Brightening generations of winters with house plants

Karen Wils photo African violets flowers descendants from my mother’s plants.

ESCANABA — On one side of my window it is ten-below-zero and ice crystals shine.

On the inside of my window it’s a balmy 68 degrees and tiny, little purple African violets smile.

Even though it’s mid-winter on the outside, on the inside things are green and growing. February is the perfect time to appreciate our house plants.

Just think, not too many generations ago, before central air, furnaces and thermostats, house plants were pretty rare.

Once indoor heating improved and thermal-paned windows became popular, house plants began to thrive in every room of the house.

I’ll bet your grandmother had a “wandering Jew” plant or a “mother-in-law’s tongue.” The spider plant that hangs in my kitchen is an off-shoot from Gramma Wils’ plant.

I think Yoopers admire and respect house plants a lot more than other folks due to our long, cold, lifeless winters. When the calla lily, cactus, or cyclamen start to bloom, they get center stage on the plant stand or they become the center piece on the table.

Some pothos and prayer plants have been in family homes long enough to see three generations.

My mother was fond of African violets. In the sunny window on the south side of the house her plant stand was teared with blooming violets.

From snowy white to deep purple and every shade of lavender in between, her violets put on a show.

She collected a variety of types, like “crimson ice,” “cherry princess” and “pixie grin.” Some had variegated colors; some had doubled petals.

African violets come in two kinds: rosette violets and trailing violets. I do not recall my mom buying any of these plants. Some she received as gifts, others she swapped with friends and many of them she was able to root from a slip of a leaf.

I have never had the green thumb that she had. I could never get violets to re-root. But I do have several violets that came from my mother’s house that flower and thrive at my house even after twenty some years.

Plants help to make a house a home. They are good for the indoor environment. Sometimes looking at a lush green potted fern is more of a mood booster than looking at the icicles hanging outside the window.

February is a good time to check on all of the plants trough out the house. Do any of them need to be re-potted? A little fresh soil or a fertilizer stick might be a good thing right now to perk up the plants after the long, dark months of winter.

It’s fun to remember house plants and the planters that they were in. I recall the macrame plant hangers of the 1970s and Mom’s ivy growing in it. I remember the pot shaped like baby shoes and the plant in it that I received when my son was born. I’ll never forget the planter the cat miss took for the litter box.

They say plants grow better if you talk to them. And they don’t give you any back talk.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


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