Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

Low-light? No problem! The Houseplant Guru has a plant for you

For many homeowners and apartment dwellers, lighting can be an issue when trying to grow plants indoors.

My home was built in the 1950s, so most of my windows are on the smaller side, meaning less natural light exposure. And sometimes it can be difficult to find plants that will accept — dare I even suggest, be happy with — my low-light offerings.

Snake plants, spider plants and monsteras can all be grown in low-light
conditions and are featured in "Grow in the Dark" by Lisa Eldred
That's why I was excited to receive Lisa Eldred Steinkopf's "Grow in the Dark: How to Choose and Care for Low-Light Houseplants." Her book highlights 50 houseplants that grow in low-light conditions. 50!

Steinkopf knows her houseplants: she grows more than 1,000 of them. She is known as The Houseplant Guru on Twitter and her blog covers a multitude of topics about indoor plants.

"Grow in the Dark" includes a wide assortment of plants that tolerate low-light conditions. Some choices include trendy plants, such as monsteras. I was also happy to find polka dot plants and piggyback plants tolerate low light as well (a nostalgic throwback for me, since my mother grew both varieties when I was growing up). Many of the plants Steinkopf highlights in her book can be found at local garden centers, too.

Steinkopf packs a lot of houseplant knowledge in her book. In addition to growing information and instructions on how to propagate different plants, Steinkopf also shares which plant varieties are toxic and nontoxic for pets. Having this information can help you choose plants that will be safe around your pets  — before you even bring them home.

Whether you are shopping for your first houseplant or you are a regular green thumb, "Grow in the Dark" will set you up for plant parent success.

"Grow in the Dark: How to Choose and Care for Low-Light Houseplants" retails for $25.

Quarto Knows provided me with a review copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are mine. 

For a pop of color, plant muscari in your garden

Muscari latifolium.

It's time to order spring-blooming bulbs — one of the things I like best about fall. This year I have my eye on adding more muscari to my garden collection.

This smaller size bulb is often grouped in with other "minor" bulbs, such as crocus, chiondoxa and winter aconite. These are not bulbs you should plant in ones or twos. To make a statement, you need to plant en masse.

Bright colors for spring

In the past, the typical muscari (muscari armeniacum) did not catch my eye. This is the variety that will pop into your mind when someone mentions grape hyacinth. Although it is blue — and let's be honest there are not many blue-flowering options in the garden — it just never really excited me.

Blue grape hyacinths or muscari armeniacum.

But in the past year, my head has been turned.

That's because there are so many color variations of muscari that make it much more interesting than the original blue variety.

Take for example the variety Muscari latifolium 'Grape Ice', which I planted for the first time last fall. Like all muscari, the flowers begin to bloom from the bottom up.

This variety emerges with green and purple hues and then as it blooms, it changes color to purple and white. It's beautiful.

Muscari latifolium 'Grape Ice'.

Muscari latifolium 'Grape Ice'.

Muscari latifolium 'Grape Ice'.

Muscari latifolium is another variety that adds a little pop to the garden. Considered a cousin of the grape hyacinth, it features two-tone flowers: blue on top, deep purple below.

Muscari latifolium.

These are just a few of the unique choices out there. Check out the light purple and white Muscari Armeniacum Helena, the blue shades of Muscari Ocean Magic, the feathered Muscari Comosum Plumosum, the green and blue Muscari comosum Mountain Lady and the baby pink Muscari Pink Sunrise. (I'll have more photos to share from my garden next spring because I just placed a large order.)

Of course, if you are partial to the standard grape hyacinth, you can always jazz it up and pair it with daffodils or mid-season tulips which will bloom around the same time.

How to grow

Muscari are deer- and rodent-resistant bulbs. Grow them in Zones 4-9.

Muscari are easier to plant in the garden because they are small bulbs. Choose a location where the water drains well and in full to partial sun. For planting in a large group, use your shovel to dig a moderately wide hole. They only need to be planted about 4 inches deep and you can space each bulb about 3 inches apart.

If they like where they are planted, they will spread over the years. (This is a somewhat slow process but a good one. It's also called naturalizing.) Plant them along pathways, at the front of flower beds or beneath shrubs. They make good cut flowers and attract pollinators. They will grow about 6-8 inches tall, depending on the variety.

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