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The Beauty of Ugly Houseplants

My mother, God rest her soul, used to complain that my plants were all ugly…why did I not like pretty plants? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I was going for unusual and rare, rather than beautiful.
I think that plants like Maidenhair Fern, Ming Aralia, and Peace Lily, to name only a few, are indeed pretty plants. But I am attracted to funky plants that sport spines, or have lumpy, bumpy stems, or are almost leafless in nature, etc. My current small collection of plants includes a Climbing Onion (Bowiea volubilis), with a pale green bulb partly exposed, and periodically producing a long skinny bright green vine that leans its way up and around the sunny window in which it sits (I smile each time I catch a glimpse of this weird climber.) I also have a couple of odd varieties of Sansevieria (snake plant) and a bunch of small succulents that are either short and fat or tall and skinny, sometimes both, and mostly not friendly to the touch. 
In winter, my semi-deciduous tropicals are prominently displayed in a sunny, east-facing window, looking like members of a ghost garden, stalky and leafless (Tim Burton plants.) My favorites are the Spinach Tree (Cnidoscolus acontifoluis) and the Shaving Brush Tree (Pseudobombax ellipticum). Not entirely leafless, but pretty skimpy, is a Philodendron warscewiczii, that I got from a grower who obviously gave it up as a lost cause retail-wise. I get excited when it has more than two leaves, which is not very often. 
Until this past winter, I’ve kept over a leafless zone 8 edible fig tree in a pot, and enjoyed its sweet, juicy fruits produced each summer in a sunny spot near my entry door. It just got too big to haul in and out. And I hope I never lose my Rhipsalis capilliformis that I’ve had for 30 years, as it is apparently willing to live with little soil and almost no water, dangling its skinny many branching vines from a tiny pot hanging on a curtain rod.
At the end of May, everybody goes outside for the summer, foliage plants shaded from the mid-day sun, flowering tropicals in the afternoon sun. This is a dangerous time for me, as I see lots of space for new ugly plants on my empty windowsills, forgetting how hard it will be to fit the plants currently summering outside back in again.
Now to be honest, when I do purchase a “pretty” plant, it doesn’t stay that way for long as I am not in the mood to water when I get home from a day of plant care at work. Maybe starting with “ugly” plants makes me feel more successful since they are supposed to look like that!
Posted: 3/19/2013 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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