Is this enough light for Philodendron hederaceum?

LoBroNovember 21, 2013

I'd like to dress up this ledge that separates my living room from my dining room with something green and viney. I bought these self-watering window boxes (and some potting mix made specifically for self-watering containers to allow more wicking) to limit the number of times I have to drag the ladder out of the garage to water whatever I plant up there. (I'm currently hunting for a cool looking 8 foot wooden ladder that is attractive enough to prop against the wall in the living room, like a vintage library ladder except without rollers. So far all the ones I've found are meant for hanging magazines or blankets and aren't safe to actually climb, so that could take a while.) I love the look of Heart Leaf Philodendron, but I don't have much experience with houseplants and I'm not sure whether I have enough light in this spot for it to thrive. As you can see, the ledge has windows on either side of it, but they are all about 12 feet away. We also have solar screens on our windows, so this is about as bright as the rooms ever get. The dining room window faces SE and the living room windows face NW. These pictures were taken at noon without any lights on, but this room stays about the same brightness most of the day. Am I asking for trouble by planting P hederaceum up there? Is there another low-maintenance, beginner-friendly, low-light tolerant vine that might be better in this situation? Thanks in advance for any suggestions or input!

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Here it is from the opposite angle.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 2:24PM
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Very nice looking house indeed!

I think you should be fine a heart leaf philo, although i may suggest a solid green one instead of a variegated one. I have the cultivator "brazil", which is varitaged and I had some issues growing in that low of light. It didn't die, just seemed to elongate and reach too much and had trouble putting out new growth.

Also what is usually called pothos(Epipremnum aureum) may be a good choice. Self watering planters sometimes can stay a bit too wet. I could be wrong but I think pothos may be more tolerant of "wet feet" than philo. I often hear of people growing pothos directly in water.

Hopefully some others will way in with some good info!

Best of luck!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:00PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

NOW I'm excited, that's a really cool setup.

That's less light than the spot of the plant I posted in the other thing yesterday. "This plant is a good example. While outside, it grew beautifully. After being inside, about 10 feet away from windows for a 3 months, the nodes are drastically elongated, vines are attached to the wall. I don't think this is the look anyone wants."

Beautiful, light colored walls, on which you probably don't want these marks from roots. This is inside, happened last winter:

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:07PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The same thing happened outside, 2 summers ago. Marks still there on painted wood. The vines will dangle/lean away from the pots and do that to your walls.

The Aglaonemas suggested might be OK in there, though they are supposed to be upright, they would eventually dangle down, in a kind of Dr. Seuss way. Although I'm optimistic something can be found that would be appropriate, I don't think I know what it is. I would be looking at Tradescantias, but I don't know if those roots will attach to a wall or not. This is not the way I'd want to find out either since they can get several inches long just hanging in mid-air. Tradescantia fluminensis hasn't made such aerials as T. zebrina, but I haven't had it around long enough to say it won't.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Here's Aglaonema modestum and Sansevieria trifasciata in a similar amount of light, 11 years ago. They can't live up to their potential, but aren't terrible looking like this.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:19PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The same Sans with plenty of light:

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:21PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The same Aglaonema with great light.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:23PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Yea but Purp, just one thing.

Comparing those 2 Sans. that are indoor growing vs. outdoor growing is not a reasonable comparison. It's rather like comparing apples & elephants, not even remotely comparable (IMO, or as you like to say IMHO) ;>)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:45PM
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Thanks to both of you!

Smish, that's good to know about avoiding the variegated varieties. I am considering pothos too, though I've mostly been trying to find info on whether it requires more or less sunlight than heart leaf philo (conflicting reports abound)... I'm glad you mentioned the wet feet tolerance issue because I hadn't even though about that.

Purple, those pics are really helpful. I had no idea what roots could do to walls. The paint in my house is flat, which I absolutely hated when we first moved in because it gets dirty so easily, but at least that will make for easy and invisible touch-ups with the extra can the seller left for us in case I end up with those root marks. Due to the already very limited pool of plants I have to choose from that will survive this lighting situation, I probably can't afford to make it a priority to avoid anything that might leave those marks, so I think I might just cope with that drawback as it occurs... But of course if anyone knows of the perfect low-light plant that is unlikely to mark up my walls, that would be ideal! It's nice to see the difference between "surviving" and "thriving" in the pics you shared of plants growing in different light levels. It sure would be nice to have some really robust plants up there, but I guess I may have to settle for scraggly. I wonder if there are any decorative wall sconces out there which are compatible with grow bulbs which I could get installed on the front face of the ledge, to diffuse more light up into the plants... (Now I'm really getting creative! :-)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 4:22PM
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spider plants can take very low light levels. they will look pale and won't get large, but they will stay good-looking for a long time. if you plant the ones with hanging babies - they will cover the pots and look almost like vines.
you probably will need to replace plants anyway every 2-3 years.
one way to do it is to cut off the bottom of the nursery pot and plant it inside the box. the roots will have to grow down, but not sideways. it will be much easier to pull it out, though it will still be somewhat messy.
it would be very nice to underlight the plants - yes you can get LED lights that stay cool and can be mounted on the ledge right next to the plants. search 'grow under lights' forum for more info.
i think golden pothos can take less light then philo. though the new leaves will remain small - but you can cut them off periodically.
another possible plant is aspidistra, it will need to be watered even less then philo/pothos, so fewer trips up the ladder. but am not sure how it takes to self-watering.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 9:51AM
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paul_(z5 MI)

" But of course if anyone knows of the perfect low-light plant that is unlikely to mark up my walls, that would be ideal!"

Check at Michael's or any other craft store. In all seriousness, while I understand your urge for real plants, considering the location (and its concomitant issues of lack of light, difficulty with watering, the mess with potting soil -- both in planting and removing plants) as well as an understandable desire to avoid root attachments marring your walls -- the use, instead, of some good quality silk plants may be your best option. Though it can take some serious "hunting around" there are some very good, life-like faux plants out there.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 10:51AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

PG & Lo, I was agreeing Aglaonema would be good up there, it would lean/dangle interestingly in the low light, not be the upright entity of more light. Sorry if it sounded like I was against it. I didn't consider my plants straggly at the time, and still don't, looking at the pic. Just showing what one could expect & what the difference looks like. If I had to move back into a place with less light, these 2 (with Sans) would be at the top of my list of plants I know would be OK.

I periodically trimmed the danglers off of that plant so it wouldn't take up so much space or it would be a better visual aid. I've had that for over 30 years so it's definitely about indestructible, just like the Sans. No idea if the colors would be less or more on the prettier ones. Never had any of those until fairly recently.

I can't imagine using just 1 kind of plant for all of that planting space, but that's a personal issue. There's definitely room to have many different ones, and enough clearance for a few uprights.

Trying to think outside my normal box, and more about where my plants have been happiest, and plants I've seen in spots that didn't look like enough light to me...
Don't know why I didn't think of Maranta yesterday. As easily as it burns, it would probably like being in the pictured spot. Anecdotes?

A Calathea would be cool, the beautiful leaf-bottoms very visible. That's another one that doesn't seem to appreciate any direct sun at all.

What about Cissus rhombifolia? I know I've seen this many places/times hanging in darkish corners.

Janet Craig Dracaena would probably be happy & appropriate up there, extremely slow growing, interesting in profile and from below.


Sconce lights are a brilliant idea! Sounds like Petruska's already looked into it, cool.

There's also a couple people who tend corporate plants and visit this forum. I'm surprised FW and Jon haven't had any input on this yet. Marjie's plants also come to mind. I was always worried about the low light in her pics but her plants almost always look pretty darn good.

One thing in your favor I think, Lo, is that the plants you get will probably already be used to much lower light than most gone-around-the-bend plant-o-philes would give them. (I'm assuming you don't live in a place warm enough that house plants at stores are always outside.)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 10:56AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

LOL, Paul, I already had the window going while you were posting. Have you seen the Free Birds movie? Your turkey reminds me of that. We went to see it for 'tha kid' but everybody cracked up.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 10:59AM
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zz would be great, but not in self-watering pot - that's too much moisture for them in low light. however, if you plant them in sep pot and just sink the pot in (plastic of course) and water it sep very rarely, then it should be OK.
i think a number of grouped plants would look fabulous! and then you can test out which ones do better then others.
are you planning to fill planters with soil while on the ladder? otherwise it would be very heavy to lift up!
if you look at 1stdibs for ladders - you'll get a lot of ideas. of course it's all very expensive, but you might be able even to build smth custom based on these designs.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 11:55AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Oh wow, the bottom left one is a work of art, well they all are! I love ornate & intricate decoration. ...put a little pot on each step... vines up the railing... Petrushka, you cause dangerously cool inspirations!

I'm purposely trying to not discuss the self-watering planter since all I've done is kill a few things with them (and plenty of other pots) a long time ago. Those who have had success with them, and the principles of wicking in general would have info that doesn't lead to planticide.

I still think one could fill the soil part with leca stones, or silicone balls (not the broken-glass-shaped chunks that would fall through the latice separating soil from water reservoir.) A wick may or may not be needed, IDK. But it would eliminate all 'dirt' and take all watering variables out of the equation. That's what I would be investigating if doing this, because I don't know enough about that stuff to proceed. I did keep some cuttings over winter in jars of those balls and it was pretty easy, just add a little water when they started to shrink. The roots made structures similar to if they were in 'soil.' Why would one not want to do this?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 1:02PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)


    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 1:03PM
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price for one thing - to fill those 3 giant planters with leca will cost a bundle! then may be weight - water is very heavy. periodically it needs to be replaced (contaminants/algae growth,etc) - putting large reservoirs on a high ledge like that is just asking for trouble.
in self-watering 50% is perlite - which is ultra light.
also water roots decay faster - need to be cut off and regrown - water gets cloudy,etc. it's all manageable when you have a few small pots going...but i won't do it large scale.
well, purple, half of my plants are on wicks - and you prolly have seen pics of them by now. low maint, long vacations and good looking plants. what's not to like?
i wick amaryllis for sev years indoors and out, ivy, rieger begonias are the latest success; calamondins (5yr old by now),, xgiving cactus (close to 5 yrs wicking), ficus lyrata, ficus alii, benjamina. ming aralias, fern aralias. this year got stromantae - going very good. just now putting young african masks on wicks, large mama has been wicked for 4 years. tropical ferns (polypodium aureum, formosa). crotons petra, golden pothos. and african violets - which is what got me started. i would have to be a watering slave chained to my plants...:) if not for wicks.
self-watering sometimes uses a wick sometimes a reservoir that is dipped lower, sometimes leca stones but basically it's all similar. medium/roots wicks water up from the bottom reservoir.
read up on lechuza planters - they developed special aggregate fro bottom layers - these are the royals of self watering.
and in my experience plants need to be watered much less on wicks then top-watering. it's just more efficient - and i like that!. the only problem is succulents -- but i am experimenting even with that...;).

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 2:15PM
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oh, forgot anthurium and philo xanadu - also on wicks since aug, my new purchases. actually ALL of my aroids are on wicks.
i can think of one thing that can screw it up - overpotting. and i have noticed that you overpot, at least by my wicking standards.;). i plant rather densely with just 1" all around and may be 2" on the bottom new. medium is just there to hold the roots, the liquid nutes come from water.
before the plant starts wicking properly the roots need to develop thru the medium - nice dense rootball. THEN you start water-wicking from the bottom.
lechuza recommends 3mo of top-watering for root-development. the roots need to be all the way to the bottom.
and then they say - allow the medium to go drier one week once the water runs out (once a mo?). i switch to top-watering to flush the soil and also allow pots to go drier periodically too. so it's some work always, but at least i can break free from time to time and don't have to worry about them drying up !
i also add 3% peroxide 1tb per gallon to all my water to keep the water sweet. roots love oxygenation too. i learned the trick long time ago (read in a book most likely) - works wonders on fully compacted rootballs!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 3:26PM
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I'm loving all the suggestions so far! You people are wonderful. Purple, my apologies... I didn't mean to call your plants scraggly. I mistakenly thought you were saying that my rooms had less light than the aglaonema you posted, so I assumed MINE would be a bit scraggly. Reading back through the comments I now realize you said your aglaonema was in similar lighting to mine, and you were referring to a different picture when you said my rooms had less light. Speaking of aglaonema, I didn't realize until I did a Google search for it a moment ago that it is the same as a Chinese Evergreen. I've seen Chinese Evergreen listed as one of the best plants for purifying the air and removing toxins (we hope to have a baby on the way sometime soon so I'm currently on a mission to make our home as healthy as possible), so that combined with the fact that it is just such a beautiful plant makes it really appealing to me.

Paul, if it weren't for the fact that I'm trying to cram as many air-cleaning plants as I can comfortably fit into my home right now, I'd be all about the silk plants! I definitely considered that for a while. But, I think real plants might just be worth the challenge. I'm keeping silk plants as a fallback plan in case I end up getting way in over my head here!

I think I've been persuaded by the feedback here to try several different types of plants instead of just one. Maybe pothos or philo on the ends so the vines can hang down freely without obstructing the walkway, and a few upright plants of varying textures mixed in the middle. Will most of these plants that have been mentioned here get along if planted together, or are there any I need to worry about choking out the others? I may use Pertruska's idea to keep them in their nursery pots with the bottoms removed, so maybe that won't be an issue either way. Especially now that I'm planning to attempt a mixed arrangement, since some plants may do much better than others and the ability to easily remove any plants that don't take off without disrupting the other root systems might come in really handy.

I looked up pictures of Calathea and Maranta and I'm in love. And Petrushka, I'm drooling over a few antique library ladders on that website you mentioned... None of which I can afford! Maybe I can convince my husband to replicate one as a Christmas gift this year. :)

Now I'm off to scour the "growing under lights" forum for some decorative grow light inspiration!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 3:32PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

â¢Posted by purpleinopp
LOL, Paul, I already had the window going while you were posting. Have you seen the Free Birds movie?

Nope, I've seen the ads for it though.

The turkey gif reminds me of the "eat chicken" commercials with the cows. I get a kick out of those. Added a link at the bottom for those unfamiliar with them.

â¢Posted by LoBro
Paul, if it weren't for the fact that I'm trying to cram as many air-cleaning plants as I can comfortably fit into my home right now, I'd be all about the silk plants! I definitely considered that for a while.

There's a post discussing the air cleaning ability of plants, and pretty much it comes down to not really making much of a difference -- too much air exchange with the outdoors. Although the post focuses a bit more about the effects soil microbes, plants are also discussed.

In the case of the microbes, a huge surface area would be required -- not something that will happen in a home. And though it is not discussed in that post, the gas exchange with soil is largely dependent on soil type and regular rain/dew -- not conventional watering. (Gases are absorbed/bonded to minuscule water droplets making up clouds. "Contaminated" droplets condense forming dew which collects on plants [and other surfaces] and dribble down into the soil. Or droplets condense into droplets large & heavy enough to precipitate in the form of rain/snow/hail and again reach the soil. Now that microbes are in contact with the gases they can go to work. Gas exchange within the soil is otherwise very slow.)

With respect to the plants' role, you would require:
1) a LOT of plants
2) conditions promoting optimal growth ... including very good lighting.

Plants will remove carbon dioxide and some other gases from the air as they photosynthesize. In dimly lit areas, photosynthesis is rather minimal which means that gas exchange is also greatly reduced.

Here is a link that might be useful: eat more chicken commercial with cows

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 12:44PM
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