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Darker Days Coming

Every house has one a dark corner set well back from any windows and crying out for some live plant material to make it less dreary. In my wife s and my north-facing living room we have just such a spot where a table sits in the corner farthest from the window. Few plants will survive such a low-light environment. I have tried several plants with limited success; a dwarf Janet Craig dracaena survived for some months but over time it lost its vigour and the leaf tips began to yellow; a mini-leafed tradescantia looked good for a couple of months before it deteriorated to the point that it was no longer attractive.

I even used a lucky bamboo in this spot; it seemed to adapt well to the location and I was quite happy with its performance. The plant, however, is rather architectural in form and when the tabletop display was changed, the lucky bamboo no longer complemented the display. A bushier plant with more substance that would be just one component of a larger display as opposed to being the focal point was needed. I turned to one of my houseplants that I have grown for years my heart-leafed philodendron.

My heart-leafed philodendron tumbles down from its perch atop the china cabinet in the living room and I had no trouble finding four or five nice slips. I simply snipped off the ends of some of the long trailing stems, making sure to make the cuts just below leaf axils so that new shots would soon sprout from the leaf axils to replace the stolen slips. Although many people root such slips in water, I find that slips from this particular plant root easily when planted in the soil medium in which they are to grow, so I chose that method.

I selected a four-inch plastic pot that would fit into a decorative container that I wanted to use. After placing a piece of old coffee filter into the bottom of the pot to prevent the soil from washing out of the drainage holes, I filled the pot with good-quality soilless mix. I sprinkled the top of the soil with some insecticidal powder a preventive measure I take with all my houseplants to help stop fungus gnats from getting established in the soil. I also placed an attractive wooden trellis toward the back of the pot, ensuring to pack the soil down around the legs of the trellis to make it secure. I watered the mix and then I planted the slips in front of the trellis and wound them up through it the slips were about 25-30 cm long.

Although the planted pot appeared rather skimpy for a few weeks, the slips soon started to produce new growth and before long an attractive pot of foliage was produced. As the philodendron stems grew I kept twining them up and around the trellis and before long the trellis was hidden from view and only the plant foliage was visible. Although the trellis I chose was only about 25 cm tall, a larger pot with a taller trellis could be chosen the size of the pot and the height of the trellis should be in balance. Heart-leafed philodendrons can grow to be large plants and if a larger foliage display is wanted, a trellis even as tall as 60 cm could be used; I wanted a smaller plant to fit in with the other components of the tabletop display, so I chose a smaller pot and trellis.

The heart-leafed philodendron is happy in this low-light environment and continues to produce new growth. I water it sparingly and fertilize it occasionally, but it is truly an undemanding plant that can be used in very low-light locations to add a bit of life to an otherwise dark and dreary corner.

Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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The heart-leafed philodendron is happy in this low-light environment and continues to produce new growth.

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