Staff Favorite Plant Varieties
Abby's Pick: Stephanotis
Stephanotis is one of the most coveted house plants because of its intensely powerful, sweet smelling blossoms. However, the rewards of a thriving stephanotis plant are not easily earned. The plant is a climber and is usually trained to grow around a wire or trellis inside its pot. It’s leaves are dark green, smooth and thick; its stem is woody and the white star-shaped flowers are tubular as buds, opening into 5 pointed stars. If you have a blooming stephanotis plant in a room in your house, you will smell its sweet scent everywhere. The fragrant waxy blossoms are also much desired by florists for use in weddings.
How to Grow a Healthy Stephanotis House Plant:
Keep your stephanotis plant humid:
Stephanotis is native to the tropical island, Madagascar, and is accustomed to that humid environment. Keep your Stephanotis humid and happy by:
- Misting it regularly with a fine-headed spray
- Place the stephanotis pot in a tray of water and gravel, preventing the roots from sitting directly in the water, but allowing the plant to receive the humidity as the water evaporates.
- Place your Stephanotis in a naturally humid place, such as near the kitchen sink or the shower.
Grow the Stephanotis in the right Medium:
Stephanotis grows in the ground in its natural environment and therefore, will appreciate a soil based potting mix or a half peat moss, half soil mix.
Maintain a constant, still environment
The delicate stephanotis plant will be disturbed by drastic changes in the temperature, strong drafts or anything that moves it or shakes it. This is especially relevant when the plant is carrying flower buds. These kinds of disruptions will cause the buds to fall off, before getting the chance to flower and enchant us humans with its fragrance.
Keep the Stephanotis in bright, indirect light.
Stephanotis are used to growing in the jungle near the equator. Here the light is strong and bright, but filtered by the tall rainforest trees’ leaves above. Replicate this for your stephanotis by putting it in a bright window with a light sheer curtain.
Fertilize the Stephanotis plant in the spring and Summer:
To encourage blossoming and growth, provide your stephanotis with a diluted high potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks in the spring and summer.
Robyn Lee's Pick: Ground Phlox
Moss phlox is a charming, low-growing perennial that produces a carpet of flowers in the spring. Creeping phlox grows to only about 6 inches tall, and will form a dense mat about 24 inches wide. It produces an abundance of flowers for a two-week period in late April or early May. The creeping phlox's blooms can be white, pink, red, lavender or blue-purple, depending on the cultivar. It can tolerate conditions ranging from partial sun to partial shade, but produces the most vibrant blooms when it has full sun exposure.
Phlox are perennials and a favorite choice among wildflowers. These plants sport many star-shaped, colorful flowers when in bloom. Because there are so many varieties, you can find a type of phlox for almost any garden. They are easy to care for and low maintenance. Add some phlox to any bouquet for some nice fragrance.
- Use a garden fork or tiller to prepare your garden bed. Loosen the soil to about 12 to 15 inches deep, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
- It is easier to grow phlox from cuttings/transplants than seeds.
- Plant phlox in the spring and space the plants 1 to 2 feet apart. If you are moving a plant from a pot, dig a hole about twice the size of the pot's diameter and place the plant so that the top of the root ball is even with the soil's surface. Fill in around the root ball and remember to water it thoroughly.
There are three different categories for growth requirements:
- Woodland species (like Blue phlox and Creeping phlox) like evenly moist, humus-rich soil and full to partial sun.
- Low, mounding phlox (like Sand phlox and Chattahoochee) like average, well-drained, sandy or loamy soil and full sun.
- Border phlox (like Carolina phlox, Meadow phlox, and Garden phlox) like moist, well-drained, and average to rich soil and full to partial sun.
- If you receive less than 1 inch of rain a week, remember to regularly water your plants throughout the summer.
- Each spring, put a thin layer of compost and a 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants to help keep the soil moist and control weeds.
- Remember to remove the dead/faded flowers so that your plants can rebloom.
- If you have tall phlox, cut the stems back to about 1 to 2 inches above the soil after the first killing frost. Divide tall garden phlox every 2 to 3 years to ensure healthy and disease-free plants.
- Powdery mildew
- Stem canker
- Southern blight
- Stem nematodes
- Leaf spots
- Leaf miners
- Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera), which makes a good ground cover, especially for planting under shrubs (because they like shady spots)
- Wagon wheel (Phlox adsurgens), for its pretty salmon-pink flowers (whose petals resemble the spokes of a wheel)
- Sternenzauber (Phlox drummondii), whose flowers are fringed and pointed, which make them look like stars
- Attracts Butterflies
- Attracts Birds
Wit & Wisdom
- Native Americans called April's full Moon the "Full Pink Moon" because it heralded the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring flowers.