Connie Moorelarge pink bloom 

Ginger ale in cut flowers. Epsom salts in the watering can. Rusty nails in African violet pots. Odd remedies perhaps, but the results can be amazing.

For years, gardeners have been using household products to boost the growth and blooming of houseplants. A woman in California uses water drained from soaking bean sprouts to boost her Christmas cactus. She eats the sprouts, the cactus drinks the water.

A local reader of my newspaper column informed me she puts pencil shavings from her children’s pencil sharpener on top of the soil around her houseplants. She claims it repels aphids and mites. Another reader works a spoonful of used coffee grounds in the soil of large houseplants such as pothos, dracaena and ferns to keep the soil loose, much like our mulching the garden.

We try these ideas whenever possible, enjoying houseplants, knowing they make a valuable contribution to a healthy, pleasant home. We’ve had a wide variety of plants throughout the years. Some do well, others don’t.



My grandmother always kept African violets. For years we tried them to no avail. Then a friend whose windowsills were overflowing with blooming violets mentioned that her pots had rusty nails in them. Rifling through cans of rusted nails in the garage, we planted them in the violets. The violets thrived, blooming almost continually.





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