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Patty Craig: A Slice of Time

As the cold-weather months approach, I have turned my attention to my indoor plants. Each year I learn new-to-me information about various plants. Recently, I have tried to keep the plants below alive and thriving.

African violets – African violet blooms may be pink, purple, white, or a blend of white and another color. I water violets by setting them in a dish pan of water, letting the water soak into the soil from the bottom of the plant’s pot. Also, having been told that a new violet could be started by putting a healthy leaf into soil, I tried it. It works. I planted a leaf in the spring and recently transplanted my tiny new plant into a larger pot – the original leaf is turning brown but is still attached to the new plant. I enjoyed watching nature do its work.

Aloe plants – Aloe plants require little care. They prefer dry, sandy soil, and pebbles or shells may be placed on top of the soil to hold moisture. Many also recommend that aloes be potted in clay pots. Aloes like direct or indirect sunlight. Fertilize these plants only during the growing season – April through September. From April through October, water once a week, and in the remaining months, water twice per month. I have tried to encourage my aloe plants’ stems/leaves to stand straighter by providing a good environment (setting the plant in/near sunlight in a warm room and watering only when the soil is dry) and by wrapping flexible ties (made for plants) around the plant to support the leaves. Whether this will work, I don’t know; ask me next year.

Lilac bush/tree – In early September, my daughter brought me a lilac bush/tree from Mackinac Island. It lost its leaves following the transit, but now has new leaves and looks healthy again. According to the directions given my daughter, the plant should be babied indoors through the winter. Then in late spring, it should be planted in the yard. I read that lilacs are hardy and technically can be transplanted most times of the year, but do better when transplanted after the plant blooms but before its leaves bud. Lilacs are generally considered low-maintenance shrubs. However, if you want a single-stemmed lilac tree, you prune to establish a flowering tree. Once established, a lilac produces masses of blooms every year, adding color and fragrance to the yard. Mackinac Island has an annual lilac festival in early June, including free tours and planting sessions. The next festival is scheduled June 3-12, 2022. I hope to have my little lilac transplanted by then.

Mother-in-law’s tongue – The mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant is a succulent. This plant likes direct or indirect sunlight and cannot withstand much cold. It requires moderate water from spring to fall, letting the top inch of soil dry out before watering. In the winter, even less water is needed. Fertilize the plant about once per month during summer months. These plants grow slowly, so purchase a plant about the size desired. The mother-in-law’s tongue is a beautiful, hardy addition to the home.

Orchids – I’ve been learning to care for orchids for about three years. I have two on my desk beside my laptop – one is more mature than the other. Orchids like an east to south-facing window with bright, indirect light. These plants need ample water but like to dry out between each watering. If the top inch of growing media is dry, it’s time for a bit of water. Since indoor orchids need humidity, I spray the leaves of my plants in my kitchen sink about every week or two – without adding much water to the growing medium. I’ve read that orchids should be fertilized bi-weekly when producing new growth and discontinued once the plants go dormant. Repotting is advised every other year. If orchids suddenly stop blooming but have suitable light, temperature, and humidity, then repotting is likely needed. A temperature drop to around 62 degrees for at least 2 weeks will trigger an orchid to bloom. I’ve also heard that the flower pot should not be turned once the flower spikes begin to bloom. And those blooms hang on for weeks!

John Kehoe said, “Plants are like people: they’re all different and a little bit strange.” I agree with Kehoe. I enjoy houseplants and don’t mind providing care. In return, they brighten my home.


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