Blog posts categorized as: House & Terrarium Plants

Book Update: Gardening Under Lights

Sep 11, 2017

It has been a whirlwind the last few months with speaking engagements around the country and finishing up my book edits. Gardening Under Lights is geared towards new and experienced gardeners & growers (even industry folks) who want to learn about grow lighting and gear, extending their growing seasons, and growing all sorts of edibles and ornamentals indoors.

The book is now heading into art production and layout. Start looking for promotion and pre-ordering on Amazon this winter with release date the spring of 2018. Kindle pre-ordering is already up on Amazon. Woo! You are getting a sneak peek of the cover, which could still change slightly before pre-order. I'll update you here on any updates once finalized.

Gardening Under Lights details everything a gardener or hobbyist needs to know to garden indoors. Part One starts with the basics of photosynthesis, the science of light, and how to accurately measure how much light a plant needs. Part Two provides an overview of the most up-to-date tools and gear available. Parts Three and Four offer tips and techniques for growing popular ornamental plants (orchids, succulents, bonsai, and more) and edible plants (arugula, cannabis, oregano, tomatoes, and more) independent of the constraints of volatile outdoor conditions. Gardening Under Lights is a highly-detailed, accessible guide for seed starters, plant collectors, and anyone who wants to successfully garden

And new news, I just singed on for another book with Timber Press, tentatively titled  Propagation, Simplified, set for release in spring 2019. Stay tuned for details.

Too Hot? Bring the Garden Indoors

Jul 5, 2017

It’s too dang hot outside. I don’t blame you if you want nothing to do with your outdoor garden at the moment. So why not take a break from the heat and focus your green thumb on your indoor garden? Now is a great time to refresh the indoors with some easy-care houseplants. Here are a few of my favorites for brown-thumbs and small spaces:

ZZ Plant: Short for Zamioculcas zamifolia (hence the nickname) is about as forgiving as a houseplant can be. ZZ plants can be grown in low-light indoors and hold up to rare waterings. If you forget to water or don’t have bright light in your home this one’s for you.

Mother-in-law’s tongue: Sansevieria sp. earned their common name for their sharp, tongue shaped leaves. But it’s their tough-as-nails constitution that makes them the perfect plant for hardcore plant abusers. Again, this plant will tolerate now light conditions and sparse waterings. I once tortured one in my office during grad school just to see how long it could go without water. It made it 9 months before it ever showed the slightest bit of stress.

Chinese evergreen: Aglaonema sp. are easy to care for and new varieties offer up striking foliage colors. The new Aglaonema ‘Red’ sports wide tropical leaves splashed with shades of red and pink. Chinese evergreen will tolerate low-light, dry indoor air and forgetful waterers.

Now is a great time to feed your gardening need, but still stay out of the heat, by freshening up your home or office with a few new houseplant companions.

Worms on the Ferns!

Sep 16, 2016

Growing plants indoors, be they low-light houseplants, or flowering and fruiting plants you're growing under plant lights, doesn't mean you're going to be free of the kinds of pests and diseases you have to deal with in the outdoor garden. In fact, it's often the assumption of new indoor gardeners that they won't have to deal with any pests, and they're often surprised when pests become one of their first challenges.

Can you see that dark colored caterpillar munching on my little ferns? Drat!!

The reality is that most plants you bring into your home probably bring a few hitchhikers along with them. A seemlingly healthy and attractive plant you purchase and bring home may all of a sudden appear less than healthy. There may also be "evidence" of the critters doing damage.

See all those little "balls"? That's frass; a nice word for pest poop!

Recently, I added some small fern plugs to my Ambienta plant grow lamps. Shortly thereafter, they didn't seem to be looking their best, and I noticed frass (poop -those little pellets you see in the photo) collecting around the bottom of the plants. Yep, they've got worms! Most likely the eggs, or even tiny caterpillars, were hitchiking on the plants, and got to work munching away and growing after I planted the ferns. Caterpillers that chew on plants tend to munch either during the night or day, then retreat back under the soil, or to the center of the plant - making it hard for you to spot them right away. So, you have to look for the frass.

Picking off the caterpillars is the first step to controlling them, as that will help remove most of the critters doing most of the immediate damage. Then, I'll spray these little ferns with a solution of Thuricide (Bt), an organic larvacide that will kill the up and coming caterpillars as they munch on the foliage.

Killing Plants Like a Pro

Feb 26, 2016

Too often, noob gardeners and plant lovers are discouraged from further cultivating their green tendencies due to the killing: The killing of their plants. Guess what think you've got black thumbs? Puhlease. Let me assuage some of your plant-death guilt by telling you that as a professional horticulturist, I've killed way more plants than you ever will in your lifetime. EVER. And guess what else? That's ok and I'm going to keep doing it. With relish.

The world will not end and you get to try again. In fact, killing plants is the only way you really learn how to grow them the right way (good thing it doesn't work that way with puppies).

People get really touchy about this subject. Many, after killing only one plant, give up plant-keeping and gardening althogether; before they've really even gotten started. Is it sensitivity? Or Ego? Do we think we're entitled to get everything right, all the time, the first time? C'mon. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to enjoy both the fleeting joy and the wisdom you'll gain from killing a few plants now and again.

Same goes for cut flowers and blooming gift plants. Why must they be permanent? What do we think they owe us? C'mon. Surround yourself beauty. Even the fleeting kind. It's worth it.

OH, and the best part of killing plants? You get to buy more. I'm just sayin'.

So forgot to water the philodendron in your living room and overwaterd the echeveria, both to death. Show me your dead philodendron and I'll show you the 100 I've murdered.

Walk it off. Go buy more. Figure it out. I BELIEVE IN YOU.

Now, go get your garden on this weekend. No excuses. Toughen up cupcakes

Beyond the Poinsettia

Aug 31, 2015

The full article published in the August issue of Greenhouse Management Magazine.

Consumers are increasingly interested in nontraditional plants for the holiday season. Grower-retailers should consider these succulents, tropicals and edibles as the end of the year approaches.

While some growers are still finding steady success with their poinsettia crops, many others are turning to alternatives to correct sales slumps.

Demand for indoor plants is growing and customers want specimens that complement the look of their home and help them bring a bit of nature indoors. They also want multipurpose outdoor plants. Finished gift and table-top plants still offer a good opportunity to drive niche-season and impulse sales, but offering fresh new alternatives that meet customers changing indoor and outdoor plant needs may be the best way to recapture their holiday dollar. Here are a few finished potted plants that are trending and can be creatively marketed for holiday sales:


Echeveria are impressive specimens bound to please any recipient. The large whorled leaves of echeveria give it the look of a giant rose bloom. Some echeveria varieties sport brightly colored foliage and even ruffled leaves. Echeveria gibbiflora ‘Red Ruffles’ is particularly suited to the holiday season, with red-edged ruffled leaves.The rosette grows to the size of a large cereal bowl, making it the perfect size for a table-top centerpiece. Plants can be kept indoors in a bright location as a houseplant, or set out on the patio in summer. Echeveria make water-wise landscape specimens in warmer climates. Plants send up foot-tall flower spikes in summer with red-orange flowers. Echeveria ‘Christmas’ is also quite suited to the season, with red-tipped leaves.

‘Christmas Carol’ aloe comes complete with a festive name and brightly colored foliage. The succulent leaves offer deep crimson spots edged in vibrant red. Red flower spikes are a festive bonus. This is a petite plant perfect for a more space-conscious gift giver. Plants can be kept as an indoor houseplant or set outdoors in zones 9-11.

For a shock of intense foliage color, consider Crassula capitella ‘Campfire.’ The succulent leaves offer up a fiery red color perfect for the holiday season. Plants grow to only about 6 inches tall which make it a handy, grab-and-go holiday gift plant. Again, this succulent makes an excellent houseplant in a bright location and a perfect patio table plant in summer.

Read the entire article HERE.

How Can You Not Love Bonsai?

Mar 15, 2015

Ah, it's that time of year when gardening is in the air...the perfect time to reignite particular plant passions (ok obssessions). If you're a plant geek, you've probably circulated through a number of plant-obsession phases, be it orchids, succulents or bonsai. If you've been thinking about getting back into bonsai, or are a bonsai newb (and you live in Dallas), head on over to North Haven Gardens today to check out the last day of the annual Bonsai Society of Dallas exhibit. There are some serious beauties on display.

Like thi 600 year old western juniper...yowzah.

or this mind blowing cedar elm...

They also have some seriously cool handmade pottery that can be used for specialty bonsai...

And some nice little starter plants...

Maybe once I get the piles of plants still in pots sitting around my yard into the ground, I'll delve back into zen of bonsai.

Need easy low-light office plants? Here are a few favorites.

Nov 12, 2014

I'm often asked what plants make the easiest to grow plants for the office. While there are many choices, here are a few of my reliable choices, and ones you'll find around the office here at Halleck Hort.

Sansevieria, also known as Mother-in-law's tongue, is just about the toughest indoor plant your can keep. Are you a forgetful waterer? This plant is your soul mate. Moderate to low light and an occasional watering is all this baby needs.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant for short, is another tough resilient indoor performer.  It too will weather your neglect. Needs low to moderate light and a good soaking now and then.

Aglaonema, also called Chinese Evergreen, are another popluar and forgiving office plant. In the last couple of years new colors have emerged including this one called simply "RED". (Nikki likes pink, so this is obviously her plant.) Again, low to moderate light is just fine with a thorough watering now and then.

All of these plants can take typical low-light office situations and don't mind drying out before they need water. So while you're focused on your TPS reports, these beauties will keep performing 9 to 5.

Houseplants: Purify the air for a healthy home!

Nov 8, 2013

Not feelin’ the outdoor gardening vibe right now? Maybe you live in an apartment or condo without much yard space. If so then it’s houseplants to the rescue!

Yes, there are many good reasons you should bring the garden indoors. Plants help purify the air, improve your mood and decrease anxiety and depression. Plants do a body good! NASA has even done extensive research on how plants purify the air by absorbing toxins.

The way we build houses these days makes them really energy efficient. But that also means the air inside our homes stays trapped. Toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and other VOCs (Volatile Organic Chemicals) are emitted from things like cleaning products, furniture and paint. These chemicals can damage your health and exacerbate allergies.

Here are some great indoor plants to help clear the air in your home:

Most of us know the benefits of using aloe as a remedy for burns, cuts and even detoxing the body. But did you know it also purifies air? Aloe helps absorb pollutants found in cleaning products. When concentrations of these chemicals become too high in your home, the leaves will often show brown spots. Be sure to keep plants in a bright window so they will receive a good amount of sunlight. Water aloe plants thoroughly but allow to dry between waterings.

Rubber Tree
One of the easiest indoor plants to grow, Rubber Trees are experts at purifying indoor air by removing toxins. These beautiful foliage plants will thrive even in low light conditions and cooler homes. Be sure to let plants dry between waterings, as soil that stays wet can result in the roots rotting. 

Peace Lily
A classic indoor plant, the sophisticated Peace Lily is low maintenance. Plants product large glossy green leaves and pure white blooms. They tolerate medium indoor light conditions and cooler temperatures. They are adept at filtering out a number of toxins found in the air. Again, water thoroughly then allow plants to dry a bit between waterings. Over watering is a common killer of Peace Lily.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
Sansevieria are just about one of the toughest indoor plants you can grow. They survive in low light conditions with minimal water. So if you’re one to forget about watering your houseplants, this is the plant for you! Plants produce tall strap-like foliage in a number of striking patterns. They have an architectural look about them which makes them a perfect complement for modern décor. Mother-in-Law’s tongue absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the night time, instead of the day. This makes it a great choice for your bedroom.

Bamboo Palm
This palm is on NASA’s list of top air cleaning plants. It’s especially adept at cleaning some of the most toxic chemicals from the air. These palms need medium light conditions or indirect sunlight and consistent moisture. If you like a more tropical look, this is a great houseplant choice for you.

There are many different species and varieties of Philodendron to choose from. If you’re looking for a trailing indoor plant, there are vining Philodendron that are easy to care for. Philodendron is particularly adept at absorbing formaldehyde from the air (formaldehyde is put off by much of the furniture we have in our homes). Philodendron don’t require much care; medium light and moderate watering can keep plants happy for many years indoors.

Probably the most popular of houseplants, Pothos Ivy is incredibly easy to grow. The vining tropical can be found in several different foliage colors and makes a great addition to kitchens, bathrooms and offices. They can handle low-light conditions and moderate waterings. Pothos is also particularly good at filter out formaldehyde from the air.

Chinese Evergreen
Also referred to by their scientific name Aglaonema, these are some of the easiest of houseplants to grow. If you’re looking for a low-light indoor plant then Chinese Evergreens are for you. Plants remain compact and offer up an array of foliage colors and patterns. Plants can remove a variety of air pollutants initially and become more efficient at doing so if exposure to toxins increase. Plants will produce small blooms and red berries (poisonous).

Also known as Australian ivy-palm, Schefflera produce glossy dark green leaves in a bright sunny location. The whorls of leaflets resemble umbrellas. Schefflera can become quite large so be sure you choose a larger container and have adequate room for them to grow. Choose a sunny window or sunroom for your Schefflera. Have a smoker in the house? Schefflera remove toxins like benzene, formaldehyde and toluene.

Spider Plant
Most of us are familiar with this classic house plant and the small babies, or plantlets, it produces at the ends of long runner stems. Spider Plants are tolerant of both dry and humid conditions and can tolerate a forgetful waterer. They prefer bright to medium light. Although they are typically grown in hanging baskets, Spider Plants can be grown in just about any container. They are adept at filtering out formaldehyde and xylene from the air. They are also good to keep in the kitchen or near fireplaces as they can also help filter out some carbon monoxide.

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