gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

It’s the middle of January. Snow has been falling lightly every day for most of the day. The evergreens are trimmed with ermine and the branches of the trees show off their winter splendor with outlines of white.

Gardening at this time of the year is minimal and it’s good to have the time to pay attention to houseplants. One of my favorites is a Sago Palm, which is not a palm at all but a Cycad, native to the Far East. In our climate it can only be grown as a houseplant. It is easy to grow, adjusting to a wide range of temperature, humidity and light conditions. If placed in front of a window, where it will get good light, it should be turned slightly every couple of days, to maintain its beautiful shape. Wait until the soil feels dry before watering. Over watering will cause root rot. It is a very slow-growing plant which is good for decorating. Somehow, a geranium seed planted itself in the pot and is growing, side-by-side, with the Sago Palm. They seem very happy with each other, and the loose shape of the geranium complements the more structured shape of the Sago, so I let them grow together.

A friend asked for advice for growing her gardenia plant. Gardenias are delicate and need special care. They like cool temperatures, cooler than is comfortable for our homes. (60-62 degrees), and can’t tolerate the dry heat of winter heating systems. Neither do they like too much moisture. Spraying them with a fine mist every other day and keeping them in the coolest, unused bedroom is the best treatment. Add peat moss to a slightly acidic soil (coffee grounds help) and keep them well drained by placing the plants on a pebble-filled tray to keep excessive water from being absorbed in the soil.


The Sago Palm shares its space with a geranium.

Are you wondering how to care for your poinsettia? Place it in indirect sunlight for at least six hours a day. Room temperature should be 68-70 degrees. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. Fertilize your plant after the blooming season, not when it is blooming. Keep it away from drafts or heat sources. Remove the plant from its decorative container when watering to be sure it’s not standing in water. Allow to drain completely before returning to outer pot.

Enjoy looking at the gardening catalogues that are showing up in your mailbox these days. Listen to Mahler while you plan next season’s outdoor garden. ~