Do Plants Have a Natural Lifespan?


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….


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


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


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!

I Need to Take My Own Advice


Remember on Friday I talked about watching plants for signs of insect infestation? Apparently I wasn’t taking my own advice.

Of course these little evergreens are never happy indoors and I know that. But I was shocked to see this plant go from healthy to basically dead over the course of a week.

Only the bright green parts are still alive –& there are very few of those.  Everything else is dead and crumbles under my fingers when I touch it.

What can cause such rapid deterioration? Only one thing: spider mites.

Now here is more evidence that Stephen King isn’t a gardener.  Spider mites are tiny little spiders–almost invisible to the eye. Just like regular spiders , some make webs and some don’t . The ones that make webs are easier to find, but usually by the time you find your plants covered in the webs, it’s too late. They’re too far gone to save.

They breed quite quickly as well,  reproducing themselves every 3 days. So a small infestation can get out of control quickly.

And they are so light that they can easily travel between or among plants on any current of air–or your watering can spout,  for example .

Once you know that you have these in your house, you want to remove infested plants (this one is dead anyway) and watch everything else anywhere nearby very closely .

Do as I say, not as I do to avoid a lot of heartbreak.

To Every Plant, There is a Season

With apologies to Ecclesiastes (or, if you’re old enough,  the band, the Byrds), indoor house plants experience “seasons” just as outdoor plants do.

I talk about this regularly when I lecture. I talk about this with respect to bringing plants indoors in the fall, and more important,  I talk about it just about now.

What’s going on now that’s triggering a “seasonal” response in house plants?  Two things  actually.  First,  we have just had the vernal equinox–in other words, here in the northern hemisphere,  it’s spring (for anyone reading in the southern hemisphere,  take note of what I say about fall.)

With the return of spring, we also get the return of light.  Plants grow more quickly in response in to the extra light so you need to check them for increased watering needs.

You also need to check them for insects. All that lush new growth is more likely to attract anything that might have slumbered happily through the winter. Catching insects early gives you a chance to treat organically–or just ditch the plant–before it infests your collection.

Finally if you are in a warmer climate zone than mine and are thinking of transitioning your plants outside, please remember that just as you would never dream of going outside naked all day without sunscreen on the first glorious spring day, you can’t do that to your plants either.  You will burn their leaves. Transition them outside into shady places for at least a few days before you set them in sun.

Similarly when it comes time to bring them back inside,  don’t wait until frost is imminent.  My frost date is October 5. I usually bring my plants in around Labor Day (so about a month earlier). Why? Not because I love indoor watering.  But when those plants come in later, they drop a lot of leaves adjusting to the lower light levels . I don’t want to need a leaf blower in the house!

So with those “seasonal” tips in mind, go start searching for little critters, and enjoy growing!