On feeding the houseplant fever

And how I learned to stop fearing and murdering houseplants.

Orchid no. 4. Birthday gift from @montgomeryjewelry! #inlove #houseplantfever
Orchid no. 4. Gift from Tara and Andrew.

My obsessions come and go and stick with me in various, minute forms. My most enduring obsessions are dogs, and as of last year, plants — specifically houseplants. (As a genetic side note, I inherited my love of dogs from my father, and my love of plants from my mother.)

I killed — either by neglect or by over-attention — every houseplant I had in the first two years of our marriage. Including a spider plant that my boss gave me, with the caveat, “Not even you could kill this plant.” But I did. I was quick to term myself as a person with a brown and/or black thumb.

The maidenhair lives. Miraculously. #houseplantfever
My most finicky plant: The Maidenhair. She will wilt if you even look at her funny.

But then I decided I should actually start learning and caring about these living things, and so I did what I always do: Read all the books! I read every book our public library had on houseplants, and, imagine that, some extra knowledge helped. I am killing far fewer, and I daresay some plants are even thriving under my amateurish attentions.

My plant obsession continues to nearly untenable levels. (I started a houseplant inspiration board on Pinterest. Yes. Oh, my, yes.) Thankfully, some of the plant fever is spreading outdoors. Guion takes care of the practical plants (e.g., vegetables, herbs, hops, fruit trees), and I have taken charge of the ornamental plants (landscaping the front yard, choosing plants). It is a good system.

The main things I’ve learned about houseplants

  1. Get to know the conditions of your home. If you have a very dry home, look for arid-loving plants, e.g., succulents. If you have a humid home, look for ferns and tropical plants. If you’re somewhere in between, like most of us, find those versatile, hard-to-kill specimens that seem to thrive anywhere.
  2. Learn about light. Plants want light in various forms; get to know your plant and what it likes, and get to know your home and what kind of light it offers throughout the day.
  3. Plants die for two reasons, generally: (1) too much or too little light, or (2) too much or too little water. If your plant looks sad, it is probably a light or water situation, or both.
  4. Stay on a schedule. I water (almost) all of my plants on Sunday morning. This, more than anything else, has kept me from killing. Without a consistent watering schedule, I am liable to forget when I watered last, and either overcompensate with water or let the plant dry out and suffer from neglect.

Recent acquisitions

I used all of my birthday money on plant-related things. Gran gave me a gift card to Etsy, and I bought this beautiful handmade ceramic hanging planter. I spent an absurd sum at Fifth Season, my houseplant oasis. (Local people: If you are feeling stressed about your life, just go walk around Fifth Season. You will feel better when you leave. And you will probably leave with a plant.)

Plants recently added to the family:

Oh, yeah. And I jumped on the fiddle leaf bandwagon. #houseplantfever
Jumped on the fiddle leaf fig bandwagon.
New houseplants (pothos)
Pothos, to be hung in our bedroom.
New houseplants (million hearts)
Million hearts plant, to be hung in the living room.
New houseplants (jade plants)
Two jade plants for the kitchen table.
New houseplants (haworthia)
Haworthia for my studio.
New houseplants
Succulent for the living room.
New houseplants (English ivy)
English ivy in a basement window.
New houseplants (fittonia)
Fittonia (aka nerve or mosaic plant) in windowsill.
New houseplants
Plants to be hung, along with Guion’s seedlings.

And Windy gave me a magnificent birds’ nest fern (Asplenium nidus) for my birthday, which I haven’t had a chance to photograph yet. So, yes. I think I have reached my limit. For now…

Fifth Season = personal plant heaven. #charlottesville #fifthseason
Bonsai section at Fifth Season.

Heads up: I think bonsai trees are going to be my next obsession. Just wanted to declare that to the world.

Houseplant explosion

So, I went a little crazy with houseplants this weekend. I kind of went wild at Fifth Season. Here are the recent acquisitions:

Snake plant
Snake plant.

SNAKE PLANT
Sansevieria trifasciata

When I read that the snake plant (aka mother-in-law’s tongue) is a virtually indestructible organism, I put it first on my list. Apparently, this striking dude can live with little light and infrequent watering. It also shouldn’t be repotted for at least two to three years. One care guide I read said the most important thing to remember with snake plants is restraint; overwatering will kill it faster than anything else. Here’s to hoping that it will live forever! (I also really love the orange ombre pot I found for it at Fifth Season.)

Golden spike moss
Golden spike moss.

GOLDEN SPIKE MOSS
Selaginella kraussiana “aurea”

I wasn’t planning on acquiring this little guy, but he was so light and green and fresh-looking. Mosses like humidity, of which our little house has plenty, so I hope he will thrive on the console table. Mosses also tend to do well in shallow containers, and we have these beautiful aqua bowls (which Guion finds impractical) that serve the purpose perfectly.

Arboricola luseane
Luseane arboricola (schefflera).

LUSEANE ARBORICOLA (SCHEFFLERA)

Also known as an umbrella plant, this guy is in the schefflera family and is most popular among bonsai enthusiasts. It is apparently easy to grow and doesn’t have many finicky requirements to grow. I have it sitting on top of our wardrobe in our bedroom. I want to keep an eye on this one, however, for fear that it may not get enough light throughout the day.

Succulent
Succulent in studio.
Succulent trio
Succulent trio on table.
Succulent close up
Succulent.

SUCCULENTS

I really love succulents. They always look so healthy and happy to me. I kept a few alive for a while last year, but then I neglected them and they shriveled up. So, they aren’t entirely no-maintenance plants. Again, overwatering is a great sin. I am a little concerned about drainage for these dudes and may need to repot the larger one in the bowl, for fear that there aren’t enough small rocks in there.

Thanks to the instructions from this great website on succulents, I am also attempting to propagate succulents from leaf cuttings.

First attempt at succulent propagation
First attempt to propagate succulents.

Looking forward to seeing if this will be successful!

Lemon tree
Meyer lemon tree. (We have since bought a proper stand for it, which will allow for drainage.)

MEYER LEMON TREE
Citrus × meyeri

I have been wanting a lemon tree for a while, and we finally decided to get on. The lemon tree will reside in the living room, where I believe it will get a nice amount of bright light (without being too hot or direct). I still need to read more about how to encourage them to propagate and how to handle the blooms, but I am particularly looking forward to nurturing this guy. Have you ever tried to grow citrus indoors?

Orchid (phal)
Moth orchid.
Orchid closeup
Moth orchid.

MOTH ORCHID
Phalaenopsis

I have always loved orchids; I can rarely pass them up. I got this spotted beauty from Trader Joe’s actually. Orchids are one of the few plants I have had success with in the past. Granddad once gave me one that I was able to keep a live for a year and get to rebloom. It died after the second blooming, but I am hoping to try my luck again. The orchid lives in the bathroom, because of its great love for humidity.

Geranium and seedlings
Citronella geranium and Guion’s seedlings.
Citronella geranium
Citronella geranium.

CITRONELLA GERANIUM
Citrosa geranium

I was suckered into buying this citronella-scented geranium, which fits nicely on the table in the sunroom. I also love how very difficult it is to kill geraniums. I have kept them alive, with very little attention, for months at a time.

So. Now. Let the research begin! I have a lot to learn about indoor gardening and houseplant propagation.