house plants

My New Dyckia!

I get new plants fairly often, but whether it’s due to this never-ending winter we’re experiencing or the rarity of the plant, I’m especially excited about this new dyckia I recently acquired!

My first dyckia for comparison:  Dyckia marnier-lapostollei

My first dyckia for comparison: Dyckia marnier-lapostollei

First, a little background. A terrestrial bromeliad genus from South America, dyckias have very sharp teeth and are rather drought and cold tolerant though they do like frequent watering when kept in warm temperatures. Unlike many other bromeliads, they are not monocarpic (meaning flowering once and then dying). They are easily hybridized, so it can be hard to tell exactly what cultivar you’re growing if it doesn’t come with an ID. Somewhat surprisingly, they are nevertheless not commonly sold - at least in the nurseries and plant sales I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot in a number of different regions across the US - but they can be more easily found online.

Even when I do spot them for sale, I don’t typically scramble to get dyckias. Many of the cultivars I have seen for sale are, for my taste, not the prettiest while being too sharp, too expensive, and often too big (I have a finite amount of space so I generally prefer plants that start small and stay small). This has meant that I have had only one in my collection until recently: a small Dyckia marnier-lapostollei. I like the look of Dyckia marnier-lapostollei, particularly as it ages, and I am quite fond of my little one. (I do know I need to repot it but I’m waiting until spring actually arrives to do so.)

I was, however, extremely taken by my new dyckia when I laid eyes on it. I’ve never seen such a white, trichome-heavy dyckia available before, and its overall proportions and coloration are very striking. Even though its teeth are quite wicked, the overall size and shape of the plant make me less nervous that I’ll hurt myself on it than the threat a couple of my agaves and sansevierias present.

I’ve tried to ID this new one, but I haven’t reached a definitive conclusion. It might be Dyckia ‘White Fang’ but it also might not be - about two-thirds of the images that come up with that as the search term have no trichomes on the leaves, whereas mine is thick with them. The trichomes can be worn off by overhead watering and touching, though, so that’s not 100% indicative, and the other third of the image results do look like my new plant. (I love the thick trichomes, so I’m going to be actively trying to not knock them off.) Other ID options might be some relative to Dyckia ‘Silver Back’, Dyckia ‘Ice’, or Dyckia ‘Grey Ops’.

So without further ado, below is my new NOID dyckia!

Some Houseplant Flowers!

I haven’t shared any of my houseplant flower photos in a while, so let’s rectify that! Here we have, in order from left to right and top to bottom: Ariocarpus trigonus, Epiphyllum monstrosa ‘Curly Locks’ in fruit, Sansevieria cylindrica, Sinningia cardinalis, Huernia verekeri, Mammillaria plumosa, Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’, Mammillaria schiedeana, Dischidia platyphylla, my most loyal Saintpaulia spp. (acquired without ID from a botanical garden associates sale), an area shot of several Saintpaulia spp. and a Phalaenopsis orchid in bloom, and a Euphorbia francoisii.

Lacewing Eggs!

I noticed these odd little eggs laid in a row on my Neoregelia 'Fireball' bromeliad, and wondered what they might be.  Fortunately, they were simple to google and it turns out they are lacewing eggs!  Lacewings are beneficial insects in their larval form and are pretty much neutral in their adult stage, so I'm very happy they want to reproduce in my space and protect my plants from aphids, mealybugs, and hopefully even scale.  I've been fighting with mealybugs in several of my stapeliads and a couple other plants and scale on one of my haworthias - I think due in part to stress and lowered immunity from spending so long indoors thanks to the unusually cold April we had (the coldest in 20 years!), so this might be just the ticket to getting rid of the rest of the pests.  The Neoregelia 'Fireball' spends the summer on my front porch, but when I went to my back porch I also saw a lone lacewing egg on an Adromischus (A. rupicola is my guess, but there are a number of similar species within Adromischus and my plant supplier didn't have this one labeled and is wrong on labels around 15% of the time anyway!).  So that bodes well for lacewings frequenting both sides of my plant collection!

Some people even purchase bulk lacewing eggs (or adult lacewings with the goal of having them stick around to reproduce) as pest control, much like they do with ladybugs and other beneficial insects.  This practice of purchasing insects for natural pest control is more complicated than it might seem, though, since it can negatively disrupt the local ecosystem, and often disregards seasonal timing needs for the purchased insects and the insects' preferred habitats.  It's better if you can just encourage the beneficial insects already living in your area to feel welcome in your spaces.

Overwintering Houseplant Setups

I have a few different areas in which I keep my plants over the winter, and I thought I'd share my home ones with you (I also have an office setup) from before I moved them back outside!

A Few Random Leftover Winter Flower Photos

I kind of trailed off on my monthly flower photos towards the end of winter, so here are a few leftover ones I haven't posted yet!  They are: two pictures of Gymnocalycium damsii var. rotundulum, an almost-blooming Tillandsia seleriana, and a blooming Tillandsia ionantha.

December Houseplant Happenings

Here are the photos from the final month of 2017!  We've got fewer flowers for sure this December - just this Copiapoa hypogaeaGymnocalycium pfanzii var albipulpa, Sansevieria cylindrica, and Sansevieria phillipsiae, respectively.  This fruit on my Gymnocalycium mihanovichii has also been around since at least November, but it really started becoming eye-catching in December.  It is now in the process of drying out.

November Houseplant Flowers!

And here is the next set of houseplant happenings, from November!  I'm at the point now where I always have at least one or two plants in bloom at any given moment; I often neglect to photograph my orchid and African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.) flowers not because I don't appreciate them - I do! - but because they're quite common.  Here, we have in order from left to right and top down: Crassula perforata, Crassula ovata, Mammillaria elegans, Quaqua incarnata, Echeveria shaviana 'Neon Breakers', Rhipsalis mesembryanthemoides, Rhipsalis pilocarpa, Senecio jacobsenii, Duvalia sulcata, Anomalluma dodsiana, Stapelia sticula, and Matucana madisoniorum.  

The Crassulas are particularly surprising because Crassula hate me (and in return, I don't much care for them) but on both plants the blooms seem like they could be a last gasp, so... it's damning with faint praise, I suppose.  Also, my Anomalluma dodsiana revealed a mealybug infestation post blooming, so it's currently in round two of diatomaceous earth dusting.  The Quaqua incarnata has been blooming non-stop since November and is still in flower today, and the Stapelia sticula has also been quite prolific.

Remember that if you want to, you can click on any of the photos to see them in more detail!

...And Another One!

Well, let's start the new year the same as we ended the old!

Some prefacing information: I've heard that one should set water out for at least 24 hours to let the chlorine dissipate out before watering plants.  This presumes there is chlorine in the tap water, which is not always true, but it's easy to do and possibly helpful so I do it.

This morning, I was greeted by a bold jumping spider (Phidippus audax) floating in my watering can full of de-gassed water.  He did not appear to be able to get back out.  I took a couple photos, rescued him with a screwdriver, and put him on my Dischidia platyphylla to dry off and get his bearings.  I do have a limit to how many spider friends can stay indoors with me, and already removed another jumping spider who got a little too adventurous to the outdoors, but since this little fellow was soaked and it is presently -6°F or -21°C, he would not have survived.  So he'll join Audrey's territory and I'll hope they get along.

I know he isn't Audrey because his spot coloration is different (hers is a light yellowish tan, his is a saturated orange), and he has bushier eyebrows - thus leading me to suspect he's a he.  I have christened him Brooks, due to his rather wet arrival.

More Houseplant and Insect Visitor Photos!

Here are my October 2017 notable houseplant moments and visitors!  The photos are respectively of flowering Ariocarpus fissuratus, Duvalia sulcata, Euphorbia francoisii, Mammillaria schiedeana still in bloom (it lasted two months!), Mammillaria plumosa, Stapelia gettleffii, and then a stick insect and a moth pretending to be a fallen leaf while visiting a Pilocereus.

Houseplant and Insect Visitor Photos!

All of these houseplant and insect visitor photos were taken in September 2017 - I'll make separate posts for October and November pictures!  The plants in question are (in order): Hoya carnosa compacta, Mammillaria schiedeana, Parodia mairanana, Stapelia gettlleffii, Stapelia schinzii var. angolensis, Ariocarpus retusus var. furfuraceus, Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, Gymnocalycium ragonesei, and Dracaena marginata tricolor.  The insects in question are respectively a Redfooted Cannibal Fly (Promachus rufipes), a bumblebee pollinating the Hoya carnosa compacta flowers, a tan moth, and a praying mantis I named Vladimir (after Saint Vladimir) on a Dracaena marginata tricolor.  You can click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger version of the photo.

Amaryllis Minerva

By the time I reached the discounted post-Christmas sale in Concordia's Walmart, there was a lone Amaryllis bucket/bulb left.  I picked it up, potted it up, and lo and behold: Amaryllis Minerva in all her glory!  If I keep the bulb planted and happy through early fall and then depot and store it, I should be able to keep it for next year's winter flowers!

A Much Needed Break in the Form of Blooms

Let's take a momentary break from the bleak ramifications of our current administration's damaging new ecological policies to appreciate the recent flowers my houseplants chose to produce in the past month.  Here we have the mostly spent bloom stalk we saw in its infancy back in December from my Sansevieria phillipsiae, as well as a rogue early flower on my Hatiora gaertneri (often colloquially called "Easter Cactus" because it typically blooms around that holiday, much like Schlumbergera truncata blooms around Thanksgiving and is thusly called "Thanksgiving Cactus") which I hope will continue to flower as April approaches, two bloom stalks on my Echeveria harmsii 'Red Velvet', and a particularly beautiful blooming Tillandsia spp.; the last is - as is typical for bromeliads - monocarpic, so I'm hoping it manages to pup out before its hastening death.

Anacampseros Rufescens Seedlings

And speaking of seeds - my Anacampseros rufescens has bloomed repeatedly for me, and due to its self-fertile nature, it's produced seed pods at least twice that I've noticed.  I also suspect it's a monocarpic plant (though googling has only led me to one other person willing to make that statement, so who knows for sure) as each branch that blooms severely dies back.  Over time, this has meant my plant has become smaller and smaller.  So when I spotted another seed pod in late September that still had seeds in it, I pounced.  I grabbed it and then massaged it over the mother plant such that the tiny little seeds sprinkled into the same pot.  I wasn't sure that would do anything, but I figured it was worth a shot.  Several months later and... we have seedlings!  Adorable little Anacampseros rufescens seedlings, some of which are even sprouting telltale white hairs!  Take a peek - there are at least sixteen visible by my count and that's just one corner of the pot:

Seed Pods

Speaking of the new year and new beginnings - something managed to pollinate my Aloe aristata (or potentially itself an Alworthia cross or a Haworthia spp. lookalike like Haworthia decipiens), and now I have seeds!  I've never bothered to try to pollinate any of my Haworthia/Gasteria/Aloe flowers due to their long, thin throats, so this is a first for me.  I plan to sow the seeds once all the pods have burst open.  I slit a plastic cup in such a way that I fit it around the flower stem and covered it with saran wrap (with air holes) to try to catch the seeds, as the pods apparently explode with some force in order to scatter their goods far and wide. As you can see, one pod has already opened! 

December Houseplant Blooms

Happy New Year!  Here are my houseplant blooms from December, minus my Senecio jacobsenii which rebloomed but is currently in my office and therefore I kept forgetting to bring my camera in.  From left to right and top to bottom: Gasteria liliputana, Gymnocalycium bruchii, Haworthia cuspidata, Haworthia fasciata, Mammillaria bocasana, Pachyphytum oviferum (a little misleadingly as its bloom stalk is leaning past the trunk of my Uncarina roeoesliana), Phalaenopsis spp., Rhipsalis mesembryanthemoides, Sansevieria phillipsiae, Ibervillea lindheimeri, Euphorbia flanaganii, and Faucaria tigrina.

Favorite Houseplants

Someone asked me the other day what my favorite, presently owned plant is.  I honestly don't know.  I imagine most people who have reached the stage where they own over a hundred plants would have a very difficult time answering this question; that's part of the reason why they own over a hundred plants!  I can narrow down my favorites into an only moderately long list, though.  This is in no particular order, other than me thinking about wandering through my house, porches, and office and what's in each of those spaces.

  • Polypodium formosanum 'Cristatum' "E. T. Fern"
    This plant is my favorite fern.  Hands down.  It's surprising, because I don't know that I can categorize other types this broadly - I don't have a definitive favorite cactus, for instance - but ferns are tricky for me to keep properly.  I'm too lazy to provide the proper care requirements (constant watering and higher humidity being the main problems) and while in my care ferns often are either in a state of slow (or quick) decline.  Not E. T. Fern, however!  This plant is the only fern I've ever kept that puts up with my drier conditions and still stays lush.  It is the most easy-going fern I've met, which is lucky, as I've only ever seen the one plant (that I own) for sale so if I killed it I'd be hard pressed to find another.  (I also briefly saw a smaller plant for sale on eBay and my mother snapped it up and when I idly looked again some time later there were no others available.)  It's also a footed fern, which is an aesthetic I really enjoy in a fern, and the fronds are very soft and have a pleasing form.  This is also probably my favorite of all the plants that spend year-round indoors with me.
     
  • Sansevieria masoniana "Whale Fin" or "Mason's Congo"
    My Sansevieria masoniana is the largest plant I own.  It's beautiful in a way I didn't know Sansevieria could be due to the off-putting oversaturation of S. trifasciata laurentii (though I now also have a number of other Sansevieria species that I enjoy aesthetically like S. cylindrica).  I've read that this species typically takes a really long time to send off new leaves; this is completely untrue of my plant.  I have had to cut pots off of mine because it sent off new leaves faster than I'd planned for and warped the pot around its rootball.  Repeatedly.  But there's something pleasing about such a happy houseplant and its mottled, red bordered leaves are really gorgeous.  I love my other Sansevieria, but this is my favorite of the genus.
     
  • Senecio jacobsenii "Trailing Jade"
    I do not get along with actual Crassula ovata jade plants (I know, I know, even black thumbs seem to get along with them) or a lot of other species within the Crassula genus, which is perhaps why I like Senecio jacobsenii so much.  We jive.  I also genuinely aesthetically prefer the trailing habit to the bushy style of Crassula ovata so it feels like I'm extra winning.
     
  • Sedum morganianum "Burro's Tail"
    My affection for this sedum in part stems from the fact that my beautiful, lush plant grew entirely from one small stem segment I picked up off the floor almost ten years ago in a grocery store in Queens and which was given to me for free by the cashier.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, then all of a sudden quickly, this little stem grew into a truly enviable specimen.  I also have the rarer version that has pointed leaf tips as opposed to rounded ones.  I aesthetically prefer the points, and I also like knowing it's a rarer form because I'm petty that way.
     
  • Selenicereus chrysocardium "Fern Leaf Cactus"
    This plant was also one that I grew out; I bought an unrooted cutting from a man at an antiques store, and it took ages to grow into something attractive.  In fact, it was only this year that it came into its own.  Nevertheless, it finally has and I think it's really lovely.  I have a couple Epiphyllum spp. cacti that occupy a similar visual (and functional) niche, but of the flattened cactus-reverted-to-tropical genre, this is the most spectacular.
     
  • xNeophytum sp. (possibly 'Firecracker')
    I am enamored of this plant.  Its bright red coloration year-round is spectacular and it's relatively easy-going to boot.  I think this is my favorite bromeliad (and I have a number of bromeliads).
     
  • Copiapoa hypogaea
    This is just a very aesthetically appealing little cactus to me.  It also seems to enjoy living with me, which it demonstrates by flowering and not rotting or etoliating or catching any pests or fungal infections.
     
  • Ariocarpus retusus var. furfuraceus
    I haven't owned this plant for overly long, so I suppose I may change my mind, but I'm currently really into it.  I enjoy its form as is, but it's a real stunner when in flower, and unlike some cacti (ahem, Echinopsis subdenudata 'Domino', I'm looking at you), the flowers last long enough to really appreciate them.
     
  • Ibervillea lindheimeri
    This is a lovely caudiciform as it's also a vine, so it grows rapidly yet in a relatively unobstructive way toward light and is therefore probably my most flexible houseplant in terms of indoor positioning.

It's hard to call out only one species of these genera, so the whole genus will have to do:

  • Mammillaria spp.
    While I've rotted out a number of Mamms in my time, we seem to have struck an accord of late and I'm a sucker for silken-haired cacti like M. hahniana or M. plumosa.
     
  • Pachypodium spp.
    Combining the best aesthetic aspects of cacti and palm trees, these plants are like miniature oases in and of themselves.
     
  • Euphorbia spp.
    Despite the toxic sap, I enjoy the alien yet varied forms these plants take on.
     
  • Stapeliad spp.
    I'm actually more reactive to their sap than Euphorbia sap, but I've been getting really into these lately.  I think part of it is that due to my anosmia I feel an affinity for stink flowers since scent never enhances or detracts from my opinion of plants anyway, while another part is that species like Caralluma look so soft and squidgy in the best of ways.
     
  • Gymnocalycium spp.
    Gymnos are so easy that they can be almost overly unchallenging, but man, it's hard to gripe at cacti that regularly flower, don't rot, and don't quickly etoliate.  These were the first cacti I had real success with and are probably to be credited with deepening my interest in keeping cacti early on when I didn't have access to the best light conditions.
     
  • Aloe spp., Gasteria spp., Haworthia spp.
    Honestly, all three of these (and their numerous crosses), hit the same sweet spot for me in terms of care requirements and aesthetics.
     
  • Agave spp.
    To me, these are like aloe with a bit more metal in them.
     
  • Rhipsalis spp.
    Soft cacti that straddle the line between tropical and succulent speak my language.

So there it is.  For someone who has as many plants as I do, that's actually quite a narrowing down!  I left off perfectly good species and genera that I keep and enjoy like Homalomena 'Emerald Gem', Phalaenopsis "Moth Orchids", Aglaonema "Chinese Evergreens", Saintpaulia "African Violets", Paphiopedilum "Lady Slipper Orchids", Echeveria, Tillandsia "Air Plants", Hoya, Philodendron, Ledebouria, Mesembs, Anacampseros, Sempervivum, and so many more (including a ton of cactus species), so don't tell me I didn't winnow.

I can also tell you the plants are on my never-again list: Opuntia spp. and all other glochid-bearing cacti.  I fervently hate glochids.  I will take firm spines or toxic sap any day over hundreds of nearly invisible, easily detached, reverse-barbed stabby hairs.  It's like the difference between bees and wasps - bees are defensive stingers; wasps are aggressive jerks that seek out trouble.  Glochids are the wasps of the cactus world and I will not invite them into my home no matter how aesthetically pleasing the plant that carries them is.

Though they aren't necessarily perma-banned like glochid-bearing cacti, I also tend to avoid Selaginella spp. due to its rabid desire for water, Crassula and Kalanchoe spp. (with a couple tentative exceptions) and annuals due to my own disinterest in plants that die no matter what I do, and larger plants like many Ficus spp. pretty much solely due to my limited and already overtaxed space.  It may also be of note that since one factor in my favorites and not-favorites depends on what thrives for me which changes due to local climate, some plants I enjoyed more in Baton Rouge aren't on the list now that I'm in Leavenworth.  That's the thing about favorites, though - they come and go depending both on historical performance as well as present conditions, and can also be usurped by a relative newcomer who nevertheless outperforms admirably!  So when I make this list again in a few years, it'll be interesting to see what stays, what goes, and what takes the place of the jettisoned.

November Houseplant Blooms

Here are some of my November blooms!  I've excluded a few from display due to hard-to-photograph-well-for-various-reasons flowers (a couple of my ever blooming Phalaenopsis and Saintpaulia spp.), but there are more than enough that were accessible.  We've got a range of plants here; in order from top to bottom and left to right, they are: Episcia spp., Rhipsalis pilocarpa, Pleiospilos nelii, Mammillaria plumosa, Schlumbergera truncata, Quaqua incarnata, Mammillaria gracilis var. fragilis, Gasteria glomerata, Haworthia spp., and Faucaria tigrina.  I was particularly excited about the Quaqua incarnata blooms, as I've never had a Stapeliad bloom for me before; but I've also never had a Faucaria tigrina flower either and it's the Mammillaria gracilis var. fragilis' first time as well.  Admittedly some of the photos aren't when the flower was in full bloom; I'm quite busy and I'm not always around when they're at their prime.  That'll give me something to look forward to for future blooms, though!

Arilus Cristatus, The Wheel Bug

Hey, hey, I finally got to see another beneficial insect on my porch right before hauling my plants in for the winter!  This time, it was Arilus cristatus, the wheel bug.  As their ridged back portends, they are a type of assassin bug which in both its larval and adult stages preys upon aphids, caterpillars, and beetles - including my very common fall pest, the stink bug.  If manhandled, they can bite painfully but they are not aggressive and this fellow somewhat unwillingly posed for me for several minutes before flying off when I got the camera lens just a little too close.  As I was planning on bringing in my plants later that afternoon, I was OK with having scared it away temporarily; I don't think it'd be able to survive overwintering in my house.  Hopefully it'll return, though, to guard my sempervivum and sedum which spend the winter outdoors.

Finally, A Beneficial Insect Predator!

I mean, I love my spider friends, but come on - there are predatory insects, too, and yet I haven't seen one aside from wasps this whole summer around my plants... until now!  Perhaps my favorite one just showed up on my back porch: the praying mantis.  Guard away, comrade.