As we’re about to turn the corner on yet another spring I find myself puttering about re-potting those plants who have struggled through the long winter with me indoors with low humidity, insufficient light and countless hours of Barbara Streisand. As I diligently clean dead foliage, divide and conquer over-achievers and water my ailing aloe with eggshell water cocktails I take pause to reflect on my darker moments of plant annihilation.
The jig is up! I have to come clean about something…In all your kindness you’ve rewarded me with an onslaught of glowing comments, grammar corrections and questions about your houseplants. Jade looking a bit jilted? Ailing aloe? Truth is you have me googling the garden hotline faster than you can say “powdery mildew.” It seems I may know a thing or two about arranging and caring for cut flowers, but house plants are another can of worms. I’ve learned many things in my recent history and hope to share some of those things here. More than anything, a house plant requires patience. And so I give you my personal story of sabotaging house plants:
Killing me Softly; One Lonely Purple Heart and the Road to Recovery
The fact that Eric and I found ourselves in a Home Depot deep in the Garden State is beside the point. That we selected from that meager and generic greenhouse – albeit unknowingly – the strongest most resilient houseplant of all ages is the reason why I sit here tonight waxing poetic on the virtues of propagation, cultivation and the art of winning friends through the casual distribution of plant cuttings.
A Purple Heart will live forever. It appreciates under-watering, can withstand low (or high) light environments, and can easily escape the wrath of common plant pests. It rooted for me (literally, that is) when nothing else would. It was quite simple; we brought the plant home and it didn’t die. A piece fell off. We stuck in in water. It developed roots…those roots got stuck in dirt, one became 2…then 3 and so forth. Next thing we knew we were surrounded by cuttings and plants. We gave out cuttings to friends and customers. We touted the virtues of the Purple Heart to plant killers far and wide. We were botanical masters! Eventually I began trying my hand at other frondescence. Soon my plant prowess extended to geraniums, aloes, hawaiian snowbush, succulents, orchids, herbs and the like. This year it seems I’ve successfully wintered a basil plant. I reflect: Who am I?
As if keeping plants alive was not enough – I began cutting the purple beast to use in flower arranging. Simple hand-tied bouquets got adorned with fresh Purple Heart clippings. I explained to customers that when the flowers died, they could remove the purple stems to root in some water. It keeps on giving. I now use it to make an exceptional cuff or edge to wedding bouquets. The plant’s nuanced green/purple foliage seems to blend seamlessly with anything its paired with. If I bring a few flowers home for myself, I’ll take a cutting from our plant at home to make a simple small arrangement. Then that cutting becomes yet another plant in our arsenal. It should be said that Purple Heart is known to be invasive in some areas, especially in warmer clients south of our temperate zone. Floridians may find it to be a persistent weed – or worse – it has the ability to take down native forests. But for us it is a happy reminder that every brown thumb has potential to do right by some houseplants.