Last Year’s Media Darling

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This is the fiddle leaf fig (ficus lyrata). Last year, it was everywhere. This year, it’s still popular, but not quite so much as last year. My theory on that in a moment.

Just “google” fiddle leaf fig care. The first thing you’ll see is the amazing number of contradictory instructions. So that’s trouble right there. If even the so-called experts can’t tell us how to take care of it, what hope do folks who are growing this thing for the first time stand?

I am actually trying it for the second time. My first one made it through 2 winters in my chilly New England house. What it didn’t do was grow–at all. Not one inch or one leaf, not even when I put it outdoors in a protected location for the summer (in between my 2 chilly winters).

I finally gave up with that one, composted it and am starting over. This may turn into “how many fiddle leaf figs can one person kill….”

What I can tell you is that the plant is native to tropical parts of Africa–so about as far from New England as you can be. It’s going to hate the next 6 months around here. Perhaps I can redeem things and make it up to it next summer. If not, there’s always the compost pile.

Do House Plants Experience Seasons?

My title may seem like a silly question, particularly if you haven’t taken your plants outdoors or if you live in a place that has relatively similar temperatures year round. But bear with me a moment and I think you’ll find that there is more to this and that yes, even if you never take your plants outdoors or if your climate is almost the same year round, your plants will still experience “seasons.”

How can this be? The first reason is the changing levels of light. All of us, no matter where we live, are undergoing dramatic light changes right now, whether we lose light in the northern hemisphere or gain it in the southern hemisphere. Even indoors, our plants notice this and react to it by needing less water (where we lose light) or needing more water (where we gain it).

Next, there are temperature changes. And again, while these may be more–or less–dramatic depending on where you live, they still happen. Even in more temperate climates, the outdoor air gets less humid and air conditioning runs less. That changes plant watering requirements as well.

For those of us about to go into the heating season, that is perhaps one of the most dramatic changes for a plant. Depending on the type of heat in the home, your indoor air can literally become as dry as a desert.

Since most of out “house plants” come from humid tropical rain forests (with the exception of cacti and succulents, of course), this dry environment just invites all sorts of issues: leaf troubles, spider mites and just a general struggle to survive.

So what to do? As winter (or summer, depending on your hemisphere) approaches, be alert to the changes in your plants. Notice if they are staying moist longer, or drying more quickly. Be especially alert for any insect pests so that you can catch and treat if necessary before they get out of hand and spread.

In this way, you’ll have your plants for many years to come.

Do Plants Have a Natural Lifespan?

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This is an image of a begonia x giganticum. Needless to say, it looks a little sad. It, along with a “sister” plant that I have that thankfully is still doing well, are my oldest house plants. I have had them since 1978 (yes, that’s 40 years–that’s not a typo).

This particular plant started to do this “thing” I will call it (for lack of the more precise technical term–it’s here that you realize that I have no background in horticulture) in mid-2017. I gave up on it in August of this year. I took cuttings, but I am not sure that the cuttings have survived.

If you look at the spot where the stem meets the leaf, it’s rotting. That’s the “thing.” I don’t know why it’s happening and clearly I don’t know how to stop it. I let the whole plant dry to the point of wilting several times and that didn’t help. If I had to guess, I would say this is some sort of bacterial of fungal wilt.

So that plant is now compost. I just hope my poor other specimen survives. There’s a lot of history in these plants!

Sure the Citrus Looks Nice Now….

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These are my citrus plants. There are 3 lemons, a lime, an orange, and the large variegated one at the end is a kumquat.

I regularly get lemons. Everything else flowers and that’s good enough for me. If you grow citrus, you know that they flower sometime between January and March.

The fragrance is absolutely wonderful. It’s sweet without being overwhelming (in other words, unlike with my snake plants, I don’t have to leave the room because the scent is so over-powering).

I suspect I might be able to get fruit if I “played the bee” and tried to pollinate some of the lime or orange flowers, but really, life if complicated enough as it is for me to worry about that. Maybe someday.

What I can’t seem to stop is the leaf loss. I wonder, again, if I added grow lights, if that might solve the problem? But I would need to figure out a spot for those–that’s another “maybe someday” issue.

Besides, once they are down to basically just twigs, watering is easy. I need some easy plants in the winter.

Wordless Wednesday–Real Plants Instead of Plastic

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Less than a week ago I had photos from our local mall of the most dreadful plastic plants.

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These are from an atrium of a building in West Hartford center. They never see a hint of natural light–and barely get any artificial light either. I had to touch them to believe they were real.

And most of these are plants that clean the air as well. Beautiful job!