Winter House Plants

How can you tell if someone is a plant person?  If they surround themselves with plants, then they are.  It doesn’t matter how much space they have;  even people in apartments with small balconies find room.  The size of the wallet doesn’t matter because other plant people will share.  And skill doesn’t matter because that can be learned.

I consider myself to be a plant person, although I wasn’t always.  It is an acquired passion.

During the cold days of winter, plants can be enjoyed inside.  These are two Poinsettias were bought last winter.

There are some complicated methods about getting Poinsettias to rebloom the next year.  Those involve putting plants into darkness for a certain length of time at specific times of the year.

But, honestly, I did not do anything special.  Last spring after the temperatures was consistently warm (about 65 degrees), the pots were placed outside under a large tree where it was shady most of the day.  Then in November when we took all plants into a shed, I repotted the Poinsettias into a larger size pot and brought them in the house.

The leaves had already started turning red and continued to do so inside with bright indirect light.

Last year I bought a couple of hybridized Kalanchoes because the flowers have more petals, which are layered, than the common Kalanchoes I had been given years ago by a relative.

Although these are gorgeous, the old plants seem to be hardier and definitely grow faster.  Each year I put the common Kalanchoes outside for the spring, summer, and fall.  This year I’ll try these outside.

This is the Kalanchoe with white flowers.  Some of them have a yellowish tint.

Plant people do have plants that die or don’t do well.  That can be due to different climates and growing conditions.  But it can also be the fault of the grower.

This poor neglected Angel Wing Begonia, a hybrid, is an example of that.  It doesn’t get the consistent moisture or temperature that it needs.  Plus, I forget to fertilize it.  It is two years old and has never bloomed.  But I keep promising myself that I will take better care of it.

I’ve been learning to propagate roses.  This is one of my successes.  I’ve tried in the past but am now using the method that is used at Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, Texas.

Take a cutting just below a spent bloom and cut the bottom at an angle.  Leave a few leaves on the stem.  Water some loose fine soil, wring it out with your hands so that it is damp but not mushy, and place in a zip lock baggie.  Put the bottom end of the cutting in rooting hormone and stick in the soil. Antique Rose Emporium uses a gel:  Rootech Cloning Gel, which can be ordered online.

Several stems can be placed into one baggie.  Zip the bag, place it on a window ledge in indirect light.  Then wait for roots to grow at the bottom.

This is some Basil that my daughter-in-law propagated for me.  Isn’t that a nice pot?

Growing plants doesn’t always mean success, but it is a rewarding hobby.

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more they will hate those who speak it.”  George Orwell

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Front View

When we built our house and put in the “lawn”, I confess that we were not enlightened enough about water conservation.  So we have a large expanse of grass that I have been gradually eliminating with flowerbeds.  The grass is native Bermuda that came from the pasture soils we dumped over the rocky caliche yard areas.  As the weather gets hotter and the occasional rains have stopped, the grass will be more yellow than green.

Since I’ve never really shown the overall layout of the land, here goes with the front of the house, which faces north.

frontyard614xThe house is not really tilted – just my photo.

Although I would like to blame someone else for many of the choices in the yard, we both agreed to most everything.  I still think that our location, surrounded by pastures, does require a large open space.

frontyard614sOn the left side of the front, against the house, there are heirloom Daylilies and some hardy well adapted Yellow Columbines. frontyard614All the Daylilies were planted close to the house because those were the only flowerbeds we had when a friend gave us a whole trunk-load of newly dug bulbs.  Nothing had been done to the yard yet except stone laid for the flowerbeds and sidewalks.  So with no soil preparation, they were planted into the thick clay and have been healthier than should be expected

frontyard614aLet me interrupt myself:  when we were outside the other day, a baby Barn Swallow fell or was pushed out of a nest under the edge of the front porch covering.  It just took a dive into the grass in front of us and stayed there, probably stunned.  Eventually, it did fly away.

frontyard614rJust to the right of the porch is a bed of Purple Heart.  Then further right is Woodland Fern.

Another aside:  The wet walkway is from a 4 one-hundredth of an inch morning rain.  Lately, we’ve had several of those rains with some up to .20 inches.  Not really enough to water but enough to cause really high humidity.  And that is something we are not used to.

So with the humidity and the gnats, caused by lack of wind, it’s been a killer to work outside.  Whatever we complain about usually comes back to haunt us.  For me, that’s been too much wind.  So now we’ve had the opposite.

To those hardy souls who garden in the deep South, you have my sympathy and admiration because you endure humidity that soaks your clothes in minutes and all kinds of pesky flying menaces.

frontyard614y2 The Purple Heart has almost filled in its bed.  In fact, enough was growing out onto the walkway that I was able to break it off and share it with someone who wanted it.

In the foreground of the picture is a pot of African Bulbine.

frontyard614fThen, in the only true shady bed, is the Woodland Fern.  Columbine keeps trying to take over, so it requires diligence to keep it out.  But I don’t always keep up.

frontyard614gA potted Boston Fern in the corner has a pot of Kalanchoe in front of it.  The leaves on this particular Kalanchoe never seem to look healthy, but the blooms keep coming.

frontyard614dAlso, tucked in that corner is an Elkhorn (Euphorbia  lactea Haworth) that I’ve had for 5 years.  It’s also called Frilled Fan or Crested Euphorbia.  Although it thrives in the heat, it does better without direct sun.

It just keeps growing upwards and is tricky to move inside during the winter because it has sharp barbs on every edge.

frontyard614nAnother bed of Daylilies on the west side comes to the edge of the front fern bed.

As you can guess, I feel that I should apologize to those who urge us all to go xeriscape.  But I don’t truly like that look, especially in the extreme.  My preference is for an English Garden look, which I’m working towards using some drought tolerant plants and natives.

Happy gardening whatever your style.

“Gardening is a mirror of the heart.  Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow.  Gardening is an exercise in optimism.  Gardening is not a rational act.”  Margaret Atwood

Peek in Green House

Can’t wait to find out which outside plants survived the coldest weather we’ve had in many years.  Of course, I’m really hoping that most of the perennials make it.

shedBut the ones in the shed/greenhouse have been toasty warm and thrived.  The 8 year old heater did a good job of keeping the inside from freezing.

shed2There used to be a coiled hose in the greenhouse.  But last year I replaced it with this pocket hose.  It works so much better because it doesn’t get caught on branches and other things  in the shed.  It stretches nicely and is easy to use.  I’m not sure how one would work out in the yard with all the critters to chew on it.

shed3The blooms that were on the Ixora when we put the pot in the shed in early November are still going strong.  Love that bright color and the fact that the flowers last so long.  Of course, it is tropical and must have heat, although the dryness of the air during the summer here doesn’t seem to matter.

shed4The African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) also is healthy.  Last spring I planted some sprigs in the ground.  They did well.  But what are the chances that they will come back?  They are not hardy to 7B, where we are.

shed5This large Aloe Vera always blooms during the winter in the greenhouse but not outside during the summer.  Can’t figure that one out.

shed6I usually see the blooms just after they’ve died, so they must not last a week.

shed7A new bloom is starting at the base.

shed8Kalanchoe also does extremely well in the hothouse environment and blooms better than when outside.  These are ready to be cut back.  So they will provide lots of cuttings to root for our Garden Club plant sale.

The white walls are sheets of styrofoam we cut to fit for insulation.

shed9All these Aloe Vera will be put in the Garden Club sale.  That large Aloe Vera just keeps producing all these pups.

shedd1Part of a fiberglass panel shows in this picture.  These allow wonderful sunlight to flood the shed.

shedd3The Boston Ferns have flourished better than in some past winters in the shed.

shedd4I have learned to move the Tropical Hibiscus away from the heat source.  Tiny white mites tend to cover it in the greenhouse.  But it does better next to the door.  That seems counter intuitive to me.  But it works.

Beside it is a Tricolor Butterfly Bush that I bought late in the fall and potted it just before storing it here.  Hopefully, it will live.  Anyone else anxious to get on with spring?

“Perennial:  any plant which, had it lived, would have bloomed year after year.”  Henry Beard

Little Spot of Floral Color

The British say they would like a spot of tea, which I enjoy, too.  But something else I crave is a little spot of color on living plants in the house during the winter months.

iceplantAnd sometimes, a little spot is all you get, like this flower on an Ice Plant.  But it brightens a windowsill that provides indirect light.

Just break off a few stems of an ice plant growing in a pot outside.  Stick the stems in a pot of soil and bring inside and keep moist until it roots and grows.  The outside plant will die during a freeze, anyway.  So you kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.  Rescuing a plant for another year and being able to enjoy it inside.

kolancheAnother plant that needs to be brought inside is Kalanchoe.  As this plant demonstrates, they tend to get leggy and the stems drape down.  To start another plant, follow the same steps as for the Ice Plant.  So it’s possible to keep starting new plants almost indefinitely.

kolanche2Even when the plant starts looking scraggly, the small clusters of flowers are pretty.  This particular variety of Kalanchoe has pale yellow and pink blooms in the small cluster.

kolanche4Each plant usually has lots of clusters at one time.

kolanche3Because many people desire flowers in their homes,  florists do a booming business.  But I love the fact that living plants produce flowers over and over.

“I grow plants for many reasons:  to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”  David Hobson

Peter Cottontail

Remember the children’s book The Tale of Peter Cottontail by Beatrix Potter?  Peter disobeyed his mother and went to Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat vegetables.  It was probably written to encourage children to obey their parents because in the end Peter didn’t feel well, was given chamomile tea and put to bed while his brother and sisters had bread, blackberries, and milk for supper.

cottontail2We have our own little cottontail in the garden.  One evening as I was pruning, he was munching in the flowerbed and didn’t seem afraid of me.

rabbitplanterRabbit flower pots have a whimsey that I enjoy.  The plants in this rabbit is Dwarf Sanseveria.  In the background is an heirloom Geranium and to the right is a pot of Airplane or Spider (Chlorophytum comosum) plants.  Their common name comes the plantlets that grow on long stems.

The plantlets are easy to propagate.  Just stick one in a pot of soil, and another plant is created.  In fact, I was getting so many Airplant plants that my husband asked me to stop planting the plantlets because that meant more pots to carry into the greenhouse.

It’s often considered a house plant, but they do great outside in filtered light or shade where there’s harsh sunlight.  They are not cold hardy and have to be moved indoors during the winter.  But the rhizomes will usually re-sprout if there’s not a long or extreme freeze.

cottontailAs my clippers snipped, the cottontail prepared to run but changed his mind.

rabbitplanter2This pot has Kalanchoe plant, which looks kind of sad right now.

rabbitStone statuary fascinates me.  I especially like the large ones seen in old English gardens.

cottontail3This cottontail is nibbling on grass.  If that remains his sole diet, I’ll be happy to have him around to clean out the grass in the flowerbed.  His mother lives in this same area, but she is skittish and stays out of sight most of the time.

“The federal government is like a handicapped turtle trying to crawl around and keep up with the rabbit, which is technology.”  James Breithaupt

Shades of Red

The primary colors are a feast for my eyes.  As they say on TV decorating programs, “The bright colors will pop against the backgrounds.”  These reds do jump out and grab you.

redyuccaThe Red Yuccas (Hesperaloe parviflora) are just starting to bloom.  And they do pop against the green of the grass and shrubs and the blue of the sky.  Their form also is eye catching.

Red Yuccas are native to Central and West Texas.  They flower from late spring through early autumn.

yuccaflowerNot only are they pretty, but yuccas are hardy and extremely drought tolerant. Plus they survive freezing temperatures.  The flower stalk dies, leaving a striking skeletal shape with large seed pods opened like a flower for the winter.  Red Yuccas are one care free plant.   In recent years, they are the hot new item in landscaping.  It’s like they’ve just been discovered.

yuccabeeThe buzzing of bees add to the viewing experience.  These are probably honeybees.  The hummingbirds love to feed from them, too.

poinsettia6Okay.  I did say that I was definitely not going to keep the Poinsettias after January.  But they just keep surviving.  While they are still red, how could I trash them?  Let’s see how long they last outside and in the heat.

poinsettia5This will be a school science experiment.

xmascactusThe last bloom of the Christmas Cactus dropped a few weeks ago.

redbudpodsRust red seed pods of the native Redbud trees look redder from the road.

kolanche2The clusters of this particular Kolache  is not the usual rounded form of most varieties.

yuccabee2One parting shot of a bee enjoying the nectar of a Red Yucca.

Sometimes it’s hard to choose one’s favorite color of flowers.  But you don’t have to.  I  love red ones, yellow ones, purple ones, etc.

“How would you like a job where when you made a mistake, a big red light comes on and 18,000 people boo?”  Jacques Plante, Canadian ice hockey goaltender

Kolanchoe

Another great succulent is the Kalanchoe, which is a member of  the Crassulaceae family.  It’s a native of Madagascar.kolanche There are many varieties of Kolanchoe.  I’ve had this one so long that I don’t remember where I got it. kolanche3 The blossoms are so delicate – very romantic looking.  It blooms two or three times a year as a houseplant.  The flowers last for weeks. kolanche5 They don’t need much attention.  Only water when the soil is dry and fertilize rarely.  The only real problem is that they tend to get leggy.  When this happens, often the stems break off.

Of course, just stick the broken stem into potting soil and you have a new plant to share.  These are great pass-along plants as are all succulents.

kolanche6Place a Kolanchoe in bright filtered light.  The leaves will be shiny and healthy.

The pots can be moved outside in the spring to an area that doesn’t get direct sun.

orangekalanchoe This is a Kolanchoe that has bright reddish orange blossoms.  It came from a cutting of a family member.   It was outside most of last year.  When I brought it in for the winter, I noticed that a large branch had been broken off.  So I just stuck it into the soil in the same pot.

orangekalanchoe2But it is not recovering.  I need to make a fresh cut on the bottom of the stem and stick it in rooting compound.  Then it should be put it into a different pot with fresh soil.  It might have a chance to take root with better care.

Kolanchoes are good plants for a novice who wants easy to care for plants.  Their blooms have a wow factor.

“Enjoy life.  This is not a dress rehearsal.”  Author unknown