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It was in the early 1950s that Dr. T. Randolph associated indoor air pollution with allergies and other chronic illnesses. Since his findings those affected by allergy related illness are now 1 in 5 Americans. The EPA currently ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top 5 threats to public health. In our effort to maximize energy efficiency due to the ‘70s oil embargo, the change in our personal environment has put our health at risk. Buildings are practically sealed and the fresh air exchange is drastically reduced. Add to this the recent changes in the composition of buildings. Many materials are now synthetic which are held together with a variety of glues and resins, put in synthetic carpeting and fabrics, composite material in furnishings, tint to un-openable windows. Add electronic equipment and we have closed ourselves in buildings which emit or “off-gas” toxic air. In 1984 the World Health Organization reported that as much as 30% of new and remodeled buildings had air quality problems. Back in the ‘80s NASA scientists began extensive studies on treating and recycling air to create a life-support system for space stations. Their studies helped relieve the widespread phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome”. And surprisingly the answer to the problem of indoor air pollution is houseplants.
Areca is a genus of 50 – 60 species of single stemmed palms. Originally native to woodland and humid tropical forest of Malaysia and Indonesia. Growing conditions should be moderate light, rich loam based soil with sand, water frequently keeping the root ball damp. Spider mites may be a problem as will brown tips on fronds from an over-dry environment.
Bromelia is a genus of 46 species native to the rain forest of S. Mexico, Central America, South America and the West Indies. The most famous bromeliad is the pineapple. They take many different but similar forms and are slow growing plants with most interesting flowers and heavy succulent fruit. Water well during the growing season but cut back on water during winter. Scale and fungal leaf spots may be a problem.
Cattleya orchids are the ones most commonly used as a corsage. This is a genus of about 40 species native to Central and South America at altitude. Rather an ugly plant with leathery leaves, the large, showy flowers are exquisite with the ability to scent an entire room. This is not the orchid for amateurs. Cattleyas need high humidity, good ventilation and bright but filtered light. As with all orchids in summer water freely, in winter remove shading and water sparingly. Scale, mites, whiteflies, aphids and mealy bugs attack, fungal, bacterial invasion and viral diseases can destroy. Unfortunately hybridizes have been messing around with them and now the plants are more finicky about the conditions they will tolerate. There is no specific bloom time for cattleya best advice buy in bud. Cattleyas need temps that range between 55 degrees at night and up to 90 during the day.
Chamaedorea is your basic parlor palm. A genus of about 120 species native to Mexico. They like bright light but not direct sun; soil should be kept moist in winter, water generously in summer. Spider mites can be a nuisance.
Chlorophytum is a genus of about 200 species native to the tropics and West Africa. The most common is called a spider plant. They bear arching panicles of small, 6 petaled flowers then develop into small seeds and finally new plantlets. Tolerant of both sun and shade they require little more than light and water for success. The tick roots retain a great deal of moisture and occasionally burst out of the pot. Brown leaf tips are the biggest problem and that is due to salt damage or dry conditions.
Crassula commonly called a jade plant is a genus of about 150 species of annual and perennial succulents indigenous to mostly South Africa but also found in Asia and Madagascar. They like a light and sunny situation and a period of dormancy with cooler temperature. Water sparingly about once or twice a month, repot after dormant period in a heavy compost-loam mixture. Propagation is by cuttings. Fertilize lightly, may be prone to mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites and thrips.
Cyclamen is a genus of about 15 species that grow wild throughout the Mediterranean countries, Asia Minor and Iran. All species resemble each other and have tuberous rootstock, and heart or kidney shaped leaves with green/silver top color and reddish on the reverse. The flowers emerge from the foliage and almost look like badminton shuttlecocks minus the cap. Five petaled flowers with little or no scent, strains have been developed with fringed, smooth or striped flower tips in the most delightful colors. They like their food and constantly moist soil and relatively cool conditions. Always remove faded flowers and yellow leaves. The list of pests is long, mites, aphids, crown and leaf rot, mold, black let, thrips, viruses, and something new to me eelworms. When buying a cyclamen always look inside the foliage to see how many new flower buds are forming.
Dionaea is the genus name for the Venus flytrap native to the marshy regions near the coast of the Carolina’s. They are insectivorous plants, sensitive to touch, the edges are covered in stiff hairs and as soon as the plant feels anything, the two halves of the leaf fold along the midrib and the hairs interlink and do not reopen until the food is digested. Best in a terrarium or cool greenhouse they need plenty of water, high humidity, potted in a mixture of peat, sphagnum moss and potting soil. Do not feed.
Dracaena is a genus of about 40 species of
shrubs and trees found naturally in the scrub and dry open slopes of the
Euphorbia, most commonly known as poinsettia is a genus with
over 2000 species naturally occurring in subtropical and tropical zones the
second most famous is Crown of Thorns.
The species poinsettia do not tolerate direct sun outside nor do they like cold temperatures, they should be watered regularly with tepid water and enjoy a misting but will tolerate low humidity levels, over watering causes leaf drop. Poinsettias require a great
deal of feeding during active growing and propagation is from tip cuttings in the spring and summer by dipping the cuttings in charcoal or rooting powder to stop the latex flow then potted and they are also successfully grown from the seed.
Although they are considered succulent poinsettias are susceptible to mealy bugs and scale and spider mites, also gray mold, thrips, aphids and root rot are the most common problems.
Hedera is the genus for ivy and contains 8 – 12 species of climbing and trailing woody stemmed evergreen plants. Identified by five different leaf types classified further into miniature, oddities and variegated forms. In autumn they produce tiny, 5 lobed yellowish-green bisexual flowers followed by fruit. Propagation is by taking semi-ripe cuttings of juvenile growth in water or with a rooting hormone. They are susceptible to fungal and bacterial spot as well as spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs and scale. Water freely indoors in a well draining pot and feed a balanced fertilizer monthly.
Hoya is a genus of over 200 species of plants with thick succulent leaves and waxy flower. Hoya likes plenty of light, keep cool and dry during the winter but water will in spring and summer. For best flowering results keep the plant in a constant position. Prone to mealy bugs and scale.
Jasminum is a genus of 200 plus species of deciduous, evergreen, shrub and climbing plants. Cultivated for their scent the little star shaped flowers can be overpowering. Tropical in origin they should be grown in a sunny location indoors and a low-nitrogen liquid fertilizer monthly, water freely in summer and locate outside in a dappled shade area. Propagation is by semi-ripe cuttings and root powder. Prone to root rot, fungal and bacterial sports and many viruses. Aphids, scale, and mite can be problems.
Kalanchoe is a genus of over 200 species. Considered a succulent it
should be kept in very good
light spring and summer with the midday sun filtered. Spent flowers should be removed and their dormant temperatures should be about 60 degrees. In summer the soil should remain moderately, moist while in winter they can be allowed to go a bit dryer. Soil should be a good
compost with extra sand or perlite and they like a small amount of liquid fertilizer during the growing season.
The genus miltoniopsis has five
species found naturally at altitude in the mountainous regions of Central and
Nephrolepis is commonly called the Boston fern. The genus contains about 30 species of evergreen, epiphytic and terrestrial ferns found naturally in rainforest, opens habitats, tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. They like rich loamy soil cut with sand, moderate to high humidity, bright filtered light. Resistances to infestations, remove dead leaves that dry in the undergrowth, fertilize monthly and keep the soil moderately moist.
Opuntia is a genus of about 200 species found in very arid regions of North, Central and South America and the West Indies commonly called prickly pear cactus. Amazingly fast growing this cactus blooms glorious yellow flowers in summer or spring in the desert. The platelets are actually stems. The stems have evenly spaced areoles each bearing hundreds of mini-hooked spines. The big leaves or spines are hard, sharp and generally are three inches long and they rim and cover the surface area Flower nodes appear along the edge of the platelets in the early summer and can be profuse. Begin fertilization with a weak solution in March increasing in strength till the nodes first appear.
Phalaenopsis is one of the never fail orchid genus and a great one for beginners. Best choice is to buy one that is about to bloom; they will last up to two months. The flower spike will set when night temperatures reach 50 degrees. As the flower spike begins it will give the appearance of a little green knob breaking out of the side of the plant just above the roots. Once that happens don't rotate the plant, this is one of many plants that require a consistent position to the sun. Phalaenopsis is a genus of about 50 species originally from dense, wet forest areas of India and Southeast Asia and the Philippines. They have no water-storage organs so they like a moist environment easily achieved from a daily light misting. Phals prefer a shaded atmosphere and like most orchids, moving air. Fertilize once a month during growth, allow to go dormant after blooming. Yellow leaves indicate over watering a common mistake for rookies, better to heavily mist.
Plumeria is a genus of 8 species the best known is called fragipani or pagoda tree. Native to tropical and subtropical America the simple leathery leaves are arranged spirally and the fragrant flowers have five broad petal lobes. Trouble free the plumeria is plagued only by spider mites.
Saintpaulia commonly called African violet is a genus of about 20 species of low-growing perennials found on the banks and streamside naturally in a very small area of tropical E. Africa. There are over 2000 cultivars derived basically from one species. They like bright light, but not direct sun. Moist soil, but don't get the leaves wet and please use warm water because they can catch a chill. African violets are heavy feeders but stick with appropriate fertilizers, enhance blooms with a few rusty nails pushed into the soil. Propagation is easy, put aluminum foil over a glass full of water, poke a hole in the center with a pencil and remove a healthy leaf breaking it off as close to the trunk as possible. Place the stem through the hole so that it's almost submerged but not getting the leaf wet. Keep the glass in a sunny window and repot once it has developed a good root system. Once established remove the original leaf. Gray mold, mites, root rot can be problems.
Schefflera is a genus containing over 900 species. Naturally found in warm-temperate and tropical areas of SE Asia to the Pacific islands, Central and South America. Indoors schefflera’s need bright filtered or indirect light. Scale, thrips and mealy bugs may be a problem.
Schlumbergera is a genus of about six species of bushy, epiphytic or rock-dwelling cacti native to tropical rain forest of SE Brazil. Commonly called Christmas cactus. Cultivated for their wonderfully intricate flowers which have no scent but they really are quite exotic in bloom. They like humus rich soil, keep moist but well drained. Fertilize during the growing season keep outside during summer with the orchids in a shady spot and water at will. They do not tolerate a dry situation, strong winds or temps that drop below 50 degrees. Buds emerge late November and blooming time is generally mid-winter.
Sinningia is a genus of 20 naturally occurring species native to the tropical rain forest of Brazil, commonly called gloxinia. Grown from tubers, the plant has large, soft leaves and generous funnel-shaped flowers in deep, rich colors. Gluttonous feeders they also should be watered with demineralized, tepid water with a bit of fertilizer every time. They like moist soil and a hothouse atmosphere but not bright sunlight.
Sprengeri is a genus of over 300 species of fern originally from all points in Africa. It has thick tuberous rootstock and woody, strongly branched stems often with thorns. The leaves are tiny, spurred from the base of the stem. Tolerant of shade they do enjoy moving air. Water well during the summer but give a rest during winter. Feed weekly from May to September with a weak diluted solution. Plants rarely are subject to disease.
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