Saturday, January 5, 2013

Houseplant Triumphs and Tragedies

My relationship with houseplants continues to be turbulent one.  I forget about them come summer and then in the fall I try, once again, to tend to some indoor greenery to keep me sane until gardening season comes again.  Each year I try to overwinter rosemary and each year I lose the battle.

Still upright but dead regardless
Although this plant grew happily in the garden all summer long I managed to kill it in record time once I brought it inside.  I think it lasted a week before it expired.  While my talents with rosemary are obviously lacking, aloe is another matter.  It likes me, a lot.

Apparently its only requirements are that you never change the soil and never ever water it.  If you're diligent in that regard it will grow to extraordinary proportions.

This plant stretches about 3 feet high and wide and continues to grow.
It will also sprout pups which you will then have to pot up and find room for.


I now have about a dozen of these pots scattered throughout the house.  If anyone has a sunburn I've got you covered.

Spider plants also seem to suffer the same issues as aloe.  I just can't kill those things.  I remember my mother planting spider plants in her garden and leaving them out there to die in winter.  I thought she was heartless, now I understand.


How many spider plants can a girl have really?

Other plants however don't like my talent for neglect.  My Christmas cactus looked lovely in November blooming such pretty blooms.  Too bad I didn't take a photo then.

Blooms shrivelled up without water.
They looked nice when they were alive.  I forgot to keep watering and all the blooms and buds dried up.  A lesson learned for next year.

My greatest triumph this season though has to be the moth orchid.  I was gifted an orchid once by a former boss and I killed it in short order.  I resisted purchasing them after that but a couple years ago I kept seeing orchids on other blogs and I thought, well maybe I could try just once more.  So home came a little chartreuse number that bloomed for months but then started looking a little weary.  I swore I wouldn't give up on this plant so I did some reading, repotted it and added a pebble filled tray for water.  

The water filled tray provides a little extra humidity
It has done much better since, growing new leaves but no flowers until now.  (Thank you Kate for telling me about fertilizer!)


I have counted 15 buds on this new stem and I'm thrilled.  There will be beautiful yellow blooms to keep me company this winter.

43 comments:

  1. Way to go with the orchid. One of my orchids has rebloomed. A first for me. I haven't been able to overwinter Rosemary either. I think it needs a lot more light than I can give it here. Of course you aren't supposed to water them. I just left mine outside thinking that it might have a better chance to live IF we have a mild winter as we have had the past few year. Not to be unfortunately. It has been in single digits several mornings. I imagine it is dead unless the snow has kept it insulated. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Lisa, I'm so impressed that orchid is alive let alone blooming. This is big first for me. Rosemary can actually handle fairly cold weather, up to -5 or so celcius so yours should be just fine. Our extended winter though means I have to replant rosemary each spring.

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  2. I just love orchids!
    It is said that there are houseplants for everyone out there, whether you overwater or forget to water, there’s definitely plants to fit you. I think that’s the key to houseplants, find some that fits you, rather than trying to make the plant change into your routine.

    I am one that keep forgetting to water so I have cacti around the house that gets water once a year (yep, on my birthday, easy to remember!), I also have umbrella tree and a dragon tree in my living room, perfect plants that take well to being watered rather irregularly. In my kitchen I have orchids, close to the sink so it’s easy to just hold the pots under the tap now and then when they seem to need it.
    Most of my plants are 10 years or more, I’ve killed off those that can’t tolerate my watering regime and left with around 15 houseplants that do well :-)

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    1. I like that idea, there's a plant for each person. Just try and find what suits. Obviously aloe suits me well, almost too well!

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  3. not a houseplant in sight here. But I do have a few pots on the verandah, and some orchids under the tree. My triumph is the Streptocarpus this year. The orchids, shuffle off, one by one.

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    1. Diana, if I lived in your climate I would forget all about houseplants too. I think plants live much better outdoors in their natural climate than trying to force them into indoor living.

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  4. We are not houseplant people. We like to have amaryllis and/or paperwhites before Looks like you're batting about .500 - that's pretty good, better than us.

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    1. Jason, I'm amazed really at how many manage to hang in there. My sporadic attempts at plant care should really bring a higher mortality rate.

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  5. The rosemary you may be leaving too late...and then the change is too much shock. I never let my potted ones get even a touch of frost...which in Manitoba means they are in the house at night from about the beginning of September. Outside during the day until maybe end of October...depending on temperatures.

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    1. Good point Norah. Going from the natural air outdoors to forced air indoors might be part of the shock the rosemary is getting. Perhaps next year I'll try again.

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  6. How exciting and encouraging to hear about your orchid success. I've never tried, always feeling intimidated but I think I'll give it a go. I'm smiling right along with you at those lovely yellow flowers!

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    1. Cat, many other bloggers grow orchids and their posts have been a great source of information and support. I couldn't have done it without them.

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  7. The orchids really are easy to grow, they are just a little particular about their habitat...and now that you have figured it out, see how easy it is.

    Jen

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    1. Jen, the hardest part is probably making sure I pay enough attention. They don't like to be forgotten about so one of the things I've done is put it in a place I see it everyday.

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  8. Hi Marguerite: Never been brave enough to try growing an orchid, they are expensive to buy here. My white Christmas cactus is having it's second bloom now, just covered in November..For two years my rosemary plant was so tall and lovely I hung ornaments on it at Christmas! but this year left it outside, had too many plants inside already..hope it survives. I love my two shamrock plants, one green leaf and one red..they bloom all year round..I know you will find plants that click with you..happy inside gardening Lannie

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    1. oh to have such a large rosemary! They are beautiful plants and so fragrant. I'm really jealous.

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  9. Marguerite, I suffer the same affliction! You have much greater luck with orchids though. What a lovely treat for the winter months!

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    1. I'm feeling quite lucky this plant has decided to bloom again. I feel like I've really earned my green thumb this year.

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  10. Marguerite,
    Love all your little Aloe pups. I have one plant but it hasn't grown very much, I think I'll move it so it gets more light. Next time it warms up I think I'm also going to buy a orchid. I just love all the colours you can get and the more buds the better. Have really never had any luck with them after they bloom. Have you?

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    1. This orchid came from walmart (yup I admitted it, I plant shopped at Walmart!) about two years ago and this is the first time it's rebloomed. I have only ever had one other orchid and I managed to kill it before reblooming was even an option.

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  11. Happy New Year Marguerite & Jodi & assorted furry kids !
    Hey girl .. I grow great rosemary in the garden but it never survives in the house .. not enough light and heat.
    I like it dark and cool in the house .. go figure ?LOL
    I would like to try orchids again .. the simple ones .. maybe one from Costco.
    Yes .. I managed to kill them before but that was just once .. I have to do it a lot before I give up ? LOL
    Hubby would love a spider plant in his room .. again not enough light .. this is a house that "house plants" should avoid like the plague !!! LOL
    Have you made a 2013 plant lust list yet ?
    Joy : )

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    1. Hi Joy! my orchid was a walmart special so I'll bet you can find one at costco. I like that you're willing to try again despite killing one before. I remember reading somewhere you couldn't give up on a plant until you had killed it a minimum of 3 times. I've totally made a plant list already - how sad is that, couldn't even wait to 2013! It's rather small though and consists entirely of trees. We have some expenses coming up that is limiting my buying spree.

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  12. I grow my rosemary in a pot all year round. It is out by the front door open to the skies. When it looks like it is going to get really cold, I put the pot just inside the front door until the weather warms up. Confining it to these two locations means I don't forget. I kill houseplants.

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    1. I think one of the keys to houseplants is making sure they're in your line of sight! Forgetting them is all too easy otherwise. You've got a great plan.

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  13. i was delighted to read the line about your turbulent relationship with houseplants .. me, too .. poor things .. sometimes i aim to just give them to someone else who can pay attention to them, but then i don't .. and continue to torture them under my distracted care .. i find houseplants a different world altogether than garden plants ..
    might it be too warm for the rosemary in the house .. ? .. would it do better mulched in a shed, i wonder .. as you might recall, here, they do well outside all winter ..

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    1. Jane, I remember rosemary growing at a neighbours house on Bowen. I would walk by and they had two half barrel planters with the biggest rosemary plants. So gorgeous and they bloomed too. It's quite possible that the humidity and temperature change indoors is the culprit ruining my attempts at bringing these plants in. I so wish it would work though, I love fresh rosemary in cooking.

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  14. I'm impressed with your orchid - mine are always a fail! I don't grow aloe or spider plants - but I'm thinking I need to get some! Love plants that will take a bit of neglect!

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    1. I think everyone should have an aloe. Such a good plant to have in case of cuts, burns and skin irritations. Of course, now I have enough to start my own medical clinic. :)

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  15. Aloe and spider plant are just the most prolific plants, babies galore. With as little care as most are given, you wonder how they make so many little ones? That is why I grow orchids too. I ignore them and that is why they do good. Most people give them too much attention and they then kick the bucket. The key to houseplants, only own the unfussy ones. It looks like you do that already for the most part. Rosemary is unfussy if it is kept warm, in a sunny spot - and not watered too much. Poor guy. Looking a little pekid.

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    1. Donna, I remember a Florida gardener talking about spider plants being invasive in the garden and I can imagine why. Given just a little water and not even a lot of sun they will multiply like bunnies.

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  16. I have similar problems with houseplants--last year I forgot to bring in any rosemary, and it survived the winter outside! But this year's cutting I brought indoors looks like its days are numbered:) Maybe I should give orchids a try after all.

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  17. there are some houseplants that I feel are needy. I get so tired of them about February. I do have three orchids and FINALLY one has sent up a stem of buds. Not mature enough yet to count how many buds -- but I will have flowers!

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    1. Lucky you, I wish I had a bit more room for orchids now that I've got mine to bloom but I had to be very particular about its location so it had enough sun and warmth.

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  18. When I read your sad tale about the rosemary, I looked over at my plant clinging to life on the windowsill and could relate immediately. The darn thing seems to dry out at the drop of a hat on the sunny window ledge. I neglected it a few times and all the needles along the bottom dried out and dropped. Now, I am wondering if I should prune the top to get some new growth. I have a few orchids, which limp along. Perhaps I should get some fertilizer. Your orchid looks terrific!

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    1. Jennifer, I never normally use fertilizer but in the case of the orchids I gave in. They have so little to gain nutrients from given they live in mostly moss and it sure made a world of difference to the plant.

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  19. I think I share most of your triumphs and tragedies with houseplants. Your moth orchid is lovely. The rosemary overwinters here, but once in a while I lose one because of the harsh conditions. Happy new year!

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    1. I'm so jealous of people who can overwinter rosemary. It's a beautiful plant in general and I love it for cooking. Sometimes I wish it was a little warmer here.

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  20. I avoid houseplants but I do have an orchid in my bathroom that was given to me as a gift. It grew a weird root that was pointed straight out like a striking snake. I had to cut it off simply due to how irritating it was to look at. I kept waiting for it to bite me. :o)

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    1. Those roots are a bit strange aren't they? The first pot I had mine in I thought the plant was going to just up and climb out - roots going in every which direction.

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  21. Ah yes, spider plants. Even I can't kill spider plants, which is saying something. No houseplants in this new house, except the money plant given to us by someone we collected unwanted hangers from, to wish us prosperity in our new life. A lovely gift kept alive by TNG, who unlike me is very good about doing something regularly and reliably.

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    1. My hubby is constantly telling me how amazed he is at the spider plant in our bathroom. One has been living in a cup of water there for the past year, nothing else. They're like the cockroaches of the plant kingdom.

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  22. Wow I' impressed. I eventually threw my orchid out, after a few years, when it refused to re bloom.

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  23. I am in the process now of killing my first orchid. I'll try putting water in the pebble filled tray and see if it helps. -Jean

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