When most of the country was ordered to stay at home this past spring, some people turned to pet fostering or bread baking as a means of comfort. Others turned to gardening and sought the company of vegetables and houseplants. I already had plenty of pets and I’m a bread-baking veteran. I decided to jump on the houseplant train.
Why I Did Not Grow Houseplants Before COVID
First, a little background. I’m a gardener. I like to grow things outdoors. In fact, I’m kind of obsessed with hydrangeas. I have at least 20 bushes in my yard. I also have a gazillion herbs and grow a vegetable garden; although the vegetable garden is more of my husband’s domain.
Prior to COVID, most of my friends were surprised to learn that I really didn’t have houseplants. The only plant I had in my home prior to my houseplant shopping spree was a Sansevieria (Snake plant) because it’s darn near impossible to kill. It’s not that I dislike houseplants, I just did not want to put in the effort to make them grow in an indoor environment.
Growing tropical plants indoors takes effort. In order to replicate their natural growing environment indoors, you have to make adjustments to the lighting and humidity of your home. Plus, I belonged to the unofficial gardening school of thought that if it wasn’t native to my outdoor environment, then it’s not meant for me to grow. I live in the southeastern U.S. and have very mild winters. If I want to see pretty plants, I just step outside—who needs houseplants?
The Plant That Started It All
I took my annual spring trip to my local garden center prior to the shelter-in-place order to get my flowering annuals and vegetables for the garden. As I waited in line, I passed by the cutest little Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant) in a two-inch pot. It was only three dollars so I added it to my purchases. I figured, if it died, then I was only out a few bucks.
I came home and potted up my little Pilea. Luckily, I still had potting soil from when I purchased the Sansevieria. I plopped the little plant on my desk and ignored it. I knew my desk area was classified as “medium” light and figured the little plant would be okay. I did remember to water it weekly and that was it.
Little did I know this little beauty would lead me to embark on a houseplant shopping spree.
Opening the Plant Flood Gates
Then the stores started shutting down and the world seemed like it was going to end, but my Pilea steadily grew. Emboldened by my lackadaisical success of growing a tropical plant indoors, I decided to buy more plants. Only, now I could not go to the garden center to buy any. So, like many houseplant shoppers, I turned to the internet.
I was a little apprehensive at first. I have only ordered seeds or bulbs online, never a live plant. My second plant purchase was a Monstera adansonii cutting on Etsy. That plant arrived securely packaged and healthy. Who would have thought that ordering plants online would be so easy and successful?
At this point, I had two thriving houseplants and it was full summer. It was time to get serious about this houseplant growing thing. My neighbor has a million houseplants that she readily propagates throughout the year. She always lines her carport with all her plants during the spring and summer. She was more than thrilled to share her cuttings with me. From my neighbor, I scored a Heartleaf philodendron, more Sansevieria, Pothos, and Spider plants. I ordered a Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma and Hoya Carnosa Krimson Queen online as well.
My Favorite Plant... And My Least Favorite
Right now, my Hoya is my favorite because it’s so unusual and easy to grow. In fact, it’s my most expensive purchase to date ($20 for a 4-inch pot), but it has tripled in size since I purchased it. I recently discovered that there are dozens of varieties of Hoya, including the adorable Hoya Kerrii which has leaves that look like little hearts—it’s definitely on my wish list!
The least favorite title goes to my orchids because they are taking WAYYY too long to re-bloom. And, honestly they may not because I am loosing my patience!
Soon, I ran out of room to place my plants in the areas of my home that offer the best light. So, I decided to infiltrate my kids’ rooms (they get excellent, bright indirect sunlight most of the day). I have two boys who could care less about plants. At first, they objected to the intrusion—they were not interested in having to care for the plants. I assured them that I did not expect them to water plants, I just needed the space.
As time went on, I noticed the boys watering the plants without asking me for help. Encouraged, I taught them how to check the soil for moisture before watering and how to look for signs of pest infestation. They took in the information with ease. The grumblings ceased and the boys even requested plants that suited their interests. Of course, I gave in and let them buy whatever plant they wanted. However, before I made the purchase, I let them know they are solely responsible for the care of the plant. The boys agreed and they are now proud caretakers of their own mini-jungles.
My Expanding Collection
As of today, I have over 30 houseplants. This does not include the pots of succulents I have on the porch (which will come in during the winter) and the numerous cuttings I have propagating.
I already have a list of rare-ish plants I want to add to my collection. For me the pandemic offered one silver lining or should I say “green” lining—it made me love houseplants again. I do not intend to stop anytime soon. I can not control the virus or the weather, but I can control the health of my plants. As long as I have space, I’ll let the greenery inside.