Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Well-Dressed Houseplant

About three years ago, I decided that I had as many houseplants as I could take care of comfortably, and decided not to buy (or propagate) any new ones. This feeling comes over me periodically, sometimes because of burnout/fatigue issues, and sometimes because I don’t feel that I have enough room to properly display and enjoy the beauty of my plants. The display aspect is very important to me. I don’t want to feel like I’m running a plant warehouse, with things stacked on shelves in every available corner. I want to be able to observe each and every plant, enjoy their individual features, and occasionally, show them off to others without having to search for them and move other plants out of the way. But despite my best intentions, I still have more plants than good display space. ("Good display space" also means space with proper conditions for plants. Plants would look really nice in my bathrooms, but none of them have windows, or places to safely install supplemental lights.) I do hope to be where I want to be with my plant arrangements some day, because when our finances allow it, my husband and I plan to add a sunroom to our home. But right now, I do have plants crowded onto light shelves in the basement (mostly succulents waiting to go back outdoors in the spring, and Hippeastrums waiting to bloom.) I also have a couple of windows that have more plants in front of them than I think is aesthetically pleasing.

Hoya carnosa 'Rubra' on a pedestal candleholder purchased on clearance. Candle accessories can make nice display pieces for houseplants. That is a Tillandsia in a coconut shell in the foreground.

So anyway, at that point a few years ago, I decided to use the money I might have spent on adding to my collection on upgrading my pots instead. I would gradually ditch the plain plastic pots that plants are typically sold in, and get as many glazed ceramic pots as I could for my smaller plants, as well as fancier plastic, resin, foam or fiberglass pots for my larger plants. (This would be for the leafy tropicals; cacti and succulents would continue in their terra cotta pots. I love the look of terra cotta, and might have gone that route for my non-succulent houseplants but for one thing: Plants in porous terra cotta dry out faster. I’m not sure I’m up to changing my watering style to accommodate this.) Moreover, I would plant directly in these pots, and not use them as cachepots. If I found a pot that I liked without drainage holes, well, Bob has a drill press and the suitable drill bits. My previous m/o was to hide as many of the plain plastic pots as I could by using plastic-lined baskets as cachepots. I decided to stop this for three reasons: the dollar stores stopped carrying good-looking baskets; I was tiring of the basket look anyway; and I lost a couple of plants to over watering/root rot. Since I water my plants in place, I need to be able to see if there is water left in their saucers, so I can remove it. I got a bit lazy with the plants in baskets/cachepots, and didn’t always check for leftover water. Hence the plant losses.

I also decided on a color scheme: all new pots would be some shade of red, green, blue or gold. These are all colors that I use throughout my home. As I mentioned above, the changeover would be gradual; I certainly couldn’t afford to buy new pots for all my plants at once. I looked for sales, (JoAnn’s Fabrics often has sales on nice looking pots) discount retailers (K-Mart, Target, Meijer), big box stores (Home Depot and Lowes) and close out stores (Tuesday Morning, Big Lots). I even found the occasional pot at the dollar store. Rarely, I would splurge on a full-price pot at a nursery.

Some pots currently waiting for plants. All are discount items. The deep blue pot to the far left is made of some sort of foam and provides the look of glazed ceramic without the weight.

So, as it stands three years later, most of my non-succulent plants are in decorative pots. There are exceptions. The Hippeastrums are still in plain plastic, since they are either outdoors or out of sight when they aren’t in bloom. When I display a blooming “Amaryllis,” I put it in a basket or cachepot for the duration of the blooms. My hanging plants are either in ordinary plastic hanging baskets, or in plastic inside a wicker hanging cachepot. I usually take these down for watering, so I can drain them when they are done absorbing water. I also have a couple of plants that I don’t have the right size pot for yet.

Strelitzia nicolai (Giant White Bird of Paradise) in a plastic pot made to look like ceramic. This plant is more than six feet tall; I couldn't imagine trying to wrangle it into a suitably sized ceramic pot. It would be too heavy to move.

I’m quite pleased with the change. The pots enhance the display value of the plants. Horticulturally speaking, I find that the care for the plants hasn’t changed. They do as well in their fancy “clothes” as in their previous plastic pots.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that I have some quirky tendencies when it comes to pots. As I've mentioned before, all my ivies (Hedera helix) are in red pots. This has become a must. My Hoyas and pink/red Thai Aglaonema cultivars are in green pots. My regular green Aglaonema cultivars are in square pots. Aside from those, I have no particular themes, but I stick to those four the best I can. I’ve been keeping my eye out for square ceramic pots just in case I get more green Aglaonemas. (Square pots are less commonly available than round ones). I make sure I have red pots on hand for any new ivy acquisitions. I do have enough green pots available, since I have as many Hoyas and Thai Aglaos as I want, and I’m unlikely to buy more.

So I guess I’m not just the Crazy Plant Lady; I'm the Crazy Color-Coordinated Plant Lady!

Above and below: Aglaonema cultivars in square, or at least squarish, pots


Water Roots said...

Your plants certainly are well dressed. Very pretty arrangements! And I agree about being able to display plants properly to enjoy them and show them off.

Ivynettle said...

Hehehe - I see you do the "pots inside other pots" thing, too. People always look at me strangely for doing that, but hey, it saves space and saucers.

Karen715 said...

@Water Roots. Thank you.

@Ivynettle, yeah I do that mostly in the fall/winter, when getting plants closer to the window, by whatever means necessary, is important.