Plant Speed Date: Spathiphyllum

(Plant Speed Date is a series in which I attempt to introduce you, the reader, to as many plants as possible in a short period.)

Hello, My Name Is: Spathiphyllum spp.

My Friends Call Me: Peace lily

Turn ons: Medium to rich well-drained soil, high humidity, shade

Turn offs: Full sun, dry air, crowded roots

What I Do For a Living: Hang out in your house, bask in the tropical shade (USDA Zones 10-11), improve your air quality, look pretty

My Best Features Are: It’s a toss-up between my lovely white flowers and my striking dark green foliage, darling. But you don’t have to choose – keep me happy and I’ll give you both.

My Exes Would Tell You I:

  • Poisoned their cat. Like all the worst lies, this one is half true. Despite my common name, I’m unrelated to those dreadful Liliaceae – that family of cat murderers. I’m one of the Araceae family and proud to be so. That said, cats that dare to chew on my lovely leaves tend to experience some stomach upset. It’s best for both of us if we’re kept apart, really.
  • Am a diva about dryness. True, if harsh. I love my humidity. The closer to 80 percent, the better. Also, if I don’t have enough to drink, I’ll simply become too limp to stand. It’s not drama, it’s communication, dear.
  • Don’t mind being rootbound. I absolutely do. What do you think I am, a common hoya? Just divide me out every spring and share my glory with your friends.
  • Scratched their DVDs. I’d put them back in the case if I had opposable thumbs, STEPHANIE.

How to Make Me Yours: Many local nurseries and florists carry my kind. Or find a friend with one and ask for a bit. (I do not take well to being “propagated,” like some members of my family. Pothos, I’m looking at you.)

Fund future plant speed dates here.

Plant Speed Date: Vinca minor

(Plant Speed Date is a series in which I attempt to introduce you, the reader, to as many plants as possible in a short period.)

Hello, My Name Is: Vinca minor

My Friends Call Me: Periwinkle, myrtle

Turn ons: Medium to rich well-drained soil, average moisture, shade

Turn offs: Full sun, being told to keep my runners to myself

What I Do For a Living: Make a fabulous ground cover (USDA Zones 4-9), fill weird shady holes that would otherwise go bare, make deer look for something else to eat, conquer my foes by spreading throughout an entire shaded lawn or wooded area.

My Best Features Are: The cute little flowers I produce in spring. Usually they’re blue-purple, but I offer varieties you wouldn’t believe. Also, I’m smaller and tougher than my big sister, Vinca major.

My Exes Would Tell You I:

  • Killed their lawn. A total lie – grass doesn’t even like the kind of places I love to grow.
  • Refused to leave after multiple attempts at eviction. Totally true. There’s no getting rid of me, but why would you want to? I’m your woodland true love, baby. My only real enemy is glyphosate, but who wants that in their yard? Not us!
  • Bloom for like five minutes a year. It’s not MY fault you don’t pay attention when I’m telling you spring is coming. Next time, stop ogling that daffodil with the big pistils.
  • Stole their car. Pfft, don’t leave the keys in the ignition next time, BRAD.

How to Make Me Yours: Find a patch some neighbor has planted and grab some runners in the spring. (Asking permission is nice, I guess – I never ask permission for anything.) Or buy plants at a local nursery.

Fund future plant speed dates here.

I’m Doing Gladiolas Wrong

Don’t tell mine.

Gladioli, aka “sword lilies,” are delightfully showy bulb plants that take over my garden and wow my neighbors every late summer and fall. Despite the name, they’re more closely related to irises than lilies. My parents planted mine here about fifteen years ago, and they’ve been going strong ever since.

Turns out we’ve been growing them wrong the entire time.

Image: Blog title image, featuring pink flowers and the title of the post.

According to every book on perennials I own, gladioli are hardy to USDA Zone 8. Maybe Zone 7, if you’re heavy-handed with the mulch. In these zones, you can leave their roots (known as “corms”) in the ground year-round. If you live in Zone 6 or aren’t hot on mulching in Zone 7, however, all the experts warn that your gladioli corms will die of freezation if you don’t dig them, clean them, and store them in a non-freezing garage or basement over the winter.

I have never dug a gladiolus corm in my life.

That’s not actually true; I dug a few to thin them this fall.

Image: a brown bulbous plant corm sitting on a pile of soil.

(A “corm” is a swollen stem used to store plant sustenance. This makes it technically different from a “bulb,” which is a swollen root used to store plant sustenance. Now you know.)

I also learned from The Experts(TM) that plants that grow from corms, like gladioli, crocuses, and windflowers, don’t keep the same corm year to year. They grow one or more new corms and shed the old ones. While digging gladiolus corms to store them, one is supposed to remove the old corm.

Image: A reddish new gladiolus corm, sitting on top of its dark brown, somewhat rotted-looking old corm.

I have never done this either.

What I have done is watched my gladioli bloom profusely each year, deadheaded them daily in August and September, and occasionally thinned them when they’ve gotten extra hot on making baby corms. What I was supposed to have done, apparently, is to dig them up, give them a nice mani-pedi, and put them up in a luxury hotel for six months.


Don’t tell my gladioli.

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