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Not-killing houseplants. Aloe seems brown thumb friendly. What else?

 
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Put a plant in the ground and it grows like stink, but try to grow some houseplants and poof!  Somehow I cannot keep them alive for more than a month or two.  

This year, I decided I wanted to get better at growing houseplants.  When I ordered my herbs, I also got a tiny aloe vera pup and put it in a pot.  Mostly I ignore it except to move it to a different window as the seasonal light changes.  Sometimes it gets watered.  This time of year, I have to put a light on it because we often get days with Zero sunlight (it's so dark we have trouble getting the chickens out of bed without artificial light).  

And for some reason, it grows.

It has been living with me since spring and it's still not dead yet!  

Anyway, I found this fun video on Aloe care.  



It's pretty neat in that it has recommendations for mixing the right soil and how not to kill the plant.  Although, given how fast my fella is growing, I'm a bit worried about the 100cm height thing.  I thought aloes were table-top plants.  

Here's a picture of my little (or not so little - he keeps growing) guy.  The solar panel runs the LED grow light at night.  

aloe-small.JPG
aloe is brown-thumb friendly
aloe is brown-thumb friendly
 
r ranson
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Any other suggestions for Brown-thumb friendly house plants?
 
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If it's an Aloe vera (other types of aloes may vary) it literally needs next to no light.
My office is like the portrait of the survivors: snake plant, prayer plant, peace lily, and a Zamioculcas. I take them outside every two weeks for a weekend where they get water and indirect sun, and for the rest of the time they stay in a dark corner. And they're happy.
 
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Snake plant or mother in law tongue is a very easy plant so are spider plants. A favorite of mine is Kaffir Lilly ( clivia miniata). I think the most common problem people have with house plants is watering them too much, they just don't need it during the short days inside, especially if it is on the cool side in the house. That's extra true with the clivia. They come form dry shady places in South Africa and flat don't need any direct light at all. I keep them in dense shade under trees in summer and if dry at the time I bring them in I water them good and not more than twice again till time to go back out the next spring. I also like various Christmas cactus and night blooming Epiphyllum or night blooming cereus. While inside it is better I think to let these dense leaved plants actually start to pucker up from dryness than to keep them watered.

The woman here won't let me do it anymore cause she thinks is weird but I used to enjoy cutting up chunks of sod in the fall and putting it in shallow trays in the windows to see what grows. You'd be surprised at the variety of outside plants and bugs are perfectly happy on the windowsill.
 
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I do poorly with house plants...I've killed aloe even and the most recent casualty was a beautiful snake plant that 'someone' must have overwatered as it just fell over one day with all of it's roots rotted.  I have had no luck with cuttings from it either.

I think I don't do well with those plants that are sensitive too too much water as that is the case with aloe and snake....I used to have a nice jade plant but I think our house got too cold and I overwatered.

What does well for me here in a kind of coolish house with sporadic care is my peace lily.  I've cut it back completely some winters and stuck it under the sink, bringing it out in the spring and it leafs out beautifully.  It will grow in standing water or just normal moisture either one.

I have a few little starts of some of those  normal looking house plants  that I try every few years because everyone tells me they are easy but I'm not going to get attached as I don't know if they will make it or not.....one is a spider plant, 'easy' I know but we've been there before.....
 
r ranson
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yeh, keeping spider plants alive... um...

I go to the garden shop and ask for plants I cannot kill.  The list of "easy" plants are all ones I've killed more than once.  I'm such a failure with house plants.  
 
Judith Browning
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What I think it is for me is that there they are, right in plain sight all day and my instinct is to 'do' something...or at least wonder if they need something whereas the gardens, the hoop house, the orchard are places I visit maybe once a day maybe not and I see a bigger picture of their ongoing needs if any or I make a list for the next time.  Houseplants are just too intrusive when I walk by with my drinking glass of water and think that one looks thirsty so they get some water.  Or they are too close to the stove or too cold in the kitchen...they bring out my fussy side.

I'm going to follow along here in case there's something I want to try...we really love having plants around

 
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There are those "air plants" that come as a refrigerator magnet. Some cacti might work inside, as well as other succulents. Christmas Cactus is popular here. One good type of houseplant to have is something (like Aloe Vera, Christmas Cactus, Spider Plant) that can be grown from cuttings. It is easy to keep several small pots with starts in them for when the inevitable death of one plant happens, or if the roots rot off, the greens can be cut off and restarted. Not putting all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak.
 
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Yes, Aloe vera is one of the easy house plants.
I have some more. They are all species that grow mainly on light (in the window sil at almost South side). Watering only once a week, or even less, because I forget sometimes.
One problem: I don't know how you call them. So I'll show you photos:








Most of the photos were made when the plants had flowers ... which they rarely have and probably means they are not really happy ...
 
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Your first one is a mother of thousands. and a very apt name, the second is mother in laws tongue, the third is a christmas cactus and the last one is a jade/money plant. All pretty resilient and good if you are likely to forget to water them!  Well done with getting the jade plant to flower, that's a hard trick even the big botanical gardens struggle with that one.

I would suggest a phalaenopsis orchid, the ones you get everywhere, they are resistant to underwatering and because they are potted in straight bark so long as you do NOT put the pot in a container they are nearly impossible to overwater.
 
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Sad to admit, but I have even killed an air fern.  I was told it was a definately not able to be killed plant.  Nope...
 
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I also tend to kill indoor plants. I killed my aloe plant when I divided it into other soil. It didn't like that, and then I over watered it. My husband takes care of the indoor plants, and they like him. He basically neglects them until the coffee tree starts drooping and then he waters everything. We have an African Violet, Christmas Cactus, aloe (now that he waters it, it does great), spider plant, jade tree, orange tree he sprouted from seed, and some random weird purple succulent that grows entirely immersed in water (we got it 13 years ago from the florist who did our wedding flowers. It does well with total neglect in a pot with little watering. I'll try to get a picture of this thing... EDIT: pictures now attached!)
20201218_144401.jpg
Random purple succulant happily growing in my husband's aerobic fishtank water (no, I don't know why he's excited to grow anaerobes ...)
Random purple succulant happily growing in my husband's aerobic fishtank water (no, I don't know why he's excited to grow anaerobes ...)
20201218_144417.jpg
Random purple succulant. I don't even know what pot it's actually growing in. It's spread around a bunch of other pots. You can see the African Violet that's still surviving and blooms despite something like 10 years of neglect.
Random purple succulant. I don't even know what pot it's actually growing in. It's spread around a bunch of other pots. You can see the African Violet that's still surviving and blooms despite something like 10 years of neglect.
 
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The snake plant has done well for me, I've had one for at least 10 years. It has gotten mildly frozen from getting left out for first frost, sun burnt, under watered, over watered, put in spots with little light, etc. It has bounced back from all of it.
I had an aloe that was amazing, especially considering that it had been revived from just roots, no leaves. It was getting massive, but I had to leave it with a friend for a while and it died.  
I've had good luck with phalaenopsis orchids, as long as they are in bark and not sphagnum moss. The latter seems to predispose them to root rot, since they don't like wet feet.  
I recently got a maidenhair fern and it seems to be pretty easy so far.

What I think it is for me is that there they are, right in plain sight all day and my instinct is to 'do' something...or at least wonder if they need something whereas the gardens, the hoop house, the orchard are places I visit maybe once a day maybe not and I see a bigger picture of their ongoing needs if any or I make a list for the next time.  Houseplants are just too intrusive when I walk by with my drinking glass of water and think that one looks thirsty so they get some water.  Or they are too close to the stove or too cold in the kitchen...they bring out my fussy side.

I like my orchids and ferns for this. I know they don't want too much water, but they do better if they have a little humidity tray under them, which needs constant refilling. No overwatering and happy plants that way.
 
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r ranson wrote:



There are different ivys that grown great indoors.  As well as all succulents. It really comes down to not over watering and finding a happy place for each one. I had about 20 houseplants before I moved. The people watching my plants killed them all. So maybe there is a special touch needed. haha.
 
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The pothos plant is the easiest houseplant I have ever owned. It is also very easy to propagate. Whether put in a shady area, sunny area, or somewhere in between, it seems to do okay. It can also handle very little watering, or to be put straight into just water with no soil, and still be okay. It's a remarkable plant. My neighbor many years ago had a couple that he let grow and grow, which he then made a border from all around his livingroom by putting little nails up to hold the trails/branches up. It looked beautiful. You can see pictures of them in various stages on the internet. How big/bushy/long they get just depends on how often you give them a "branch-cut". I have 5 of them around my house; 2 of them drape off the side of my bookcases in the livingroom, one of them drape off of a cupboard in the diningroom, and one of them drape off of a potato bin in the kitchen. I keep the one in the kitchen small and minimal looking since I don't have much room in the kitchen. It adds a nice splash of color and life, though. Sometimes I don't water them for 3-4 weeks, but then notice that the leaves start to look a bit sad and tired. That's when I know they are very thirsty and that I have forgotten too long. I try not to let it get to that point since it stresses them to get that little water. Really, watering once every week or two seems to be ideal for them. I also like to give them a bit of fertilizer once a year or so, usually worm castings or fish emulsion when I am feeding the outside gardens, too. I really appreciate them and let them know it. That probably also helps them stay as healthy and happy as they are.
 
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I have a Tradescantia in the shower room.  The great thing about it is it grows long trailing stems that root very easily from cuttings so when it gets too big I just start off a new plant.  The same with scented leaved geraniums and Kalanchoes.  There are a lot of houseplants that look and do best when they are small.  On the other hand I love ones that are big enough to stand on the floor as they have more in reserve if they get a bit neglected.  The best one I have is a vairegated Schefflera.  We repotted the office houseplants and this one had got so big I cut the top out of it and thought hmm you never know it might root, so I took it home and shoved it in a pot and lo and behold it did... It gets hardly any light, drinks very little, and every now and then just pops out a new plasticy looking leaf.

Oh, and ferns.  I have a Nephrolepis but it's a nightmare, it keeps dropping little leaflets, but then I got Phlebodium.  Again, it looks like plastic and doesn't need much light.  I bought it reduced price from a DIY store because it was too big for its pot - shops do that, they sell a plant that looks good right that minute but is doomed for the long haul.  I hacked the old plant apart into smaller ones, thought it would kill it, but it keeps popping up a new leaf every so often.  I love watching the new leaves develop - where's that new leaf today - until the point where you can't remember which one is the new one!  
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Your first one is a mother of thousands. and a very apt name, the second is mother in laws tongue, the third is a christmas cactus and the last one is a jade/money plant. All pretty resilient and good if you are likely to forget to water them!  Well done with getting the jade plant to flower, that's a hard trick even the big botanical gardens struggle with that one.
...


Thank you for giving the names in English. My cactus is not christmassy, it flowers in November (every year). And that 'jade plant' ... I did nothing to make it flower, it just happened.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:Your first one is a mother of thousands. and a very apt name, the second is mother in laws tongue, the third is a christmas cactus and the last one is a jade/money plant. All pretty resilient and good if you are likely to forget to water them!  Well done with getting the jade plant to flower, that's a hard trick even the big botanical gardens struggle with that one.
...


Thank you for giving the names in English. My cactus is not christmassy, it flowers in November (every year). And that 'jade plant' ... I did nothing to make it flower, it just happened.



they are actually called November cacti in Danish but in English they are Christmas cacti
 
Mark Reed
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Interesting to see how many folks mentioned over watering as the bane of houseplants, just like I said earlier.

I don't know why it is so and I do not at all mean it to brag but I guess, I'm a plant whisperer. I have kept everything from barrel cactus to Edelweiss flowers as house plants. Various ferns, Phalaenopsis orchids, although I prefer Cattleya as they are often scented, Venus fly traps and pitcher plants are fun too.  All kinds of weeds like dandelions, Johnson grass, plantain, creeping charley, as well as vegetables like lettuce, radish, broccoli, sweet potatoes and lots more make fine house plants. The indoor environment is of course alien to plants but even the stubborn ones will generally come around if you just commune with them a little

My jade plant given to me by my grandmother when I was four or five bloomed profusely each fall unless weather forced me to bring it too soon in which case the flowers aborted.  I panted it my dad's garden in the spring before leaving for college because I knew mom did not want the responsibility caring for it while I was gone and by fall it was six feet tall and bloomed like crazy. I dug it up and gave it and my biggest barrel cactus to the woman that owned the flower shop in town and she killed them both, overwatering I suspect.

I have to purposely abuse some plants like the epiphyllums to keep them from going all "Little Shop of Horrors" on me, you'd be amazed at the flowers on a stunted, scabbed up, nutrient starved, root bound old epiphyllum. The flowers only last one night but you can pick them and put them in the fridge where they keep for a few days.

If you just can't help but to pour water on things or if you don't have any money to waste on things like house plants just go out and pull a chunk of moss covered bark off a dead tree and lay it in a tray. And there are a lot of plants that would root rot and croak if kept wet in soil but will grow nicely in nothing but water.  

I don't know why I have this plant whispering gift but I've grateful for it. Unfortunately nearly all of my attempts to share it with others have failed miserably.  There is more to it of course but other than stop over watering there isn't much advice I can give.  

Hi, Inge Leonora-den Ouden. Looks like you also have the gift, I love your pictures.
 
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I think the key to getting jades to flower is to let them get quite cold for a while in the fall and keep them in bright light. Ours flower every year with no effort, too.  We move most of our plants outside for the summer. In the fall, we just throw a sheet over them if there's risk of frost, maybe put a bucket of water underneath if it's supposed to be particularly cold. They don't come in until it's consistently frosty. The one that flowers best stays inside all year in a cold corner of the house with east and south facing windows.

If you're prone to overwatering plants, a rabbit's foot fern/Davallia feejensis might be easy for you. It doesn't need a lot of light and likes to stay moist. Ours only gets direct light for at most an hour of the day and only when the sun is low enough in the sky to get to the back of the room, maybe 5 or 6 months of the year.

Hoya is another good one.diesnt need much light, although with very low light it probably won't flower. More light leads to more flowers. They're fragrant at night and some people don't like the smell, though.

Peperomia obtuslifolia has been very resilient for me. I had another type of peperomia with thin, crinkly leaves that was very finicky, though. I only vouch for P. obtusifolia! Bonus - when it blooms it smells like spicy maple.

I can mail you a whole whack of cuttings if you want. PM me.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Mark Reed wrote:...
Hi, Inge Leonora-den Ouden. Looks like you also have the gift, I love your pictures.


Thank you Mark. Yes, I might be a plant-whisperer or 'have the gift'. Anyway I cannot let my plants die. I consider plants as 'living creatures'. Even if parts of plants falls on the floor (you know, some of those plants shown in my pictures, and some other I have here too, they have that habit), I put them in soil or in water so they grow roots and become new plants. And then I have something alive to give or trade.
 
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Jan White wrote:I think the key to getting jades to flower is to let them get quite cold for a while in the fall and keep them in bright light. Ours flower every year with no effort, too.  We move most of our plants outside for the summer. ...


That's probably how it happened, Jan. I put many house-plants in the garden (still in their pots) during the summer, so I can go on my bicycle touring trips and the 'plant-sitter' only has to water the plants that need to be watered.
 
r ranson
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For some reason, I've got the houseplant bug.  But trying to find something that will survive my home...

Winter: Nightime temperature is about 60F and daytime temps between 65 and 75 (depending on how much time we are spending in the house).  Although the air outside is humid, the house is generally quite dry due to the woodstove.  Dry enough I have to put the humidifier on if I want to weave with linen.  

Summer, the house is hot.  70-90F.  But putting potted plants outside means they get forgotten and not watered.  

What can survive me?  

Shall I try taking some cuttings from the olive tree and seeing if it will be my friend?  
 
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I have a confession to make: I am a serial houseplant killer. It's true. I've even killed air plants - ans silk plants. ~hangs head in shame~ I never had any trouble with growies in the ground - but put it in a container, and it's toast. I have an enormous, gorgeous aloe that was given to me, last March or April, that has miraculously survived, thus far. Every day, I approach it with trepidation, sure it will be dead. I'm not being it makes it until next summer, but right now, today, it's still very lovely and at least *looks* great.
 
r ranson
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air plants are supposed to live more than 2 months?
 
Mark Reed
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R Ranson, the conditions you describe at your house are very similar to mine. Lots of plants live here just fine but if your having trouble I highly recommend these. Clivia
They are rather exotic looking and for a bonus bloom two or three times a year. Short of letting them freeze there are only too things that will hurt them. Water, they only need it a couple times all winter inside and don't care if you forget to water them outside during a drought. The other thing they hate is direct sun, they would rather have none at all.

If you can handle giving them no direct sun, little water and temps above freezing they should do just fine for you. I have seed but recommend you buy a plant somewhere as they take 5 to 10 years to start blooming.  
 
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The only one I've lost was an Avocado I'd had for 30 years, probably from a worse window after a move.  However, on that same move, some cuttings of Swedish Ivy lived for 3 days in some damp paper towel, and are doing fine.  I think I've had that stuff live on dryer fumes for months.  I also nearly lost a Spider plant, but now can give away as many rooted babies as I want.  The Aloe Vera also seems unkillable, but in South Africa, they get over head-high.  
 
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My house sounds very similar to yours, but the temperature swings are more extreme. In the winter it's often below 10° at night or while we're at work. In the summer, it's whatever temperature it is outside, and we get hotter summers than you. On the south facing windowsills I've measured almost 50°. It's probably not as humid outside here as there, but we have the same dry woodstove air.

I have most of the plants that have been mentioned here and they all do well. You've had lots of good suggestions, and now it's just a matter of trying some out and seeing what works. Many of these plants grow easily from cuttings and are common enough to get for free from people.
 
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Have you ever thought about terrariums?

They are a great, low maintenance way to keep a few houseplants. I love the look of ferns, especially maidenhair ferns, but they can be hard to keep when life gets busy. Terrariums work great for such plants that appreciate even moisture. A terrarium in medium, indirect light can go for months without watering, provided it wasn't over-watered when first planted. It is fun to reuse glass canisters, cookie jars and candy dishes for terrarium gardens. My rule of thumb is the container has to be large enough to fit my hand inside, or else I won't bother. Old aquariums make awesome terrariums too. A piece of plexiglass cut to size can work for a lid on a 20 gallon fish tank.

I'll share a few photo examples of what I'm doing with plants and terrariums right now. First photos are my gotu kola, a tropical herb I grow outside in the summer garden. It likes moist soil. I discovered that it does pretty good indoors under glass and this is how I maintain it through the winter. This plant is in a large glass vase and is covered with an old casserole lid that I found at a second-hand store. I have another gotu kola plant that is not under glass and I've wilted it several times now.

The last photo is a classic terrarium in a candy dish with a rabbit's foot fern and oak leaf miniature fig Ficus pumila 'Quercifolia' I just planted this a few weeks ago, so it's still rooting in, but will be fun to watch grow.

Another houseplant stalwart that I don't see mentioned here is peperomia. They are vast genus of plants with lots of variety. They will do fine with less light and infrequent watering. We have a peperomia obtusifolia at work that is no where near a window and yet it has remained green for years. There is also a Marble Queen pothos in the basement office that has not seen real sunlight in 3 years. Granted, these plants don't really grow much in these locations with artificial light, but with a little water, they keep living. I've been amazed by their steady presence.  Philodendrons are similar to pothos and make good houseplants for easy care in my opinion. I love my philodendron 'Brasil'. I'll also vouch for the peace lily. In my experience, the Domino variety seems to be more resilient than other peace lily plants and it's rather pretty with it's variegation. I've wilted my plant a few times this past spring and it has bounced back beautifully (luckily) and still blooms!

One of my favorite youtubers on this subject is Summer Rayne Oakes of Homestead Brooklyn. Her youtube channel is a wealth of information and a great source of inspiration.
https://www.youtube.com/user/summerrayneoakes
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Gotu Kola in glass vase
Gotu Kola in glass vase
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Gotu Kola plant
Gotu Kola plant
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fern terrarium
fern terrarium
 
Jan White
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My mum just sent me a picture of a curly spider plant someone at work gave her and I was reminded of the fact that there are lots of plants that will live indefinitely in a glass of water just fine. My mum's old spider plant has been in a glass of water for many years. Maybe that would be something that would work for you.

I know spider plant, hoya, pothos, and Peperomia obtusifolia will all take to that method well.
 
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I have an aloe plant from about 40 years ago.  Had it in Rutgers university frat house.  Where a dog knocked a 4 inch plant.  So it was out of pot for a number of days.  20 years in NJ summer, the plant sent up a big flower + stalk!
Now 3 plants in same pot.  Here is a picture of it and a spider plant almost as old lurking to the left.  Boy we got ~1 inch of snow, with wind chill about 10°F!

Merry Christmas + A Happy New Year to all!
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We have an angle wing begonia that is 30 years old. I ignore it till it hits the ceiling and then cut it back.
 
Robert Ray
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We have an angle wing begonia that is 30 years old. I ignore it till it hits the ceiling and then cut it back.
 
Hester Winterbourne
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:
Thank you for giving the names in English. My cactus is not christmassy, it flowers in November (every year). And that 'jade plant' ... I did nothing to make it flower, it just happened.



See, the reason I often use latin names for plants is that many plants are known by different names in different parts of the world, or even in the same part of the world. Common plant names do not always translate from one language to another. And sometimes, you can have the same common name for two very different plants. I just had an example of this in another thread where I was talking about lime trees, but not the green citrus sort, the Tilia sort which are called lime trees in English as a corruption of "line" because they used to be used for making string!

But with botanic names, anyone in any country (apart from a few pronunciation differences) would know exactly what plant I was talking about, especially now we have google and you can look up what other common names they might have.  And it also gives you an idea what other plants they are related to that might be of interest to you or give you clues about looking after them.  Until the botanists decide to re-classify them with new names of course, but that's another story!
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Hester Winterbourne wrote:

Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:
Thank you for giving the names in English. My cactus is not christmassy, it flowers in November (every year). And that 'jade plant' ... I did nothing to make it flower, it just happened.



See, the reason I often use latin names for plants is that many plants are known by different names in different parts of the world, or even in the same part of the world. Common plant names do not always translate from one language to another. And sometimes, you can have the same common name for two very different plants. I just had an example of this in another thread where I was talking about lime trees, but not the green citrus sort, the Tilia sort which are called lime trees in English as a corruption of "line" because they used to be used for making string!

But with botanic names, anyone in any country (apart from a few pronunciation differences) would know exactly what plant I was talking about, especially now we have google and you can look up what other common names they might have.  And it also gives you an idea what other plants they are related to that might be of interest to you or give you clues about looking after them.  Until the botanists decide to re-classify them with new names of course, but that's another story!


You are right. The Latin names are best. But sometimes difficult to find ...
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