In appreciation for my patronage and for recycling their paper bags and plastic seedling trays, I occasionally get free plants from a local nursery. I became acquainted with lisianthus this way.

I have planted them each season since then. They are easy to grow, rather drought-tolerant and lovely as cut flowers. Full sun makes them thrive. Its beauty and variety of colors makes an outstanding individual plant, but grouping it with others is even more eye candy.

It may be possible to over water these, so, it pays to put them in well-drained soil. This I have found to be true because in my area there are long wet spells. The plant requires little space, grows upright and doesn't spread. When I remove the dead plants from the soil, I don't find the root ball to be much bigger than when I transplanted the seedlings in early summer. The purple bloom in the above photo is from a plant growing next to basil, one leaf of which is visible in the picture.

In my zone (6 and near the border of 5), they are annuals. They are native to warm areas of the U.S., Mexico, parts of South America and probably the Caribbean. In these warmer climates, they can be perennials.

For cut flowers, the dwarf version presents a challenge. I have found that the stem could not be cut long enough to make a good solo cut flower. It branches only an inch or two from the same section as unopened buds. Still, I have had a bud or two open in a vase if I do not cut too soon. The unopened buds look pretty, too, alongside open flowers.

The dwarf and the full-size versions are both nice in a container. I can imagine a row or small grouping of it front of taller, spikier plants that compliment whatever color the flowers will be. The pink and white lisianthus below shares close quarters with several other plants and has thrived. So, spacing may not be a problem.

And color is what keeps delighting me about them. Lisianthus -- I should be calling it Eustoma -- comes is a wonderful color selection. I have white blooms with a hint of yellow in a container on my porch. That same window box has this on the other end:

To grow them, it seems to be best to get seedlings from a local nursery or mail order. They can be difficult to grow from seed. Burpee has seedlings in a variety of colors available early in the year. (burpee)

How to grow lisianthus



A while back I blogged about Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, a lovely yellow mushroom that will grow in houseplant soil. It's not harmful to the plant, but don't eat it or allow pets to nibble it.

On a hike in Shingletown Gap with some friends, I felt like I had entered a fairy world in part because I saw so many colors and forms of fungi. Don't worry. We didn't eat any magic mushrooms, so all of the forest's magical qualities reflected in my photos are real.

Had a wedding party passed through here before we arrived? The trail littered with and surrounded by beautiful white blooms was inspiring.

Extraordinary life forms were everywhere.

Perhaps these "seahorses" transported the bride and groom.

I can't put all of my photos in this blog, so if you want to see more, click this.



My croton produced "offspring" earlier this year. It's doing well. The picture above was taken just before I watered it. They wilt quickly.

Mine is in a self-watering container, which has been sufficient for quite a while; however, recently it has been harder to keep it watered. As you can see in the photo, the leaves are hanging downward on the parent stem. I need to start watering it more frequently and move it to a brighter spot.

Crotons come in a variety of forms and they can be very colorful. Mine has not had a lot of sun, so it has a lot of green. They are easy to grow, often available in places that sell plants, and they're quite attractive.

Once or twice a week, I place it in the shower alongside other houseplants. I use a tepid water spray for several minutes. Besides giving it a good soaking, this rinses dust from the leaves and keeps them glossy. The plant also benefits from the humidity.

In dry air, such as indoors in the winter, croton is suceptible to spider mites. These are very small, red bugs that resemble spiders. Once they infest a plant, it's not easy to get rid of them. So, it's best to rinse or mist the plant several times a week, and to do it year-round.

A page with some quick facts about the plant:
how to care for a croton

This web page recommends trimming leaves to make the plant bushy.



I haven't mentioned this before, but it's good for gardeners and anyone with houseplants to know how to protect pets. Why? Some plants are poisonous. The ASPCA has an article on the increasingly popular sago palm, which is sickening and in some cases killing, pets.

Sago palm

They also have a long list of non-toxic alternatives; a link to it is in the article above.

I don't have animals in my garden plot, save for a few young rabbits. At home though, I have to make sure that no house plant drapes over my guinea pigs' pens, so all of my plants are on the other side of the room. I know that dangling "baby" spider plants or leaves of my spathiphyllum would be more temptation than my furry friends could resist. It would be something to play with and perhaps to eat.

Certain plants may be toxic to one type of animal and not another. I know that no part of the potato plant should be fed to guinea pigs. Mostly my little ones get spinach, parsley, a little cucumber, leaf lettuce, dandelion greens, broccoli and chard: all fresh green veggies (no mustard greens). They also get apple chunks, and seedless orange or watermelon pieces (the fruit, not the leaves or vines).
Poisonous plants for cats and dogs