20 tips to help your houseplants survive the winter

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20 tips to help your houseplants survive the winter

It may seem like winter is nothing but a death sentence for your beloved houseplants, but the coldest months are simply the time to use more specialized plant care. Far from being a period of inactivity or failed household foliage, winter can still be a healthy time for your plants. Winter even has the potential to bring out the most vibrant colors and blooms of the entire year for some plant species, including camellias, winter jasmines, and many types of witch hazel.

During winter, many plants undergo dormancy, in which they are still alive but suspend the growing processes. Different plant species employ a variety of genetic adaptations designed to maintain health against the dropping temperatures and lack of sunlight. For instance, seeds from plants native to colder climates spend the winter metabolizing to prepare for spring. Photosynthesis and respiration both slow down for many plants, minimizing the amount of sugar the plants have to metabolize in the cold. A plant shedding its leaves is also strategic, as doing so allows for nutrient conservation.

Eventually, once temperatures rise again, plants will know to end their dormancy periods. This is largely due to plants’ “temperature memories,” which enable them to keep track of interactions between proteins and measure time and temperature to deduce when spring has arrived.

Of course, even if your plants have their own methods of fending for themselves against the harsh elements of winter, a little specialized cold-weather care can go a long way, too. Stacker used a variety of home and gardening resources to compile a list of 20 tips to help you better care for your houseplants in the winter. They vary from techniques to manipulate light and heat to watering, cleaning, and potting methods that can keep the cold from getting the better of your plants. It should be kept in mind, however, that these tips are largely generalized; the specific needs of plants differ based on their species and origins. It’s always important to research each particular plant type beforehand.

Read on to learn how to best care for your indoor plants through the year’s coldest months.

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Make up for lost sunlight

One of the biggest threats to your plants’ well-being during winter is a lack of sunlight. To compensate for this, put your plants in a nice, bright spot to make the most of daylight hours—however short they may be. If you can, rotate your plants throughout the day to guarantee that each side gets its fair share of rays.

Nor Gal // Shutterstock

Ease up on fertilizer

Winter is a hibernation period for many plants, and they require a lot less fertilizer than in the spring—and sometimes none at all. Check the specific requirements for each type of plant you have, but mostly, you’ll want to hold off—or at least cut back—on fertilizing plants during the winter since they’re not actively growing.

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Be on the lookout for pests

Certain pests spring to life during the winter, targeting indoor plants in particular. Keep a careful eye on your houseplants to make sure they aren’t infested. If you find bugs like aphids or mites on your plants, isolate infested plants and treat them with pesticide or a gentle dish soap solution.

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Use a grow light on dark days

Some winter days are so short and overcast, the sun barely peeks out at all. To make sure your plants still get the light they need, use an LED grow light—or, as a cheaper option, screw a full-spectrum light bulb into a nearby lamp—to illuminate the leaves and keep them healthy.

JRP Studio // Shutterstock

Be mindful of vacation care

Many of us travel during the winter holidays, but definitely make sure to not leave your plants out in the cold when you do. Water as normal before leaving, but then consider placing your plants in the bathtub together so they can take advantage of a slightly more humid atmosphere while you’re gone. For longer trips, consider having someone come by and care for the plants in your stead.

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André Hofmeister // Flickr

Wash your windows

Placing your plants in front of a sunny window won’t do much good if the window is too dusty or grimy to let the sun’s nutrients in. Wash your windows on both sides so the maximum amount of sunlight is getting in.

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Dima Berlin // Shutterstock

Pay attention to humidity levels

Winter is notoriously dry, and your houseplants may suffer from the lack of moisture in the air. To keep things just humid enough, consider buying a humidifier to keep the atmosphere just right.

rattiya lamrod // Shutterstock

Keep your plants together

There’s power in numbers, and clustering your plants together during the winter can help them share nutrients and moisture. There are many easy DIY fixes to accomplish this, including moving your plants onto a large plate or building them a nice indoor window box to act as a kind of seasonal co-living space for them.

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Don’t water at summer rates

Just like fertilizer, plants need a lot less water in winter. Cut back on the amount you water your plants—to gauge if you’re giving them the right amount, place a finger about an inch or two deep into the soil and see if the soil below the surface is still wet. Even if the topsoil is dry, you won’t need to water the plant again until the soil a little deeper down is also getting there.

Studio Light and Shade // Shutterstock

Avoid cold air sneaking in

Drafts, breezes, and gusts of wind all need to be watched out for in the winter. To keep your plants from falling victim to sudden changes in temperature, position them away from vents, windows, doors, or other spots where air can slip through from outside.

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Evade sources of overheating

It’s natural to want to protect your plants from the excess cold by turning up the thermostat, but too much heat can be just as big a threat to them. As fireplaces, radiators, ovens, and other heating systems blaze up, make sure your plants aren’t in the line of fire.

Evgeniya Uvarova // Shutterstock

Be strategic with the spray bottle

Although misting is a popular technique for giving plants a dose of moisture, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Mist in the morning so they have time to soak it in throughout the day, while it’s still light out, and be sure not to neglect the bottom of your leaves.

Olivier Le Moal // Shutterstock

Maintain a constant temperature range

Between heating systems going on and off throughout the day and degrees dropping dramatically at night, temperatures fluctuate during the winter. Houseplants, however, require a steady atmosphere, so move them away from windows at night and keep them in a well-ventilated area during the day to give them as much consistency as possible.

Tanja Esser // Shutterstock

Check before you bring the entire garden inside

Not all outdoor plants will need to be brought inside for winter—some, even surprisingly, may thrive outdoors during the cold months. When deciding which garden plants to move indoors for the winter, check the USDA plant hardiness zone map to see which ones are best left where they are.

BlokPhoto // Shutterstock

Quarantine outside plants before moving them indoors

Once you determine which outdoor plants you’ll be bringing indoors for the winter, it’s best to isolate these plants for a short time before making the switch. During this period, check your plants to make sure they aren’t bringing any outside pests in with them, and use the time to prune any superfluous stems and leaves, as well. After that, they will be ready to make the move inside.

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Wipe down plants to keep dust away

Many household plants accumulate dust during the winter, which can be detrimental to plant growth since that dust can block out sunlight and even carry disease. Periodically clean the leaves of your plants by gently wiping them down with a slightly wet cloth or sponge.

Pixel-Shot // Shutterstock

Wait until spring to repot

As previously mentioned, many plants hibernate during the winter. Since they aren’t undergoing dramatic growth, it’s unnecessary to repot them for a while, especially since the repotting process can be trying on plants and their roots, making it a hard process for them to cope with during their weaker winter months. Hold off on any winter pot switches and save the repotting for the spring.

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Inspect frequently with a watchful eye

Plant owners should keep a close eye on their indoor gardens during the tough winter months. You can do everything by the book, but if you’re not keeping tabs on how your plants are responding, you could miss warning signs that something doesn’t agree with them. Check in with your plants frequently, inspecting them for pests, spots, drying, discoloration, and any other prudent characteristics.

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Refresh soil a few times per winter

Although you don’t have to repot your plants until spring, it is still good to refresh plants’ soil from time to time during the winter. This includes trimming and rustling up root balls to keep the soil breathing.

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Keep limb growth in check

Many plants can develop dead leaves or long, leggy limbs in the winter because of a lack of sunlight. Trim and prune unnecessary growths like these to keep the plants in top shape for spring.

Article was originally published by Stacker. Written by: Andrea Vale

13 Best Border Plants For Edging

Border plants are a great way to complete a garden’s design, whether edging a walkway or finishing a flower bed.

We’ll share 13 beautiful border plants that need little care but are still low-maintenance. The plants can significantly enhance any outdoor area. In addition, some come with additional benefits that will increase the value of having living garden edging.

Also, some of the plants can withstand foot traffic. And on sweltering summer days, nothing beats walking on plants barefoot instead of hot pavement or stone.

Plants also provide numerous advantages to the garden, such as crowding out weeds, retaining moisture, minimizing soil erosion, and providing habitat for important pollinators.

These plants come in various sizes, from tall to short, spreading or compact, helping you create the appearance of professionally designed places in your garden.

1.) Alyssum

Alyssum planted in garden edging

Alyssum is a well-liked option for use in borders because of its attractively delicate blossoms, which can create an impression when planted in clusters.

These plants are compact in size, only reaching around 9″ tall. Making them versatile in that they won’t block out other garden plants.

The excellent characteristics of Alyssum are that it is fast-growing and low-maintenance. The downfall is Aphids can be a problem. If you notice an aphid problem, you’ll want to add or attract ladybugs, which will eat aphids and keep the pest at bay.

Growing: Does best in USDA zones 5 -9, with well-draining, slightly moist soil. It may need a little extra watering during low rain periods.

2.) Lantana

lantana flower plants for landscaping border.

Lantana is available in red, yellow, orange, and white varieties, injecting a blaze of color into the landscape, making it an excellent choice for an edging plant.

Blooms in summer and fall. The leaves have a rough sandpaper feel to them. 

These plants give off a citrus smell that attracts pollinators like butterflies. One in particular that enjoys Lantana is the spicebush swallowtail.

Growing: Fast-growing perennial in USDA zones 8-11. Does best in full sun.

Caution: Lantana is known to be toxic to some animals.

3.) Firebush

firebush plant used in the garden.

Hamelia patens, the scientific name for the commonly known plant, firebush, is a perennial or semi-woody shrub. 

The vivid red flowers of firebush are a favorite of gardeners and wildlife, drawing in pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies, such as the zebra longwing and gulf fritillary. But, of course, those berries are a favorite food of songbirds, too.

Firebush displays evergreen leaves coated with red hairs during the summer, while the plant yields orange tubular blooms.

Thrives in USDA hardiness zones 8-11, with late spring or summer being the best time to grow a firebush. Full sun is ideal for growth and blooming but may also be grown in partial shade. 

Gardeners in coastal locations may appreciate that it is also relatively resistant to salt spray.

Planting is easy and can thrive in almost any soil as long as it drains properly.

4.) Ixora

Ixora plant edging a garden.

Ixora, commonly known as West Indian Jasmine, creates a stunning display of flowers and leaves. Its blossoms appear in hypnotizing hues of pink, orange, and yellow.

Does best in USDA zones 9+. With well-draining soil that is alkaline.

5.) Canna 

canna lily plants in a garden

Beautiful orange, red, and yellow blooms are displayed with the Canna plants. Also, sometimes called canna lilies. 

Perennials that will give your garden a tropical feel. 

Planting a rhizome in the spring after the last frost will cause it to wait a few weeks to sprout, but it will then develop rapidly and usually bloom in the first year.

Growing: Does best in USDA zones 6a-10a with slightly acidic soil. 

6.) Hostas

hostas along a garden path.

The classic and attractive leaves of hostas make them a fantastic option for lining a garden path. Hostas are herbaceous perennial plants that can tolerate a range of conditions.

These edging plants for borders draw just the right amount of attention with their unique leaf shape and flowering blooms. 

You can also get creative with hosta varieties. There is a wide range to choose from, even blue-colored varieties.

hostas planted in garden.

Growing: USDA zones 3-9 and grow best in partial shade to full shade. They are also water lovers. So ensure the soil stays moist or water regularly if needed. Outside of that, they are not too picky.

7.) Lavender

lavender plants in a garden.

Modest height and colorful blooms have made lavender a favorite edging plant. Not to mention the hypnotic scent the plant gives off.

Lavender is a classic garden plant that will look great just about anywhere. 

As a bonus, you’ll attract more life to your garden as the plants attract beneficial insects. Such as bees and butterflies. 

What’s great about lavender is that it often thrives in poor-quality soil. In addition, it doesn’t require much water and is considered a drought-tolerant plant. So, make sure it is in well-draining soil that is slightly alkaline.

This border plant requires a good amount of sun, so make sure not to plant it in a shady area. It also needs alkaline to mildly neutral pH soil. It is recommended not to add any organic soil when planting.

lavender plants

If you’re still not sold on lavender, check this out. A study was completed in 2002, showing lavender can be used to keep mosquitoes away. The study showed the essential oil of Lavender officinalis worked at keeping adult mosquitoes away.

8.) Ferns

ferns along a garden path of stone.

Ferns can be an excellent choice along wooded trails and pathways if you have a shaded garden.

Some of the world’s oldest plants, ferns thrive in temperate, tropical, and colder regions.

Numerous varieties available can grow in a range of growing zones. Just place them in full to partial shade with moist and rich soil. 

9.) Moss Phlox

landscape edging with moss phlox plant

Also called creeping phlox, this plant produces small and colorful blooms making Moss phlox an easy-care, beautiful option for borders and edging.

It does best in loamy, sandy soil that is well-draining in partial to full shade.

Growing: USDA growing zones 5-9.

10.) Zinnias

zinnia used as garden edging.

Zinnias of varying heights and hues in a garden border provide a stunning visual effect. And it’s straightforward to cultivate and adaptable in a wide variety of situations.

zinnia plants up close.

One bummer about zinnias is that there are annual, not perennial. Although, you can save the seeds at the end of the year and replant the follower season.

Growing: Does best in USDA zones 3-10, in well-draining neutral pH soil. 

11.) Begonias

begonia planted on the edge of a garden bed.

There is a wide range of begonias available, each of which is suited to a different kind of soil and temperature, making them a flexible choice for use as a garden border.

12.) Lady’s Mantle

ladys mantle plant in the garden along a path.

Beautiful groundcover, Lady’s Mantle is an excellent choice for shady areas like pathways and tree canopies. This is the plant to use if you need to soften the edges of your borders.

Featuring greenish-yellow blooms with a soft texture. 

This border plant doesn’t like too much direct sun or heat. So, if you’re in a hot climate, you may want to mulch the base and plant in an area that gets some afternoon shade.

Growing Zones: Does best in USDA zones 3-8.

13.) Creeping Thyme

pathway with creeping thyme.
Creeping thyme was planted between the stone pathway (not in bloom).

Creeping thyme is another excellent border plant. It’s a fragrant ground cover with lovely purple blooms. The blossoms have a light, herbal aroma, releasing that perfume when crushed.

Great for brightening up garden beds and softening harsh landscape edging. 

Another herbaceous perennial that stays company in size. Only reaches 6″ tall and reach about 18″ wide. 

Creeping thyme is similar to lavender in that it doesn’t like much water (once established) and needs sun. 

creeping thyme in bloom.
Blooming

Tip: If you want your plants to be more “bushy,” you can regularly prune them. This will create more stems and also get rid of dead foliage. 

Growing: Does best in USDA zones 4-9 with full sun.

This article was produced by Nature of Home, and syndicated by healing-water.org.

Are Lemons Man Made? Created in a Lab, or Natural? (Explained)

Did life give us lemons? Or did we make them ourselves? The citrus family has an elaborate taxonomy, much of which precedes historical documentation. 

So it’s difficult to say when, where, or how the first lemon trees appeared. Let’s look at the existing evidence and scientific speculation to determine if lemons are man-made. 

A Hybrid Gone Sour

The lemons we know and love today evolved through natural and human-facilitated cross-breeding over many centuries. 

In the 18th century, Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus classified the lemon as a variety of citron. However, scientists now know that the lemon, or Citrus limon, is a hybrid of the citron and the bitter orange. 

One of the original citrus fruits, the citron looks like a larger and more rugged lemon. It has a thick rind with ridged, bright yellow skin. Although fragrant, the citron produces little juice. 

Also known as the sour orange, the bitter orange is a hybrid of two citrus plants: the pomelo and the mandarin. Unsurprisingly, bitter orange has a bitter taste. This sour fruit is the citrus usually used to make marmalade. 

The combination of citron and sour orange also produced bergamot orange. 

The lemon and rough lemon look similar. But the rough lemon is not the same as the lemon widely used today. The rough lemon results from a different pairing: the citron and the mandarin. 

Geographic Origin & Natural Evolution

The exact origin of the original citrus fruits, much less the lemon, is unknown.  

Archeologists rely on fossil records to date the origins of fruit. Unfortunately, limited fossil records exist for citrus fruits. But a fossilized citrus leaf discovered in southwestern China dates to eight million years ago. 

Scientists have also traced the origins of citrus fruits. Using DNA evidence, they have placed the original citrus trees in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. 

Without human intervention, the citrus plants stayed put. Until the climate shifted. Weaker monsoons and drier weather allowed the citrus plants to spread (and evolve) beyond the Himalayas over millions of years. 

Human Cultivation Begins

lemon trees in a farm field

Human-cultivated citrus has a somewhat shorter history – estimated at a mere 4,000+ years.

Traders, crusaders, and migraters spread the lemon across many continents over many centuries. It was a long, winding journey to where we are today. 

Piecing together historical documentation (trade receipts, farming records, literature, etc.) provides a rough timeline: 

  • 3000 BC Earliest record of Citron 
  • 100 AD Lemons in the Middle East and North Africa
  • 200 AD Lemons in southern Italy
  • 700 AD Lemons cultivated in Egypt, Iraq, and Persia 
  • 760 AD Lemons in China
  • 1000 AD Lemons introduced to Spain 
  • 1493 AD Christopher Columbus brings lemon seeds to the Americas
  • 1494 AD Lemons cultivated in the Azores 
  • 1751 AD Lemons grown in California
  • 1800s AD Lemons grown in Florida

(Note: these dates don’t necessarily reflect the beginnings of lemon cultivation in particular regions so much as the approximate first point of existing documentation.) 

Until about the 10th century, people regarded the lemon tree as an ornamental tree rather than a food source. 

In the 12th century, the palaces of Egypt and Syria prized lemons for their medicinal virtues. 

As Spanish conquest spread lemons to the Americas, lemons gained popularity for flavoring and cooking. 

Current Lemon Cultivations 

Today, there are at least 200 distinct cultivars of lemons in the US alone (PDF). 

These lemons are cultivated using selective breeding to prioritize desirable traits such as disease resistance, productivity, climate preference (humid vs. arid), and seed quantity. Cultivators might also breed lemons for specific uses, with some being better suited for lemon oil and others for juice. 

Even after millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of human cultivation, lemons still have a narrow growing region. For instance, the trees won’t survive once temperatures dip below 20° Fahrenheit. 

Given this cold intolerance, it’s not surprising that Arizona, California, and Florida lead lemon production in the US. 

Nationwide, the US produces nearly two billion pounds of lemons and limes each year (USDA). But this number accounts for less than 5% of the world’s total lemon production.  

Commercial planters primarily usually use grafting to propagate lemons trees. The rootstocks of lemons are disease-prone. So planters graft a stem from the desired lemon variety onto the rootstocks of other citrus trees (grapefruit, sweet orange, sour orange, tangelo, and mandarin orange). These rootstocks provide a more reliable foundation. 

When grafted, the ‘Meyer’ lemon tree will fruit 2 to 3 years earlier than a budded tree. This tree will then produce fruit for at least 30 years. 

Historians aren’t exactly sure when, where, or how the lemon originated. Making it challenging to answer the question, “are lemons man made?” But currently, no genetically modified lemons exist in the United States. So even if humans helped breed the lemons, they didn’t do so in a laboratory. 

This article was produced by Nature of Home, and syndicated by healing-water.org.

Aircrete: What It Is, Pros & Cons, Uses in Homes/Domes

Building a new home incurs many monetary and environmental costs. One of the biggest sources of these costs is the material used in the masonry blocks, also known as the literal building blocks of your home. 

Concrete is a very popular masonry material and one of the most widely used synthetic materials on Earth. Its popularity no doubt stems from the fact that it is incredibly durable and structurally sound. 

However, manufacturing concrete produces a large carbon footprint – an estimated 5% to 7% of carbon dioxide emissions. 

But what if you want a building material that matches structural strength with environmental sustainability? Consider using aircrete, a cheap, lightweight alternative to traditional concrete that offers many of the same benefits. 

When building a new home, it’s hard to beat affordability and sustainability. But those are not the only benefits aircrete can offer. Keep reading to learn why you should consider using aircrete in your next building project. 

What Is Aircrete?

aircrete blocks

Aircrete is a building material often used in the form of masonry blocks. Builders increasingly regard aircrete, also known as Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC), as an eco-alternative to traditional concrete building blocks. 

Durable yet lightweight, this precast building material offers sufficient compressive strength for non-load-bearing walls while protecting against various climate elements. 

Aircrete is essentially a mix of water, foaming agent, and cement. The foaming agent creates tiny air bubbles that, when evenly dispersed, provide many benefits (outlined in the next section). 

The target amount of foaming agent depends on the intended application for the aircrete. As a rule of thumb, aircrete with more air bubbles offers greater insulation capacity but less compression strength.  

Blending traditional concrete relies on a coarse aggregate such as gravel. This composition creates a denser material with greater compressive strength. However, it lacks many of aircrete’s most attractive properties – particularly regarding insulation.

For increased structural strength, builders might mix traditional aggregate into aircrete.

Premade aircrete blocks will make variations to this basic recipe. For example, manufacturers such as H+H Aircrete use a mixture of cement, lime, pulverized fuel ash, and aluminum powder. 

Whatever the foaming agent, these uniformly distributed stable air cells are crucial to the performance of aircrete. For this reason, you might also hear aircrete referred to as aerated concrete, foam concrete, lightweight concrete, or cellular concrete.

Benefits of Using Aircrete

We’ll discuss aircrete’s sustainability properties in a later section. But, first, let’s look at the tangible benefits aircrete can lend to your building structure.

Cheaper Associated Costs

Many builders tout aircrete as a low-cost option thanks to the relative cheapness of the materials used to make aircrete: water, foam, and cement. 

As with any construction project, the exact cost of building with aircrete varies depending on several factors, particularly if you’re mixing aircrete yourself. Generally speaking, however, building with aircrete is less expensive than building with traditional concrete. 

Hajjar Gibran, the founder of DomeGaia — a company that builds quirky dome-shaped houses using aircrete, believes aircrete has potential as a building material for affordable housing. 

Gibran estimates DomeGaia’s aircrete costs $1 to $2 per square foot and inch of thickness. By this calculation, using aircrete to build a 1,000-square-foot building with 4-inch thick walls would cost under $8,000. 

Even if you’re not interested in living in a dome home, aircrete will probably be a cheaper building material than traditional concrete. And it is definitely more environmentally sound than timber. 

Greater Insulation

One of the most significant advantages aircrete offers over traditional concrete is its insulation abilities.  

The moment you step inside an unsealed concrete basement, you will feel the room’s chilly dampness. Some traditional concrete blocks increase their insulation capacity by adding rigid insulation such as polystyrene foam blocks. 

Aircrete blocks don’t require this addition. The foam or air bubbles dispersed throughout the aircrete naturally provide insulation properties. Aircrete is also very air-tight, allowing for much better heat consistency than permeable concrete blocks. 

Thermal mass is another key to aircrete’s insulation success. (Thermal mass refers to a material’s ability to absorb and retain energy from heat.) 

High-density materials such as traditional concrete blocks have high thermal mass and require a lot of energy to change temperature. Timber and other lightweight materials change temperature quickly because they have low thermal mass. 

The thermal mass of aircrete blocks lands between these two extremes, leading to more consistent absorption and distribution of heat within a building. 

By some estimations, aircrete could provide an insulation value of R-6 per inch. For comparison, popular insulation material loose fill cellulose offers up to R-3.8 per inch. 

Taken at face value, if aircrete offers an R-value of 6 per inch, a house in warm climates could easily meet the recommended R-30 with 5-inch thick walls. 

Builders might consider using a thicker application of aircrete in areas requiring additional insulation such as attics, ceilings, or foundations in some cases. 

Ease of Application 

installing aircrete block

Several qualities make aircrete easier to use than traditional concrete. 

Thanks to evenly dispersed air cells, aircrete has a lower density than concrete. So, in layman’s terms: aircrete is more lightweight, offering easier application and faster home construction.

Additionally, unlike concrete blocks, aircrete blocks can be cut with a handsaw and manipulated with other wood-working tools. Whether you need to carve, drill, or penetrate the material, this quality offers flexibility in construction. 

You can easily form aircrete into blocks or pour the liquid form into walls. Aircrete hardens over time, allowing you to shape the material before it has dried. When aircrete does dry, usually over one night, it self-levels. 

Aircrete’s flexibility and lower associated production costs make it an attractive material for DIY home builders.

Fire Resistance

houses in wildfire

Housing constructions made from lumber pose increased fire risks. However, aircrete outperforms even concrete in terms of its fire-resistant qualities. 

The materials used to make aircrete – water, foam, and cement – aren’t typically known for catching on fire; this means that aircrete, like concrete, won’t catch fire even when exposed to extremely hot flames. Aircrete’s fire-resistant quality also results from its porous nature and material makeup.

This quality makes aircrete a great material for building in areas increasingly at risk of wildfires.

In the event of a house fire, aircrete walls will offer superior protection, so consider placing valuable assets in areas walled using aircrete. 

Moisture Resistance

The foam or air bubbles within aircrete blocks protect the structure against moisture accumulation. Thanks to reduced moisture accumulation, aircrete will not rot or deteriorate when exposed to water — even in cases of humidity. 

Moisture resistance is crucial to preventing mold, decreased air quality, or structural damage caused by dampness. 

Use aircrete’s water resistance to your advantage. Identify cold spots in your building project. Apply aircrete in these areas to prevent future risks of moisture accumulation. Whether your building suffers from water accumulation or snow, aircrete will help the structure resist water damage. 

Pest Resistance 

aircrete homes are more protected from pests like slugs

At best, pests are a creepy-crawly nuisance. At worst, they can cause severe structural damage. Building with aircrete is a great way to reduce the risk of this nuisance and damage. 

Termites are common household pests that frequently attack timber structures. Building your house using aircrete rather than timber makes the risk of termites impossible and irrelevant. 

Working with aircrete allows builders to seal openings and enclosures tightly, making it much harder for pests to infiltrate a building’s interior space. 

Improved Acoustics 

As with many insulation applications, aircrete provides soundproofing, its many air pores reducing the transfer of sound from room to room. 

Building with aircrete is a great way to improve a room’s acoustic properties. This soundproofing doesn’t just benefit intrepid drummers who don’t want to disturb their neighbors. 

It can also block out unwanted noises that might come from outside your house, such as traffic or barking dogs. 

Aircrete Sustainability

If you calculate the sum of these benefits, you will probably realize that the benefits of aircrete amount to increased sustainability, especially when compared to concrete.

Creating aircrete uses less cement, water, electricity, and heat than concrete production. Plus, the composition of aircrete relies on all-organic materials: cement, water, and air bubbles (or foam). 

By some estimates, the right foaming agent can increase the volume of aircrete sixfold. It also produces fewer off-gas emissions than its cement counterpart. 

Additionally, the superior insulation properties of aircrete reduce the energy required to regulate a building’s temperature. 

Aircrete’s fire, moisture, and pest resistance properties result in a building that requires lower maintenance and is less likely to break down over time, particularly when compared to timber constructions. 

Aircrete is durable. Plus, in cases where aircrete does not withstand the tests of time, it’s easy to recycle aircrete. In some cases, you can even reuse aircrete for structural purposes. (It doesn’t even produce damaging emissions over time.) 

Disadvantages of Using Aircrete

Maybe you’re thinking aircrete sounds too good to be true. It offers many benefits, but what about the downsides? 

When you compare aircrete to traditional concrete, aircrete falls short in two key ways: strength and durability. 

Aircrete is not as strong as traditional concrete. Consider using it for internal support rather than foundational structures. Aircrete is better suited to absorbing shock than to bearing loads. 

If aircrete is composed too densely of foam, it can lose durability and become brittle. This brittleness won’t necessarily cause structural issues but might lead to chipping and cracking.

The measures of components and methods used to mix aircrete will impact the degree of these shortcomings. 

Remember that you can incorporate aircrete and traditional concrete into your building’s structure. First, consider using concrete blocks for load-bearing constructions requiring higher compressive strength levels. Then, use aircrete blocks for interior constructions that require better insulation. 

Possible Uses for Aircrete

Builders first developed aircrete to replace breeze blocks. Aircrete blocks are still primarily used for this purpose, placed on internal skins of cavity walls to provide optimal insulation. 

However, contemporary builders are starting to use aircrete for many other purposes. For example, some builders, such as the folks at DomeGaia, are using solid aircrete to build not just external skins but entire buildings. 

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly alternative to concrete, here are some different household applicationswhere you can use aircrete:

Countertops & Table Tops

Aircrete slabs can provide a lightweight, easy-to-transport alternative to heavy precast concrete slabs. 

Dog House

Building a dog house using aircrete can provide added insulation and bug resistance for your furry friend. 

Greenhouse & Shed 

Since aircrete offers excellent insulation properties, using this material to build a greenhouse or shed will help keep delicate seedlings toasty and your tools dry. 

Garden Beds, Planters, & Retaining Walls

When composed of all-natural materials, aircrete garden beds won’t leach chemicals into your raised soil mounds, unlike treated wood or concrete. 

Pizza Oven

Aircrete is easy to shape during its application, making it an ideal material to form into a dome to house tasty pies.

Rocket Stove

Completely fire-resistant and easy to use, aircrete is a suitable material for building a rocket stove. 

Roof and Roof Panels

Thanks to evenly dispersed air bubbles, using aircrete for poured roofs increases attic insulation capacity. 

Underground Pipes

In cold areas, it’s possible to use aircrete to provide an additional layer of defense against freezing. 

Pro Tip: Aircrete might not be the best material for applications that require load-bearing strength (driveways, garage floors, patios). Also, as aircrete is not 100% watertight, it is not a good material to use when building a pool. 

You can purchase aircrete masonry in various blocks and panels directly from manufacturers such as Aercon AAC or Hebel. It is also possible to make an aircrete mixture at home. 

Airing on the Side of Caution

If you’re purchasing pre-manufactured aircrete, be aware that some manufacturers use foam products containing harmful chemicals. However, it is entirely possible to make aircrete with non-toxic natural resources. In these cases, aircrete blocks are much safer than many other building materials and will not release toxic fumes. 

Whether you’re building a new home or making improvements to an existing building, structural safety is the most important thing to consider. When in doubt, hire a professional builder to assess the load-bearing requirements of your building project.

Frequent Questions

Is Aircrete load bearing?

As we mentioned in the article. Aircrete can handle some weight, but for projects that require high-compressive strength, you’re better off with concrete. 

What is the fire resistance of aircrete?

See our above section in this article, “The materials used to make aircrete – water, foam, and cement – aren’t typically known for catching on fire; this means that aircrete, like concrete, won’t catch fire even when exposed to extremely hot flames. 

Aircrete’s fire-resistant quality also results from its porous nature and material makeup.

This quality makes aircrete a great material for building in areas increasingly at risk of wildfires.”

Who came up with aircrete?

Mr. Willem van Boggelen invented aircrete around fifty years ago. Here was a mechanical engineer and also was involved with Fluid Mechanics. He also founded Aircrete Europe back in 2002.

References

CEMENT AND CONCRETE: THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: Link

Building an aircrete dome home – PDF

ADVANTAGES AND IMPLICATIONS OF LOW DENSITY AIRCRETE PRODUCTS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY – PDF

This article was produced by Nature of Home, and syndicated by healing-water.org.

How to Propagate Pothos: Best Guide for Beginners & 3 Mistakes to Avoid

how to propagate pothos plants

Editor’s note: Propagating plants is essential as plants are the key to healthy ecosystems. The following article shows how to propagate a pothos plant. It’s an excellent plant to learn from, and use this skill to create more plants for free.

Propagating pothos is a fast, cheap, and easy way to get more houseplants. This beginner-friendly vine is a vigorous grower and will benefit from a regular trim. Our how to propagate pothos guide will discuss the best methods with easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions.

Getting Started

Before getting started, here are some essential tips for propagating your pothos successfully.

Materials You Will Need

You only need a few supplies to propagate pothos, and you can easily pick them up from a hardware store or gardening center.

Here’s a quick shopping list:

  • Sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears;
  • Small glass or jar (if propagating in water);
  • Pot with drainage holes;
  • Chunky soil mix is made from fresh potting soil, perlite, and coco coir.

Tip: Pothos cuttings root very fast and don’t usually need rooting hormone. 

When to Propagate Pothos

You can propagate pothos all year round. For best results, try propagating pothos in spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing. Pothos cuttings grow roots faster during the brighter, warmer months and will root slower in winter. 

Tip: The same method can be used to propagate all types of pothos. This includes the classic golden pothos and varieties such as Marble Queen, Pearls and Jade, Neon Pothos, Manjula, Cebu Blue, and even Satin Pothos (Scindapsus pictus).  

How Many Pothos Cuttings Do You Need?

To make a bushy pothos plant, you will need at least 3-4 cuttings per pot. For a 6-inch pot, five cuttings should be enough. This will give the roots space to develop and give the pothos a fuller look. 

Tip: You can propagate pothos from a cutting without leaves. As long as the stem is at least 2 inches long and has a growth node with a visible aerial root, you can put it in soil or water, and new roots will grow. 

How to Cut the Pothos Vine for Propagation

showing how to cut pothos vine for propagation

Start by untangling your pothos plant, and pick 3-4 of the longest vines for propagation. Each vine should have at least 6-7 leaves. 

You can either cut a long vine into single-node sections or take individual cuttings from several vines. All leaves should be healthy, with no pests or diseases, so check them thoroughly before taking any cuttings.

Next, locate the growth node on the vine. It will look like a small lump where the leaf petiole joins the main stem with a woody aerial root. 

Take your scissors or pruning shears and wipe them with isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the blade. Cut the pothos vine at an angle, half an inch above and below the node. That’s it: you now have a pothos cutting! 

Tip: Never cut more than ⅔ of the pothos plant. If you miss too much, the parent plant can go into shock and take several months to start growing leaves again. 

Step-By-Step Guide for How to Propagate Pothos

The easiest pothos propagation methods are rooting cuttings in water or soil. Here’s what you need to do. 

Propagating Cuttings in Water

  1. Use a sharp, sterilized blade and cut the pothos vine ½ an inch above and below the growth node.
  2. Cut at least three cuttings per pot for a bushy pothos plant
  3. Half-fill a glass with room temperature water.
  4. Put your pothos cuttings in the glass, ensuring that the growth node is submerged, but the leaves stay above the water level.
  5. Keep your glass of cuttings in a warm, bright room but away from direct sunlight. 
  6. Change the water in the glass once every 5 to 7 days to prevent algae and bacteria buildup.
  7. After 7 to 10 days, the cutting will grow roots.
  8. Wait until the roots are at least 2 inches long, or another 3-4 weeks. Then, transplant your rooted pothos cuttings into a well-draining, chunky soil mix, and water them well.  

Tip: Pothos cuttings can speed up water propagation for other plants. Their roots release water-soluble hormones that promote cell division and rapid root growth. So if you’re propagating other houseplants in water, put 1-2 pothos cuttings in the same glass. 

Time Lapse of Pothos Propagation in Water

This video is a time lapse that will show you what the various stages of root growth will look like.

Propagating Cuttings in Soil

  1. Cut the pothos vine half an inch above and below the growth node, using a shard, sterilized blade.
  2. Take a pot with drainage holes and fill it with a chunky soil mix.
  3. Stick each cutting in the soil one inch deep and gently press the soil around it so that the cutting sits upright.
  4. Water the soil slowly and evenly until the water starts dripping through the drainage hole.
  5. Put the pot in a warm, bright room, and keep the soil moist.
  6. Pothos cuttings take longer to root in the soil. After 3-4 weeks, give them a light pull. If you encounter resistance, it means that the cuttings have developed roots. 

Water vs. Soil Propagation: Which Is Best?

Water propagation is the fastest and easiest way to root pothos cuttings. Compared to soil propagation, your cuttings will root up to 3 weeks faster, especially in a warm, sunny room. 

Keeping the cuttings in water also makes it easier to see if and when the roots have started growing. And if you remember to change the water at least once every five days, you won’t have problems with rot, a common issue in soil propagation. 

Overall, we recommend using the water propagation method for your pothos cuttings. But if you want to root them in soil instead, there are no rules against it.  

Troubleshooting Common Propagation Mistakes

Scindapsus pictus or satin pothos being propagated in pot
Scindapsus pictus – Satin Pothos

Let’s look at some of the most common pothos propagation problems and how to fix them.

Cuttings Are Not Rooting

There are several reasons why your pothos cuttings are not growing roots:

  • The cutting has no growth node. You can’t propagate pothos from just a leaf, so always make sure the cutting has a node.
  • Cuttings are not getting enough light. Keep them in a bright, indirect light room but away from the intense afternoon sun.
  • The cutting is too long. Try using single-node cuttings instead or vines shorter than 6 inches.
  • It’s too early. Pothos cuttings take between 1 and 4 weeks to start growing roots. They will root faster in water, and if you propagate them during spring and summer.

Cuttings Turning Black

Pothos cuttings can be susceptible to stem and root rot (PDF), which causes them to wilt and turn black. If propagating in water, change the water once every five days. 

For soil propagation, use a well-draining potting mix, and allow the top half-inch of the soil to dry out before watering again.  

Cuttings Wilted After Transplanting

If pothos cuttings are drooping after transplanting to the soil, this is usually caused by too much or too little water. Keep soil moist but not soaked, and always use a well-draining potting mix. Also, avoid sudden changes in temperature, which can also cause the cuttings to wilt.

Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap on our how to propagate pothos guide. Enjoy your baby plants, and remember to check our in-depth pothos care guide to keep your plants thriving. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you propagate pothos straight into soil?

Yes, you can propagate pothos straight into the soil. It is mentioned in this article. It may save you some time transplanting from water, but it will take longer and is a bit more risk for problems. Water is the preferred method.

How long does it take for pothos to propagate in water?

You will usually see root growth after 7-10 days. Once the roots are 1-2″ long you can transplant into soil, or keep in water with a good quality liquid fertilizer.

Can you propagate pothos without leaves in water

You can propagate pothos without leaves using a root or stem cutting. But, as stated above, it is usually better to select a healthy section with 6-7 leaves for best results.

What to do about pothos propagation root rot?

Root rot is usually caused by fungal diseases or overwatering. Roots will have a foul smell and be brown or black. These damaged sections should be cut off. Then, place the pothos into new sterile potting soil.

Can pothos propagate from just a leaf?

No, you will need a node that can grow roots. Just using a leaf will not work.

Can pothos live in water forever?

If you enjoyed propagating your pothos in water, don’t feel like potting it in soil. You can leave it in water, and it will happily live out its days. But, you will need to ensure proper care, such as using liquid fertilizer to ensure it is getting the nutrients it needs.

This article was originally published on natureofhome.com.

Biomimicry to Heal Water

As population growth increases and the pressures on our water supply increase, scientists are required to develop innovative and new ways to secure our nation’s precious natural resource. A new research discipline shows that the key to a viable survival strategy could be within nature.

BIOMIMICRY: Let nature build a better tommorow

Man has been studying the natural world for centuries. We first tried to control nature and hold it using our machines and structures. In many ways, we attempt to defend it from the same systems. However, our problems remain: billions of people worldwide are denied access to clean drinking water, while pollution threatens the water supplies of those with access.

The year 1997 was when US bioscientist Janine Benyus introduced the world to the concept of biomimicry. Since then, this new field has grown exponentially and leaps. Biomimicry can be described as the art of studying and replicating natural processes, forms, and ecosystems to overcome human design problems and develop environmentally sustainable designs.

Biomimicry reorients the world and asks us to think about what we can learn from nature and how we use that knowledge to incorporate it into our unique designs to imitate the creativity we see in nature.

There are three kinds of biomimicry: copying shape and form while another mimics an action, such as photosynthesis in a leaf. For example, the third mimics the level of ecosystems, like the construction of an urban environment inspired by nature.

The premise of nature is that imagining through necessity has solved a lot of the issues we’re currently battling. Microbes, plants, and animals are the ultimate scientists, engineers, physicists, and engineers. They have discovered what works, what’s appropriate, and, most importantly, the things that last on Earth.

Through looking at the examples of nature, we can create new and innovative solutions to engineering, design, and other problems we confront: in food production, energy, transportation, climate control, water supply, and much more. The goal for the Biomimicry Movement is the creation of organizations, products, processes, and policies that are new ways of living that are well-adapted to the earth’s environment in the long run. A key aspect to note about biomimicry is that it utilizes the principles of organisms, not microorganisms.

BIOMIMICRY’S POWER TO IMPROVE WATER

Recognizing the potentiality of this new science for waters as a whole, the Water Research Commission (WRC) began a five-year program to show the methodology of biomimicry in the South African setting. The project, led in partnership with Golder Associates Africa, together with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of the Witwatersrand and biomimicrySA, is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

We have always been thinking linearly when trying to solve our water-related problems. Consider the typical wastewater treatment chain where wastewater flows via concrete structure, it is processed, and then it flows out, as explained by WRC Research Manager Dr. Valerie Naidoo. “The biomimicry method requires us to think more three-dimensionally. Instead of fighting nature, we now look to it for ideas and using nature’s inherent principles to find solutions to our problems.”

Being the first time that the WRC has ventured into this area; the research is solely focused on biomimicry and wetlands design. Researchers seek natural resources for new ways to improve wetlands’ functioning and restore existing wetlands. “Wetlands are natural filters that remove pollutants from the water that flows through them. The economic benefit from this filtering process is huge, which reduces the price associated with downstream (potentially high energy) treatment systems as well as water purification” Dr. Naidoo. If it is successful, the method can be applied to other systems and processes when it is appropriate.

The research aims to harness the wisdom of nature cleanses water to engineer-designed wetlands that can meet the demands of current as well as emerging pathogens, pollutants, and pollutants. The project’s core team includes scientists and engineers with experience in various fields. Through the course of the project, experts have been invited to participate in seminars and workshops to integrate their knowledge and present a new method of designing constructed wetlands to treat water.

“This project is exciting because it’s not a simple method to implement. Researchers are being asked to abandon thinking of innovation through a conventional manner and to enter the multidisciplinary, creative environment,” says Dr. Naidoo. “This project is only the start of what we hope will be a new wave of creativity to enter the South African water space.”

So far, the team has experienced mixed reactions from friends; some scientists aren’t keen on changing their usual approach to thinking, while others are considering the possibilities of biomimicry. Perhaps the actual value of biomimicry won’t solve problems of the water sector but aid in economic development and the knowledge economy by creating new methods and products for the market.