Thursday, March 5, 2020

Sunny Sanctuary

Seattle winters can be murder on houseplants.


The combination of extreme low light coupled with tons of humidity - have you heard that it rains fairly often in Seattle? Mhmm - sets most green growing things up for a double whammy. The diminished sunshine sends the poor babies into hibernation, but the humid air keeps pumping water into their soil that simply cannot be put to good use.

And plants die.

It's a very sad scene.

Now I've suffered through this culling of the herd for many years now, and I've learned two tried-and-true tricks that have proven to save herbaceous lives:

1. Water only when the soil is bone dry. 
2. Saturate the poor struggling babies in sunshine. 

I'm very thankful that the back side of my house faces south and we get some really fantastic light, even through the heavy gloom of  so-called "marine layers" that blanket our skies all winter long.

And from its perch on the second floor, my bedroom catches more rays than any other room in the house.

So it has become a healing place for plants who are in trouble.

^ Air plants and succulents do not like winter at all. I've mourned the passing of so many of these little sun-loving darlings that I take no chances at all. From Halloween till Easter, my precious babies get prime real estate in front of my bedroom window, and I examine them every morning to be sure they have just enough but never too much water.

Nothing is too good for these tender beings. They reward my hard work with their adorableness.

^ This enthusiastic trailing plant needs a ton of sunshine and shockingly dry soil to keep its leaves from dying off in droves. Over the years, it's lived in various places around the house but the vines are now happy only when swooped across my bedroom window. I've done nothing particularly intentional to prop the vines; I pretty much just tuck them up over the curtain rod and they are content. New leaves unfurl daily.

How can I not love this one. She asks for so little and gives so much. .

^ Ten years ago, this wooden bowl from the thrift store served as home to four or five pathetically drooping and desperate succulents. After moving the poor collection of ne'er-do-wells from one place to another, I settled them here on a bamboo swing. And ever since...well, the results speak for themselves. Pale green petals on long, elaborate stems, jade plants that curve and arch toward the ceiling, and burro's tail for days. 

This group of happy campers survive on neglect and sunshine, and I couldn't be more proud.

A couple years ago, I took on this peperomia as a rescue from my fourth-born. Though her bedroom also gets amazing sun, she had housed it on the lower shelf of a bookcase and lost patience with its failure to thrive. After experimenting with several locations around my room, I discovered that my husband's nightstand is her favorite spot, and she has rewarded me (him?) with lots of new thick, glossy, and deeply colored leaves.

She wasn't a lazy plant. Just misunderstood. I'm glad she's feeling better.

^ Snake plants are known for their much-appreciated ability to prosper and grow even in shadowy corners. This specimen settled into our north-facing bedroom last year, and seemed to be doing fine. But this past weekend, when I plopped him into the bathtub for his monthly watering, I learned differently. At first glance, he looked healthy enough; I found a handful of new blades sprouting up among the oldsters. But to my dismay, I also noticed that a half dozen of the taller leaves had dried out, leaving brown paper-thin sections that ran down from the tips, sometimes just a few inches but in some horrifying cases, all the way to their base. 

I quickly realized that this was a full-blown plant emergency. 

Hayley, you know exactly how I feel.

^ So now my snake plant has been relocated here by my side of the bed where I can keep a close eye on the darling. He made need just a scooch more water than the one-monthly regime I had him on before, but I have full faith in the healing powers of my sunny sanctuary to restore him - and all my other winter-weakened plants - to full health. 

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