Tag Archives: houseplants

The little lemon that could 

You may recall my little improved Meyer lemon tree that has been struggling in my Zone 5B home. I originally bought it at the end of the summer in 2013, looking sickly and weary. I nursed it back to some health that year and watched it almost die over the winter. But it scraped through. Summer rolls around and it does quite well on my stoop, but the indoor air, dry with our heaters and quite dark, doesn’t seem to do it much good. Interestingly, this year we brought it in and left it right near the front door where it got about 4-5 hours of decent light, not great, and it did well until about January. Then the leaf drop started. I’m not sure if something changed or if it was just a delayed reaction, but I think the plant – and me as a result – went into panic mode. I set up a little grow light corner, and though the plant continued to drop leaves for another week, I think it’s loving the light. It’s coming back with a vengeance. If I can keep this lemon plant thriving in my dark, dry Pittsburgh apartment, I will consider it one of my greatest victories yet. 


Propagating herbs, or, How to turn one plant into ten

I, probably like most of you, love a good pesto. The tastes of fresh basil, pine nuts and garlic come together in a smooth , green paste that coats each piece of pasta in a rich cloak of flavor – ah, what a glorious meal.

But who has that much basil lying around? You could buy it. But store bought basil is usually wilted, covered with pesticides, and expensive. Or you could grow it yourself. But giving one plant a haircut might give you enough pesto to feed your baby. Or your goldfish.

What if I have five or six plants, you might ask me. And I’d tell you that’s a great idea. Herbs can be hard to grow from seed, though. Plants can be expensive to buy. And ultimately, nothing will give you the satisfaction of growing your own plants, we all know that.

Propagating herbs like basil is easy – a piece of cake, really. It’s as simple as cutting a stem, putting it in water and then planting it.

Last year we had multiple basil plants – Thai basil and genovese. Over the winter, we took some cuttings and tried to keep them alive. Sometime during January, we lost most of them – but one little sweet basil survived in my neighbor’s house. Now it’s overgrowing its pot so S took a couple of cuttings and sat them in a glass of water in the windowsill. As expected, they grew lovely roots. Now we’ve got two nice little potted basil plants that look thrilled to be alive.

We also bought basil plants this year, a cinnamon basil and a Thai basil. A mistake I made last year was to not pinch off the stems early enough or often enough. Pinching off encourages more side shoots, leading to bushy growth and ultimately, more herbs for your cooking. As I was pinching off, I found myself with a bunch of basil stems and nowhere to put them. It wasn’t enough to cook with, but composting them seemed like a big waste. I popped them in a glass of water, and lo and behold – roots!


They are now happily potted up, sitting in my kitchen window. The parent plants are sending out plenty of new growth, I have 4 new plants, and they smell fantastic.

Propagating your herbs is an inexpensive, quick way to multiply your plants. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Make sure you pinch or cut neatly without crushing the stem. Also make sure that you cut right above a leaf node, where one stem meets two leaves. This ensures that the plant sends out two shoots in the place of one. And be patient – roots can take a week or two to grow.

What plants do you propagate?


Sprouting onion in the pantry

We’ve all been there. We buy a bag of onions, leave it in a dark place, and next time you look, it’s trying to grow a new onion!

This happened to us the other day. Usually I’d either chop it up and cook it or toss it in the compost, but this time I thought I’d give it a fighting chance.


I took off the edible parts and tossed it in a curry (maybe I’ll share the recipe later, it came out great) and stuck the rest of it in a pot of water in the window sill. A couple of days later I stuck the whole thing, roots and shoots included, into a pot of soil that also has a spring onion bulb in it.

I have no idea what will happen to it. It may grow spring onions, it may grow a new bulb, it may grow a flower, or it may not grow at all. I won’t know until I try.

So here goes , onion. Show me what you got.


Hang on, little lemon!

Last summer, after endless hours of fruitless (get it?) window shopping online, I finally gave in to the urge and bought a sickly little discount improved Meyer lemon tree. It was late in the season, so I thought it may or may not make it, but why not give it a fighting chance, right?

As soon as I brought it home from the store, it started dropping leaves. It held on, though, and even gave us a few sweet little white blossoms. I kept it outside as long as I could but it finally just got way too cold and I had to bring the little guy in.

Well, grow lights and dry air did their magic and the poor little plant dropped every last leaf and 3 of four lemons. I almost gave up – how is a plant supposed to photosynthesize without any leaves, right?

Here it is now, fighting the good fight. Reader, I think this little guy just might survive.

Look at that little leafbud!