A fellow blogger let me know that today is National Houseplant Appreciation Day, and I thought it a fine time to dust off my blog and get a good start on my resolution to write regularly again! Here, then, in no particular order, are ten of my favorite houseplants!

  1. Red African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona ‘Rubra’): This succulent, new to me last summer, is happy in a western window of my house, for now. I’ve read that it can be subject to scorching in too much sunlight, so I may need to move it to a different spot once the days grow longer and the sun brighter. I let it get quite dry between waterings, especially now that it’s winter, and I won’t give it any fertilizer until late February, when the daylight becomes noticeably longer and brighter.

2. Senecio Crassissimus: Also known as Lavender Steps or Propeller Plant, this succulent grows tall and features purple stems. It is very easy to propagate this plant by taking cuttings. I let the cut ends of the stems dry for a few days before sticking them in a pot of cactus mix. This plant shares a window ledge with the African Milk Tree, and I give it the same basic care.

3. Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii): The label on this succulent proudly proclaimed, “I hail from Madagascar”, and at the time (2009 or 10), my daughter was a huge fan of the animated series The Penguins of Madagascar. There was no choice but to bring the plant home with us! It quickly became a favorite of mine because of the dainty cherry-red flower-like bracts (the yellow centers are the real flowers) it constantly displays, no matter the season!

What I’m not so fond of are its tall, bare, thorny stems! This plant now stands about four feet tall, but there are leaves on only the top eight to ten inches. It’s a scary, but tempting prospect to cut off the top inches of one of these stems and try to root it in some soil. Perhaps this spring . . . or not . . .

Three summers ago, I found a yellow Crown of Thorns at my favorite nursery. (You can see it in the background of the picture above.)

4. Croton Petra (Codieaum variegatum): My Croton is sad. A few summers ago, I put it out on the back deck in the bright, hot sunlight without giving it enough time or water to adjust to its new conditions, and it responded by drying out and dropping many of its lower leaves. The top recovered, but I was left with a bare-kneed plant. And this year, just since Christmas, it has dropped probably half of its leaves.

My conclusion? You’ll love this–it was too wet, or it was too dry! Isn’t houseplant troubleshooting great? Crotons like high humidity, and this one has historically responded well to fairly moist soil, but maybe I was a bit overenthusiastic with the water. On the other hand, there’s this, a ductless air conditioner/heater mounted high on the wall that blows hot air into the room when we need extra warmth:

The Croton was sitting on the floor directly beneath this unit, which saw a fair amount of use over the holiday, so perhaps it didn’t like that. I’ve moved the plant over several feet so it’s no longer in the path of destruction, and I plan to let the soil dry a bit before watering it again.

5. African Violets: Only one of my violets is blooming now, but a few others will be very soon! They seem to like an eastern exposure, and thrive on regular (every two to three weeks) feedings with a fertilizer formulated for African violets. I water them every seven to ten days, from the bottom, filling their saucers, waiting an hour, then emptying any water they didn’t suck up. One of my violets came from my grandmother when she moved to a nursing home in 2003; though it is not blooming today, it is my most reliable and heaviest bloomer.

I’m worried about this new guy, “Rob’s Love Bite”. I chose and ordered it because I love its pink and green variegated leaves. It was quite healthy when it arrived in the mail in October, but has taken a turn toward the worse since I repotted it. Again, I fear it may be an issue of too much water. I do hope it will recover!

6. Primroses: Okay, I can’t take much credit for these, since they are merely a few weeks old, but I do love my collection of grocery store primroses every winter! With care, they will bloom almost constantly until May, when the sun in the kitchen window becomes too hot for them. Unlike some other plants, they like plenty of water (sometimes daily, depending on the amount of sun we get). I keep them well fertilized with a food made for blooming plants, and I deadhead them religiously.

Just look at the color gradation on this one!

7. Rex Begonias Jurassic series “Red Splash” and “Pink Splash“: I bought these last summer to use by my front door, and they flourished. I didn’t hold a lot of hope for them once I brought them inside, but I couldn’t just let them die outside! Well, they’ve done surprisingly well in the house! Once in a while, there’s a crispy leaf, but there are more new leaves than crispy ones, so I count that as a win!

8. Amaryllis: My first amaryllis of the season, “Blushing Bride” is well on its way to blooming, and will have at least two flower stalks. I hope it really is “Blushing Bride”! Last year I ordered one, and rather than the lovely pink flowers it should have had, it bloomed red-orange! I have over twenty-five amaryllises in my collection now, but some of the bulbs are quite old and shrunken. In an attempt to rehabilitate them, I planted some outside in the garden for the summer, and in the fall, I planted each on in brand new soil. Each week through the winter I will choose a few to start watering and giving light and warmth, and we’ll see if I get more satisfactory results than I did last year. Stay tuned . . .

9. Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides): This plant, which I bought at the grocery store about three years ago, is doing well. It’s produced several little baby plantlets, and I’m running out of friends to bless with them! Right now, there are two babies near the main stalk; I think I’m going to leave them there and hope they fill in some of the empty space at the bottom of the stem. This plant has done well in both an eastern and a western window, though I think it will be unhappy in the west once the sun becomes stronger.

10. Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis): It looks like my Walking Iris is getting ready to bloom! I was disappointed in its performance last year (one measly blossom!), so this year I redoubled my efforts with it (more consistent watering, fertilizing through the fall and winter, giving it a six week chilly period). Past experience tells me it will probably be February before any flowers open, but isn’t the anticipation part of the fun?

And finally, I’ll turn it up to 11 and give you a little bonus teaser– Succulents!