Deb Babcock: Solutions to problem areas

For high and tight spaces, use trailers and climbers

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

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Climbers and trailers needing:

■ Direct sunlight:

Emerald feather (Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri)

Grape ivy (Cissus rhombifolia)

Italian bellflower (Campanula isophylla)

Paper flower (Bougainvillea x buttiana, B. glabra)

Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea)

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Kangaroo vine (Cissus antarctica)

Sickle thorn (Asparagus falcatus)

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis)

■ Indirect light:

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thumbergia alata)

Black-gold philodendron (P. melanochrysum)

Burgundy philodendron (P. ‘burgundy’)

Columnea (Columnea microphylla)

Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis/Hatiora gaertneri)

English ivies (Hedera helix)

Fiddle-leaf philodendron (P. bipennifolium)

Heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens)

Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana)

Mother-of-thousands (Saxifraga stolonifera)

Purple velvet plant (Gynura aurantiaca)

Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)

Swiss-cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)

■ Shade:

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata Bostoniensis)

Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)

Golden pothos (Epipremnum aurem)

Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris)

Wax plant (Hoya carnosa)

— Trailers and climbers: A description of some of my Steamboat hiking buddies.

For high and tight places in your home, though, climbing vines and pretty foliage trailing from a hanging basket enliven a humdrum space. Tall windows, high ledges and narrow nooks often are problem spaces that trailers and climbers can turn into a refreshing point of interest.

Trailers and climbers also can be used to camouflage the unsightly parts of other houseplants such as indoor trees that have become bare at their base with age. In addition, collections of these plants in front of windows provide privacy while filtering light into the room.

As with many kinds of houseplants, trailers and climbers are most attractive when placed in groupings. They also are healthier, sharing collective humidity built up by the proximity of other plants. All plants in a grouping should have similar watering, temperature and light requirements.

One of the delights as well as problems with climbers and trailers is their tendency to grow long stems. At times, you’ll need to snip off new shoots as well as the older, sparsely leafed stems to encourage fuller, denser foliage. Cut back to a spot on the stem, leaving a node where a new leaf and shoot will grow.

Know the hot spots in your home when placing houseplants. If you have Entran floor heating, you might want to place your plant on a stand to avoid warming its soil and roots too much. With other types of heating, the areas near the ceiling are often the warmest, which is not good for some types of ivies, which will shrivel up and die. Be sure to check the temperature, heat and light requirements of your plants before buying to ensure they will be happy in the space you’ve selected for them.

Many trailers and climbers can be trained to grow upward, downward and sideways over arches, partitions, ledges and windows. This can create an eye-catching indoor-garden effect. When choosing support structures for your plants, seek sturdy stakes that are decorative and of a material that can withstand the wet soil environment of your potted plant. Bamboo poles, stakes wrapped in moss (for plants that root along their stems), and even dark green plastic netting all will attractively support your plant.

One of the easiest trailing plants to grow is English ivy (Hedera helix), which comes in a variety of colors and leaf shapes. It climbs, trails and tolerates dry air as well as poor light and lower temperatures. It’s great for north-facing windows.

Another pretty basket-plant is the Italian bellflower (Campanula isophylla), with its profusion of white or blue star-shaped flowers, which can handle cool temperatures but needs a brightly lit room.

The popular spearhead philodendron (Philodendron domesticum) has 2-foot-long, arrow-shaped leaves and climbs to as much as 4 feet when trained on a stake.

Grape ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) grows quickly, to as much as 3 feet per year, and will attach itself to all kinds of surfaces. This is an ideal plant for training against netting along a partition wall or over a ledge.

Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the CSU Extension Office in Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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