Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pineapple Surprise

Back in December I was at Esbenshade’s Garden Center and they had something I’d never seen before – a miniature pineapple plant. I couldn’t resist getting it, so for the past 2+ months I’ve had a pineapple growing in my kitchen.

Pineapple

Pineapples are members of the bromeliad family. Bromeliads only blossom once and after blossoming, the main plant stops growing and eventually dies. So I knew that in time, after the tiny pineapple (the fruit that developed from the flower) ripened, the plant would die. I was planning to grow another plant by cutting off the leafy crown on top to the pineapple and rooting it in some potting mix.  I’ve tried doing this with store-bought pineapples but have had no luck. However I figured that since this would be a nice healthy cutting that hadn’t been shipping for thousands of miles, it should grow.

Silly me – I’d forgotten that bromeliads love to multiply! Once the plant has finished blossoming – or in this case, has grown a pineapple – the plant will send out a number of offsets. Offsets are small plants that develop at the base of the original plant. When I watered my pineapple today, I saw that the base of the plant had at least three offsets beginning to grow. While I still plan to attempt rooting the top of the pineapple, I’m glad to know that even if that fails, I’ll still have pineapple plants for years to come thanks to the offsets and the pineapple’s natural desire to multiply.

Pineapple Offset

Seed Starting Has Begun

In early February I began the process of starting some seeds so that I’ll have plants that I can put out in the Spring. I’ll admit that this is very early for seed starting. I’m holding off on planting most of my seeds until March and early April.

Pelleted seeds

However, some seeds need a lot of time to grow. This year I’m growing lisianthus and a dragon winged begonia that each take from 12-16 weeks to go from seeds to nice size plants so I planted them in early February. I ordered both of these flowers from Park Seeds and the seeds were so small that they came pelleted. What that means is that the tiny seeds were each encased in a coating of inert material so that you can sow them more easily. I filled a couple of small containers (a yogurt cup and a container from the deli) with Hoffman Seed Starting Mix (a soiless mix) and watered it a few times until it was moist.

I sowed the pelleted seeds on top of the soiless mix and misted them with water to ensure that the seeds were moist and could germinate. I then put the containers into a larger plastic container with a cover to maintain moisture. This container was then placed on the radiator in my kitchen to provide a little bottom heat.

Begonia Seedlings

I checked the containers each day and misted the surface of the soil if it was getting dry. In about a week the seeds were up and I moved them under flourescent lights that are on about 16 hours a day. The plants are tiny and you need good eyes to see when they’ve germinated. Trust me, there are seedlings in this picture!

Gloxinias

My favorite flowering houseplant is the gloxinia. You don’t see them very often in the garden centers, probably because their large, stiff  leaves make them hard to ship. I’ve also noticed that the large plants that I used to get back in the 70’s just don’t exist anymore – florists and garden centers don’t grow their own plants any longer. But while the plants might be smaller than I remember them, I still enjoy growing them.

Gloxinia isn’t the true name of these amazing flowers. They are a tuberous member of the family Gesneriaceae. I share this information because this is a plant family that I love which includes achimenes, streptocarpus, goldfish plant and african violets and I’m sure to be making more posts about gesneriads in the future. The common gloxinia was once named Gloxinia speciosa but is now named Sinningia speciosa. If you’re shopping at a place that specializes in gesneriads, you’ll want to look for sinningias; at the local florist, just ask for gloxinias.

Call it what you will, it’s a beautiful plant. The large fuzzy leaves look like an african violet on steroids and the bell-shaped flowers come in pinks, reds, whites and purples. Some plants have single blooms while others are double.

If you pick up a gloxinia plant to enjoy in your home, all you need to know is that this plant likes bright light but not direct sun. The soil needs to be moist but not wet. If the plant is full of buds, a gloxinia should provide flowers for at least a month. When it stops blooming you can just add it to the compost bin and keep your eye out for the next shipment of gloxinias to your garden center.

I like to try propagating the plants that I have and I learned an interesting thing about propagating gloxinias. I took a leaf cutting as you would with an african violet. With violets, small leaves will start to appear in a month or two. I was expecting the same thing to happen with my leaf cutting of gloxinia but this was not the case. The leaf was healthy and well rooted but nothing seemed to be happening for months. After about 5 months I gave up and threw out the leaf. But when I did, I removed the soil around the well rooted leaf to see what was or wasn’t happening. I found that at the base of the leaf petiole was a small tuber. I shouldn’t have been surprised since I knew that gloxinias are tuberous plants but I’d never seen anything like this before. I kept the tuber, allowed it to rest for a time and have since potted it up. It has rooted but I have yet to see any buds. I plan to give it a little more time and also to try a leaf cutting from another gloxinia. I’ll give it all the time it needs to form a nice, healthy tuber and then see if I can grow my own gloxinia.