Why do you bring that plant in the house? You will have to spend time feeding and watering, you will need to give it the right amount of light, and to keep it from freezing. Someone said to me “even if it is not useful in any way, it makes me feel better just to see it.” Some like the blooms, others the weird way in which it grows, others that it doesn’t take a lot of care (compared to a puppy for example), still others enjoy the perfume.

          Lately there have been a number of articles about certain plants that remove harmful “things” from the air.  NASA used plants on space ships to remove ammonia and convert it to zylene. The space agency listed AIRPLANE PLANT (Tillandia ionantha), IVY , MUMS, ALOE, and PEACE LILY (Spathiphylum) as the most efficient.

          Many of us grew up around the SPIDER PLANT (Chlorophytum variegata) with its long stems hanging over the side of the pot upon which new little plants appear that can be given away or rooted into little pots. When you read its history it is listed as one of the best plants for removing benzol or formaldehyde (quite often found in new carpeting). The little “spiders” or plants that hang down can be used to start new hanging plants. You can get them started in water if you let them get mature enough on the mother plants to show “bumps” which are actually young roots.  The most efficient way is to pin them down in a little pot next to your big one.  It may take several weeks before it is rooted enough to cut off from the mother plant. The plants will burn if hung in a direct sunlight and they do not like temperatures below 45 degrees F. If the soil dries out the leaves will fade out or the tips turn brown, so keep the soil damp.

          Just lately several magazines have told of experiments with plants in working areas that show increased efficiency when surrounded by plants.  If you visit some businesses or offices you will see plants under lights, plants in window corners, and some with a special grow light that has been brought in to better the surroundings. I was in one office in which an immense light on a track moved slowly back and forth over large and beautiful plants.  Teachers with windows in their classroom will fill them with plants.  Several studies I have seen say this calms and aids the kids to study.

          Barbara Pleasant in her book “Complete Houseplant Survival Manual” says “Because so many bodies are present and all are giving off carbon dioxide, levels may be 4-5 times higher than they should be. Plants take in carbon dioxide to give oxygen.  Numerous school systems now recommend keeping classrooms, corridors, and cafeterias well stocked.”

          Some people, if they have only one plant in the house, it will probably be an ALOE VERA . If a burn occurs they cut off a leaf and put the thick, slimy juice on it directly. It helps to heal and to reduce the pain.  Several of the ALOE plant juices will do this but VERA is the best known. They like full sun and protection from too much rain in summer. In fall and winter they like a temperature above 40 degrees F. They need very little fertilizer.
Vera grows fast if it is happy.  When it fills the pot, I dump it out and divide off a small plant. When the furnace in my little greenhouse stopped, Vera was one of those who were “killed” and I put the pots under the bench.  About three weeks later a tiny plant came up from the root.  It is now 18 inches wide and 12 inches tall so don’t count this plant dead until you are sure!!! Put a good deal of coarse sand in the potting mix you use.  Many cosmetic companies now advertise aloe as part of their products.

          Some people keep houseplants for their perfume.  What fun to come in the door to be greeted by dwarf ORANGE blossoms, or a white JASMINE with its shiny white blooms that can fill two rooms or even a temperamental GARDENIA. I had one for several years until it got too big and had to be left out in the fall. These plants are considered temperamental because they do not like too much light, dry air, high temperatures, too little or too much water. When I had mine it was almost a celebration to have it come in bloom in the spring and fall with those shiny, waxy petals.  The Garden Centers will sometimes have it available about Easter with buds on them.  They demand an acid, damp soil and 60 to 75 degree F. temperature. Mine went outside under a RED BUD TREE during the summer. If it is in a pot it needs to be in a saucer on top of wet pebbles to raise the humidity.  It will raise your spirits just getting that first whiff. It is a 5 foot shrub from China and Japan .

          Other plants to perfume your world are HYACINTHS that can be forced to provide perfume in a number of colors.  When we get near the end of the winter and long for blooms that tell us of spring, different bulbs work very well. They will need a dormant period which occurs after the foliage dies down in summer. Most need 12 to 15 weeks for the roots to develop. This means you will need them in pots in a cool spot for that time with the soil damp, not wet. I have known people who kept their pots in a window well on the South side of the house and others in a refrigerator or cold frame. After you bring them out into a warmer place, the bulbs should begin to sprout when placed in good light at 55 to 60 degrees F. and watered well. Then wait for the perfume and bloom to appear. Sometimes you can buy bulbs that are pre-treated for you. The stages needed are:

1.     Dormancy in late summer

2.     Root development, and

3.     Sprouting

          You can keep them alive after blooming and plant them in your yard but the flowers may or may not be gorgeous the next year.

          Many plants reward us just by making us feel better during those short, dreary days of winter and are used in many places for just that!!!

Copyright 2008