Share tips from your outdoor or indoor plant experience, give us a tour of your plant site, or just let us know what you enjoy most about the plants and people who grow them. Contact Attn: Brenda Johnson or write to P&D, 319 Walnut St., Yankton, SD 57078, Attn: Brenda Johnson.

Thanks to all readers of Plant Exchange and to those who shared plant skills this past year. Their talents and insights are the heart of this effort.


Plants can be a celebration marker for the actor on opening night or a spouse on an anniversary. Early settlers brought flower seeds from homes they left behind to plant as reminders when they settled in the Midwest. Some families keep memories alive with plants from the funeral of a loved one. Care of plants, like care for a pet, can bring order and joy to the day.

Taking Care of Plants

Mary Albrecht of Yankton has enjoyed plants and a busy lifestyle for many years. She is blessed with four grandchildren and is proud of her daughter’s public service.  Nancy Wenande is the mayor of Yankton. Mary has many friends who share her plant, antique, and scrapbooking hobbies. Recently she retired from family-owned Paul’s Qwick Stop on Summit Street, which gives her more free time.

Mary enjoys outdoor plants but African violets and hoyas are among favorites for indoors. “I was always fond of African violets. My mother had some.” Mary said.  When her mother moved to the nursing home, Mary took care of them along with a table full of her own. African violets are considered low maintenance plants that grow in limited space and have blue, purple, lavender, pink, red, or white petals and green or variegated leaves.

African Violets

Mary takes care with delicate, often fuzzy African violet leaves that can be bruised in handling. In weekly watering, she is careful to keep water of the leaves and crown of the plant. “I put the plants in a pan or saucer [of water] for the water to come up from the bottom of the pot,” she said. “It takes three or four hours to get through all the plants. I leave each one in the pan until the soil is moist when I touch it. Soil turns from gray to black [when moist]. Some of the violets take water faster.”

She uses a small watering can with a long thin spout. “I water about every Saturday or Sunday.” She may water more frequently in winter due to dry air. She fertilizes by instructions. When she waters, she also monitors each plant, trimming spent blooms, and rotates the plant to receive light.

“These violets, my daughter Patti had when she was in hospice,” Mary said. “She always watered them by filling a glass ball that releases water slowly, so that’s the way I water them.”

She centers a rubber mat on an antique wooden table as her workspace. She has accumulated specialty items for working with African violets. Some pots designed for African violets can be watered at the base of the pot. In the drawer beneath the table of violets is plastic tubing to fit on the rim of containers so that fragile stems aren’t injured in handling. She places a nail file-like tool under a leaf until soil dries.

Wall of windows in her southeast facing living room and sunroom appear to have been chosen with growing plants in mind. In winter she moves plants back from the window when the sun’s angle is more direct. “I keep the heat and air conditioner registers closed by the plants,” she said.

While a windowsill of indirect light offers enough natural light for versatile African violets, they may be grown under wide spectrum florescent light with fifteen-hour days. Some place plants on gravel in a pan with a little water to increase humidity near the plants. Plants or their pots do not touch water. Some grow violets in a terrarium or glass bowl with higher humidity than surrounding air. A winter alternative is a room humidifier. Added humidity is preferred but not required.

Mary found an African violet relative at a late October Sacred Heart Monastery Holiday Fair. “This is a Episcia cupretta ‘Flame Violet’ African violet.” We see the medium-sized plant with patterned leaves displayed alone on a handwork scarf on an antique wooden table.

Care for the ‘Flame Violet’ is similar to other violets. However the ‘Flame Violet’ reproduces with small plant offshoots or stolons. “You can lay the new plant on soil while it is still attached to the parent plant. After the new plant roots, you can cut the attachment,” she said.

Mary enjoys free time in her sunroom with potted plants all around, including a shelf-lined wall. “I picked my house for the sunroom and washer/dryer as you come in the back door,” she said.

Tropical Hoyas

Among her sunroom plants are hoya vines with waxy evergreen, multi-colored leaves. Mary’s hoyas have green leaves, some with cream edges, some speckled, some pink and cream, some all cream, all on the same plant. She places pots of hoyas at different heights and lifts the vine to show the fragrant porcelain-like flower clusters. Hoya bloom varieties include pink with magenta edging, yellow with red edging, and yellow, orange, and purple flowers.

In the tropics, these milkweed family relatives are epiphytes and grow on other plants such as trees without harming them, as do some orchids. In this soil-less setting, other parts of the plant take on root function. Hoyas are also considered low-maintenance plants that prefer but do not require high humidity.

Mary keeps photos of her own favorite flowers and of friends’ flowerbeds in her scrapbooks. She has photos of some of her plant containers that are re-purposed antiques. Her scrapbook photos are decorated with paper flowers. “With all the flowers around me, I am seldom sick,” she said.

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