The Cool House: Help my houseplants

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Help my houseplants

Have you ever seen anything more pathetic? These brown and shriveled plants aren't dead yet. In fact they've been hanging on in this state for quite some time. The one in the middle I bought as a huge healthy mother-in-law's tongue from Wholefoods in 2002. I chose it because nothing was supposed to kill them. Well, maybe not but I've managed to do it some serious damage. It's about an eighth the size it used to be and decidedly unhappy. The other two plants I inherited with the house. The Anthurium used to have big white waxy flowers, now it barely has leaves. And the 8' tall plant? I have no idea what it is but the broom handle I tied it to to stop it toppling over only adds to the element of desperation. I feel really bad about these two because I promised the previous home owner I'd take care of them.
I moved them so they'd get more light and put them all together so they could lean on each other for emotional support. But what else should I do?

Just so you don't think I have the gardening thumb of death, take a look at the Devils' Ivy in the dining room. Just running away with itself.

And then there's this beautiful orchid. Maybe I haven't had this one long enough to do major damage? I don't have seem to have problems with outdoor plants, so what can it be? Advice please.


Amalie said...

I stick almost strictly to the philodendron family (the middle picture) because they are truly impossible to kill, and you can create more plants with cuttings easily. In grade school I did a science fair project in which I poured boiling water on them for 3 weeks. Eh. a few brown leaves. That's it. And I have one that didn't get watered for MONTHS that's thriving-- and so are its cuttings. They like light-- in fact, a lot of varieties get pretty white splotching on the leaves with more light, but they do ok without.

As for the Anthurium, we have a couple of similar plants (I think they're related) with the little white waxy flowers-- like mini peace lilies. They seem to do best in very low light. A colleague of mine basically burned hers leaving it in the office window. So we've moved them away from windows entirely and they're thriving. Watering every other day, I'd say.

I tend to kill plants instantly, so the fact that these are doing well seems to suggest that I'm doing something right. And I think they are indestructible by nature ;-)

Jennifer said...

I used to kill plants... and then I stopped paying attention to them. I think I was watering them too much.. now I wait until they droop before watering. Don't know if that will help YOU, though!

modernemama said...

I just found this post at apartment therapy
Keep Aphids off houseplants. Wash off houseplants with tap water then dab the leaves with a cotton ball dipped in vodka. Do not use alcohol on delicate plants like African Violets.
I think it may be just what I need to do. Can I suck the vodka off the cotton ball when I'm done?

Mary-Frances said...

If you don't find any bugs (softsoap works great if you do) then I would suggest trimming them back and trying different locations in the house. Mine are totally picky about what window, whether or not they get blown around by the wind, etc. Just move em around until they turn happy! :)

Vylat said...

I finally found you--someone who grows houseplants! Too many outdoor gardeners worrying about squirrels and such. Your 8' tall plant needs pruning. Take puning shears or a sharp knife and cut off about one foot from the top. Leave some lower leaves. Then watch plant for new growth. Let me know how this works for you. Good Luck.

modernemama said...

I discovered that you are supposed to FEED houseplants in winter. I thought it was only in Spring and Summer, and then I realized and I hadn't fed them last year or possibly the year before. So I've been giving them weekly doses of Miracle Grow and they are looking happier. Poor things must have been starving...