Since 1970, the ultimate in natural plant care. Caring for your plants by appointment.

2010 marks the 40th anniversary of the now-famous Plant Doctor "house call".

All-natural, always has been, always will be. I blend long-lasting, slow-release, natural fertilizers (based on your plants' needs). This service is available only to my house-call customers.

Gaia Green


Magenta Christmas Cactus





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Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera, Central and S. America)

Magenta Christmas CactusUsing my simple methods, this Christmas cactus blooms year after year. Photo by Randall Prue.

where night are cool (17°-18° C, about 65° F.). There are several types of Schlumbergera and at least one type of Zygocactus. They are called Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter cactus. The name given to one of these plants may be its correct name, or may the name of the next holiday.

You may have one that always blooms at the same time of year. I have known this plant to change its mind and bloom at irregular intervals. Many growers control the plant's environment to trigger blooming when it best suits their marketing needs.

Christmas cactus is a succulent from the Cactus family. It required much more water than a desert cactus. In fact, the soil (PHILODENDRON SOIL (see "Potting Soils" on page 25 of Keeping Them Alive)), can be kept moist at all times. Allowing the soil to dry will not harm the plant, but it may have to be left sitting in water to remoisten the soil.

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Fungus Gnats PDF Print E-mail

Those Pesky Gnats! (Fungus Gnats)

2010, Year of the Fungus Gnat

Adult Fungus Gnats Stuck to Safer's Sticky StikAdult Fungus Gnats Stuck to Safer's Sticky Stik. Photo by Randall Prue.This may be a too-familiar sight to you, adult fungus gnats. Here we see them (where I like to see them) stuck to a Safer's Sticky Stik (any brand of yellow insect trap would work just as well). The gnats die quickly and cannot reproduce while stuck to the trap!

This "bonus" article is based on material reprinted from Keeping Them Alive, plus new material and illustrations. In the autumn of 2010, as we bring plants in from outside, I cannot help but notice that this is the worst year I can recall for fungus gnats (small enough to fly through most window screens looking for a warm winter home).

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Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria excelsa)

Norfolk Island Pine in Native Habitat. Photo by KahuroaThis is a pine tree and it does come from Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, off the coast of Australia. Imagine—a pine tree that you can keep indoors.

They grow naturally to 60 metres or taller. The size of pot you grow it in will determine how tall yours may grow, but never repot to a pot more than 2" larger at a time. Use STANDARD POTTING SOIL (see "Potting Soil" on page 25 of Keeping Them Alive.). I have seen them in PHILODENDRON SOIL and they didn't seem to mind it.

This is not the easiest plant to keep indoors. It is very important o keep the soil moist at all times. Just before it dries completely, water enough to moisten the soil without soaking it. They definitely do not like to be dry. As soon as a Norfolk Pine dries, the branches will start to brown and dry. As with any pine, these branches are irreplaceable. Branches will fall off from the bottom off and there is not way to have the plant grow more to replace them.



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Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) from Mexico

245-pink-poinsettia-200Using my simple methods, this poinsettia blooms year after year. Photo by Randall PruePoinsettia is named after Dr. Joel R. Poinsett who introduced this plant to America. It grows outdoors to 1.5 metre, but the ones which are sold here are largely hybrids, which have been bred to be short and compact, with a lot of colored leaves (red, pink, salmon, white, and variegated combinations).

Destroying the Myths

Two notions about Poinsettias persist, and both are incorrect:

  • That Poinsettia is toxic to pets and to humans.
  • That Poinsettia has to be put into a closet to induce blooming.

Read on for enlightenment!

This article is based on the topic (Poinsettia) in Keeping Them Alive, but contains additional "bonus" material not available in 1982. The photo at left is a pink poinsettia tree (has a main trunk like a tree, as opposed to the small bushes that are more common) that I was given in 2006. This photo was taken in January 2009 and marks its third straight year of blooming without any tedious "closet business" or light management tricks. It blooms because I feed it well and give it the basic environment that it likes (think "Mexico") without over-doing it.

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Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

Rabbit-Track Prayer Plant, Maranta leuconeura kerchoveana. Photo by Kurt StueberPrayer Plant, Maranta leuconeura kerchoveana. Photo by Kurt StueberMaranta leuconeura kerchoveana (rabbit-track plant) and Maranta leuconeura massangeana (fishbone plant)
are both from tropical America. Rabbit-track has red spots which resemble rabbit paw marks, and fishbone has a definite pattern of fish bones.

As if these were not enough to make the plant unusual, it folds its leaves at night, resembling hands in prayer.

It grows under other plants in its natural habitat in moist rich soil and is therefore best kept in warm moist air (18 - 24 degrees Celsius [around 72 degrees Fahrenheit]), in moist soil and in partial shade. Bright light will produce very nice growth, but full sun will burn its leaves.


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