Old plants in general, or heirloom houseplants more specifically are a topic you might have heard me mention before. Quite a few years ago, I wrote about peoples’ plant stories – basically their connections with particular plants in their homes. After that, a group of us on social media started a group and a hashtag to celebrate these heirloom houseplants further (#heirloomhouseplants), or plants with histories.
Today’s post is the second instalment of a 2 Part blogpost. Here in Part 2 I will be sharing more about my own heirloom houseplants and the stories of the oldest plants in my collection.
In Part 1, I offered some tips on how you can go about acquiring some old/heirloom houseplants of your own. I also went through some key pointers to implement which will help with bringing such plants into your home. I’ll link that here in case you missed it, or if you want to read that first.
Some of my heirloom houseplants
These are only a portion of my ‘old houseplant gang’ but are some of my favourites! I’ve included their stories to help elucidate how acquiring plants in this way can add a richness and sense of connection to your collection. This is without doubt, one of the most enjoyable aspects of growing houseplants for me.
Around 7 years ago, I dug up a handful of Oxalis corms from a relatives garden. At the time, they thought it was a bit of an eccentric choice for a pot plant, but let me dig away regardless! I had a balcony garden at the time, so planting them in a pot was my only option. Over the 5 years I lived in that place, I would enjoy the burst of purple foliage and delicate flowers that would burst to life every Spring. During this time, I slowly grew my Oxalis stock by dividing up the corms annually. Last Summer I think I had about 5 pots in total!
These plants have become pretty popular on social media as a houseplant in recent years, but for me, I love it outside on my doorstep. There are a few Oxalis posts on House Plant House, which I’ll link here.
Aspidistra Elatior ‘Okame’
Regular readers are likely to be aware of my love for the humble Aspidistra and over the years I have got hold of two of these variegated ‘Okame’ cultivars. One came to me by way of an old friend and plant shop customer and the other I bought from a division of a very old plant – which was over 100 years old, and from a Chapel!
In the UK at least, these variegated plants are quite rare. In general, Aspidistra are sometimes difficult to source and can be comparatively expensive. This is due to their slow growth habit. As such, these are a houseplant I’d always recommend looking out for when searching for old plants to acquire! They are resilient and tolerate periods of neglect so you might well find one that’s been in the corner of someones’ room for many years.
Chlorophytum comosum Spider plant
The story of my Spider plant collection begins in a little village in West Wales. A work colleague brought me a tiny Spider plantlet from home when I was writing my PhD thesis. She knew I was spending a lot of time at my work desk and that I had a growing plant collection. As a fellow plant lover, her work desk and windowsill was also strewn with plants! This little cutting rooted on my desk as I grappled with my studies and I soon potted it up.
Over the following 8 years, this once diminutive plant has flourished. I’ve lost count how many plants I’ve grown from the runners it diligently produces! I’ve shared them lots in this time too, including the plants above – the one on the left is mine and on the right was the plant I propagated for my nan. Her bungalow had lovely light and this mantlepiece was the perfect place and her Chlorophytum. After she passed away a few years ago I inherited it back again, so it’s come full circle. These are plants that are nostalgic to me as I always associate with them growing up. My grandparents always had a few growing in their old house and I find them such a cheerful plant to grow!
The most important of my heirloom houseplants is my Aspidistra elatior collection. These plants are very important to me as they also came from my grandparents house. Grandpa was a keen gardener and this Aspidistra was growing in the corner of their home for as long as I can remember! If you are a regular reader, I’m sure you’ll have heard me declare my love for these plants before. This week I took some updated photos to show you how they are looking. Just look at those leaves! The colour is probably my favourite shade of ‘houseplant green’ too.
These are all divisions of Nan and Grandpa’s plant and my mum has some too now. The smaller gold pot (below left) is a division I made from the original division I made back in 2017. I love how this little pot looks and it makes a sculptural table top plant on a more unusual scale that is customary with these.
Mother of millions
Alongside one of my variegated Aspidistras, this is another plant that has a connection with a Chapel! I find this peculiarity serendipitous because I’m currently renovating one to live in. For this reason, bringing this plant to live in my Chapel from another – via an apartment and a cottage along the way – feels quite poignant. It’s certainly deepened my connection with this plant when I think about it through this narrative too. Old plants that are woven with stories are always worth celebrating, I think.
This one came from my friend Craig a couple of Christmas’s ago, who lives in a Chapel in Wales. I remember seeing these growing on his windowsill and as we were leaving, he handed me one to take home. You might know this plant as a Kalanchoe daigremontiana, Mother of Millions, Mexican Hat Plant, Alligator plant, Devil’s Backbone or Bryophyllum daigremontiana. Despite periods of bad positioning in the cottage, this plant is settling in to the Chapel and enjoying life. As you can see, it’s a chaotic looking pot with lots of personality. It’s pretty much taken over the windowsill!
As these plants mature, it’s common for the stems to drop down with their weight. The photos below show this happening just after I’d moved in and there was so much going on I neglected it somewhat. A few weeks later, it had sorted itself out and started growing back up!
Over the last few weeks, I have noticed two flower stalks appearing which are going to be beautiful. Here is how one is currently looking, alongside lots of plantlets scattered across the windowsill! I fully intend to give this some attention and work on propagating some of these plantlets – the easiest way to multiply your collection some more, hence it’s common name – mother of millions!
As I hope this post has revealed, plants are living things with histories and stories to tell. These old or even heirloom houseplants can help to encourage us to foster more meaningful connections with the things we grow. Our homes can provide the backdrop for the next chapter in the stories of these plants. Alongside our care and the obvious essentials of light, water and nutrients of course!
Hope you enjoyed celebrating some old plants with me in today’s post! I’ll link one of the related blogposts here if you fancy reading more about this subject. You might also enjoy another piece I wrote too – A mindful approach to keeping houseplants. I’ll also link Heirloom Houseplants Part 1 here if you would like to refer back to it.
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