It seems like our beloved Cactus & Succulent House has always been an attraction of Belgian Nursery; most people can’t remember a time when it didn’t exist! And the story of this its creation is truly heartwarming, pun intended:
The Cactus & Succulent House was once simply Greenhouse #5, where Belgian used to grow rotating crops of geraniums, cyclamen, and poinsettias. It was just like the other greenhouses: about 5,400 sq. ft. of low benches filled with whichever crop was coming into season. But then Luc and Rosie decided to go on a well deserved vacation to Aruba, where they fell in love with the island’s unique tranquility and dreamt of bringing paradise back to southwestern Ontario. Plans to add cacti displays to the Tropical House were already in the works, but the entire structure would have to be extended or widened or both. So, they looked at greenhouse #5 and said “Yes!” Rosie immediately started to sketch a rough floor plan of her dream desert oasis, and together with Luc they made a solid plan. Then, the renovations began…
Why do we love tropical houseplants so much? Is it because they clean the air, boost our mood, give us a much needed screen break, they’re just so pretty, or all of the above? You probably know our answer, so what about yours?
You’ve probably heard that tropical houseplants can help clean the air in your home, but just in case you haven’t: back in the 1980s, NASA sent 12 ‘common’ tropical houseplants (Snake Plant, Pothos, etc.) into space and studied changes to the air quality within a controlled environment, aka the Space Shuttle. They found that tropical houseplants not only remove toxins and chemicals from the air, they also increase humidity and oxygen levels. So thanks to some highly trained astronauts and scientists, we can all breathe easier, literally! But we don’t just love tropicals for their air purifying skills…
When it comes to easy care and low maintenance houseplants, no one can deny that Pothos should be at the top of the list. These lush, trailing specimens can handle most light situations and even thrive in low levels of sunlight, which means they can go just about anywhere! And they’re incredibly low maintenance; just a deep watering after drying out slightly and an all-purpose fertilizer every 4th watering is all they need to thrive. It’s this easy going lifestyle that makes Pothos the perfect gift for anyone on your list, especially if you’re not sure of their home lighting or watering habits!
Pothos have long, trailing tendrils that are covered with lush heart-shaped foliage that is a bit wider than a Philodendron. The most famous variety is the Golden Pothos which features bright green and golden yellow marbled leaves; other varieties come in solid green, bright chartreuse, or green marbled with creamy white. Their trailing habit makes them perfect for hanging baskets, or they can be trained to grow up a trellis and other vertical support (but you’ll have to encourage it to deny the laws of gravity).
If you’ve been looking for a tropical houseplant that has incredible foliage in a wide range of shapes and textures, look no further than the tropical Fern family. This family is HUGE and spans a wide range of environments and habitats; for this blog we’ll focus solely on the indoor varieties and leave the perennial outdoor garden types for another time. But even when we limit ourselves to tropical ferns, there are still way too many varieties to count so let’s get to it!
Some of our Favourite Tropical Fern Varieties:
Asparagus Fern: Technically not a fern! But it’s perfect for adding texture to any space, with its arching fronds of delicate green foliage. Plumosa Fern is even more delicate and airy!
Bird’s Nest Fern: Striking foliage! The wide leaves unfold from its centre like a green rosette! A close relative is the Crispy Wave Fern, which has a little extra ruffle to its fronds.
Boston Fern: This one’s dominated the Top Houseplants lists for decades! The arching, deep green fronds offer a full and lush appearance for that instant “indoor jungle” look. Kimberly Queen looks similar but with a more upright habit, and Fluffy Ruffle is exactly that – fluffy!
Button or Lemon Button Fern: So cute! Their arching fronds are covered with tiny, rounded leaves to add great texture to your collection. Lemon Button foliage has a slight citrusy fragrance.
Blue Star Fern: Delicate and long foliage with a gorgeous blue-green hue! This one’s perfect for adding a bit of colour interest to your fern collection.
Heart Fern: Low growing but still intriguing! The heart-shaped foliage also goes by the name “tongue fern”.
Kangaroo Fern: Perfect for hanging baskets, the name comes from the arching fronds that look like green kangaroo paws!
Maidenhair Fern: So soft! Delicate and airy only begins to describe these arching fronds of rounded, lush green foliage.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern: These get their name not from their fronds but from their roots! The hairy rhizomes pop up and over the pot’s edge for a soft and tactile treat!
Ribbon Fern: These often have a two-toned effect, offering long fingers of silvery leaves edged with deep green for a beautiful contrast.
Staghorn Fern: Not your typical fern! The giant toothy fronds do indeed look like antlers, so the name makes sense. They can have lower brown fronds that cover the bottom of the pot, which are actually the fern’s “feet” and are used to attach themselves to trees!
Please note: not all varieties will be available at all times as our selection changes constantly and quickly.
Did you know that there are over 800 varieties within in the Ficus family, but only about a dozen or so are available as Tropical Houseplants in North America? And the characteristics within this one plant family are incredibly diverse; if you put a Ficus Benjamina next to a Rubber Plant, chances are you’d never guess that they’re so closely related!
Members of the Ficus family can be found in tropical and sub-tropical areas around the world, primarily Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia; some varieties even grow on mountains! They start out their lives as ephiphytes, using other nearby trees as a type of support as they grow upwards through the forest’s canopy. They have air roots to collect moisture and nutrients from the air, and will often overtake their “host” tree as they get taller and stronger. So those weird shoots you see dangling from your Benjamina are actually air roots that will suck up moisture from the atmosphere!
Ficus are a fascinating species of tropical plant, and here are just some of our favourites:
There is never a dull season at Belgian Nursery. Even when the temperature drops and that weird white stuff appears on the ground again, new plant shipments are arriving in our greenhouses that we simply cannot get in the spring and summer! Every plant has its season to shine, and these beauties just happen to prefer the shorter days of fall and winter to show us what they’re made of:
Holiday cheer comes in many forms: presents wrapped in colourful paper, bright lights and colourful ornaments dazzling our eyes at every turn, and of course all the parties! But when it comes to dazzling blooms, not many can hold a candle to the glorious Amaryllis. Available in stunning shades of red, white, pink, and bicolour combinations, the huge blooms stand atop some of the sturdiest green stalks in the Tropical world. So whether you’re looking for stunning décor for your next party, a gorgeous gift for a wonderful person or even yourself, here are some tips to keep your Amaryllis thriving throughout the season:
Planting Your Bulb(s):
Fill your pot with all-purpose potting soil and place your bulb so that the top third is poking out of the soil – Amaryllis like to be cozy but not suffocated! Be careful not to damage any of the thick roots when planting, and pack the soil lightly so the bulb stays firmly in place.
Choosing the right pot size is very important for Amaryllis! There should be no more than 1” (about 2cm) on either side of the bulb once it’s planted, so if your bulb is 4” across you’ll need a 6” pot. Too large of a pot may mean that your blooms are delayed or may not show up at all. Go for a sturdy pot (with drainage!) to match the sturdy stalk as it reaches for the sky.
Now that your bulb is in its new home, place in bright, indirect light and water in carefully (this is where the drainage hole comes in handy). Allow your Amaryllis to dry out slightly between waterings. Blooms can appear in 6 to 8 weeks, depending on your home environment.
No doubt about it, you just got to admire a plant that can handle anything from dark corners to bright sunrooms no matter its size or growth habit. And the fact that it’s one of the best tropical houseplants for cleaning the air makes it that much more desirable for the home and office. Whenever customers come into the greenhouse looking for an easy care/low maintenance houseplant and they’re not really sure what kind of sunlight it would get, one of our first suggestions is the Philodendron.
Of course, you don’t really need to take our word for how amazing this plant family is; just look on social media! There are thousands of plant enthusiasts and new home gardeners snapping photos of their giant Split Leaf/Monstera specimens, and showing off the green curtain they’ve achieved with a wall of trailing Philodendron varieties. And speaking of trailing varieties, you won’t believe the colour combinations out there! Not just solid green but tones of yellow, chartreuse, even orange and purple!
Whether you go for a small pot or hanging basket of trailing Philodendron or larger pots of Selloum, most varieties can handle any light location from low indirect light to high light, though they do best in medium light and prefer to have protection from long periods of direct sunlight. They all like to dry out slightly between deep waterings, and would appreciate getting a dose of all-purpose fertilizer every 4th watering. Along with the occasional foliage cleaning, that’s really all the care they require to be happy and healthy. When it comes to easy care houseplants, Philodendrons are some of the easiest available.
Still wondering which Philodendron is right for your space? Here are some of our favourites:
Please note: not all varieties will be available at all times as our selection changes constantly and quickly.
Fun Facts about Philodendron!
They can be found in tropical forests of Central America and the West Indies.
Philodendrons are believed to have been discovered by European botanists and naturalists since 1644, but the name Philodendron wouldn’t be used as a means to classify this family until 1829 by Austrian botanist, Heinrich Wilhelm Schott.
There are nearly 500 species of Philodendron, which are then broken into nearly a dozen subspecies including Monstera and Rhapidophora Tetrasperma.
Some Philodendron species happily share their living space with ants. Up in the tropical canopies, the ants use the plants’ roots to help hold their nests together, while the plant absorbs nutrients from the nests and uses the ants as security against other insects.
Many trailing varieties are super easy to grow from cuttings! After trimming the tendrils, which also helps keep the plant full and bushy, take any cuttings that have at least 2 leaf nodes (where new leaves emerge from the stem) and place them cut-side down in potting soil. Water your cuttings lightly (they don’t have roots yet to suck up the moisture) and keep them evenly moist until they’ve rooted and are ready for transplanting.
Whether it’s winter and you’ve got your heating on 24/7, or you need the A/C running to get through the latest summer heat wave, it seems that dry air is just a fact of life. Unfortunately, dry air can bring about or aggravate a lot of health concerns. Yes, many of us will turn on a humidifier when we get sick, but if we can maintain those moisture levels over longer periods it would ease many health issues, including: dry skin, nosebleeds, and even reduce the effects of dust, allergies, and infections. And one of the easiest ways to increase your home’s air quality is with, you guessed it, plants!
Tropical houseplants, to be a bit more specific, since they’re the ones that sit (indoors) loyally by our sides as the seasons change. True, all plants will release moisture into the air through evaporation and transpiration (aka drinking and breathing/sweating – yes plants sweat just like we do) but varieties that originate from tropical zones will add more humidity to a room than those found in deserts. Tropical houseplants also tend to have more surface area, and the higher number of pores on their foliage means more points of escape for water molecules. All of this means improved air quality and better health benefits for you and your family!
But there’s no need to turn your home into a jungle or rainforest (unless that’s one of your life goals, of course). Even just having a few houseplants in your home will help improve your humidity levels. Go for varieties with large/wide foliage, as well as those that already love high humidity and will appreciate getting misted every day. Keeping bowls of water at the base of your plants, or using a pebble tray for your smaller plants, will also increase humidity. To make a pebble tray, fill a saucer or tray with pebbles, small stones, or clay beads. Set your pot on top and make sure that it sits level and won’t tip over! Fill the tray with water until it barely touches the bottom of the pot, and refill once the water evaporates. Easy extra humidity!
Interested in increasing humidity with houseplants? Here are some of our favourites:
Alocasia, Anthurium, Palm (any variety, except Sago or Cardboard), Fern (any variety), Baby Tears, Club Moss, Dracaena (especially wide leaf varieties), Chinese Evergreen, Dieffenbachia, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Rubber Tree, Peace Lily, Pothos, Philodendron (both trailing and upright varieties), Snake Plant, Spider Plant, Ivy (most varieties), and more!
So you’ve filled your house with gorgeous tropical plants, and you’re well on your way to achieving your goals of creating an indoor climate that in no way reflects what is actually happening outside your window (snow? Sleet? Never heard of ‘em.) And yes, plants and people alike can adapt and thrive when placed beyond their natural environments, but there needs to be a balance; your sun-loving citrus probably won’t be happy in your dark basement and will cry for help something changes.
This balance is especially important during the fall and winter months, when our friend the Sun starts working on reduced hours. You’ll probably find that your collection of once lush and lively tropical houseplants will start looking, well, less lively during this time. We’ve all gone from getting 15+ hours of bright, gorgeous sunlight in summer down to not-quite-zero, and whatever UV rays we can get will be considerably weaker. What does all of this mean for our plants? Simply put:
Less Sunlight = Less Energy Consumed = Less Growth = Less Frequent Watering
Tropicals will naturally slow down in the lower light of winter, adjusting to the seasonal changes by allowing their older leaves to yellow/brown or even drop them altogether to conserve energy. We call this phenomenon “having tropical houseplants during a Canadian winter” and it’s completely normal and happens to all of us.Plus, it’s not just less sunlight that houseplants have to deal with; there’s also higher indoor temperatures coupled with lower humidity (baseboard heaters and furnaces keep us cozy warm, but they really do a number on moisture levels). So what can we do?
Adjust your Watering Schedule! (see equation above)
Every home environment is different, so no watering schedule can be set in stone.
Check your plants daily or weekly depending on variety by either testing the soil moisture with your finger (to about your second knuckle) or judge by weight: once your plant has been watered thoroughly and any excess water has been drained away, lift the pot to see how heavy it is. From here you can judge when that particular plant is too light and needs to be watered.
We recommend watering from the top until you see water coming out of the pot’s drainage hole – this not only ensures a thorough watering every time, but will also flush away any unwanted build-up on the roots.
Many tropical houseplants prefer a humid environment (check your varieties to be sure). Plants like ferns and palms will love a daily misting, and all you need is a simple spray bottle.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT USE SOFTENED OR TREATED WATER FOR ANY OF YOUR PLANTS! Using softened water can cause irreparable damage. Use HARD WATER whenever possible.
Light: Rotate plants that are against a wall, in a corner, or tightly grouped for even light distribution.
Temperature: Avoid hot or cold drafts, such as an unheated sunroom, and try not to place your houseplants near heat registers or exterior doors.
Pruning: The best time to prune tropicals is usually spring and/or late fall; check your specific varieties.
There’s just something about the look of foliage in hanging baskets that makes a space…peaceful, I think. It’s as if suspending a tropical houseplant above our heads somehow releases it from the confines of space and time, and allows growth and gravity to do their own thing at their own pace. Plus, it frees up more space on our shelves and tables for more plants so, you know, bonus!
While many tropical varieties do best when positioned firmly on solid ground, there are so many others that love an elevated setting in our homes and offices. For sun-loving succulents, such as the fan-favourites Burro’s Tail and String of Pearls, hanging them directly in a bright south-facing window means they can treat themselves to a sunlight buffet without having to compete with neighbouring plants. If your windows are more on the morning sun/lower light side, or if you’ve got lots of space to hang but without a direct view, there are plenty of tropical varieties that thrive on less sunlight. Have you seen how a Pothos or Philodendron can turn a plain corner into a lush jungle paradise? Trust me, it’s magical!
When it comes to hanging plants, there are a few important factors to consider:
Succulents are, in a word, amazing. They have thousands of varieties within multiple plant families, ranging from tiny Living Stones (lithops) to healing Aloe and woody Jade trees. They even range across temperature zones, and include relatives like the perennial Hen ‘n Chicks (Sempervivum) and annual Purslane (Portulaca). That means that, even in Canada, you can have a Succulent in every part of your home, inside and out! But for the sake of this blog, we’ll keep our focus on the houseplant varieties that are a staple feature in our Cactus & Succulent House.
Succulents, like their prickly cousin the Cactus, are xenophytes which means they have adapted to survive in the harshest and driest climates on the planet. Their name derives from the Latin sucus meaning “juice” or “sap” and, obviously, pertains to their juicy foliage. They use their thick foliage, as well as their stems, to store moisture in order to survive the long periods of drought that often plague their natural habitats. And since the deserts are also very high on the UV Index, they’ve even developed their own sunscreen! Many varieties have a dust-like layer of farina, or epicuticular wax, on their thick skin which helps protect the plant from sunburns. And like their Cacti cousins, Succulents further conserve water by waiting until the cool nights to exhale oxygen into the atmosphere.
If you’ve visited Belgian Nursery any time in the past 25+ years, you may have noticed that we love Cacti. Not just “they’re okay” love or “on the same level as my mom’s noodle casserole” love; we LOVE Cacti to the point that we dedicate over 5,000 square feet to them! And Succulents too, can’t forget about the not-so-prickly buddies, but they’ll get the spotlight in another blog. For now, we’re entering the world of deserts and thorns!
From a strictly botanical point of view, Cacti are some of the most incredible plants in existence. Unlike Succulents that can track their origins from many different plant families, all Cacti are from the same botanical family, Cactaceae. Think about it: a single family has produced hundreds and hundreds of unique specimens that can be found all over the world. And every one of those distant cousins and great-aunt-by-marriage relations is unique in its size, shape, spine production, everything! Oh, and they’ve been around for over 30 million years, give or take a millennium.
Are you looking for something to fill that tiny bit of space left on your kitchen counter, bedside table, or shelf? You may be surprised that those empty spaces are just perfect for beautiful, colourful tropical houseplants! They can add a rainbow of hues, and they’ll even help clean the air in your home! Here are some of our favourite tropicals that may be small, but still make a big statement:
Golden Pothos – This low grower is great for cleaning the air plus it can handle any light condition, whether you go with the traditional green & yellow “Golden” variety or the creamy green “Marble Queen”. Keep it trimmed for counter and tabletop settings, let it hang freely in a hanging basket, or even train it up a vertical support for some high impact! Let your pots dry slightly between deep waterings, and feed with an all-purpose fertilizer monthly.
Snake Plant – Slow growing and very resilient, another star in the Clean Air category that also thrives in any light condition! The upright, rigid green foliage can be edged with golden yellow or striped with lighter green tones, depending on the variety. You can relax knowing that your Snake Plant will keep its tight footprint, perfect for filling in corners and tight spaces. Loves to dry out well between deep waterings.
Fittonia – Also called Nerve Plant for its brightly coloured veins that stand out from other greenery. Its low mounding habit makes it a perfect addition to flat surfaces and hanging pots, and it’s a favourite for terrarium collections! Easy to trim to keep a bushy shape.
Rex Begonia – If you’re looking to make a statement, this one’s for you! The colours and patterns are incredibly unique, with some boasting 3 or more colours! Loves the humid life, so bright bathrooms and kitchens are perfect for them.
Polka Dot Plant – Simply adorable with its leaves all spotted with pink, red, or white dots. The brighter the light, the more intense their colour! Let them flower or keep trimmed for a nice bushy mound.
Croton – Wide-leafed Crotons show off colourful veined leaves, while a smaller variety features cute yellow spots. Bright tropical colours couldn’t be easier!
Peperomia – Offers a wide range of foliage shapes and colours. The thick, succulent-like leaves make this an excellent choice for easy care in small containers.
English Ivy – A classic choice for baskets! Let these wispy-looking trailing vines grow long or trim them back to keep full and bushy. Prefers a humid location, like a bathroom or kitchen.
This is a list of a few of our favourite varieties (please note that our selection changes constantly and quickly, so the varieties listed may not be available at all times).
Versatile! Striking! Easy care! Clean air! These are just some words that pop into our heads when we think of Sansevieria, aka Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. Their foliage comes in a wide range of heights, shapes, colours, and colour combinations, but one of their most appealing qualities may be that they can handle just about any type of light condition. So if you’ve been searching for a houseplant for your dimly lit office/basement/wherever, go for a Snake Plant!
Not only can Snake Plants handle very low light conditions, they’re typically slow-growers (especially in low light) so they have a very controlled growth habit. This makes them the perfect fit for an empty corner or on a desk in your office, since their rigid foliage doesn’t take up any more real estate than the pot it’s in. If you do have a bright, sunny area, try to place your Snake Plant away from the window, since too much direct sunlight can burn their foliage.
The term “easy care” was mentioned earlier, and this is not an exaggeration. Sansevieria prefer to dry out very well between deep waterings, almost to the point of a cactus or succulent; they can even handle being planted in Cactus Soil! And that’s it, that’s the level of care they need. Did we mention that there’s no need to prune? Snip off the rare flower stem as it appears and that will be the only time you’ll need your pruners. You can give them an all-purpose fertilizer every 4th watering (remember that you’ll be extending the amount of time between waterings during the lower light of fall and winter) but the rest of the time they’re quite happy to just sit in their pot looking gorgeous!
Believe it or not, the humble tulip has a long history filled with intrigue, theft, get-rich-quick schemes, a royal birth, and even the liberation of an entire country! Those are some pretty huge events, and all thanks to a small, unassuming bulb:
As much as we love our gorgeous spring bulbs (the Glads, the Dahlias, the Calla Lilies, and all the rest) their beauty comes at a price: they cannot overwinter in our gardens. But that’s okay, because a little effort now will mean you can enjoy them again next year! Here’s how:
Note: For the sake of space (and a certain writer’s sanity), all varieties in question will be referred to as “tender bulbs” or just “bulbs”, even though most of them are corms/tubers/rhizomes/non-bulb beings.
What to Lift: You’ll need to lift any and all of your tender bulbs before the hard frost hits, including Dahlia, Gladiola, Calla Lily, Freesia, Anemone (not the Perennial/Japanese varieties), Ranunculus, Tuber Begonia, Tuberose, Caladium, and Canna Lily.
Fall is a fantastic time for planting, so take advantage of the cooler temperatures and plan(t) ahead for next spring! Many of your favourite spring bloomers, including Daffodils, Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, and Allium, arrive as bulbs in early fall and need to be planted before the deep frosts arrive. Fall bulbs need 12-16 weeks of cold weather before they can flower, and each variety has its own “temperature gauge” that tells them when the soil is warm enough to burst through to the open air.
Autumn! An amazing season filled with gorgeous colours, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin spiced everything. While the cooler temperatures are a pleasant change from the summer heat, your tropical houseplants will need to spend their days and nights indoors until next summer. Here are our top tips for transitioning your trops:
When: We like to use Labour Day as a reminder to bring all of our tropicals indoors, though you can bring them in any time before the mercury drops below 10°C. This is especially important for those night-time temperatures that can potentially damage or stress your plants.
After these long, hot and dry days of summer, some of our gardens and planters may be looking a bit exhausted. Fall brings us shorter days, more frequent rainfalls (hopefully), and bearable temperatures for working in the flowerbeds. Now is the time to remove those pesky weeds, fill in some bare spots and replace those plants that just aren’t right. For your planters, consider adding some fall flowers like Ornamental Cabbage & Kale or Garden Mums. While these varieties are not hardy for our winters, they’ll last well into the fall and even handle some light frosts.
Consider adding some varieties of perennials that are fall or even late-fall blooming to support your backyard pollinator friends (like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds) so they have enough food for the upcoming winter season. Here are just a few great options that come to mind:
Browse through the Perennial Center to see what is blooming for inspiration OR I’m sure a wander through your neighborhood can also be a great inspiration!
Garlic is another fall task. Even though garlic can be planted in spring or fall, I find that when it’s planted in the fall it produces better heads with more intense flavour! Start by picking a spot in your vegetable or herb garden, divide the head of garlic into cloves and plant them in a row about 3 inches deep. Harvest in mid to late summer and enjoy!
When it comes to mulching your garden, there’s really no downside! And with a wide range of mulching options to choose from, you can personalize the look of your gardens while giving your plants all the benefits that mulching can provide, including:
What could be better than creating a stunning bouquet that you have grown yourself? Some of the most memorable bunches of flowers I have received are hand-picked by my children (true, at times they are mostly dandelions, but still!). My favourite hand-made bouquet has been a simple vase filled with Garlic Chives – they have white blooms that last for weeks!
Use bold blossoms like Peonies and Iris or tall spiky flowers like Delphiniums, Veronica and Lavender, then use delicate flowers like Scabiosa or Lady’s Mantle to fill in or frame your centrepieces. Create designer masterpieces with “in season” flowers inspired by an afternoon in your garden.
Try different textures like Rosemary, Lady’s Mantle, and Celosia. Remember that some of the standard plants in your garden can help fill in your creations as well, like adding a few Hosta leaves for a bold foliage feel. Herbs are also a fun addition – beyond adding just flowers and greenery you will also be adding delicious aromas!
But the absolute best part of having a cut flower garden is that you can share it with everyone! A beautiful vase filled with a home-grown, handmade bouquet would make a spectacular hostess gift.
Steps and Tips:
The best time to cut your flowers is either before the morning dew has dried or in the early evening.
Cut above a node or leaf to let even more blooms grow for future bouquets.
Place stems in lukewarm water as soon as you cut them.
Prior to placing your cut flowers in their arrangements, cut their stems on a slight angle and place in a vase of warm water.
To say that indoor gardening has become a trend over the past few years would be an understatement; obsession might be a better term for it! It seems that more and more Canadian homes are rejecting the cold, white landscapes that cover our winters for lush, tropical jungles that fill their living rooms (and every other room) with vibrant colours. We may not be able to ignore winter, but at least this way we can still get some clean air!
Summer is finally here, and we can all enjoy the bright sunshine and hot temperatures on our patios, balconies, pool decks, and backyards. It’s also a prime time to enjoy all our planters and garden spaces, though with the excess heat and humidity we will all have to add a few more items to our gardening “To Do” lists. Here are some of our top tips to keep those beautiful annuals hanging baskets and bedding plants looking their best throughout the summer!
Well, we’ve made it. It took a lot of hard work, planning, and table space, but we are finally ready to put all those adorable seedlings outside…almost. You’ve been so patient with them, they just need a little more time before they can grow big and strong outside (and you can reclaim your tables and shelves!).
When it comes to Tropical Houseplants, we often go for beautiful foliage and texture that can be enjoyed in our homes year round. And then there are those bloomers that just make you stop in your tracks and say “WOW!” and you don’t care if it says “high maintenance” or “extra attention” because you just have to have it in your life! And chances are you can, so long as you can give it that extra bit of attention and care to get those gorgeous blooms to pop. Tip: Most flowering tropicals love the sun, so giving them a bright spot with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight every day will make your job a lot easier. And since our northern climate isn’t Florida or the Carolinas, you can expect your flowering tropicals to take a well-deserved rest through the fall and winter.
Have your green thumbs been itching to get outdoors and into the dirt? Ours too, like they do every year once that sunshine hits us in the face. And yes, we’ve all heard that Victoria Day weekend is when we can start gardening again, but remember that Mother Nature is in charge of the schedule and some years are last frost can be as late as early June!
Did you know that there are over 100 different varieties within in the Dracaena family? Or that their name originates from the Greek for ‘dragon’? They are one of the most popular species of tropical houseplants we carry, not only because of their wide range of varieties but because they are some of the easiest houseplants to care for! They can handle any light condition, especially indirect/filtered light locations (too much bright, direct sunlight can cause leaf burn). Plus, they’re some of the best Clean Air houseplants around, which means fresh air for all your indoor spaces! The only place a Dracaena may not thrive is inside a closet, and even then they might find a way to do it.
Experienced gardeners know a simple truth: in order to have the best crop possible, you must choose which of your precious plants will live, and which have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you’ve been watching these adorable seedlings grow for a few weeks and you may now find yourself, well, a bit attached to them. However, sometimes you must be cruel to be kind. After all, this is the main reason you seeded extras of your varieties, knowing that some wouldn’t germinate at all and others would have to be thinned from the crop. Plus, some of your taller varieties may need to be “potted up” into slightly larger pots, which means less space on your seeding station which means less plants so…*sigh* it must be done.
When you think of the words “exotic”, “graceful”, and “tropical”, what plant comes to mind? Your brain immediately went to an orchid, didn’t it? The Phalaenopsis Orchid, if we’re being specific, right? Guessing games are so much fun! Read More
What do you think of when you hear “flower bulbs”? Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, the usual. Now think of “Spring Bulbs” and what comes to mind? Tulips, Daffodils…well, yes, those all flower in spring, but they have to be planted in the fall. We’re talking about bulbs you plant in spring to get the gorgeous blooms anytime from spring through fall, depending on the variety. Yes, many are tubers, rhizomes, corms, and other non-bulbs; the point is that they’re all oh so pretty! Tip: Some will need to keep their foliage after they’re done flowering to absorb enough energy for next year’s flowers. Oh, and they all need a sunny location, at least 4-6 hours, to generate those blooms, and their tubers/corms/etc will need to be dry before going into winter storage.
At last! You have been so patient, getting all your supplies together, making sure you have the proper soil mix, and setting up your seeding station for all your future little sprouts. And now it’s time to put all that preparation to good use and get dirty!
Remember that mountain of information on your seed packets? Remember the all-important “Sowing/Start Indoors” date? No, no need to panic, you’ve still got plenty of time to double-check your dates. For vegetables, most of them want to be planted 4 – 8 weeks before the last frost, except for onions, leeks, and eggplants which take 10, and celery and celeriac prefer 12 weeks of cozy indoor growing. Flowering plants, both annual and perennial varieties, can vary but usually hit that 4 – 8 week window, as well.
Oh, one more thing! If you’ve got specific numbers in mind as to how many of each plant you want to end up with, make sure you sow a few extra of each variety just in case. This goes back to that tricky germination rate; some seeds just don’t take very well, no matter what you do to coax them out of hiding. So it’s better to have extra and then thin out the weaker ones later to get the best plants, but more on that in Part 4!
No visit to Belgian Nursery is complete without exploring our Cactus & Succulent House. The 5,400 sq. ft. greenhouse, which had previously been used to grow geraniums, has been filled with cacti, succulents, aloe, agave, and other desert dwellers since the 1990s! It’s been a source of pride for all of us, especially owners Rosie and Luc without whom this desert oasis would never have existed. Read More
We are of the opinion that there is no such thing as having too many succulents, as you can clearly see from our Cactus & Succulent House. They’re adorable, they thrive on near-criminal neglect, and best of all they are ridiculously easy to propagate! All you need is a pair of sharp, clean scissors and some newspaper and your collection can expand beyond your wildest dreams!
Before you dive into the propagating steps below, here’s a helpful hint for most trailing succulents, especially the popular Burro’s Tail: Make sure your plant is DRY before cutting! We’re talking bone-dry, to the point of soil breaking away from the pot DRY. The plant is more likely to have a death-grip on its leaves in this state, which means you can end up with something more than just a bare stick.
So, you’ve got your seeding station all set up, all your containers are washed and sterilized, and you’ve memorized the seed catalogue. Time to start seeding, right? Well, not quite yet.
Yes, it’s true that winter and early spring is a great time to start your seeds indoors, but it really depends on the varieties you’ve chosen. Some vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and most members of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.) need the extra few weeks indoors to get a head start on the season.
Having a piece of desert beauty in the home and office is something very special. We are reminded of dry, hot weather, otherwise known as the opposite of a Canadian winter. But if these plants are so alien to our climate, can they really survive and thrive in the average home north of the 49? Of course they can! Just follow these basic guidelines and you’ll be living in a desert oasis in no time:
You look outside and everything’s cold and snowy, and you get excited because it’s almost Indoor Seeding time! Starting your seeds indoors is cost-effective and gives you more control over what products are used on your plants – perfect for anyone looking to make their garden pesticide-free.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, which is very easy to do right now (these cold, grey days are just begging for a burst of green!) Seeding is like trying a new recipe: we have to get the right materials, check the ingredients list, and follow the steps in the right order if we want to enjoy a delicious treat or, in this case, healthy new plants. So let’s start with Part 1: Materials & Ingredients.
The trend of having tropical houseplants in the home and office has grown exponentially over the years, and we’re not all that surprised! Who could say “no” to the beauty of an Orchid, the incredible arching foliage of a ZZ Plant, or any of the health benefits that come with caring for indoor houseplants?
But now it’s winter, and some of our tropical friends might not be looking as lush and lively as they did just a few months ago. We like to call this “having tropical houseplants during a Canadian winter” and the upside is that you’re not alone in your concerns. We’ve all gone from getting 15+ hours of bright, gorgeous sunlight in summer down to, well, not quite 0 but the few hours of sun we do get is considerably weaker. What does all of this mean for our plants? Simply put:
Less Sunlight = Less Energy Consumed = Less Growth = Less Frequent Watering
Tropicals will slow down in the lower light of winter, but won’t go fully dormant like the perennials out in the gardens. And along with less sunlight, houseplants also have changes with indoor temperatures and humidity levels to deal with – the use of baseboard heaters or furnaces may help keep us warm, but they also lower humidity levels. So what can we do to help our foliage friends get through to the light and warmth of spring and summer?
The shortest day of the year is quickly approaching, but don’t worry – it means that the days will start getting longer very soon! And while it will take a few months for us to get back to the warm, sunny days of spring, we can help bring a little nature indoors with some low-light tolerant houseplants. Check out our list of Top 10 low light tropicals below (bonus: they all help clean the air, too!)
There’s nothing like a bird’s sweet song to help blast away the winter blues, and it’s so easy to bring their delightful voices to your own backyard or balcony. Whether you purchase a bird feeder or simply scatter seeds over the snow, our feathered friends will be grateful for the winter snack. You can even create your own simple feeder with pine cones, peanut/nut butter and seeds! And a bird feeder isn’t just a great gift for the birds, but for anyone on your holiday list, from kids, grandparents, and even teachers!
Cacti and Succulents have been very trendy for years now, and no wonder! They ask for so little and yet offer us so much through their amazing array of shapes, sizes, colours, and even style of spines (those prickly things that make a cactus, well, a cactus). There are thousands of species and varieties in existence, and while we here at Belgian would love to have one of each to call our very own, even our 5,400 sq. ft. Cactus & Succulent House isn’t big enough to hold all of them! Even so, we are able to showcase many, many varieties in our selection of individual pots and dish gardens, as well as in our display gardens.
As we travel into the cooler days of fall, we all notice that the days are getting shorter and the sun is setting earlier. Our indoor houseplants are also feeling the need to adjust to these changes. As days shorten, they will slow their growth and water requirements, and it’s up to us to adjust the frequency of our watering schedules. We can also give some varieties a trim to further help with their adjustment.
1. Let your plants tell YOU when they need water. Monitor its soil moisture and water when needed, rather than falling back on the old standard of watering once a week. Watering will vary as the seasons change (more often in summer, less often in winter). Read More
It’s no secret that there are lots of benefits to container gardening. Growing perennials in pots & planters is a new idea to some gardeners, but it is a great way to change up your containers and add some new ideas. And with the right care, perennials in containers can be overwintered and grown again the following year! Here are a couple of things that you should always keep in mind when planning potential perennial planters: Read More
Vegetable gardening can be a fun, healthy summer tradition – and it can also help take a bite out of your grocery bills! Planting thrifty, productive crops is a great way to supplement your family’s diet with delicious garden-fresh produce right from your own backyard, with no cashiers between harvest and table. There are a lot of great strategies for getting big yields on a shoestring budget. Try these simple tips to fill your plate with freshness and maximize your return on investment. Read More
Bees help us, a lot! As much as 3/4 of the food we eat depends on bees for pollination. And now more than ever, our bee friends could use a hand in return. This can be as easy and fun as potting up a planter or two, or scattering a few wildflower seeds in an unused section of your yard. Whatever the scale of your garden, we gardeners can make a big difference for our little buzzing buddies! Read More
For most perennials, whether you cut them back in the fall verses spring is completely up to you. Before you start, determine which season gives you more time for working in the garden. And consider what may provide winter interest: many taller grasses or perennials with seed heads atop sturdy stems can look very attractive with frost/snow on them, even providing a place for wildlife, like birds, to rest. Read More
It’s no secret that there are lots of benefits to having plants in your home. Not only do they look great, but many houseplants can make your home a healthier place to live! In 1989, a NASA study found that common indoor plants naturally purify the air in your home by removing harmful toxins such as formaldehyde (which are found in carpets, upholstery, glues, paint and more), benzene (plastics, synthetic fibers, rubber), and trichloroethylene (in paint removers, rug cleaning solution, adhesives, etc.). Read More