A TREE IN THE HOUSE
- BY GLADYS JEURINK
One of the most
common trees I see in the house is the Benjamin Fig, also call a Weeping
Fig (Ficus benjamini). It is
listed as one of the twelve best houseplants for reducing pollutants in
the air of houses. These
plants absorb through their leaves and breakdown the chemicals. NASA was
involved with much of the research to remove pollutants from the space
ships. In addition plants
use the carbon dioxide that people breathe out and put oxygen and
moisture into the air.
In the South
Pacific, Asia and Australia from which it comes, the Fig Tree grows to a
100 foot tree. For us it is
usually 2 to 18 feet tall. It
does not like to be moved and will shed its leaves when irritated, but
have patience. It will
replace them shortly. You can prune it back if it gets too large for
your space. “Ben” is
also likely to drop its leaves when you repot. Fertilize it during the
long days of summer and let it dry slightly between waterings and
don’t repot unless absolutely necessary.
Being a tropical plant, it is of course not frost hardy. It can
be moved outside during the summer but be sure and bring back in before
the night time temperatures
get below 45 or 50 degrees F.
Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) comes of course from Norfolk Island which is
close to Australia. Captain
Cook found them and made new spars for his ship.
The islanders were using them for canoes as in their native
habitat they grow two hundred feet high and ten feet thick. Over the
years I have had several get too large for my house and other years let
them freeze. As a
houseplant they usually grow only about 6 to 12 inches a year.
The baby pines
grow up under their parents so do well in a not so high light place. So
each spring I put mine in a partially shaded area or the branches will
burn. As they get between 5 and 6 feet tall and quite wide I put them in
the insulated garage only bringing them out as a Christmas tree during
December. Here they do fine
with barely damp soil and no fertilizer until the days start getting
If you try
starting a new one from a branch, you may get a root but you will also
get just a branch. You can cut the top out, put rooting hormone on it,
and if you are lucky to have the right humidity, may have shortened your
tree. Where you cut the top
off, you may get several new tops that may root for you.
An easy tree to grow once you get it started.
recurvater, also known as Ponytail Palm, Elephants Foot, or Bottle
Palm, is not a palm, but an Agave. It is a native of semi-desert areas
in Mexico, so it is one that can stand neglect as it stores water in the
“foot”. The ponytail part comes from the long narrow leaves that
hang down from the top of its long neck. The foot come from the swelling
of the trunk at soil level and is used to store water for the dry
season. This gives us a
clue that we should not water it too much.
A mature jungle
plant can be 30 foot tall with leaves over 10 foot long and its foot up
to 6 feet around. But since we generally can only find small ones, and
as it is a very slow grower, you need not worry about it going through
your ceiling. You can cut the neck off when it hits the ceiling and very
slowly it will probably send out babies along the foot.
Better yet, leave part of the neck on.
Not a hungry plant, you need to use only a diluted fertilizer,
not very often and none in the winter. Especially if it is in a cool place. Mine will live in the insulated garage this winter as there
is not a spot left in the house that is big enough. This will slow its growth until next spring.
Some of the leaf tips turn brown but I cut the tips off with the
scissors and life goes on!
Mealy bugs and
spider mites enjoy being on the leaves, but I just wash them off with
the hose. I paid 98 cents
for my first one in Arizona many years ago. I then found a bigger home
for it 10 years later, and gave it away.
No way was I about to cut the head off.
Now I have another as tall as I am.
Jade Tree (Crassula
ovata) is a shrub rather than a tree.
Of all the house plants we have, this one has probably survived
the most neglect and still lived. The one sure way to destroy it is too
much water! As a house plant it generally gets about 3 to 4 feet high
and wide. A native of
Africa it will bloom in the late fall or early winter and is stimulated
to do so by the shortening days. Blooms
last about four weeks. It is almost as temperamental about flowering as
the poinsettia if its long nights are disturbed.
If the soil is
too dry or doesn’t have enough light, it will drop some of its leaves.
Usually a plant will be about ten years old before it blooms. They are heavy plants and will tip a plastic pot over.
If a leaf or an end “twig” drops into your
pot a new plant will grow. Mealy
bugs and scale enjoy living on a Jade.
They are happiest in a south window.
Both their branches and leaves are thick and juicy. Copyright
Nov. 12, 2005
WORLD RECORD SQUASH
In front of a
packed tent at the Port Elgin (Ontario, Canada) Pumpkinfest on Saturday,
October 1, 2005, Bob and Elaine MacKenzie watched the scale numbers
climb to 1,063.5 pounds, giving them a World Record Squash. Bryan Dueck
of St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, took home first place for his giant
pumpkin weighing 1,327.5 pounds. To see pictures of these giants go to www.pumpkinfest.org.
Last year a world’s record pumpkin weighed in at 1,446
Dan Carlson of
Clinton, Iowa, who set an Iowa State Fair record with a 500.5 pound
pumpkin in 2003, and has had the largest pumpkin a number of times at
the Animosa (Iowa) Pumpkin Fest, said that only an Atlantic Giant
pumpkin seed will create an enormous pumpkin. He also said that a large
pumpkin needs a minimum of 500 square feet per plant. When his pumpkins
are about 30 pounds or the size of a volleyball, he selects the two best
and removes the rest. During the hot summer he even puts a tent over the
pumpkins to keep them from getting sun scald.
He checks on them daily to make sure that no insects or borers
get to them, and a friendly neighbor and competitor will watch them when
he is on vacation.
will do anything to be the first in the neighborhood to have a tomato,
or to grow the largest vegetable or flower. The rest of us are happy to
be able to keep our plants and lawns alive and healthy with a minimum of
May you have a
good week in your garden as you put it to bed for the winter so you can
start again next spring.