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Gardening With a Black Thumb: Easy-to-Grow Indoor Plants

1/22/2012 10:36:46 AM

Tags: Eileen Troemel, black thumb, gardening, indoor plants, houseplants, indoor gardening, jade, lucky bamboo, cactus, African violets, aloe, peace lily

Eileen TroemelResiding in rural Wisconsin, by day Eileen Troemel work as a clerical worker and part-time student. At night she spends her time writing. Raised on a farm, she has a love for nature and is inspired by the beauty and power she finds there. Nature and her just don’t get along though as she has the blackest of black thumbs. 

Gaia has banned me from her garden. She has issued a restraining order, which the plant police definitely enforce at every opportunity, forbidding me to touch plants. I grew up on a farm, so you would think I should be able to grow things. But literally every house plant I have ever tried to grow has died. I even killed some lucky bamboo. There goes my karma. If my life depended on it, I could not tell the difference between sage or oregano. I love plants. They bring me peace. Flowers make me smile every time I look at them. But grow them? Nope—strictly forbidden.

What is a plant killer like me doing to have plants in or around my house? My salvation for having plants in the house is my husband who has a very green thumb (usually). Of course, if a plant dies then I get the blame. While you don’t have to marry someone with a green thumb, my first suggestion is to cultivate a relationship with someone who will help you with your plants. In addition to my husband, I have two sisters who are very good at growing things both indoors and outdoors. When I have questions about plants or need suggestions, I go to these experts first.

There are some alleged black-thump proof plants. One of my sisters recommends cactus plants. These are great as you don’t need to water them as frequently but just make sure they get lots of sunlight and heat. For those who don’t know what that means—a window on the south that isn’t blocked by trees.  

jade plant 
The jade plant is relatively easy-to-grow for those with black thumbs. 

A plant I’ve had some success with is the jade plant. I don’t know the fancy name for it or the true needs of this plant. I am usually given a piece of an established one, stick that piece in a pot of dirt, and then water it once a week or so. Jade doesn’t need a lot of water, but when it isn't getting enough, itsleaves get wrinkled.

Aloe is another plant that is hard to kill. Like the jade plant, aloe likes a lot of light and doesn’t need a lot of water. Plus, the fluid from the leaves helps to heal burns and other topical issues. However this plant can be poisonous, so don’t let your pets or kids nibble on it.

The peace lily is another good plant for black thumbs. It survives well in lower light and likes lots of water. The one in our house sits on top of our entertainment center near a large window. It gets indirect light and grows a lot. When it droops, it is time to water it. If the leaves turn yellow it isn’t getting enough water. One thing I especially like about this plant is that it produces flowers. It blooms and is beautiful, which adds a bit of pleasure to the home.

African violets are another common and somewhat easy plant to grow. These come in a variety of colors so get lots and brighten up your space. African violets do well with moist soil, but allow the soil to dry out between watering. These little beauties don’t like their leaves wet, so you need to water from a tray at the bottom of the pot. They like indirect sunlight for at least 8 hours a day, so put them near an east or west window. The African violet is a social plant and likes to have its own kind around, so make sure you have at least two of them. This plant might be edging away from the easy level, but they are so pretty that it is worth the effort.

These are a few plants that do well with a black thumb kind of gardener. There are more, you have to do research and see what works best in your indoor environment. Some other plants I’ve had suggested to me are the spider plant, mother-in-law's tongue and lucky bamboo. I do want to caution those out there with truly black thumbs—I’ve killed lucky bamboo. It wasn’t so lucky when it came into my possession.  But my daughter had one in her college apartment which is still thriving nicely.

Image: Photo By Rob Friesel/Courtesy Flickr 

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