Maybe you’ve heard all the healthy benefits of having house plants indoors, but you hesitate to bring another green thing into your home, because, well, they expire. Fess up. Are you one of the black-thumbed ones? Do you simply look at a houseplant and it dies? Are you tired of tossing dead greenery in the compost? Help is at hand. I am going to tell you the secret to keeping houseplants alive.
My approach uses the same techniques as dog or toddler training. Yes, I just compared you to a dog or a toddler. Don’t be insulted, dogs are nice (and smart) and toddlers are often very cute, and they don’t mean to leave that piece of lego on the floor for you to tread on with your instep.
New gardeners often buy something beautiful but fussy, like a fern, or a zebra plant. Zebra plants (Aphelandra Squarrosa)are notorious for looking stunning in the plant shop and then wildly shedding their leaves as soon as they cross your door jamb. Of course you think, “I can’t keep anything alive.” and give up. Well nobody can keep a zebra plant thriving in a heated home over winter. It’s just too dry.
Here’s the secret. You have to make the task super easy. Pick a plant where you can’t fail. So, as in dog and toddler training, set yourself up for certain success: Make your first plant a Hoya. Also called wax plant, the leaves are firm, and, well, waxy. They have a vining growth and will cascade over the sides of a pot, and also can produce an exotic sweet smelling flower with enough sunlight. Hoyas are super drought tolerant. I’m not saying if you lived in the desert in a tent and left your Hoya outside for two months without watering it would live, but it would have a fighting chance.
My sister even barbequed one once and it came back to life, story here. The picture at the top is the same hoya plant, recovered.
As this specimen has been growing in the same pot for over twenty years, I can assure you it’s a toughie.