Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Story Behind the Houseplant


I write articles for Michigan Gardener and Michigan Gardening magazines. Of course, my Mom is proud of me, and tells everyone she knows. (It's nice to have a cheering section.) Her friend Lorna reads my articles and asked my Mom if the next time I came up to visit, I would like to come see her Christmas cactus. I said, "Yes, please." Today my Mom and I went to visit her and I was blown away by the size of not only her Christmas cactus, but  also her Easter cactus and her two Hoyas. She told me she received a peice of the Christmas cactus from her mother-in-law in 1956 after her wedding. She said I was more than welcome to come see it in bloom next time I'm up north. I can't wait! 
The Easter cactus, Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, is also huge and old. I had my Grandmother's, which unfortunately died this year. 
Her Hoya carnosa compacta or Hindu rope plant is huge but hasn't flowered for her. I think it needs more light and she needs to move it to a brighter location for it to bloom. 
The other Hoya she has is, as far as I can tell, Hoya memoria, formerly Hoya gracilis. She also received this plant from her mother-in-law and estimates it is approximately 54 years old. It hangs in her kitchen nook area near a north window and about 8 feet from an east window. It blooms reliably for her. I was amazed it blooms with only that amount of light.
I saw one like this in a hobby shop in Tecumseh, Michigan and the owner gave me a cutting. I also had a customer bring in one of these to our nursery to have me repot it. It had been in the same pot since the early 1960's. I couldn't believe it! It was in a McCoy pot from that era, though, so it made sense. 
The pot had so much salt buildup from fertilizer, the first thing I did was clean the pot with vinegar to get the crud off.
The poor plant was very rootbound and soil was very scarce. The owner thought it needed a bigger pot, but as hoya like to be rootbound (they flower better that way) I decided to put it back in the same container with some fresh soil.




I love the speckled leaves of this Hoya! I have started new plants from cuttings the customer and the hobby shop owner gave me. I can't wait for mine to get big enough to flower.
I love it when I am privileged to help people with their houseplants, most especially when they trust me with plants that have been in their family for years. I have to admit, though, I do get nervous handling these special plants.  I have some sentimental plants, as well, that I would hate to lose. If you have a plant that has been in your family for years and is now your responsibility, please share it with me in the comments. I love the stories! 

7 comments:

  1. What a great post! Although I don't have any of my grandmother's plants, I spent years searching for the plants she always had including eyelash begonias, Christmas cactus, haworthia, and hoya. I now have over 70 houseplants and wish I knew young people who shared my love of these plants so I could share and pass them on. I couldn't imagine living without these treasured plants in my home. Thanks for a great blog.

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  2. Great post. Such a pretty speckled leaf on that hoya. I'm curious, did you use standard potting soil to repot, or a more sandy succulent type mix?

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    1. When I re-pot succulents, I always use a very fast draining soil.

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  3. All beautiful! family plants are the best, and so are ones that are given at funerals - never quite understand that practice, but I love it anyway because then I automatically associate that plant with that loved one who has died. Maybe that's the point.

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    1. I have a plant from my Grandma's, Dad's, and father-in-law's funerals. I love that I have them.

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  4. I have the sansevieria that my grandmother had. I'm 68 yrs old. I have a jade from marriage date in 1970.

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