By Donna Mallen, for Let's talk Plants! May 2023.
The Houseplant Guru – Lisa Eldred Steinkopf
It’s a pretty sure bet that everyone who attended our April Zoom meeting featuring Lisa Eldred Steinkopf immediately began looking around their houses with new eyes, seeking out a spot where a houseplant (or many houseplants) could be living, and writing out a shopping list.
Ms. Steinkoph’s enthusiasm, bolstered by beautiful photographs of plants that she actually grows indoors at her home in Michigan, is contagious. An indoor and outdoor plant-lover since childhood, and professional horticulturist as an adult, she has studied and perfected the art of successfully growing houseplants. She shared her accumulated expertise with us, broken down into clear, basic guidelines and illustrated by photos of problems and their solutions.
Equipped with her simplified requirements for keeping our plants alive, healthy and blooming, we were inspired to bring our plants indoors, where we can enjoy them throughout the day, year-round. Looking at her examples, we were encouraged to expand our preconceived boundaries of traditional houseplants and successfully add some surprises to our indoor plant repertoire.
Her newest book, released last year, Bloom: The Secrets of Growing Flowering Houseplants Year-Round, expands on the information she was able to give us in the short time of our meeting. To assist yourself in launching into your new-found passion for houseplants, Bloom would serve as an excellent starting point, as well as a permanent reference book, with its beautiful photos and concise, yet very thorough, coverage of the information you need to maximize your care of a wide range of plants.
A few of the many tips and ideas she imparted to us at the meeting were:
Providing the appropriate light for the needs of your particular houseplant is critical. You must determine whether the amount of light it will receive in the place you intend to position it will match its needs, either from windows (wash them and open the blinds!) or supplemental lighting. Use a timer – either a plug-in device or internet app.
Too much light? In the glaring sun of a south-facing window, your plant can get sunburned. Move that African Violet out of the sun. Consider using a light meter.
Fertilize regularly, ¼ strength every time you water
Do not let your plants dry out while they are flowering.
To provide effective humidity, in addition to regular watering, do not rely on misting, which is insufficient. One solution - use a double saucers – a large on the bottom with pebbles and water in it, plus a smaller one on top that matches the size of the plant’s pot.
Among the easiest houseplants to grow
Gesneriads, including African Violet (blooms all year) and Primulina. Keep evenly moist in an East window, under lights, and Phalaenopsis Orchids.
Tillandsias are commonly grown as houseplants
They’re not “air” plants – they need water. Soak and drain once a week. To stay alive, they need light.
Cacti and Succulents as houseplants
Adenium, Ceropegia, Epiphyllum, Cleistocactus winteri, Euphorbia milli (Crown of Thorns), Rhipsalis pilocarpa. Her book also mentions two “Carrion Flowers” - Lifesaver Plant (Huernia zebrina and Starfish Flowers (formerly known as Stapelia) - but I would think these are for seriously addicted houseplant lovers.
You can have year-round blooms in your house by using these four plants
Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid) (keep near light, not under light)
Crown of Thorns (Yes – blooms 365 days a year as a houseplant.)
Hoya (they naturally drip honeydew, so don’t hang over furniture.)
Insects and Other Problems (See book for more thorough answers)
Scale – First you see shiny/sticky honeydew residue, then little brown dots.
Wipe plant with rubbing alcohol on Q-Tip or paper towel. Rinse with water, or use insecticidal soap.
Mealybug - Indicators are honeydew and fluffy threads – same treatment as for Scale.
Powdery Mildew – Neem oil cures it overnight.
Fungus Gnats – Flying insects – use yellow sticky trap or Mosquito Bits. Plant is too wet.
Rotting bromeliads – Usually not enough light, rather than too much water.
Thrips – Very tiny. Signs are spilled pollen, dried up flower petals, dead leaves. Remove flowers. Wipe leaves. Apply insecticidal soap, Neem oil, horticultural oil.
Yellow leaves – If only 1 or 2, normal aging. If more, you are over- or under-watering. Repot.