What to do with a Root-Bound Christmas Cactus

Hi Pat,

I wouldn’t recommend trimming the roots. There are better ways to handle a root bound Christmas cactus. The best time to deal with a root bound Christmas cactus is late winter or early spring after it has finished flowering for the year. If you really think it is necessary for the health of the plant to do it right now, here are some suggestions. (Just remember the plant may not bloom this year).

You can carefully divide the root ball by gently pulling it into two sections. Plant one section back into the original pot, adding some fresh, new, acidic soil that drains well, and start a new plant with the other section using the same type of soil. The 2nd container should be the same size or smaller than the original container and have drip holes in the bottom. These new plants will take longer to dry out so be careful not to over water.

Another option is to re-pot the entire plant into a slightly larger container with drip holes in the bottom. Do not use a pot that is more than 2″ larger than the original pot or the roots will stay wet too long and rot. Remove your Christmas cactus from its pot and loosen the soil around the roots. When you plant the Christmas cactus in its new pot, the top of the root ball should be about an inch below the rim of the pot. Fill the pot with a rich acidic soil that drains well.


 

 

 

 

How to Prune a TOO Tall Dieffenbachia

Hi Aaryn,

Your very tall plant is called a dieffenbachia. You can aggressively prune to keep a dieffenbachia short and bushy and prevent it from getting too tall. Cut anywhere along the main stem, preferably above a leaf node (a leaf node is the small bump on the stem from which new leaves grow). New growth develops directly below the cut in the stem.

You can plant the section you cut off directly back into the original pot or plant it in a new pot. The cut end should be cut on the diagonal and dip it in a very small amount of rooting compound before planting it. These are very poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. plants and the sap is very irritating. Always wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt when pruning or propagating the plant.

You can read all my care tips for a dieffenbachia in the popular Houseplant section of the website.

https://www.houseplant411.com/houseplant/how-to-grow-care-for-a-dieffenbachia


Identify My Fern – Button Fern

Hi Stacey,

Your plant (picture #1) looks like a Button Fern (Pellaea Rotundifolia’) (picture #2).

Picture #1                                                   Picture #2

Here  are some care tips:

Light: bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light.

Water: Be careful not to over water! Water well, until the water comes out the bottom drip holes; keep the soil barely moist but never soggy.

Plant Food: fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.   every 2 weeks during spring, summer, and fall with  balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommenced strength.

Temperature: 65°-75°F (18.3°-23.9°C) Never lower than 55°F (12.8°C)


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Winter Rest for Queen of the Night Cactus

Hi Julie,

A Queen of the Night Cactus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) needs to rest for 6-8 weeks during the winter for the flower buds to set in March. Keep the soil dry and do not feed the plant during this period. Place the plant in a cool, but not below 40°F (4.5°C ) dark area during this time.

Queen of the Night Cactus

How to Get an Amaryllis Plant to Flower Again

Hi Teresa,

Here are some care tips to help your amaryllis plant bloom again, hopefully it will flower in time for the holidays.

The proper care should have started several months ago, when, after the plant had finished flowering, you removed any dead or dying flowers.

Once the stem starts to sag, cut it off at the soil line (at the top the bulb).

Water and feed the plant for the next 5-6 months, that’s about February-September. Fertilize with a plant food high in potassium and phosphorus and low in nitrogen (5-10-10) or (6-12-12). Always dilute the plant food to 1/2 the recommended strength. New leaves should develop during this time.

Around October, these leaves will start to turn yellow. Now is the time to cut the stem back to about 2″ above the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the pot of soil.

Clean any remaining soil off the bulb and place it in a cool, 40°-50°F (4.4°-10.0°C) dark area for a minimum of 6 weeks. Although a refrigerator seems like a perfect place, it really is not! If you keep any apples in the fridge, the apples will sterilize the amaryllis bulbs and the plant will never bloom again.

After this rest period replant the bulbs in a small pot with drip holes in the bottom. There should only be an inch between the bulbs and the side of the pot. The top third of the bulb should be above the soil.

Re-pot your amaryllis bulbs about 8 weeks before you want them to flower. Hopefully they will soon look like this.

Flowering bulb plants that bloom around Christmas

Red Amaryllis plant

You can read all my care tips for an amaryllis plant once it starts to grow in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.

https://www.houseplant411.com/houseplant/amaryllis-plant-how-to-grow-care-guide

These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Learn more about common houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants


How to Care for a Desert Candle Cactus – Euphorbia acrurensis

Hi Omar,

A Euphorbia acrurensis (Desert Candle) is a lovely plant that can grow to be 5ft-8ft indoors with the proper care.

A Desert candle needs as much bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. as you can provide. As it grows it will start to grow towards the light source. If this happens give the plant a 1/4 turn once a week.

Watering is always tricky. The brighter the light, the higher the temperature, the smaller the pot, the more often the plant will need water. It is always easier to save an under -watered cactus than an over watered cactus, so when in doubt do not water. Never use water that has passed through a softener, too salty. If your household water has a lot of chlorine or fluorine in it, allow the water to sit out over night before using it. The plant will probably need water every 3-4 weeks depending upon the conditions in your home. When you water in the spring and summer, water well enough so that it comes out the drip holes in the bottom of the pot. Do not allow the plant to sit in the excess water. Water slowly, so the water can be absorbed well by the cactus soil. The plant will tell you when it needs water. The stems and arms will become soft and the first inch or two of soil will be dry.  The plant needs more water in the spring and summer, less in the fall, and practically no water in winter.

Use a water soluble fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.   low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Feed every other month in the spring and summer only.

Cactus plants prefer low humidity.

A Desert Candle likes warm temperatures between 70°-80°F (21.1°-26.6°C). Avoid placing it near heating or cooling vents. During fall and winter keep it away from doors or open windows.

How to Grow a Siam Tulip-Curcuma alismatiffolia

Hi,

Your plant is Curcuma alismatiffolia, common name is Siam tulip. This plant is a member of the ginger family and can often grow to over 2ft in height.

Keep the soil barely moist but never soggy. During the winter when it is not growing, water less but do not allow the soil to totally dry out.

Place in bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light. but then move the plant to a cooler area that gets less light during the winter when it is dormant.

Feed a Siam tulip monthly in the spring, summer, and early fall. This is a type of bulb plant so during the winter when it is resting it needs less water and no fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.  . A Siam tulip usually loses its leaves during the winter, but they grow back in the spring. When the plant outgrows it’s pot, you can move it to the next size container or you can divide the bulbs to start new plants. Simply cut the rhizomes (bulbs) into 2″ pieces and plant them in small pots with holes in the bottom.

Non-Toxic Way to Treat Insects on Houseplants

Hi Jo,

I use what I call the green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.    , easy to make, very inexpensive, and works really well.

This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap (like ivory), and mineral oil (available in drug stores). Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions.

If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African violets or begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.    . Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.

 

Ficus Bonsai Turning Yellow

Hi Susan,

There could be a couple of reasons why the leaves are turning yellow.

How often do you feed the plant? There is not much soil in your pot and the nutrients in the soil are quickly depleted. Fertilize monthly in the spring and summer, when the tree is actively growing, with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.

Under watering: Ficus plants lose yellow leaves when they are not getting enough water. Now that your plant has grown for several years and I assume it is in the same pot, it needs more water.

Try fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.   and water an see if it helps the problem.

How To Care for a Euphorbia

Hi Stacey,

There is a plant called a Euphorbia drupifera. Here’s a picture. Does it look like your plant?

Euphorbias are easy to grow. They love very bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light., a soil that drains quickly and is allowed to dry out before you water. The only way to kill it is by over watering. Whieflies and powdery mildewPowdery mildew is a plant disease that puts a grayish white powder on plant leaves and stems. View a picture of this plant disease and learn how to treat it. are things to watch out for. Dry leaves and good air circulation prevents the mildew. Always wear gloves when pruning a euphorbia. The milky plant sap is a terrible irritant. The sap is poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. so please keep the plant away from pets and children.