Martha Takes Us Inside Her Greenhouses at Bedford and Teaches Us How to Groom Two Popular Houseplants
Martha's Bedford greenhouses are a hive of activity all winter long. She spends hours in them, happily nurturing, repotting, and propagating her houseplants so they can spread their roots and flourish. Take a peek inside, and learn her techniques for keeping two varieties she loves on the up-and-up.
During the past year, as we've all been confined to our homes, nurturing houseplants has exploded in popularity, becoming a loved pastime for both adults and children. As a result, I've received a trove of questions from friends and colleagues about how to care for them.
I have five greenhouses at the farm that keep me gardening year-round. One brims with begonias, cacti, ferns, and succulents; one is for citrus trees. Another holds tropicals, like agaves, aloes, cycads, and bay and fig trees; clivia, amaryllis, narcissus, topiary, and flower seedlings occupy yet another. The fifth is where I grow vegetables, passion flowers, and oversize trees that we move outdoors in summer.
I try hard to practice healthy and orderly growing methods for all my plants. Admittedly, I devote extra attention to the ones I rotate in my home, and often think of them as art installations, exhibiting shining examples of a certain type. One week I might display and enjoy all the crazy cactus plants; the next, I'll bring in an array of ferns.
To keep everything looking its best, my two garden helpers, Ryan and Brian, and I spend a week every few months repotting and propagating various specimens when they outgrow their containers, or have produced plantlets that can be divided. I encourage you to adopt these methods; they're hands-on and a great way to share your love of plants with others. This type of gardening is fun, and so very, very rewarding.
Size Up a Succulent: Remove the Plant
Every year or two, Martha repots her succulents to refresh their soil and move the ones that have outgrown their containers into roomier vessels. Here, she demonstrates with a purplish echeveria. First, carefully extricate the succulent from its container. If it is root-bound (you'll know if you see more roots than soil), you may need to coax it out by sliding a knife around the edge. Once it is released, gently loosen the root ball with your hands. This helps stimulate new growth.
Size Up a Succulent: Pick a Pot
Choose one that has a drainage hole and is slightly larger than the previous one. To prevent soil from leaking out, place a small pottery shard or stone at the bottom. Fill it partway with soil. For succulents, Martha makes a potting soil blended with sand, perlite, and vermiculite that drains well, so the roots won't rot, and mixes in a little granulated organic fertilizer.
Size Up a Succulent: Replant It
Center the succulent in the new pot, and fill it with more soil. The plant's base and soil line should sit about a half-inch below the pot's rim. Tamp down the soil to prevent any air pockets that can harm root growth, and water thoroughly.
Size Up a Succulent: Finish with Mulch
Cover the soil with a layer of pea gravel, which looks pretty and helps retain moisture. Place in a sunny window.
Multiply a Chinese Money Plant: Look for Plantlets
Pilea peperomioides is the gift that keeps on giving. This sought-after charmer is an unfussy variety that continuously produces offspring. Because it's so easy to grow, Martha loves to give pots as gifts to friends, and especially children. Follow her process to spread the wealth. A plant will produce little offshoots, or pups, that sprout from the soil. When they're two to three inches high and have several leaves, they're ready to be repotted.
Multiply a Chinese Money Plant: Make the Cut
Carefully remove the entire plant from its container. Using a sharp, clean knife, gently slice around each plantlet.
Multiply a Chinese Money Plant: Arrange for Planting
Each pup should have at least an inch of roots attached. Repot the mother plant back into its original container.
Multiply a Chinese Money Plant: Prep Small Clay Pots
Place a pottery shard in the bottoms to cover the holes. Fill about two-thirds of each container with a well-draining potting soil mixed with granulated organic fertilizer. Repeat.
Multiply a Chinese Money Plant: Insert Plantlets
Nestle each pup into a container. Its depth should be the same as it was when growing on the mother plant. Fill with soil, and tamp it down lightly to remove air pockets.
Multiply a Chinese Money Plant: Groom and Hydrate
With clean, sharp clippers, snip away any damaged leaves. Water each pot thoroughly. Place them in a spot with bright indirect light, and let the soil dry out between waterings.
Martha Stewart Living, March 2021