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Plants for Positivity: Prescribe yourself plenty of garden & nature time

Plants have a special way of elevating our moods, lifting our spirits, and providing a sense of wonder. But they possess far more utility than just a knack for making us humans feel good. Simply put, we need plants for our survival.

From food and exercise to medicine and recuperation, so much that is healthy and beneficial has a connection to the colorful, chlorophyll-containing wonders that make up the plant kingdom. In this first installment, we focus on a host of general well-being benefits.

Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash

Plants promote positive vibes & more tangible goodness

Plants can provide an emotional pick-me-up. Being around plants and nature makes people happier. This almost certainly feels instinctively true for plant lovers, but it’s borne out by research.

• “There is increasing awareness among researchers and health practitioners of the potential health benefits derived from gardening activities.
• “Studies have shown that gardening increases individual’s life satisfaction, vigor, psychological well-being, positive effects, sense of community, and cognitive function.
• “Reductions in stress, anger, fatigue, and depression and anxiety symptoms have also been documented.”

Source: sciencedirect.com

“Houseplants reduce stress and anxiety. According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, active interaction with indoor plants (like touching and smelling) can reduce physiological and psychological stress. What’s more, even the potting soil can help you keep a handle on daily stress and anxiety.”

Source: Forbes.com

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

There is so much to share and bond over with other plant people — “not only the nuts and bolts of gardening but the emotional and spiritual connections we can experience with our gardens.”

Source: “10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening,” psychologytoday.com

Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

Concentration and Memory

“Being around plants helps people concentrate better in the home and workplace. Studies show that tasks performed while under the calming influence of nature are performed better and with greater accuracy, yielding a higher quality result. Moreover, being outside in a natural environment can improve memory performance and attention span by twenty percent.”

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Healing

“Shrubs, trees, and flowers have a practical application in hospitals: The presence of plants in patient recovery rooms greatly reduces the time necessary to heal. The soothing effects of ornamental flowers and plants are so great that simply having daily views of flowers and other ornamental plants in landscaped areas outside patient recover rooms significantly speeds up recovery time. Another technique to decrease recovery time is horticulture therapy, where patients care for and nurture plants themselves. Patients who physically interact with plants experience a significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures.”

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

Plants make people happy

“Adding flowers to your home or work environment reduces your perceived stress levels and makes you feel more relaxed, secure, and happy. Flowers can help you achieve a more optimistic outlook on your life, bringing you both pleasing visual stimulation and helping you to increase your perceived happiness.”

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

 

Plants allow you to get physical

Step it up in the garden to your heart’s content…and benefit. You might be surprised how many steps you can pile up and calories you can burn while gardening, moving from one end of your space to the next, planting, pruning, weeding, harvesting, feeding, watering. The digging, the pulling, the stretching. We feel a sweat coming on just from the thought.

Burning calories and lowering your blood pressure are just two of the benefits to the mind and body from gardening, says this Good Housekeeping article. Excerpts below:

Burn calories

“You can burn about 330 calories doing one hour of light gardening and yard work — more than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Lower your blood pressure

“Just 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity most days of the week can prevent and control high blood pressure. In fact, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends gardening or raking leaves for 30-45 minutes as examples of how to hit that recommended amount.”

The CDC says 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate-level activity, such as gardening, can also reduce the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.

Source: “Gardening Health and Safety Tips,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Like us, you’ve probably been spending even more time of late with your plants. Who knew that weeding, pruning, picking, raking, digging, planting, and repotting were so good for one’s health? Keep it up and keep the positive, plant-filled vibes flowing.

At Altman Plants, we’re always happy to help with you with succulent plant care tips or to pick out some new living treasures.

Butterfly photo by Patti Black on Unsplash

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Winter is coming

But our treasured succulents don’t have to unduly suffer

We are fond of referring to succulents as the ultimate easy-care plants but many species can suffer serious damage or death if exposed to elements they aren’t predisposed to tolerate.

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Kalanchoe tomentosa: Give this fuzzy succulent softy a hug

While you may have seized the chance to admire a panda at a zoo, here’s a cute-as-can-be, touch-friendly “panda” of which you can get a really up-close peek … at your home. Every day.


Kalanchoe tomentosa, aka panda plant, is a succulent with long oval-shaped leaves that are densely covered in fuzzy felt. Kind of like a cat’s ears.

Panda plant may not be the flashiest succulent around, but it is certainly one of the fuzziest. And an indispensable, texture-adding accent in dish gardens to rose-shaped succulents like echeverias, graptopetalums, sempervivums and graptoverias.

Panda plant is a pretty no-fuss succulent that desires water only when its soil has thoroughly dried. When you do water, though, try not to soak its hair-laden leaves. The plant is frost-tender, so if you live in USDA Zone 9 or below, you’re going to want to protect it from frost or bring it inside for the winter, placing it on a sunny windowsill.

In the video below, our succulent whisperer Tom says the little hairs shade this dish garden champ’s foliage. 

Look for Kalanchoe tomentosa at shopaltmanplants.com: http://ow.ly/8DSx30pKPf2.

For wholesale visit cactusshop.com.

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Cutting loose: Winter growers wake up, become active in fall

Autumn has arrived at last. It feels good to be a succulent geek right about now, especially if you have a bunch of plants exiting summer dormancy. Nothing like looking forward to seeing your aeoniums, your senecios, your sempervivums, get a little wild in wintertime. Of course, for those in colder areas, that festival of life will have to be held indoors, in a space blessed with light.

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Easy-peasy succulent plants for beginners

  Beginners, black thumbs & back-to-school shoppers, this fleshy, fun, chill group is especially for you

Succulents have a rep for being waterwise, easy-care, easy-to-love plants. While all are easy to love, some are certainly easier to have looking their best than others.

The plants below are among the more kick-back, neglect-friendly succulents. Lovable living personalities for windowsills, sunny bedrooms, patios, kitchens, gardens, and other plant-worthy spaces.

Pick up your beginner-friendly succulents at shopaltmanplants.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alliant Int’l University: The King of Succulents, Dr. Ken Altman

Original article published by Alliant International University

July 26, 2019

Article by Dr. Debra Kawahara, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs & Distinguished Professor at California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP)

As CSPP celebrates its 50th anniversary, I had the fortunate pleasure of connecting with Dr. Ken Altman. Dr. Altman is a CSPP alumnus from the founding class in Los Angeles. Born in Los Angeles, he went to UC Berkeley and then started at CSPP (pre-Alliant days) in 1970 and continued until 1976 when he received his PhD in Clinical Psychology. While in graduate school, he and his wife, Deena, started collecting and selling plants, eventually filling their backyard with mostly succulents and cacti. Once he graduated, he interviewed for a few jobs, but he soon realized that he really wanted to work for himself in the plant business. So, he focused and spent more time selling succulents through a truck route and a mail order catalog.

From these humble beginnings of selling plants from the back of a truck, Ken and Deena Altman have grown this one-time hobby and avid interest in plants to a wholesale nursery business that has more than 3,800 acres in 6 states. Altman Plants is now the nation’s largest horticultural grower and it specializes in drought-tolerant and water-efficient plants.

DK: What made you choose the field of clinical psychology?

KA: I was always interested in understanding how people think and I have interest in people’s stories.

DK: As CSPP was only in its beginning and you were a graduate in the first class, what made you choose CSPP in those founding years?

KA: I liked the emphasis on clinical studies, so it seemed like a good match.

DK: You then went on to become the largest succulent grower in the world. How did your career path lead you to become “The King of Succulents”?

KA: My wife and I have a tremendous passion for plants. A big work ethic combined with the patience to reinvest everything back into the business led to continuous business growth. We were not trained in the field of horticulture, so some things came with more difficulty. But at the same time, we were in position to create our own solutions, many of which were quite unique and creative and led to success. In addition to being the largest succulent grower in the world, we also grow annuals, perennials, and shrubs. Altman Plants is the largest horticulture business in the US now, with over 30 million square feet of greenhouse and over 6,000 employees.

DK: In reflecting back on your career, what are important qualities in being successful?

KA: Honesty, respect at all times for employees, vendors, and customers, a genuine interest in their success, work ethic, creativity in solving the problems our customers have, and a love of our product.

DK: What advice would you give anyone wanting to “go on their own”?

KA: Make sure you have a product that you stand behind and that has value to others. If you don’t have business experience, it wouldn’t hurt to read up or get mentorship. Make sure you have enough capital to support your life needs and to run your business. It generally takes three years to get a new business or business division to support itself well.

DK: Describe one of the most impactful/significant events in your career.

KA: Target stores was our biggest customer, representing around 35% of our business at the time. They decided to go out of the garden business. Things looked grim, but we were able to keep employees engaged. In the end, we replaced all the business, plus 15% more, and we were able to maintain everybody’s job. This was important because it was during one of the bigger recessions and people were very worried about whether they could find new jobs.

DK: Do you have any other thoughts to share?

KA: My dissertation was on Sexual Satisfaction in Couples. I compared an educational approach to an open free form “encounter group” approach. The educational structured approach showed more effect in helping couples. If I had stayed in the field, my interest in business would have led me to creating educational programs to help in many of the common problems for individuals, couples and families. I think that would have been very successful, but in the end, I am happy that I chose the nursery business and the enjoyment I have had in this field.

In closing, what is amazing to me, as Dr. Altman reminded me, is that when he began in the 1970’s, succulents were not as popular as they are now, but the Altmans stuck with it and they were able to gradually grow the business. Dr. Altman’s journey from clinical psychology graduate student to entrepreneur parallels the pioneering and innovative spirit of CSPP to the perseverance and persistence of excellence in professional psychology.

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Embrace positive vibes with succulents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re daydreaming about an endless summer day on a secluded beach. Gentle waves lapping near our feet. Seabirds carrying on delightful conversation. A pod of dolphins frolicking just beyond the surf.

Enticing aromas emanating from the grill. Sunscreen dutifully lathered on. And an umbrella placed to shade our succulent friends from afternoon rays. In this perfect world, our succulents are definitely coming with.

Embrace the summertime succulent vibes at shopaltmanplants.com.

Among the many succulent friends: Hang loose with Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls) & Senecio radicans (string of bananas)

 

Echeveria minima hybrid itchin’ to hang 10 later

Embrace colorful, positive vibes with our Boho Tie Dye Modern Hippie Rosette Succulent 2 Pack With To/from Gift Card

Euphorbia anoplia and Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’ are like quirky undersea creatures up for some sunbathing time. Be smart about it, you two!

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New mesquite hybrids show great promise as cash crops, lumber standouts

Mesquite trees are tough plants that survive and thrive in some of the driest and least fertile/saline habitats worldwide, sharing space with cacti and other tenacious, water-thrifty species.

They are also incredibly useful. Mesquites (Prosopis spp.), nitrogen-fixing trees to tall shrubs with thin, feathery, fern-like leaves, have long been valued as a resource for food, medicine, firewood, furniture, and other uses.

While considered problematic weeds in some areas, mesquites are useful for soil enrichment via nitrogen fixation, their bean pods are edible (by humans, wildlife, and livestock), and their wood is an excellent source for firewood as well as lumber for furniture. Other commercial income opportunities exist as well, including from intercropping, pod production and grazing. Planting thornless varieties, which we’re going to talk about in a bit, addresses one of the traditional issues ranchers have had with mesquites being located on lands used for grazing.

Mesquite hybrid ‘Mojave’ PPAF

When it comes to lumber, wood shrinkages are probably the best measure of wood stability, and because wood stability is one of the most important characteristics in furniture manufacture, Prosopis species belong in the company of the world’s finest indoor furniture species. This is especially so when Prosopis lumber’s stability is combined with its attractive reddish-brown wood color and above-average specific gravity and hardness.

Apart from their considerable commercial utility, mesquites are habitat promoters, producing wildlife-attracting beans and providing perches and nesting sites for flying friends, including hummingbirds.

All the benefits outlined above provide the basis for breeding research that builds upon what mesquite trees already contribute to the environments around them. With that, we’re excited to highlight two very promising mesquite hybrids that are close to being ready for everything from serving as cash crops on cattle grazing land to shading residential landscapes. These are drought-hardy, deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing mesquite trees that have been bred to grow straight, fast, and without thorns. Did you know that mesquite trees are known to send taproots down almost 200 feet to locate moisture? Crazy, right?

 

Mesquite hybrid ‘Sonoran’ PPAF

Both plants are hybrids of a thornless, erect Texas native mesquite and a cold-hardy thornless Argentine mesquite. At 10 years old, under good tree parent care, they will sport a trunk diameter of 6 to 8 inches and rise to 20 to 25 feet in height.

Among the several specimens that resulted from this hybridization, ‘Mojave’ PPAF has the most finely divided lush foliage (more shade) and the fewest thorns (none). Compared to the other clones, it has a more compact canopy and less height potential.

The clone ‘Sonoran’ PPAF boasts greater height growth than ‘Mojave’, with more widely spaced leaflets. It would be desirable as an ornamental variety where a more airy, open canopy is desired. It has small spines (3/16 inch).

Both trees are summer lovers, handling heat up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, they are considered hardy to USDA Zone 8b (average minimum temperature of 15 to 20 degrees). This includes all of Southern California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Austin, Texas.

Oh, and speaking (again) of food, the pods of dried beans can be ground into a flour. Roasted pods can be milled into an aromatic flour smelling of cream, coconut and chocolate. And that is just a limited taste of mesquite trees’ value as a food source, to say nothing of the wood’s prized utility as a flavoring agent in the smoking of meats.

Perhaps in the not too distant future you’ll have yourself an airy, dappled shade-providing, heat-loving, thorn-free mesquite tree that will lend a distinctive twist to your homemade pancakes, pastries, and, yes, cookies!

The trees are available wholesale by contract. Please contact Bruce Gibson for ordering information at marketing@altmanplants.com.

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Mimicry plants: succulent masters of disguise

The mimicry plants known as mesembs are the thespians of the succulent world, mind-blowingly adaptable actors often accustomed to harsh, sun-blasted habitats that receive only a few inches of rain a year. They grow in coarse sand with just their translucent tops showing, enabling sunlight to reach the interior of each plant. The rest is underground, minimizing exposure to extreme elements.

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Let hanging succulents hang free on your patio, in your kitchen & living room

Cascading succulents should be on anyone’s list for living home & patio decor.

Gardeners often focus on planting things in the ground or in pots that rest well below eye level, yet there is a wide (tall?) world of verdant, pendant possibility that lives above us in the form of hanging plants.

Particular varieties thrive from lofty perches, succulent plants such as string of bananas and Sedum ‘Burrito’. It’s enough to make one hungry! Hanging succulents also excel as “spiller” plants in dish gardens. It’s hard for us to imagine potting more than two or three planter arrangements without using at least one spiller. They do especially well in bright kitchens, sun rooms, and other living spaces, making them some of the best succulents to treat as houseplants.

Many of these cascading gems are green. Green is an emotionally invigorating hue said to embody the rebirth and renewal of spring. That’s a lot to put on a color’s shoulders, but we garden enthusiasts of emerald hearts can’t help but feel an abiding affection for a color so intrinsically linked to a love of nature. Hence, we know that adding greenery at home can have a rejuvenating effect. Imagine coming home absolutely un-fabulously frazzled from work or emerging from your home office space, only to lay your eyes on lush, succulent, leafy greenery. Ahh. We feel refreshed already.

Sedum ‘Burrito’

With cascading, dreadlock-like stems that can reach 3 feet and plump, densely packed foliage, this ‘Burrito’ has powdery-green/blue-green leaves that turn brighter with sunlight. Mmm — part of that description has us thinking about a different kind of burrito. (Appetite is strong with this one.) The precise origins of Sedum ‘Burrito’ are a mystery…ooh, intrigue!…as it is said to have never been documented in the wild. But, boy, it sure is adored in human habitats.

Treat the Sedum version well and you just might get pink-red blossoms on the ends of those “locks.”

 

Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls)

Senecio rowleyanus has pendant stems to 3 feet or more with unusual round leaves that give the impression of beads, peas, or pearls. String of pearls is a superb subject for a hanging basket and can be in the house in a bright, airy room or outside on a protected patio. Consider hanging several to create a sense of verdant greenery. Unless you’re on the coast, keep this one out of direct sun (and even there, keep exposure to only morning sun). But also watch that its soil doesn’t get soggy. If so, you’ll have rotten pearls on your hands. Or hair (if it’s hanging from above). Bone dry for long isn’t good either, however.

When its round leaves are backlit by bright light, the translucent narrow little “windows” (there for aiding in photosynthesis) light up like little lasers. The same goes for the next two “string of” plants.

 

Senecio radicans (string of bananas)

The stems of Senecio radicans have banana-shaped emerald-green leaves with fascinating translucent windows that aid in photosynthesis too. Those windows are to photosynthesis what the flux capacitor is to time travel. We’re pretty sure Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown would agree with us. The flowers are like tiny white pom-poms and are fragrant (cinnamon-y or clove-like). Quickly forms plush hanging baskets. Hang a bunch to create a sense of lush (succulent) greenery. Consider pairing the plant in separate pots or even together with other trailing succulents. Thrives in a bright room or with morning sun on a patio.

 

Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’

Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ (rainbow elephant bush) grows more laterally compared to the prior three, but it’s still an excellent choice for hanging baskets. Its creamy yellow/green leaves play off the trailing green senecios quite nicely. It’s known in part as rainbow elephant bush because elephants munch on it, and other forms of the species, in habitat, even aiding in propagation when they trample on and break the mahogany red stems. Like with hanging baskets, it’s a must-have as a dish garden spiller or filler, and it’s one of the classiest succulent plants we’ve come across. Hang it by a sunny window or slider where the incoming light will provide a nice glow effect on the foliage.

 

Senecio peregrinus (string of dolphins)

We’re going back to the Senecio genus to talk a bit about a variety that’s taken the succulent world by storm the past few years…or by pod. And that is the plant known as string of dolphins or dolphin necklace. Believe it or not (and you should!), the leaves resemble dolphins. Stem after stem of playful dolphins, the undisputed greatest living marine mammal…well, they’re dolphinately up there. (We’ll be here all week.) Give this one bright, indirect light and don’t let it dry out too much. Use a container that is just a bit larger than the plant, as dolphin plants thrive in slightly crowded conditions…like lovely little pods of dolphins.

 

Crassula rubra marginata ‘Variegata’ (calico kitten)

So far we’ve focused on green hanging succulents, but here’s one that expresses beautiful pinks, roses, and purples, especially when given plenty of bright (but not punishing) light. The green, lemony cream and pink leaves of calico kitten blush a beautiful rose-lilac in drought or cold. This multicolored creeper is a go-to accent for hanging baskets and dish gardens, serving as an eye-catching contrast to rose-shaped succulents such as echeverias as well as upright growers. Lovely in a hanging basket or for spilling over the sides of a rock wall or along a dry creek bed. Tuck into the nooks and crannies of a waterwise garden where frost is not a concern.

 

Ceropegia woodii ‘Variegata’ (keepsake hearts or string of hearts)

Staying on the “not just green” tip, the cream, green & pink-margined Ceropegia woodii ‘Variegata’ is an incredibly beloved form. Easy to be when your leaves are shaped like hearts, right? If you can find one, you can grow it indoors near a window. The stems sport a purply hue. Another interesting facet is the production of tubers under the ground and at the base.

Other wonderful trailing succulents include Cotyledon pendens, Sedum morganianum (possibly a parent of Sedum ‘Burrito’), Senecio ‘String of Raindrops’ (believed to be a string of pearls hybrid), Senecio herreianus (string of beads, among other names), Dischidia nummularia (string of nickels), and Othonna capensis (little pickles).

View the collection of hanging succulents at shopaltmanplants.com here. For wholesale, visit cactusshop.com.

 

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