In the long run though, if members of the black thumb brigade don't care about plants what does that suggest for their other relationships?

Happy Houseplants

By —— Bio and Archives--November 10, 2018

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Happy Houseplants
Over the years, these columns have recorded many a commercial attempt to relieve the black thumb brigade of their responsibilities. As Zora Neale Hurston once observed, “Trees and plants always look like the people they live with somehow.” Who wants to look like a houseplant past its prime?

Of course, today the pressure is on as never before to have rooms full of happy, healthy plants. It is a scientific fact that not only do they remove pollutants from the air, but plants contribute to mental health also. Strangely, in glossy magazine pics promoting celebrity spreads, there is all too often a dearth of greenery. Perhaps this reveals something about their mental stability. Other professionals also: “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died,” advised the late Erma Bombeck.


Recently in the U.S. a new online start-up makes shopping and caring for beautiful houseplants easy—even for people who don’t think they have a green thumb, suggested Connie Chen, Business Insider. True, prices start at US$139 but, having been carefully selected and grown to flourish under home conditions they are delivered right to your door. Then you receive a weekly e-mail reminding of timely care.

Will this be enough? Probably only Flora, goddess of plants, knows. But if past experiences are any indication, then it is something less than adequate. But keeping houseplants happy and healthy is hardly difficult. Millions manage it quite well.

The biggest hang-up is watering. Too little results in a dead plant. Too much—the fate of an estimated eighty percent—and they join the great green compost heap in the sky. Short of allowing to wilt, too little and infrequently is often to be preferred to too much too often. Two essentials then: when watering, water well. Save the dribbles for babies. Secondly, use room temperature water. Cold water quickly causes rotting.

Light is another major problem. What may seem perfectly adequate for humans can equal deepest dungeons for plant life. Yet over-exposure to sun is usually less than desirable. Most offerings originate as understory species from rainforests. Direct light from east or north windows will be appreciated, perhaps either side of south- or west-facing ones elsewhere.

And to avoid them out-growing their living quarters fertilizer is not, despite importuning of manufacturers, necessary or even desirable.

Plants seem to respond positively to classical music and jazz—less so to the electronic eructations and yowling that pass for alleged singers. Nor will they flourish in rooms redolent of tobacco smoke. The effects of vapourings from other popular products remains unknown. These particular volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have not come to such scientific attention—yet.

In the long run though, if members of the black thumb brigade don’t care about plants what does that suggest for their other relationships?


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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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