Although I love plants, I do not frequently buy houseplants. I instead maintain a plant homeless shelter. Bromeliads, succulents, huge philodendrons, non-blooming orchids and air plants have arrived like orphans to my door. Friends present me with overgrown, soon-to-be discarded or sometimes, sickly plants. Smiling, I willingly accept these green cast-offs unaccompanied by identification or care instructions.
Consequently, I must discover what type of plant each donation is. Does it require repotting or pruning? Can the sickly ones be saved? Each addition requires new ideas for attractive ways to rearrange my growing brood of plants. If you are searching for more information on houseplant care and presentation, everything you need to know is available in two similarly titled books.
The Houseplant Handbook (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017) by David Squire is a resource that emphasizes caring for and choosing new plants. The first section covers basic information like watering, feeding, buying, potting, and propagation. Tidbits of helpful information, such as how to care for your plants while on vacation or safe ways to apply chemicals, are scattered throughout this book on orange-colored pages.
The most interesting part of this book to a plant addict like myself is the plant directory. Here 300 plant photographs are large enough to identify the appearance of the plant’s shape, leaves and blossoms. The common name and its scientific name are listed for each plant.
The plant’s information also includes explanations of its winter and summer care, propagation methods and eventual size. I have learned to be particularly aware of the size factor; small plants can become large, bulky problems after several years’ growth
The chapter, “Flowering Potted Plants,” offers sound advice on 20 plants that are often unsuccessful indoors. After their gorgeous blooms disappear, hydrangeas, poinsettias, cyclamen and chrysanthemum are among the lovely seasonal favorites better shifted outside to a lawn or to a compost bin.
House Plants (Ryland Peters & Small + CICO Books, 2016) by Isabelle Palmer furnishes enough basic growing instructions to assist even a beginning gardener, but its strength is improving the presentation of familiar plants in your home. Clear instructions on suggested projects and beautiful photographs offer inspiration to upgrade the look of an indoor garden.
As an example, terrariums’ recent popularity is addressed by including arrangements of succulents, cacti, ferns, water plants, and air plants in wine glasses, bottles or vases. Advice is given on how to utilize plants’ and containers’ artistic qualities and how to perk-up certain rooms, such as the usually bare bathroom.
With the help of these books, I hope to transform my home into a more attractive halfway house for rescued plants. If you have plopped plants in spots without too much planning as I have done, use these books to change your environment and achieve a new vision for your home.
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the JC Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.