At first Phil the Philodendron, my once-bedraggled Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility rescue plant, didn’t mind being moved into the house for the winter. For September and most of October, his sunny upstairs conditions closely matched those of his summertime happy place on the front steps. I kept the windows open for him so that, ensconced in my office, Phil could feel the breezes and warm-enough temperatures of early fall. Every day I tell him how handsome he looks, and how much I appreciate his company.
Sweet talk hasn’t been enough. Once November hit, I closed the windows, and Phil went into a small pout. He expressed this by turning bits of himself yellow and affecting a faint. But he didn’t squander his biggest most beautiful leaves, I noticed. Just those that were already a little scraggly and weren’t doing much for the overall bold aesthetic Phil strives for.
That’s how I could tell Phil’s funk was only minor, and he doesn’t really mean to worry me. He can’t fool me, nor can he hide the two new shoots he recently sent ceiling-ward. He also allowed two roots to escape the confines of his pot with instructions to explore the braided rug and hardwood floor beneath, and report back. That’s not the behavior of a houseplant that’s giving up.
Phil doesn’t have it so bad, as I remind him. For one thing, he’s kept properly hydrated. Watering Phil during the cold months is a very different proposition than during summer. When he’s outside enjoying the sunshine and sending up multiple shoots per week, Phil needs daily watering. Once inside, his water rations are doled out to but once per week. I take care of that on big grocery day—feed the family, feed Phil. As a memory technique, it works.
Don’t tell Phil, but I’ve recently been dallying with other plants. Uncle Jerry from Dorchester over the summer gave me a clipping of an unusual, spindly sort of houseplant. After a few months in a container of water, its root system has sprouted and seems ready for something more substantial. This weekend’s project: finding a suitable pot and letting its roots run free in a lightweight potting medium. (“Why not a potting large?” Swellesley Junior would ask.)
Also, I’ve decided that the spider plant is no longer happy on the kitchen shelf and needs a new home.
Next up: fussing around with winter bulbs. I just found the most wonderful amaryllis at the grocery store. That one’s for Uncle Jerry, pandemic-bound in Dorchester, but in good spirits and surrounded by his massive collection of well-tended plants. There’s always room for one more in Jerry’s front parlor. Mr. Swellesley is heading into Dot soon to take in Jerry’s collection of garden ornaments for the winter. No doubt he’ll send Bob home with another interesting clipping for me. A Christmas Cactus, I’ll bet. Even though Jerry knows I always somehow kill those. This time I’ll try extra-hard not to squander his faith in me. But no promises.
Knowledgable plantswoman KC emailed to identify the above plant for me. Turns out Uncle Jerry gave me a clipping of Hoya. KC informs me that “it loves to be neglected.”
I see a long and happy future for Hoya and me.
A little background on Phil…
- Subscribe to Swellesley’s daily email
- Please consider contributing to Swellesley to sustain our independent journalism venture