Monday, February 17, 2020

Hard to Kill: NO, not James Bond, Tough Indoor Plants!


You'd think since I have degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design, that I would have an extremely green thumb with my indoor plant collection.

You'd be wrong.

I'm embarrassed to admit that my indoor plants have a greater than 50% chance of death. 

I like to call my plant collection "Darwinian" in nature. No prissy, high maintenance plants survive here. They need to be tough and able to thrive in less than perfect conditions (erratic watering schedule, iffy light situation, fertilizer--what's that?, temperature extremes, dachshund interference, etc).

This also applies to my outdoor garden, where plants must deal with enormous weeds, hungry bunnies, and at times, overly zealous lawn guys with weed wackers.

I thought it would be nice to give a shout-out to the big winners at my house: the plants with a truly Darwinian nature. 


The survivors!

Survivors! Yee haw!
Before we get to the survivors, let's talk about the failures.

Ferns.

I love ferns.

Ferns, however, do NOT love my house. I've tried Boston fern, button fern, maidenhair fern, bird's-nest fern, Blue Star fern, Rabbit's Foot fern, and more.

They always croak.

Their need for high humidity and fairly constant moisture makes them vulnerable at my house. I have a tendency to bring my plants to the brink of death, and then revive them in an exciting manner! (My husband has another way to describe this process).

After another sad end to my latest fern attempt, I made the decision to ONLY BUY SUPER TOUGH PLANTS.

These are the ones that are crushing it at my house...

1. PHILODENDRON SELLOUM


I adore this plant. It has a great color, hardy foliage, a cool leaf shape, and you can basically ignore the crap out of it and it doesn't mind at all.

Every once in a while, I plop it into the sink, water it until it drains, give it a nice misting, and then ignore it again.

Grade: A+

2. HAWORTHIA FASCIATA "CONCOLOR" or Zebra Cactus


My daughter started a succulent collection in our office, and this is one of the best. It has a rich dark green color with a funky white dotted surface, nice spiky foliage, and I swear, it would survive the zombie apocalypse and look fabulous. As with most succulents, if you forget to water it for a few days, weeks, months...don't worry about it. IT WON'T DIE!

Grade: A


3. ALWORTHIA "Black Gem"


Another wonderful succulent that is actually a cross between an Aloe and Haworthia. It creates lots of offsets ("baby Alworthia plants") which can be repotted if you are so inclined to create an Alworthia dynasty. This does well with bright light, and again, will survive dry conditions. I have a "mini" version of this in a tiny pot--and thus it dries out very quickly after watering. God bless this sweet little plant...she doesn't care. Will go for months without water and still looks fantastic!

Grade: A

4. PACHIRA AQUATICA, Guiana Chestnut, or Money Tree


This plant is incredible. No matter what kind of light, how infrequent you water it, how much you ignore it...it grows like a weed and looks amazing!

Right now I have it squeezed on top of a kitchen counter where it gets low light and it seems happy as a clam. I water and mist it maybe once a week? It's also in a teeny tiny pot, and I do think I will repot it soon although if it grows anymore, I will probably have to move it to the floor. Love this one!

Grade: A++


5. NORFOLK ISLAND PINE TREE (Araucaria heterophylla)


This adorable indoor evergreen is a popular item during the Christmas season, but honestly, it's a great indoor plant all year long. It has the potential to grow quite big, so if you're interested in that, you can repot it. I water/mist weekly. The foliage is a bit prickly, so beware. I recommend adorning it with fairy lights and ornaments in December. *wink*

Grade: A 

TOTALLY UNEXPECTED BONUS PLANT:

Most of the time, poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are "disposable" throw-away plants. After the holidays, they usually end up in the compost pile. They seem pretty wimpy, right?

Well...



Shockingly, my adorable poinsettia planter is still going strong! I'm impressed. Will keep this going as long as possible. I also think the white ones are less "Christmas-y" looking and are perfect for year-round decor. 

My indoor plants are definitely helping me get through the long and painful New England winter. However, I am still dreaming about SPRING and my outdoor garden!

I had a weak moment at the farmer's market recently, and bought all of these seed packets...


Almost time to plant! Not really.

Only a few more months to go, right? Sob.

Do any of you have recommendations for super tough, hard-to-kill indoor plants? Let's chat!

Dreaming of spring,

Penny/Nina

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