18 April 2011

These are a few of my Favourite Things: 'Alive in my Apartment'

We have a small but very much alive domocile. Myself, Tom Mosher (my elven boyfriend who is also a maker and takes part in all experiments around the house), Chicken (black cat), and our family of plants, all pictured below.

Tom: Fixed-gear freestyle bike trick guy, green thumb, up-and-coming chef, playmate. (Left photo by Sungwoo Kim)

Chicken: Sits on all things i am currently working on, pretends to hate being loved.

And the plants. I have listed my favourites below, all are hearty, easy to maintain and somewhat eccentric in appearance. 

Cylindrical Snake Plant (Sansevieria cylindrica)

Each 'leaf' is a hollow spear similar to a pencil in weight and strength. Very sculptural and skeletal. Only needs watering once a month. The spears can be braided or shaped into whatever mass is desired.  Tom bought me this beautiful turquoise vase (which is also spiny) for my birthday. Thanks, tom!


Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

A slow-growing yet hearty succulent that will tolerate cold windowsills and hot humid summers. This one also requires only one or two waterings a month, produces pink flowers (which i have not yet seen), and is easily propogated by cutting off small stems and planting them in same soil. I have pruned this one for the last five years since i bought it as a two inch cutting, which allows the trunks to get thicker and stronger, more like a bonsai. 


Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina) 

We nicknamed this on 'Cascadia' since it hangs above our staircase about two metres long. It thrives in mid light (indirect). It is easy to propogate by placing cuttings in a glass of water for a few days to grow roots, then potting in a new pot. Frequent trimming helps the plant to stay full; if it gets too long, it will become thin and spindly. Makes a great 'green' chandelier!

Elephant Palm (Beaucarnea)
Also called a Ponytail Palm, this very decorative plant has a trunk that looks like an elephant's foot with curly, stringy tendrils hanging down. It grows slowly, but can reach 4-6 feet tall. Easy to care for, dark or light conditions, humid or dry.  Unfortunately, also readily available at ikea. 


Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)

This canopy plant (also called 'fruit salad plant') is named after its adult leaves which unfurl to show leaves with holes in them (like the cheese). While the plant is young, leaves show no holes. Leathery leaves can become anywhere from 25cm-75cm across, providing a nice umbrella in a shady room. Fairly easy to maintain as long as it is out of the sun and away from heaters. Also provides a great focus point for speculation ('it has holes because it grows so fast') during dinner parties. 


Organ Pipe Cactus (Lenaireocereus Marginatis)
This guy had a rough beginning. He started out as four tiny spikes in the soil, then got knocked over a few times. Parts were broken off. We replanted those broken parts upsidedown thinking the whole thing was going to die anyway. What happened? It started growing tiny clones out of the exposed broken bits! Now it has aerial roots, the whole thing looks like a crash site. Fluorishing! Again, waters once a month. Pick off the clones at any point, let them dry out for a few days, then replant in soil.

Plants make great stress relievers. The clones make great gifts for friends...and they are free! It is strangely rewarding to watch them grow. You might collect so many that you will have to make a 'green curtain' as i have done in my washroom. Installed a few shelves in front of the windown instead of those nasty dirt-collecting venetian blinds:

A great source for all house plants is a book called 'The House Plant Expert' by D.G. Hessayon. 

GET THIS...the best part....NASA conducted a study in the 1980's that showed that houseplants help to purify air inside due to chemicals that offgas from building materials for decades. For a 2000 square foot home, fifteen large plants will take care of formaldehyde, benzene, and Trichloroethylene that exist in insulation, paints, adhesives and varnishes. Since I live in approximately 600 square feet, I guess my forty something plants cover all toxins.


  1. Your apartment is full of wonderful things :) Is the cutting you gave us from the jade plant? Looks like it, just hard to imagine it turning into a tree like that! Better get trimming...

  2. Start pruning! Patience is key for those succulents...I have started a green wandering jew for you...the roots are already strong! If you like i also have a few purple stems on the go.

  3. Awesome, thanks! I'm definitely feeling inspired by all your zany plants!

  4. Marnie! I love your plant catalog! Ever had a caladium, before? Just got one, and it is drooping like mad! (looked online and it looks like a fairly common problem, but no one really has any solutions....) any thoughts?

  5. Melodie: Yep..I have the green and white one. I keep it in the shadier part of the house and dont let it get too wet. The older, bigger leaves fade like white tissue paper and collapse. From what i have observed, this is just natural for leaves to die off. PS...did you read that swiss cheese leaves unfurl WITH holes! only a young plant has no holes (and middle aged ones have both).

  6. Hmmm...maybe I'm keeping mine too wet...I'll work on it. And yes, I know that Swiss Cheese leaves are supposed to have holes in them from the get go...I don't know why mine isn't doing that either!!