"A lot of my job is educating people about how resilient plants can be."
I'm a 9b semi-arid (not quite a desert) person and we ripped out our lawn for gravel and BOY HOWDY do I regret it now. We talked to so many people before we did it, and they all said to use landscaping fabric to keep weeds away, and NONE of them mentioned they actually use Round Up. Re-doing all of that will be a project for when both of my kids are in school next year.
Watering houseplants: for my bigger, more established plants, I use terra cotta watering spikes with old wine bottles (this doesn't work with smaller pots that can't counter the weight of a full wine bottle) - water eases into the soil over a week or so and everyone stays happy. For smaller plants, I handwater from the top once a week or so, but I'm waiting for my kickstarter reward to come in with a bunch of bottom watering pots to try those out. If my plants can't handle either of these methods, they are too high-maintenance for me and I probably killed them off... I should add that I refill the wine bottles when I think about it or when the plants tell me they're getting a little dry. My 6 year old Pothos is a really good communicator.
This was really interesting to read, given that it's so different from my climate. As for watering house plants: I use Planta to track my waterings (I trust it 80% of the time), and I put pots in the kitchen sink and give them a soak before I go to work. Half of the time, I remember to take them out before someone's trying to use the sink during dinner prep. We have our first small potted tree that's too big to go in the sink, and that one I'm awkwardly letting drain on our front porch when I remember to water, but then it gets singed by the direct sun.
for indoor watering - if you haven't already, make sure all of them have saucers on the bottom to avoid water damage to shelves etc. I have too many houseplants to move them all the time or water them all in the bathtub, so i carry around a quart-sized glass bottle with a narrow neck (it's an old almond milk container but even a large disposable water bottle - anything with a narrower neck to avoid drips and have more control) and water until the water comes out the bottom. Sometimes the soil is too dry and it becomes hydrophobic and the water sits on the top or falls right to the bottom; for these I water a little, then come back in a day or a few hours and water more thoroughly until I start to see water in the saucer. I do have one staghorn fern that I have to soak (I tried mounting it on a plaque and it failed spectacularly twice so now it's in a bonsai container with cedar chips and a layer of live moss) but that's the only fiddly one.
Commiseration as I'm also remodeling and when we had to move out some of my houseplants waited patiently for me to return. Sorry that I almost killed you plant babies, but now I'm back and babying them with fertilizer and lots of water and most of them have bounced right back!
Hooray! Common sense talk about xeriscaping. In addition to her list, I would add lavender. Aim for the varieties that grow well in the South of France, like lavender grosso; skip Hidcote unless you are in a cooler zone. Lavender can be started in containers, then planted in the ground in fall.
I have a nice big bathtub, so when I remember (~50% of the time) I take them for a weekly soak and drain in there! Otherwise, I just wander around with a small watering can when I'm listening to a work call :)
Watering houseplants! All my plants live in plastic pots so that I can do a combination of top & bottom watering. I keep a small plastic bin (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Sterilite-18-Qt-Latch-Storage-Box-19848606/204724980) with the lid next to it, and move groups of plants into the bin as needed. Then, I water lightly from the top, add about 2-3 inches of water to the bottom of the bin, and let sit. If it's the morning, I let them sit all day, and vice versa in the evening. When I remove them, I let them drip on the lid of the bin before putting them back in their places. Then, rotate in the new group that needs watering! It works well for almost all of my plants (78, I just counted!), with the exception of succulents and the really big ones. It sounds kind of complicated when I type it out, but I've found it to be so much easier than taking so many trips to the sink. Plus, it saves water!
Re: watering houseplants — I take all of the small/medium ones to the kitchen sink where I can drown them and let them drain, and then take them back to their homes. I have considered taking larger plants to the shower and giving them a rain but haven't really done that yet. My only big plant is a monstera that I'm just too lazy to move so he lives in a planter and I just give him a medium sized drink and hope for the best.
This was so, so interesting; thanks so much! I’m in the UK, on the east side which gets less water, and where we’ve had rapid changes in our weather patterns over the last 20 years or so. What was once green and gorgeous is increasingly hot and dry in summer with torrential downpours at any point through the year, with the occasional -12c winter thrown in for good measure.
Just as in Texas, I’m trying to protect the soil, planting trees from the RHS ‘future proof’ list, mulch, mulch, mulch, and using micro drip irrigation wherever I can to make watering as efficient as possible. And embrace the shaggy lawn 😄
(I'm in Upstate NY, Zone 5B?) I move all my houseplants out to one of my porches by Mother's Day and leave them there until right before first frost. My house is an old Victorian with great air flow but not a lot of direct light inside, so giving the plants a good five months on either the morning sun porch or the shady porch depending gives them a real boost, growth-wise. With summers getting hotter sometimes I have to water twice a week. I just soak the tops with a plastic watering can with a long spout and make sure they drain out the bottom. If it's not too hot, I water once a week. When everyone comes inside I still water once a week if I remember (lightly), but the reality is that I get spacey and sometimes go 2-2.5 weeks in the winter without watering. But the plants are mostly dormant at that point, so they don't mostly mind. I had more trouble when I overwatered them than letting them dry out for a couple of weeks.
For my houseplants, I keep everything organized with a Reminders list in my iPhone. Each individual plant has a reminder at a different frequency, depending on how much water they typically need. (This might sound like a lot, but most of the time it's a matter of weekly, biweekly, etc. so it typically falls on the same day of the week). I'll update the frequency for the growing months, and then switch back once we hit fall. Reminders also allows you to add notes, so I note the plant type, if it's sensitive to fluoride in tap water, if it prefers warmer water, how often it should be fertilized during the growing months, etc. All of the relevant info I get from websites like The Spruce, and then update it based on how the plant is doing in my home / in a given light position.
Each time I get a new plant, I add a new reminder, and then I never have to think about it unless it looks ill (lol).
Side note: All of my plants are named after TV show/movie characters for what I'm currently watching. My latest plant is a string of hearts named Allan. <3 Other greatest hits include Shiv Fucking Roy (a ponytail palm) and Renata "I will not, not be rich" the money tree.
I also use the kitchen sink houseplant watering method that several folks have mentioned, or the bathub for my larger plants. And for my houseplants that can handle it, I put them outdoors in the spring and fall just so I can water them more easily. Plus they seem to appreciate the light. ALSO, I used to use a regular spray bottle to water some of my plants but I felt like I was going to give myself a repetitive stress injury so I went to Wilco (farm/garden store) and got a 2 liter pump hand sprayer that has a lever I can press down once and spray as long as I like! That's been my proudest watering innovation yet. And it also works very well for starting things from seed that are planted very shallow (1/4" depth) and would be washed away by a regular watering can, hose, or faucet. The one I use is the Green Thumb 2L Multi-Purpose Sprayer
I rescue plants too!! My amazing bed of ligularia gigantea would have been demolished had it not been for my and my husband's plant heists. After we were certain that the house was going down, one of us would casually peel off when we were on our nightly walk with the dogs, spade in hand. The other would encourage the dogs to take their time sniffing. A minute or two later, pilfered plant in hand, the thief would rejoin the pack and we'd attempt to be inconspicuous while holding a beautiful, barerooted plant for the walk home. There were a lot of ligularia in that particular bed, so we had to do it a few times. We probably rescued a good $300-500 worth of ligularia.
I'm just sad we weren't able to rescue the variegated gingers that were in the same garden. As predicted, the developer just bulldozed over everything to put up the McMansion. What was once a really lovely front shade garden with a clearly attentive gardener is now white gravel with a few feather grasses.
Worse, the old growth tree (I think it is a sycamore) in front is dying. Now we're in the same drought as Leah above (Houston instead of Austin, so a little more tropical and our soil is what we call gumbo, a really dense, dark clay), so it could be the lack of water is what is killing the tree. But it went through 2011's drought and freezes and floods and all sorts of other trauma. They hacked away at some of it to make room for the McMansion, and I don't think they protected its roots at all during construction. And of course now, the soil around it is covered by plastic with white rocks on top, like Leah described above.
We also rescued two monsteras AND whole ass six foot planter from the house next door when it was clear it was about to go down. The planter is lovely now with guarras and verbenias and coneflowers. One of the monsteras is in a pot and the other in the front yard and both made it through our Christmastime freeze last year without too much of a problem.
I'm so grateful for the callout about gravel areas and RoundUp! Which leads me to a question I wonder if it's OK to post here? AHP please delete if not OK: How are GardenStudy peeps keeping weeds out of stone or brick patios?
Bless those brave and hardy plants that get going in a quarter inch gap between bricks or stone pavers. I honestly admire their tenacity. But, I don't want crabgrass and clover all over my patio, and I'd rather not weed my patio all summer long. Is there an eco-friendly alternative, or is weeding the patio just part of my life now?
@annehelen are you considering a discussion on how and when to close a garden for late fall/winter? And in doing so, planting bulbs?
I’m zone 8b and I feel like there has to be a way to have some winter plants, plantings for bulbs, but also, I don’t know when to do that exactly.
Thanks for explain the xeriscaping ethos so well, and hopefully people listen to you about the gravel gardens , I never like them and you are so right about the awful weeding.