FOOL­PROOF HOUSE­PLANTS

For­get watering. Some house­plants are so sim­ple to care for even you won’t kill them

The News Tribune - - Television & Features - BY BETH KUJAWSKI CTW Fea­tures

OK, just how brown is your thumb? If you think that you can kill a house­plant just by look­ing at it, think again. Mary Kate Ho­gan, au­thor of “37 House­plants Even You Can’t Kill” (Ster­ling, 2007) has some tips for you. “I’ve al­ways loved house­plants,” Ho­gan says. “Like most peo­ple, I don’t have much time for up­keep, so I’m nat­u­rally at­tracted to the eas­i­est plants to grow. Weeks may go by be­fore I re­mem­ber to water cer­tain plants in my house. If I didn’t have su­per-hardy plants, my rooms would be filled with a bunch of dead leaves.” While no plant truly is im­mor­tal, some re­ally do re­quire al­most no care. “You would be amazed how long you can go with­out watering some of them,” Ho­gan says. “You would have to come up with a pretty elab­o­rate mur­der plot to get rid of plants like my rub­ber tree plant and my sch­ef­flera. I rou­tinely ig­nore them, and they still look great.”

Don’t treat your plant to dirty dirt. The soil that you use is very, very im­por­tant. If you use the right soil to be­gin with, you won’t have as many un­der- or over­wa­ter­ing prob­lems be­cause of drainage. Drainage is al­ways the No. 1 is­sue. Pot­ting mix should have a com­bi­na­tion of per­lite, ver­mi­culite and peat. If you’re not sure about which plants will fare well in your house, con­sider the plants you see in your of­fice. Surely if they can grow un­der all that flu­o­res­cent light, they can grow in your home. Two of the most com­mon of­fice plants that also make great house­plants are pothos and dra­caena. If you’re in­ter­ested in max­i­mum drama for min­i­mum ef­fort, sev­eral plants will meet your needs. Par­lor palm (also known as ta­ble palm) is adapt­able to al­most any grow­ing con­di­tion. If you’ve ever won­dered why palms can be pricey, it’s be­cause they’re slow-grow­ing plants and take a long time to cul­ti­vate be­fore they’re sold. A 36-inch par­lor palm prob­a­bly is about 2 years old. But they of­fer a lot of bang for the buck. Ho­gan likes dwarf sch­ef­flera and lacytree philo­den­dron for their grand pres­ence. “These plants are ones you of­ten see in restau­rants, of­fice build­ings, and malls, but you never knew the name of them,” she says. As day­light wanes, con­sider the Christmas cac­tus. And lastly, with the hol­i­days on the hori­zon, the time is nigh for a sim­ple show­stop­per. “If you like flow­er­ing plants, amaryl­lis are ... in­cred­i­ble,” Ho­gan says. Amaryl­lis will bloom seven to 10 weeks after they’re pot­ted, so if you want showy flow­ers for the hol­i­days, plan your plant­ing for late Oc­to­ber to early Novem­ber. “They will only last for one sea­son - and then you can get them to bloom again the fol­low­ing year - but their huge, col­or­ful blos­soms are gor­geous. When peo­ple see amaryl­lis grow­ing in your home, they im­me­di­ately think you must be a plant ge­nius.”

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