“House plants are an exacting pleasure, and if we are not willing to meet their exactions we need not wonder if the pleasure be short.” Richardson Wright, “Gardeners Bed-Book”, December 11 entry.

My mother poured Twin Pines milk into a small bowl, dipped a rag into it, and washed the leaves of her houseplants. She smiled at the shiny results.

I applied milk to the leaves of the begonia plant that Gram, my grandmother-in-law, transplanted from her window box into a pot. My first houseplant, Gram’s thriving begonia welcomed me in the morning, pink petals hanging from a macramé hanger in our rented townhouse.

Four years later, after sharing begonia cuttings with family, neighbors, and friends, I hung Gram’s gift in the sunny, kitchen window of our first house. Afterward, a hanging, fragrant hoya found its place in our dining room. Preoccupied with a kindergartener and infant, I neglected to wash the leaves of my plants. They bloomed and thrived nonetheless.

After our family of five moved to a larger house with plentiful sunny windows, I added a large, potted cactus to my collection. A species requiring little care, Cactus abided unnoticed on our fireplace hearth.

Until the day a daughter heard a strange sound coming from inside Cactus. I examined it from crown to trunk.

Yes, I heard gnawing and promptly carried Cactus to the backyard where it imploded to reveal tunnels of hungry insects.

Nowadays, the orchid, African violet, and hoya are my favored indoor plants. All gifts and cuttings, I seldom take time for the pleasure of washing the orchids’ and hoya’s leaves with milk. I water them and they thrive.

Before the first frost this past fall, I transferred my potted succulents from my gardens to the only sunny spot in our basement where they’ve hibernated several winters. Due to their expense, succulents are worth my time and cleanup, for they fill garden gaps nicely and provoke a smile when they flower.

New to my garden plants to hole up this winter is Passiflora incarnate, for which I paid a small fortune this past summer. She budded and flowered abundantly throughout the growing season, and the November day I loaded her on the dolly for basement stowage.

I rejoiced when new vines appeared within weeks, reaching for sunlight. Then small buds formed. Was this plant going to bloom in captivity?

Indeed! A purple passionflower (aka Passiflora incarnate) now blossoms beside my red chicken boots in the basement. I found her pretty face this afternoon, exotic as any blossom is created to be.

Dear Reader, the time and labor invested in this temporary houseplant is more than worth the pleasure of surprise. And there’s a bud beside the flower waiting for her moment of glory, with tiny buds appearing throughout the vines.

It seems the pleasure of this blooming may be mine for a while, which makes me smile like Mom when I pull on my chicken boots in the morning, and pull them off in the evening.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com