Field notes — September 2, 2021

Jade, Jubileum

  • Soil: moist (last watered three days ago)
  • Light: at 6:20 a.m., ~3 FC from the south-facing window (which faces the neighbour’s house) and ~15 FC from the kitchen lights. But who expects good light at this time?
  • Longest stem: ~6.5 cm from soil to node of top set of leaves
  • Number of strands: three
  • Largest leaf: 3 cm from node to tip; 2.3 cm wide
  • New growth: at tips. Pinched off 2/3 sets of newest leaves to encourage branching.
  • Signs of pests: none
  • Signs of care issues: new leaves at top had indentations three days ago; probably a sign of underwatering. I watered the plant immediately after noticing, and today, the indentations are gone in the smaller leaves. So that’s pretty neat.
  • Other care: Seems somewhat etoliated (leggy due to not enough light), but also is developing the red edges and undersides to the leaves (due to high intensity light). So… not enough light overall, but too intense when it gets it? Iunno, man. Probably.

Field notes — July 9, 2021

Unknown succulent, Tahmatassu

  • Dried stem area has progressed further up the plant, the lower leaf is wilting, and there is black on the green part of stem after the dried part.
  • Cut off healthy part, placed into cactus mix.
  • Need to keep out of sunlight for a couple days until the cut area forms a callus, then keep it dry for a couple months and it may root.

Cissus discolor, Jane Feeniks

  • Cannot believe it, but after two days under the cloche, there is already a new leaf!!
  • I found another area of the same scale-infected stem, with 3 more instances of scale, close to the potting mix. Swabbed all with alcohol.

Sansevieria laurentii, Hatshepsut

  • One stem, with new growth, has spots of rot.
  • Posted question online to determine what must be done.

Syngonium Pink Neon, Rapunzel

  • She’s pushing out a new little pink leaf! So cute!

Allo, Alocasia

Bonjour mon petit chou! Mais, tu n’es pas un chou?

How silly of me! You are, indeed, a very regal plant and perhaps I ought to address you as “vous”.

Comment ça va?

  • Binomial name: Alocasia reginula ‘Black Velvet’
  • Given name: Armande
  • Native to: jungle floors in Southeast Asia
  • Bought: June 23, 2021 at House of Plants
  • Original pot (current): 4 inch plastic

Field notes — June 25, 2021

  • Soil: 3.5 (nearly dry)
  • Largest leaf: 12 cm long, 9.5 cm wide
  • New growth: new leaf unfurling (started before purchase)
  • Signs of pests: none
  • Signs of care issues: old leaves have small spotting damage; upward stem beside new leaf has open wound(?) at end, is moist
  • Isolation: keeping with fellows from same store in big, clear plastic bag with ventilation, in the dining room

Field notes — June 30, 2021

  • New growth: new leaf nearly unfurled
  • Signs of pests: wound and spot of honeydew on bottom of leaf, but no other signs. Will ask online.
Bright new leaf
Just what is this fresh wound?

Research notes


  • Light: moderate to bright indirect
  • Humidity: minimum 40%; 60 to 75% preferred; no misting (can spot the leaves)
  • Temperature: 15 to 27 degrees Celsius; dislikes hot and cold drafts


  • Preference: allow the top two inches to dry before watering; don’t keep overly moist
  • Mode: wet thoroughly, let drain; keep dryer in cooler weather; use purified water source, neutralize chlorine; weekly shower to reduce risk of spider mites

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: coarse, well-draining (2 parts perlite : 2 parts orchid bark : 1 part [potting soil | coco coir | peat moss])
  • Soil pH: 5.5 to 6.5
  • Fertilization: in summer, every 4 weeks with diluted, balanced fertilizer
  • Repotting: once every 2 to 3 years in spring; keep slightly rootbound (they have limited roots); do a minimum increase in pot size


  • Grow style: faster at higher temperatures
  • Mature size: eighteen inches high and wide
  • Neat stuff: dark leaves suck up all the light* while the white veins push light away
  • Common problems:
    Root rot (signs: yellowing of leaves; due to: overwatering, overpotting, heavy soil)
    Spider mites (due to: low humidity)
    Fungal leaf spot disease (due to: excessive humidity or watering; cut off and discard affected leaves, increase air circulation, use less water)
    Overly bright
     (signs: leaves lighten)
    Light too dim (signs: spindly, languishes)
    Low humidity (signs: leaf disfigurement, spider mites)
    Dormancy (due to: cool temperatures, decreased light, dry soil; give same conditions as active growing season. Due to: stress; give minimal water, let it rest)
  • Pruning: remove dead leaves when mostly discoloured. Sterilize tool and cut close to base
  • Other care:
    Winter: goes dormant in cool weather, but can stay active year-round with adequate light and warmth
    Summer: can go outdoors in the shade, must come inside before a low of 13 degrees Celsius
    Dust: wipe periodically with a cloth using purified water; leaves may snap if too much pressure is used
  • Propagation: separate offsets or divide rhizome
    Offsets: remove and plant in a shallow pot using same soil as parent
    Rhizome: spring or early summer; unpot and divide into sections that each have growth; plant in same mix; place in humid spot with indirect light; keep hydrated but not soggy until tuber sprouts, then resume watering

Research sources: Smart Garden Guide

Good to meet you, Tradescantia number 2

I think I was told that this little guy is Tradescantia spathacea, but it seems images online include a purple-red underside that this one does not have. So let’s see! More likely Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’?

  • Binomial name: Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Quicksilver’
  • Given name: Lorraine
  • Native to: Southern Mexico to Guatemala
  • Bought: June 16, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Grown in: Canada
  • Original pot: none; bought as a cutting with a couple roots; allowed to continue rooting for nearly two more weeks
  • Current pot: 3 inch square plastic
  • Soil: moist
  • Longest stem: 5.5 cm from soil to base of leaves
  • Number of stems: 2
  • New growth: little leaves at end of each stem
  • Signs of care issues: browning on tip of one leaf, some spots on an older leaf (likely due to transport; the leaves are very delicate); I cut off some very brown tips in the earlier week


  • Light: bright indirect; low light will result in more green than purple
  • Humidity: moderate, 40%
  • Temperature: 18 to 27 degrees Celsius is ideal; minimum of 13 degrees Celsius; keep away from drafts and fluctuation of temperature


  • Preference: lightly moist, occasionally dry; allow the top two inches to dry out; reduce watering in winter; too little water is better than too much

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: peat-based, loamy, good drainage; good-quality all-purpose mix
  • Fertilization: every 4 weeks with balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer
  • Repotting: every couple years when plant is crowded, move up one size


  • Mature size: 15 to 30 cm high, 30 to 60 cm wide
  • Neat stuff: most Tradescantia grows downwards, but this one grows upwards
  • Common problems:
    Lack of humidity (signs: brown leaf tips)
    Spider mites (signs: webbing between leaves; pale, spotted, curled leaves; cut off affected areas and treat with insecticidal soap)
    Aphids (signs: sticky residue on leaves, especially new growth; isolate plant)
    Over-watering (signs: soft, limp stems; may cause root rot)
  • Propagation:
    Division: in spring; remove rooted offshoots from mother
    Stem cutting: cut with sterilized tool, root in soil or water

Research sources: North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant ToolboxGuide to HouseplantsHouseplant Central

Here be Dracaenas

I’m off the edge of my usual houseplant map, exploring new areas, but I’m so glad I found you!

You’re sitting on my relatively new plant shelf in the dining room, a bit further from the light and the humidifier than most of the other plants on the shelf.

I’ve decided to also start a spreadsheet so I can track who wants moisture and fertilization more frequently, and you’re my first entry! I’ve also learned that cultivar names should be enclosed in single quotes or preceded by “cv.” and are never italicized.

  • Binomial name: Dracaena surculosa ‘Florida Beauty’
  • Given name: Päivi
  • Native to: Central-west Africa
  • Bought: June 15, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot: 3 inch square pot (was already root bound)
  • Current pot: 4 inch nursery pot, cut shorter
  • Repotting: 1/4 regular potting mix + a little cactus mix, 1/4 perlite, 1/2 coco coir from 3 inch square plastic pot to modified 4 inch square plastic pot
  • Soil moisture: 8.5 (wet)
  • Soil pH: 7.5
  • Light: 9 a.m.: 100 (dark) (honestly though, the area is close enough to the window and probably fine)
  • Longest stem with leaf: 7.5 cm, but the new ones will be longer!
  • New growth: two new stems (started before I bought it); five new leaves unfurled, 1 cm or longer
  • Signs of care issues:
    Leaf damage: probably during transport.
    Longest wound: 1.5 cm


  • Light: bright, indirect with possibility of morning or evening sun (maintains variegation); tolerant of low light (loses variegation, becomes leggy)
  • Humidity: average
  • Temperature: 15 to 24 degrees Celsius, free from drafts


  • Preference: moist; water when top inch or third is dry

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: well-draining, soil-based, plenty of organic material (peaty)
  • Fertilization: biweekly in summer with houseplant feed, but water 24 hours before
  • Repotting: every other year; keep in small pots; will mature in a 5 inch pot


  • Grow style: slow, hardy and tolerant
  • Mature size: 60 to 160 cm, spread of 38 to 100 cm (can take 8 to 12 years)
  • Common problems:
    Root mealy bugs: use pesticide
    Too much light: and too little water (signs: curled, dried, brown leaves)
    Too little light: yellow lower leaves
    : reduce watering if placed in a cool or low-light position (signs: yellow lower leaves, rotten stem, wilting, mouldy soil; brown, mushy roots)
    Underwatering: (signs: yellow leaves; loss of older leaves; stunted growth; wilting)
    Nitrogen deficiency: yellow lower leaves (nitrogen moves in the plant to where it’s needed — that is, from old leaves to new growth)
  • Pruning: prune and trim old stems to encourage new growth at cut sites; prune leggy stems to encourage bushiness
  • Other care: remove discoloured leaves; shower monthly (remove dust, hydrate leaves); wipe with neem oil to remove dust (neem also protects against infestations); becomes dormant in winter
  • Propagation:
    Division of rhizomes when repotting: separate pup 8 cm or more with several mature leaves (good to reduce chances of root-bound); cut stem with two root strands attached to base. Set pup into small pot with drainage and houseplant compost; bright indirect light and room-temperature; moist soil; allow top third of soil to dry out; after one to two months, treat as mature.
    Tip cuttings with three to four leaves: insert in 3 inch pots with moist mixture of peat and sand, enclose in plastic bag; place in room-temperature area in partial shade; do not add water for four to six weeks.
    After rooted: remove plastic bag, water moderately and allow top 1 cm to dry between next watering; apply half-strength fertilizer every two weeks.
    When roots appear on surface: move plant to pot one size larger with standard potting mixture and treat as mature.

Research sources: Plants RescueNorth Carolina Extension Gardener Plant ToolboxukhouseplantsThe Gardening CookNouveauraw

PUA: how to take home a Calathea ornata

I saw her from across the room and locked eyes with those dazzling leaves. No way I wasn’t going to try my luck! I sauntered over and caressed her pot. Soon she was in my hands and I banged her (gently) on the counter. It was that easy.

Calathea ornata. Note: brown dusting is cinnamon powder. I should have taken a glamour shot before!

Hey baby

  • Binomial name: Calathea ornata
  • Given name: Laura Jenna Ellinoora Alexandra Camilla
  • Native to: South America
  • Bought: June 15, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot (current): 4 inch, plastic

Field notes — June 19, 2021

  • Soil: Seemed dry. Watered bottom-up, but even after a while, did not seem as though top was getting moist.
  • New growth: 2 new leaves at base. Root has extended out of the nursery pot.
  • Signs of care issues:
    Some wounds on leaves, I think these were there when I bought them.
    Bottom two new leaves aren’t well. One has shriveled, the other is yellowing. Removed shriveled leaf.

Field notes-June 20, 2021

  • Signs of care issues: Wounds on leaves dusted with cinnamon to promote healing and act as a fungicide.

Field notes — June 21, 2021

  • Soil moisture: average 2 [scale: dry to wet : 1 to 10]. Too dry!
    From bottom of pot: barely moist.
  • Water: bottom-up with filtered water; moisture meter registers as “moist”. After 50 minutes, still not “wet” and top is dry. Used rest of water to water top-down; allowed to drain. When watering directly onto meter, it registers only as 7, the boundary between “moist” and “wet” and then flips immediately to 5 as soon as I stop pouring, so perhaps this soil is particularly efficient at draining.
  • Soil pH: 7–8
  • Light: 9 am, just above 0 [scale: dark to light : 0 to 2000]. Dark. Surprising, but it is a west-facing window and today is dim and overcast, so I will check again in the afternoon.
  • Largest leaf: 9.7 cm from base to apex
  • Longest petiole: 6.7 cm
  • Signs of pests: none, but what I assume is soil fertilizer on the surface, light yellowy balls, but looking unlike others I’ve seen before as they seem to have a partial shell. Reminds me of coriander.
  • Signs of care issues:
    Little leaf on the bottom is shriveling; plucked it out. Seems these two lower leaves yellowing and shriveling are signs of underwatering.
    Largest wound (with cinnamon on it): 2 cm long along edge of largest leaf; added picture for tracking.
    Spotted wounds on third-largest leaf: added picture for tracking.
Wound on largest leaf
Spotted wounds on third-largest leaf. Note: dark black spots below wounds are shadows of cinnamon powder on top of leaf, not spider mites or other pests.

Research notes


  • Light: bright, indirect. Direct light will cause fading.
  • Humidity: high
  • Temperature: 18 to 29 degrees Celsius


  • Preference: keep lightly moist, use distilled water
  • Frequency: water when soil starts to dry out (every 1 to 2 weeks in summer; less in winter)

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: retains moisture (coco coir or peat), but is loose enough to let the plant breathe (+perlite; soil with moss or bigger chunks). African violet soil will work.
  • Fertilization: balanced fertilizer, diluted to half strength, once a month during growing season. Overfertilization can burn or cause lankiness.
  • Repotting: in spring, when roots and leaves are quite large; often a year after purchase. Soak after repotting.


  • Grow style: moderate to fairly fast
  • Mature size: 2 feet high; 2 feet wide
  • Neat stuff: air purification; leaves open and close at morning and night.
  • Common problems:
    Spider mites (spray them off with shower head; coat leaves with [dish soap + water in a spray bottle | neem oil], which suffocates the mites, then wipe off; repeat (bi)weekly as needed)
    Too dry (signs: brown, crispy, or yellow leaves; give more humidity and mist)
    Yellowing leaves: normal for the odd leaf, but if widespread could be due to various causes
    Too much direct light (signs: pink stripes turning white)
  • Other care: use fingers or shears to remove brown leaves (this is normal); dust sometimes
  • Propagation: division, when large enough

Research sources: Plant care for BeginnersSmart Garden GuideHouseplant Central