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Check out these houseplants

Q: What are your favorite houseplants that I can try at my house?

— Shelly from Boardman

A: Considering all the houseplants I have had over the years, four favorites come to mind, not because of their beauty, but because of the person who gave them to me many plant generations ago.

The first plant from my father was what he called a Christmas cactus, but as a Master Gardener, I found out I actually have a Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata). The difference between each is found in leaf shapes.

The Thanksgiving cactus, according to Iowa State University, has very pointed claw-shaped projections. The Christmas cactus has more scalloped ends and edges, and the Easter cactus has very rounded leaf edges. Buds can be set only if the plant has 12 to 24 hours of darkness, thus it is referred to as a “short-day” plant.

My Thanksgiving cactus begins to bud in September to coincide with our earlier darkness. Drafts, heat or too much water can cause the buds to drop. Each generation of this plant I started by clipping leaves and placing them in damp soil to encourage roots to develop.

The second plant I received many plant generations ago was a Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) from my then 7-year-old daughter. Easily grown, spider plants rarely have problems with insects. As with most plants, too little or too much water without proper drainage can cause root rot as well as leaf tip burn.

Use distilled or rainwater for best results. As a hanging basket, they grow beautifully in indirect light with temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees and are propagated in any season by planting the small plantlets in moist soil where they will take root.

My son takes pleasure in calling the Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) he gave me the “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.” It is a tall, linear and variegated leafed plant with small white unimpressive flowers.

Requiring little water, it is drought-tolerant. A durable houseplant from South Africa, it tolerates heat but not cold temperatures, growing 3-5 feet and usually found as a floor plant in homes. Because of its height, a heavy pot should be used to prevent falling over. And yes, even Master Gardeners learn the hard way.

Finally, growing orchids is not as hard as I once thought. Given a phalaenopsis (Phalaenopsis orchidaceae) by my daughter’s mother-in-law proved to be surprisingly successful.

Arriving in a very small pot, I repotted it in a proper medium of bark, peat and orchid soil after researching for best practices. Since orchids originate from rainforests, they love humidity and the air roots from the plant absorb the humidity.

Setting the plant on stones or gravel and keeping water in the tray will provide the much- needed humidity. Spritzing the foliage helps imitate the rainforest’s humid conditions.

To learn more about selecting houseplants and videos, go to http://go.osu.edu/selectinghouseplants.

Katie Kane Shipka is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer in Mahoning County. Call 330-533-5538 to submit your questions to our clinic. During the off season, questions can be submitted at any time. Details at go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic

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