garden, garden window, indoor gardening

Chinese Evergreen

I was first introduced to the Chinese evergreen about 15 years ago when I first started having my hair styled by Deb.  She had an awesome workstation, indirect light that really focused on your hair.  But if you cared to look around her station, the overhead window really shed some terrific light on her “house”plants.  She had many African Violets, Christmas cactus, and an incredible Chinese evergreen.  He sat on the floor next to the magazine rack, in the indirect light of the overhead windows.

The Chinese evergreen (genus Aglaonema) fares well in low light conditions and produces lovely mottled leaves.  They are readily available at grocery stores, nurseries, and even by mail order.  Very easy to grow and maintain, just be careful not to over water.

chinese evergreen - before
Chinese evergreen – before

When my specimen started to look a bit “leggy”, as is quite common with this plant, I broke out the “Success with Houseplants” guide to read up on possible propagation.  I was thrilled to learn a couple of methods that work well with this plant.  I cut the leggy pieces off and cut a few stems for rooting.




I had purchased this decorative rooting vase at the Philadelphia Flower Show a few years back.

I plopped a couple of shoots into the water, and waited.  Within a month, those shoots were rooted and ready to fill the pot with luscious green.

Chinese evergreen – after

NASA has determined that these plants help clean the air indoors. So not only are they easy and carefree, Chinese evergreens also work hard when you have things to do.  Bonus!


garden window

Plants really do talk – but do we listen?

My orchids are doing very well in the garden window.  It has taken me a long time to find plants that appreciate an eastern exposure, and orchids do!

A few weeks ago, I noticed my “brown-spotted yellow” orchid starting new leaves.  I have no idea what this one is called.  I picked up a few toss off orchids at the Phipps Conservatory annual spring flower sale a couple of years back.  It did bloom once, but hasn’t been one of my more prolific bloomers.  Unfortunately, I never did take any photos of it in bloom.  It looked something like this, if memory serves me right.

Orchid Dendrobium Minnie
photo credit – clown alley orchids

The new leaves were kind of crinkly, shaped more like an accordion.  I don’t remember seeing new leaves like this before, but I thought perhaps this was the way new leaves developed.  I took the “wait and see” approach.

Yesterday, as I realized the leaves were still crinkly, I started thinking that perhaps this plant is trying to tell me something.


I quickly Googled “crinkly orchid leaves” and discovered that this is really not the normal way this orchid presents new growth.  I read that crinkly leaves could be a sign that the roots are not taking up enough water.  Only one way to determine if the roots are unhappy.

Upend the pot and take a look!


An inspection of the roots revealed that while most of the roots were in fair condition – most were white and plump – the medium was completely saturated and clumpy on the bottom of the pot.  The medium breaks down over time, and these little roots aren’t making spaces through the medium so that the water could drain out properly.

So rather than not enough water, my orchid was sitting in a swamp.  The roots could not breathe!

In order to allow proper drainage, I added a few pebbles to the bottom of the pot before I refreshed the medium, and replanted.

Hopefully, this plant will re-establish itself and bloom once again.  I’ll be sure to capture the blooms then!


garden window, seeds

From Seeds to Seedlings

The pansies sprouted and were transferred from the top of the fridge to the garden window about 4 weeks ago.


I’m doing all I can to ensure their success – they are about 3 inches from the grow light and are sitting on a heating pad set to low.  The grow light is set on a timer so they get 10 hours of light a day, in addition to the indirect natural light this window receives.  The garden window tends to be a bit chilly, so the heating pad keeps the soil from getting too cold for good root establishment.

Here are the impatiens that I started about 2 weeks after the pansies.


A few are robust, but for the most part, they all look rather gangly.  I’m not sure what more I can do for them.  Just keep them watered, warm, and enlightened!

I plan to start the sweet peas and a few other direct sow seeds this weekend.  The forecast in my area is predicted to be sunny with temps in the upper 50s and low 60s.  Sounds heavenly!  I’ll be out digging in the dirt!

Have a marvelous weekend!

garden, garden window, indoor gardening

Top o’ the Morning! A Guide to Caring for Your Shamrock

One of the easiest-to-care-for plants I have in the garden window is the Shamrock (Oxalis).  My dad gave me the original plant over 20 years ago.  My shamrock is actually part of that original plant.

My garden window provides the perfect conditions for the Shamrock – she prefers a cooler location (between 50F and 75F) and indirect light.  Truly all she needs is water when she’s dry.  I pinch out the spent flowers at the base of the stem.  Simple care.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to make some room in the window for my first set of seedling pansies, and noticed my Shamrock was looking a bit scant.  I hadn’t repotted her in a few years, so I decided to take a look at her roots and see what she might be trying to tell me.

The Shamrock plant grows from small bulbs.  I knocked the soil away from the bulbs, kept the ones that were healthy (pink) and tossed the old dead ones.  I freshened the soil and dressed her roots in a new ceramic pot.

Shamrocks tend to like cramped living conditions, so I did not increase the size of the pot.  Add some water, replace her in the garden window.


And look who decided to make a grand appearance – just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!

garden, garden window, indoor gardening

Tropical break

Two years ago, I obtained my very first orchid.  I was always so intimidated by them – they are so beautiful, yet I had heard so much about how challenging they could be to grow.  I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge but I purchased one at the Philadelphia Flower show.  After juggling the delicate flowers on the bus ride home, I found the perfect location for it in my garden window.  The growers had included a leaflet on the proper care, so I was all set.  The flowers lasted about 2 months, which truly amazed me.

DSC_0667After enjoying these blooms through May, imagine my excitement when I visited the Phipps Conservatory spring flower sale in May and found a booth that was selling “toss off” orchids.  The oriental flower show was concluding, and the specimens that had been on display were being sold at deep discount prices.  The only problem was there was no indication of what I was buying.  The greens were healthy enough, but the blooms had long since died and the stems were trimmed way back.  I bought 3 plants.

I quickly ran out to the garden center that evening to purchase some Orchid Medium and pots.  Planting them and then watering was all the care they required.  Some friends of mine mentioned how they simply placed an ice cube in the pot every week, and that was enough to sustain.  But I read up on them a bit, and saw how you really shouldn’t utilize the ice cube method.  And just think about it.  Would you want your feet dipped in an ice bath once a week?

I water them once a week, placing each pot in the sink and running water through the potting medium until the water flows out the bottom.  I let them drain a bit, then place them back in the garden window.  Truly one of the easiest houseplants I have ever maintained.  They don’t bloom very often, and even after 2 years, I’m still waiting for one to bloom.

After taking all the Christmas decorations out of the garden window a few weeks ago, I noticed my mystery orchid had sprouted a shoot with a few buds on it.  I’ve been waiting so patiently, checking the growth each day.  And finally, today, we have a bloom!



garden window

Christmastime in the Garden Window

I cannot believe how quickly the Paperwhites bloomed!  I planted them only 3 weeks ago and look – already they are blooming!

They are VERY fragrant as well.  B is not so sure it’s a good fragrance (and I tend to agree), but they are beautiful, nonetheless!  I planted an additional planter, so more should start blooming in about 3 weeks.

I’m just so excited to have flowers blooming in December, I don’t really care what they smell like!

And look who else decided to show up for the party!  Cmas CactusMy Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) hasn’t bloomed for 2 years, and just look how many blooms I will have this Christmas!

This Garden Window may not be the best location for him, as too much light can cause the stems to turn red.  These guys love shade, and they love moisture.  They don’t really sound like much of a cactus!  My Garden Window gets direct sun, due to it’s unfortunate eastern exposure.  The winter months aren’t nearly as harsh as summer, though.  After the blooming this year, I’m going to propagate this guy.  Stay tuned for that feature.

I’m so excited for the Garden Window!


garden window

Forcing Paperwhites for the Holidays

In an effort to continue gardening through winter, I have decided to try some extra indoor gardening this year.  I have a garden window that looks pretty sparse these days, so I’m going to try my hand at forcing bulbs.


Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are popular indoor plants for winter and the holiday season. Unlike other narcissus, paper whites don’t require a chilling period, so forcing them is as easy as putting the bulbs in water and waiting. The fragrant flowers bloom within about 3 weeks of planting, for almost instant gratification.

I tried a few websites first, just to take a look at the varieties that might be available.  The shipping charges for these items were enough to have me running  to my local Home Depot and checking out my luck there.  I found the Paperwhite Ziva variety, 6 bulbs to a package.  They appear to be pretty healthy, and anxious to start growing!


I used one of my favorite planters, one that does not have drainage holes in the bottom, spread a layer of glass stones on the bottom.  I then placed 3 of the bulbs in the stones, anchored them slightly in the stones, and then placed more stones around them.

Water the stones until the bulbs are touching the water.  You don’t want to cover the bulbs with water as they will rot.

Now all you have to do is wait!  But only 3 or 4 weeks.  I will be starting another planter in 2 weeks, so that the show will continue through the holidays.

garden window

My garden window

A few years ago, I had a garden window installed in our family room.  It’s eastern exposure is less than ideal, as the morning sun is pretty intense there.  I applied a UV film, which really cut back on the scorching of the plants that were in the window, but it still gets too much direct light.

I’ve decided that my next winter garden project will be to get the right kind of plants in there that can thrive.  I want that window to be a showcase in the family room, not just a toss off pile of former dish gardens!

Garden Window - Before

The window currently contains a mother-in-law’s tongue (that is actually doing very well there), an African violet (that truly does not belong there), a shamrock plant that struggles, numerous peace lilies, a hanging spider plant, a Christmas cactus that refuses to bloom, and a cyclamen that looks like it’s on its last leg.  I’m sure these plants would do so much better in indirect light.

So I’m wondering if it’s possible to create more shade in that window.  I need to find some sort of plant that loves direct light and can grow tall enough to produce an umbrella affect for the tender plants it will protect.  I’m thinking of a vining plant, preferably a flowering one.  Maybe a clematis?  Never thought of trying one indoors.  Hmmm.  Any suggestions?

Another problem in that window (especially in the winter), is the temperature.  The windows aren’t drafty, but it still gets pretty chilly in there.  I think the nature of the window, jutting out from the room into the outdoors, is just going to be chilly.  And now I’m thinking I should probably get some heating pads in there.  And a tray of pebbles with water for moisture wouldn’t hurt either!

OK – I’ve got some homework to do!