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Indoor Plants for Old Cold Farmhouse

 
Posts: 41
Location: Ontario zone 4b/5a
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I don't know very much about indoor plants, but with long winters I really want more greenery in my house! I do have a couple plants (don't know what kind), that are in need of some tlc but have been doing ok.

Here's my challenge:

Large temperature swings

More info:
Cold winters, hot summers. I live in an old farmhouse without consistent heating throughout the house. We have propane, but it's way too expensive to run all the time as the duct work isn't very good and the house isn't efficient enough in heat retention. So we heat with wood and supplement with propane and electric heaters in the bedrooms at night.
In winter, the rooms can have pretty big temperatures swings depending on the time of day or whether or not someone is home to heat the house. (~ 7C-21C / 45F-70F )
I'd love to have plants in the bathroom for instance but it can get cold in there and I don't know if there are any plants that can handle those two conditions. I have windows on every side of the house, though only one large bay window on the eat side, so I think most places would be indirect sunlight for all or most of the day, especially in the winter.


So, does anyone have some suggestion I could look into?
 
Posts: 380
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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The Vines for Full to Partial Shade thread might have some pointers.
I think Hardy Kiwi is an exciting addition if it would work.
 
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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I am a bit of a plant nut and so I have tended to have my house "full" of plants through out the winter.


Some things that I have come up with over the years that may be useful to you.  I like to eat greens, by mid winter I am really looking forward to spring for more fresh greens.  Eventually I realized that a lot of our root crops are actually quite well designed to such purposes.

Some things that will grow quite well in winter without a lot of light and in pretty low temps...

Turnip, just put a turnip in a little soil in a window or on a counter and will grow a bunch of leafy greens, taste about like spinach...

Beets, the same as above but a different flavor.

Carrots, when you see carrots sprouting at the top in the fridge just put it in some soil and let the greens grow, tastes similar to parsley

Daikon radish, greens similar to spinach

Garlic clove, great tasting greens

Onion, great onion flavored greens.

Most all of our root crops also have edible greens that grow fairly well from the root in winter in the house, my house is commonly in the 40F degree range and it seems to have no negative effect upon these plants.

I have also grown winter beans in the house a few times, that was cool having bean vines growing across the ceiling, the plant did not produce a lot I got less than a plate of beans but it was cool.

I had some really sprouted potatoes that I put in a planter box about a month and 1/2 ago, they are now three feet tall in the bay window in the dining room.

My house is also full of aloes, I bought a tiny little aloe for the wife for our anniversary back in like 2003 and the plant eventually grew to about 4 feet tall, now I have about 6 of that size and several hundred smaller ones. These are the tree aloes from South Africa, they can handle temps in the 40's and even into the 30's a bit.

I also have Christmas cactus in my house, the cold temps actually help to stimulate them to bloom.

I was given a pot of three jade trees about ten years ago and now I have two 4 foot jade trees and hundreds of small jades.  These also flower if exposed to cold temps in the 40's.

Another succulent that I have done well with is Kalonchoe, I started with a couple tiny dying plants a woman gave me and now my house is full of hundreds of large plants.  These are pretty amazing, they have masses of bright orange pretty flowers that start flowering in about December/January and stay in bloom until about August September.

I also have something called pregnant onions, someone gave me these tiny three little plants looked grass and now I have many gigantic plants with leaves that grow up to 6 feet in length or so from softball sized onion looking bulbs.  They are not even related to onions and are quite toxic, but a pretty plant that is easily cared for and deals with some cold.

I have many other plants in the house and have grown many many more over the years, but this a few that might give you some ideas..
 
Roy Long
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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Second try, image hosting is not what it used to be...  Trying to learn how to do it...

This is our momma aloe that all of our aloes originate from.



This the potatoes that I planted here a while back, they are already flowering, that is cool...




Here is a beet I put in the box about 2 to 3 weeks ago.  It is missing a few leaves as I have been munching on them...



Here is one of the turnips planted in here about 4 weeks ago, it is missing a whole lot of foliage as I quite enjoy the spinach flavor..









 
Roy Long
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
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These are the Kalonchoes I was talking about.  Usually I have a thick mass of them but I had to clean some out of this planter box as it was getting wayyyy to overgrown.  still gives an idea of what they look like though, I find them quite appealing in the middle of winter looking out the window at all that snow...





One of the larger size jade trees from the 3 original little six inch plants I got in trade for one of our giant aloes years ago...

 
Nicky McGrath
Posts: 41
Location: Ontario zone 4b/5a
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This is awesome Roy, thank you!
 
Posts: 56
Location: Western Oregon (Willamette Valley), 8a/8b
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forest garden foraging rabbit chicken cooking homestead
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I have a drafty old farm house and a love of plants - here are a few things that have done well for me. Most of mine are in east-facing windows as those get the best light at our location. I especially love things that are easy to propagate or are cheap/easy/free to acquire as they let me test out different areas of the house to see where they do best without feeling as bad if I kill them sometimes.

Hoya - there are many vaireties with the most well-known being H. carnosa - aka wax plant or porcelain flower - a classic "bullet-proof" houseplant with succulent-like vines and shiny, dappled leaves that doesn't mind temperature swings as long as it has a chance to acclimate itself. Nostalgic and fitting for an old house as it was a popular victorian houseplant. Likes indirect light. Very easy to propagate from cuttings. Likes to be a bit root bound. If you have a hoya, don't trim the vines unless its getting out of hand - they grow naked-looking woody peduncles and retain them year after year, developing their flowers there when it's time to bloom. They also grow with long inter-nodes on the vines between leaves and then fill in as they mature so trimming them to get them to "bush out" is a bit counterproductive.


A lot of cacti and succulents are fairly cold hardy, just look up details on the species and where it's native to. There are infinite variations and they are very easy to grow, just get them some well draining soil and a windowsill and you're good to go. Mine occupy the windowsills and spots where light is too bright or temperature swings are too much for other houseplants.


Begonia rex comes with a ton of cool leaf variations. It's a tuberous plant that likes shallow, open pots and medium lighting. While it likes a little more moisture than some things, over-watering will quickly kill it. I let mine dry out between waterings and water again only when the leaves start to droop a bit and the soil feels dry down part the roots.  It can be finicky about low humidity but I find misting helps, ours is on the same side of the room as our woodstove and does fine as long as it gets misted now and again. A lot of people grow it outdoors here as an annual ornamental so it's easy to find discounted ones at the end of the season. It's easy to propagate from cuttings so you can often snag a leaf if you see one you like while you're out and about. This goes for coleus too.


I don't tend to mess with anything that likes higher humidity than that, like ferns, because our air gets pretty dry in the winter. Luckily many things tolerate it well and even thrive. Keep an eye out for what you see growing in other people's homes and businesses and if you see something you like in similar conditions to yours, you can always ask for propagation material! This is where 99% of my houseplants have come from. Also read about historically popular houseplants, they were popular in times when homes were draftier and didn't have consistent heating so it fits your situation quite well.

If your light is good enough and you have something like a 16" pot you could even try something "crazy" like cherry tomatoes. Or really any perennial or semi-perennial plant that tends to be grown as an annual because of winter temps, is a good candidate for trying out indoors in northern climates. They won't produce like they would if they were outside, but people who say it can't be done at all, or that you need fancy grow lights, would be surprised what plants are capable of. They're very resilient!
 
Rebecca Rosa
Posts: 56
Location: Western Oregon (Willamette Valley), 8a/8b
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forest garden foraging rabbit chicken cooking homestead
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Also, Nicky, if you feel like posting photos we might be able to ID the plants you've already got.
 
Nicky McGrath
Posts: 41
Location: Ontario zone 4b/5a
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I'm excited :). I'm going to carry a list of plant names so I can snag something if I see it!


Rebecca, that reminds me about years ago when I was in uni, I had a pepper plant in a pot and it got left in our sun porch. Figured it was dead, but noticed leaves sprouting in February lol. Brought it inside and it flowered, I pollinated it myself and it grew some peppers...though I don't remember if they got big enough to eat.

 
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