• Plants & Gardening

    How to Make a Mandevilla Thrive Indoors

    Mandevilla Flower, How to Make a Mandevilla Thrive Indoors, https://karenhugg.com/2021/12/27/mandevilla-indoors/, Karen Hugg, #mandevilla, #pinkmandevilla, #howto, #houseplants, #indoors, #plants

    One morning this last fall, my friend Angela called to say she had some orphaned plants she wanted me to have because they needed a good home. You may remember Angela’s a dear friend who’s a container designer and regularly switches out arrangements for clients. In this particular instance, she’d redesigned some summer pots for fall and had a bunch of leftover babies.

    Before I could blink, she was pulling into my driveway with a miscellaneous collection of pots and paper bags. The goodies contained bromeliads, crotons, a spider plant, and mandevillas. While I had some experience growing the first three, I’d never grown a mandevilla, outdoors or indoors. But I was game to give it a try.

    What’s a Mandevilla?

    For those interested, a mandevilla is a huge genus of vines that grow in tropical places like South and Central America. Some even grow in the southern United States. They can grow up to 15 feet, even higher given the right conditions. And those conditions are strong sunlight and warmth, which of course we don’t have much of during a rainy Seattle winter. But they can function as a houseplant.

    The three mandevillas Angela gifted me all had the same strong darkish pink flower. Its trumpet-shape has inspired the common name, rocktrumpet. Unfortunately, I’m not sure of the cultivar. It’s somewhere in the black hole of Angela’s notes. But luckily I’ve been able to keep them alive well enough.

    How to Grow a Mandevilla Indoors

    Here’s what I’ve been doing that works.

    First, I set it up in the sunniest window of my house, a south-facing living room window. It was okay there but after a few days, I put a grow light over it and it became much perkier. Its little vining shoots extended. It appreciated the bright light and extra warmth.

    Second, I noticed some older leaves yellowed and dropped a couple weeks after I brought it inside. I discovered this was from the sudden warmth of dry heating vents that had started blowing in October. I cleaned up those dried yellow leaves and cut off whatever stems had dried out as well to deter pests. You can spot dried stems by their suppleness and color. Happy stems are always soft and greenish. Dried ones are blackish green or brown.

    Mandevilla Houseplant, How to Make a Mandevilla Thrive Indoors, https://karenhugg.com/2021/12/27/mandevilla-indoors/, Karen Hugg, #mandevilla, #pinkmandevilla, #howto, #houseplants, #indoors, #plants
    Mandevilla as a Houseplant

    Third, I increased humidity near the plants. In one case, I misted the plant regularly. I actually don’t think misting is very effective but I didn’t have an extra diffuser so I sprayed the plant from a misting water bottle every few days. And sprayed liberally. You need to pretty much make sure the plant is soaked if you want the plant to absorb moisture before the droplets evaporate.

    Fourth, I tapered off watering. I was watering lightly every week and now in the heart of winter, I’m watering about once every ten days. This has seemed to make the plant quite happy. And so far pests have not visited it even though mandevillas can attract pests if overwatered.

    Fifth, in December, with less watering comes less light. I now turn on the grow light once every week rather than once every couple of days. It knows it’s winter and to be dormant. It’s not blooming and won’t for a while.

    Springtime Growth

    Heading into spring, I’ll let the season’s light do its work and turn off the grow light until next October. I’ll water every week again as the light strengthens. I’ll install trellises so its vines can latch onto a structure. And every month, I’ll add some fertilizer to see if it will bloom again.

    We’ll see how things go. I might even put the plants outside in a hot sunny location. They thrived in Angela’s client’s garden so I might have the same luck. If those gorgeous flowers do bloom, the hummingbirds will surely visit and that will give me the best gift of all.

  • Plants & Gardening

    How to Make a Plant Combination That Pops

    Plants in a container, How to Make a Plant Combination That Pops, https://karenhugg.com/2020/09/14/plant-combination/(opens in a new tab), #plants #container #combination #pops #howto #gardening
    Plants in a container, How to Make a Plant Combination That Pops, https://karenhugg.com/2020/09/14/plant-combination/(opens in a new tab), #plants #container #combination #pops #howto #gardening
    Angela’s Part-Shade Container

    Creating a plant combination that pops is tricky. You have to use plants that like similar conditions of light, water, and soil. Then you have to create an overall design that incorporates varying shapes and colors that both clash and recall each other’s characteristics. While it takes a bit of work, the general rules of it can be learned.

    Earlier this summer, my friend Angela who’s a container designer created this lovely arrangement for part-sun with a general potting soil. So I thought I’d talk about why it works so well in an effort to demystify the process.

    Upright Centerpieces

    A pleasing plant combination, whether in a border or pot, needs some kind of height. To create verticality, Angela used Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ in the center. It’s the smokey green plant with tubular orange-red flowers. Then to widen that verticality into a cool arc, she tucked in a variegated New Zealand flax (phormium tenax ‘Variegata’) in the back. While the fuchsia creates a dominant focal point, the flax creates a spiky vertical echo with its sword-like leaves.

    Filled With Mounds and Trails

    Just as an arrangement needs verticality, it also needs more mounding plants to fill out the space horizontally. Then, trailing plants can extend the design downward. For the mounding middle section, Angela used a chartreuse pineapple sage (salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’), coleus (ruffle series), and New Guinea impatiens. For the lower trailing section, she used a potato vine (ipomaea batatas ‘Margarita’), lobelia (lobelia erinus, probably Laguna Compact Blue), black mondo grass (ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’), and blue daisy (felicia amelloides ‘Variegata’). All of these plants together broadened the robust feel of the arrangement and softened the pot’s geometric line.

    Contrasts Create Energy

    To create energy and vibrance in a plant combination, designers often contrast leaf shapes. Here, we see narrow blades and broader leaves, spiky swords and rambling ovals. Angela used the coleus’s ruffles to contrast the fuchsia’s smoother wider shapes. The tiny lobelia cheerily rambles into the sharpness of the black mondo grass before giving way to the delicate daisy stems.

    In terms of color, the rich red fuchsia blooms bang against the vivid chartreuse leaves. The fuchsia and impatiens smokey green leaves soften the busy variegation in the flax and daisy. The mondo grass’s blunt blackness pops against the lobelia’s true blue flowers.

    Recalling Colors Bring Harmony

    But to avoid chaos and create a cohesive pattern that’s pleasing, Angela limited the palette to certain colors. Notice at the left how the orange impatiens recall the fuchsia’s orange-red blooms at the center. The coleus’s maroon splotches, the flax’s narrow stripe of carmine, and the fuchsia’s scarlet veination all echo the reddish tones as well.

    Similarly, the bright beam of the salvia’s chartreuse leaves lead the eye down to the potato vine, where the chartreuse repeats. Then the coleus’s leaf margins and the flax’s yellow stripes recall the beaming light. Even the light green band on the pot ties in with the chartreuse tones.

    A Feast for the Eyes

    Overall, I love how this container vibrates with texture and punches with color. Notice how there are spikes at the top and bottom? Notice how the fuchsia blooms cascade downward in layers, bringing the viewer’s eye to the lone unusual color of blue? And how the daisies’ white-lined leaves peek through here and there. Angela’s container is a stunning display. She shows, with some careful choices, how plant combinations really can be an artistic masterpiece.