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Indoor Gardening: The Question of Houseplants

I don’t consider myself a “houseplant person,” although for as long as I can remember, we’ve always had some plants living inside with us. Inspired by the post at Mr. MrGregor’s Daughter and the envelope which arrived in the mail this week, I decided to take a Houseplant Census as well.

African Violet in Bloom

We have 5 African violets. They are not thriving at the moment, but this is usually the time of year that they make a shift into higher gear. My theory is that it has something to do with the angle of the sun or the quality of sunlight, some change brought on by the shift of seasons. It may very well be that I remember to take better care of them come spring; however, I take comfort in the advice of my sister, a florist for 25 years, that African violets actually like neglect. Perhaps not utter neglect, but they do seem to do just as well if they are not fussed over too much or watered too often.

African Violets in better days-- Historical photo

We have a 5 foot tall Norfolk Pine which grows in a big pot with its 3 children. Now that I think about it, 2010 must be the year that we re-pot the Norfolk pine and give those smaller trees pots of their own. My mother-in-law gave this plant to us when she was winnowing down her massive house plant assemblage. Mom definitely was a houseplant person. She had over 100 plants at one point, and she could grow anything. Any little clipping or leaf that dropped off a plant got a fair shot at a life of its own by being settled in a glass with water and given the chance to root. And so many things did!

Our Norfolk pine also enjoyed a staring role as our Christmas tree one year! I believe it was in 2007 or 2008, but I failed to find photographic proof. I’m sure, however, that the Boy will back up my claim as he provided transport for the plant from its home in our bedroom to center stage in the living room and then for the reverse trip a month later. This was when the Little Family was living with us and the home was a bit crowded-er. I’m sad that we didn’t get a picture because the tree looked very cute with a single set of white lights and only the tiny old-fashioned ornaments we inherited from Jim’s grandmother.

Finally, we have a bay laurel plant. Jim purchased the bay laurel from Renaissance Gardens booth at our Farmers’ Market last summer. It’s a lovely, happy plant that deserves a post of its own very soon.

If I had done this survey only a week ago, I would have included a poinsettia as well. Alas, the poinsettia is no longer with us but has instead moved on in the great circle of life to become part of our compost. Is it safe to compost a poinsettia, you might ask? Aren’t they poisonous? It turns out that pointsettias are not poisonous, so composting them would seem to be fine.

In total then, our houseplant count is only 10, which seems a very modest number and perhaps the lowest number we have had. In the past, we have successfully over-wintered potted rosemary (not this year, alas) and one time we brought a potted jalapeno plant inside where it lived until late March. I hand-pollinated the flowers using a Q-tip and it produced 6 or so small peppers, which was very exciting. We have also grown spider ferns from time to time. We also grow sprouts, but then our motivation is consumption rather than beauty or companionship. I guess our emphasis on growing edibles has decreased our commitment to houseplants. Very soon, we’ll be starting seeds for the garden so our house will have more plants, if only temporarily.

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