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houseplant Houseplants Are More Than Just Green Things
by Marjorie Dorfman

Do plants croak and die before your very eyes? Are you convinced that none can ever live in your presence? Well, read on for some help and a few laughs as well.

I would rather have roses on my table than rubies on my wrist. – not Elizabeth Taylor

Whenever I think about plants, my thoughts always run to my mother’s dear friend, Natalie, whose house in The Bronx was literally overrun with houseplants, shrubbery and trees. They so covered the exterior that the house could not even be seen from the street until one was actually on the steps looking upward. Only from that angle did a little bit of red roof peek through the green. She always said that she liked the idea that people didn’t know she was there. It gave her a sense of seclusion and privacy and made her feel like Greta Garbo when she wanted to be alone. The plants inside overran the house as well. There was so much growth over, around and underneath everything that I was never quite sure where the windows began and the walls ended.

I don’t think that most people can grow plants as effectively as my mother’s eccentric friend. If you, dear reader, are anything like me, plants seem to die in your presence without warning or even provisions for a proper burial. They just keel over, take a deep breath and die before you can even apologize for whatever you said that upset them so much. Alas, it’s more likely that death was caused by something you did or didn’t do, making either train of thought a source of perpetual guilt. I hate to see living things die. As the owner of a black and blue thumb, I can promise you that if I can keep plants alive most of the time, anyone can.

The key to growing healthy plants is to remember that they have feelings, just like you and me. Sometimes they feel sunny, shady, lusty, misty, crummy, unwanted and even unloved. Treat them like favored pets and they will love you back (without a visit to a vet or the litterbox!). Name your plants. This bonds them to you and "drink, Maxine, drink", goes a lot further than just pouring water down a pot. Don’t buy or sell your plants on their birthdays as this will cause severe separation anxiety. Avoid mentioning above a whisper the names of holidays and celebrations that contain green words or ideas (St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and most golfing expeditions, just to mention a few.) This way they won’t feel in competition with other green things.

All kidding aside, before buying a plant, decide where it will go in your home. Don’t listen to that little voice in your head that tells you will find a place for it once you get it through the door. (That only works for items purchased in yard sales and flea markets.) Ask yourself if it will decorate a window, fill an empty corner or serve as a centerpiece. Many people are afraid to buy larger plants because of the cost, design considerations or high maintenance. Mourning the loss of a large plant or tree might be more significant than the demise of some tiny sprig, but the care involved really isn’t any different. Certainly the larger plants are more dramatic, but some of the small ones can vie for the Academy Awards as well. (There are no small plants, only small planters.) The Ficas family is a very popular larger variety and includes the Rubber Plant , Weeping Fig and The Umbrella Tree or schefflera, which comes in many sizes, some reaching as high as six to eight feet.

A large potted tree adds life to a room and in general takes the focus away from its less attractive features. Larger plants can also improve the air quality inside the home, filtering pollutants, adding humidity and filling the room with a fresh aroma. The dracaena is one of the easiest larger plants to care for. It comes in many varieties, but the larger ones are called false palms because of their arching tree-like appearance. As a general rule, each type of plant has its own care requirements regarding light and water. Generally, trees require bright sun and don’t do well in the shade. Palms prefer shade and dracaenas fall somewhere in between.

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home humor repair

Clean is good. Cleaning is not.
Kathryn Hammer, Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Housecleaning is like Chekov; it starts slow and then tapers off.
Henry Alford, The New York Times

Don't miss this excellent book:

Houseplants For Dummies

This book will help you turn your home into a greenhouse with its houseplant growing tips and techniques. Follow these easy guidelines for selecting healthy plants and keeping them lush and full of life.

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