Spring #4: Cultivating an indoor garden
Today, a tour of my favorite plants to grow inside year-round.
Welcome to Spring, Issue #4 of Making Time. Each week, I share a seasonal perspective on the creative process. This month, my theme is Garden. If you’d like to follow along on this year-long experiment, you can subscribe for free.
The plan was to spend yesterday afternoon outside in the vegetable garden. There is still so much to do to prepare for the growing season, and every time I look out the window at the beds, I feel a bit anxious about when it’s going to happen.
But it rained heavily most of the day, and I had so many errands to run and chores to do, I knew by midday that the garden would have to wait.
Instead, I worked indoors. As I watered and fertilized, I realized that early spring might be a nice time to share my indoor garden, as this in-between time of year is when we’re all hankering for flowers and greenery, and these plants help sustain me through the winter and keep the house feeling alive.
My Indoor Garden
Here are most of the plants I take care of in the house, what I like about them, and links to get them, if available.
I love having flowering plants in the house, and it’s hard to beat jasmine. It smells heavenly when in bloom, it’s easy to care for, and this particular variety can be kept in a small pot. The only drawback is that the cats love to chew on it, so I have to use my cat-repelling technique to keep them away (more on that in a minute). Get it here.
This violet is simply adorable. I bought it because I wanted something (other than a succulent) to put in this itty bitty pot I had. It supposedly only grows to 3 inches in height, but you can see that mine is a bit bigger. It flowers often, and does well on a bookshelf near a sunny window.
When I first got it, it continually dried out. This is a plant that likes humidity, so I got a little glass cloche to put over it and it’s been happy ever since. Bonus: protected from cats. Get it here.
Tulips (and other bulbs)
This year, I tried forcing some bulbs indoors (hyacinths, daffodils, tulips). Surprisingly, I had the most success with these tulips. They are Salmon Impression Darwin Hybrids, and I bought them in January pre-chilled. Many bulbs need a long chilling period in order to bloom, so if you want to do this in spring, you need to either plan ahead to chill your bulbs, or buy pre-chilled, like these. Tulip World is a good source for pre-chilled bulbs.
I also buy forced bulbs in pots and vases at the grocery store or Trader Joe’s, and honestly, it’s easier and might even be cheaper. But if you want a particular color or variety, it’s a fun project in January. Buy pre-chilled bulbs here.
The Rubber Plant
This is a very typical large indoor plant. It’s extremely easy to care for, and grows to a mighty size. It’s a beefy, hardy plant. I’ve had mine for years and years. It does need support to keep it from flopping (like that branch in front).
Only other drawback is that it’s large enough for the cats to jump in it and play in the dirt (are you sensing a theme here?). I ended up bunching up some landscape cloth over the dirt. If they start getting feisty and try to move the cloth to get to the dirt (which they do), I’ll spray the cloth with some orange oil, which is a scent cats hate.
Another option is to mulch with a layer of pea gravel to prevent digging (this works for squirrels outdoors too). I’ve done that with some smaller plants they kept getting into.
My cats are young and extremely naughty, though.
By the way, this is when I tried to compromise with them about laying on the breakfast table in order to look out the window. I moved a chair in front of it so they could enjoy the view from there instead. They both agreed that the chair was nice, but the table is better.
I’m so tired of yelling.
I couldn’t find a photo of this violet in bloom, but it’s very cute. The flowers are tiny little things, and the plant is very easy to grow. I have two and keep mine on a south-facing windowsill. It’s another good choice if you’re limited on space. I also like the trailing tendrils. Get it here.
If you want some color in your home, you can’t beat a cape primrose. Just look at all these beautiful flowers! This beauty is almost constantly flowering, it’s easy to care for, and I’ve had no problem with pests at all. Hard recommend. Get it here.
Geraniums are my favorite indoor plant, and also the one that causes me the most trouble. The scented geraniums have leaves that smell incredible and, as I’ve mentioned before, I love how weird and leggy they get indoors. It can be helpful to give them some support. Most of mine do not bloom, or at least haven’t yet, with the exception of Roger’s Delight, which I’ve mentioned before. I also have a few Attar of Roses geraniums, which seem pretty vigorous and smell nice.
The downside? These things are really prone to pests, particularly whitefly. I’ve found them nearly impossible to get rid of. Lately, we’ve been getting ladybugs entering the house, and I keep transferring them over to the geraniums in the vain hope they’ll help (whiteflies are similar to aphids and food for ladybugs). I’ll probably move the pots outdoors when it warms up so the natural predators can do their thing.
That’s the thing about indoor plants. Without the fine balance of their natural ecosystem, it’s very easy for things to get out of whack, and most of your effort goes into correcting those problems one-by-one. Much like us humans.
Get a Roger’s Delight geranium here.
A note on cat-repelling:
The best way I’ve found to repel cats is… MORE PLANTS. If I can fill a surface up with plants (like the plant stand above), there is no room for them to jump up, and this seems to deter them. That is, as long as they realize it. Rusty recently mis-catculated and knocked my jasmine plant to the ground, shattering the pot (it’s since been repotted).
Here’s one I get a lot of questions about. This is a begonia maculata and it’s pretty stunning. The leaves are polka dotted on one side and deep red on the other. I had no idea this would be such a vigorous, vining grower and it’s now reaching the top of the door frame it’s next to. It seems to be fine growing along the wall, but I’ve been thinking about supporting it with some command hooks, just to be safe.
Next to it (not pictured) is a begonia called mini-me, which also has red undersides to the leaf and is very appropriately named. It’s like the little buddy to this one.
The polka dot begonia appears to be sold out, but you may be able to find it elsewhere.
Apparently, these were quite popular in the 1970s. I’ve had two flanking my mantle for many years, and I put tiny christmas ornaments on them in December. These can grow quite large if planted in a large pot. Since I live in the midst of a forest, it’s nice to have some conifers inside too. Get it here.
Finally, my new aerogarden! I bought this on sale on the recommendation of Karen over at The Art of Doing Stuff and just look at all these abundant herbs! Here’s the model I bought, but I think it was half off at the time.
This thing could not be easier to use. You fill it with water and give it fertilzer every once in a while, when the light blinks and tells you to. That’s it. I now have herbs growing year-round in a corner of my pantry. It’s pricey, but I figure this thing will pay for itself in short order, given the cost of herbs at the grocery store. And it’s wonderful to just pluck some basil whenever you need it. Get it here.
Thus concludes my houseplant tour! I hope you’ve found some unusual gems in here. If you have any favorite plants at home, I’d love to hear about them!
Onto the links…
Head, Heart, Hands
Things to make us think, feel, and do.
The benefits of “creative grit.” I’ll be honest, my hackles go up a little when people start talking about “grit”, but I think this is something else. Following a passion all the way to the end? Obsession for the sake of it? Extreme curiosity?
Workaholics: Why Staying Busy Feels Safe and How It Takes a Toll
Buy. Return. Repeat … What really happens when we send back unwanted clothes? Am I the only person who hates returning stuff?
What if climate change meant not doom – but abundance? A note of hope from the incomparable Rebecca Solnit.
This felted bag is so lovely and soft-looking. But felting scares me a little.
An incredible Swedish embroidery from 1915. (Sorry, had to link to pinterest because I couldn’t access the photos on the original auction).
Hand painted details in the home. Ignore the “trend alert” headline, this just looks beautiful.
I just discovered that illustratorhas a newsletter and look at this hand-quilted medieval death quilt! WOW. I want to make a wall quilt and thought I’d do something very traditional, but now I wonder if a pictorial quilt like this would be an interesting project for a winter.
I made coconut oat cookies yesterday to take on my backpacking adventure soon. Here is the original recipe. I add 1/2 tsp salt, a bit of vanilla, and some dried cherries.
Also discovered on my training hike that one of my neighbors has mini-horses!
Wow, this was a long one today, and I thought I’d just be sharing a few notes on plants. Don’t forget to tell me about your favorite houseplants, because I’m always looking to add one more. It’s the only way to keep surfaces safe from cats, after all.
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Hi, my favorite plants are African violets. I have a south-ish facing window and they love it! But!! What I really want to say is how much I am enjoying your recommendation for Mandy’s salad recipe , dressings and stuff book. I was so tired of the same old thing!
Also, I am really enjoying your journey. I admire the way you have met your life right up front, choosing thoughtfully. When your note arrives, I sit down in a quiet time and read what you have been exploring. There’s always several take-always for me.
You go, Sarai
I’m really enjoying this newsletter. The photos are stunning and calming. Great writing and almost every week I get some encouragement to just chill and be me. It’s okay that I’m a turtle in a world of fast moving hares!🤣🤣
It’s inspiring me to get back to some of my own creative outlets for the sheer joy of creating! Thanks for sharing your journey!