What houseplants are best for amateur gardeners?

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JUDITH CASTENADA ASKS: How should I prune my restio?

Do not prune your Chondroptalum tectorum, also known as the Small Cape Rush. The beauty of this South African reed is its natural form. Shearing will destroy the form.

It’s OK to remove the damaged/dead reed-like foliage by pruning to its base. An interesting fact about this plant is that its seeds need smoke to germinate. It grows in the Fynbos region of South Africa where numerous fires occur.

Leah asks: Are pecans a nut? I am allergic to peanuts and want to make sure that pecans are not in the same plant family.

Pecans are a part of the tree nut family. Peanuts grow below ground and prefer calcium-rich soil. Peanuts are technically legumes and not nuts.

Joy Ann writes: When traveling in Marin County I observed a hillside that was covered with a sea of shrubs displaying huge white blossoms and yellow centers. Have you seen this, and if so, what is the name of the shrub? Is it a California native? Can I grow it in our area?

The masses of flowering shrubs are located west of Northgate Mall in Terra Linda. The plant is a California native and its botanical name is Carpenteria californica ‘Elizabeth’ (Elizabeth is a selected wild form of Carpenteria californica). Many know this shrub as a bush anemone. Our rainy environment and the change in our recent weather patterns have resulted in this spectacular show. The evergreen shrub is 4 to 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide, and has vertical branches covered with 3-inch dark glossy leaves. Its flowers are fairly large, 2 inches, and are borne in clusters. The bloom takes place in May through August. In hotter zones the bush anemone prefers some filtered shade, good drainage and monthly irrigation once established.

Native to the Sierra Nevada foothills, it can be seen growing along seasonal creeks and in granitic soil. If you wish to try growing it in your own garden it can be found at California Flora Nursery in Fulton. The nursery’s knowledgeable staff can always give the best information for growing and caring for natives. Concerning Carpenteria californica, be sure to ask their advice for how to plant and care for it because sometimes it can be a little tricky to grow.

Karen asks: We have a succulent that is growing like a tree; it keeps getting taller and taller. Can you take a guess at the name of this succulent?

I think it might be from your very brief description Aeonium arboreum ‘atropurpureum.’ The rosettes of purple leaves are at the top of long slender stems.

Given this botanical name, do look up this particular Aeonium see if the photo and description matches your mystery succulent. This Aeonium looks a bit like a Dr. Seuss-like tree with long stems and large leaves. It is frost tender and needs protection during cold snaps.

Jeff asks: I was told not to use wire ties that are encased with green paper for tying up my climbing roses to a trellis. But, no explanation or reason was given for this advice.

You received good advice, but here is the reason you should not use these particular ties. The paper deteriorates and the exposed wire will cut through the tender cambium cutting off the plant’s needed nutrients. Eventually the cane/branch will die. This is similar to advice given: Do not leave the wire tag on new roses. Tie the nametag on a nearby stake. The wire tag left on the main trunk of the rose will cause the entire rose to decline and die.

​Linda Rose asks: Can you suggest some easy houseplants that are hard to kill and great for low-light exposure?

The following are some super easy houseplants:

Asparagus setaceus, common asparagus lace fern.

Syngonium podophyllum, arrowhead vine.

Pothos, devil’s ivy.

Sanservieria trifasciata, mother-in-law’s tongue

Aspidistra elatior, cast iron plant

Begonia x rex- cultorum, rex begonia

All these plants can handle the stress of indoor conditions.

They are hardy and forgiving and should give you many years of enjoyment. But take care not to overwater them and be sure to fertilize lightly. Periodically take them outside to wash off the foliage.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

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