200 Poisonous Houseplants

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Most of the plants in the photo above are poisonous. Source: www.cursos-de-moda.com

A surprising number of houseplants are poisonous to people and even more are poisonous to pets. Well, I suppose the word “surprising” isn’t all that appropriate, because there are, in fact, hundreds of poisonous plants in our outdoor environment as well. In fact, no matter where you live, you are probably surrounded by poisonous plants. Yes, they’re that common!

20171119A.pngEven many plants with edible parts have poisonous organs: you wouldn’t want to eat anything but fruit from cherry and apple trees, for example, and everything on potato plants is poisonous except the tubers. You really shouldn’t eat any plant (nor feed them to others, especially children) unless you know they are edible.

Which Plants Make the List

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You literally need a guinea pig (or other rodent) to test for plant toxicity. Source: freeclipartimage.com

Determining which plants are poisonous actually turns out to be very difficult. It would simply be unethical to experiment and give plant leaves, stems, fruits, etc. to humans to test their toxicity and although some testing is done with rats, mice and guinea pigs, the results don’t necessarily apply to other species.

What little specialists know about plant toxicity generally has to be derived from actual accidental poisonings. Yet one human might react to plant X and another not. Notably, young children and small pets could be affected by smaller amounts of toxin than an adult or large pet. And even when there is an apparent reaction to a plant, it might not be due to any toxic property of the plant, but to other factors. The “poison” could have come from bacteria, fungus or insect ingested along with the plant, for example, or the reaction could be psychosomatic (people who think they have ingested a poisonous plant often come down with some pretty dramatic symptoms!). Also, some plants can cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, both humans and pets, but that doesn’t mean they are poisonous.

Also, there are many, many plants—some listed below just to be safe—that will only be toxic if a large quantity is consumed. That’s why, for example, I’ve included spinach on the list of poisonous plants, even though you’d have to consume quite a lot of it to make yourself ill. Another example: begonia flowers are generally considered safe to eat as long as you consume no more than a few cupfuls at one time, but can be toxic if consumed in large quantities.

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Most, but not all, euphorbias are poisonous. Source: cdn.shopify.com

Other plants are listed as poisonous largely due to family connections. For example, most toxicologists automatically list all euphorbias (Euphorbia spp.) as toxic, since most have toxic sap … and testing all 5,000 species would be incredibly complicated. Yet there are plenty of exceptions in the genus, including species that are not only nontoxic, but even edible (Euphorbia edulis, for example). Another is the poinsettia (E. pulcherrima), which has only mildly irritating sap and isn’t really toxic to humans, although it is slightly toxic to cats and dogs. Plants in other families, like the Apocynaceae (dogbane family) and the Araceae (phildendron family), are also routinely listed as toxic whether there is any proof or not. For example, Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei), an Apocynaceae, seems to be considered toxic by just about all sources and is so listed here, yet I can find no proof whatsoever that it really is.

And then you have plants associated with known cases of poisoning for which toxicologists have never been able to find the poison involved: lantana (Lantana camara), for example.

The result of all the above is that deciding whether a plant is poisonous or not can be very anecdotal and toxicologists often emit contradictory statements. I used various Web sites and reference books in preparing the list that follows … and they didn’t always agree. In case of doubt, I went with Poisonous Plants, A Handbook for Doctors, Pharmacists, Toxicologists, Biologists and Veterinarians, Second Edition, by Dietrich Frohne and Hans Jürgen Pfänder, Timber Press, Portand, Oregon, 2005.

You Can Touch, But Not Ingest

The vast majority of plants listed here are only poisonous if consumed, although a few have sap that can irritate the skin. Still, it’s best not to rub the sap of any poisonous plant on your skin nor get it in your eyes, just in case! And when you prune a potentially poisonous plant, wear gloves.

People Versus Pets

You’ll notice that, on the list below, there are more plants toxic to pets than to humans. People are very good at digesting complex proteins and alkaloids that can poison dogs, cats, birds, etc. and when we do become poisoned, we usually recover. That’s because we are omnivores and have had millions of years of practice eating just about everything that surrounds us. Cats, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are especially susceptible to toxic plants, more so than dogs, for example. Their highly carnivorous nature means they’re poor at digesting plant materials.

Never feed “people food” to pets: you just never know. Several herbs and fruits humans consume without difficulty are notably toxic to cats and, sometimes, to dogs: mint, parsley, lemon grass, avocados, citrus, grapes, etc.

Which Plants Don’t Make the List

Prickly Plants

Note that I didn’t include plants whose “people problem” is spininess on the list of poisonous plants, even though they can be dangerous for humans and pets for obvious reasons. There are plenty of spiny plants that are actually quite edible once the thorns are removed. Just keep all spiny, prickly plants out of reach of pets and small children, poisonous or not.

Unpalatable Plants

Just because a plant isn’t poisonous per se doesn’t mean it’s edible. There are plenty of non-toxic plants that are simply not good to eat, being either difficult to digest, bitter, unpalatable or simply of no interest to anybody’s taste buds. Among houseplants, African violets, hoyas, peperomias and most ferns fall into the edible but unpalatable category.

Mushrooms

No mushrooms are included on the list below: they simply aren’t plants, plus they’re rarely grown indoors, at least, not on purpose

Plants Sprayed With Pesticides

A perfectly edible plant can be sprayed with a toxic pesticide, making it toxic in its turn, but that’s outside the scope of this article. For example, ornamental peppers (Capsicum ssp.) sold in nurseries are sometimes labeled “not for human consumption,” leading buyers to presume they are toxic. They aren’t (at least not to humans), but are so labeled because they were sprayed with potentially toxic pesticides.

Keep Just About Everything Out of Reach!

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There are all sorts of reasons why you should keep plants out of reach of children and pets! Source: pixdaus

Plants are far from being a common source of poisonings in the home: in fact, they’re in about ninth position. Even when ingested, they’re more likely to make humans feel ill than to kill anyone. Medications, cleaning products, alcohol and pesticides cause far more poisonings and deaths than plants, but that still doesn’t mean that precautions shouldn’t be taken. The basic rule should always be to place plants out of reach of children and pets unless you know they are harmless… and you don’t mind them being damaged! (Read Cats and Houseplants: Not Always a Good Mix for suggestions on keeping plants out of the reach of cats.)

Although plants rarely cause poisoning, they’re often suspected of causing poisoning. In fact, consumption of plants is the third most common reason people contact Poison Control Centers.

Poisonous Plants

The list that follows is a compendium of plants commonly grown indoors that are usually considered to be poisonous.

*Indicates minor toxicity. Still, contact a Poison Control Center or a doctor in case of ingestion.

          Plant                              Poisonous Part                            Keep Away From

  1. Adromischus (Adromischus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  2. African boxwood (Myrsine africana)*   Stems and leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  3. Agave (Agave)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    The toxic part of a medicinal aloe leaf is the yellow sap found just inside the outer green rind. The transparent gel in the center can be used safely. Source: usaloe.com

  4. Aloe, medicinal (Aloe vera)*   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  5. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  6. Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  7. Anthurium (Anthurium)    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  8. Aralia, Balfour (Polyscias)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  9. Aralia, Ming (Polyscias)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  10. Arrowhead plant (Syngonium)    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  11. Aucuba, Japanese (Aucuba)*   All parts, especially berries   Humans, cats, dogs

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    The avocado is safe for human, but toxic to pets. Source: M.t.lifshits

  12. Avocado (Persea americana)   Leaves, stems, pit   Cats
  13. Azalea (Rhododendron)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  14. Bamboo, heavenly (Nandina)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  15. Bamboo, lucky (Dracaena)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  16. Bay leaf, bay laurel (Laurus nobilis)   Leaves   Cats, dogs
  17. Begonia (Begonia)*   Tubers, rhizomes, sometimes flowers or leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  18. Bird of paradise (Strelitzia)   Leaves, flowers, seeds   Cats, dogs
  19. Blue chalk sticks (Senecio)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  20. Bottle tree (Brachychiton)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  21. Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea)   Sap, thorns   Humans, cats, dogs
  22. Bow string hemp (Sansevieria)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  23. Boxwood (Buxus)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    Beautifully scented, brugmansia is nevertheless highly toxic. Source: Rob Hille

  24. Brugmansia (Brugmansia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  25. Bushman’s poison (Acokanthera)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  26. Butterfly weed (Asclepias)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  27. Cabbage tree, cabbage palm (Cordyline australis)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  28. Cactus (a few species, like Lophophora williamsii)   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  29. Caladium (Caladium)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  30. Calla lily (Zantedeschia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  31. Calomondin orange (× CItrofortunella microcarpa)   All parts including fruit   Cats, dogs
  32. Camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphorum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  33. Castor bean (Ricinus communis)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  34. Century plant (Agave)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  35. Cestrum (Cestrum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  36. Chenille plant (Acalypha)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    Young children could easily mistake Jerusalem cherry fruits for candies. Source: Paul Venter

  37. Cherry, Jerusalem (Solanum pseudocapsicum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  38. Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  39. Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  40. Cineraria (Senecio, Pericallis)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  41. Citrus (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit   Cats, dogs
  42. Clematis (Clematis)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  43. Clementine (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit  Cats, dogs
  44. Clivia (Clivia)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  45. Coffee plant (Coffea arabica)*   All parts except mature fruit   Humans, cats, dogs
  46. Colchicum (Colchicum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  47. Copperleaf (Acalypha)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  48. Coral plant (Jatropha)*   All parts, especially seeds   Humans, cats, dogs
  49. Coral tree (Erythrina)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  50. Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  51. Cotyledon (Cotyledon)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  52. Crassula (Crassula)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  53. Crinum (Crinum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    The croton’s colorful leaves are also a bit toxic. Source: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons

  54. Croton (Codiaeum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  55. Crown of thorns (Euphorbia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  56. Cyclamen (Cyclamen)*   All parts, especially corm   Humans, cats, dogs
  57. Cypripedium (Cypripedium)*   Leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  58. Daffodil (Narcissus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  59. Daffodil, Peruvian (Hymenocallis)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  60. Dahlia (Dahlia)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  61. Daisy, Paris (Argyranthemum)*   Leaves, stems   Humans, cats, dogs
  62. Datura (Datura)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  63. Devil’s backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides, formerly Pedilanthus tithymaloides)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    The dieffenbachia is well know to have toxic sap. Source: Jerzy Opiola

  64. Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  65. Dipladenia (Mandevilla)*    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  66. Dracaena (Dracaena)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  67. Dragon tree (Dracaena)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  68. Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  69. Duranta (Duranta spp.)   Leaves, berries   Humans, cats, dogs
  70. Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  71. Elephant’s ear (Alocasia)   Leaves, stems, roots   Humans, cats, dogs
  72. Elephant’s ear (Colocasia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  73. Elephant’s ear (Xanthosoma)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  74. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  75. Euonymus (Euonymus sap.)*   All parts, especially berries  Humans, cats, dogs
  76. Euphorbia (Euphorbia, most species)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  77. Fern, asparagus (Asparagus)   All parts, especially berries   Humans, cats, dogs
  78. Fiber-optic plant (Isolepis cernua, syn. Scirpus cernuus)*   Young shoots   Humans, cats, dogs

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    There are many species of indoor fig, including this Ficus mclellandii ‘Alii’. All have somewhat toxic sap than can cause skin irritation. Source: execuflora.co.za

  79. Ficus (Ficus)   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  80. Fig (Ficus)   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  81. Gardenia (Gardenia)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  82. Geranium (Pelargonium)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  83. Golden dewdrops (Duranta spp.)   Leaves, berries   Humans, cats, dogs
  84. Golden trumpet vine (Allamanda cathartica)*    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  85. Grape vine (Vitis)   Fruit   Cats, dogs
  86. Grapefruit (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit  Cats, dogs
  87. Heather (Calluna, Erica)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  88. Heather, false (Cuphea hyssopifolia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  89. Heliotrope (Heliotropium)   Seeds   Humans, cats, dogs
  90. Holly (Ilex)*   Berries    Humans, cats, dogs
  91. Homalomena (Homalomena)*   All parts   Cats, dogs
  92. Hortensia (Hydrangea)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  93. Hyacinth (Hyacinthus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  94. Ismene, Peruvian daffodil (Hymenocallis)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  95. Ivy (Hedera)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  96. Ivy, Cape (Senecio macroglossus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    English ivy (Hedera helix) is a popular trailing houseplant that is toxic in all its parts. Source: giftshops.via-christi.org

  97. Ivy, English (Hedera helix)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  98. Ivy, German (Senecio mikanioides)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  99. Ivy, ground (Glechoma hederacea)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  100. Jade plant (Crassula)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  101. Jessamine, Carolina (Gelsemium sempervirens)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  102. Jessamine, night-blooming (Cestrum)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  103. Jonquil (Narcissus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  104. Juniper (Juniperus)*   Leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  105. Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  106. Lantana (Lantana)   All parts, especially unripe berries   Humans, cats, dogs
  107. Lavender (Lavandula)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  108. Lemon (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit   Cats, dogs

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    Lemon grass is edible for humans, toxic for cats and dogs. Source: amazon.com

  109. Lemon grass (Cymbopogon)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  110. Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  111. Lily (Lilium)   All parts   Cats
  112. Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  113. Lily, Aztec (Sprekelia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  114. Lily, blood (Haemanthus)* All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  115. Lily, calla (Zantedeschia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  116. Lily, Easter (Lilium longiflorum)   All parts   Cats
  117. Lily, glory (Gloriosa)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  118. Lily, Guernsey (Nerine)* All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  119. Lily, impala (Adenium obesum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  120. Lily, Inca (Alstroemeria)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  121. Lily, Nile, lily of the Nile (Agapanthus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  122. Lily, peace (Spathiphyllum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  123. Lily, spider (Hymenocallis)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  124. Lime (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit  Cats, dogs
  125. Mandarin orange (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit  Cats, dogs
  126. Mandevilla (Mandevilla)*    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    Chewing on cannabis leaves dans make pets and young children very ill. Source: www.leafly.com

  127. Marijuana (Cannabis)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  128. Milk bush, African (Euphorbia umbellata, syn. Synadenium grantii)    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  129. Mint (Mentha)*   All parts   Cats, dogs
  130. Mint, Mexican (Plectranthus amboinicus)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  131. Mistletoe (Viscum, Phoradendron)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  132. Monadenium (Monadenium)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  133. Morning glory (Ipomoea, most species)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  134. Moses-in-the-cradle (Tradescantia spathacea, formerly Rhoeo spathacea)*   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  135. Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  136. Myrtle (Myrtus communis)*   Leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  137. Narcissus (Narcissus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    Ripe fruits of Natal plum are edible; all other parts are toxic. Source: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons

  138. Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa)   Leaves, flowers, unripe fruit   Humans, cats, dogs
  139. Nightshade (Solanum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  140. Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  141. Oleander (Nerium)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  142. Oleander, yellow (Thevetia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  143. Orange (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit  Cats, dogs
  144. Oregano, Cuban (Plectranthus amboinicus)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  145. Oxalis (Oxalis)*   All parts   Cats, dogs
  146. Palm, cardboard (Zamia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  147. Palm, fishtail (Caryota)*   All parts, especially fruits   Humans, cats, dogs
  148. Palm, Madagascar (Pachypodium)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

    20171119O www.exotenherz.de.jpg

    Properly prepared, sago is a staple food in some countries, but raw, all the parts of the so-called sago palm are toxic. Source: www.exotenherz.de

  149. Palm, sago (Cycas revoluta)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  150. Pandanus (Pandanus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  151. Paperwhite (Narcissus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  152. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)*   All parts   Cats, dogs
  153. Pélargonium (Pelargonium)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  154. Pencil tree (Euphorbia tirucalli)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  155. Pepper, ornamental (Capsicum)   Fruits   Cats, dogs
  156. Philodendron (Philodendron)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  157. Philodendron, split-leaf (Monstera)   Leaves, stem, unripe fruit   Humans, cats, dogs
  158. Pine, Buddhist (Podocarpus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  159. Pineapple (Ananas)*   Sap, unripe fruit   Humans, cats, dogs
  160. Plumbago, Cape (Plumbago auricula)*   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  161. Plumeria (Plumeria)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  162. Podocarpus (Podocarpus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

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    The poinsettia is harmless to people, but its sap is somewhat toxic to pets. Source: growerdirect.com

  163. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)*   Sap   Cats, dogs
  164. Pothos (Epipremnum, Scindapsus)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  165. Powder puff tree (Calliandra)   All parts  Humans, cats, dogs
  166. Pregnant onion (Albuca bracteata, formerly Ornithogalum caudatum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  167. Primrose (Primula)   Leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  168. Ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  169. Rhododendron (Rhododendron)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  170. Ribbon plant (Dracaena)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  171. Rose, Christmas (Helleborus)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  172. Rose, desert (Adenium obesum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  173. Rose, Lenten (Helleborus)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  174. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)*   Sap   Humans, cats, dogs
  175. Rush (Juncus effusus)*   Young shoots   Humans, cats, dogs
  176. Schefflera (Schefflera)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

    20171119P JJ Harrison, WC.jpg

    Sedums (here, Sedum rubrotinctum) are complicated when it comes to toxicity. Some are slightly toxic, others not at all. Still, it’s best to keep them away from small children and pets. Source: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia Commons

  177. Sedum (Sedum, some species)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  178. Senecio (Senecio, succulent species)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  179. Sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica)*   All parts   Cats, dogs
  180. Shamrock plant (Oxalis)*   All parts   Cats, dogs
  181. Silk oak (Grevillea)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  182. Snake plant (Sansevieria)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  183. Spathiphyllum (Spathiphyllum)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  184. Spiderwort (Tradescantia)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  185. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)*   Leaves   Humans, cats, dogs
  186. Squill, Peruvian (Scilla peruviana)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  187. Squill, silver (Ledbouria socialis)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  188. Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum, some species)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  189. String-of-beads (Senecio rowleyanus)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

    20171119Q shopping.rediff.com.jpg

    Tangerines and other citrus are somewhat toxic to dogs, more seriously so to cats. This includes not only fruit, but leaves, stems, flowers, etc. Source: shopping.rediff.com

  190. Tangerine (Citrus)*   All parts, including fruit  Cats, dogs
  191. Taro (Calocasia)   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  192. Thyme, Spanish (Plectranthus amboinicus)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  193. Ti plant (Cordyline fruticosa, syn. C. terminalis)   All parts   Cats, dogs
  194. Tulip (Tulipa)*   Uncooked bulbs   Humans, cats, dogs
  195. Tylecodon (Tylecodon)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  196. Umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  197. Umbrella tree (Schefflera)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  198. Wandering jew (Tradescantia)*   All parts   Humans, cats, dogs
  199. Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunfelsia)   All parts   Dogs
  200. ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)*    All parts   Humans, cats, dogs

Safe Houseplants

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Many houseplants are safe for children and pets.

The above list can appear pretty scary, but if you read the text from the beginning, you’ll understand that poisonings due to plants are very rare indeed. Even so, if you want to take no chances, here is a list of houseplants you can safely grow even when you have small children, cats and dogs: Nontoxic Houselants for Kids, Cats and Dogs.20171119B ENG

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Just Get Rid of Problem Plants!

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Just get rid of plants that cause you problems. Source: Clipart Library

What to do when you have a recurring problem with a plant? One that suffers from a disease or an insect every year? Or needs to be constantly cut back to keep it from overflowing the space provided? Or whose innumerable suckers invade your garden or flowerbed? Or that flops over if you don’t stake it?

If there is a good chance that you will have to deal with the same problem year after year, my suggestion is to … yank out the culprit and compost it!

With such a wide selection of plants currently on the market, there is no reason to put up with “problem plants”. Better to change course and choose one that actually does what you want it to do! For example, you can replace a mildew-ridden phlox with one of the new phloxes that are mildew-resistant. Or replace a hosta whose leaves look like Swiss cheese due to slug damage by one with thick foliage that molluscs avoid. Or a floppy peony by one that remains sturdily upright.

The Gardening Tip No One Tells You

It took me a good two decades of fighting problem plants before I figured this one out, but once I got it, what a change it made in my gardening life! I went from being a struggling, frustrated gardener to a confident, laidback one. I still don’t understand why no other gardener ever shared this tip with me: it should be the very first gardening rule you ever give to a fellow gardener. Instead, every time I mentioned a plant problem, I was given a ridiculously ineffective home remedy that just made me more frustrated. Well, I have a “home remedy” that really works. Get rid of that damn plant: it doesn’t deserve to live!

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Get rid of problem plants and you too can be a laidback gardener! Source: laidbackgardener.blog

It’s when you essentially grow only plants that really thrive under your conditions without recurring problems that’s you’ll finally realize just how easy gardening can be!20171118A Clipart Library

Why Do We Plant Amaryllis Bulbs with Their Neck Exposed?

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20171117A Centre d'information des bulbes à fleurs Netherlands Flowerbulb Information Centre .jpgYou’ve probably always been told that you have to plant an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) leaving the top third of the bulb exposed. Thus many gardeners are convinced that this is absolutely required, that the plant will rot if ever it were to be covered completely. However, wild amaryllis bulbs grow completely underground, like most bulbs. Why the difference?

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When you grow an amaryllis in a pot, leave its neck exposed so its roots have room to grow. Source: www.americanmeadows.com

The idea that the bulb has to be planted with its neck exposed comes from the fact that the amaryllis is largely grown as an indoor bulb. The bulb is so large that, if you did bury it completely when you plant it in a standard pot, there would be no room for the roots. By planting the bulb with the top third of the bulb exposed, you’ll be leaving plenty of room for its roots to develop underneath. And indoors, with no predators out to eat any bulb part that is exposed, this unusual way of planting the bulb does no harm.

However, if ever you do plant your amaryllis bulb in an extra deep pot while leaving the neck exposed, you’ll discover it will actually pull itself underground over the next year or so, thanks to its contractile roots.

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Amaryllis planted outdoors in a mild climate. Source: beulahacres.wordpress.com

If you live in a mild climate where you can plant amaryllis bulbs in the outdoor garden (zones 9 to 12), you’ll find they do much better when the bulb is completely buried. Plant it in a rich, well-drained soil, just barely covering the bulb. Depending on the cultivar, it may stay at that depth or “dig itself deeper” over time.

Some gardeners even manage to grow amaryllis in zone 8 or 7b, but if so, plant the bulb more deeply, with up to 3 inches (8 cm) of soil covering it, and mulch it heavily in the autumn as well, as you’ll want to keep the bulb frost-free.

Amaryllis: the planting depth depends on root growth and cold protection. Who knew?Amaryllis Stages of Growth

Winter Protection for Tender Roses

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A wool cap and a scarf won’t be enough to protect tender roses from a cold winter. 

I’m not a fan of bush roses, those frost-tender hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas. I find these plants much too capricious and prone to diseases and insects for my taste. But it’s their lack of winter hardiness that totally removes them from the list of plants I might ever want to grow.

The label on bush roses usually accords them a zone 5 hardiness rating, but that’s actually a blatant lie. In fact, they are only fully hardy in hardiness zones 7 or 8, depending on the cultivar. Rose nurseries know this, but “presume” gardeners do as well and that they’ll take special precautions, automatically offering winter protection in colder climates. According to their calculation, a well-protected zone 7 or 8 rose should be able to survive in USDA zone 5 (AgCan zone 6) and thus it’s legitimate to write “zone 5” on the label.

I beg to differ. I firmly believe the hardiness zone for any plant should be its real hardiness zone. It annoys me that this kind of illogical labeling is even allowed. It’s like saying a chocolate doughnut has only 70 calories instead of 450 “because everyone knows you should only eat one bite!”

Now, in appropriate climates, such as south of the Mason-Dixon line in the US and just about anywhere in central or southern Europe, there will be little to no need for winter protection for bush roses. But for gardeners in colder climates, good winter protection is absolutely necessary.

You Already Have Bush Roses?

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You’ve planted tender bush roses and now winter is coming? Here’s what to do!

It’s too late and you’ve already planted bush roses (again, hybrids teas, grandifloras and floribundas)? Perhaps you were unaware that there are hardier roses around and, in fact, a huge choice of them for zones 2, 3, 4 and 5. None need any winter protection if you plant them in their hardiness zone or a warmer one. (For example, you could plant a zone 4 shrub rose in zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9, but not in zones 1 to 3.)

For whatever reason, you now have a garden full of zone 8 roses and you live in zone 4. What are you to do now that winter is upon us?

My first suggestion is to simply let them die. I figure that’s always the best solution. Why keep a plant on life support (which is essentially what winter protection is)? You might as well just let it die and get it over with. After all, few of these tender roses live more than a few years in cold climates anyway, in spite of the best winter protection. Next year, just plant something better suited to your conditions and your life as a gardener will be much more enjoyable. (It’s always easier to work with Mother Nature than to fight her tooth and nail!)

But maybe you aren’t yet there yet in your evolution as a gardener? (We almost all start off wanting to grow plants we really can’t and only wise up after the accumulation of bad experiences teaches us it’s a waste of time!) I get that. What follows, therefore, are my recommendations to not-so-laidback gardeners on how to protect bush roses bushes for the winter.

When to Start

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Wait until late fall or early winter to protect bush roses. The one above may have a bit of early snow on its leaves, but they’re still both present and green, a sign it’s not yet ready for winter protection. Source: www.tregwernin.com

Ideally, wait until all growth has stopped on your rose bushes and the leaves have dropped off, usually after several bouts with subzero cold (14 to 23 °F/-5 or -10 ° C). They need to be fully dormant and yet are often very slow to prepare for winter. If you install winter protection too early, before the roses are truly dormant, they often start to put on out-of-season growth under their covering and that can be fatal for the plant when real cold arrives.

But what if the ground has begun to freeze? That’s spot on the right time to start. And if there is snow, just push it aside or wait until it melts (usually the first snows melt away rapidly).

Four Protection Methods

Rose Cone

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Rose cones are the most popular form of winter protection for bush roses. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

This is the most popular method of protecting roses from winter damage in colder climates. Rose cones are widely available, inexpensive and easy to use. Just make sure you punch a few 1-inch (2,5 cm) holes in the cone near the top (some come pre-perforated) for aeration.

Simply mound up about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of soil at the base of the plant, prune the branches back enough so that they can fit inside the rose cone (therefore, the height at which you prune them can vary according to the dimensions of the cone you use) and the slip the cone over the plant. To hold the cone in place, use stakes, rocks, a brick, etc.

This is the least effective method. A rose cone doesn’t really keep the protected plant much warmer than the surrounding air, at least, not unless there is plentiful snow cover to back it up. What it does do is cut drying winds and moderate rapid temperature swings, both of which are still beneficial. Rose cones really only work effectively in conjunction with snow that falls early and stays long. The result of this rather iffy method is that you find you still lose a number of roses each year, especially when the winter has been exceptionally cold.

Covering With Insulating Fabric

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Special fabrics have been developed for rose protection. Source: laidbackgardener.blog

In this method, cover the rosebush and indeed the entire bed with an insulating fabric designed for this purpose, usually a geotextile lined with plastic (Plastified Arbotex is the product professional rose gardeners use). Before you install it, prune the roses severely, down to 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in height and remove any leaves or flowers to prevent fungal diseases. Insert stakes here and there so as not to crush the plants when the fabric is covered with snow. Either that or cover them with wooden snow fencing. No mounding with soil is necessary.

This method acts in part by preventing the coldest air from reaching the plant, but even more so, by catching and retaining bottom heat, that is, heat that radiates upward from deep in the earth throughout the winter. Thus, the rose is not only protected from the cold, it is actually heated to a certain degree.

The success rate with this method is much better than with rose cones. The only downside is that rose bushes, having been pruned severely in the fall, don’t necessarily grow back evenly the following summer, so you’ll need to do some careful directional pruning come spring.

Trenching

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Dig a trench and place the rose in it. Source: yapayapato.seesaa.net

This method is laborious, but extremely effective. It is popularly used for tree roses and tender climbing roses.

Next to the rose, dig a trench as long as the plant is high and 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) deep. Then dig up the plant’s roots and lay it in the trench. In the case of climbing roses, that means detaching the stems from their support and pulling them together tightly with cord. To finish, fill the trench with earth and cover the resulting mound with a good thick mulch. In the fall, don’t prune trenched roses other than to remove any remaining leaves or flowers.

Trenching is the most effective way of getting non-hardy roses through the winter, with a survival rate of nearly 100%. On the other hand, digging trenches is a lot of work each fall … and then in spring, you have to dig up and replace the roses, doubling your efforts.

In Out of the Cold

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You can store potted roses in a root cellar or protected garage. Allen Gathman, Flickr

Another way of protecting tender roses is to pot up your tender roses and bring them indoors out of the cold. This is also the best method for overwintering roses already growing in pots.

Of course, I don’t mean you should bring them indoors to your living room, but rather to put them in some sort of cold storage facility like a root cellar, cold room or slightly heated garage. The temperature should remain near or slightly below freezing, between 15 and 50˚ F (-10 and 10 ° C) for most of the winter. Keep the soil slightly moist, watering as needed. The plants can be stored in the dark since they will be fully dormant anyway. Then replant the rose in spring when there is no risk of frost.

The success rate with this method is excellent, but it too requires a lot of effort if you have to pot up, then replant all your roses each spring.

When Spring Has Sprung

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Don’t expose tender buds to full sun too rapidly in the spring. Source: gardenprofessors.com

While you don’t need to be in a hurry to install rose winter protection in the fall, you do have to remove it quite promptly in the spring, as covered plants can start to overheat on hot sunny spring days. That can bring the plant prematurely out of dormancy and lead sprouting, yet if that is followed by a frost, it can actually kill the plant. In addition, excess humidity often starts to build under the protection in the spring, leading to problems with fungal diseases. So, as soon as temperatures start to regularly rise above freezing during the day, it’s time to remove cones and fabrics. Do so preferably on a cloudy day or at the end of the day to prevent the still fragile buds from burning or drying out when suddenly exposed to intense sun.

This is also the right season to move outdoors roses that have overwintered in a garage or cold room. And when it comes to trenched roses, stand them upright and replant as soon as the ground has thawed.

Roses for Laidback Gardeners

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True laidback gardeners prefer low-care hardy roses. Source: pxhere.com

True laidback gardeners already know better than to plant tender bush roses in cold climates and may already be growing hardy roses, a category that includes most shrub and miniature roses and some polyantha and climbing roses (here’s an article on hardy climbing roses).

And no protection really does mean no protection. There is no need to wrap or cover these tough roses in any way, nor to bring them indoors or bury them. In fact, they need no fall care whatsoever, not even pruning. In fact, leaving rose hips (fruits) on the plants actually stimulate increased hardiness (plus it feeds the birds!).


I hope that this text will help clarify winter protection for roses and that it will satisfy worried beginners who always seem to want to protect every rose they grow, even hardy ones. (You have no idea how many times I hear each fall “how do I protect my hardy roses?”)

And learn to grow plants adapted to your climate and your conditions, and that includes choosing the right roses. It’s simply the easiest way to garden. Life is just too short to waste it wrapping up plants that Mother Nature would rather see die!20171116A

Garden Myth: Growing Aloes From Leaf Cuttings

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You’ll find plenty of photos of “aloe leaf cuttings” on the Internet … but they simply don’t work! Source: gerbeaud.com

Question: What’s the secret to growing an aloe from a leaf cutting? I’ve tried it twice, but each time the leaf just rots away without producing a baby.

Louise L.

Answer: It’s not surprising your attempts were unsuccessful, because it’s impossible to grow aloes from leaf cuttings. It’s yet another garden myth.

The leaf of the medicinal aloe, also called true aloe (Aloe vera)—I presume that’s the variety you’re talking about—simply doesn’t produce adventitious buds (dormant buds capable of producing an offset) on its leaves. As far as I know, no other aloe (and there are more than 500 species of them!) will grow from leaf cuttings either. They just don’t have what it takes to do so.

But I Saw It on the Internet!

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Just one of many sites that claim you can grow an aloe from a leaf cutting. Source: i.ytimg.com

What is curious is that there are many websites that claim quite the opposite. Even very serious ones you’d think would know better than to spread false information! Some even go so far as to explain how to make aloe leaf cuttings!

These sites often offer contradictory advice: “make a clean cut” versus “crush the wounded end”; “leave the leaf intact” vs “cut it into sections”; “let the wound heal before planting” vs “insert the cutting into potting soil immediately”; “stand it upright” vs “lay it on its side”, “apply a rooting hormone” vs “don’t apply rooting hormone,” etc. Some even show step-by-step photos of the recommended process … except that the last picture, the one that should show the result, a beautiful baby plant growing from the base of the leaf cutting, is always missing.

On the other hand, if you do an Internet search on how to take leaf cuttings of haworthias (Haworthia spp.) or gasterias (Gasteria spp.), two genera closely related to Aloe (all three belong to the subfamily Asphodeloidea of the Xanthorrhoeaceae family) that have the reputation of being easy to multiply by leaf cuttings, you will have no difficulty in finding photos showing plantlets of those two sprouting from the base of a leaf cutting.

If leaf cuttings from aloes, far more popularly grown than haworthias or gasterias, were possible, wouldn’t you think photographic evidence would be abundant?

Division: The Best Way to Multiply Aloes

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Even young aloes produce pups. In the photo above, you could easily pull them free and pot them up on their own! Source: 2.bp.blogspot.com

There is no doubt that the easiest way to multiply medicinal aloes is by division. In general, they produce many pups, even from a very young age, making this method highly popular. You just have to separate a pup or two from the mother plant, preferably leaving each “baby” a few roots of its own. You can do this by delicately digging at the base of the plant to free them or by unpotting the entire plant, knocking the soil mix off, and then pulling apart the resulting horde of babies. After that, it’s simply a question of potting them up into their own little pots, then watering little at first; more when the “babies” start to grow. Note that pups with at least 4 leaves are easier to grow successfully than less mature divisions.

Stem and Rhizome Cuttings

At first glance, the medicinal aloe doesn’t look like it has much potential for stem cuttings. After all, the species is stemless (it produces a ground-hugging rosette, with no visible stem (although it may produce a more visible stem if it etiolates due to insufficient light) and you can’t take a stem cutting from a plant that has no stem. But there is a stem: it’s just that it’s hidden by dense, overlapping leaves. Normally, you’d only consider taking a stem cutting when the mother plant is dying, perhaps due to root rot (a not infrequent occurrence).

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Stripped of its lower leaves, this aloe will quickly grow new roots when its bare stem is buried in soil. Source: http://www.desibucket.com

To do so, simply cut off the top of the plant above any sign of rot and pull off a few rows of lower leaves, leaving a section of bare stem 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) long at the base of the stem, then insert it into a pot of soil. Don’t even water for a week or so, so the wound can heal a bit, then begin watering gradually, increasing as roots begin to form. Within 3 months, the plant should have fully recovered.

(Note that there are many species of shrubby and creeping aloes that don’t produce stemless rosettes, but rather branching stems of well-spaced leaves. They’ll be much easier to multiply by stem cuttings.)

You can also take rhizome cuttings. As it ages, the plant develops a thick underground stem (rhizome) that you can cut into sections. When planted up, these sections will quickly produce young plants.

Leaf-Bud Cuttings

There is a way of succeeding with what may look a lot like a leaf cutting. That is, if you manage to harvest a small section of stem along with a leaf, such is if you cut a leaf free, making sure the base of the stem remains attached, rather than pulling one free. That will ensure a piece of stem from which the plant might regenerate if planted up. This might look like a leaf cutting, but is really a form of stem cutting, since the dormant bud that led to the new plant came the stem, not the leaf. Also, it’s hard to think of a situation where this method would be superior any other method. We’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel here!

By Seed

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You can readily grow aloes from seed if you wish. Source: Forest Starr & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons

Of course, you can also multiply aloe by seed if you want. Sometimes, after flowering, aloes growing outdoors produce seed pods (this rarely happens on indoor aloes due to the absence of pollinators) and if so, you could harvest and sow the resulting seeds when the pods open. If not, the seeds of several species of aloe are easy enough to find on the Internet. Just sow them indoors just like any other plant. Germination is a little slow, but very easy to obtain.

Finally, you could probably also try micropropagation of aloes using meristem tissue … but that’s more likely something you’d want to do in a laboratory than in a home garden setting.

With that, we’ve reached the limit of ways of multiplying an aloe … and it simply doesn’t include leaf cuttings!20171115A gerbeaud.com

Misadventures in Gardening: Should I Call 911?

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Sometimes I become too stuck on my plants!

I suppose every gardener has had their share of misadventures. Things that didn’t turn out quite right or even went terribly wrong. Pruning off the good branch instead of the dead one, planting a “mystery plant” only to discover it was a pernicious weed, accidentally knocking the ladder to the ground while you’re on the roof cleaning the gutters, etc. I’ve done all those and more.

However, only once did I even consider calling 911 to help me out of a gardening situation, and that was years ago, when I decided to prune my turquoise puya (Puya berteroniana).

A Plant for Centenarians Plus

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I had the image at left in mind when I bought seeds of turquoise puya, but found myself instead with a very spiny plant (at right) with no chance of bloom for decades. Source: worldoffloweringplants.com and agloriousgarden.blogspot.ca

Don’t ask me why I was growing this plant. I must have found some seed on sale somewhere and felt the need to sprout it. (Even to this day, I’m pretty much incapable of not sowing any seed I come across.) It turns out to be a very easy plant to grow from seed as a houseplant in a sunny window.

It’s a terrestrial bromeliad. Think of a pineapple plant, with the same rosette shape, but with thinner and more numerous leaves … all lined with terribly hooked spines. Eventually, it does produce a spike of superb turquoise flowers, seeds, then dies, it’s life’s work over. However, it’s said to take up to 100 years to reach blooming, so that was something I was never expecting to see.

Removing Lower Leaves

Over time, my plant had developed quite a number of dead and dying lower leaves and I thought I’d do a bit of cleanup. I’ve found that with leaves that wrap around the base of the plant, the best way to remove them is to cut them fairly short with pruners, then split what’s left of the leaf lengthwise. That you can usually pull off one half of the leaf entirely by yanking in one direction, then get the other off by pulling the opposite way. So I boldly reached under the plant and began pruning and pulling, pruning and pulling.

I was watching out for the thorns, of course, but was inevitably scratched or hooked now and then. Then, suddenly, my hand really was hooked. Soon thorns had snagged my wrist too. I was stuck! I started to use my other hand to work the first one free, but soon it was locked in as well. In fact, the more I struggled, the more the thorns dug in. There was now blood flowing from various little puncture holes. I thought of trying to work my foot under the pot so I could push it way, but I was barefoot. Did I really want my foot tangled in as well? (At some point, there is a limit to being stupid!) What to do?

Do I Call 911?

I could have called 911 and indeed considered it. We had a push-button phone and I could have knocked off the receiver (this was back in the 1980s: no mobile phones yet!) and certainly could have dialed 911 with my toes or elbow. And the front door was unlocked, so no door to break down. But … how could I explain to the emergency responder that I needed help because my hands were stuck in a plant? Besides, my father-in-law was the local fire chief and certainly would certainly have come. Did I really want to drop even further in his esteem?

So, instead I sat down at the kitchen table, the potted puya resting in front of me, and waited until my wife got home about two hours later. She simply chopped the leaves off with the pruner. No finesse here: she paid no attention to the plant’s future state of health … and rightly so. Two hours of thought had gone into the subject and it was now clear I could easily live without a Puya bertoensis in my collection.

After the plant was finally free and in the garbage, we both worked on removing the leaves sticking to my arms and hands. At least the spines didn’t break off and remain in the skin. After a session of iodine painting and wound dressing, I was almost like new.

No Longer a Puya Hugger

It was more an embarrassing situation than a serious one … but I no longer prune spiny plants without wearing long-sleeved, thorn-resistant gloves … and nor do I do so when no one else is at home, just in case!20171114A

Miniature Roses: Better Off in the Garden

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Miniature rose Parade® ‘Dora’. Source: bakker.com

There was a time, many years back, when I used to collect miniature roses. There are literally hundreds of varieties, with single, semi-double or double flowers, perfumed or not, in every color of the rainbow except blue and I had about 20 in my collection.

The idea behind a miniature rose is that you want a plant that looks like a standard shrub rose, but much smaller, and with leaves and flowers in perfect proportion to the plant’s small size. For once, large flowers are a no-no. Theoretically, a miniature rose can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall if it has thin stems and small leaves and flowers. However, most gardeners prefer really tiny ones. If any of mine grew taller than 1 foot (30 cm) in height, for example, I’d always prune them back severely.

Miniature Roses as Gift Plants

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Miniature roses make good, albeit temporary, gift plants. Source: target.scene7.com

Miniature roses are often sold as gift plants for Mother’s Day, weddings, birthdays, etc. And they do give wonderful results… for a fairly short time. Like most gift plants, they really were never intended to last long. If kept indoors, they start to decline after a few weeks and usually end up in the compost pile. Alternatively, you can plant them out as garden plants. In that case, they will likely recuperate and begin to flower again.

Miniature Roses as Houseplants

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Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to place miniature roses decoratively like this? You can, of course, but only for a few weeks. After that, to grow indoors, they have be placed near a very bright window or under intense artificial light. Source: bakker.com

I grew my miniature roses as houseplants, under extra-strong light: at the time, 4-tube standard fluorescents (T12) in the winter (today, you could use the more intense T8 or T5 tubes or else LED lights) and as much natural sunshine as I could muster during the summer. I never put them outdoors to keep them from picking up unwanted pests and diseases.

They were, I have to admit, very capricious plants, needing, besides full sun or the equivalent, regular watering, enough to keep the potting mix evenly moist, high humidity (50% or more at all times), regular fertilizing and constant grooming: removing faded flowers, yellowing or diseased leaves, pruning (because most tend to grow too tall over time), etc.

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Miniature roses prefer a cold dormancy in the winter. Source: abc.net.au

Ideally, I should have given them at least a month of cold dormancy late each fall to simulate the dormancy they would normally go through outdoors. Temperatures down to 35˚ F (4˚ C) are ideal and they’ll even tolerate several degrees of frost. After a month of cold (and darkness, if you wish: no light is needed while the plant is dormant), bring them back into bright light and normal indoor temperatures and they’re soon in bloom again.

That said, I had no legitimate way of giving them cold dormancy in my apartment of the time. I just kept them growing year round and they did just fine.

Well, mostly!

Spider Mites Galore

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Spider mites are the main pest of miniature roses grown indoors. Source: rosesinc.com

Perhaps because I kept my plants indoors, out of contact with garden roses, but I never had serious problems with black spot, powdery mildew or other rose diseases. But spider mites (or red spider mites, Tetranychus urticae), that’s another story.

First of all, spider mites are so small and light they literally float on the air and easily find their way indoors, being in no way thwarted by window screens.

Secondly, they love indoor roses, proliferating with remarkable speed, causing leaves to turn yellow and drop off, drying up buds and flowers and covering the tiny plants with their silvery webs. You could literally see them, dozens at a time, like little spots of dust wandering all over the plants.

Spider mites proliferate on stressed plants and are particularly happy in dry air and excessively warm temperatures, especially when the plants are over-fertilized (also a stress factor). In the average home, winter air is bound to be too dry and too warm for roses (which would rather be outdoors and fully dormant), so spider mites have free rein.

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Spider mites are easy enough to control: just rinse the plants weekly with tepid water. Source: faucetsdeal.com

It’s not that controlling spider mites is all that difficult. I simply used to take my plants to the kitchen sink weekly and rinse them in tepid water: that’s all it took to knock the spider mite population back and allow my roses to thrive. But by the following week, the creatures were back. So, push the repeat button. All that rinsing just became an annoyance.

After a few years, I started getting negligent and began losing plants. (It doesn’t take spider mites long to kill a miniature rose!) Eventually my “collection” only held a few plants, possibly a bit more resilient than the others.

Outdoors

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If you want your miniature roses to be really happy, plant them outdoors, in the ground. Source: sarose.org.au

I solved the problem when we moved into our current home, simply by moving my miniature roses outdoors, into the garden. They make perfect plants for a sunny border and you can grow them in containers as well, as long as you water them faithfully and plant the pot in the garden for the winter. They’re hardy to zone 5 and do very well in zones 3 and 4 as long as you cover them in mulch (and I mulch everything: that’s just how I garden!). Most miniature roses (and all that I grow) are reblooming types and flower from the beginning of summer to late into the fall. And I’ve discovered that’s enough for me: I no longer feel any need to force them into winter bloom indoors.


In learning to be a laidback gardener, I’ve sometimes had to accept to let plants do what they want rather than what I would have liked and if going dormant in winter makes miniature roses happy, so be it!20171113A 'Dora' Parade® bakker.com