“Our Eucalyptus tree is at least 25 feet tall with no sign of slowing down. Could we lovingly remove it to maybe a better area? It is cold outside, and she just grows in all weather and doesn’t intend to be stopped. She is as high as our two-story home, and can’t support her upper branches.” Question from Philip of Lancaster, Alabama
You have two options. First, you can try finding a beautiful spot where it can be planted. It should be a beautiful tree if it will survive in your climate, and it sounds as though it will. Many eucalypts will grow well down South. Clearly yours is one. In general, they are tolerant of many different types of soil as long as they drain well. Full sun is a requirement.
Another option is to cut it back severely to encourage shrubby growth to reduce its size and upgrade its pot. This will allow it to remain as a container plant for a while longer. We recommend a very large pot because these trees need space. Fill the pot with a quality, fast-draining mix, such as Black Gold Natural & Organic Garden Soil or Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix combined with quality topsoil at a 1:1 ratio. Cut back the dominant branches to the base of the trunk to lighten the branch load, and cut medium branches back by half. The best time to prune Eucalyptus is in the summer. They will drip some sap, but they heal faster when it is warm. I hope that these tips help!
“I was wondering if you could help me with my Monstera deliciosa. I was wondering what the best type of pot and the best type of soil is for it. Thank you in advance!” Question from Angela of Fort Myers, Florida
Answer: Monstera (Monstera deliciosa) is naturally a rain forest trailer and climber with very large leaves that have decorative holes. Place the plant in a pot with drainage holes and a saucer at the bottom to catch water. I recommend using a ceramic container that is heavy enough to support the plant. Be sure that the new pot is at least 3 to 4 inches larger than the root ball before transplanting. Choose a fertile, potting mix with good drainage and water-holding ability, like Black Gold Natural & Organic Ultra Coir. Keep the soil moderately moist and allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between watering. Monstera grows best in bright, indirect light and prefers warm ambient temperatures and moderate to high humidity. (Click here for more house plant potting tips.)
Be aware that they send out aerial roots that can become attached to walls or floors. Do not allow them to become attached or they might leave marks when removed. Keep their long, heavy, twining stems supported as they grow upwards. A strong stake will work well.
What makes a holiday house plant great? It should be bright, colorful, and embody the spirit of the season. Here are our top ten favorite holiday house plants. Some continue to look good through much of winter!
Succulents have had a place in my home since I was in college. In fact, as life became busier and busier, I began to replace more tender, needy house plants with resilient succulents. By the time I had children, I only had succulent indoor plants. Then I realized that hanging succulents were even more convenient because they were out of reach from the kids and cats. They are beautiful and convenient if you have lots of windows that stream sunlight into your home. Some can even take the partial sun.
Another perk is that succulents lack the woes of average, needier hanging plants. They don’t need to be constantly watered and tended to due to higher exposure to the elements. Succulents are much slower to dry out and far more forgiving if the soil runs a little dry. The foliage will continue to look lush as long as you keep giving them a little care each week.
It is good for the health of any house plant to be taken outdoors during the frost-free growing months. Hang them along a bright porch or patio where they will get some protection from the high midday sun and strong winds. Regardless of their drought-tolerant status, they will still require weekly to twice-weekly water when outdoors. Light, slow-release fertilizer, and intermittent water-soluble fertilizer will encourage robust growth. They must be well-rooted and established in their baskets before they are fully tolerant of dry heat and winds, so keep a more watchful eye on new plantings.
When you take them indoors in fall as house plants, give them direct sunlight or bright filtered light. Water much less during the cold months–excess water can induce crown or root rot. Thorough water two to three times a month should be sufficient, depending on the plant, pot, temperature, and humidity. (Click here to learn more about winter succulent care.)
Securing Hanging House Plants
If you have a mantle and little inclination to secure hooks to your ceiling, place hanging plants along the edge. Tall, sturdy plant stands also work. Otherwise, hanging plants should be hung from hooks or brackets. Strong hangers and hooks hung over wooden rafters or securely mounted to a wooden ceiling beam are your safest options. Proper installation is key.
Choose a large, solid metal hook to mount in a ceiling joist (supporting beam) to hang a plant. Start with the basic materials: a step ladder, stud finder, pencil, and cordless drill set with the right bit (it should be a little smaller than the hook’s threaded shaft). Stud finders make it easy to find joists. Once you find the right spot, mark it with your pencil, and then drill a straight hole in the spot that is a little deeper than the length of the hook’s threaded shaft. Twist the hook’s base in until flush, and you’re done.
Hanging Succulents for Foliage
Burros, Dolphins, Donkeys, Pearls, and Pickles: There are several senecios that are uniquely attractive. Each grows to great lengths–up to 3 feet or more–and has whimsical succulent strands. Blue Pickle Vine (Senecio radicans ‘Glauca’) has strands of fun, blue-green, pickle-like leaves. String of Dolphins (Senecio peregrinus) is somewhat similar, but its curved fleshy leaves look almost dolphin-like. Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum ‘Burrito’) has dense strands of rounded, succulent leaves that look a bit like tails. Donkey’s tails are nearly identical, but the succulent leaves have sharper tips, and the stems tend to grow longer. Finally, Variegated String-of-Pearls (Senecio rowelianus ‘Variegatus’) is one of the easiest and prettiest succulent hanging plants to grow. Its grey-green stems are lined with round baubles of foliage with streaks of ivory and pink highlights. This one’s a little harder to come by, but Mountain Crest Gardens carries it often. Unusual white or lavender-pink flowers rarely appear on each of these plants.
Dancing Bones (Hatiora salicornioides) is a unique spineless cactus. Though delicate, yellow flowers often grace its stems, its glorious, mop-head of foliage is the main show. Grow it in a strong, sturdy hanging basket or tall container. Happy plants mature quickly and become large, so be sure you hang it from a strong hook secured to a beam.
String-of-Turtles (Peperomia prostrata) has flattened, translucent leaves that look much like tiny turtle shells. In time, the plant will form a dense mat of dangling stems. This one can take a little less light. On rare occasions, it may produce spikes of reddish-brown flowers that rise from the foliage.
Variegated String-of-Hearts(Ceropegia woodii ‘Variegata’) has delicate, heart-shaped succulent leaves of silvery-white, pink, and dark green that dangle from the dark stems for an impressive show. It is one of the easier house plants that you can grow, and it does not disappoint when it comes to good looks.
Hanging Succulents for Flowers and Foliage
Chandelier Plant (Kalanchoe manginii) becomes massive with age, so choose a substantial container from the start. Its dense stems have rounded succulent leaves. From late winter to early spring, copious orange to salmon-pink bells bloom for weeks. During the rest of the year, the lush foliage of this Madagascar native looks attractive. Thin out excessive older growth to encourage new.
Flower Dust Plant (Kalanchoe pumila) has very bright silvery-white, almost dusty leaves that spill from any container or hanging basket. When this Madagascar native becomes laden with pretty pink flowers, it looks even prettier. Like chandelier plant, it flowers in late winter and spring.
Rattail Cactus (Disocactusflagelliformis) develops long strands of finely-spined stems that cascade down to form a hair-like mop. Spectacular, large cactus flowers of pink, reddish-pink, or purplish-red appear from spring to summer. Prune off any excessive stems or those that become damaged or tangled.
Easy to Propagate and Share
Most succulents and cacti can be propagated from leaf or stem cuttings. The rarer your plant, the more you will want to propagate it for gifting and friends. Here is what you will need to take stem or leaf cuttings from your hanging succulents.
Rooting hormone with an anti-fungal additive (optional)
Use a sharp knife to gently cut healthy leaves from the stem. Dip the bases of the leaves, or a stem tip, into rooting hormone; rooting hormone hastens the rooting process and reduces rot but is not necessary. Gently moisten the perlite or potting mix in your shallow pots, and nestle the bases of the leaves into the mix. Place the pots in a spot with bright, filtered light and keep the perlite or mix lightly moist to almost dry. Over a matter of weeks, the bases will root and small plantlets will appear. You can pot them up once they have several leaflets.
“What are good, low maintenance, indoor house plants for beginners?” Question from Chelsea of Alpena, Michigan
Answer: We created a video for you to see some of Black Gold Horticulturist Jessie Keith’s top nine easy house plants for beginners. Each is attractive, easy to grow, and tolerates a series of different light and growing conditions. We hope that it helps!
“I hung an avocado pit in a cup of water, and it grew roots, and now has a crazy height of like 3-4 feet. I’ve read that I can keep them in a large pot outside, and they won’t outgrow it. Do you agree, and again, what should I use as dirt? Will an avocado tree in a planter actually produce avocados? Be kind since that would be a lot of dirt for a big planter!” Question from Joseph
Answer: Congratulations! Avocado trees can make nice house or patio plants if you have space. You have already discovered that they grow quickly, so planting yours in a large container with drainage is recommended–18 inches is a good starting size. Good potting soil for the job is Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix, which is OMRI Listed for organic gardening. Indoor trees require lots of sunlight to grow well. Feed yours with a fertilizer formulated for avocados, and water evenly from spring to fall. Allow the pot to become somewhat dry before each watering. In winter, water a little less as growth slows. To keep your tree at a manageable size, prune off extra- long branches in spring.
In general, you need more than one avocado tree for cross-pollination. So, even if your tree blooms as it matures, it will likely not fruit, but if you start another avocado tree, you could get lucky.
“I recently purchased this Creeping Charlie for indoors, and again, received not so great information (let it dry fully before adding water, etc.). It was fine one morning (there had been some brown leaves, which I was told was because I was overwatering it), but when I got home, it looked like this (image below). Water brought it back somewhat. Now only two of the groups of leaves you can see above remain. I am assuming that putting it in a larger pot will help keep more consistency in the moisture, but need to know what of your products should I use (and if possible, again, recommendations for pot size, methods, etc.). It gets mostly filtered sunlight here, with a few minutes a day of direct sunlight.” Question from Joseph
Answer: Creeping Charlie (Pilea nummulariifolia) is a tropical groundcover native to the Caribbean and areas of South America that grows beautifully as a trailing house plant. Yours needs a new home and a little care to bring it back to glory, but it is not beyond hope. It is quite easy to grow once you know what it needs.
Creeping Charlie Care
Choose a larger well-drained pot with holes at the bottom and a saucer to catch water. A 6-8” pot would suffice. Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix would be perfect for its needs. Creeping Charlie (Pilea nummulariifolia) likes even moisture, but allow it to dry out somewhat between watering, and water it less in winter–maybe once a week or so. Give it bright, indirect light, and feed it lightly with a slow-release fertilizer formulated for house plants. When it outgrows its pot, repot in spring. Like most tropicals, it likes some ambient humidity, so avoid planting it near vents or fans where it will be subjected to dry air.
Create an easy fairy garden filled with tender succulents that will look great through summer and winter. We used a bowl-shaped planter filled with Black Gold Cactus Mix and lots of beautiful succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens. Product links are below.
“What time of year do you prune an Abutilon?” Question from Angie of Fort Bragg, California
Answer: Parlor maples or Indian mallows (Abutilon hybrids) are tropical to subtropical plants that can be pruned to shape at any time. Cultivated forms do, however, bloom on new wood, so late-winter or spring pruning is recommended. Especially if you plan to trim your plant just once a year. These shrubs can be cut back quite a bit and rebound beautifully. Another option is to carefully thin overgrown stems back to main or central branches or remove smaller tip branches. It depends on how large you want your shrub to grow. Shearing is not advisable.
Dead, diseased, or winter-damaged stems should always be cut off.