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What I Learned from my Hipster Avocado Experiment 

One might argue that hipsters have claimed avocado toast. But sprouting avocado pits is hipsterdom on a whole different level. There are dozens of articles written on “How to Grow Your Own Avocado Pits”, and this project is all over social media. It’s trendy. But no one tells you how difficult it is to get actual avocados. I hate to be the one to break it you, but unless you graft your avocado saplings when they are mature enough, you won’t be harvesting Hass gold anytime soon. Sorry, I don’t mean to smash your avocado dreams into oxidized guacamole on stale chips.

Ok, technically, you don’t necessarily need to graft your avocado plant in order for it to produce fruit. It will just take much longer, anywhere from 7-15 years (or more), if at all. But even if it does fruit, the fruit grown from seed will likely be inedible. However, it can be done! That’s how the Hass avocado was started, after all. But today, every commercially grown Hass avocado tree is grown from grafted seedlings that have been propagated from the OG tree (now deceased). A newly grafted avocado sapling will take only about 5 years to start bearing fruit. It’s like, expediting nature.

More on grafting later.

First, let’s talk about how much fun it is to sprout an avocado pit, and how to do it! (FYI, I’m not a hipster and I know you probably aren’t either… the context just begs for it!)


This past spring, I successfully started two healthy avocado trees from seed!

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It took multiple attempts. And I won’t lie, it wasn’t super easy. I know some of the online tutorials are written for third graders, but I’m a skilled pseudo-botanist and found it challenging! It definitely involved some trial and error.

At first, I attempted to grow my pit on a windowsill in the middle of January at my redwood cabin. Nothing. Nada. Not going to happen. It wasn’t warm or humid enough. Also, following common sense, I thought to myself, “Well, if an avocado tree certainly wouldn’t grow here, what makes me think an avocado pit would sprout here?” Good logic.

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This pit was unsuccessful.

I decided to try again, but with four pits. I brought them to my greenhouse space, in order to give the pits as much of the environment the mature tree would favor. I stood a fighting chance.

Pro Tip: Make sure you attempt to sprout your pits in an environment similar to that favorable by the mature tree.

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March 8th, 2019 – Pit start date

One week later, I saw buds forming inside the pits!

 

I planted them in soil after about 3 weeks. Planting the pits in soil allows the roots to soak up the necessary nutrients while they’re establishing, allowing for healthier seedlings.

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April 13th, 2019 – Tiny bud with small roots forming

 

Look at them roots, y’all!

To summarize:

How to Start an Avocado Tree from Seed

(I’m sure this is one of hundreds of lists like this, but I hope to provide you a more practical guide. Also, please read my propagation rules here on harnessing patience, confidence, and forgiveness.)

  1. Eat all the avocados. Take their pits – not just one, but several. Attempt more pits than you actually want to grow. This will increase your success rate.
  2. With the wider end of the avocado pit at the bottom, poke wooden skewers or toothpicks in the pits at an upwards angle and suspend the pits over a vessel of water. They should be halfway covered with water. They will eventually split on their own.
  3. Put them in a humid, warm place with indirect bright light.
  4. Wait patiently. Sing to them in avo cappella.
  5. After 3 weeks, plant the pits in a nutrient-rich soil (I used 2:2:1 potting mix:peat moss:compost). The downside to this is that you won’t see the roots grow, but the upside is that your plant will be healthier due to the nutrition in the soil.
  6. After the pits are planted, mist once per week for two weeks, then water regularly (2x per week).

The sprouts may not come up right away, but be patient, they will! Mine took a while. Three months to be exact.

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June 11th, 2019 – Sprouts coming up!

One week later, they started taking off!

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June 19th, 2019 – Sprouts taking off!

 

This pot was a 1 gallon size with two pits in it, which was ultimately too small, so I went ahead and transplanted each seedling into their own 1 gallon pots.

Onward and upward!

For a more in depth journey progress vlog series, watch my Instagram stories ‘Avocado’ highlight.


 

Little did I know, my avocado experiment turned into a lifelong project, since I do plan on growing these babies to maturity and planting them in the ground. I will never be able to live somewhere lower than agricultural zone 9b! I’ve been reading all I can about grafting fruit trees, and it’s so fascinating to me to learn about the genetic differences between seeds and fruits. The avocado fruit you spread on your toast is genetically different than the pit inside. The pit contains a reshuffling of the genomes from its parents. The avocado pit sprouts and turns into a sapling with its own rootstock, which starts over the fruiting life cycle. Grafting that rootstock with a scion of a mature variety will speed up the fruiting cycle significantly, resulting in more reliable fruit. But of course, in order for the new grafted tree to fruit, it needs to be pollinated.

Avocados are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both female and male organs in their flowers. However, avocados don’t usually self-pollinate, since their female and male flower portions are not open at the same time. They follow a flowering phenomenon known as synchronous dichogamy. The flowers open first as female in the morning for 2-3 hours, are ready to receive pollen (but to no avail), then close for the rest of the day and evening. The next day, the flowers open as males and release pollen for several hours (but the stigmas are no longer open). So how do we get around this? There are “A varieties” and “B varieties”. “A-type varieties” of avocado flowers bloom female in the morning on the first day, then bloom male in the afternoon the next day. “B-type varieties” bloom female in the afternoon on the first day, then bloom male the next morning. With hundreds of flowers blooming day after day on a continuous cycle, the flowers can be pollinated, but you’ll need more than one avocado variety.

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Avocado varieties by “A” and “B” type flowers

This figure is from an amazing source¹ from UCANR, an agricultural extension blog written by University of California experts in subtropical horticulture.

Recommendations for further reading will be at the bottom of this post.


Ok, so I was successful enough to sprout my pits, and I’ve been keeping the young saplings alive. I’m serious about starting my avocados from seed the right way, so once they are about 3 feet tall, I’ll need to graft them. Have I ever grafted anything? No. Does that matter? No! My friend told me the other day, “If there was anyone who could teach themselves how to graft an avocado tree, it would be you.” And besides, you can learn anything on YouTube, right?

I even have my avocado scion connections set in place. I have a friend who owns a property with fruiting Hass and Fuerte avocado trees, and she has agreed to let me graft my avocado plants with hers! So since I have two avocado saplings, I plan to graft one of each. That way, I’ll have one with “A-type” flowers, e.g. Hass, and one with “B-type” flowers, e.g. Fuerte.

Once I’ve crossed that bridge in 1-2 years, I’ll check back in on here and write a fruit tree grafting tutorial of my own. Does anyone have experience grafting fruit trees?

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Since this project was so successful, I’m doing the same with mango pits as well!

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Recommended Reading:

  1. UCANR (University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources): Topics in Subtropics “Avocado Cultivars, Botanical Races and Genetic Footprints”
  2. “The Remarkable Avocado Flower”
  3. U.C. Cooperative Extension “Answers to frequently asked questions about Avocados”

~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

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Online Shop Coming Soon!

As you probably have noticed, the blog has been pretty quiet as of late. But I’m still here! I’ve actually been hard at work designing inventory for my up-and-coming plant decor brand. I’ve shared with family, friends, and close-knit communities on my social media accounts and e-mail newsletter, but I haven’t been officially public about it yet. I’m sorry if you’re the last to know! But even if you are in my inner circle, you’ve probably only seen small snippets, heard vague details, and probably have no idea what I mean by “plant decor brand”. Now is the time that I clue you in on what I’ve been up to!

I will absolutely be keeping up with writing for the blog, and I always have content brewing in rough draft form, but my focus lately has been on making art for Xylem Rising. Xylem Rising is more than an online plant resource. Yes, I will continue to provide experience-based plant care tips and tutorials for my plant community, but my vision for Xylem Rising is way beyond words, pictures, and videos. It is about the plant-filled lifestyle. The life that plants and communing with nature lets you live. It’s a connection not only to plants, but to spirit. Sometimes this is expressed not only with science, but with art. I will be using my affinity for the arts, design, and craftsmanship to help express the spirit of Mother Nature.

Plant Propagation Mobiles

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I will be selling a line of gorgeous “plant propagation mobiles”, designed by Yours Truly. Essentially, they are plant holders made specifically for plant cuttings. Every piece is structurally sound and made to last.

  • They’re functional home decor, hung either on the ceiling or the wall.
  • They are unique, one-of-a-kind, and handcrafted with care, positivity, good intentions, and love.
  • They consist of deer antlers (or driftwood) woven with dreamcatchers and adorned with macrame. The macrame acts as a propping system for vintage glass bottles, and the bottles act as plant propagation vessels.
  • The bottles are designed to hold water, and the construction of each piece factors in the weight of the materials involved, the water, and the plants. They are securely supported by their macrame pockets.
  • The bottles are designed to be easily removed from their decorative holding system, for the purpose of cleaning the glass and changing out the water.
  • Every piece is made with a majority of found, gifted, and thrifted materials.

They’re an education piece. I want to teach everyone about the phenomenon of plant cutting water propagation. It’s so easy, and anyone can succeed at it. Most plants can be rooted by sticking the stem in a vessel of water. Take a Philodendron vine for instance. The stem can be cut below a node, and the cut portion can be stuck in water. If you wait at least one month, you will see new roots form! Or take a Spider Plant. Even succulents can be successfully propagated in water. All plant cuttings should be transferred to soil after 3 months or less. Then the process starts over with a new cutting.

For those of us who already propagate anything green around us, I want to provide a unique yet practical way of displaying these cuttings. Most water propagation vessels on the market sit on shelves or tables. Some are done in cool test tube-like holsters. A lot of people just use whatever vase they have lying around. Well, mine are different. Mine are elaborate 3D hanging sculptures with boho charm. (And they also happen to fit really well with the name Xylem Rising.)

Please note that all animal materials used in my work are sourced ethically. The bones and feathers are either found, thrifted, or gifted. I do not support hunting for sport, recreation, or profit. When I buy my supplies from small online retailers, I always make sure they are cruelty-free.

I have created two large mobiles to completion, and many others (both big and small) are in the design phase; thus, explaining my absence on the blog. I’m a busy beaver over here building my inventory.

Once this project takes off, I will be offering custom work as well!

(Dear Internet, please don’t steal my idea. But if you do, good luck. These suckers are meticulously handcrafted, take a ton of time, skill, and patience, and are not for the faint of heart.)

♥∴♥


Of course, she’s going to need a handmade logo!

I’ve been working on this baby off and on for months now:

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It’s a watercolor painting designed and illustrated 100% by Yours Truly. I’ve spent hours on the actual painting, and I’ve spent hours digitally optimizing it and getting it ready for print. It’s been quite the process, and it’s not even finished. But it’s close! Once I have a finished digital file, technically it’s not even done. I’ll still have to incorporate it on self-designed business cards. It’s a lot of work designing your own logo!

It’ll be so worth it!

Aside from actually creating my own logo, I’ve been developing my brand. I’ve thought long and hard about my concept, my visions, my market, and all things business plan. I’ve been structuring my handmade business, and a lot of work has been involved in order to put my vision into a cohesive intention, concept, and execution. A lot of it has to do with what I think YOU, my muse, will benefit the most from.


Botanic-Themed Art Prints

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I’m a watercolor painter. The art prints I’ll be selling will be of whimsical botanical illustrations, plant still life arrangements, and plant-themed sayings.


Unique Succulent Planters

Think birdcages, shells, and grapevine balls!

Here is a birdcage I did in the past:


Oracle Cards

I cannot reveal any more, for now. It’s going to be EPIC. My idea has never been done before (as far as I know), and it’s going to involve a Kickstarter Campaign. That’s all I can allow myself to say at the moment. Stay tuned!

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‘The Moon’, Alphonse Mucha, 1902

My lifelong spirit work has led me here. I have spent years digging deep within myself, and as I continue to grow, so does my purpose here on Earth. I want to inspire. I want to shine not only the knowledge I’ve learned along the way caring for plants, but share with you the spiritual wisdom I have gained (and continue to!) over the years. It’s all about self-love.

Disclaimer: Transformative healing may occur.

I am not going to preach anything to you. I don’t subscribe to any organized religion. I have respect for each and every belief set, but my focus has always been to discover my highest self. I have a deep connection with Mother Earth, the Universal Spirit, and Humanity. I nurture plants. And I have learned how to nurture my body, heart, mind, and soul. I know how good it feels. I want that for everyone, because we all deserve to experience the power of plants. And who couldn’t use a little more self-care?

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Much love to you and thank you for your support,
Cristie


~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

With the exception of the Alphonse Mucha piece titled ‘The Moon’,
All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

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Taming the Monster(a)

Has your Monstera plant gotten so big that it can no longer support itself? Or do you want to encourage your Philodendron to grow tall and vertical? Consider using a sphagnum moss totem pole for plant support. They are especially helpful for plants with aerial roots. They are cheap, easy to install, and will give your plants the necessary support for optimal growth.

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My Monstera deliciosa‘s leaves and stems were flopping all over the place from lack of support. It was unnecessarily taking up a ton of room, and I kept on walking into it every time I entered my bedroom. The leaves were practically on the floor.

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I was aware of the handmade extra tall moss totem poles, but I wasn’t familiar with the brand Mosser Lee until I did a little bit of research. Their totem poles are ready-made and contain long-fibered sphagnum moss, which acts as a growing medium for plants with aerial roots. The moss should be moistened prior to installation, as well as continuously. The pole comes in four sizes ranging from 12-30″, and 12″ extenders are provided for adding to the top once your plant reaches the height of the installed pole.

Mosser Lee 24″ Totem Pole Plant Support
$13.33

The pole comes with seven greening pins, which hold the stems in place vertically. They act as a temporary anchoring system. In order to not puncture, scar, or even break the stems, I recommend moving them around as the plant grows.

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Without too much force, it’s an added benefit to position any aerial roots forming on the stem directly against the pole, to act as anchors. The roots will grow into the pole, locking the stems into place, which helps provide extra support. With this added root support, the plant will be encouraged to grow much bigger than it would if these aerial roots were left sticking out.

Aerial Roots are roots that grow on the above-ground parts of a plant, functioning as anchors. They are almost always “adventitious”, in which they arise from an organ other than the root – usually a stem, sometimes a leaf.

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Check out this YouTube video tutorial I made about installing this moss totem pole:

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~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, which means I earn a small commission if purchased, at no additional cost to you. This is to simply offset the cost of running this website. Please note that all of the above statements are entirely my own, honest opinions that are derived from personal experience. I would never endorse such products if they didn’t work or if I didn’t see real, positive results. Buy with confidence!

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Everything You Will Ever Need to Know About Propagating  Succulents

Propagating succulents is both a science and an art.

Succulents are some of the easiest plants to propagate, but there are still several tried and true methods to it. Some are more effective than others. What you’ll get from this post are the fundamentals to set yourself up for the best results, along with all of the different techniques you can try.

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Before we get started, the three main things you’ll need to keep in mind when doing any sort of propagation are:

Patience ~ Confidence ~ Forgiveness

Not what you would expect, huh? In addition to the knowledge of propagation techniques, these three qualities pay off in a huge way.

Patience

Propagation is a waiting game. It takes a lot of time, and you need to know that before you go in. Just because something doesn’t grow roots within two months, doesn’t mean it never will. Keep waiting. You don’t stand over the stove waiting for water to boil, do you? Well, you might (no judgement), but it’s not going to boil any faster. Sure, there are things you can do to expedite the process, like adding salt to the water. The same goes for propagation. Temperature, season, and environment all have an effect on the speed of propagation, and I will do my best to walk you through everything, but still, it will be a waiting game nonetheless. It’s hard to tell just how long you might have to wait, and that can be frustrating at times. So channel patience. Don’t give up. Famous words from 1970, “There will be an answer, let it be.”

Confidence

Don’t worry about getting it perfect this time, or that time. Chill. Think of it as a fun experiment that may or may not work out. Nobody is judging you if you don’t get it right, and your self-worth is not defined by the success of a little propagation experiment. It’s important to keep a light-hearted approach and be easy on yourself. While there are basic guidelines to follow when propagating succulents, you could follow all of them and still not get something to root. It has nothing to do with you. You could be doing everything right but be totally unsure of yourself the whole time, anxious if your propagation project will turn out alive. Then low and behold, a few months later, things grow healthy white roots and establish themselves quickly. All that needless worry, for nothing. I have a personal story about this that I’ll share in a little bit.

Forgiveness

So let’s say you’ve channeled all the patience and confidence possible, but your propagation experiment failed. It’s not the end of the world. Forgive yourself, and don’t beat yourself up over it. And most importantly, don’t let that stop you from trying again.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite poems:

“This means there are no mistakes. You might do it differently this time, but that’s because you did it this way this time. Perfect, even if you say too much this too little that. It’s you and please be yourself. Offer yourself. Feels good. Ok?”

-Tassajara Bread Book

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Alright, so enough with all the metaphysical stuff. Here’s how you actually propagate succulents…


Methods of Propagation

Succulent propagation is usually done by individual leaves, but it can also be done by full heads or stem cuttings.

Soil

Water 

Air

Leaves, heads, or stems planted directly into soilLeaves, heads, or stems placed into a vessel of waterLeaves, heads, or stems left out flat, with complete exposure to the air
Leaves, heads, or stems laying on top of soil, unplanted

All of these methods work for simple leaf, head, and stem propagations, but there are other complicated methods of propagating, such as coring or grafting, which are done for very specific types of succulents. Coring is the best method for propagating Agaves. Read my species info on Agave ‘Blue Glow’ for more information. Grafting is the best method for propagating “Moon Cactus” (Gymnocalycium mihanovichii) and certain types of Euphorbias. Read my species info on Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’ f. variegata for more information.

These are the succulent propagation weirdos. But let’s keep it simple, shall we? I’ll be covering how to propagate the majority of succulents via soil, water, and air.

Of course, propagation by root division is sometimes an option, which is when you divide the rootball. Usually root division is done by separating the new growth offshoots from the main rootstock, but you can also simply cut the plant in half, or in quarters.


Soil

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Forget your rooting hormone. You don’t need it. Here are the soil propagation methods that work great for me:

Leaves, Heads, or Stems Planted Directly Into Soil

It is possible to root succulents with healthy roots by just planting them directly into soil. This can be done with individual leaves, full succulent heads, or short stems.

Even when there are absolutely no roots formed yet, it works! However, planting anything in the soil without any roots formed yet makes the plant susceptible to rot, so there are a few things to consider in order to set yourself up for success.

  • Soil: When caring for succulents, it’s important to use a well-draining potting soil, but even better, a succulent-cactus mix. If you are choosing this propagation method, it’s vital to use a dry succulent-cactus mix.
  • Light: The succulents must have very bright light, but not total direct sun.
  • Temperature: It’s best to keep them in a warm place when the roots are starting out.
  • Water: The soil should be kept slightly dry to avoid rot, but the cutting will still need water. But don’t fully water for the first few weeks; only mist once per week.

Pro Tip: Allow the cutting to callous over for a day or two before planting it in soil to heighten your chances of success.

LEAVES:

When I say plant the individual leaves in soil, I don’t mean the whole leaf. That is sure to rot the whole thing. I mean just the tip of the leaf, angled. Like this:

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This will help the roots establish themselves more quickly, while still allowing the new growth of the succulent leaf to emerge from underneath the soil surface sooner (since it is planted so shallow). Eventually the leaves will shrivel up, leaving the new growth.

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HEADS:

The following is a video clip of my Echeveria ‘Black Prince’ head cutting that I had stuck directly into soil. I cut it off of the main stem since the plant was stretching. Read this post to learn about how to save stretched-out succulents, but first, finish this one!


STEMS
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I had to propagate my Sedum kimnachii recently, because it looked like this stringy mess:

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Before, Sedum kimnachii

I did so just by cutting off the stems and planting them in soil with absolutely no roots on them. I pulled off the leaves that were left on the part of the stem that got planted.

So, before I continue, this is the perfect place to interject with my personal story about having confidence while propagating. A few months ago, one of my succulent planters was full of root rot, mold, and mealybugs. It was a disaster. I ended up propagating everything that was in it, and the whole time I was working on it, I wasn’t sure of myself. It seemed like such a daunting task. It was an incredible overwhelming mess, and the plants had been stressed for months. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out or not. I wanted to cry. But it was either throw away all the plants (which I would never do), or give them a chance. I was expecting no results. I just followed my own soil, light, temperature, and water rules that I listed above. Well, just over two months later, I realized that all of the plants had propagated perfectly. They had healthy white roots, and they were root rot, mold, and bug-free. It couldn’t have turned out better. I was proud of myself. But then I thought, “Wow, I was so hard on myself, but all along I did what was exactly right. I need to do it like this every time!” That’s when I learned that confidence will go a long way. I nursed those plants back to health, and now they are living in the most optimal conditions.

Here’s a little 1 minute video I put together about the planter:

You can tell how distraught I was at first, right? It was definitely overwhelming to deal with all of that, but my efforts paid off in the end!


Leaves, Heads, and Stems Laying On Top of Soil, Unplanted

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This is my favorite method for leaf propagating, because I get to make fun mandalas when I do it! If you’ve never made a succulent leaf propagation mandala, try it! It’s so meditative! Unlike the other technique above where you plant individual leaves angled down in the soil, you can see exactly what is going on. I love knowing what stage my succulent cutting is in.

I wrote a blog post about How to Save Stretched-Out Succulents. In that post, I talk about how to fix etiolated succulents, and I use an example of my Echeveria “Black Prince” when it wasn’t getting enough light. These are some of the propagations from that project. I tried propagating them during the off-season outside in the cold (this is California though, so our winter low where I live is about 30 degrees), and they didn’t do anything from November to February. Succulents can be propagated any time of year, but they do go slightly dormant during the colder months. These were not only in a semi-dormant state, but they weren’t in the best growing conditions for propagation. Almost immediately after I moved them to my greenhouse, these cuttings finally started sprouting!

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In Water

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Aeonium water propagation

Leaves, Heads, or Stems Placed into a Vessel of Water

I use water propagation all the time for my plants, but to be honest, when it comes to succulents, I’m not a huge fan of this method. It works to an extent, but I find it counterintuitive. Over-watering is one of the main concerns when it comes to succulent care, so I don’t like the idea of sticking any part of a succulent in standing water for very long. The amount of time it takes for a succulent to grow roots in water is usually long enough for the stem to rot. Since succulents are susceptible to root rot, when you partially rot the stem by propagating it in water, it’s already half way to root rot once it’s planted in soil. Also, keeping the succulent in water makes the environment around it very moist and humid, but most succulents prefer dryness and low humidity.

I use water propagation for succulents when I’m in a pinch and don’t have a chance to plant it in the moment. I use water propagation in succulent propagation experiments. That’s about it. I use water propagation for mostly everything else, though!

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Air

Leaves, Heads, or Stems Left Out Flat, with Complete Exposure to the Air

This is the lazy woman’s way of propagating succulents, and it works wonderfully! Just lay them out on a tray or plate, and wait for little roots to form. The key to this method is keeping them out of direct sunlight. I lightly mist my exposed cuttings once in a while (every 2-3 weeks), but I make sure they stay pretty dry. If the roots form and they don’t have contact with soil, they won’t be able to take up any nutrients, so be sure to plant them as soon as you see little roots.

Here are lovely leaf propagations of my Pachyphytum oviferum, a.k.a. “Moonstones”:

Keep it mind it can take a very long time to see roots emerge on leaf cuttings left out to propagate in the air. Remember, channel patience.

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I wish you all the succulent propagation success. Try all of these methods, or just try some, but don’t give up! Remember…

Patience ~ Confidence ~ Forgiveness

Here is the cookbook I excerpted that lovely poem from earlier:

Tassajara Break Book
$15.32

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’m available for any advice and/or troubleshooting you may need.

For related posts on succulent propagation, see Mad Props for Propagation and How to Save Stretched-Out Succulents.

Did I live up to the title of my post? ; )

~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if purchased, at no additional cost to you. This is to simply offset the cost of running this website. Please note that all of the above statements are entirely my own, honest opinions that are derived from personal experience. I would never endorse such products if they didn’t work or if I didn’t see real, positive results. Buy with confidence!

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How to Treat  a Mealybug  Infestation  Naturally 

Chances are, even if you haven’t realized it, you’ve had those pesky little white bugs before. Mealybugs. Ugh, what a dirty word! I cringe just typing it. Mealybugs are unarmored scale insects that feed on the plant juices of our beloved plant friends. They suck out the sap from plants, cause wilted and yellow leaves, and decrease photosynthesis. Pierced plant tissue welcomes in infection and disease more readily. The honeydew exuded from mealybugs also encourages mold growth on plants, and the honeydew attracts other insect pests, like ants. They’re quite a nuisance, but they are easy to get rid of if you know how to treat them. I will be focusing on the natural methods of control, involving no artificial pesticides, insecticides, or toxic chemicals.

mealybug

Regardless of which following method you decide to use, it’s vital to replace the soil when you are treating for mealybugs. Mealybugs often lay their eggs in waxy sacs within the roots of an infested plant, so even if you only see them on the leaves, they are likely in the soil as well. It is best to take the plant out of the pot, brush off all the soil around the roots, throw away all the soil, and clean the pot thoroughly. It’s OK – buying more soil will be worth it.

A lot of people miss this step, which is the main reason the little buggers seem to come back.

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Mealybug Egg Sac In Soil

If I were to just treat the leaves of this infected plant, once the egg sac hatches, all of my prior mealybug treatments would be deemed ineffective. This might be the leading cause to why a lot of people give up, then throw their plants away.

How do you know if you have mealybugs?

Aside from issues with water, light, nutrients, etc., plants will start to wilt or yellow when they are infested with mealybugs. Instead of jumping straight to adjusting your level of care with the plant, use it as an opportunity to check for a pest infestation. It may not be the case (thankfully), but it’s a sign to look out for.

There are several different species of mealybugs, but they generally look like the culprit above. But even if you know what the bugs look like, they sometimes hide out underneath white masses that look like pieces of cotton. It also helps to know how to identity what the egg sacs look like. (Click the pictures to enlarge.)

If you do find mealybugs, make sure you quarantine the plant until you have a chance to deal with it. Mealybugs can quickly spread from plant to plant. Once, I found mealybugs on more than a few plants that were sitting next to each other in a row.

Put it outside at night if it’s not colder than the cold hardiness the plant can take. Cold temperatures will encourage the mealybugs to retreat to the outside of the plant, making it easier to see them when you treat to get rid of them.

Alright, now let’s get into the methods!


Alcohol

Treating a mealybug infestation with alcohol involves manually removing them with 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which can be sprayed directly onto the plant. I use a cotton swab to spot wipe away any mealybugs, making sure to check over the plant several times. It is important to power spray the plant with jet-streaming water once all the mealybugs have been removed.

Check out my YouTube tutorial on this method!

If you are worried about the alcohol hurting the plant, don’t worry, it won’t. But if you want to keep your peace of mind, you can cut it with a detergent.

PRO TIP: Do not spray alcohol on tender new growth.


Detergent

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a surfactant in most detergents, will actually help to kill off juvenile mealybugs, which are almost invisible to the naked eye. Most detergents have this, but a good biodegradable and organic one would be Sal Suds, by good ‘ole Dr. Bronner’s.

Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade and Organic Sal Suds, 16 oz.
$18.94

Alcohol + Detergent

This is the most thorough method that I have found in treating for mealybugs. Combining efforts is always a good idea. You can make a soapy alcohol solution of equal parts 70% isopropyl alcohol, Sal Suds, and water. Use the same technique as seen in my YouTube video above!

Neem Oil

Neem oil is a naturally occuring pesticide found in seeds from the neem tree. Neem oil is non-toxic… well, non-toxic to humans, pets, and plants. But it is toxic to our mealybug nemeses. A neem oil foliar spray will coat the leaves of the infested plant, entering the vascular tissue of the plant. The next time the mealybugs feel like taking an unwelcome snack on your plant, the neem oil will coat their breathing holes and suffocate them to death. Righteous! It also prevents larvae maturation and can even stop mating behavior. Try the neem oil below if you’re feeling up for it!


Organic, Cold-Pressed, 100% Pure Neem Oil, 16 oz.
$16.99

Biological Control

Ladybugs!

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Ladybug on my Crassula multicava

Ladybugs are natural predators to mealybugs, among other pests. Call around to see if any of your local nurseries or hardware stores sell them in bulk. Then you can release them onto your plant to begin the mealy-ladybug battle.¹ If you can’t find them locally, order them here:


1500 Live Ladybugs
$4.50

If your battle turns into a cold-blooded war, you can bring out the big guns! The mealybug is no match to the Australian Ladybird Beetle, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, a.k.a. “Mealybug Destroyer”!

Mealybug Destroyer
$33.74


All of the above methods can be used to treat aphids as well.

Some other common plant insect pests include spider mites, scale, whiteflies, and ants. Ants won’t necessarily harm your plants, but it is important to keep any ant population in check, because ants farm both aphids and mealybugs. They share a symbiotic relationship. The mealybugs and aphids exude a honeydew sap, which the ants find quite delicious. The ants in turn help protect the aphids and mealybugs. Ants like dry, warm conditions, so be sure to not let your pots outside become bone dry (even succulents).

A few years ago, I noticed a bunch of ants in a succulent planter box I had outside that I didn’t water too often. Left untreated, I ended up with a tiny farm of aphids shortly thereafter. Needless to say, that was my first experience dealing with an aphid crisis. In the end, I won.

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Now, when I notice ants, I force them to scurry right away. I have tips on that too if you care to know!


While I was doing my drainage hole video, I didn’t even realize this pot had mealybugs, until I was editing the video and saw the bottom of the pot on my computer screen! I quickly took care of it after that! If you look closely, you can see a mass of mealybug eggs collected at the bottom of the drainage hole.


Well, I hope this helps! But I especially hope it helps save plant lives!

There is no need to throw out plants when you find mealybugs (or aphids) on them! Plant lives matter too! We don’t euthanize our pets when they have fleas, do we? Treat plants the same way. Just because there’s an unsightly bug on your plant, doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. At least try. And as always, I’m available for any questions!

Much love!

~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

¹ I absolutely love this post from Practically Functional on releasing ladybugs in the garden. Not only is Jessi knowledgeable with great photo documentation, but she is so poetic about her experience.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if purchased, at no additional cost to you. This is to simply offset the cost of running this website. Please note that all of the above statements are entirely my own, honest opinions that are derived from personal experience. I would never endorse such products if they didn’t work or if I didn’t see real, positive results. Buy with confidence!

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Why Xylem Rising?

You might be wondering by now, what does “xylem” even mean? And why the “rising”? Allow me.

XYLEM
xy·lem
/ˈzīləm/
noun, botany
1. The vascular tissue in plants that conducts water and dissolved nutrients upward from the root and also helps to form the woody element in the stem.

(There’s also the “phloem”, but we won’t get into that here.)

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Mendocino Coast, California

Since the xylem only moves in one direction (upward), hence the name Xylem Rising. The “rising” also signifies personal and spiritual upliftment, rising above, enlightenment, and positivity. The xylem gives plants support, structure, and helps keep them rooted in the ground. Metaphysically, this translates to me as being grounded in the mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit.

So not only is this name scientifically accurate, it also means something very personal and sacred to me.

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I see Xylem Rising as a way to describe the learning process, and in particular, about plants. Knowledge is growth. Knowledge is power. Growth and power are both uplifting.

Also, it works really well to describe some of the plant home decor items featured in my up-and-coming online shop!


May we all stay connected to the Earth and feel the ground on our feet, the dirt in our hands, and the peace in our hearts when we’re close to Mother Nature. Let us be grounded so that we can grow tall with compassion for others and self, and let our spirits rise high.

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~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

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Trimming to Promote Growth

Sometimes certain plants need haircuts. Just trims though. Like I tell my stylist, “No hack job please, just a light dusting”. I always hate removing material from the beloved plants that I spent so long watching grow into long luscious locks of greenery. But when necessary, it’s for the best. Pruning encourages bushier growth, and some plants can get lanky and lose their fullness. A lot of vine or trailing-type plants are susceptible to this, like Pothos/Epipremnum, Philodendron, Scindapsus, “Wandering Jew” (Tradescantia), etc. Which “Wandering Jew” am I referring to, exactly? The one with the identity crisis.

Here’s my spindly Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Variegata’ before its visit to the salon.

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This plant was far too grown out, with almost no foliage at the top. It was rocking that balding hippie look.

So, I got to town with my pruning shears and took off the bulk of the outgrowth. I didn’t just throw out the pieces I cut off though (of course not!); I put them in water to root. Whenever I snip, I save.

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It’s easy to propagate most plants in a bottle of water. No rooting hormone needed. All you need is a good pair of scissors like the ones below, a vessel that doesn’t leak, and a sunny windowsill.

Fiskars Steel Pruning Shears, $9.97
(The best pruning shears ever!)


I just so happened to have cuttings of the same plant that I had already propagated months prior, and I planted those at the same time as cutting off length at the bottom. This will help give it more immediate fullness, before new growth is encouraged.

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Established roots on Tradescantia cutting.

This is how it came out immediately:

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Then I waited.


About one month later…

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Not too shabby!

Once the cuttings that I had previously propagated formed roots, I planted them to fill the plant out even more.

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Just look at that fullness!

But wait, it gets better.


Another month goes by…

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We’re back in business! The “Wandering Jew” is no longer wandering yonder. Of course, this process will need to be repeated in about a year or so.

Three month progress due to trimming to promote growth:


Let’s take a look at a little history of my Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’. It’s been around the block a few times.

This is when I first got it. Full, large leaves, and healthy.

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March 2015

Then I drove it across the country from Philadelphia to California during the fall of 2016, and it ended up looking like this.

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After Cross-Country Move, 2017

Sadness. Not only was this plant stressed from the move, but it was also suffering from lack of nutrients, water, light, and maintenance, e.g. pruning. If growing conditions are too dark, the stems will start to get spindly. It’s also important to trim off cuttings here and there to promote bushier growth. After a while the plant can get lanky. If you notice that any of your vines are growing significantly smaller leaves, it’s time for a trim.

So, I took off a ton of cuttings, and propagated them in water.

Some made their way into their own pots.

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Now, every single propagation from the old pot is planted back together where they all originally came from, and it looks a little something like this.

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March 24th, 2019

Four years later, this is same exact plant. It’s been through a lot. It may not have as large of leaves as it did when I first got it, but it is full! I know it may seem counterintuitive, but this was achieved from cutting it back.


Recently, I propagated my Tradescantia spathacea, a.k.a. Moses-in-the-Cradle plant. As soon as I trimmed it in only two places, I was awarded with all of this immediate new growth!

IMG_8680


So where do you cut? Wherever you see an aerial root, cut below the node. This will leave the internode sticking out from the plant you cut from, so feel free to cut it off right above the node at the bottom of the internode. When you stick the cutting in water, wherever there are aerial roots, roots will start to grow. Make sure the aerial roots maintain contact with water.

I’ve made a visual diagram for you. You can cut at either place where I drew the red lines on the stem. I would normally cut either one or the other, not both, but cutting both won’t hurt it. If I were to cut this particular stem, I would cut along the bottom red line and make sure that both of the aerial roots I’ve pointed out are under water.

IMG_8746 copy


Because I’m a plant nerd, I am fascinated by the science behind this. The main stem (apical meristem) of a plant contains the largest amount of the growth hormone, auxin, than anywhere else in the plant. This actually prohibits growth by any lateral buds, which maintains apical dominance. The buds and aerial roots are dormant. When you cut off a portion of the plant on the main stem, the auxin is no longer produced in that area, which breaks the dormancy of the rest of the plant and promotes bushier growth.

Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear about your adventures in plant cutting propagation!

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~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, which means I earn a small commission if purchased, at no additional cost to you. This is to simply offset the cost of running this website. Please note that all of the above statements are entirely my own, honest opinions that are derived from personal experience. I would never endorse such products if they didn’t work or if I didn’t see real, positive results. Buy with confidence!

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Common Name Confusion

I predominately use the scientific names for plants. Why? It’s not to sound smart (although it does help). I use them because for one, they are the plants’ names, and two, to avoid confusion. Common names are thrown around so loosey goosey and are often used to describe totally different plants. Relying on common names alone is tricky and will lead to one person talking about Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’ f. variegata (referred to as “Coral Cactus”) and the other person talking about Rhipsalis cereuscula (also referred to as “Coral Cactus”). Two completely different plants, from two completely different genera. These two aren’t even from the same plant family, let alone the same plant order! They aren’t closely related, but they do share a few broad taxonomic commonalities. They both belong to the same kingdom, Plantae. Yes, they’re both plants, you would have never guessed. They also belong to the same phylum, or plant division in botany, Anthophyta. This consists of the clade, angiosperms, which are the flowering plants. They are both eudicots¹ as well, but lets not get too deep in our Biology textbooks here. I can see your eyes glazing over. Let’s just say they are both succulent plants, with the same common name.

Without giving you a full-on Biology lesson, here is a basic plant taxonomy chart I made to give you a bit of context. If you want to nerd out with me, there’s a link that will blow your mind at the bottom of this post.²

taxonomy chart

PLANT TAXONOMY CHART, by CRK.

Moving on with the “Coral Cactus” example from above, the common name should not be taken literally. Neither of these plants is a type of coral, and only one is a type of cactus. Common names often describe what the plant looks like, not what it is.

Common names will often imply that the plant in discussion is actually a certain type of plant, e.g. “Lucky Bamboo”. Interestingly enough, Lucky Bamboo isn’t even real bamboo. What people refer to “Lucky Bamboo”, is actually Dracaena sanderiana, a type of Dracaena. Think about the popular Dragon Tree or Corn Plant. Lucky Bamboo is grown in water, but bamboo cannot be grown in water. Trust me, I work at a bamboo nursery. Well… I guess it could be grown in water until it dies from being “grown” in water.

Common names are somewhat useful, because scientific names are less known. Everybody knows Spider Plant. Most people don’t know Chlorophytum comosumBut keep in mind that common names are often localized to certain regions.


A few basics about nomenclature before I continue:

(I apologize in advance if this gives you PTSD from Biology class.)

The genus and species of a plant is always italicized. If a plant has a variety or cultivar, the name is normal typeface and will be in single quotes, i.e. Genus species ‘Cultivar’. Common names are always in double quotes, i.e. Genus species ‘Cultivar’, “Silly Plant Name That Doesn’t Mean Anything”. Also, Genus is always capitalized, while species is not. Since I’m self-diagnosed with OCD, if you pay attention, you will see that I am meticulous about using these distinctions throughout this entire website. Most other websites will not, including ones selling the darn things. There is a lot of misnaming out there, even in professional plant nurseries. The intent of this post is to help clear it up.

You will see on my Plant Education page that I always have the taxonomy listed for plant species as follows:

Scientific Classification:
Order:
Family:
Sub-Family: (sometimes)
Genus:
Species:
Cultivar: (if applicable)

I will always include any known common names as well.

So what’s the difference between cultivar and variety? In short, cultivars are man-made hybrids. Varieties are true forms found in nature. “Form” is synonymous with variety and cultivar.

Sometimes you might see var., f., subsp., sp., and spp. across my site.

var. In plant nomenclature, the “var.” in the name stands for variety, a taxonomic rank below species but above form or cultivar.
f. The “f.” stands for “form”, or “forma”. In plant nomenclature, it is secondary to the variety or cultivar. The primary form of Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’ f. variegata is Euphorbia lactea ‘Cristata’, which is an all-green form. The variegata form is the same variety (or cultivar in this case), only it has a different leaf appearance.
subsp. “Subsp.” stands for sub-species.
sp. Sp.” is used when the particular variety of the plant either cannot be identified or need not be specified.
spp. Spp.” (plural) is used to refer to multiple plants in the same genus, or “several species”.

Alright, we made it! We’re done with botany semantics. Let’s go back to more examples of common name confusion.


Lets take “Asparagus Fern”. There are multiple plants that share this common name. It could refer to Asparagus aethiopicus ‘Sprengeri’, a.k.a. Sprenger’s Asparagus. Or it could refer to Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’, a.k.a. Foxtail Fern. It could even refer to Asparagus plumosus (synonymous with Asparagus setaceus).

7991215D-2A86-4F8F-96BE-FF8B2310D142

IMG_7996.1

Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’

As you can see, these three plants look totally different from one another, yet people still use the same common name for them. All of these plants belong to the same genus, Asparagus, the same family, Asparagaceae, and the same order, Asparagales. You could call them asparagus, but they are not the same as the garden asparagus we all know and love, Asparagus officinalis. They all have a fern-like appearance, but they are not true ferns. Asparagus are angiosperms, or seed-producing plants. Ferns are spore-producing plants. Check out this diagram³ for a visual.

Plant-Classification


Now this is our culprit, “Wandering Jew”. What a misnomer mess.

At least four species of Tradescantia are called Wandering Jew:

Also, at least four species of Commelina are called Wandering Jew.

  • Commelina africana
  • Commelina benghalensis
  • Commelina cyanea
  • Commelina ensifolia

Both Saxifraga stolonifera and Tinantia pringlei are called Wandering Jew as well.

Do you think Wandering Jew has an identity crisis?

Are you confused yet? No need to be! Use Latin names instead.


We have Carl Linnaeus to thank for starting our system for plant nomenclature when he wrote Species Plantarum in 1753.

Bionomial Nomenclature

bi·no·mi·al no·men·cla·ture
/bīˈnōmēəl ˈnōmənˌklāCHər/

noun
BIOLOGY

  1. the system of nomenclature in which two terms are used to denote a species of living organism, the first one indicating the genus and the second the specific epithet.

Today, The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and regulations for botanical names. It is governed by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT). Their latest publication is the Shenzhen Code, 2018. Fascinating casual read.

I am officially a plant nerd.


Thanks for reading!

~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

With the exception of the source footnote #3, all photos belong to Cristie R. Kiley. Please ask permission before taking.

PS: I love this post about using scientific names from Plants are the Strangest People.

¹If you are a plant nerd like me, read about what classifies an eudicot here.
²If you want to nerd out with me about plant taxonomy, click here.
³Plant classification diagram.

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So Lush and So Green, Green

“Ain’t no planter dope as me, I’m planted so lush and green (so lush and so green, green)”. Wait, those are the Outkast lyrics, right?

These succulent planters are the most lush ones I have. Just look at the size of those Blue Chalksticks!

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IMG_3476.1 copy

Plants pictured above:

  1. Crassula perforata
  2. Curio talinoides var. mandraliscae “Blue Chalksticks”
  3. Pachyphytum oviferum “Moonstones”
  4. Sedum kimanchii
  5. Sedum oaxacanum
  6. Sedum pachyphyllum
  7. Sedum rupestre

These planters are among the handful of plants I recently brought to my new greenhouse. Read about the details at Fighting the Winter Blues.

IMG_5909

Despite the clever name for this post, green leaves don’t always indicate the best growing conditions when it comes to brightly-colored succulents. Leaf “greening” will occur when they don’t receive enough light, like these ones. They won’t die from lack of full sun, but they will dull to a pale green.

After only three weeks of greenhouse living, my Pachyphytum oviferum “Moonstones” got its lavender tones back!

IMG_7030

Pachyphytum oviferum lavender tones

Here is Pachyphytum oviferum before, on the left. And after 2 months of greenhouse living, here is Sedum pachyphyllum, on the right. Notice the blush tones?


After only 3-4 weeks, the leaf margins of my Crassula perforata started getting their red back as well!

IMG_7093 (1)


Not only was my Sedum kimnachii dulled to an overall green color from living in a redwood forest, but it was also becoming very stringy. So I easily propagated it by pulling off the heads and starting the plant over. I’m excited to see the beautiful peachy tones.

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[later update] 5-6 months later…


These are the same exact cuttings from my Graptopetalum paraguayense:

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December 2nd, 2018

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February 5th, 2019

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March 1st, 2019

Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon…


The stems turned red and the faded red leaf stripes came back on my Aeonium simsii.

My Echeveria prolifica got its pink tint back!

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Isn’t this all so amazing?!

You can only imagine how thrilled I am.

~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley.  Please ask permission before taking.

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Fangs and Foliage: Pet Safety Guide

When we have four-legged family members roaming our homes, it’s important to make sure any plants within paws-reach are non-toxic. Both dogs and cats alike can get very sick from ingesting poisonous plants, and the toxicity will mainly affect their gastrointestinal tract. Some symptoms include difficulty breathing, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, and irregular heart beat. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic plant, call the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 764-7661 right away!

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Onyx amongst ivy

In the following lists, you might see a “spp.” (plural), which is used to refer to multiple plants in the same genus, or “several species”. For example, “Dracaena spp.” refers to multiple species within the Dracaena plant genus. If you would like further clarification regarding the confusion surrounding plant names, please see my super nerdy post, Common Name Confusion.

The following list includes, but is not limited to, common houseplants that are TOXIC to dogs and cats:

Note: For safety purposes, please assume all plant species of the same genus would be toxic to pets. So for example, Monstera deliciosa is toxic to pets; therefore, it’s safe to say that all ~50 species of Monstera would also be, e.g. Monstera adansonii.

  • Alocasia
  • Amaryllis
  • Aloe vera
  • Begonia
  • Caladium
  • Coleus
  • Dracaena spp.
  • English Ivy, Hedera helix
  • Jade
  • Kalanchoe spp.
  • Lavender
  • Marijuana
  • Mint
  • Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum wallisii
  • Pencil Cactus, Euphorbia tirucalli
  • Poinsettia
  • Pothos, Epipremnum aureum
  • Sago Palm
  • Satin Pothos, Scindapsus pictus
  • Snake Plant, Sansevieria trifasciata
  • Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera deliciosa
  • Umbrella Tree, Brassaia actinophylla
  • Wandering Jew, Tradescantia flumeninsis
  • Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina
  • Yew, Taxus baccata

If you can’t live without some of these plants, I don’t blame you. I can’t either. But be sure to keep them out of reach. Keep them off any counters or shelves where your feline friends can get to. For example, keep your Pothos, English Ivy, or Wandering Jew trailing along the ceiling where your cat can only admire them from afar. You could even consider keeping your toxic plants in a room that is off-limits to your pet. If your pet is strictly indoors, depending on the plant and your hardiness region, you could keep it outside.

Another thing you can try, is to make a tea with chili flakes. Let it cool, put it in a spray bottle, and spray on the leaves to deter your pet from ingesting toxic plants that are impossible to keep away from them. Test in an inconspicuous area first to make sure no damage will be done to the appearance of the leaves.

Here is a list of NON-TOXIC common houseplants for dogs and cats:
  • Air Plant, Tillandsia
  • African Violet
  • Asparagus Fern, Asparagus densiflorus
  • Asparagus plumosus
  • Bamboo
  • Boston Fern
  • Button Fern
  • Calathea spp.
  • Donkey’s Tail, Sedum morganianum
  • Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense
  • Goldfish Plant, Hypocyrta nummularia
  • Haworthia spp.
  • Hens and Chicks, Echeveria elegans
  • Holiday Cactus (includes “Thanksgiving Cactus”, “Christmas Cactus”, and “Easter Cactus”)
  • Ice Plant, Lampranthus piquet
  • Lipstick Plant, Aeschynanthus humilis
  • Parlor Palm, Chamaedorea elegans
  • Peperomia obtusifolia
  • Pilea ssp.
  • Rattlesnake Plant, Calathea lancifolia
  • Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum
  • Staghorn Fern, Platycerium bifurcatum

I try to keep my cats away from all my plants, just because I don’t like how the leaves look when masticated by feline fangs. Wheatgrass specifically grown for cats can help curb their appetite for your ornamental houseplants. As Jackson Galaxy would say, “follow a no with a yes”.


Pet Wheatgrass Growing Kit, $15.97

A note about bamboo: My cats love it. The minute they go outside, they love chomping down on my several bamboo plants. They’ll visit each variety like they’re at a salad bar. Oh is it annoying! But after all, bamboo is a grass, which in small amounts actually helps them with digestion.

IMG_2168

Siyah amongst plants

~CRK.

If you enjoyed what you read and don’t ever want to miss a post, securely sign-up for my e-mail list here.

All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley.  Please ask permission before taking.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, which means I earn a small commission if purchased, at no additional cost to you. This is to simply offset the cost of running this website. Please note that all of the above statements are entirely my own, honest opinions that are derived from personal experience. I would never endorse such products if they didn’t work or if I didn’t see real, positive results. Buy with confidence!

References:

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Fighting the Winter Blues

I was faced with a conundrum. With the California winter rains upon us, it has been continuously wet outside, and my succulents were getting very soggy. As I’ve previously mentioned, I live deep in a redwood forest with limited light. I do use LED grow lights that help tremendously, but since my cabin is less than 700 square feet, I’ve ran out of room for winter plant protection. I was getting overwhelmed with the fear of root rot, and I had an epiphany that has now become a reality. I considered an untapped resource: vacant greenhouse space at my work. Warm, dry, and bright greenhouse space.

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I was a little heartbroken to take my plants away from their home, but I was comforted by the knowingness that they would be a lot better off in this space, at least just for the dark and dreary winter. So I loaded them carefully in my car and brought them to work with me! It’s like having a built-in preschool for your kids at your job. I’ve been visiting them on my lunch breaks.

It took two trips in my tiny VDub Cabrio.


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Day 1

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After seeing how they’ve responded after only three weeks, they probably don’t ever want to move out! They’re so much happier!

At home, these succulents were soaking wet and some were starting to rot at the base. They also lost a lot of their vibrant colors due to being in an area with only part-sun. They weren’t yellow or dying by any means, and I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that they were unhealthy. They just weren’t performing at their optimum level. Even after only three weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of the vibrancy in their leaf color returning. The best example is on this Pachyveria glauca ‘Little Jewel’. I’m sure after more time goes by, the intensity of saturation will increase. I was actually amazed to see this great of a difference in such a short period of time.


Another big difference I’ve noticed is the growth pattern of this Echeveria ‘Imbricata’. These cuttings were starting to stretch a little bit, but as soon as I brought them to the greenhouse, they have gone back to their normal rosette form at the top. I will propagate the heads off soon so the plant doesn’t remain deformed.


Though it feels like I may have an empty nest at home in the redwoods, I am happier knowing my plant babies are happier. For the record, I just did a headcount of my indoor houseplants remaining (not including the ones in my greenhouse or office), and the number is 104. Empty nest my ass.

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Click here to read about exciting new color changes!


Echeveria ‘Imbricata’, fixed:

~CRK.

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My Top 7 Houseplants that are Completely Indestructible

All seven of these plants have stood the test of time. Out of my 100+ houseplants, I’ve never had an issue with any of the plants on this list whatsoever. They adapt to a variety of conditions, they are easy-going, and they all require very low maintenance. If you’re a beginner, if you have two black thumbs, or if you just don’t have the time, these plants won’t leave your side. Do you travel a lot and need plants you can leave up to a month at a time? Buy these plants, then forget about them.

Here’s your nursery shopping list:

1. ZZ Plant

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The “ZZ” stands for its scientific name, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia. And you can totally ZZZ on this plant, and it will still flourish. This plant would likely survive an apocalypse, along with the cockroaches. It is truly indestructible. They are pretty popular in nail salons, Vietnamese restaurants, and laundromats. They need very little light to not only survive, but thrive. You could go without watering yours for 2-3 months, and it would be fine. That is because the ZZ Plant stores all of its necessary water in its rhizomes for an extended period of time. At the same time, as long as it doesn’t get direct sunlight, it will also tolerate bright indirect light and waterings 2x/month. It isn’t picky.

I live in a redwood forest with tall, towering trees that produce a lot of shade, and mine lives in my dark, North-facing bathroom set aside from the frosted window. After a year in this spot, it’s as happy as a cockroach galavanting around a natural disaster battleground. It’s dark green, still has its form, and pumps out new growth from time to time.

If you need to catch up on some ZZZ’s and don’t have time for finicky plants, the ZZ Plant is for you!

 

2. Sansevieria

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All varieties.
Pictured above from left to right:
1. Sansevieria cylindrica var. patula ‘Boncel’
2. Sansevieria cylindrica var. patula ‘Boncel’
3. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’
4. Sansevieria ‘Fernwood Punk’
5. Sansevieria trifasciata
(Read about how I rescued the last variety from a deep, dark cranny at the back of senior center hospice shop here!)

Sansevierias have few needs. They adapt to a wide range of lighting, and you can pretty much ignore them (within reason). Because they are a succulent, they are prone to root rot. Just make sure the soil is dry between waterings, but you can go without watering these for at least a month. I’ve gone 2 months before, and it didn’t flinch! I’ve also accidentally left mine in standing water for over a week, replanted it in dry soil, and it didn’t even notice. They do prefer more shady locations, but they won’t complain about bright spots either. Just make sure they don’t get direct sun.

Can anyone say “simple Sansevieria”?

 

3. Holiday Cactus

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Also known as Schlumbergera truncata ‘Sunset Dancer’, or “Thanksgiving Cactus”. Not to be confused with “Christmas Cactus” or “Easter Cactus”, Schlumbergera bridgesii and Hatiora gaertneri respectively.

Whatever its scientific name, it’s a baller. Holiday Cactus is a type of epiphytic cacti, meaning it grows on trees in Central and South American rainforests. It is not a typical cactus that grows in arid environments with full-sun. Holiday Cactus prefers to be in part-shade, but it will tolerate more sun in the cooler months. Just don’t put it in full-sun in the summer. It can be grown outdoors in mild climates, but it will need protection under 40 degrees F.

I bought mine when it wasn’t blooming, in August 2017. Native to Brazil, it blooms in May. Cultivated in the Northern Hemisphere, it blooms in November. The first year I had it, it didn’t bloom during the Thanksgiving holiday like it’s supposed to, but it bloomed two flowers in January the following year. It laid dormant until August of 2018, which is when the entire plant exploded with flowers! Even though my Holiday cactus doesn’t seem to have the holiday spirit, I still love it. It’s so easy to care for, and it’s beautiful.

 

4. Zebra Plant

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Also known as Haworthiopsis attenuata.

Looks like an aloe, right? Well it’s not, but it is very closely related. Haworthiopsis is a genus in the Aloeae tribe of succulents that also includes Haworthia, Aloe, and others. These plants are generally pretty easy to take care of, but some need more attention than others. They are succulents, so they do favor brighter light and drier conditions, but some tender succulents prefer partial sun and more frequent watering. I usually have to tune into each and every succulent’s needs, as they are not all treated equal. Aloes and their distant cousins are tricky. But this stunner, the Zebra Plant, is one of the simple, straight-forward ones (like its stripes). I have seen positive results from having this plant in the shade or bright spots indoors, or part-shade outside. It doesn’t need a ton of water, and it will tolerate a very dry environment for a long period of time. At the same time, it won’t neigh at you if you decide to give it extra love and water it every 2 weeks either. It’s so striking, it’s hard for it not to look good no matter what the scenario.

 

5. Spider Plant

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The obligatory Spider Plant, or Chlorophytum comosum, of course it’s on this list.

Spider Plants are easy peasy. Very low maintenance, easy to adapt, and even easier to ignore. Some articles might suggest that you could grow a Spider Plant in your closet if you wanted to. Not so much, but you sure could grow some spider webs. They aren’t the best dark bathroom plant, like ZZ Plants and Sansevierias, but they don’t require a ton of light. They will also tolerate more light. They are happy inside or outside. If you’d rather have your spider plant outside with its other spider friends, definitely place it in mostly shade. If you don’t mind some spiders inside, they’ll prefer your less sunny window over the sunniest, but they aren’t too picky.

 

6. Coral Cactus

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No, Rhipsalis cereuscula is not related to coral, and it does not grow on the ocean floor. It resembles coral though, hence its common name.

There is no need to quarrel with Coral Cactus. Coral Cactus won’t give you any trouble at all. I did have a mealybug infestation on it recently, but that was because it was sitting next to another plant who had them.

Coral Cactus is also a type of epiphytic cacti (like the previously mentioned Holiday Cactus), meaning it grows on trees in Central and South American rainforests. It is not a typical cactus that grows in arid environments with full-sun. The Coral Cactus prefers part-shade, more water than most cacti, and humidity. Still, you can mostly ignore it and it won’t take it personally.

 

7. Philodendron

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The specific variety featured here is Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’.

This is the oldest houseplant that I own at this point. It has been with me through three moves, including one across the country. It has traveled with me in my car from a road trip coast to coast from Philadelphia to California. I’ve had it since March 2015, which was just shy of 4 years ago. Philodendron and their distant cousin Pothos/Epipremnum are so easy to take care of, it’s almost stupid. They are trailing vines that don’t need a ton of light or water. Although they can survive with chronically dry soil, it’s not their preference. Sure, you can go a couple months without watering them, but after a while, they will droop. Try to water 1-2 times per month. It’s also important to trim off cuttings here and there to promote bushier growth. After a while they can get lanky. If you notice that any of your vines are growing significantly smaller leaves, it’s time for a trim. Just cut right below a node and place a few cuttings in a glass of water. They will easily root and establish themselves after several months. This will also promote the mother plant to fill in with leaves closer to the rootball, giving it a more lush appearance.


Thanks for reading, and I hope you find this list helpful! If it helped you, please let me know by commenting! And as always, never hesitate to ask questions. I will always get back to you within 24 hours.

What are some of your indestructible houseplants?

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My Former Coastal Home

~CRK.

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All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley.  Please ask permission before taking.