All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A
by Pernell Gerver

Bookmark this page or add it to your favorites now!
(Reload or refresh each time you visit to get the current week's columns.)

 Tell a friend about Pernell Gerver's Official Web Site 

"The Best House Plants for Underwaterers"

When it comes to watering house plants there are basically three types of people - those who overwater, those who underwater, and those who water just right, but most fall into the overwaterer and underwaterer categories. Which one are you?

The fastest way to kill a house plant is by overwatering, however there are a few plants that will die just as fast if allowed to severely dry out. For house plant success, try to match your watering personality with the appropriate plant. The following are some good house plants for those who are more forgetful waterers. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Rattail CactusWhen thinking of plants suitable for underwaterers, cacti and succulents immediately come to mind. The stems of cactus are water storage vessels that allow the plant to hold water and use it as needed. In the desert, the cactus uses water stored in its stems to keep it alive during periods of drought. During the short periods of rainfall, the cactus replenishes its water reserves. While most plants lose moisture through their leaves, cactus has no leaves, and doesn't lose moisture this way. When grown indoors as a house plant, cacti need infrequent watering. Water enough to thoroughly moisten the soil, then allow the plant to completely dry out before watering again. Never let a cactus sit in water. Rattail cactus has long, slender, trailing stems that hang gracefully downward. Soft, white spines line its gray-green stems. In spring, its stems bear dozens and dozens of fuchsia-pink tubular flowers that stand perpendicular to the stems. The flowers are up to two inches long and are in bloom for weeks.

Jade PlantSucculent house plants have thick, fleshy leaves that also store water like cactus. Jade plant (Crassula argentea) is a type of succulent house plant. It has thick, slightly-cupped, green leaves on stout stems. Its overall shape resembles a small tree. Mature plants sometimes produce flower clusters of white or pink flowers in winter.

Geranium 'Vancouver Centennial'Geranium (Pelargonium spp.) is commonly grown outdoors as a summer bedding plant. It can also be grown indoors as a house plant. There are many types of geraniums to grow indoors. Along with the common bedding-plant-type geranium, there are also scented-leaved and fancy-leaved types that do well as house plants. All prefer to dry out between waterings and will rot off if watered too frequently. Scented-leaved geraniums are grown for their aromatic foliage which includes rose, mint, and apple, to mention a few. Fancy-leaved geraniums have showy foliage along with their colorful flowers. Geranium 'Vancouver Centennial' is a fancy-leaved geranium that has fan-shaped leaves that are marked with a blotch of deep maroon in the center, leaving only a thin margin of chartreuse around the edges. Star-shaped flowers are bright, scarlet orange with serrated edges. It blooms year 'round. It's a wonderful house plant year 'round and a great bedding plant for the summer garden, as well.

There are many types of house plant begonias (Begonia spp.) with different growing habits. Some are grown for their striking foliage, others for their showy flowers. There are miniature types growing only several inches tall, and others that grow six feet tall or more. Flower shapes vary, from small, single flowers to large, fully-double types. Flower colors include white, pink, orange, red, and bicolors. Begonia fuchsiodes has small, one-inch foliage that is glossy green. Its stems arch gracefully downward. Tiny pink flowers that resemble fuchsia blooms dangle from the stems. Regardless of type, all begonias prefer to dry out between waterings. Like geraniums, begonias can rot off if overwatered.

Watermelon peperomiaPeperomia (Peperomia spp.) is another house plant for underwaterers. Overwatering this plant nearly always leads to its demise. Its thick, fleshy leaves allow it to withstand considerable dryness. Most types of peperomia have oval or heart-shaped leaves. Watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia) is aptly named. It has distinct, silver stripes running from the top of its oval leaf downward, giving it the appearance of a watermelon rind. Peperomia flowers are unusual. Each is a skinny spike, up to 10 inches tall. It rises up through the clump of foliage and is usually white or cream.

Foxtail FernFoxtail fern (Asparagus myersii) is a house plant with an interesting form. It has foxtail-shaped fronds with bright green needles. This is a good plant to use outdoors in summer as an accent plant in container gardens. As a house plant, foxtail fern has fronds nearly a foot and a half long and two to three inches across. Each frond tapers to a point. The fronds arch slightly downward from the center of the plant. Foxtail fern is a clump-forming plant and is very graceful plant in its appearance. Easily reaching several feet across, a mature plant makes a bold statement. In summer, it bears small white flowers followed by bright red berries. Foxtail fern grows from a tuberous root. Swollen, white, water-holding nodes are produced along the roots. These store and release water as needed during dry periods.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Age, Temperature Important for Night Blooming Cereus"

Q. I have a night blooming cereus that is about three years old. I was told it has very fragrant flowers, but it has never flowered for me. I am growing it in a sunny window on a trellis because it's quite tall. Does it flower? What can I do to make it flower? Thanks for your help.

Night-blooming cereusA. Night blooming cere