Jane Perrone 0:52
Hello and welcome to on the ledge podcast. If you're suffering from window envy, and your house or home is dark and gloomy, this is the episode for you.
I'm talking to Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, aka the house plant guru about her new book Grow In The Dark and all the wonderful houseplants that you can grow in less than ideal light conditions. I'll also be answering your question about why many houseplants have red undersides and I'll be bringing you a little preview of what we've got coming up in the hundredth episode. Yes, it's nearly here.
Thank you to all my patreon subscribers. They've been joined this week by Jess who's become a Crazy Plant Person, Cody and Casey who have both become On The Ledge Superfans, which means they get to join the on the ledge advisory board and get an exclusive, exclusive postcard that nobody else even gets to see. So well done to all of them. Details of how to become a patron are in my show notes, as always. Thank you to all of you who have sent me messages for the hundredth episode. The opportunity has now passed, I am working on the episode this week. So if you haven't sent a message, I'm afraid you won't be able to be included in the show.
But you know, if you love On The Ledge, and you want to tell me that, that will be fine, I would still love to hear from you: email@example.com is the best place for all of your comments, tips, queries and requests for things to cover in the show. It's a blast working on this hundredth episode, I have to say, there'll be a bloopers reel at the end with - I think the summary of it will be don't work with children and animals. And that will be fun. But there'll also be the things I've learned from working on on the ledge. Your comments, of course, and a lot of shout outs and thank yous to the people who've helped me along the way. Plus, I'm also giving away something rather than awesome. I'm going to be doing a giveaway for a Mother Bloom grow light. This is an LED grow light, which is very very stylish. You may remember it from my episode where I went to the Netherlands and I'm giving one away. This is a global giveaway because they post globally so one lucky listener will get a mother grow light. I will post all the details of how to enter in my episode 100 show notes. So do listen out for that.
But in the meantime, let's get on with this week's show. Grow In The Dark is the new book from Lisa Eldred Steinkopf and if you've binge listened to every episode of on the ledge, you may remember that she appeared back in Episode 28. Talking about her first book, Houseplants The Complete Guide. Now she's focused in on the plants that will grow if your windows are small, maybe you don't have that many windows or maybe they're all facing north. She's got loads of tips and tricks and suggestions for dealing with these kind of situations which are helpful to all of us who've got anything less than a greenhouse to be growing in. I called her up for a chat about how the book came about, some of the big hitters in the shady houseplants world, how to make the most of the light you've got, and also how to tell if your plant really is unhappy with its light conditions.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 4:26
Hi, Jane. It's Lisa Steinkopf over here in America. Luckily, we're not drowning yet, but it's very wet over here. But I've been inside working with my houseplants, because that's what I do all the time, if I can. When I have time and I'm not writing, I'm pottering with my houseplants, because I'm the houseplant guru. Yay.
Jane Perrone 4:45
Sounds lovely. That sounds like just the kind of thing that I like to do and I wish that I would have had some of that rain over here send something my way, because we've had a very dry spring here and I've been doing rain dances trying to get it to rain here. So yeah, we need some of that over this way.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 5:03
It's just crazy. Like the people in middle, you know, middle America would just die to give away the water. That's literally all that's showing is their roof top.
Jane Perrone 5:11
Weather is a great factor, isn't it for the outdoor garden, but that's one of the delights of indoor gardening, is that this is not so much of a factor. But a big factor is what you're covering in your new book with a seamless segue! Your new book looks at plants that will grow in less than ideal light conditions, Grow In The Dark. This is a great topic, because an absolute perennial question about houseplants is, Oh, well, I've got no light, what can I grow? So this is a great topic to be tackled in your book. Was that why you wrote it? Because you had so many people going tell us the answer, Lisa?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 5:50
You know what I'm gonna, I'm going to tell you the copy or not the copy editor, but one of the editors of the last book that was setting up the last, the first book, she was a young, I'm going to say millenial, because that's what they are. They hate us when we call them that but when she said, she says I've learned so much just you know laying out your book and reading your book, and I love it, but I have I'm in an apartment and I have no light. So let's let's write a book about low light houseplants. So it's really all her idea. And I give her the credit in the acknowledgments, it's her idea. And I'm like, sure, that works for me. So we ran with it. And that's what it is - it's one of the biggest questions I have, I have no light or, you know, what, what can I grow? And but you know, the thing is, I tell them to really, really figure out how much light you have. You know, do you have a crisp shadow when the sun's coming through the window? Is there no sun coming through the window? Which way do you face? That is my big thing. Are you facing east, west, north, south. That's a big thing with me. Because we own a garden center. A lot of people will ask them which way does your house face so we can sell them a shrub that works in that and they just tell me it points toward the road, my house faces the road. And I'm like, okay. I'm really sarcastic, you know, if the sun comes up in your window in the morning, it faces east.
Jane Perrone 7:05
That's really interesting. That's so interesting, because you're absolutely right. Lots of people don't know that. And as a gardener, that's the first thing I want to find out. I mean, it reminds me of that, I dont' know if you watch The Wire, but in The Wire, there's an episode where this policeman gets drilled on always knowing exactly where you are, like what street intersection you're at, so that if there's an incident you can you can call it in and know your exact location. And for a gardener it's kind of the same. You need to know the aspect of your, of your property so that you know exactly what light you're getting. But it's amazing how many people don't know that.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 7:39
No. I bought a house facing west or east, I always, I try to always, I've had two houses, they both face east. I would have bought one across the street if that was what was for sale. But I'm very happy because then I can have rhododendrons and azaleas and dogwoods and all those things that kind of need protection here, but love that east sun.
Jane Perrone 7:55
Yeah, my house is on a north south axis, which is not ideal, so I have hardly any - do I have any? - I don't think I have any, I have one window that faces west, so yes, there's not a great deal of, it's not ideal, but there we go, but I have got a big my north facing back of my house faces north, but it's got a big glass-roofed room, which is brilliant for plants, so that is a big plus.
So when you're in your house, presumably you've looked at the map, and you've established whether you're north, south, east or west. What then once you know which way your windows face, can you assess in terms of how the light is coming in? I mean, are there some simple pointers in terms of without going to the extent of getting a light meter, which some people might want to go down the route of, but assuming you don't want to do that, how do you tell how strong the light is?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 8:50
Well, first, the first thing I tell them is, you know, look out, so, you know which way you face, you may face south, but if you have a evergreen shrub, a house three feet away, or, you know, another apartment building, an awning, you know, there's other factors, but let's assume that you have an open, an open area, so you're getting the total east sun. So, you know, first of all, I tell people read your plant tags, which I know can be the wrong thing to say sometimes, because they'll just say Hi, I'm a house plant, you know, or they may be the wrong tag, you know, we're all, we're all human and we can, tags get mixed up. So I tell him to if there's not a picture on the tag first Google it, Google the plant that's on the text as it is and make sure it looks like the plant that you have. But then if it is, read the text, does it say medium light, low light or high light and then in the in the book, I give them a little chart. You know if it says highlight, bright light, you know full sun, then you know that probably needs a south window or West, really close to a West window, because that's where your biggest, full sun situation is. If it says it needs medium light, you know, then you're heading for your West window or your East window. It says low light, you know you can come back three or four feet from a South window or a few feet from a West window. Put it an East window and then maybe now you can have some live plants in the north window.
Jane Perrone 10:15
I guess the meat of this book is your listing of your top 50 low light houseplants. Let's dive right in there. What's at number, is it is it ranked, or is it just 50 plants? What's at Number One?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 10:27
They're alphabetical, alphabetical by common name.
Jane Perrone 10:31
Okay, but is there one that you kind of, what's your, what's your sort of number one recommendation?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 10:35
I think the lowest, the low light plant in the recommendation number one is the zz plant. I think I swear I think it could probably, I tell people it could probably grow in a closet but let's not put it there! It can take really low light and survive and, and almost thrive in really low light and hardly any water because it has that fleshy root system. I also think the pothos, the all dark green one, really does well. You know, I know a lot of people say the snake plant, but we all, I don't know most of us know, if you're really good with plants, that a snake plant can, it will survive in low light, it's not going to thrive. If we put it in full sun it's going to thrive and break apart and send out flowers and procreate like nobody's business. But it will survive in low light, so, you know, that's another choice. Pothos, ZZ plants, Philodendrons. I think my Grape Ivy does pretty good without a lot of sun. Some of the Calatheas, Silver Satin Pothos does very well with not much light.
Jane Perrone 11:36
If you're trying something out in a lower light situation, what's the first signs that the plant isn't happy in low light? What will it, how will it signal to you that you need to move it somewhere brighter?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 11:46
Well, I think it's going to just start looking kind of, you know, to start having yellow leaves. The problem with the low light, sometimes the way you know it's in too low a light is that it rots because you've given it water and it didn't have enough light to use all that water that you had given it. So a lot of times it's not even that it's dying from low light, it's dying from having too much water in a low light situation. A lot of people still water on a schedule, which I tell everybody not to do. You know, "Every week it gets water, whether it's using that water or not. That's because that's when I water my plants". I tell him to check it on schedule, don't water it on schedule. So you know, it's going to start, like, you know, you always see those snake plants, that it starts flopping because it can't it can't stay up right any more because it's it's just, it's weak, it's a weak plant reaching for light, it's not, its leaves aren't as thick as it was. So it's just kind of flopping over, a lot of things will flop, they'll reach toward the light. If there is any, you know, whatever light that they have, they're going to reach for it, they're going to start that phototropism and start leaning toward the light trying to get as much as they can. So that's another indicator that it needs more light.
Jane Perrone 12:59
It sad when you see somebody, you know I've seen it many times where somebody's bought gone and bought a succulent, rosette succulent, like an echeveria, or something, from a non specialist shop and they've just put it on a very dark spot in their home and it's gone like a big firework just going up and up and up the poor thing searching for light. It's so common, isn't it, that this happens?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 13:20
I feel bad because they love, people love succulents so much. And I do, I love them, I collect them, but I do have a sunroom that I can put them in and they're all in the South windows, the West windows, as close as I can get them, but a lot of people just think that you can buy these plants, it's kind of, I don't know what, I don't know how they're getting these ideas that you can just, any plant can just go anywhere. I can put it in the middle of my dining room table, doesn't matter what it is, and the light may be 20 feet away, but it's going to be okay because there's a window here. And any plant can, you know, survive. And they don't realize that most succulents, other than ? and some of the ? are so high light and if they don't put them in high light, they're going to start flopping, they're going to lose their leaves, they're going to stretch, they're going to rot.
Jane Perrone 14:06
It all ends in disaster, doesn't it? If you've got a plant that, you've got your low light plant, but your room really is rather dark and gloomy, is there, are there any sort of hacks that you can do to make the most of the light, you've got, or bounce it around in a different way?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 14:21
Okay, so, you know, if you can, buy two plants the same, two same plants. So you have two, one is, if you can, one is in a better light situation. And this is more of like you really want that plant in that area because it's decorative. Not that maybe, because buying two plants and putting one in the light, I guess if you had light, you'd put the plant in that window, but you could grow some under, you could put it under light in another room or something, but if it's really some place you really want to plant and there's not a lot of light, you can buy two and switch them out. You know, so one is really healthy, the other one starts to decline, you switch on
Jane Perrone 14:59
That's ridiculously simple, but clever. I just can't believe I've never thought of that before.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 15:06
Sometimes it works, you know, it's like you buy two of the same plant and people don't, you know, because you know, you go to a lot of these commercial buildings and people have these beautiful plants and you're like hmmm, and you think wow, that can grow there!? Well, you don't know, that was commercial. I used to work for an interior scaper and they, you know, they switch the plants out quite often to make them always look nice. So that's kind of just a thought. I know mirrors don't make a huge difference but I do, you know, mirrors are very in if they're across the room from a South window, it's going to reflect you know light on to your plant and give it a little a little boost. Just a little boost. Light walls, don't plant, I know dark walls are kind of in style, everything in my house is white, because it's reflecting light. No, actually there's no white in my house. I like color. The next door neighbor, you know how if you're close to a house or close to a building, and they're you know they're painting it, dark gray seems to be the color to paint houses now, but if you can talk them into painting their house white, it's going to reflect light into your window. Lose the awnings, I told you to lose your awning. Some people still have awnings on their house. Trim your trees outside. You know, you don't have to cut them down. I don't recommend I don't, would never cut a tree down unless I was it was dead or dying. But you know, you can always trim it and spin it out and let some more light into your house.
Jane Perrone 16:24
I hadn't really thought about the wall color being an issue. But of course, yeah, that makes perfect sense that it would be and it is so popular to have dark walls now, isn't it? I mean, I have got a dark navy blue kitchen, but it's, it's not on every wall. It's only on, well, it's on one one wall really, so the rest of it is white. So I guess that balances out and I guess then if that isn't enough, then grow lights are the next logical step?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 16:49
Yeah, and I do have lights, you know, I do have some plants under lights just because I like African Violets. I'm an African violet club, they all have African, they all have lights. Plus, it gives you more room to have more plants. If you can, you know utilize your basement or an unused bedroom that doesn't maybe doesn't have a lot of light, you can put up a light stand and add more plants.
Jane Perrone 17:09
Yeah, those light stands. I learned about those when I did the episode with Annie Rieck on African Violets and it's not something I've really come across, but yeah, I think it should be striking heart into the, sorry striking terror into my husband's heart, the idea that I can kind of like make dark spaces very comfortable for houseplants by coming up with one of these light carts. I don't even know if you can buy them in the UK. I've not seen anything like that. But I've definitely seen them on American websites and so, no doubt they'll come our way eventually, or perhaps I've just been looking on the wrong sites here.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 17:42
Well, I can't imagine that Gardener's Supply doesn't ship over there. They have a lot of fabulous light carts called Gardner Supply, but you're lucky that, if you just are starting it and coming into it all, you know, LEDs are the new thing where I can honestly say that I'm still living kind of in the dark ages, as they say, with my T12 huge old fluorescent lights that are horribly not economical and you have to have them on 12 to 14 hours a day. But I just haven't switched over, it just hasn't been a priority to switch over to them, because they're working over to the LEDs, but I need to do that just to, I don't have very many, like, fans I just have a couple because it's so, you'd only have to leave them on like four to six or like six hours eight hours, compared to 12 to 14 so it's much more cost effective.
Jane Perrone 18:29
And I guess over here in the UK perhaps our power bills I think are probably higher than yours - everyone's trying to save money on electricity so that's - and also I think LED lights certainly IKEA has been selling LED grow lights for a lot longer. I don't know if they're they're out yet, their ones are out yet in the US but certainly they've been, they've been available for a while which is where a lot of people start with grow lights, is with something very simple like that, screwing those into a normal, a normal lamp so, and then the bug bites hard and they end up buying all kinds of you know, further high tech stuff. But yeah, it's it's um, yeah, over here, we're bitten by a huge electricity bills, so everyone's kind of looking for a way of
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 19:11
I can tell people that just even, even just having a plant you know, maybe the plant's getting decent light and then at night you flip on your, your, even if it's an incandescent bulb, or put one of those, you know, those fluoroscents, those compact fluorescents and you have that on for another two or three hours at night. It's still giving that plant light, not a ton of light, but it's going to boost it a little bit. So you know that's not a bad thing either.
Jane Perrone 19:35
When you get that situation where you've got somebody with an apartment and a low light situation, perhaps they've only got high, small windows, or, does that also tend to indicate, if they don't have a lot of window space, that plants might be rather stuffy and air circulation might also be an issue? Does that, do they kind of come hand in hand?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 19:59
Well, you know, that would, that would does make sense. I do have, in my, I have a spare bedroom that has those lights in them and my sunroom it's kind of, it's really, it was meant to have people in it, you know the sunroom for the brick floor and then you know has windows, but it's really just a plant room. And there's a, I do have fans going in both those rooms, ceiling fans. They're on every day, all day, all night, year 'round, just for air circulation, because it is kind of stagnant in that room, I have it closed off and you know, the lights add some heat to the room so I do keep the fan going. So that does make a difference. And I, we did talk about that, that garden apartment. That was one thing we did add to the book because I hadn't even thought about that because I've never lived in an apartment. I got married, you know, Midwestern girl moved to the suburbs, so I never lived in an apartment. And I had never thought about those garden apartments where you're down, you're down in the basement and you just have really high windows and I'm like, well, you can either build a shelf, you know, maybe, put a shelf on the window to make the window sill deeper, or use tree form plants so that maybe they're higher up already. Plant stands. That is, that is hard. Plus you're kind of at the level where people can look in so, but you know, my house the plants are the windows are so full of plants, no one can look in.
Jane Perrone 21:18
They've become your curtains. Yes, that is a good way to go!
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 21:22
Yes, that's right.
Jane Perrone 21:26
We'll be back with Lisa Eldred Steinkopf in a little bit, but first it's time for question of the week which comes from Lara. She emailed firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line Red underside of leaves query. She loves the podcast. Thank you, Lara. And she says she can't find the answer to her query about why it's common in certain plants, for example, the marantas and many begonias, to have red coloring on the underside of their leaves, even if the top side is a different color. Why red? Lara from Sydney, Australia, that is a very good question. The plants that you've mentioned, the marantas and begonias, tend to live under storey level in landscape, that means that they're generally not exposed to a heck of a lot of light. The first thing to say is that scientists aren't exactly sure why, at the moment. I will post a link to at least one academic paper which talks about this subject, which if you really want to get deep into it's worth having a look at.
There is a theory that the red underside helps to reflect light back up into the layers of chlorophyll above, so that basically they maximize their light. So if any light doesn't get absorbed by the chlorophyll as it passes through, on the way down, then it gets bounced back up. However, this paper that I found, which is, which comes, which dates back to 2008, basically says that they did an experiment and discovered that that theory, that the backscatter hypothesis, as they call it, which doesn't seem to support that as being correct. So what is going on? Well, one other paper I found from 2015 suggests that the red pigment, the anthocyanins in the base layer of the leaf, actually stops light passing through to the forest floor below. And it suggested that that then stops other seedlings of competitive plants from germinating below the plant, reducing the competition. It should be said the paper I'm talking about doesn't refer to begonia or calathea species but to saxifraga hirsuta, which is another species with red undersides to leave its leaves, so I can't say whether the authors of this paper would extend this to begonias and calatheas, but it's a very interesting theory and it does point to the fact that really, there's very great amounts that we still don't understand about how many plants that we grow commonly as houseplants actually work. And that's why it's so important that we have botanists studying this stuff in a rigorous, scientific way, so we can get some answers. And if you're a botanist, and you're shouting at me right now because I've misexplained anything, or you have a better explanation for all this, then please do get in touch, I am always more than happy to be corrected by listeners. So if you've got wisdom on the subject, let me know straight away, and we'll get you on the show. And now back to my shady chat with Lisa, where I dredge up a low light plant from the very furthest recesses of my brain, which is quite a scary place, I can tell you.
One thing that I've found that's done really well in low light conditions, which we haven't mentioned is, my gosh, my brain's gone completely blank. Tradescantius, am I going to say Tradescantius Spadacea, I'm going to just have to grab a book now just to make sure that I'm getting
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 26:29
Like the purple one.
Jane Perrone 26:31
That's the one, that seems to do really well.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 26:34
Yeah, I'm not very good at those. You know, you said it kind of got long and lanky. And it didn't speak to me!
Jane Perrone 26:49
I've got three of them that are sitting in the back of my kitchen right next to the navy blue wall and they seem to be doing really well without much light, really the only light they've got coming in is through the side door, which is west facing and frosted, I should say. And they seem to be really, really happy and provide me with so little in the way of maintenance that I'm very happy with them. And the other one that, like you say, with this the snake plants,
I have found that my snake plants that I put in very low light conditions really did start to look quite miserable. I guess your tactic for the switching out is a really good idea. Because any plant, I would presume, put in the darkest corner of the darkest room, you know, that's just going to be too dark for possibly anything other than the double z plant. They need, perhaps to have a holiday, a light holiday,
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 27:44
Is that a good idea? I know a lot of people take them outside. I don't just because I have so many it would take forever for me to take all my plants out. But I also feel like, you know, I have, i've written about it, I have a Boston Fern that's been in my family since, you know, my mom got it in 1957, but she got it from Great Grandma, so we've had it forever. I've had one in my house for 34 years, and it does drop leaflets, that's just what ferns do. But a lot of people bring them in from outside, and they drop every leaf and they're just like, I can't grow it. But you know what I, I think starting a plant, like you're saying those, those tradescantias, or the purple, or one of the purple plants, whatever you call it, that they grow well against your, with your, your wall, I think a plant gets used to and acclimates to the situation it is in. So I have a friend who has a Ficus, a Ficus Benjamina, which was the very high light plant, would prefer high light, it is growing in her office with, and there's fluorescent lights and they're probably about, you know, six feet away from it. It's in a completely windowless room, and it's been in that room for years. And it actually has new growth on it. It's not as scrawny as you would think it would be. And those lights are only on five days a week. So I mean, that's a high light plant doing pretty well in just plain fluorescent light for only five days a week, maybe, what, nine or 10 hours a day. So it's just gotten used to it. It's not the fullest plant, it's, you know, it's not like it would be if it was in full sun, but it's doing very well. And it's green. And it's, it's nice. So I just think once a plant, if you start out with a young plant, you know, and you acclimate it, it's acclimated to the spot that you have it in and you leave it there, sometimes they do well, just because that's what they're used to. You're not moving into high light, back into this low light, outside, inside. I don't think that's beneficial. You get them all pumped up, and then you bring them back in. It's like oh,
Jane Perrone 29:43
Yeah, they're like, 'Damn, we're back inside!'. Is, are there any flowering plants that will survive in lower light conditions, or does, is they, are they, do they count themselves out because, because of, by the fact that flowering, they're just going to need more light?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 29:57
Well, I, and I do tell people, if it's a flowering plant, you know, steer, if you don't have a lot of light, steer clear of it. But a Peace Lily blooms pretty good in not extremely high light, medium light, they bloom, they still keep blooming, but I don't, I can't think of anything else, maybe someone else can, that really blooms and blooms well in really low light. If you have an east window, you know, you're going to get, you're going to get, if you have an East window with some or some good light, you could get your Phalaenopsis here, you know, African violets to bloom. And if you're somebody who's like, well, I don't have any light and I get my African Violets to bloom, then you have more light than what you think you do, because something's not blooming, that should be blooming. The only thing that's going to make it bloom is more light. Right?
Jane Perrone 30:44
I've got a curveball of a question here, which I've been meaning to ask an American expert because, you know me and Dr. David Hessayon, but
You may know nothing about this, but I just, I'm just so curious about this. One of the plants that I've been wondering about since I first got this book back in, gosh, what year was this published? Probably about 19.
Gosh, I don't know,
but this was published in 1980.
And I've never come across this plant. It's called the indoor oak.
And Dr. Hessayon tells me this is a rarity in Europe, but it's gaining popularity in the US where it was introduced from Africa some years ago. So the Latin name is nicodemia diversifolia
I've never seen or heard
anything about this plant. I'm just wondering whether you as an expert in the US have ever come across it or if it's just something that has kind of faded into complete obscurity,
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 31:41
and it's called Nicodema like n i c o d e m a ?
Jane Perrone 31:45
N i c o d e m i a and it does say that it's a plant that can take semi shade. But I've just, it's completely, it's like the the lost city of Atlantis of the house plant world!
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 31:58
I can be honest and say if I have seen it, I did not know that's what it was. No, I've never, I'm gonna I'm going to get my, my whatever you call it and see if I can see it what it is.
Jane Perrone 32:08
please do because it's one of
those ones I've been wondering about for the past, gosh, probably 40 years and I need to find the answer! So if anyone out there knows about nicodemia, I just was, I sort of had it in the back of my mind because I knew that it was one that can cope with more shade than most.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 32:27
What is the second name? Nicodemia what?
Unknown Speaker 32:30
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 32:30
Diversifolia. Okay. No, I
Jane Perrone 32:33
Anything, anyone, any intelligence on that, it just does look like an oak seedling, but apparently, it's a good plant for semi shade. So again, I guess some of these things have fallen out of favor or possibly were never that popular in the first place. But I like to sort of seek out weird and wonderful things. So that was one thing that I was reminded of when I was thinking about low light plants.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 32:53
Well it's on a bonsai site and it's also called buddleja indica and it says it's from Madagascar. So there's not a lot of low light plants coming out of Madagascar, unless they grow under a rock or something
Jane Perrone 33:12
The plot thickens! Wow. Well, I don't know about that. That's, we'll, we'll try to see what we can find out.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 33:18
It says it was one of the old time houseplants that were used extensively from the '20s to the '40s. Well, maybe it needs to come back, nothing, everything, you know, nothing new under the sun. So it's got to be out there some place. He's using it as a bonsai. Let's look it up. Now you've got me on the search!
Jane Perrone 33:36
I know - oh, sorry! The other sort of plant that was popular in the past but is coming, is coming back and is great, I think, for low light and perhaps is the old version of the double z plant, in terms of dealing with low light, is, of course, the aspidistra. Are you an aspidistra fan?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 33:48
I am! I love aspidistras. It's in my, it's in my, and then my, my friend just sang me that song about aspidistras. It's a, it's a song, I'm, like, OK. Yeah, The Greatest Aspidistra In The World, or something, The Biggest Aspidistra In The World, or something like that?
Jane Perrone 34:06
Oh yes, there is a song! There is a really cute song. You're absolutely right! And these plants, I guess, are double z-like in their abilities to just withstand really dark and miserable conditions. They don't grow very much though do they?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 34:21
I will tell you that I have one - I have Milky Way, which is, which of course is variegated. So we all know variegated plants need more light. And I had it near an east window, it was doing, it was very thick and fabulous because I have pictures of it. And then, for the book, you can see it's a little sparse. It's still the same plant because I went to buy one for, you know, we had to buy some plans for the shoot, because we didn't, I didn't have every plant, which is unbelievable, but my husband's like, "Really? You don't? Are you sure?" Or they may not have looked book-worthy, let's just say that. And my aspidistra really wasn't book-worthy, but it was, they were like $75, I'm like, I'm not spending, and it was just a plain green one, kind of floppy. I'm like, I am not, I don't - no, I can't! So I used mine. And it's gotten and I had put it in a corner in my dining room corner which has a West window, but it was the corner that was not, you know, it was not getting any sunshine in. And if I put it in the other window, it might have worked, you know, when the sun swung around. And it got pretty, it got pretty sparse. So I'm putting it back into, you know, back into higher light trying to bring it back, especially after I saw how expensive they were. And then when I was in Chicago, at Sprout Home, I bought a variegated, like a white and green variegated one. It has about six leaves on it. And I'm not going to tell you. Yeah, it was expensive and I love it. But the dark green one, yes will take very low light.
Jane Perrone 35:45
As you say it's probably a more expensive alternative than buying a double z plant, which seem to be very common now. But yeah, the aspidistra is not a cheap plant to buy, that's for sure. I guess you can take comfort in the fact it should last you over 100 years, so that's a, that's a good thing.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 36:00
But the zz plant here still isn't all that cheap, here in America, and we do not have Raven yet. It is not available. I have not seen it commercially available yet. Do you have the Raven?
Jane Perrone 36:14
Yeah, yeah. It's available here. And I'm actually, well, I, I've been trying to cultivate leaflets of a stem that I got sent. In fact, I'm just gonna have a look at this now. It was all going so well and then they kind of went a bit, yeah, went a bit dead, some of them. So I don't know how many I've got left that are actually okay and on their way to, but it's very, very slow.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 36:41
Well, zz plants are, because actually, it was funny. I had a, one of my daughter's friends was looking for zz plants. And I told her where she could get one and I had been there. And I told her that a really, really big one, like in a 14 inch pot was $100. She's like, Okay, I think I'll go back and get the, you know, six inch, you know, maybe the $20 one or the 25 dollar one. So they're still pretty pricey as plants go, you're not, you know, you're probably not going to find one for under $10. At the very least, they're going to be 20 to $100. If you really want a great big one that would make a statement and fill a corner, you're going to spend upwards of $100.
Jane Perrone 37:17
Yeah, are they popular in offices, 'cause they're a really big office plant here?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 37:22
I assume they probably are. I have not, I haven't been in that business for a while and I don't ever go to an office, but yeah, I think they would, I would be using them a lot. They're beautiful. I mean, this is such a shiny, they're shiny green, they can almost just live, they live in a very low light. They're beautiful. I'm sure they're using them extensively.
Jane Perrone 37:43
Yeah, we used to have them in my office when I was working at The Guardian. And they were, well, they just didn't change, they just stayed exactly the same. Which is, I guess, ideal in an office, you don't want office plants to grow massively out of their space or, you know, do things, do unexpected things, so that that is why they are popular.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 38:01
And that's another thing to tell people is that when you have a plant in low light, it is not going to grow in leaps and bounds. You know, so you're and that's why those are a little pricier, like the aspidistra and the zz plant, they don't grow very many leaves a year. So they're very slow growing. And so when you get a good size plant, it's been growing with the grower for a long time, most likely. So that's why they may, you may be paying a little more for them. So don't expect the plant that you have in the, you know, in a darker area to grow in leaps and bounds and just fill the corner immediately because it's not going to happen.
Jane Perrone 38:36
I mean, if you're looking for something that's large, and has some heft but won't grow quickly, is Monstera Deliciosa a good choice there, in that it will cope with the low light, but it won't, it just won't put on so much growth?
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 38:50
I just got one and I, mine is kind of in a higher light situation and is kind of getting bigger than what I want it to get, so yes, it probably would be good for me to move it some place where it's not going to get quite as much light and slow it down a little bit.
Jane Perrone 39:05
When I was a kid, the doctor's surgery where I lived had this big Monstera in it and I swear every time - I as a kid, you know, I was into houseplants - I was looking at this thing and every time I went there, I was thinking it looks exactly the same. It doesn't move, nothing's changed, no leaves have grown, no leaves have died. It's just exactly the same, which is I guess why it was a popular plant for places like waiting rooms. It just, it just was in stasis, waiting for conditions to improve.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 39:33
Right. And you know, that's a, that's a good, you know, that is a good, you know, a thing to point out, that a lot of the interior plantscaping, they want plants, they don't really want plants to outgrow their space, then they would have to trim them a lot and prune them a lot. So and they are low light spots, so yeah, they're just kind of maintaining, they're not, they're not declining, you want your plant not to decline, you want it to either maintain or grow. So you have to give them at least enough maintain itself. If you see it start declining, then you know, maybe it just doesn't have enough light. And you need to move it a little, try somehow to get it a little more light.
Jane Perrone 40:09
It's a delight to have you on the show again and get your insight into low light plants. It's a wonderful area of experimentation and provided that we're prepared for a few dropped leaves along the way, I think everyone can find a plant that works for them.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf 40:17
I think so. You know, if you have, if you have enough light to read by during the day, you should be able to find a plant, you know, without a light on, you should be able to find a plant that will survive at the very least for a while, you know, and before it starts declining, you know, and, you know, find a plant that works for you. And everybody should have a little green in their life. That's my motto.
Jane Perrone 40:44
That's a great note to finish on. Thanks so much to Lisa and you can find all the details of her new book 'Grow In The Dark' in my show notes at janeperrone.com where you'll also find a list of the plants we've talked about and a summary of Lisa's tips and of course reference to the Nicodemia diversifolia that we had a chat about - the strange Atlantis of houseplants! If you've got one of these sitting in your front room, I want to know about it! Any information you can pass on, I'd be more than grateful to receive. That rounds up this week's show. I'll be back next Friday for Episode 100. I know, the tension is incredible, but you're just going to have to wait 'til next week, and in the meantime, have a fantastic week with your plants. Take care. Bye!
This week's ad music was provided by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra, with Whistling Rufus and Dill Pickles. You also heard Overthrown by Josh Woodward. All these tracks are licensed under Creative Commons. See janeperrone.com for details.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai