Winter is a time for indoor gardening; time to appreciate our houseplants. Mine have survived for a very long time with little care.
Take our philodendron, for instance. Phil O’Dendron had been neglected, but when we moved into our house two decades ago, we put it into a large pot and nourished it, and it responded. Phil grew into a marvelous, huge plant with great spreading leaves.
Phil enjoys the south sun, but it was outgrowing its pot. Its roots were stretching out from the stalk, looking for soil and offering support, mangrove-style.
One afternoon last summer I decided to turn it, because the stalk was leaning too far in one direction. But I turned it 180 degrees, when I could have made a less drastic change. The next morning I discovered that as the plant was stretching toward the sun in its new position, the stem had severed in two. The stalk was completely broken off; the plant itself was held in place entirely by those extended air roots.
What to do? I repotted the plant: the half with leaves and upper stem received new soil and remained in the dining room in a new, pretty pot. I returned the half with no leaves to the old pot and set it in the back yard.
The result? Two new Phil O’Dendrons. The indoor Phil thrived in its new setting. The outdoor Phil also sprouted leaves, finding new growth in its changed circumstances. But will it survive this freezing winter?
Then there is the poinsettia. This particular plant is at least three years old, and acts like a bonsai. It sits in a protected spot on the south side of the house. The stem has developed a hard surface, similar to bark – maybe old-age wrinkles? Its branches continue to support leaves and occasionally produce a red leaf. During the Christmas season, two new poinsettia plants joined the group, adding fullness of youth to the collection.
A “peace lily” (anthurium) arrived a few years ago. When I recently repotted it, immediately the plant filled the bigger pot and produced a blossom and new rootlets.
The crowded Christmas cactus responded to winter by budding and blooming, giving me a lovely photo at its first opening.
Then there are the spider plants, ever-extending long tendrils in search of new places to root. I treat them as air plants, like epiphytes, with sips of water and very little soil.
A newcomer joined the collection last Easter, an orchid that presented glorious blooms. But it is a fussy, demanding plant and I have no patience with its needs. I shall be content with its abundant foliage.
The crowning glory of my indoor garden is the amaryllis that my husband brought home in early December. I potted it according to instructions on the box and gave it daily attention and water as needed. By small increments the leaves emerged and then the tall flowering stem. Once the buds emerged, four flowers came quickly, over a period of three January days, thrilling us with gorgeous crimson petals. What a sight!
Now these houseplants have to fit into my minimal routine of care: watering twice a week, occasional pruning of excess branches and repotting once every few years. They accept the limits of my care and reward us with fresh oxygen and occasional flowers.
Caring for our houseplants, week in and week out, year after year roots me in their world – a quiet space for timeless reflection. I am grateful for our houseplants.