I’m not great with houseplants. They’re lucky if I remember to water them once a week. Feed, mist, dust, re-pot, pluck off the dead parts? Ha. I only pay attention when they’re either dead or threatening to become monsters like “Audrey II” in “Little Shop of Horrors.” And yet I have four plants (and their offspring) that over 36 years have outlived 11 moves and a whole marriage. These plants are tough.
Meet Gloria. She’s the Croton with the four arms spread so wide I don’t know where to put her anymore. She’s also the diva who droops her leaves when I have forgotten to water. As soon as I give her a drink, her leaves go back up, their yellow speckles shining. You see her cousins everywhere, but they’re not usually as leggy as my girl, which probably comes from ignoring her needs at a critical time. Cut her down to size? No way!
Meet Mikey, a Devil’s Ivy plant who just grows and grows and grows. He lives in my bathroom where it’s pleasantly damp. I know should trim or guide his wild growth, but he never complains. He doesn’t even mind that he’s on top of the toilet tank.
Then there’s Spider, the spider plant who lives these days atop my refrigerator. At times, her leaves and babies get caught in my freezer door, but she keeps going. Her baby, on the kitchen windowsill, is having babies now.
Finally, there’s Mother-in-Law, who has outgrown two pots and obviously needs a third. She’s just leaves with sharp points on the ends, but you’ve got to admire a plant that grows so profusely in such difficult conditions. She doesn’t even seem to mind that I have been calling her by the wrong name all these years, mistaking her for a plant I had back in the 1970s. She is a Cast-Iron Plant, Apidistra elatior. Turns out she doesn’t need all the sunlight I’ve been giving her all these years, but look at her grow.
All four of these plants came into my life around 1982, when I was working as a reporter for the Pacifica Tribune. I was divorced, living in an apartment two blocks from the office, which was good because my car, a VW Rabbit, was always in the shop. When I wasn’t working, I was singing, dating, or taking moody walks on the beach, so these plants didn’t get much TLC.
When I quit my job and gave up my apartment to sing with a traveling show, I housed them at the Tribune office. When the show went bust and I moved in with my parents until I could get another newspaper job, I brought them with me. When I moved in with Fred, who became my second husband, my plant children came along. And they’re still with me.
Not all of my plants do this well. I’m about to discard yet another dead African violet, and my philodendron isn’t looking too good. My amaryllis lacks both leaves and flowers at the moment. It will recover, or it won’t. You’ve got to be tough to survive here.
I didn’t grow up with houseplants. The only plants inside my parents’ house were either printed on the wallpaper or made of plastic. Dad has a profusion of geraniums in the yard and some roses that could use a little TLC, but even before he broke his leg, he was not into coddling his flowers (or his kids). Guess I’m a cutting off the same vine. But Gloria, Mikey, Spider, and Mother-in-Law don’t need coddling. They don’t like to be fussed over. At this rate, they might outlast me.
I invite your comments. Are you a houseplant guru? Are you dying to come over and rescue my plants? Have I got their names wrong? How many houseplants do you have? How old is your oldest one? Do you pamper your plants or do you neglect them like me? Or do you believe that greenery belongs outside? Care to share a picture of your favorite plant child?
Text and photos copyright 2018 Sue Fagalde Lick