The Great Houseplant Repotting Frenzy 2019

by Marina Ingrit


It’s been hot here and difficult to get into the garden during the daytime, so in the interim, I’ve been repotting, refreshing, and propagating houseplants. I’m determined to give every single one their time this month, but they are legion. The process is laborious, but necessary as ill health over the last 4 years has meant that most of my plants haven’t been receiving the attention they require. They say, “Make hay when the sun shines.” And so while I feel up to it, I am making mine, and because plants beget more plants, I am also making more.

Clockwise left to right: Pickle Plant (Kleinia stapheliiformis), an aloe I grew from seed (I forget which one and the tag rubbed off), aloe ‘Pink Blush’, Sansevieria ehrenbergi ‘Samurai’

Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate Soldiers’

String of Turtles (Peperomia prostrata)

I keep predominantly succulents and cacti. That’s because this place is heated by forced air dry in the winter months and it’s just not suitable for many of the humidity-sensitive tropicals I used to keep in the apartment. I could run extra humidifiers, but I’m not big on struggling against the growing conditions I have. It was easier to let go of the plants that languished here and refocus my attentions toward those that prefer it dry. There are still times when I miss the wacky, oestentaious African violets I had grown from leaf cuttings; the episcias, the gorgeous red bananas that I just couldn’t overwinter without putting out more effort than I wanted… man, I had some cool plants…

Silver Squill (Ledebouria socialis)

Madagascar Jewel (Euphorbia leuconeura)in bloom

But still, the range of plants that like it dry is large and varied. I particularly lean toward weird euphorbia, agave, sansevieria, opuntia, and then a sub-category of fasciated (crested) specimens. But let’s face it, I like plants, and because the world is chalk-full of interesting ones, so is my home. I’ve never done a count because things come and go so frequently, but the number of plants that come inside for the winter falls somewhere inside the 100-200 range. I do not want for plants. Except that I always do.

Unfortunately, this place is dry AND dark. Most of the number mentioned above need full sun, so the use of space in this house is very unbalanced. There are no plants in the middle, just a few on the north side, and then, each winter, I pack as much as 60 into my south-facing office window, a bunch more are confined to a lighting system in the basement, and those that are half hardy cram into the covered and unheated porch that functions as my “cold greenhouse.”

Living room terrariums and cloches looking out to more plants on the front porch. You can also faintly see some of my vintage bottle collection that I use for flower and leaf cuttings and stem propagation.

With the help of electric light I could make a few exceptionally shade-tolerant tropicals work in the middle areas, if not for the dryness. That said, after nearly a decade in this space, I am considering giving it a go. It feels weird to sit in rooms without foliage. We’ve removed the television from the living room since it hasn’t been turned on in months, and already there is more light and space. I’ve given some of my terrariums centre stage and am starting to consider which big-leaved or trailing plants I can bring in.

The full window in my office as of today. Normally, there is no air conditioner here and in the winter months I manage to cram in 60 plants, some of which are trees. There are also hanging baskets overhead not seen.


Here’s some photos of my office window taken yesterday. Since it is the summer, most plants are currently on sabbatical outside, luxuriating in sun and rain. It’s a coin toss every year. Who will get to make the trip outdoors? I feel badly for those who don’t make it. Here’s the part of the story where I cry about how much I long to live in a warmer or more temperate zone that would allow these plants to stay outside year-round. But then you know I’d still stuff the indoors with plants anyways, so regardless, I need to just face that hauling pots inside and out is always going to be my tiny botanical cross to bear.

Some houseplants on the front porch. A lot of my plants look pretty butchered right now due to hard pruning. Notice the knotted geranium (Pelargonium gibbosum) that has been reduced to some sticks in a pot. The larger ‘Apple’ scented geranium in this photo is due for a hard stem cutting as well.

The good news is that in terms of progress in The Great Houseplant Repotting Frenzy 2019, I have about 4 or 5 more plants to repot from the unheated porch. There’s currently 33 in that room. It is fronted by a bank of windows and gets unbearably warm in the summer, so I take advantage and move plants there that I can’t fit outside, but are happy for the summer heat. See what I mean about forever moving plants around?


The bad news is that while I have made a very big dent, there are still several plants residing elsewhere that have not yet had the summer loving treatment. Unfortunately, last week, all of the hunching over and hauling terra cotta pots resulted in a bad neck/shoulder spasm that has gratefully, mostly resolved. However, it was a clear sign from my body that I have to slow down for the time being and be more mindful going forward.

Bad news number 2 (or is this 3?) is that all of this handling of houseplants has made me long for more plants! You’d think it would be the opposite. You’d think I would swear off adding anymore to the mayhem, but nope. I’ve been very good about staving off adding houseplants through the last number of years — I just didn’t have more energy to give. But now a switch has been turned on in my brain and it is all systems GO. Beyond making plans for the living room, I’m craving more hoyas and peperomias. I have a few that have done well in here. By luck, the ones I have seem to tolerate the mix of high summer humidity indicative of this region, and dry winters inside the house. At this point, plants that prefer less than full sun are my best option as the many euphorbia, succulents, and cacti I so love have commandeered all prime light seats in this house. With any luck I just might be able to bring some green life to the darker corners.

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