Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Personal Growth with Houseplants

a green leafed houseplant with orange flowers that resemble gold fish

Hello fellow readers, Those who tune into the podcast version of our column know I’ve mentioned the idea of sharing the history of houseplants enjoyed for decades. Well, I finally tackled it, and it turned into a story about personal growth with houseplants.

It occurs to me there are many more plants than space to share. And some come from broken relationships that may be a tad intimate. But hey, we’ve known each other for close to ten years of column chats, so I’m diving in.

a terra-cotta pot with two browned cactus sprouting three babies below

My forty-year-old cactus sprouting babies

A cactus was gifted with subliminal intentions…

The oldest houseplant, a cactus, was given by a suitor in my early 20s. It arrived with a one-inch round cactus on each side of a six-inch center plant—a gift, no doubt, with a subliminal intention. Let’s just say he left, but the cactus stayed.

Over the years, the center plant died, and the two babies grew to two-foot-tall twin towers. Their sides are browning now, but three adorable babies emerged below them.

 …leads to personal growth.

There’s much more to the story that resulted in a broken heart, but I grew to learn I am worthy of being treated as a priority. It did take many years, I’ll admit. But we are ALL worthy of being treated as a priority.

a bookshelf with a spider plant wiht green and cream variegated leaves and baby plants cascading below

The Momma Spider Plant – Chlorophytum comosum

While the cactus may be the oldest, the momma of my spider plants takes the badge of honor of coming into my life first, bought for the studio apartment when funding my way through the Fashion Institute of Technology. Thankfully I found my way into the fashion of plants instead.

I vividly remember an asparagus fern that I bought along with the spider plant. I asked the elderly florist for care and feeding instructions. He suggested putting the fern in the bathroom after a steamy shower as they love humidity.

“I wish I were in asparagus fern,” he said with a big grin.

Spider Plants never stop giving. 

Spider plants shoot out stems of babies, plentifully so, that dangle like ornaments. I love the striped variegated foliage — the babies are mini versions of their mom. It’s best if you plant them before their umbilical cord dries — there have been many gifted babies over the years. The drapery fabric chosen for the library compliments their foliage, a muted cream, and green stripe.

a Christmas cactus on a table with hot pink blooms

After a rainy summer spent outside, my Christmas Cactus blooms once again.

Rainwater restores the Christmas Cactus.

There’s a Christmas cactus that came with a husband-to-be over two decades ago. It was sickly and neglected when we first met. New soil and a little loving care rebounded the beauty.

It declined again years later, but a summer left out on a garden bench rejuvenated it once again, teaching the lesson of how rainwater helps indoor plants by providing a nitrogen boost. And so, harvesting rainwater became a year-round routine.

A snake plant dates back to the corporate days.
a houseplant with blade-like variegated stems

Snake Plant – Sansevieria trifasciata

A snake plant was placed on the desk after a promotion during my corporate days almost thirty years ago. It now sits behind my writing spot along with a Columnea that explodes with goldfish-like blooms purchased when scrambling to decorate a design display the first time exhibiting at the Springfest Garden Show.

a green leafed houseplant with orange flowers that resemble gold fish

Columnea- aka Goldfish or Lipstick Plant

It was a sad day when the garden show retired after 20 years, but I made a lifelong friend and design colleague Marty Carson of Three Seasons and met others like Ken Druse and Margaret Roach, both admired. You may know Ken Druse is a well-known garden writer and photographer who lives nearby. And Margaret is also a garden writer and podcaster of A Way to Garden. It’s neat how life brings people together.

I have fond memories of my now ex-husband helping set up my first garden display. And sad memories of how our relationship disintegrated, ruined by the neglect and isolation of addiction. It took years to find the courage to let go. The “permission to leave” came from plants, too, illegal ones, now legal in many states.

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, Ken Druse. Louis Bauer, Curt Smigel

Louis Bauer and Ken Druse with my better half, Curt Smigel – left to right

Curt came plantless.

Curt didn’t come with plants, but he came with something far more significant. Unconditional love. He took on my lawn maintenance when we were first dating. Overly enthusiastic with the weed whacker, he mowed down the swath of ferns behind the pond.

Fast forward almost 13 years; my dear man has grown to admire ferns and other plants and manages the compost pile. And I’ve grown to learn that I am, we all are, worthy of unconditional love.

Garden Dilemmas? (and on your favorite Podcast App.)

 I’d love to hear about plants that have contributed to your growth, too, by emailing me or leaving a comment below. Thanks so much!

You’ll enjoy the listen-on-the-go version of the story in Episode 47 of the Podcast:

Link to more Ken Druse and Marty Carson in Two Best Gardeners of the Garden State  and Extraordinary Gardeners Extraordinary Plants 

Interesting Links:

Plant Care Today  – Columnea – Goldfish Plant

The Farmer’s Almanac article – How to Grow and Care for Spider Plants – 7 Benefits of Keeping Snake Plants In Your Home





Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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