Lessons Learned from My Favorite Houseplants
I’ve been asked many times about my favorite houseplants and where my love of houseplants began. It all began in my childhood while growing up in a rural area. My three brothers and I were immersed in nature. So, nature was our playground and trees were our jungle gym.
I also worked in the vegetable garden with my mom and dad, which was huge because the garden was feeding six people. The combination of a rural upbringing and a large family garden fostered my love for plants. Later, this manifested itself in my obsession with houseplants.
Today, I care for hundreds of houseplants in my home, but there are a few that are extra special to me. My favorite houseplants have brought me joy, and they have helped me learn many lessons along the way. In fact, my favorite houseplants have helped me become The Houseplant Guru.
My Favorite Houseplants: Ponytail Palm
My mom had a few plants in our house while I was growing up. But the first plant I can remember owning is my ponytail palm (Beaurcarnea recurvata). I bought it at Kmart (probably the only place to buy houseplants in 1984 in my small town) before leaving for college. It was in a 2” pot when I bought it, and 35 years later it is in a 14” pot.
I love this plant and it is certainly one of my favorite houseplants. My ponytail palm has been with me through my entire adult life. It has moved with me from college dorm to my first home and now to my second. It has seen it all—and been through it all with me.
I think my ponytail palm has survived so long because it has a large water-storing stem. This survival trait allowed it to survive even when I neglected it and forgot to water it.
Lesson Learned from My Ponytail Palm:
Long-term relationships (whether with plants or people) need love and attention to stand the test of time.
Great Grandma’s Fern
My very favorite houseplant is a Boston fern. I love ferns, and my great grandma’s fern is a special, sentimental plant. My mom received this fern at her bridal shower in 1957 from my great grandmother.
I watched Mom lovingly care for this Boston fern for as long as I can remember. I recently inherited the plant when mom became ill and she could no longer care for it. The plant was unhappy, so I took it, revived it, and have since started a new one. My mother now has the new plant in her room at my brother’s home.
My mom is doing much better now. She often tells me how much she loves the fern and how well it is doing. I think it comforts her to have a piece of it back in her life. After all, the original plant had been in her window for over 60 years!
My piece of the fern is now over 34 years old. I received it when I got married. To continue the family tradition, I passed along a piece of the fern to my daughter at her bridal shower in 2018. I hope she enjoys her fern as much as I have enjoyed mine.
Lesson Learned from Great Grandma’s Fern:
Plants are more special when they are loved by family members and handed down from generation to generation.
My Favorite Houseplants: A Crested Succulent
I have another plant that qualifies as one of my favorite houseplants because it has withstood the test of time with me. I bought my crested succulent (Euphorbia lactea cristata) in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, at the Giantway store where my mom bought groceries. I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve had it—but it’s been at least 25-30 years. I thought I was going to lose it a few years ago when it started turning yellow. Thankfully, it recovered and is a healthy specimen now.
I’m a member of the Michigan Cactus and Succulent society, and I have learned so much from this group. If you have a plant society that meets near you, join them. It is a wonderful place to make friends that have the same interests as you, plus these folks are generous with their plant knowledge.
One of the things I learned from someone in the group many years ago was that giving water to a cactus or succulent in small doses (which is how I was applying water to this plant) is NOT the way to water. Virtually every plant, including cacti and other succulents, needs to be watered thoroughly every time you water them.
When the water runs out the drainage hole, you’ve given your cactus or succulent enough water. Then, let them dry out for quite some time before watering again. My crested succulent grew in leaps and bounds after applying water as I was supposed to.
Lesson Learned from my Crested Succulent:
Be open to good advice and you will never stop learning.
Grandma’s African Violets
Another one of my favorite houseplants is my African violet that brings back fond memories. It reminds me of my Grandma Eldred.
My Grandma Eldred lived down the road from us, and I often rode my bike there to spend time with her and Grandpa. Grandma Eldred always had plenty of houseplants, but her African violets were special to her. They grew right over her kitchen sink on an east-facing windowsill. It was the perfect light for growing African violets. They thrived, and my grandma lavished attention on them.
I remember watching her stick her finger in the soil to check the moisture level. She also started new plants by putting leaves in baby food jars covered with foil (to support the leaves).
Her African violets were amazing! I loved watching Grandma care for her plants, making sure they had everything they needed to thrive. The times I spent with Grandma are some of my best memories. Even now, every time I see an African violet I am taken back to Grandma’s kitchen.
Lesson Learned from Grandma’s African Violets:
Plants and people thrive when they are showered with attention. And plants are more special when shared with others.
Final Thoughts on My Favorite Houseplants
The plants that are most important and special to me have been with me a long time, and they have special memories attached. Plants are amazing, but even more so when they harken us back to special times in our lives.
My passion for plants has overtaken every window of the house. Nothing is more soothing than re-potting, watering, and caring for my plants. It certainly has brought me much happiness.
If you don’t have a houseplant, what are you waiting for? Buy one, share one you already have, and ask for a cutting from a friend. Just remember that these plants need love and attention. Do this for them, and they will bring you joy and good memories, too. Soon you’ll have favorite houseplants, too.
Want more information about taking care of houseplants? Read 7 Essential Houseplant Care Tips.