Waves of Plants

Herbs and tender evergreens

it’s kind of funny–my plants come in in “waves,” as l call it. And people who know me will periodically ask, “are all your plants in? They have no idea what they are asking!

The tropical plants, or house plants, are all in because it is getting quite cool here. It’s down to the mid 40s this morning. So the 200 or so tropical plants are safely inside and have been for the last 3 weeks. I will talk more about my theory on that–and some other theories–on Monday.

Amaryllis bulbs

Then there are these: amaryllis bulbs. They should be drying out before I bring them into the basement for winter. I may have to bring them in when they are wetter than I care for them to be. I should have brought them in this past weekend but I was too busy pruning dead stuff off my other plants because of our summer drought.

Then I have the plants that come into the sun porch–that’s the photo at the head of this post. These herbs and “tender” evergreens can take some cold, but not New England cold. They will need to come in before a hard freeze.

Container succulents

And then there are my containers that also will need to come in before a hard freeze because, as a general rule, container plants can’t be left to over-winter outside here. These are things like potted succulents that would be hardy if I were growing them in the ground, blueberries in containers, and plants that everyone else thinks are appropriate to plant in the fall like hydrangeas and roses so they ship them to me but if I were to try to plant them now, they would die–so I have to overwinter them in my garage.

So the “are all your plants in?” question is hugely complicated!

Bear Berries

Bear chewed bioball

If it’s been a tough year for people and plants, it has been equally tough for wildlife. Berries and acorns are smaller or nonexistent and everything is competing for these scarce resources.

Several times this year a bear–I am presuming it is the same one because wildlife tends to repeat behavior–has come to my pond for a drink. I have never seen it but my neighbors have and have told me about it.

Frog in the newly cleaned pond

Within a week or so of this photo which was taken in mid-August, I came home from work to find that the bear had decided to do much more than drink!

It was clear that an afternoon swim was on the agenda for the bear that day. Further, once it was in the pond, it ate all the pond plants, ripped my filter box open, chewed those plastic bioballs that I showed above (which I will henceforth always think of as “bear berries “), chewed up my plastic filters and sent my fish into hiding for over a week.

But it could have been worse! At least the fish survived! I haven’t seen the frog since the bear took its dip, however. I guess that was too much for him–he was clearly no longer king of the pond!

Vine Madness

Happy, healthy vines

Despite the drought summer, my vining plants were very happy.

What you are looking at–from left to right–is the heart leafed philodendron (philodendron hederaceum), the neon philodendron (philodendron cordatum ‘neon’) and the silver satin pothos (scindapsus pictus), also known as silver vine.

Interestingly enough, supposedly the silver vine will grow up to 10 feet in the wild, so to speak. It’s been a fairly slow grower for me–I am not sure that I would know what to do with a plant that would climb up to 10 feet. I don’t have one of those houses that I see all over social media where the plants are climbing on everything–nor do I really want to.

I am kind of freaking out about the growth of my monsteras, even though I knew what they might do. I guess I really didn’t think they’d grow like that for me! But winter’s coming. They will slow down. Everything does (including me).

Don’t mistake the matter–I do put all these plants outside exactly so they will grow. But a good portion of that is to offset the 8 months of the year when they really don’t grow. (Remember my They’re NOT Growing post from last winter?) My plants not only don’t grow inside, some actually lose more leaves than they had when they came in.

So all this summer growth is crucial to surviving winter. It’s like bears fattening up for hibernation–at least in my cold house in my dark, cold climate.

But it’s too early to worry about winter. We have the beauty of autumn to enjoy yet.

More Philodendron Craziness

Philodendron ‘Prince of Orange ‘

As you can see, this philodendron ‘Prince of Orange,’ really enjoyed its time outside.

It put on many new leaves, its leaves took on the lovely color that gives it its name, and it didn’t do any sort of ungainly growth “thing” that made me want to say “away with you to compost!”

Philodendron ‘Dark Knight ‘

And then there’s this philodendron, ‘Dark Knight’ which didn’t have the same great summer vacation as the rest of my plants, or even, as ‘Prince of Orange.’

You’ll notice that the two are in identical pots. They sat next to one another on my stone wall–and yet, you see the result. One plant is flourishing. The other is just about ready for compost.

It’s hard to say why this sort of thing happens. I will try to nurture ‘Dark Knight’ along and get it back to health. We’ll see.

I can tell you that it didn’t have any incidents with wildlife–those are generally more obvious.

I have staked ‘Dark Knight’ up to get it through our long, dark winter. With any luck, next summer will be kinder to it.

Ragin’ Philodendrons

Philodendron Birkin

As I continue to bring my houseplants indoors, I started to wonder about this one, Birkin.

I’ve had it about 2 years now and I am beginning to wonder about it. I have a couple of choices: my favorite choice is always the easiest–just turn it into compost. Life is too short to put up with bad plants inside or out. (Remember, I am the one who famously composted everybody’s darling philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ when it got too ungainly).

I could also try to divide it. I think–based on its growth habit–that it’s sort of crying out to be divided. But I am not sure about that, and the last thing I want are two ugly philodendron lying around. We’ll see.

Birkin trying to revert

Then there’s this. See this cute little plant at the base? That’s the plant that Birkin sported from, so to speak. That’s philodendron Rojo Congo (sometimes sold as Red Congo).

Philodendron Rojo Congo

Here’s last year’s version, happily growing after I scissored it off and gave it its own pot. Birkin is really a 2-fer plant because it seems that it almost always attempts to revert in this manner. You need to catch it and prune out the reversions before they take over the main plant. As a nifty bonus, you get a second plant–if you want one.

But that doesn’t tell me what to do with my ungainly Birkin. Some folks say “moss pole.” I am not going there. I will leave it be for the winter (since this is not an optimal propagating time) and see what I think come springtime–if I can stand to look at this for this long!

Eww! Aren’t I Going to Bring in Bugs?

Medinilla myriantha

I lecture a lot about houseplants. I travel with my houseplants for “show and tell” because I think that there’s no better way to demonstrate that houseplants can be lovely and colorful 365 days a year than when I have a table full of 20 or so plants full of gorgeous colors and maybe only 1 plant–if that–is a plant with flowers or a plant in bloom.

Nevertheless, the #1 question at all my houseplant lectures, when I talk about putting plants outside for the summer and how beneficial that is is “eww! Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to bring in bugs?”

First of all, no, I am not. I have accidentally brought in a bird. I did manage to get it back outside without disaster, but, after that, bugs are nothing.

And what bugs do you mean? You can easily pick up house plant insects from other plants you aquire. Fungus gnats are notorious for lurking in potting soil. So where are these bugs coming from? You may be bringing them in from commercial sources (but let’s hope not!)

Do you mean spiders? Crickets? Ants? If these insects are near your home, they don’t need your houseplants as a way in. And if it is these insects, just shake the plant before you bring it in. That should knock most things off.

So what insects are we worried about and why?

I honestly confess that I don’t understand this question.

Shoehorning My Plants Back Inside

Quiet window for the moment

It’s been a challenging summer. Like most of the rest of the country, we here in the Northeast have been dealing with persistent drought.

And while I am very selective about what I water during a drought, even going so far to hand water so as not to waste water, I have decided that it’s just best to start bringing in the houseplants. They will need far less water that way, and I will perhaps have slightly more time to myself–once that transition is made, of course.

Succulents from their indoor home

These succulents won’t have to be moved too far–just up a flight of steps. Anything that was supposed to be transplanted (like that wickedly spiny milk tree) has already been taken care of. I just need to carry it–carefully–upstairs.

Succulents in need of work

These succulents not only need to be moved indoors and upstairs by 6 of them need repotting. So I have a good morning’s work ahead of me here.

The succulents in their “winter” home

And this is how it all turns out.

This year’s plant moving will have to be more gradual–say, one room at a time, or perhaps even fewer than that. You might have noticed that I am posting fewer posts as well. Without getting into a whole complicated explanation, I am doing physical therapy for my neck, which never quite recovered from the face down positioning of my eye surgery. It’s been a summer, we’ll just say.

But it’s all good. I just need to be slow, careful and deliberate, something I am not known for. But it’s sort of like gardening. You can’t force a plant to grow or a seed to sprout. Everything in its time.