ASK THE INDOOR GARDENER : Try Ivy Better Suited to Life in Pot

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Rapp is a Los Angeles free-lance writer who, as "Mr. Mother Earth," has written several best-selling books on indoor gardening</i>

QUESTION: I love the look of ivy, and I’ve tried to grow an ivy plant in an east window, a west window and recently a south window, but in each case the plant has slowly withered up, turned brown and died. I’ve tried fertilizing and not fertilizing. Nothing works. Please help!

ANSWER: My guess is you’re trying to grow Hedera ivy, which includes ubiquitous varieties such as English ivy (H. helix). This type of ivy is very difficult to grow indoors.

I recommend that your next ivy plant be a member of the Cissus family, such as a grape ivy (C. rhombifolia). The look is the same, but the difference is that Cissus ivies are extremely easy to grow indoors. Keep your grape ivy in medium light, allow the soil to dry out between waterings, spray with a fine mist of water as often as possible, and fertilize once a month with a good liquid plant food. I guarantee you’ll be delighted with the results.

Can Staghorn Fern Be Mounted on Board?


Q: I recently bought a staghorn fern that came in a six-inch plastic pot. I’ve seen these plants mounted on boards and they look great. Is there any way I can mount this potted staghorn onto a board?

A: Yes. Staghorn ferns, botanically Platycerium bifurcatum, are ephiphytes, or air plants--plants which need not be potted in soil to survive. Hung on a board on a wall, this majestic plant could be mistaken for a hunter’s trophy.

A staghorn fern that’s been raised in a pot will do very well if removed and affixed to practically anything, as long as it gets medium filtered light, and frequent mistings with a water and plant food solution. Another tip: About once a month, take your staghorn fern and whatever it’s attached to and give it a good dunking in the bathtub. Let it soak in cool water overnight if possible.

How to Get Peace Lily to Start Blooming


Q: I have a peace lily that won’t bloom. The leaves are all lovely and green, but in the year and a half I’ve had the plant in the entryway of my house, it hasn’t bloomed once. What should I do?

A: You have two choices: Leave it in your entryway and continue to enjoy the peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) for its lovely foliage, or move it to a spot where it gets lots and lots of light. If you keep the soil moist and feed every other week, it will most likely start producing the beautiful lily-like blooms for which it is coveted.