When We Say Houseplants Are Tropical Plants, We Mean It

Colors like you might see in the Caribbean

Most of the United States is sweltering under various heat domes this summer. All sorts of records are being broken for high temperatures, including here in the frozen north (and yet, I would take this lovely steamy weather over our ice and snow anytime. I really do live in the wrong place).

Every year when I transition my ” houseplants ” outside, I talk about how beneficial this is for them, even for the brief term that they get to be outside in my climate–usually early May to early September.

Calathea rattlesnake

When this Rattlesnake Calathea came outside after a difficult winter, it had 4 leaves. After 3 months in a shady location, here is its recovered look.

Calathea orbifolia

This plant had a more dramatic recovery. It had 3 leaves, 2 of which were half dead, and it was spider mite infested. It’s better now, although I will obviously have to watch for mites once it’s back inside.

Alocasia Black Velvet

And this might have been one of the plants that I featured in my “It’s Not Growing ” post this winter. I can’t recall if it had 2 or 3 leaves but it just looked sad. It is much happier now. The old leaves are gone.

I could show you a dozen more examples but these are some of my most challenging plants. If they can do well, most anything can.

Obviously, in Northern climates it is a little late to think about transitioning plants outside now if you haven’t already done so. But definitely consider it for next year. The plants will thank you!

Editing Nature

Wild ferns

On Monday, you saw some “wild” planted impatiens, goldenrod and white snakeroot. I am fond of saying that nature sometimes plants better than I do!

Here’s another area where I have been “gifted” with free plants. I didn’t plant these lovely ferns, but they work beautifully under a large dogwood, with some hosta that I did plant.

So what do I mean about editing? Well, if nature had her way, we would also have about 2000 maple seedlings under that dogwood–and of course an assortment of weeds.

Unfortunately the ferns are not thick enough to shade out the weeds (unlike the goldenrod and snakeroot. Nothing seems to grow there except an occasional aster, another lovely late blooming pollinator plant).

So this area needs some attention at least once a year, perhaps more in wet years. But somehow that seems a small price to pay for nature-gifted plants!

Even the Weeds are Wilting

Wilting wild impatiens

I really hesitate to discuss weather and drought with so much of the world suffering from drought, extreme heat, wildfires and flooding.

Wilting “weeds”–which I consider wildflowers because they are so attractive to hummingbirds–really isn’t that much of a problem when you consider the number of people who have lost their homes to extreme weather. Many have lost lives as well. I don’t mean to minimize that for a moment.

But one glance at the above photo tells you that the drought in my part of the world is once again becoming problematic. Look at the dry, cracked ground. And the extreme heat predicted for us this week isn’t going to help.

By the way, this is a shade area (if you hadn’t guessed by the impatiens and the moss. As another aside, notice how drought tolerant the moss is).

Goldenrod and white snakeroot

This is that other later blooming area that I have for pollinators. The snakeroot should be coming into bloom just about now–it’s budded. Instead it looks like this.

Wilting shakeout

Needless to say, because of the drought, we are not watering. But this is sad to see.

Again, it is nothing compared to the heart-rending images in the media of worldwide devastation caused by weather. It is literally nothing.

I am doing what I can for my pollinators–keeping small fresh sources of water available. But other than that, their plant palette is limited in my yard this year.

And While We’re Talking Spoiler….

While I was recovering from retina surgery, the Spoiler decided that it would be a good idea to have some of the shrubs trimmed.

Keep in mind that I originally gave him this name because he went after a Japanese maple with an electric hedge trimmer–and then tried to prune all the buds off a rhododendron.

This time he asked our garden helper to prune. The above were a couple of hydrangea. But they fared better than this hydrangea, below.

Almost obliterated hydrangea

And this is a nearly obliterated spirea–a funky variety with bluish foliage from Proven Winners.

Yes, most everything will recover, at least if we get some rain anytime soon. I am still not supposed to be dragging hoses, nor should I have to. These are established plantings that shouldn’t need my extra help–except for pruning incidents. Sigh.

The Spoiler Strikes Yet Again

Dead spot in lawn

Don’t be fooled. I happened to take this photo during the 10 minutes when this spot is in the sun. It’s located under a grove of maples. You can see how patchy the grass is as well.

So why am I even going on about this?

Container for sun

Well, of course we’re back to this again. As we were driving out last night, the Spoiler suggested that I move the container to that dead patch of lawn. I told him that I could plant the container with shade plants next year, but that these plants would never grow under the maples. And this is how he gets the name The Spoiler.

Glorious White Arborescens Type Hydrangea

All of these beautiful hydrangea, pictured above, are self-seeded. Talk about a gift!

Here in the frozen north, it is sometimes difficult to grow hydrangeas at all. The arborescens–or smooth–hydrangea, is reliability hardy for us because it blooms on new wood. We don’t have to worry about last year’s buds being killed by something as silly as snow in May (yes, that happens–that’s why I call this the frozen north. Luckily it’s rare. Late frosts in May which kill the buds unfortunately are not rare).

For all I know, lots of people have yards full of these things–or they pull them out like weeds, and they can’t believe that I let them grow and worse yet am posting about them!


This is the only white arborescens hydrangea that I have planted. You can see to the right of it, one of those “feral” hydrangea has come up, with smaller, and very faintly blush flowers. The fern in between is self-sown as well. I did actually plant the liriope in front, lest you get the idea that my whole garden is volunteers.

And you know, lately, a garden of volunteers might be convenient. I could edit out what wasn’t wanted and keep what I liked. Or maybe that’s called weeding.