root rot. A common issue for new plant owners. Root rot is caused by a lack of oxygen in the rootzone, or in other words, too much water.  This can be from over watering, a pot without drainage, or a soil with poor drainage. This can be identified by a black, mushy part of the stem or brownish, slimy roots. It is essentially decomposition beginning early. It is an anaerobic process, meaning without oxygen. To combat root rot, allow your soil to dry out. Your soil may be holding too much water, so you can add some perlite, vermiculite, rocks, or sand to improve drainage and increase the oxygen content of the rootzone. You'll want to look for the development of bright white, crunchy roots, and you'll know you have enough oxygen in the rootzone! Thanks for tuning in!

September 1, 2018

Did you know NASA screens for off gassing of new materials it plans to use in sealed aircrafts? This is because various household products release chemicals into the air throughout their life. This also happens in our homes and offices, but luckily we have air purifying plants to solve this! NASA conducted a study of a couple dozen air purifying plants that remove different toxins from the air. The study includes the peace lily, english ivy, areca palm, spider plant, pothos, fern, flamingo lily, philodendron, snake plant and a few more! These incredible plants have the ability to remove up to ninety percent of ammonia, xylene, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Make sure you put a couple of these plants in each of your rooms to clean your air! See you tomorrow morning!

August 31, 2018

This episode is about the continuously popular Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree. Native to the tropical rainforests of West Africa, the Fig loves bright, but indirect light. It also needs a good watering every couple of weeks if planted indoors. Make sure not to overwater it, or deprive it of light. Give the Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree adequate root space, too. A good rule of thumb is half a gallon of pot size, per foot of vertical height. So, a four foot fig tree will thrive with a two gallon pot! It will also be hard at work purifying your air and providing oxygen for your space. Inside the house or office, it can reach up to 10-15 feet given the proper conditions and space, and makes quite the statement piece. If planted outdoors, it can reach thirty to forty feet in height! This concludes your tip of the day!

August 30, 2018

Today we're going to talk about the benefits of misting your plants. Since most plants come from equatorial, tropical regions, it's important to keep your plants in humid air. When plants breathe in carbon dioxide, they naturally lose some of their water vapor during transpiration. This can be combated by keeping the leaves humid.  If the air is a bit drier, and particularly during winter months, try and use a spray bottle to mist the bottom sides of the leaves. This will replace some of the water that is lost, and should improve the overall health of the plant if done properly. Make sure not to mist in direct sunlight, as the leaves may become damaged from this. And remember that misting does not replace watering! This concludes today's tip of the day!

August 29, 2018

Did you know Ferns are some of the oldest on land plants? They are estimated to have lived on earth for over three hundred million years. Because of their age, they interestingly enough don't have seeds, but instead they have spores. A Boston fern will drop millions of spores in hopes of creating new baby ferns, albeit with a low success rate. The spores can often be seen on the underside of mature leaves as black specks. The Boston fern is also a great humidifier, and air purifier. It has the ability to absorb formaldehyde which is found in cigarettes and fabrics, as well as other Volatile Organic Compounds. This concludes today's tip of the day! If there is a topic you'd like to learn about, reach out on Instagram or Facebook. At Pretty in Green Plants. Have a great day everyone!

August 28, 2018

This is part two of two on transplanting. We're talking about planting into the next sized pot. Before planting, we need to loosen up the root ball. To do so, wiggle your finger up the center of the root ball to loosen it and spread the roots out for a larger footprint. Don't be shy here, roots are fairly resilient. When choosing the next pot, select one that gives the root zone at least a couple inches of new soil in each direction. Don't go too big. It's better to step up in pot sizes gradually. Now, fill in the bottom of the pot with your favorite potting mix until you can stand the plant up on the soil, and the top of the plant's soil almost reaches the top of the pot. Fill in all of the voids, and straighten your plant upright. Next, push down the soil around the plant lightly. Make sure to not over compact the soil. Finally, water slowly. The soil may sink, so add back media as necessary. Thank you for listening to Pretty in Green Plants, tip of the day!

August 27, 2018

This is part one of two on transplanting. Today we'll focus on plant removal. When transplanting any of your plants, try and do so when the soil is mostly dried out. This will allow the root ball to maintain its structure and is less likely to damage the roots. Transplanting from flexible plastic nursery pots will allow you to squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the roots, then you should be able to pull straight out, assuming the plant is mature. When transplanting from ceramic, or ridgid pots, you'll have to get more creative. Tap the sides of the pot to loosen the roots from the edges. If you still have no success, try using a garden spade to dig out the edges and loosen the plant. Tune in tomorrow for part two, transplanting into the new pot!

August 26, 2018

Welcome back to Pretty in Green Plants! This episode is about our favorite plant, the majestic Snake Plant. Also known as Mother in Law's tongue. The snake plant remains our favorite because of its simple beauty, variety of colors, fairly rapid growth, and that it is nearly impossible to kill! Give your Snake Plant bright light, just out of the sun, as to not bleach out the leaves. And water it sparingly, about every three weeks. Another plus of the Snake Plant is that it produces babies that you can harvest from the root zone! Side note, today the moon is full, so if you are so lucky to see it, take a look up tonight! See you tomorrow!

August 25, 2018

Today we're talking about succulents! Succulents have remained popular for their easy of care and hardiness. Most succulents originate from arid parts of the globe where water is hard to come by. Their thick skin helps maintain their sap like insides which helps keep their moisture in hot times. Succulents are fans of bright and often direct sunlight with infrequent watering, often on the order of months. The medium you plant succulents in should be that of their natural desert like origin. Something sandy with lots of drainage! Good luck with your succulents! Keep them in bright light and make sure not to over water! This concludes your Pretty in Green Plants, tip of the day!

August 24, 2018

Today we're talking about pruning and shaping plants. Most of us have seen or have a lanky plant that we can't get growing in the right direction. To solve this, use your nails or a clean pair of scissors to pinch off the very tip of the stem. Make sure to get the stem. If you want to encourage vertical growth, pinch the ends of lower stems or remove the branches completely. If you want to encourage bushy, wide growth, pinch the very top of the tallest branches to slow the top growth and develop lower branches. That concludes our trick for pruning. Side note, If you're in the Los Angeles area tomorrow, join us at our open house! See you tomorrow!

August 23, 2018

Today we'll learn about how to check for pests. The most common houseplant pests attack the leaves of a plant, and tend to hide on the bottom side of the leaves. Look for signs on the topside of the leaves, and verify your suspicion by finding eggs or tracks on the bottom side of the leaves. You are looking for very small white or black specks. Use a light to see the traces, or if you are fancy, a pocket microscope works great. If you find something, do not worry, it is very common. Try an organic neem oil spray, which treats just about every pest under the sun, and can also be used as a root drench for root dwellers. If neem isn't available, try a household remedy with cayenne pepper and citrus. Check back in tomorrow for more houseplant tips and tricks!

August 22, 2018

Today we're talking about when to water. Watering too often is the biggest mistake we see with houseplants. Most houseplants can go at least a week without water, assuming that the planter is adequately sized. Our favorite method here at Pretty in Green Plants is to judge by the weight of the pot. After a deep watering, lift the pot and plant together to feel how heavy it is. This is your baseline for a fully watered plant. Now, let your soil dry out until not only the top layer of soil is dry, but the pot is substantially lighter. If you are unsure, dig your finger into the soil an inch or two, and if it is still moist, let it dry out more. Pay attention to what your plant tells you in its color, or by wilting. See a video of us rehydrating a Peace Lily after wilting in the how to section of our site! We'll see you all tomorrow!

August 21, 2018

Today's tip is about watering. This is the biggest challenge for new plant parents. And specifically, we're going to talk about how to water. For most common houseplants, it is best to water like it rains. Let the soil dry out, then fully, and deeply water, as it would during rain and drought. Our favorite method here at Pretty in Green Plants, is to fill a tupperware or dish with water, and put the pot directly in the water to soak from the bottom up. Now this won't work for your bigger plants and pots. For those, you want to slowly water over the soil, and make sure not to flood the soil. Pour a little, let it absorb, pour a bit more, and repeat. A good rule of thumb for the quantity of water is to water one time the container volume. For a gallon pot that is very dry, water one gallon. Water should definitely be coming out of the drainage holes in the pot. Tomorrow we'll talk about when to water. 

August 20, 2018

We've all seen yellowing or dying off leaves on our plants, right? Keep in mind this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is quite natural for a plant to discard unneeded leaves. Also, if you can resist the temptation, keep the dying leaf on the plant. Plants transfer the nutrients from the old leaf and move that food to its other leaves. That is the green color you see in the leaf! If the yellowing leaves are primarily lower leaves, it might mean the plant needs a bit more fertilizer or light. Since a leaf's job is to absorb light, and a plant is getting less than ideal light, it will shed the lower, unneeded leaves to provide for new growth. 

August 19, 2018

Did you know keeping houseplants in your home or office increases memory and concentration? Having a green environment simulates the outside world and naturally calms us. Just a few plants around us can calm us and reduce the stresses of the day. It also helps that they absorb what we breathe out, and they create oxygen! Taking care of something other than ourselves, can give a sense of purpose and help improve feelings of compassion. Take a few minutes today to walk outside and take a look at some plants, and you'll come back to work refreshed and recharged. Tune back in tomorrow for your Pretty in Green Plants, tip of the day!

August 18, 2018

The soil your plant sits in is its home and food source. When choosing the potting mixture for your house plant, look for a houseplant specific mix that contains peat moss, organic fertilizer, soil, vermiculite or perlite, and ideally some sand. The most important component in your potting mix are those that allow the water to drain through. Since the most common issue with houseplants is overwatering, make sure not to pot directly in an outdoor potting soil, since it will hold too much water, and likely have too much fertilizer in it. When we make our custom organic potting mix, we focus on organic components that will provide aeration and feed the plant for 6 months to a year. When looking for a potting mix, find an organic blend, or try making your own at home! See you tomorrow!

August 17, 2018

 The proper light and water are the two most important factors to consider for a house plants success. When thinking of how much to water a plant, or how much light to give it, try and find the plants origin in the world. Understanding what part of the world a plant came from, will allow you to logically think about how often it rains in that region, and how much sun it might receive there. For example, Snake Plants, commonly referred to as mother in laws tongue, are originally from Tropical West Africa. You can imagine that region might receive filtered light, and a low amount of rainfall. This coincides with the Snake Plant's favorite conditions which are bright light, and waterings every three weeks or so. The Snake plant can tolerate some full sun, and is very drought tolerant. Tune back in tomorrow for your Pretty in Green Plants, tip of the day!

August 16, 2018

When choosing the correct pot for your plants, make sure to look for those that contain drainage holes. Allowing water to escape the pot will allow the rootzone to contain more oxygen, which is vital for the health of the roots. Pots without drainage are more susceptible to the roots drowning from overwatering.  The pot size is also important to not go too small or too large. Too small and you'll be watering too frequently, and the plant will become rootbound. Too large and the soil will remain wet for extended periods, leading to an overwatered and unhappy plant. This concludes your Pretty in Green Plants, tip of the day!

August 15, 2018

The amount of light you give your plants is crucial to their success. Too much and the leaves will bleach or burn. Too little, and growth will be slowed. Keep in mind, many house plants come from the jungles of central and south america, as well as Africa. So they are acclimated to bright, but indirect light. Full sun will harm most common house plants. A handy way to measure light levels is to measure the strength of the shadow casted by the plant. With most common house plants, excluding succulents, if the shadow cast by the plant has hard edges, the plant is receiving too much light. Aim to have a soft edged shadow. If you would like to get a bit more scientific with it, try downloading a light meter app for your smartphone from your favorite app store.

August 14, 2018

Summer months make the ideal climate for fungus gnats. Make sure to remove standing water from your surroundings, and make sure not to overwater. Fungus gnats, or commonly referred to as fruit flies, are attracted to moisture and humidity.  To get rid of them, use a combination of organic gnat controls, sticky traps, and fans to prevent them from landing in your soil! For a do it yourself method, try out one part hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent strength, which is the commonly sold strength, mixed with 3 parts water. Allow your soil to dry out, then water with this mixture as you regularly would.