After this past year, we could all use a little extra luck. And happily, as gardeners, we need look no further than the Chinese New Year for inspiration. Among the many auspicious symbols for 2021 is this year’s lucky plant, the money tree, or Pachira aquatica. According to feng shui principles, it can help ensure a prosperous year ahead.
Symbolism is an essential part of all Chinese New Year’s celebrations, in which families (and businesses) invest a lot of time. The money tree joins a list of other lucky charms for 2021, including natural crystals, turtles, ruyi ( a symbolic scepter) and mandarin ducks. All carry specific meanings that represent good luck, prosperity and abundance for the coming year.
ABOUT MONEY TREE
So what is money plant, Pachira aquatica? Not to be confused with Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides), it’s a broadleaf evergreen native to the tropics. Typically found near wetlands and swamps, it loves moist soil. It is also revered for its many feng shui characteristics.
Essentially, the entire plant is considered lucky. Still, many point to the leaves themselves as the main harbingers of good fortune. That’s because most money trees have five or six leaves per stem. The number five suggests the five main elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Balancing these elements can bring good feng shui to a home, sustaining health, wealth and happiness for all those who live there.
Money tree typically has five leaves to a stem
What’s more, occasionally a tree may have seven leaves, which is considered the luckiest of all. If you discover this, it’s time to buy a lottery ticket.
Still, most people know Pachira aquatica less for its leaves and more for its stem, which is composed of several plants braided together. It’s the best of both worlds – a tree and a palm. Feng shui followers believe the braid traps good fortune.
Pachira aquatica’s distinctive braided trunk
THE LEGEND OF THE MONEY TREE
Centuries ago, a poor man found a money tree in the deep recesses of the forest. Seeing its beauty, he brought it home and decided to grow plants from its seedlings. Over time, he created a successful business selling the trees. The business made him wealthy. This story, and others like it, are believed to be the origin of the tradition.
THE LUCKIEST SPOTS
So you’ve bought a money tree, but where should you put it? According to feng shui principles, the best place to promote wealth is in the southeast corner of your home. But if it’s your business you’re worried about, put your plant next to the cash register.
Undeniably, money tree makes an excellent indoor plant. Plus, it is nearly impossible to kill. Unlike other houseplants that shed their leaves regularly, it stays neat. Moreover, it will grow as large as you’d like, sometimes up to seven feet! Perhaps most importantly, it can withstand errors in watering (as in the common practice of over-watering.) This is one tough indoor plant, indeed.
Yes, caring for your money tree is easy, provided you pay attention to three essential ingredients: water, light and fertilization. Balancing these properly is the key to making all houseplants thrive.
This plant loves moisture, so make sure to water it regularly, one to two times a week. But as with all plants, good drainage is key. Never leave your money tree in standing water (a sure recipe for root rot.) Instead, put it on a watering schedule, watering at the soil surface until the soil is soaked and the water runs out from the base of the pot. Let the soil dry out before you water again.
Yellow leaves? This can be a sign of overwatering, exposure to cold temperatures, or that your money tree needs to be fed. If your soil is soggy, you’re overwatering.
To help your money tree thrive, place it in indirect light. Rotate the container every few weeks to ensure the plant grows evenly. Avoid direct sunlight, however, which can scorch the leaves.
All indoor houseplants benefit from feeding from time to time. Lightly fertilize your money tree a few times a year with a water-soluble fertilizer.
For me, one of the highlights of December is the arrival in stores of all those winter-blooming cyclamen. Aside from poinsettias, they are my favorite cold-season flowers. There’s just one problem. After a couple of weeks, the plants’ stems often start to droop and the leaves may even turn yellow. But not to worry, there’s a solution! All it takes is an understanding of where cyclamen come from, and why temperature is key to their success indoors. Continue reading →
Updating a home can be expensive. That said, flowering houseplants can offer an affordable alternative. I love how they perk up a room, adding fresh color to blah indoor spaces. Changed your mind? You can swap things around or change them out completely. And houseplants last a whole lot longer than cut flowers.
I know… for some, the thought of growing plants in their home can be intimidating. But in fact, it’s easy. All you need to do is follow three essential steps.
1. GIVE YOUR FLOWERING HOUSEPLANTS SOME SUN
No matter the species, flowering houseplants need at least some concentrated hours of bright to direct sunlight in order to produce blooms.
Plants need at least some sunlight to flower
Don’t ignore that label! Read it carefully to determine what kind of sunlight your plant prefers, then place it in the proper location. No plant will thrive in a dark corner.
2. ADHERE TO A REGULAR WATERING SCHEDULE
Consistent watering makes stronger plants. And flowering houseplants prefer a regular watering schedule. The watering cycle you choose will depend on the kind of plants you have and the level of humidity and amount of light you have in your home.
Plants need water
Some flowering houseplants prefer to have a good soak, then dry out slightly between waterings. This allows them to properly absorb both water and nutrients. Conversely, others like to be kept consistently moist. It may take some experimenting to determine what works best in your home. Either way, good drainage holes are key.
Whatever your watering schedule, always add just enough water to the pot to allow a small amount to run out from the bottom. This will ensure the roots of your flowering houseplant are well saturated. In addition, it will help wash away salts and fertilizers that may have built up in the soil.
Good drainage is key
Most importantly, never leave your plants sitting in water. This will lead to root rot and ultimately the death of your houseplant. Yellow leaves are an indicator that this is happening.
3. FEED REGULARLY
Unlike plants grown outdoors in soil, indoor plants are confined to the pot. That means it’s up to you to provide all their water and nutrients. Feeding your flowering houseplants not only helps them produce more blooms, but it also wards of indoor pests and diseases. I use a balanced liquid fertilizer mixed with tap water every other week.
Plants need food to flower
Certain species such as African violets, orchids and dwarf citrus trees prefer their own special food, so check with your local plant store to see which products best meet your needs.
Following are 12 top flowering houseplants for easy-care blooms indoors.
Adaptable to just about every environment, African violets are one of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow. Moreover, there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. The fuzzy-leaved plant performs best in evenly moist soil and indirect sunlight.
Water African violets at the soil surface, taking care not to moisten the leaves. Or, allow the plant to wick up water from a saucer. However, never allow your plant to remain standing in water or the roots may be damaged. African violets grow best in smaller pots.
This beautiful succulent with orange, yellow and red flowers has long lasting flowers and attractive, oval-shaped fleshy foliage. The plant blooms naturally indoors during winter and early spring.
Kalanchoes prefer bright light, but beware – they’ll burn in full sun. Again, proper drainage is key. Use a loose potting soil containing peat moss, perlite and sand and place pebbles at the bottom of the pot to guard against standing water. And never place a kalanchoe near a draft or cold window.
Jasminum polyanthum, also known as pink jasmine or white jasmine, is the most common variety of jasmine grown indoors. A fragrant plant with showy white blooms, it grows best near a south-facing window. Cool temperatures are essential to encouraging this flowering houseplant’s buds to form. Jasmine typically flowers indoors in February.
Grow jasmine in evenly moist soil and prune regularly to keep it in bounds. Repot in the spring, trimming the roots before replenishing with fresh soil.
OXALIS (Purple Clover)
Often called shamrock for its purple, shamrock-shaped leaves, oxalis is a small-sized flowering houseplant that grows to a height of just around six inches. The delicate white or soft pink flowers bloom off and on during fall, winter and spring. And the leaves fold up at night only to open again in the morning.
Oxalis grows from tiny bulbs that can be divided at any time. Water your plant when the potting soil is dry to the touch or if you observe the stems starting to droop. Look for exotic varieties for best indoor performance.
CHRISTMAS CACTUS, THE HOLIDAY HOUSEPLANT
This beautiful flowering houseplant loves holidays. There are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter varieties, some of which can be encouraged to re-bloom. The buds start forming a month before blooms and darken as they swell. And the flowers come in a wide variety of colors including, red, pink, orange, purple, orange and cream.
Christmas Cactus likes bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. But, keep it away from drafts and heat sources that can stunt growth and burn leaves. Unlike desert cacti, these tropical cacti cannot tolerate dry soil. Keep the potting soil evenly moist for best growth. And water only when the top inch of the soil has dried out.
ANTHURIUM (Flamingo Flower)
The heart-shaped ‘flower’ of anthurium is actually a modified leaf that grows from the base of a fleshy spike of flowers. The most common houseplant variety is Painter’s Palette, which features long-lasting blooms (usually red) and glossy green, arrow-shaped leaves.
Anthuriums grow best in medium to bright light (avoid direct sunlight, however.) Keep the potting soil constantly moist and for best results, use tepid water. A consistently warm temperature is key to achieving good growth.
Often thrown away after they quit flowering, gloxinias can become great houseplants with proper care. Best known for their large bell-shaped blooms, the dramatic plants come in a wide variety of colors, including varieties with bands and/or white speckles. By contrast, the oblong, fuzzy leaves are a soft gray green.
Gloxinias prefer warm temperatures, evenly moist soil and high humidity (supplement humidity with a humidifier or tray with pebbles and water). As with African violets, it’s important to keep water off of the foliage to avoid brown spot.
Unlike African violets, gloxinias require a period of rest in order to bloom again. Once flowers fade, reduce watering to about half and resume regular watering when new growth appears.
There are hundreds of varieties of this beautiful plant to choose from, most of which will produce indoor blooms all year long. Foliage varies among green, silver, variegated or maroon. And flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, white and yellow.
All begonias prefer medium to bright light and evenly moist soil. However, they can become leggy fast without proper care. To prevent this from happening, keep your plants in shape by following these simple pruning techniques.
Angel-Wing begonia is so-named for the shape of its leaves that resemble wings. Numerous cultivars exist in different sizes with different leaf colors and red, pink or white blossoms. Angel-Wing begonias are some of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow. Pinch back tall stems to keep the plant bushy.
Rieger begonia is a winter-blooming variety with clusters of camellia-like blossoms in fiery colors of red, yellow and orange atop glossy green leaves.
The popular (outdoor) bedding plant, waxbegonia, also makes a great flowering houseplant. Varieties feature red, pink or white flowers atop waxy green foliage. The plant needs good air circulation to thrive.
Arguably the most recognizable of all the orchid varieties, the easy-to-grow Phalaenopsis produces flowers that can sometimes last up to three months. The long sprays of large blooms flourish indoors under normal light and prefer the same temperatures that humans do.
Place the plant in indirect sunlight and water once a week, making sure the soil remains moist just under the soil surface. Be careful not to overwater or the flowers will wilt and fall off. Good drainage is essential to guard against root rot. After the last flower finishes blooming, cut the stalk in half and wait to see if the plant re-blooms.
SILVER VASE PLANT (Urn Plant)
Silver vase plant is a type of bromeliad that is grown both indoors and outdoors depending on the climate. The common name comes from the structure of the plant, the center of which resembles an urn or vase. The plant produces a large pink spiky-shape flower above stiff, silver and green foliage. It lasts for months and grows to around six inches.
Low-maintenance, silver vase plant makes a great flowering houseplant. Its minimal requirements include bright light and periodic watering (every 2-3 weeks). Watering involves filling the “vase” (and not the potting soil) with water.
KAFFIR LILY (Orange Clivia Miniata)
A member of the amaryllis family, the Kaffir lily can be forced into bloom in winter or early spring indoors. It bears clusters of up to 20 reddish-orange tubular flowers with yellow centers above glossy green leaves. The plant is also available in red, peach, yellow and white varieties.
Kaffir lilies need cool and dry temperatures for 6 to 8 weeks in fall in order to bloom. Water sparingly until the bloom appears (keeping the soil on the dry side), then increase watering midwinter. Place in bright light, but keep away from direct sun.
CALAMONDIN ORANGE (For experts only)
The Calamondin Orange is actually a hybrid between a mandarin orange and kumquat. The dwarf citrus tree has woody stems covered with oval, glossy green leaves that give off a citrusy aroma. In late winter or early spring, fragrant white blossoms appear followed by fruits that may stay on the plant for many weeks. Once ripe, the fruits can be harvested and used like lemons.
For best performance indoors, plant calamondin in a small container. Plants won’t re-bloom if they are potted in a container that is too large. Make sure there are good drainage holes in the bottom of the container to protect against root rot. Place the tree in bright light, with at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. Rotate the plant a quarter turn each week to promote even growth. Fertilize with a good organic fruit tree fertilizer.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors. And indoor environments can be poor, trapping dangerous chemical toxins as well as bacteria, pollens and mold. It’s enough to make a person sick. But, luckily for man, houseplants can offer a solution. Continue reading →
Soon, many of us will be receiving gifts of holiday plants with no clue what to do with them. Sure, the seasonal blooms look great in their decorative wrappings, but too often, just one week later they’re already showing signs of distress. Why toss these beauties in the trash when there’s still so much floral potential? Here’s how to keep your holiday plants looking their best and blooming well past the holiday season. Continue reading →
We all know that indoor plants need water to survive, but do we really know how much or how little? It’s not easy to keep container plants looking their best, even with regular watering schedules. You can change all that, though, by changing how you water. These simple techniques will restore your houseplants to their former greenhouse glory while ensuring they not only survive, but also thrive well into the future. Continue reading →
Everyone loves the taste of herbs harvested fresh from the garden. And winter doesn’t have to spell the end of that enjoyment. Just a handful of pots indoors can supply bundles of savory herbs throughout all the seasons. All you need are some culinary herbs, a sunny window and a little TLC in the form of good soil, judicious watering and a regular supply of food. Continue reading →