Accidental Gardening: My Part-time Passion
Poinsettias -- At Last!
Hit or Miss
Let me preface this piece by saying that my gardening has always been pretty much trial and error. I am not an expert and for any experts reading this, I do not know the proper names of most plants and flowers; I have to look them up. The things I have learned about gardening, I have learned by experience. So if you're an expert and thinking: This woman doesn't know what she's talking about, in a sense, you're right, and I welcome any correction from an expert. Also, keep in mind throughout this article that I live just outside New Orleans. We have a very long growing season, lots of rain, and warm temperatures, all perfect for planting and growing things in the earth.
For many years, my husband has bought at least two large poinsettias for our den around Christmastime. For many years, I have killed them, either let them die in the plastic pot from not watering enough or too much or planted them in the ground and watched them die because we had too much or not enough rain. This past year, I found a solution; and as you see, I now have a gorgeous pot of poinsettias. They turned bright red in January last year and stayed that way for two weeks. I didn't put them in the dark or anything similar as I've read I should do. I just left them in the pot. When I bought this huge pot around December 28th, I filled it with Miracle Grow soil and planted the two poinsettias Joe bought for Christmas. They thrived. My neighbor asked me where in the world he could get a poinsettia plant. He had one but couldn't find another for the other side of his door. (Hint, hint.) Well, he's a good guy and a good neighbor, so he got one. The remaining one is in the photo. So for me here in New Orleans, the pot works. This way if it gets too rainy, I can move it onto the porch and if too dry, I can water it. I'm thrilled to have finally overcome the poinsettia problem.
Rubber Plants Galore
When I was in my 20s, I had a knack for growing ficus plants or rubber plants as we've always called them. Often they would grow to almost tree size. One year, I was particularly broke -- well, even more than most years -- and decided to learn how to make more plants from my ficus, plant them and give them as gifts. I was ready to check out books at the library, etc., when a long-time friend told me to cut a limb off at what he called the knuckle (the joint) and plant it. It sounded simple and it was. I bought six inexpensive plastic pots and drains, then cut off several pieces of my plant just below the joint and planted them. I kept the soil damp. I started this project in October and by Christmas, I had six great-looking rubber plants, all with new growth and all healthy. I bought shiny red paper to wrap them in and big white bows to go on them. My friends loved those gifts more than any I've ever given since. They cost possibly $2.00 each as I used plastic pots and clear plastic drain trays. Another year, I did the same thing with dieffenbachia plants, which are just as easy to root in exactly the same way. Rooting plants is simply not that difficult.
My kalanchoes have bright red blooms and have just about bloomed themselves out this year, as you can see. They will start blooming again when the weather gets cool and bloom until it's cold. When I see these for sale in the grocery store for outrageous prices, I am amazed. They are the easiest plant I've found to root. Just stick it in the ground. Inside, stick it in a pot. For both inside and outside, keep the soil moist for a week or so, then watch your plant grow. I feed all my plants with Miracle Grow and I find this particular plant has more lush leaves and blooms longer and more often if I fertilize it regularly with Miracle Grow. I tried rooting things when I was younger, but didn't get the message that the soil needed to be moist, not wet and soupy! Also, plants need light. I have high windows in my den with no drapes and they are perfect for starting new plants.
Won't Stop Growing
Although I can't find this particular vine among the many images for philodendron, I think that it is one of the many varieties. I learned from a fellow hubber that it's called an arrowhead plant. Keep in mind that I live in a suburb of New Orleans. I cut this vine down completely to the ground exactly a month ago. My husband is threatening to "Round-Up" the ground, but I've persuaded him to leave it be and I'll trim it back every month. I love the bright green color against the gray siding of the house. I do nothing to it. The more it rains, the more it grows. This vine is beyond simple to root. Break off a piece, put it in damp earth and keep it damp. I've never had it fail to catch on, inside or outside.
For years, I tried to grow zebra plants indoors. Last summer I put one outside in the shade in the backyard. It began to grow and branch out and became a beautiful plant. I realize this is not possible in some climates. When I tried to grow them indoors, they always began to lose leaves from the bottom and ended up with only two or three leaves left. Since I've been leaving them outside for our approximately seven months of summer, during the winter they seem to "hibernate," but they no longer lose their leaves. I think this is one of the prettiest plants ever.
Selloum Plant (Fig-Leaf Philodendron)
Selloums Make Lovely Arrangments
I have always had selloum plants in my yard, ever since we moved to New Orleans. I love the tropical look they give my home. They are incredibly easy to grow. I generally trim them up from the bottom, breaking off branches a foot or so up. This causes the plants to grow taller and manifest an interesting "trunk" at the bottom. However, even our New Orleans winters, which aren't much, can freeze them if it gets down in the 20s. I always cover them with drop cloths tied at the bottom when the weather gets below 30 degrees, which doesn't happen often here. I think it got that cold once or twice last year. They are wonderful plants for arrangements. Just one or two leaves with a long stalk still attached in a very tall, clear glass or pottery vase make a gorgeous presentation.
Popular in New Orleans
Variegated ginger plants are extremely popular in this area. My daughter and her husband planted one on either side of their front door. It grew so quickly and so large that it had to be cut back as it was covering up the door. Ginger is very easy to grow. Dig a hole and plant it. I fertilize everything with Miracle Grow, but I know my daughter doesn't bother and hers was huge. I like the bright cheerful yellow color of the ginger plant.
It would take another hour to cover every plant in my yards. They grow fairly freely. I don't like a particularly structured look, not only because I like the visual of a free flowing style, but because I'm lazy and don't want to weed flower gardens!
I hope something I've said will help someone with growing green things. It's important not to overwater. I've learned with time that inside or out, it's better to underwater than overwater. You can easily tell if a plant needs water. It's hard to undo too much water once it's done. Remember light. Every plant I know except perhaps pothos and mother-in-law's tongue requires light, plenty of light. Don't be afraid to experiment with rooting plants. It's much easier than you might think. An astrologist told me many times to work in my yard. There are no planets in earth in my natal chart at all and she said working in the earth would help me become more grounded. More than anything, get out there, get your hands dirty, gloves or not, and if you lack grounding in your natal chart, at least get it in a symbolic way as I do. I'll end with a photo of my yucca garden. Yuccas are plants that will not go away. Luckily, I like the look and my cat likes the fact that she has a maze amongst them in which to escape from stray cats or a dog that sneaks in the gate. Happy growing!