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THE INDOOR GARDENER : When Is an Outdoor Plant an Indoor Variety?

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: Please forgive the stupid question, but what exactly is an “indoor plant”? I’d like to start an indoor garden, but I’m not sure what will grow indoors. Is there any way to tell other than to trust the salesperson at the nursery?

ANSWER: First of all, yours is an excellent question. Simply stated, an “indoor” plant is one that, out of the hundreds of thousands of species and varieties that make up the plant kingdom, will adapt to living indoors confined in a pot; a plant that will accept the relatively constant conditions of an indoor environment, as opposed to the unfettered room for root growth and the changes of season that plants get outdoors. Horticulturists and botanists and just plain indoor gardeners have discovered which plants can make this transition from the wild and which can’t.

Based upon my own 30-year experience as an indoor gardener, there are about 200 plants that can grow indoors, provided they receive the proper care with regard to light, water, fertilizing, humidity, etc. I strongly recommend you get a good book on indoor gardening and read it, then head for the nursery where I’m sure you’ll be able to trust the salesperson if it’s a nursery that’s been in business for three years or more.

What Are the Berries on Chinese Evergreen?

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Q: My Chinese evergreen plant just grew a whole potful of red, yellow and orange berries! They looked really beautiful for awhile, but now they’re starting to shrivel up. Are these berries seeds, and if so, how can I plant them to get more Chinese evergreens?

A: When a Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema spp.) blooms, it can be a most colorful and spectacular sight. And yes, inside each berry is a seed, which will produce another Chinese evergreen plant.

Begin by filling a tray or tray-like container with a commercially available rooting mixture such as vermiculite. Sow the seeds about a half-inch deep and an inch apart. Keep the tray in a bright, warm location and seedlings should soon appear. Separate the larger, stronger seedlings and put them into two-inch diameter pots with a mixture of half potting mix and half peat moss. Cover each pot with a plastic bag, and keep them in a bright warm spot, watering daily for about two weeks. At that point you can remove the plastic “greenhouse” and let the plants grow on their own.


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