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African Violets: Optimara Series

Known as the world’s all-time favorite windowsill houseplant, African Violets are growing in popularity. They are one of the easiest and most adaptable flowering houseplants to grow, and the requirements for success are simple -- find a good spot, don’t over water, and they’ll shower you with blooms during any season! With literally thousands of varieties to choose from there’s something for every taste. In addition to traditional shades of blue-violet, there are also shades of pink, fuchsia, white and even bicolor. Flowers come with smooth, ruffled or frilled petals while other varieties have single, semi-double or double rows of petals. Foliage color varies from green to bronze to pinkish and white variegated. With proper care, anyone can grow an African Violet. Just follow these simple rules:

  • The #1 thing to avoid is overwatering. Keep evenly moist and water from the bottom of the pot with room temperature water. Once a month, water under the leaves to push the nutrients back into the soil. Avoid getting water on the fuzzy leaves as water can cause brown spots. Don’t forget to add African Violet fertilizer to your water to boost blooming power.
  • Never place in direct sun, only indirect or filtered sunlight. Windows facing north or east usually provide the best light exposures.
  • Always use African violet potting soil. Violets thrive in light, porous and spongy soil, which allows roots to grow freely and surplus water to pass through easily.
  • Groom regularly by removing dead or dying foliage and flowers.

Be sure to check out our stunning new varieties from the Optimara Series. Select from two-inch minis, which include over 15 full-blooming varieties and are genuine miniatures, with no growth retardants used to keep them small. They are a great option when space is limited. Or choose from four-inch violets with white blooms with bright colored centers.

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Fall for Orchids

Orchids are among the most spectacular of all flowering plants! Available in a myriad of colors, shapes and sizes there is an orchid for everyone. They range in size from a two-inch plant that can sit in the palm of your hand to five-foot giants. Some can be fragrant with luscious scents of citrus, raspberry, lilacs, coconut and even chocolate. No matter your preference, the beauty of the flower is undeniable.

Never grown an orchid before, no worries. Orchids make an ideal beginner plant and are relatively easy to grow given the right care. Because individual orchids have so many different growing requirements, it is important that you get detailed care information for your certain type of orchid, since the care can greatly vary depending on the type you have. For example, Cymbidium orchids prefer cooler weather, so be sure it is kept in a cool place year-round. Moth Orchids enjoy light so find a place near a bright window.

It’s all about getting a quality plant with the correct advice, and the McDonald Garden Center staff can help you select and advise you on the best way to encourage your plant to flourish for many years to come. McDonald Garden Center has one of the largest collections of orchids in Hampton Roads! Here are four you may like to consider:

Phalaeonopsis – also known as Moth Orchids, are thick-leaved plants with elegant, arching sprays of blooms that can be seen in many designer magazines and sitting on coffee tables across America. Color range includes whites, pinks, lavenders and yellows in both solid colors and mixes of stripes and spots, with blooms lasting as long as three months. Phalaenopsis are low-light orchids and will thrive in an east window, or a shaded southerly or westerly exposure.

Cymbidiums – produce large, attractive flowers that come in a rainbow of colors and are one of the most popular and desirable orchids in the world because of their beautiful flowers. These orchids make great houseplants, and are also popular in floral arrangements and corsages. Cymbidiums typically bloom once a year during winter and spring seasons, with blooms lasting for about four weeks. A few hours of weak morning sunlight and shady afternoons are ideal for this variety.

Dendrobiums – possess a long bamboo-like stem loaded with flowers and comes in a wonderful array of colors from white to purple, pink, and even green. This orchid loves the heat and will grow quickly throughout the summer. When choosing a spot for your Dendrobium, select a place in medium to bright light. These plants like strong, natural sunlight;.

Paphiopedilums – also known as the lady slipper, this is an excellent plant for the beginner, since it is among the easiest and most rewarding orchids to grow. Due to their waxy or lacquered appearance, they are often mistaken as being artificial. The blooms are available in broad array of colors, shapes and sizes with flowers lasting anywhere from one to three months. Place this orchid in or near a sunny window.

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Plants of the Week: Floor Plant Favorites

From large, sculptural plants to charming succulents, there's a place for houseplants in every home. Green plants add textural interest, fill in drab corners and soften architectural features, and they can enhance mood and freshen air too. Large floor plants are especially ideal when used as an accent plant or as a focal point indoors. And, when it comes to indoor plants, some folks don’t have a reputation for having a green thumb. But, not all plants require equal amounts of TLC, and there are a lot that can put up with a little unintentional neglect. With the help of our indoor plant specialists, we've picked a few easy maintenance floor plants. So, if you are looking for ways to spruce-up and freshen your home or office, here are a few of our favorites...

Fiddle Leaf Fig - a wildly popular new houseplant featuring large, heavily veined, violin-shaped leaves that grow upright on a tall plant. Fiddle is native to the tropics, where they thrive in very warm, high light conditions. They are relatively tough plants that can withstand less-than-perfect conditions for a fairly long time. Give them a vacation outside during warmer months, and bring them indoors when cold weather sets in. Fiddle Leaf Figs perform best in bright sunshine.

Ficus Benjimina – shows off glossy, evergreen foliage and a graceful growth habit. All this plants needs is a sunny spot and it will thrive. Looks great when potted up and placed near doors, entryways or even outside during warmer months. Once it gets cold, bring it inside near a warm window. And don’t be afraid to trim the foliage back to maintain the graceful appearance. When potted, this ficus can grow 6 feet tall.

Corn Plant - this striking houseplant is nicknamed the Corn Plant for its long, dark green, sword-like leaves that resemble the foliage of actual corn. The variegated leaves usually have a yellow or crème center with dark green edging. This plant enjoys low light, making it perfect for corners and hallways. The Corn Plant has very a shallow root system, therefore when watering, be sure to place the water near the base of each cane so that the roots are able to absorb the water. If the leaves begin to drop or yellow, try watering the plant less frequently. This exceptionally easy to grow plant is one of the best houseplants for beginners, and the foliage is one of the most efficient at purifying the air.

Dracaena Marginata - this beautiful plant features green, thin leaves with red and yellow strips along the edges that grow from a thin cane. Marginata is an easy-care, durable houseplant well suited for offices and homes. This exotic, slow-growing houseplant can reach 6 feet tall, but you can control its height by simply cutting off the top. And did we mention that NASA lists Dracaena Marginata as excellent plant for removing harmful chemicals from the air?

Bamboo Palm - a tall, narrow palm tree with slender stems resembling bamboo. It has delicate pale green leaves called fronds that grow in clusters at the end of the stems. Bamboo palm performs well in low to medium light and grow 5 to 7 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide, so place it where it will have plenty of room to grow. Be sure to prune back dead leaves to keep it looking its best. With little effort, this tropical-looking plant will brighten dim corners of your home.

Tip - when watering, tap water will do, but rain and distilled water are best. Even indoors plants benefit from fertilizer in spring and summer when they are growing. We recommend giving your plants some time outside during the summer. In the shade for 6-8 weeks helps the plant get new energy to get through the dark winter months and still retain its natural beauty. Consult with our associates on pruning and grooming of each variety.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

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