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Thursday, September 5, 2019 Houseplants

Houseplants That Climb and Trail

I recently made an appointment with a new dentist and when I stepped into his office I was both impressed and appalled by the state of his houseplants. Every one of them was bright green, each leaf looking like it had been individually polished (if my teeth came out half as shiny I’d be a happy camper). But, the plants, which were mostly pothos and philodendron, were so overgrown they were tacked up and around every window and door like a Christmas garland. Not a good look. So as I sat in the waiting room my horticultural OCD started kicking in and I had all I could do not to grab a pair of scissors and start hacking away at the overly long stems.

Although Pothos and Philodendron are naturally vining, when grown indoors they have a tendency to throw out long tendrils that loop around without any shape or form. Instead of letting them just grow out of control, you should keep trimming them back to promote more compact, lusher growth. The plants will look better and you won’t have to drape them around your home.

Climbing houseplants such as Pothos, Philodendron, Arrowhead plant, and Monstera look best when they are grown on a moss pole or trellis (sometimes you’ll find them already trained to a bark support at the garden center). These plants develop aerial roots that sprout from the stems and cling to the support. All you have to do is to trim them back when they grow too tall so they don’t consume your house.

Regular haircuts are also important for houseplants that have a tendency to trail rather than climb. Often sold in hanging baskets, trailers include English ivy, Inch plant, Columnea, and Hoya. Like their climbing cousins, these vigorous trailers can eventually grow too long, creating curtains of thin foliage that just looks messy. If I’m growing any of these plants in a hanging basket I always trim them as soon as their foliage reaches the base of the basket. I want my plants to camouflage their planter, not turn into Cousin Itt.

Of course, the best way to keep climbers and trailers looking good is to give them the bright, indirect light and a good drink whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. Fertilize once a month during the spring and summer, but don’t overdo it--the more food you give them, the faster they’ll grow. Slow, steady growth is best for all of these leafy overachievers.

Written by:
Doug Jimerson

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