This past Saturday we were expecting a normal slow day at our garden center. It’s mid July, the real feel that day was 112°, we couldn’t imagine anyone coming out on a day like that. We were expecting to be like the Maytag man twiddling our thumbs waiting for the next sweat drenched customer. Much to our surprise from the minute we opened the front gate until way after we closed it, the parking lot was full. We had people sneaking in the back gate after we closed.
When we finally checked out the last person we congregated to talk about our day. It turned out that a large part of our sales that day was contributed to indoor plants. Luckily Mimi had the foresight to have just received a beautiful truck load of house plants from Miami. I remember grumbling a little bit when I saw her putting that order together, she’s learned to keep going even when I grumble. I guess it makes sense that when the oven gets that hot outside in Mississippi we go inside. When we spend time inside our homes and offices we look around to see what we can do to spiffy up our spaces. A house plant in a corner can completely change your room without having to spend a fortune doing renovations. Rooms with enough space can swallow up a good size house plant pretty easily.
One of my favorites for house plants that make a striking difference is a fiddle leaf fig. With their giant, dark green leaves they can be like a major art piece. The good news is that the fiddle leaf figs are easy to own as long as they are in an area with lots of light. They are not prone to funguses or insects and if you consider yourself to be a poor waterer this plant will work. I think the only way to mess this one up is to overwater it.
All spaces are a little different as far as watering goes. The temperature that you keep your house or office will affect the watering needs. Putting any house plant directly under an air vent will cause problems, they don’t like a draft. I know some people run their house between 68° or 70°. Tropical plants in that temperature are basically dormant and will need very little water. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t water too frequently. I like to allow the house plants to dry out thoroughly between waterings. Then when we water, we do so thoroughly so the entire root ball is moist to the bottom.
It’s easiest to do this by placing the plants in a sink or bathtub so you can really soak them and let them drain while you go away for the day then place them back in their places. We run ours under a shower maybe once a month. It’s a great way to keep them clean and healthy and helps to knock off any insects wandering around.
House plants need to be dusted just like furniture. The shower method really shines them up and I think they like to have their foliage rained on every once in a while. They always look a little happier after their monthly shower. Mimi waters our house plants every 10 days between those shower episodes. She has one plant, a Pilea planted in a larger pot, that she uses as her meter. If the Pilea is thirsty all the house plants are ready for a drink. She has a watering can she uses to fill the pots. All of our plants have saucers under them so we don’t ruin any furniture or leave rings on the floor. The water that winds up in the saucer will eventually be wicked back into the pot as the soil in the pot dries out. That’s why they can go so long between waterings.
During the times that we run them through the shower is when we clean the saucers and pots, check for any leaves that need to be snapped off and look for any problems that may be happening. If you begin to see brown tips on the leaves or on the margins of the leaves that tells you the plant is being overwatered. Sometimes the soil at the top looks dry but when you stick your finger down in the soil it’s still plenty moist. It can fool you. Wait three or four more days and check it. The plants will stay healthier on the dry side.
Once a month Mimi mixes up some miracle grow fertilizer and lets that be part of the plant pampering day in the shower. We believe it is better to have one person designated the house plant water person. One person can get into the groove and patterns of house plant water needs. If everyone in the house waters all willy-nilly, the problems that come from overwatering begin there. Plus when a plant begins to have problems, the designated waterer can’t give anyone the stink eye unless they were looking in a mirror.
The list of names on a house plant order is a very long list. The broker we use puts photos of the actual plants to be shipped that week with a person standing next to it so we have an idea of the real size. We don’t know all of the plant names and love to try out new varieties just based upon the photos. We have found some really cool plants that way and we have found some that don’t do well at all. It’s fun trying.
I think, with the pandemic going on, people are home more, therefore noticing nooks and crannies that need improvement. I think people are feeling the need to nourish anything — each other, pets, houseplants included. That explains the rush last Saturday and explains why Mimi is in the other room putting together another fantastic house plant order.
The oven is on for a while longer and the virus isn’t going away anytime soon so you can go to your favorite garden center to get a pet that doesn’t bark, leave “gifts“ on your carpet or need to be boarded when you go away for a few days. House plant collecting is relatively inexpensive, room changing and quite addictive. One of these plants might become your new best friend. They don’t argue much.
Allen Martinson, along with his wife, Mimi, own Garden Works.