Saturday, January 18, 2014


It’s hard to think about gardening when the temperatures dip down to zero every other day, but I finally came up with a solution – Houseplants! I’m anything but an expert on this subject. Almost all of my houseplants are just common foliage plants. They sit in their pots for years without doing much of anything, but they add much needed greenery  to various corners of the house.

Foliage plants require much less care than houseplants that produce flowers. Most can survive with very little light.  Philodendrons are a perfect example. The ones  pictured above live in the upstairs bathroom, and only get sun from a small north-facing window.  They were given to me by daughter Tam in 1988 when she moved from NY to New Orleans and have never been repotted.  Think of that – 25 years!

What houseplants need is water.  A deep container that can be watered from below is best, as it easy to overwater from the top.  Smart gardeners choose a specific day of the week to check whether their plants should be watered.  

I tried that once, but I didn't last long. I managed to kill several of my ficus vines when they were young before  I realized they were as thirsty as alcoholics, needing a drink every day, especially when sitting in a sunny spot.  After all these funerals, Hank built a tall wooden box lined with rubber  he had left over from a roofing job for the next new seedling I'd bought. 

 If you’ve never grown Ficus Pumilla. you should try one as they’re quite easy to grow. Most little seedlings bought from a nursery will sometimes sit for several months without doing a thing, so don’t get discouraged.  These are the male branches, but eventually the females appear.  It turns out that male branches just sit around all day doing nothing, while the females climb the walls.  Hmmm.

A nice deep container works pretty well, but Hank’s second solution was even better.  He designed a planter to sit on top of the toilet tank.  It’s nothing but a bread tin with a hole in the bottom, so when the ficus roots get long enough to reach through the hole they have a continuous supply of water. This ficus has thrived for years, sending its vines all the way to the ceiling.  

 The big yellow pot pictured below holds just the right amount of water, only needing to be refreshed once a month. I had to have this room repainted after Hurricane Irene blew its roof off in August 2012.  The painters just yanked the ficus right off the wall, so I had to cut it back to almost nothing. Those vines are ones that have climbed up since then.

The container pictured below was one daughter Tam made when she was in first grade.  I found it so appealing that I tried using it as a container for  half a dozen different plants,  but it didn't hold much water. If I watered it too much, the funny-faced creature actually cried.  I tried a variety of plants in it, but none survived. I’m ashamed to admit that my final solution was to use plastic flowers!

My pride and joy is a white camellia that lives in the guest house, which is solar-heated and ideal for this cool loving plant.  It blooms each January,  but unfortunately right now its buds aren’t quite ready to open.  Luckily I had a photo of last year’s blooms to show you.  Everyone who sees this plant thinks it must be a gardenia, but they soon discover those handsome white flowers have no smell.

The reason I thought of writing about houseplants today was because I saw one blooming several weeks ago that I could not believe.  Have you ever seen a Christmas cactus like this?

My friend Angie owns this magnificent specimen  It was raised originally by Elisa Becket, and is probably even older than Angie. Isn't it amazing!  

As I've already admitted, I am not an expect on houseplants. I have half a dozen books on the subject in my library, and I read a few of them for the first time last week, and found most of their suggestions very obvious.  So, my apologies,  I'm afraid you learned more about containers for your plants than the care and feeding of them today.