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The What, Why, and How of Tropical House Plants

January 1st, 2010

What Exactly Is a Tropical House Plant?

Dieffenbachias in my yard

First of all, is it supposed to be houseplant ( one word ) or house plant ( two words )? I just googled *house plant*, and it asked me “Did you mean: houseplant”. So Google wants to make it one word. However I looked in my old Webster’s Dictionary, and houseplant is not even there. I guess that makes it optional.

A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors, in your home or office. Most often it is used for decoration, but it also helps to purify the air, since plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.

Tropical houseplants are those that are native to the tropical regions of the world. In such a climate they thrive year-round, and grow to much larger sizes than they would reach in your house. Since I live in the tropics, I can vouch for the fact that my outdoor gardening consists largely of cutting back the foliage, so that it doesn’t take over.

The term “tropical houseplant” is somewhat redundant, since most house plants are originally from the tropics, and consequently have a better chance of surviving in the warm interior of a home or office.

Why Would I Want to Grow Tropical Houseplants?

Oleander - pretty, but not a houseplant

My personal reason? What makes it all worthwhile is the sense of satisfaction when the cutting I get from a friend finally turns into a beautiful plant. It takes skill and a lot of luck to deal with the unique problems of each individual plant. And sometimes, I fail. But, more often than not, I end up with a plant that I am proud to exhibit.

How Do I Take Care of Tropical Houseplants?

Bananas

Each variety of plant has its own requirements. In nature, a plant will thrive in a location that has what it needs. But when we put the plant in a pot, and bring it into our house, we have to make sure that we simulate its natural setting as much as possible.

To survive, tropical houseplants need light, warmth, and moisture in varying amounts. To thrive, we must also consider such factors as nutrients, size and type of pot, and pest control.

Future posts to this blog will go into more detail about the what, where, and how of growing tropicals indoors.

Note: The pictures above were taken of the Professor’s garden, and show the rampant growth of tropical plants in their native environment. In future posts, I will show pictures of some of my houseplants.

May your thumb always be green

…The Professor, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands



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Christmas Plants in the Virgin Islands

December 15th, 2009


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in the Virgin Islands. Here are some pictures of some of the seasonal plants that let us know we’re approaching the holiday season — since it snows only very rarely here in St. Thomas. The Christmas plants with flowers have them only during this time of year.

There are captions for each picture, which you can see by hovering. When you do so, the slideshow will temporarily stop until you move back off the picture. I don’t know the real names of some of these plants, so I’ve given you the local name, if the plant has one. And, as you can see, they are not all “house plants”, but they all could be.

I’m going to use a different method of showing you the pictures this time. Last time, I used a “gallery” script of my own design to be able to show all the slides in a small space. This time, I’m using a “slideshow” script, which is not my own. ( Why re-invent the wheel? This script in my opinion is the best one available on the internet. ) I would appreciate it if you could let me know which of the two types of scripts you like the best.

Which type of script do you prefer for viewing pictures?






April 29, 2011: Here are the results of the survey so far:

Gallery 47 votes ( 78% )
Slideshow 13 Votes ( 21% )
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Tropical House Plant Care – Fertilizing House Plants

November 14th, 2009

Blooming Coleus between two Blooming Vincas

I forgot to pinch off the blooms on this coleus.


Your plants basically need two types of nourishment to survive: water and minerals. They get minerals by absorbing them from the damp soil through their roots. Outdoor plants can often gather all the minerals they need from their surroundings by themselves. However, houseplant care requires more careful attention from the gardener, since the nutrients available from the soil in a pot are limited.

What are those numbers on the bag of fertilizer?

Fertilizers contain the key elements needed: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) in varying proportions. The numbers given on a bag of fertilizer show the relative amounts of these three elements. For example, an 18-6-12 fertilizer contains 18% N, 6% P2O5, and 12% K2O. Other elements are also necessary, but in much lower amounts.

Two Different Coleus Plants

These really are both coleus. The short one had its blossoms pinched off, and the tall one has been grown indoors, so it hasn’t tried to bloom.

How do I decide what proportions to use for my plants?

The amount of each element needed will of course depend on the species of plant. Too much is just as bad for the plant as too little, so it requires a bit of research to learn exactly what is right for your particular tropical plant. Usually this help is available by either reading the label, or by asking your plant-supply person.

What is the function of each of the primary nutrients?

Without going too deeply into biochemistry, we can say that flowering tropical houseplants have a greater need for phosphorus, whereas leafy green house plants like a lot of nitrogen. Potassium helps fight plant diseases, and helps fruit-bearing plants by making it easier to transport other necessary elements through plant tissue.

Dying Coleus Plant

I brought this back in the house, and it began to wilt. It has to lean against the wall. I think it’s had it.

How can I tell if my plant is getting too little or too much fertilizer?

A nutrient deficiency will often cause the leaves to lose color, or to be smaller than normal. To help the plant recover, use a soluble fertilizer, so the nutrients can be absorbed faster. Too much fertilizer can result in brown leaf tips, or in wilting. This condition is easily relieved by soaking the whole pot in water to allow the excess nutrients to be washed away.

How and when do I apply fertilizer?

Personally, I prefer fertilizers that are dissolved in water, as this method is less likely to result in over-fertilization. I mix the fertilizer according to package directions, and then apply it by thoroughly watering the plant, until it flows out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. I find that doing this about every two months is usually just about right.

An article like this one is featured on Ezine Articles

By being careful in fertilizing houseplants, you can make sure that they not only survive, but thrive. And be sure to take advantage of your plant-supplier. He should be happy to give you advice on how to keep your tropical houseplants healthy.

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Some Pictures of My Houseplants

October 14th, 2009

It’s been almost a year since my last post. I was busy trying to make some money online, so I neglected this blog. But that’s going to change. While I’m trying to monetize the blog, I thought you might like to see some pictures of my houseplants, most of which were taken recently.

Since I live in the Virgin Islands, most of my houseplants are actually porch plants. And most of them don’t get much sun, but they get plenty of light. Since I live on the North Side of the island, and my porch has a roof, they only get direct sunlight for an hour or so except in the summer of course, when the sun comes from the North ( since I’m in the tropics ).

– to enlarge, click on any thumbnail –

Red Flower Planter on Railing Yellow Flowers Mother-in-law's Tongue
Bougainvilla Night Bloomer Night Bloomer Red Flowers

Red Flower

I got a cutting of this plant from outside my local liquor wholesaler’s office. I haven’t found out its name yet. The flower starts out red, then gradually changes to orange, then yellow.

Spider Plant White Begonia Coleus Blue Flower
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