Responding to Anne Raver’s story on houseplants in the New York Times:
10. Hardy, reliable houseplants are BOR-ING horticultural cliches.
9. Interesting, unusual, different houseplants are far too demanding and impossible to keep alive.
8. As a gardener, I am generally opposed to putting a plant in a pot. Plants grow on the earth. In the planet itself. It’s a simple concept, and it’s worked for a few billion years. Why change now?
7. I am not about to institute an aphid control program in my living room.
6. Houseplants require dusting, washing off, and other maintenance that would not be necessary if they would just go outside where they belong. I can’t be bothered to dust a lampshade, so why would I dust a philodendron?
5. There’s no good place to put a plant. They don’t fit on windowsills. They muddy carpets and coffee tables. I refuse to buy them plant stands.
4. A houseplant that doesn’t grow is depressing. It suggests a sad, limited life, and brings on mild cases of melancholy.
3. A houseplant that grows too much is frightening. An aggressive ivy plant can pull down a curtain rod if you don’t watch out.
2. There’s no such thing as a drought-tolerant houseplant. They all have to be fed and coddled, like pets or babies, which I also can’t bring myself to care for.
1. And the number one reason I hate houseplants? Macrame hanging baskets. They’re coming back, god help us.
Good lord, you’re reading my mind – or there’s a collective consciousness about houseplants that I never knew existed. Mine would justifiably be called “plant material” and have passed the test of extreme abuse. Barely better than artificial.
Reason number four is it for me. They never really THRIVE, houseplants. It’s always about watching them limp through over a number of years, until you get fed up and compost them.
There is someone right down the street from me, however, who has a second-story greenhouse on the back of her extremely tasteful new Craftsman. Now, THAT I could do–fill the place with citrus trees and gardenias.
I’m not generally a fan…
Our house is filled with plants not out on hire. Some beautiful 5 foot multi stemmed Ficus are the stars of the show. Easy to maintain, just water every other day, a bit feed. My wife has decorated them for Xmas, very nice.
Houseplants rock. I love our false aurelia, ficus, christmas cactus, other cactus, cyclamen (in gorgous bloom right now), and African violets, just to name a few. Not to mention all the bulbs I’ve been forcing.
All you need is a drafty Victorian in Buffalo; we go about in blankets but the plants love it.
And, yeah, more places to put holiday lights.
I want to be like Eliz. Her response to this vicious attack on innocent houseplants was to proudly and pleasantly defend her plants. My response was to instantly become grumbly and defensive. So many resolutions to make.
I didn’t used to like houseplants either.
But then, I grew up in a place where the sun shined.
Now I live in a splace where it is grey and hovers between 20degrees F and 35degrees F – FOR SIX MONTHS.
Winter is not so bad (like hell… it is horrible). But it is the dark-ish non-summer that drives me crazy. Makes it hard.
Six months is a long time.
I need plants year round… so that means house plants and a hothouse. (The ideal is a hothouse with rotating plants coming inside for awhile.)
“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you are with with.” (At least as far as plants are concerned.)
Times?!?! Which Times? Los Angeles? Can you kind folks please remember that there are a bunch of us who don’t know what a turnpike is, don’t get nostalgic for “real” Jewish delis and earnestly believe that Nora Ephron was the worst thing ever to happen to movies?
In other words-please remember the West Coast and the Pacific Islands. You’re ruining my mellow.
I think having house plants may be a function of the size of your garden. The bigger and more involved your actual planted in the planet garden, the less likely you may want or need house plants. All your nurturing instincts of watering, aphid washing, feeding and such get used up outside.
When you are done and it is time to go inside you do not want a bunch of hungry, thirsty, dirty plants clamoring for your attention.
People who live in condo’s and apartments should be required by law to have house plants. That way they will have a small grasp of what it takes to keep a plant alive and may be able to apply that knowledge to the larger ecosystem and what it takes to keep the planet alive.
I don’t hate houseplants for other people as long as they’re displayed elegantly. Not in 50 undersized plastic pots lined up in the kitchen window. Dude, get one bigger pot and put them together!!!
But I do hate them unilaterally for myself. I can’t keep them alive even if I wanted to. I over water. I underwater. I have never kept one alive for more than a few months, most of that time they’re looking limp and brown. And the bugs. My God, the BUGS! Yuck.
More power to you houseplant defenders. I’m in awe of anyone who can keep one or more of them alive and lush. My mom has the touch and I have no clue how she does it. I never see her do anything with them, yet her ivys are full and lush (not that straggly mess most people have), her ficuses grow so big she has to donate them to businesses or churches because they outgrow the living room. It’s incredible.
Bromeliads are boring and/or hard to take care of? No they’re not! Neither is my beatiful spathiphyllum or Amaryllis. I’ll get around to posting pictures someday…
Epipremnum, philodendron, aglaonema, dieffenbachia (sp?) Ficus benjamina; those are boring/frustrating houseplants–maybe.
Oh, no! Not macrame hanging baskets! Coming back? Help… With those doodly bits hanging down and beads threaded on, just waiting for the cats to snag them with their claws and end up swinging across the room yowling. I had a girlfriend who made them once, long long ago. Suffice it to say that she’s long long gone.
I can’t help myself – I love houseplants! Before I really learned anything about gardening, I killed a few houseplants as a teenager, and then gained some confidence with the die-hard oxalis.
I have had in excess of 200 house plants in my home at any one time – and I don’t generally buy them… they find their way to me from here and there, set up camp, and propagate like crazy!
Yes, I have houseplants instead of furniture. Yes, I have no sense of style, and offer up most of my smaller plates to prevent water stains under pots. And while I might spend two hours wandering around watering and talking to house plants, all plants that live in my home must pass the endurance tests of water, light, and food neglect, and the occasional shock testing from rambunctious puppies! Those who endure have lived 10+ years, and been passed on to new homes when I’ve had to move.
I didn’t choose the houseplants – they just came over for dinner one night, and never left!
I second Elizabeth — houseplants rock (and so do jute hangers). I live in Maine, and I keep tropicals like Clivia miniata, Eucharis amazonia, Hibiscus, Aeschynanthus radicans, Epiphyllum ackermanii, Kaempferia galanga, Schlumbergera bridgesii, Ceropegia woodii, Begonia coccinia and Saintpaulia — all of them bloom in the household climate, all of them are at least 10 years old, none of them ever get aphids or knock over furniture, I don’t dust or coddle, and I water once a week.
I also have standard grocery store plants like ivy, scindapsus, tradescantia, and philodendron. Philodendron and spider plants clean indoor air, and there’s just something soothing about having live foliage plants in a room.
Ditto what Eliz and The Clerk both said! 🙂
It is the season for grinches!!! Houseplants help with NDD or nature deficit disorder!
I must be stupid.
Could someone please explain David’s comment to me?
Something about mellow? Something about are supposed to think about him or something?
Not a big deal… I just totally don’t get it.
It seems that David had to click the link to the “Times” article to find out which Times Amy was referring to, and that apparently reduced his usual amount of mellowness.
I could say that I think those who say they don’t like houseplants haven’t had success with them and so it makes them feel inadequate as gardeners, and as horticulturalists, so they try to make a case against them. But I won’t say that!
I love my houseplants. They actually prefer to be left more or less alone, and some of them flower for me, in some cases in a quite spectular way.
Occasionally, yes, the carpet gets dirty, and I have to buy them a plant stand or a bigger pot, but what of worth doesn’t need some care?
Good rant topic! I’m thinking Amy might actually have some houseplants and just wanted to get us all up in arms!
How did we get to the point of dissing poor old Nora Ephron because someone doesn’t like houseplants?? And for the record, she was born in NYC (that’s a city in the state of New York) but she was raised in California.
Who is Nora Ephron? Don’t make me Google her.
I think maybe David was referring to the fact the indoors and outdoors can be so integrated in the west coast and Pacific Islands that the notion of a “house plant” does not apply. He may not be interested in what fancy floral boutiques in Manhattan are selling that will survive in skyscrapers.
If anyone knows where to get a matching set of 4, three and a half foot long macrame hangers made of durable fibers for 12 inch diameter pots, please send them to me. I need them for a clients pots of Burro’s Tail. The old ones have decomposed in the salt air after three years and two pots have already crashed to the ground. There don’t seem to be any in Maui. The mellow must have gotten way to good.
Shame on you ladies. We should be encouraging people to invest in houseplants as housing density continues to increase.
Here’s an article I wrote about the health benefits of keeping indoor plants – http://www.gardeningtipsnideas.com/2006/12/saving_bloggers_from_dry_eyes.html
I like houseplants. I envy and admire those who make them thrive (Carol comes to mind, with her orchids….) I have a few that are limping along right now. It’s a challenge for me, I guess. Can I get these African violets to bloom again, or are they just going to sit here in all their green-fuzzy leafiness forever? Granted, I appreciate houseplants more when I can’t work outside in the garden. During the gardening season, they’re lucky if they get watered, let alone otherwise coddled 😉
Just want to add streptocarpus to the list of good houseplants. Needs similar conditions to African violet but a bit more interesting. And yes, older, drafty houses are sometimes better conditions for growing houseplants
Like others , I turn to indoor plants for solace during our (adnittedly fairly mild) Maryland winters. I love forcing bulbs as well to make spring “hurry up.” What puzzles me though is that no one has really talked about the fact of over-wintering your outdoor plants indoors – ergo making them indoor plants at least for 4-6 months. I know there must be many of you out there that, like me, have some blooming zonal geraniums, herbs, succulents, and coleus in your kitchen windows right now. They are just biding their time until they can once again grace our outdoor gardens.
Then there is the intangible “feeling” part of the houseplant equation. When I visit homes and offices without living things in them – both plants and pets – I just can’t stand the sterility and usually don’t stay long. My favorite stores are those with a few cats roaming around and some cactii crowding up their counter space. And don’t get me started on hotel rooms with nary a green leaf — the first thing I do on any trip is run out for a small plant or flower bouquet to breath some life into it.
Our upcoming Jan/Feb 07 issue of Washington Gardener magazine has a cover story on Indoor Gardening and so this topic is very timely for me.
I think what you can get away with in terms of houseplants (and in turn, maybe your view of houseplants in general) has alot to do with your home and what you can get to thrive there.
Those of us who can’t afford to build huge picture windows or small greenhouses only experiment with a few houseplants that never really do well stuck in the one window that can accomodate them.
Personally, I keep alive a few plants none of which do particularly well, but I love ’em. They’re green when nothing else is. I’d much rather be outside though…any day.
“Those of us who can’t afford to build huge picture windows or small greenhouses only experiment with a few houseplants that never really do well stuck in the one window that can accomodate them.”
Actually, most of the plants that I have were bought specifically for low-light situations. African violets, hoya, Aeschynanthus, Spathiphyllum, begonia, and Christmas cactus all bloom reliably in north- and northeast-facing windows that get only a touch of sun each day.
Many low-light plants, in fact, don’t do well in sunny spots and will actually stop blooming if they get too much light.
Right now I have only a bay window in the kitchen and an unheated sunroom that is currently getting below freezing at night, so it’s not quite accurate to assume that greenhouses and picture windows are responsible for bloom success or plant health.
I recommend Logee’s Greenhouses in Connecticut http://www.logees.com as a source of interesting, healthy, long-lived blooming houseplants. The best thing to do is to buy 3 or 4 of the 3-inch pot size and pot them up together. In a year or two you’ll have a full-sized plant that would cost 10 times as much if you bought it at a nursery.
Also, and more important, plants that are acclimated to your environment when young will adapt much more readily to available conditions — the same as with seedlings in the garden.
*8. As a gardener, I am generally opposed to putting a plant in a pot. Plants grow on the earth. In the planet itself. It’s a simple concept, and it’s worked for a few billion years. Why change now?*
Don’t let those wacky ephiphytes hear you.
Someone gave me a stupid houseplant called a Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane. Not only is the house plant an ugly hideous looking green weedlike thing but I have zero free time to water the damn thing let alone space in my tiny cramped apartment to put the stupid plant anywhere. I am tempted to call the florist and give it back so that it will not die or maybe even get the money for it.
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I agree with Amy Stewarts’ article. I also agree with all of the people who left comments. When I was younger, during my career, I lived in a different place. The house had a lot of light, big windows & the winters were long. I enjoyed my houseplants & had the energy to care for them & to battle fungus gnats and spider mites. I also didn’t resent the time it took to constantly clean up after dropped leaves, dirt & spilled water. Now I live in a house in the forest. I’m surrounded by nature, but not much natural light comes in to the house. I worry more now about so many of the plants being poisonous or shedding allergies to my dogs or guest’s children. I have all the time I need to take care of beautiful artificial plants inside the house, and to enjoy all the real plants outside.