Tropical Gardening: Plant a tree for Father’s Day

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE Anthurium make a great Father’s Day gift. In Hawaii, they can be used as a houseplant and later planted in the garden.

If you want to make Father’s Day truly special, then plant a tree knowing they are the lungs of the planet.

If you have already found that special gift for Dad, here is an additional gift he should appreciate. Most lucky fathers will receive something practical such as a new lawn mower, tools or maybe a box of cigars, but think about a living gift as well.

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Flowers are for Mom, but a living gift is something Dad can keep at the office or at home. Every time he sees it, it will remind him of you. You also can share care with Dad for a bonding experience.

Using plants indoors is referred to as interiorscaping, and houseplants are essential in homes today. With condominiums, apartment living and smaller yards becoming more common, one of the best ways to enjoy nature is by making it part of the indoors, especially on hot summer days.

Plants are an inexpensive way to beautify the house in a professional way. If you are short on cash and your home needs a few extra pieces of furniture that you can’t afford or if you want Dad to try a little gardening but don’t want him to get grubby, then indoor gardening is ideal!

The secret to successful gardening in the home is selecting the right plant for the right place and then caring for it properly. Local nurserymen or garden supply dealers can give you some help in selection as well as plant care.

Here are some tips now that will keep Dad’s thumb green.

Commencing a houseplant project with your loved one means starting with the right container.

Wooden tubs are excellent since wood prevents rapid drying out of the soil. Some containers lack drainage holes that can cause a watering problem unless you are growing plants that prefer or tolerate wet conditions such as papyrus.

Clay pots are fine and can be painted to blend with the colors in the home. Brass and copper are ideal for table and mantle arrangements.

But, as these containers are usually small, pay careful attention to supplies of water and fertilizer. Too much or too little can be fatal to many plants.

Soil is very important for houseplants. Since they must survive on a very small amount, give them the best soil mixture available.

There is no perfect mixture. However, a longtime favorite for many homeowners is a blend of one part peat and one part coarse garden soil or cinder and one part vermiculite or sponge rock. These might come already mixed for you at the garden supply store.

When choosing houseplants, select varieties that will withstand adverse growing conditions such as low light intensity and dry air.

To be satisfactory, houseplants must do more than merely survive under indoor conditions. They must maintain an attractive appearance with a minimum of care. Air conditioning and gas appliances, as nice to have as they are, can be rough on houseplants.

Consider such plants as Anthurium, Bromeliads, Aglaonema, Aspidistra, Dracaena, Monstera, Peperomia, Philodendrons, Nephytis, Sansevieria, bird nest fern, Boston fern or Rhapis palm. These plants don’t seem to mind low light intensity or warm, dry rooms. In fact, they are sometimes called “cast iron” types.

Plants that will grow in high light include asparagus ferns, Strelitzia, Crotons, Aralia or Panax, Philodendron, Wandering Jew and Sansevieria. Plants that will tolerate dryer soils are Bromeliads, jade plant, Pandanus, Peperomia, Sansevieria, Pothos, aloe, Sedum, and cactus. Many palms also are ideal for a bold tropical effect in the home.

In general, most houseplants require a thorough soaking, and then must be allowed to get a little on the dry side but not too dry.

The best suggestion on feeding houseplants is to follow the directions on the container. Use a houseplant fertilizer in liquid, tablet or powder form, but with any type, go lightly. Too much can easily burn tender roots.

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Individuals with home garden questions can call the University of Hawaii Master Gardener Help Line at 322-4893 in Kona or 981-5199 in Hilo.

Several books are also available at local garden shops to assist you. Sunset’s Western Garden Book is a good start.

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