Monday, September 5, 2011

The end is near

I have a problem with the end of summer: It's too long. It stretches right on into winter, and then without any warning, BRRRR!!! it's cold and snowy! Why can't the summer season last at least until spring? I'm not saying that we couldn't have a rest period of no gardening; I'm most surely ready for a rest from gardening come September. But to have to suffer through almost six months of freezing weather before anything green is seen again is absolute torture. 

What sustains me from November through March? Houseplants. I can't remember a time when I didn't have at least three or four pots of something or other. And that's the thing with my houseplant gardening - sometimes I don't know what the something or other is, and I don't really care. It's green and that's all that matters to me. 

I do know what a few of my favorites are, and I might suggest that you find a few favorites too. It gets stuffy in my house during winter, and houseplants do a great job of filtering the air. My rubber tree (Ficus elastica) rates high as one of the best air filtering houseplants. It's also one of the easiest to care for, I have mine in a large diameter (15" inside diameter) plastic pot, and when it's outside it sits on the back porch in a corner, out of direct sunlight. Before I bring it in, I set it out in the yard, hose it down with a gentle spray, let it dry, bring it in and set in a corner of the living room out of direct sunlight, but next to a large south-facing window. I've had it over 20 years and to me it's an old rubbery friend that helps me pull through these god-awful northeast winters. 

A word of caution about watering houseplants: don't overdo it. I let mine get almost dry before watering. Use the finger test to see when it's time to water: stick your finger into the potting soil about an inch or two, if soil sticks to your finger when you pull it out, don't water. 

Ficus elastica, or rubber tree, and easy care air-filtering houseplant.
Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia) in a 10-inch pot will never flower in my garden, but it stays green indoors all winter. 
Mother gave me a sucker from a crepe myrtle growing in her Kentucky garden, I keep it as a houseplant. 
This pretty rex begonia makes a nice houseplant (it needs repotting).