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by Pernell Gerver

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"Low-Light House Plants You Can Grow When Your Windows Are Full"

House plants on the windowsillJust because the windowsills in your home are already full of plants or inaccessible because of furniture doesn't mean you can't grow houseplants. There are many different indoor plants that don't need to grow right on the windowsill. These low-light plants can be grown well away from the window and will still thrive. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra elatiorOne of the best low-light indoor plants is cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). This tough house plant earned its common name during Victorian times when gas lighting was first introduced indoors. The gas gave off fumes that were poisonous to most indoor plants, killing them. The one house plant that survived was the cast iron plant. It is grown primarily for its foliage. The long, upright leaves are dark green and grow 15 to 20 inches long. It forms a dense clump at maturity. It tolerates very low light and is very adaptable, growing well in a wide range of temperatures. Even a sunless, north-facing window is adequate light for cast iron plant. Its ability to tolerate low light makes it a good choice for areas of the home where other plants won't grow.

African violetAfrican violets are wonderful blooming indoor plants that grow well in low-light conditions. Even a coffee table in the middle of the room or a north-facing window is adequate light. African violet is prized for its clusters of colorful flowers held atop soft, felty leaves. It is one of the most popular house plants. It blooms nearly all year long, providing colorful flowers even during the bleak days of winter. Many also have attractive foliage that is as showy as its flowers.

Heartleaf PhilodendronHeart-leaved philodendron (Philodendron scandens) is a good indoor plant for low light. It has green, heart-shaped leaves that are up to three inches wide. The attractive leaves are held on trailing stems that can grow to three feet long, making it a good plant for a hanging pot. It grows well in low light and average room temperatures.

Prayer Plant Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura kerchoviana) is a low, creeping house plant with striking foliage. The silvery-green leaves have deep-burgundy spots that really catch the eye. The leaves grow to eight inches long and are about half as wide. The leaves fold up at night like hands in prayer, giving it its common name. Small white or lavender flowers bloom atop stems that rise through the foliage. The flowers are not particularly showy and it's grown most for its stunning leaves. Because of its creeping habit, it's a good choice for a hanging pot.

Piggyback plantletPiggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii) is a fun, unusual plant. It has medium- to dark-green, hairy leaves that are roughly heart shaped with deeply-lobed edges. The leaves are also deeply veined, giving them a quilted appearance. The leaves are two to three inches across and are borne on four-inch-long leaf stems. What is so unusual about this plant is that each leaf bears a live, young plant. This method of reproduction is called viviparous, meaning bearing live young. The small plantlet appears to sit atop the leaf, but it is actually borne in the axil where the leaf meets the short leaf stem. The little plantlet is an exact replica of the mature plant, but in miniature. The plantlets are bright green that matures to deep green. In addition to bearing plantlets atop its leaves, piggyback plant also produces plantlets along runners, similar to the way a strawberry plant grows. At maturity, piggyback plant can spread 12 to 15 inches around and be nearly a foot tall.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Slugs Are Persistent Garden Pests"

Q. Though I've tried several remedies for slugs, I cannot get rid of them. On the side of my house, which doesn't get too much sun, I finally dug out all of my hostas because the slugs chewed them up and after about three months they looked horrid. At times I would find five in a bunch in the ground. Is it the soil or what? Thank you.

A. Slugs are essentially snails without shells. They are most prevalent in moist, cool, shady areas of the garden. They are active at night, hiding during the day to avoid the hot sun. They leave a telltale slime trail behind as they move across a plant. Unfortunately they are also one of the most persistant of garden pests.

Hosta does seem to be one of the slug's favorite plants. They chew large holes in the plant's leaves, leaving them looking like Swiss cheese. Slugs also feed on ageratum, balloon flower, bleeding heart, daylily, delphinium, geranium, hollyhock, iris, marigold, pansy, petunia, salvia, snapdragon, and wax begonia.

Slug feeding on a hosta leaf

Garden slug feeding on a hosta leaf

Slug damage on a hosta leaf

Slug damage on a hosta leaf

There are several methods to rid the garden of slugs. One of the most effective ways to control slugs is to hand pick them (wear disposable gloves). Go out to the garden after dark with a flashlight and pick them off the plants. Another way to trap them is to lay a board on the ground near the plants being eaten. In the morning, turn the board over and remove all the slugs that have crawled under it during the night. Do this every day and you should see a significant reduction in the number of slugs after a few days.

If handpicking is not for you, another way to control them is to use Diatomaceous Earth, a natural slug control. Diatomaceous Earth is made from the fossilized skeletons of diatoms, a microscopic sea animal. (Use the Diatomaceous Earth labeled for garden use, not the one used in swimming pools.) Its microscopic jagged edges actually scrape the slug's body as it slides across it. Sprinkle it on the soil around your hostas. Reapply it after rain.

Slugs are attracted to yeast. Bury shallow cans up to the rim in the garden around your hostas and fill them with an inch of beer. The slugs will climb in and drown. Replace the beer every few days or after it rains. One teaspoon of yeast combined with three ounces of water also works.

Click here to read more about Diatomaceous Earth and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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