How to keep happy houseplants

I’ve always had houseplants. But I’m pleased to say that I now have houseplants that are happy. I’ve never had good light for them any of the places we’ve lived. So I’m thankful that I have plenty of windows with good light.

Scroll through the photos below to see what make some of my current favorites happy.

My Tulips and Muscari started popping up in January so I brought them in for some winter blooms.

This was my Grandmother’s Angel Wing Begonia. I’ve had it for at least 12 years and it’s never bloomed once. Imagine my excitement when it bloomed this year. I’m so glad that it’s happy in this east window with the early morning light.


These are my beautiful geraniums that I brought in for the winter. Their blooms are so cheerful. I’m wintering the rest in the chilly attic until it’s warm enough to put them back outside.

This is one of my newest plants. I love the variegated foliage. I need to learn more about it. I can’t wait to get to know it better.

I love these primroses paired with the variegated leaves. I added my baby spider plants in the center for vertical interest. I think this basket turned out so cute. I can’t wait to put it outside when it gets warmer and see how it does.

Pretty primroses. I tried these last year and they all died. I think I waited too long to set them out. Hoping for better results this year.


These are my orchids. My sister gave me most of these. I’ve found they like this shaded south facing window best.


My violets. My grandmother gave me my first violet. These are my favorite plants and the easiest ones to care for. All they want is steady diffused light and not to have wet roots. Mine are blooming happily in this north facing window. I’m so glad they love this spot. They are so nice to look at in my kitchen window while I’m doing dishes.


Such beautiful blooms.


Rubbish to Riches: Adventures in Composting

Rubbish to Riches: Adventures in Composting

I’m embarking on a new adventure this week. I set up my first compost bin. Living in a condo and then NYC apartments, I’ve never really had the space. Now, I still don’t have much space which is why I haven’t set one up sooner. When I think of composting, I think of the huge open compost pile my parents had in Texas or people using huge industrial sized garbage cans to store their compos. Then it hit me this week – why couldn’t I use a storage tub? I googled it and found several posts of people who had done that very thing. I had an empty tub in the basement. So, I set it up this morning in about an hour.

First, I drilled holes in the bottom and all around my tub.

Next I covered the bottom with some shredded newspaper and then added all the dried out dirt from my old flower pots. I poured in a couple of cups of water and then stirred my scraps – broccoli stems, old cilantro, coffee grounds, tea leaves, banana peels, dryer fuzz and dried leaves. You want to keep it moist but not wet. If too welt it will rot and stink. If too dry nothing will decompose. I hope I can keep the right balance.

I found this nice 1-gallon, stainless steel compost bin to keep in my kitchen. I’ve looked at them before and never wanted to put out the money. This one was $11 on Amazon so I figured it was worth the risk. It had a charcoal filter in the lid to keep the smells in for when I can’t get my scraps outside right away.


I set the compost bin on the shady side of the house just outside the kitchen door. I figure I’ll be more likely to keep my indoor bin emptied regularly with it nearby. I set it up on bricks to help with air circulation and I put a tray under it to catch any liquid and use as “compost tea” on my plants.


The fact that all these things that I would normally throw out will hopefully result in rich, fertile soil is amazing to me. I’m excited! Let the adventure begin.

My Plants: The Silent Storytellers

Impatiens - on of my grandmother's favorite flowers.

Impatiens – one of my grandmother’s favorite flowers.

It’s New York City. I don’t have a sprawling farm along the Missouri countryside like Maggie did. Or even a small farm in Texas like my parents do. I have a 3rd floor apartment in NYC with no outdoor space. In our new apartment, I can’t even put in window boxes. Thankfully I have some windows that get good light so my plants are actually doing fairly well. But it’s been a challenge when I’ve gotten new plants or when I’ve needed to re-pot anything because I have nowhere outdoors to do that kind of thing.

So, creativity ensues. I pull out a large, flat sheet and all my potting supplies and turn my living room into a gardening work space. It’s messy work, no doubt. There’s always bits of potting soil that scatters. And the kids like to help so there are 30 dirty little fingernails to clean afterwards, but it’s lots of fun to see the new things we’ve worked on grow bigger.

I remember my grandmother teaching me how she cared for her plants. I would help her water them and re-pot them. At one time she had two large shelving units filled with violets. And she always had a planter outside her front steps filled with impatiens. She would always take her Christmas cactus to the back room where it was cool and dark in the fall and it would always be full of bright fuschia blooms in the winter. And she had a fern that belonged to Maggie. It was over 100 years old. She had it in the back bedroom of her house when was in the hospital before she died. None of us knew that it was back there to water it and so it died. We were all so sad to discover that it had been neglected when we cleaning out her house after she died. We would have all loved to have a cutting from it. I can’t say that I always take as good of care of my plants as my Nanny did. Some days I do well just to keep the kids alive. But, I’m thankful for those times with her and that she taught me what she knew. She gave me a love for violets that will last my whole life through. No matter where I’ve been in life, I’ve always had a violet.

I like the memories that I have associated with my plants. Who gave me the plant. Where I got it from. It’s good to remember those things when I look at them throughout the day. All my plants have a story.  My five philodendron plants came from one sprout that I got from my grandmother. Her angel wing begonia that she gave me the year before she died went through a difficult beginning with me, but now has turned into several more plants. My larger begonia was given to me by an old friend in Colorado and my umbrella plant by other dear Colorado friends upon my grandmother’s death.

Today we just made a new plant memory. Today we saved a plant that was going to be thrown out from the building down the street. We divided it up between several friends. When we see it we’ll think of our friends, and the times we’ve spent with them. We also potted some new little succulents that we got at the local street fair on Memorial Day. Each child has one that they picked out. We can look at them and remember that day and what we did and ate and the fun things that we did. Before we went to bed tonight, the 2-year-old went to say goodnight to all the “baby plants.” Even though it’s just beginning, she knows the stories of these little plants we potted today. My plants hold the stories of the good times and the difficult ones. And I like that they are part of life. They are a tie that helps me remember the threads of my past. It’s good to think on where you’ve been. Sometimes it gives you perspective and helps make where you are seem better.

Maybe you don’t have such strong memories associated with your plants. Just because I do, you don’t have to. But, I enjoy mine and what they help me remember. They are the silent storytellers in my house. But, I’m going to tell my children these stories. They need to know them. It’s part of my life and so it’s also part of theirs. Find a plant you like and bring it home. With time, you may end up with something good to remember by it.

Our new aloe.

Our new aloe.

 

Our new little succulents that we bought at the street fair.

Our new little succulents that we bought at the street fair.

 

My Nanny's angel wing begonia.

My Nanny’s angel wing begonia.

 

Nanny's philodendron in my Granddaddy's old enamel pot that I found on his farm.

Nanny’s philodendron in my Granddaddy’s old enamel pot that I found on his farm.

 

More sprouts of the philodendron and angel wing begonia

More sprouts of the philodendron and angel wing begonia.

 

More from the original philodendron plant.

More from the original philodendron plant.

 

My only violet at the moment. I wish some of my Nanny's violets. Most of them were lost in a move. :(

My only violet at the moment. I wish some of my Nanny’s violets. Most of them were lost in a move. 😦 I saved this one from little leaf, rooted it and look at it now! It sprouted all these little babies which made me so excited!

 

A Christmas cactus given me by a friend. I wish I had my grandmother's cactus.

A Christmas cactus given me by a friend. I wish I had my grandmother’s cactus.

 

A money tree given me by the family of one of my husband's students.

A money tree given me by the family of one of my husband’s students.

 

Umbrella tree given me when my grandmother died.

Umbrella tree given me when my grandmother died.

 

Impatiens will always make me think of my grandmother.

I always think of my grandmother when I see impatiens.