5 Reasons to Have Houseplants

According to the calendar spring is here.

According to what I see out my window, it is not.

Earlier this week I finally gave up on waiting for Mother Nature to get her act together and transplanted most of my houseplants at the kitchen table. My plan was to do it outside, but the days have either been too windy or too cold.

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I didn’t realize just how many I have until I started transplanting. Granted some belong to my daughter, but even still, between the two of us there are at least 40 (25 of which are in my office).

I have always had houseplants. My love for them came from spending time with my maternal grandparents, because they had several in their home. I can recall the weekends I stayed with them, one of my jobs was to water the plants. Grandma tried growing several different plants, just to see if she could do it. I think a couple of the most memorable to me was the eggplant and the ornamental pepper.

I don’t recall whatever became of the eggplant, but the pepper I remember vividly. Now that I think about it, what she called an ornamental was just a chili pepper. Me being the rebel that I was decided I was going to eat one, even after being told not to. “How hot can it be?” was what I said when she told me they were hot.

Long story short: I couldn’t make the burning in my mouth go away no matter how much water I drank. After that I listened when she told me not to eat something.

Just a few of the plants I transplanted.
Photo: Diane Ziomek © 2022

As I’ve said, houseplants have always been my thing, as has gardening in one way or another. Now, here are 5 reasons to have houseplants:

  1. Purify the air – Living in a cold climate means windows are closed for weeks on end, and central heating is necessary. Plants take in the carbon dioxide we expel, and produce oxygen in return. We help the plants, and the plants help us. Some air purifiers are: spider plant, English Ivy, Snake Plant (aka Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), aloe vera, Broad Lady Palm, Dragon Tree, and Devil’s Ivy. The only one on this list I don’t currently have is an English Ivy.
  2. Peaceful Atmosphere – I don’t know about you, but to me plants offer peace and tranquility. If you have a lot of stress in your life, try surrounding yourself with some greenery. (If you’re a newbie to plants, getting them to grow might cause stress too, but it’s a good stress in my opinion.) I have always wanted a solarium filled with plants, and it may become a reality within the next year.
  3. Mid-winter Colour – While most houseplants are different shades of green, there are some that have colourful leaves or produce colourful flowers during the coldest months. Having a burst of colour inside while the snow is blowing outside is welcome, no matter what. Some plants that have a display of colour are: Christmas Cactus (my cats killed my last one), bromeliad, African Violet (Note: I have yet to keep one of these alive.), Croton (has colourful leaves so you don’t have to wait for it to bloom), and the Polka Dot plant (one I recently had just appear in another plant pot).
  4. Rewarding Hobby – If you enjoy trees in their glory, cultivating and caring for a bonsai could be just what you want. I personally haven’t attempted this particular avenue of indoor gardening, but do know it takes time and patience. If bonsai isn’t your thing, caring for other plants so they reproduce is rewarding in itself.
  5. Side Hustle Opportunity – If you have a green thumb and can make your houseplants grow, then you can benefit by taking cuttings from them. Some common plants that are easy to reproduce are spider plants, weeping fig, bromeliads, Devil’s Ivy, English Ivy, and Snake Plant. After my latest transplanting stint, I have extra weeping figs that may be finding their way to Facebook Marketplace.

If you’re worried about not being able to keep plants alive, try cacti. They go weeks without water in the desert, so are right at home when paired with people who forget to water them. No matter your gardening know-how, there is a plant that you can grow if you have the desire. It may take some trial-and-error, but when you see new leaves or flower buds appearing, it’s all worth it.

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When is it okay to start bedding plants?

Have you noticed we have more daylight now than even a couple weeks ago?

I do have to say, it’s nice to be able to walk at 5 p.m. and have it still be light out. And where I live, I don’t walk after dark if I can help it. I never know where the moose, deer, and other wildlife is hiding.

With the longer daylight hours comes the desire to get the outdoor plants started, but don’t get too excited just yet. The dates ultimately depend on your temperate zone, which I’ll discuss shortly. I have made the mistake more than once, and my seedlings didn’t do well.

Disclaimer: Links within this post are either to my own products, or products I endorse. I may receive a small commission should you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. My blog is supported through commissions and sales of my products. Plus, if you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.  Thank you for your continued support.

What’s a temperate zone?

In a nutshell, the temperate zone is what the minimum temperatures can get to in any given area. Here in Canada we range from an area with the coldest temperature at -1.1 degree Celsius (9b) to -56.7 (0b). Now that is cold!

My area ranges from 3a to 2a, depending on the year. Oveall the average is 2b, which is from -40C to -42.8C. That’s just temperature alone; the windchill is not factored into these numbers.

When living in zones like this, it definitely cuts down on what a person can grow through the summer. Perennials have to tolerate frigid temperatures and annuals have to grow fairly quickly due to a relatively short growing season. It would be wonderful if we could all have heated greenhouses so we could enjoy more of a variety, including citrus trees.

When we were in Vancouver a few years ago I was surprised to see banana trees planted outside. I was told they could survive brief periods of below zero temperatures, but I personally wouldn’t be that brave. But then again, I don’t live there so can’t say for sure.

Frost dates.

When you’re planning your garden you need to know the average first and last frost dates. It does range in comparison to what your temperate zone is, but in my part of Alberta we generally don’t plant anything outside until after May Long Weekend (Victoria Day). And depending on the year, we’re sometimes covering our tomatoes and other plants by the end of August.

When you’re deciding on your seed planting dates, there’s a simple formula to follow. On a normal year it should work out okay, but we all know Mother Nature has the final say.

Copied from the Government of Canada site. Click the image to be taken to the source.
When can I plant?

The rule of thumb is to start plants 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to put them outside. Since May Long is the earliest we can safely put plants out, I generally do not expect to start anything until the beginning of April. That gives me a little more than 6 weeks.

As some seeds take longer to germinate, it’s good practice to pay attention to the information on your seed packets. Also pay attention to the days to maturity, as each plant type is different. Some you won’t have to start inside, such as peas, beans, beets, carrots, as they don’t transplant well and grow quickly. Well, except for carrots; but they are below the surface so a light frost won’t hurt them anyway.

Other plants such as flowers, tomatoes, peppers, many herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, for example, do better when started indoors. They take longer to reach maturity, so depending on your zone, will benefit from being started indoors.

What about light?

All plants need light once they start to grow and giving your plants full sun is best. If you don’t have a south-facing window that gets direct sunlight, the next best thing is a grow light. They need at least the equivalent of 6 hours of full sun a day. I have to admit, my plants usually end up being leggy because they don’t get the proper light as I have limited south-facing window space.

This year I am going to put my seedlings under grow lights. In fact, I cleaned off the top shelf in a bookshelf for some plants. I invested in some small grow light bars and have them in place. So far my shorter house plants are under them, but as the daylight hours are longer I’ll be moving them closer to the window. (My office will soon be entirely over-run with plants.)

In addition to growing time and proper light you’ll need to make sure you monitor watering as well. A spray bottle is ideal for seeds and seedlings, or watering from the bottom to prevent them from being damaged or washed away. A mini greenhouse is ideal for starting most seedlings, but take care to allow for ventilation and be sure it doesn’t get too hot inside.

In conclusion.

Planning your garden is exciting, whether it’s your first or 50th. Starting your own seedlings can bring a little bit of summer into your home early, and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour sooner as well.

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Welcome 2022

It has been over a year and a half since I last posted, but I needed the time to just learn how to be on my own again.

As I begin this year I have set some goals for myself. One is to get back on track with this blog and website. It has been neglected for far too long.

Second is to stay consistent on my other website. I have been publishing weekly blog posts and my readership has increased, which makes me happy.

Third, I just want to enjoy what life has to offer. Summer 2020 was a major challenge for me but I got through it, and built a deck almost all on my own; simply because it was something Ross and I had talked about and I needed something to do. Summer 2021 had its own set of challenges, with the almost zero rainfall and wasps that kept me inside. Here’s hoping Summer 2022 is better in that regard.

Now that I’m moving forward in life, let me tell you about the few things I have done since May 2020.

As mentioned, I built a deck onto our house; a project that was supposed to be ours since travel was out of the question. (Damn COVID.) I may have built it a little bigger than we had talked about, but I’m happy with the result. When the package was delivered I took one look at the pile of lumber and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” After some googling I found some information I could work with, and proceeded to mark out dimensions.

Fast forward to September 2020 (I started it in July, after we had Ross’s Memorial Service and family get-together) and the deck was done. Aside from a little help from my daughter, my son’s girlfriend, and a friend, the majority of it was done by me. And I only bled once when I cut my leg with the handsaw (no stitches required, just a band-aid). Finished size: upper level 8′ X 20′ and the lower level is 16′ X 24′.

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After taking a Leave of Absence from my library position after Ross passed away, I handed in my resignation at the end of September. I decided I could manage on my savings and some life insurance; a choice I’m glad I made. I did the occasional writing gig, and made some sales on Etsy that helped pay some bills.

I invested in a snowblower so I could do most of my own snow removal. My father-in-law did use his tractor and plow a couple of times, which was appreciated. The downside to it all was we didn’t get near the snow we should have, which led to a very dry spring and even drier summer.

Summer 2021 was spent tending to my raised beds (I built two more with the help of my daughter), camping with a friend, and fighting off the wasps when I was outside. I made a self-watering planter and filled it with herbs and put it on my deck. It was nice to have fresh herbs right outside my door. I have plans to build at least one more this summer for more herbs.

Photo above was taken March 19, 2021, just after my daughter and I put my new outdoor furniture together.

The yard changes continued in November when I hired an arborist and his crew to take down some dying poplars, Manitoba maples, and a very overgrown caraganna hedge. I now have somewhat of a view from my office window, and a winter view of the field north of my house. When spring rolls around the row of young caragannas will fill in and I’ll no longer be able to see the field, but that’s okay. I do plan on having the crew back to get rid of some other dying trees, but that will have to wait until my budget allows.

And now here I am, with the first two weeks of 2022 already gone. As I anticipate a summer filled with more rain and less wasps, I have plans to plant some roses, build an arbor, and create a living fence around the firepit. My goal is to publish at least two blog posts per month, and add more articles to the website as well. Life does go on, and moving forward is something we must do no matter what life has handed us.

Oh, and my houseplant collection has grown considerably as well. I’m seriously thinking about adding on a 4-season sunroom to let in more light and give my bigger plants a better home. Did I mention the only south-facing windows I have are my office and where my dining room table sits?

I am excited to be back on track, and am even more excited to share my gardening experience and knowledge with you.

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