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Jon VanZile

Jon's Houseplants Blog


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Yay! Ginger!

Monday March 31, 2014

Zingiber.Flickr.Maja-Dumat.jpgI'm clearly into the tropical plants, and it's a bonus when you can also eat them. In this case, we're growing the common ginger, which is widely available as a rhizome in grocery stores all over the world and used to make the cuisines of Asia and India delicious. Like many rhizomatous plants, it's actually easy to sprout and grow out, and yes, you can harvest your own ginger.

Photo © Maja Dumat/Flickr

Mauritius Hemp

Monday March 31, 2014

foetida.flickr.morad.jpgThis is a cool plant native to the Caribbean. It has various common names, but is most often called the Mauritius hemp plant (unrelated to that other famous hemp plant). In fact, it's closer to a succulent and grows similar to an agave, except it's friendlier and not quite so dauntingly massive.

Photo © Morad/Flickr

Bijilia: Living rocks from South Africa

Monday March 31, 2014

I think the "living rocks" succulents are pretty awesome, so I was excited to add a profile of the Bijilia genus to the page. They are, however, extremely rare in cultivation and I was unable to find a picture (at least one I could use--because apparently people who photograph Bijilia are not the same kind of people who also release rights to their photography to awesome websites like this one). Anyway, read on and imagine: small, rock-like, funky.

The Rafflesia

Sunday March 30, 2014

rafflesia.flickr.shankar.jpgI know I've covered a lot of rare and unusual plants...but I think I can say that this is the rarest and most unusual of them all (and, incidentally, probably the one you'll never actually see growing). The Rafflesia genus are sometimes known as corpse plants. They are unusual in every way. They have the largest flowers in the world; they are true parasites; and their flowers stink like rotting meat to attract the flies that pollinate them. Go figure.

Photo © Flickr/Shankar


A truly rare fern

Friday February 28, 2014

Psilotum.Chad-Husby.Flickr.jpgThis is my last weird fern (at least for the time being). This interesting and kind of amazing plant is a Psilotum fern. These resemble some of the most primitive plants known, lacking even conventional roots, but recent studies have shown they are actually a regression of a more modern fern. There are only two species in this genus, but they have a surprisingly wide distribution. In some parts of the United States, one of the species is something of a pest plant for greenhouse keepers. The other, however, is a very rare and very lovely specimen plant. These are suited for expert cultivation.

Photo © Flickr/Chad Husby


Jalapeno inside? Why yes...

Friday February 28, 2014

Jalapeno.Flickr.Square-foot-hyrdoponics.jpgTaking a break from the weird, I wanted to get into the spicy. I love a good jalapeno--I do a lot of cooking, and generally have a little pile of jalapeno peppers in the refrigerator somewhere. I find a surprising number of dishes can be perked up with a little pepper. But growing them inside? Yes, it can be done. Although most people obviously grow jalapeno outside, they actually aren't terribly difficult to grow inside.

Photo © Flickr/Square Foot Hydroponics

Ensete: sort of like bananas

Friday February 28, 2014

Ensete-ventricosum.Flickr.pris.sears.jpgMy weakness for heavily tropical plants includes bananas, of course, so I was intrigued to run across a specimen of these "Abyssinian black bananas." They are non-edible, but a really beautiful plant with reddish coloration and a much lower growth habit than bananas, making them more suitable to grow in containers inside (although they too will eventually outgrow your growing area).

Photo © Flickr/pris.sears

Drynaria: It's exotic fern time!

Friday February 28, 2014



So this series of posts coming up will feature a few plants, including these unusual Drynaria ferns, that you might never have heard of and will likely never grow. I know, I know. Not every useful. But indulge me a fondness for the exotic, beautiful and difficult. One of the reasons I love botanical gardens so much is the opportunity to see plants that I might not have the means to grow myself. I hope these profiles will fill the same desire for some of you.

Photo © Flickr/Ahmad Fuad Morag

Goniophlebium: a beautiful epiphyte

Thursday January 30, 2014

Goniophlebium.Flickr.C-S-M.jpgIf you ever--and I mean EVER--have the chance to visit a nursery that specializes in tropical, epiphytic ferns, jump on it. While orchids get all the glory, epiphytic ferns are no slouches. These beautiful plants are hard to grow, and you might not have everything you need to do it right, but you can still read about one of them, the Goniophlebium, here.

Photo © Flickr/C-N-S

Dancing Ladies Wanted

Wednesday January 29, 2014

Glomma-wintii.Flickr.Rantz.jpgYes, yes, I know. Cheeky headlines abound. But it's also true: today's profile is the Globba genus, a tropical genus of about 70 plants with a most unusual flowering habit. The flowers seem to spring from bracts that hug the reed-like stalks kind of like, well, dancing ladies. These are tropical plants, and so therefore sort of rare, but still very interesting and they can be overwinted by digging the rhizome.

Photo © Flickr/Rantz

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