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House Plants Make Me Happy

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Like most everyone else, I'm hunkered  down to wait for the world to stop wobbling, for ignorance and willful disregard for truth to subside, for some better times to come our way. This winter with the miracle vaccine finally and oh so slowly coming our way, reminds me of how deer are most likely to die of starvation just as the new green growth starts in spring. It's hard to stay sane and hang on, and I'm thankful for every minute that I have Liam safe here with me at home. Now Phoebe, who's been careful and kept herself safe, has made it home for Christmas, and I'm feeling especially thankful to be confined in a place that I love, surrounded by beauty and deep woods. Really, how lucky can you get?

Since the multiple groanhouse freezes over the years, I've learned the hard way that I must grow plants indoors as well as out in the greenhouse. I rarely get through a year without a greenhouse freeze, thanks to condensation in my natural gas line, which is a plastic pipe that runs over the top of the ground from an oilwell out in the meadow to my house.  The company that leases my oil and gas well has left the broken welljack untended for four years now, and it's grown high with brambles. A big aspen fell on it and I paid someone to cut it off, but the oil/gas company still hasn't bothered to revive it.  My house is heated with gas which comes through that pipe thanks to the natural pressure at the wellhead, not because oil is being pumped. It all makes me nervous and uneasy, and the greenhouse freezes are the manifestation of Stonebridge Operating Company's negligence. Free gas is really great until it goes off on in the middle of the night. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, there is a lot of cussing and sometimes quite a few tears. There's nothing quite like walking into a greenhouse that was a riot of color and beauty the evening before, to find everything frozen solid.

So I decided to have doubles on my favorites, and not to trust the Groanhouse not to kill them. I have young understudies on my favorite hibiscus, and the plan is to bring them in the house when the temperatures plunge to single digits. So... I have a lot of houseplants now. And that turns out to be a wonderful thing. I took a little tour around the house, photographing some of the plants that make my everyday world more beautiful and interesting.

This teeny Crown of Thorns from Kenya is so sweet. Three times, it has self-pollinated, and dropped seeds into its own pot, which have made another tiny plant. It's just the coolest thing to see this little seedling come up and to recognize the fleshy round leaves as those of a Crown of Thorns. Oh my!  Gotta love a plant that does that! I give them to sisters, friends, and wait for the next seed child.

I rarely buy plants at the store, getting most of my material from friends (and giving just as much away), but I couldn't resist the lime, olive, white and forest green Martha Stewart striping on this Dracaena deremensis "Lemon Surprise"  which I bought off a huge rack of foliage plants at our Lowe's years ago. It's just the most beautiful thing, unfurling leaf after candy striped leaf, so shiny and sturdy. I'm not sure what its adult form will be--I suspect it will form a trunk with a Seussian tuft atop it in time? It's almost 2' tall now and has racks of leaves all the way to the soil line. Highly recommended,  slow growing, gorgeous, and it doesn't want a lot of sun. In fact mine got a bit sunburned in a south window in November! This is how they tell me to move them back from the window.

My friend Leah gave me a tiny Haworthia pygmaea pup off her plant, and it's about to bloom, whatever that's going to look like. Knowing a bit about this genus, I'm prepared to be underwhelmed by its splendor, but I'm glad it's happy enough to send up a spike! Looks like the flowers will be white, lined green. If I remember correctly, this succulent is actually in the lily family, so I expect the flower to be three parted. We shall see!

I spotted the first shy bloom of a tiny Lobelia seedling volunteer in my outdoor shade garden in early November, and couldn't believe it was my favorite color of blue. I dug it out with my finger and potted it up and it's so happy to be indoors under a grow light. It makes me think of spring, when I'm always looking for just this shade of sky blue and am only ever able to find the dark purple ones at the garden center. 

I hereby pledge to nurture and propagate this plant until I can fill my hanging baskets with it come spring. 
They root quite easily in water! Have already made one propagule. 

Speaking of rooting, here's a cutting of Fuchsia "Trandshen Bonstet" that finally rooted. I took it in August, stuck it in water on the windowsill, and waited literally months. But eventually it threw out some roots and we were off to the races.

This plant is well worth the wait!

I grow a cutting in the greenhouse each winter, and set it out in the shade garden in May. By frost, it's almost as tall as I am, putting out cascades of these gorgeous, hummingbird friendly flowers. It roots in water and the cuttings bloom constantly while you wait. What's not to love about a plant like that? I got it probably 12 years ago at the Glasshouse Works in Stuart, OH, but thanks to its willingness to root in water and overwinter in the greenhouse, I've never had to buy it again.

I absolutely love this tiny variegated Syngonium podophyllum "Mini Pixie." The mother plant is going on four years old and only 6" tall. Easy as pie to propagate; they constantly make pups off to the side. It's in the arum family, like a teeny Caladium.

Another easy propagator is this jewel orchid, Ludisia discolor, a terrestrial (soil dwelling) orchid from SE Asia. When jewel orchids start sprawling over the sides of the pot, it's time to propagate them.
It's as easy as snapping off a cutting at an obvious joint, dipping the stem end in rooting hormone, and putting it in wet sphagnum moss or vermiculite until it roots. 

I hear a lot of people say this orchid is grown just for its gorgeous velvety black-green and red foliage, but the flower spikes are terrific, beautiful, long-lasting and fun to watch!

I have truly lost count of how many propagules I've given away off my Ludisia over the two decades since my friend Jason brought me a single stem in a 2" pot. 20? 30? Such fun to have friends check in from all over Ohio, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Carolina to tell me theirs are coming into bloom just when mine is! I suspect that in the jungles of southeast Asia, it forms a groundcover, since it crawls and sprawls in captivity. I grow it in a long, shallow planter to give it room to do its thing.

OK, so they're not exactly corsage material, but look at these happy little snowbirds, caught in mid-flap!

Seen against snow, they warm me straight through. 

The last houseplant I'll sing of here is my buttercrunch lettuce. Though we've had virtually no sun this winter, it grows beautifully up in the tower room, where it gets the cool temperatures and constant bright light it needs to make impossibly tender, thin leaves.

Every 4-5 days I go up, pick and water. The seven large planters take 5 gallons of water at a time. 
The last two pickings have been epic!

Enough to share.  I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my houseplants. I pledge to be vigilant, and bring in the little hibiscus understudies "The Path" and "Creole Lady," when the next polar vortex blows in. Even if I have a greenhouse freeze this winter, I'll still have plenty on my windowsills to dote on--and eat!
Stay home as much as you possibly can. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and hunker down. I'll see you in a few days with a greenhouse tour!



I love seeing all of your little green treasures. I live in a small cabin, but every window is filled with greenery in the winter months. I often think of how cold and sterile it would feel inside without these wonderful plants sharing the space with me. By spring, they, as well as I, are ready to head back outside for fresh air, sunshine, and raindrops.

Thank you for giving us a tour of your sweet houseplants. I can't wait to see Creole Lady and the Path again. I love that you have remembered where you got your plants from and who you have shared them with. Sixty years ago my mom got a rosebush from her best friend's father's yard when it was already at least 30 yrs old. It lived in the yard of the house I grew up in, and then moved with Mother twenty years ago to her current house. Mother just turned 88 so she and the rose are about the same age. Both are doing great, but it is a constant battle to keep the deer from eating the rosebush!

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