Tiny Plants: Bucephalandra ‘Black Pearl’

September 21, 2021

You don’t need to grow big to experience plant parenting or indoor gardening joy. Tiny plants are just as enjoyable (sometimes more!) and don’t need a lot of space or resources to thrive.

Like this tiny - yet VERY simple - little botanical semi-aquatic environment I created with a snippet of Bucephalandra ‘Black Pearl’ set on top of a small piece of bark. It sits in about 1/2” of rainwater inside a covered glass vessel, under a low intensity LED on a book shelf. It’s also started growing it’s own tiny moss forest.

Bucephalandra is a genus in the Araceae family (Aroids); and a genus of semi-aquatic plants that grow via a rhizome. They can be grown totally submersed, emersed, or mounted epiphytically inside tanks or terrariums. Naturally, plants grow on stones or rocks in streams in tropical forests and you'll find this is how they tend to thrive in indoor culture. There are tiny species and cultivars, such as this one, 'Black Pearl', and larger species. Their sizes vary widely, ranging from only 2 cm to 60 cm tall!

Just like other related aroids, Bucephalandra spp. produce spathe type flowers. In fact, they resemble an itty bitty peace lily flower. It's adorable. My plants haven't flowered, but that's most likely due to the lower light intensity. If I wanted them to flower, I'd increase the light intensity with a more powerful lamp, or run the lamp I have for longer. But, I'm quite happy with my little foliage specimen as it is, where it is, as of now.

To maintain this simple planting, all I do now and then is wipe out a bit of algae growth and add a bit of rain water. That’s IT. But this tiny plantscape brings me a lot of joy.

Happy National Indoor Plant Week!

Tiny Plants: Marcgravia umbellata

September 20, 2021

Shingling Vine for Terrariums and Vivariums

There is something irresistible to me about plants that creep and crawl in such a tight orderly fashion...like tiny shingle vines do! This lovely specimen of Marcgravia umbellata (also known as monkey paws) has taken off from a couple of small stem cuttings I rooted in sphagnum moss inside this glass canister. I keep a lid on it.

These beauties will quickly take off inside terrariums, vivariums, or simple glass jars like this one...by clinging to whatever is nearby - including the glass. It’s beautiful displayed all alone, but makes a wonderful mixed planting companion and an excellent background plant in vivariums. Just make sure to prune it regularly if it grows out of bounds. It's a tiny plant with big personality.

A bit of shingling vine botany

Now, a thing to know about shingling vines. All plants will go through as serious of changes developmentally as they morph from a seedling into a mature plant that can reproduce. For some plants that shift isn't outwardly noticeable, until you see buds or flowers. But for other plants there are distinct morphological differences that signal juvenility versus maturity. In many shingling vines the flat or quadrangular leaves that adhere to trees or other supports with aerial roots represent the the immature or juvenile growth phase of many vines that, once mature, will grow much larger and produce larger leaves that don't look much like the smaller shingling immature leaves. Marcgravia spp., which are a group of tropical flowering vines, fall into this category. So, the teeny orderly shingling leaves of the immature vines will eventually, but only under the right conditions and after time, shift into a mature phase with much larger foliage that does not shingle in this fashion. However, it's unlikely that in home indoor conditions, or in a terrarium, that your plants will make this shift.

ALSO, vines/stems can revert to their juvenile phase if they start growing out into the air with no support structure.

Marcgravia spp. are semi- or hemiepiphytic, meaning that some species may become fulling epiphytic after losing contact with terrestrial soil. But, seeds of the plant may also germinate in tree canopy...but may ascend to become terrestrial. Basically they can do both.

Oh, by the way Happy National Indoor Plant Week!

Favorite NEW PLANTS from Cultivate '21

July 26, 2021

My Plant Picks from AmericanHort's Cultivate '21 Conference

Leafy Standouts!

Ok, so I had my first work travel trip in A YEAR AND A HALF a couple of weeks ago to speak at the AmericanHort Cultivate '21 show. I had a packed speaking schedule, which included the Keynote for the inaugural Women in Horticulture Luncheon (which was awesome), and I also attended the inaugural 2-day Hemp Conference before the show started. It was all fascinating.

I didn't get as much floor time at the trade show as I usually do, so I know I missed a bunch of people (sorry, I'm still a bit socially dysfunctional at the moment...it's going to take some time to recover!). But, I did try to get through all the news plants a few times as well as spot some I found tucked into booths around the show.

Here are the top 18 plants that captured my fancy...which one is your favorite? OH, and there were so many new micro-tomatoes....so I'll post on that soon!

1. Caladium 'Hot Flash'
2. Sansevieria (Dracaena) 'Twilight Sun No. 2'
3. Zamioculcas zamiifolia 'Lucky PP23,594'
4. Monoclena 'Midnight Glory'
5. Kitchen Minis Tomato 'Red Velvet' (I'm freaking out at how tiny!)
6. Petunia Supercal Premium 'Sunset Orange'
7. Verbena rigida CAKE POPS Purple
8. Caladium 'Burning Heart' (the color is to DIE for)
Sempervivum SUPER SEMPS 'Onyx'

1. Begonia Lunar Lights 'Sterling Moon'
Mandevilla Sun Parasol 'Sunbeam'
3. Begonia 'Shine Bright Yellow'
4. Kalanchoe Mandala Orange
5. Dwarf Tomato Heartbreakers 'Dora Red'
6. Philodendron 'Shangri-La'
7. Ficus traiangularis 'Variegata'
8. Haworthia 'Hippo'
9. Dwarf fig 'Fignomenal'

Tiny Plants: Sinningia Propagation

June 9, 2021

Plant Propagation can be Pretty!

Who says plant propagation can’t be pretty? Often, I’ll use cute little glass vessels filled with crushed glass and a little bit of water to root leaf petiole cuttings. This way my little propagation stations make pretty vignettes in my living spaces.

Leaves break easily from my mini-Sinningia, so I often just drop the broken ones into a dish like this and see if they will root. Keeping the cuttings under glass keeps the humidity high enough to allow them to root before they rot. TOO CUTE.

These Sinningia will develop a callus first, where the tissue was damaged (cut), before new adventitious root tissue will begin to form. In this photo you can see the callus and some tiny root initials beginning to emerge from it.

If you want to take a deep dive into plant propagation, be sure to pick up my book Plant Parenting ...if you want to explore the world of itty bitty houseplants for growing on your windowsill or under glass, check out my NEW book Tiny Plants.

Tiny Plants: Overwatered Cactus!

June 8, 2021

Has Your Cactus Gone to Mush?

AW DANG...I totally killed this tiny thimble cactus (Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis). I gave it one extra watering I shouldn’t have, when my grow light was accidentally off cycle for a few days. If the grow light had stayed on, it would have been fine. But with the grow light off, there was too little light to compensate for the extra watering. Now it’s turning to mush. Often, it's not necessarily that you're overwatering your succulents and cactus, it's that there isn't enough light to support adequate levels of photosynthesis.

YEP, I kill plants too!

Don’t worry...this wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last that I turn a cactus to mush...it’s all about having enough light quantity to balance out the soil moisture. Most cactus and succulent need the equivalent of a good 5-8 hours of direct sunlight when grown indoors, and typically providing that much light means using supplemental artificial light.

Luckily, I have many offsets from my mother plant that I can propagation so new plant babies it is!

If you want to learn more about growing tiny cactus and succulents indoors, be sure to check out my new book Tiny Plants; Discover the Joys of Growing and Collecting Itty Bitty Houseplants".

Tiny Plants: Propagation Under Lights

June 6, 2021

I get a lot of questions about what kind of lighting, or how much, is needed for plant propagation. While dive into this topic in my book Plant Parenting, I also review propagating tiny plants in my new book Tiny Plants. While the basic principles for propagating many different types of tropical plants are similar, I do employ some slightly different tactics when propagating my most itty bitty houseplants.

In the photo you'll see some vegetative propagation and new transplant areas I have under grow lights. Some of the plants here are in the genera Sinningia, Begonia, Masdevallia, Peperomia, etc. and some new bareroot Lithops spp. just potted up (which should be in a shaded area for a week or two).

Here I have a s 24" 4-lamp T5 fixture that I've fitted with just one 24W HOT5 fluorescent lamp, for lower light cuttings and species that are rooting. Directly under the lamp the plants with some active root growth are getting a DLI of about 5 umol/m2/day - measured with quantum flux meter and PPFD- putting the output in a shade/heavy shade low-light category; which is perfect for cuttings or other low light species that are transitioning. At the outer edge of the fixture and the lamp, it’s about a 2.5-3 umol/m2/day DLI for cuttings with no roots yet (cuttings need less light before they've started rooting). This lamp is on for 12-hrs (to hit the DLI ranges I listed above).

You could do the same with an LED bar lamp or HOT5 retrofit LED - although a lower wattage LED would typically do the same job 18-20W range would do the job nicely and you could probably leave the LED on for less time to achieve the same DLI (depending on it's actual PPF - output potential of PAR).

Most importantly...aren't they so CUTE???

If you'd love to learn more about growing and propagating tiny plants, be sure to check out my new book TINY PLANTS!

Tiny Plants: Micro Orchid Dryadella cristata in Bloom!

June 5, 2021

Micro Orchids are Tiny but Beautiful!

Check out this phat little flower bud on my micro orchid Dryadella cristata (commonly called crested dryadella)! This tiny epiphytic orchid species is endemic to only a few locations in Columbia, growing at elevations of 1500-2000m. Plants tolerate shade to bright filtered light conditions.

Dryadella growing conditions

I like growing Dryadella spp. micro orchids because I find them relatively easy to grow - not to say I haven’t killed my share from letting them dry out a bit too long (I’m in general a neglectful waterer by nature). Dryadella orchids prefer intermediate light and temperature conditions and humidity of about 65-75% so I find them best kept under glass (vented) or in an orchidarium, with artificial lighting which is where this specimen resides. I’ve had a number of Dryadella spp. Do fine in lower light situations, however they won’t be as eager to bloom.

If you'd like to learn more about micro orchids and growing other tiny plants under glass, be sure to check out my new book Tiny Plants; Discover the Joys of Growing and Collecting Itty Bitty Houseplants".

Tiny Plants: A Favorite Tiny Succulent

June 3, 2021

A Tiny Succulent with Big Personality

One of my favorite tiny succulents I grow under grow lights indoors...this ‘lil Graptopetalum filiferum has been happily growing in a 2-inch pot under a small LED lamp in my dining room for more than a year now.

It’s just as squat and phat as it was when I first acquired it, but even prettier now. Because this species is naturally very small and slow-growing, you can keep it in tiny pots for extended periods of time.

Generally speaking, if find it one of the easier Echeveria spp. to grow indoors because it can thrive in somewhat lower light levels than other related species. That's the great thing about tiny plant...they typically take less resources in all forms, be it light, water, fertilizer...you name it.

Just make sure you respect the plant species' natural light needs and when it comes to succulents indoors that still usually means supplemental lighting, even with tiny succulents. BUT you don't need larger high-powered grow lamps for tiny succulents. Small LEDs in the 9-20Watt range (depending on how many plants) are usually adequate - which makes it much easier to be flexible about where you place your tiny succulents. Tiny plants...tiny lamps!

If you want to learn more about tiny succulents and other tiny species you can grow in small spaces, be sure to check out my brand new book TINY PLANTS!

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