Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

foliage plant

Valentine aglaonema

Pink Thai aglaonemas aren’t entirely new. But they certainly haven’t hit mainstream just yet. That may be about to change, if what I saw at the Tropical Plant Industry Expo last month is any indication. At least half a dozen vendors featured these glorious beauties in their booths. They definitely made me lust after them!

These showy cousins of the more common Chinese evergreen make sturdy, dependable houseplants, but are  slower growing, and require a bit more light to maintain their colorful foliage. Slower growth and relative rarity means they are more expensive, if you’re lucky enough to find them.

Some are almost gaudy, like the hot pink ‘Valentine’ pictured at left. (I think that it would make a great Valentine’s Day gift, don’t you?) If you prefer a more subtle effect, perhaps one of the other varieties pictured below would be a better choice.

Look for these colorful foliage plants to make a splash soon in garden centers!

Etta Rose aglaonema

Siam Aurora aglaonema

Aun Ya Manee aglaonema

Sparkling Sarah aglaonema

One of the themes at the Tropical Plant Industry Expo in Fort Lauderdale last week was living walls–the concept of growing plants in vertical spaces. This attractive display by Triad Plant Company creates a mosaic of tropical foliage plants tucked into a foam substrate wall perched atop a water reservoir. Essentially, the system is a recirculating fountain which trickles water through the foam to keep the plants’ root systems moist.

That solves one of the major problems with living walls. Watering them can be a messy task. Although I’m all for additional ways and places to grow plants, I’m not so sure that I’d want a living wall next to a carpeted floor! Even with this self-contained system, there are bound to be leaks or dribbles of water onto  surrounding surfaces.

Another water-related problem with vertical growing systems is uneven water availability, according to staff at Longwood Gardens, who reported on their experience with their new living wall at the conference. Think back to elementary science class and a demonstration about how much water a saturated sponge holds. When the sponge lies flat, a bit of water drains out of the upper portion of the sponge, but the bottom half remains saturated. When the sponge stands on end, a lot more water drains out of it because there is a much greater distance from top to bottom, and the capillary water (the water held in the pore spaces of the sponge) in the upper portion of the sponge drains out. Similarly, the upper portion of living walls will dry out faster than the lower portion. That means you may need to plant drought-tolerant plants at the top and moisture-loving ones at the bottom if you decide to try this new technology.

Here are a couple more examples of vertical growing systems seen at the trade show:

Planting pockets that hang on a wall.

Tillandsia meridionalis, an air-plant bromeliad, mounted on a wall plaque.

The planting pockets by WoollyPocket are watered like houseplant dish gardens. The bromeliads are misted frequently to supply the moisture that they need.

It remains to be seen whether vertical growing indoors is just a fad or a trend that is here to stay. Certainly it’s another way to enjoy the beauty and healthy benefits of plants in indoor environments. What do you think? Are they worth the extra effort?

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