Best soil mix for an Arrowhead Vine in a self-watering planter?

LoBroNovember 18, 2013


There is an arch above my living room which I would like to decorate with several Arrowhead Vines, but I have very little experience with houseplants and I need some advice before I even attempt to pot them. Since the area is somewhat out of reach, I purchased three large self-watering planters to limit the frequency at which I'll have to break out the step stool to water the plants. (I read that I will still need to water them from above on occasion even though there is a reservoir, though I'm not sure how often I should do this.) The planters are those Mayne Fairfield window boxes that are mostly intended for outdoor use, and since houseplants don't seem to be a common application for this type of planter I'm wondering if the reservoir/trough watering style might effect which type of potting mix would be best. Should the capillary action which will allow water to soak upward from the bottom of the planters be a factor in selecting a potting mix, or is the ideal potting mix for Arrowhead Vines the same regardless of whether or not they receive most of their water from the surface? And what is the ideal mix? Also, the instruction packet for the planters also recommends using a layer of lightweight filler in the bottom third of the planter, beneath the actual potting mix, "to encourage faster root growth down into the troughs." Anyone have an opinion about which filler material might work best for an Arrowhead Vine growing in this type of planter?

Thanks so much for any advice!

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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sorry, but if you're new to Houseplants, self-watering pots may not be a good way to start.

What made you choose that particular plant if I might pls. ask?

Do you know they can be grown in just water?

Pls. do some research on this first, you may wish to re-think your plan.

I don't wish to rain on your parade, but without seeing all these individual components, it's hard to see how you'll manage this. The window boxes sound large, likely to get very heavy, I haven't seen lots of lush looking arrowhead plants (Syngonium), hard to picture how it'll fill in.

Maybe someone else can visualize this better than I, sorry.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 8:21PM
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Thanks for your response. I chose the Arrowhead Vine because I saw it mentioned on a lot of "Easiest Houseplants for Beginners" lists, and because I read that it does well in low light. These plants will be on an arch between two large windows, but they will be about 12 feet away from each window and we have solar screens which prevent the room from ever getting very bright. I also considered Heart Leaf Philodendron, but got the impression after some research that it was a little pickier about it's light requirements. Until I read your comment I wasn't aware that the Arrowhead Vine had a growth habit that might look awkward in a windowbox... I just assumed from the word "vine" that it would fill in pretty quickly. Do you think Heart Leaf Philodendron might be a better choice in this situation? The window boxes are large, but since I will be standing on a ladder to refill the reservoir, I don't expect to need to move them around once they're up there. I also just discovered this soil mix sold by Gardener's Supply Company which is made specifically for self-watering containers:,default,pd.html
It has great reviews, but I'm still reading through them to see if anyone mentions whether houseplants do well in it...

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 8:45PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

"12 feet away from each window and we have solar screens which prevent the room from ever getting very bright." This doesn't sound like enough light for growing anything, IMHO.

All of these kinds of plants have aerial roots that will adhere to your wall, making the discussion a moot point unless someone knows of other really low-light dangling plants that aren't vines and/or have aerial roots.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 11:52PM
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i grow a lot of my houseplants on water-wicks for self-watering. the main rule is that about 40-50% of soil mix should be perlite. self-watering containers are an excellent choice for most plants that do not like to dry out. syngonium is one of those.
i looked at the link you provided and looked thru 100 or so of reviews (almost a 1000 reviews, mostly excellent) - people who have used this product for sev years seem to like it a lot. the label does not state specific percentages in the mix, except stating sphagnum peat/vermiculate/perlite. however in the instructions on sef-watering containers they provide a recipe for mixing your own. and in that recipe 50%/50% sphag peat/perlite is used. so i would think that their mix follows the same recipe and should be fine.
as far as placement of your planters, it would be nice to get a pic of the area. 12' from the windows is a bit far, unless you have very very large windows.
it is not clear where you are putting your planters: is it a build-in ledge? the planter, especially with water added will be heavy and not easy to move for maintenance.
how large is it?
as far as air-roots, perhaps some sort of trellis attached to the wall will help.
when plant is young it will remain in a clump. i am not sure how long it takes to produce mature growth that will be a vine.
once you plant in self-watering container you'll still need to water the plant from the top for a couple of months until the roots spread thru the mix and start wicking. so plan to get on that ladder a lot in the beginning, unless you plant very densely with roots filling the mix right away.

Here is a link that might be useful: nice article

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 12:10PM
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Petrushka that information was so helpful! Thanks so much for taking a look at the link for the soil mix and weighing in. I went ahead and ordered three bags of it based on your assessment. I have three 3-foot plastic window boxes that I will place side by side across the ledge. They will definitely be heavy once full, but the reservoir is refillable from the top so hopefully I can just use a watering can to do that and it won't be necessary to move them. The ledge is simply a visual divider between by living room and dining room which both have 2-story ceilings, so there will be open space on both sides of the planters as well as lots of open space above them. While I know I'm pushing my luck with 12 feet between them and a light source, there are large windows on both sides of the ledge (a large one in the dining room and two on the opposite wall in the living room), so at least they will have light coming in from both directions. There is also a very large wall-sized mirror on my dining room wall adjacent to that window, and my walls and ceiling are a pale cream color so that all helps reflect natural light and make the room a little brighter. To give you a better idea of how much light I'm working with, throughout the day it stays light enough near the ledge that one could read comfortably without switching a light on, but there are never any spots of concentrated light on the walls at any time during the day... It is all very filtered (and dim enough to feel slightly gloomy, so I always have lamps on when I'm in there even though I can see fine without them.) After doing some more research I'm now leaning toward buying Philodendron hederaceum (which I had thought was called Philodendron scandens until I read more of that very informative blog you linked to!) instead of the Syngonium I originally asked about. The sunlight issue is my biggest concern at this point, but I've been encouraged by several anecdotes about P hederaceum thriving in conditions even dimmer than mine, so I'll give it a shot (and probably have my husband remove the solar screen from the dining room window for an extra light boost). Cautiously optimistic!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 5:51PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I want to cheer you on because I love a cool project like this. I think if folks saw a pic of where you're going to put this, a suitable plant could be found, especially if your optimism about the light level is confirmed. Aerial roots are the wrong way to go though.

Heart-leaf Philo is exactly the wrong thing. Is less than optimal light, it will have very distant nodes, not providing a 'full' look without redirecting the tips often. Without reinventing the wheel, this has been discussed and I've shown pics of aerial roots attaching to walls and other objects in a very short amount of time.

I thought PG was onto something with the just water, maybe with leca stones?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:17PM
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It is already dark here in Houston but I will try to snap a pic and post it tomorrow! It's so kind of you all to brainstorm with me. In the meantime, here's another beginner question... I know houseplants are generally able to convert some artificial light, like florescent light, into energy. I usually keep some lights on in the living room during the day, but the bulbs are all LEDs. Any chance the light from these bulbs would be at all appreciated by my plants?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:46PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I'm not convinced the aerial roots are a problem. My Pothos don't attach to the wall & climb.

Respectfully disagreeing w/ PurpleinOpp, I don't think that light is all that dim. I grow Aglaonemas more than 12 ft from the window, they do fine along w/ Sansevierias.

I'd like to suggest you stop working the set up & Google some images of the plants you're suggesting. Study the pix to see what the plant's growth habit is. Example: even tho' you've said you've changed your mind abt Syngoniums, searching images of them yield pots looking full, not hanging, so I'm unclear why you thought that.

I'd think several large pots of Pothos could work here, again a picture would SURE help here, just to see the space & location you're planning to use.

Pls. know I'm not trying to bust your chops here, rather trying to ensure your experience will be more successful, not less.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 6:48PM
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there's lots more to read about syngonium/philos and golden pothos too (epipremnum) on exoticrainforest site - very detailed info, though growing conditions are not the same as in our homes - it's a giant atrium.
syngoniums are usually sold young - in bushy pots. mature growth becomes a vine - and looks quite different.
with 2story large rooms light should not be a problem at all.
i assume you have windows up on the 2nd tier too? that will provide loads of light, incomparably more then just 1 floor room.
led lights can be used as supplemental lighting, but they have to be farely close to the plants.
perhaps you can even combine sev diff plants together for a lush tropical look?

Here is a link that might be useful: exoticrainforest on philos

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 7:08PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I've not given Pothos (Epipremnum) a chance to be near a wall, but the aerial roots on that do not ever elongate, that I've seen, unless/until they reach soil/water. It hadn't been mentioned before in this discussion. Heart-leaf Philo is a different story.

I also thought Tradescantia zebrina would be fantastic for this setup, but am not sure if LoBro wants dangling, vine-type plants or upright. Callisia repens would probably work well too. If the pots are above head-level, non-dangling plants wouldn't be very visible.

No way for us to really know about the light from the description. I think I'm having trouble picturing the whole thing. If it's enough for chosen plant(s,) they will look fine. If it's not enough light, plants will not look good. I've not read anything about the spectrum of light in LED bulbs.

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.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 9:17AM
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Hi all. It was a cloudy day here yesterday which made my living room even dimmer than usual, so I waited until today to snap pictures. I posted them on a new thread since the subject has changed from soil mix to light adequacy:

Here is a link that might be useful: New post

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 2:31PM
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I am curious! Is there an update?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 1:22PM
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