Juxtaposition

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Last Wednesday you may remember this zygo cactus from my “Happy Thanksgiving” Wordless Wednesday. It was hovering over a plush turkey that I am ridiculously fond of, for some reason.

The reason I am calling this post “juxtaposition” is because the cultivar name on the zygo cactus is ‘Christmas Fantasy.’ And yet, this year, it’s the earliest of my collection to bloom. Maybe that’s the fantasy.

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Then there’s this: an orchid whose name is bigger than it is. It goes by the ridiculous moniker of Elizabeth Ann Bucklebery FCC/AOS.

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It looks as if it should have bloomed at Halloween, with its somewhat creepy flowers.

I guess if I insist on forcing bulbs, I shouldn’t object when plants do their own thing on their own schedules!

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!