Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Dinnerplate Hibiscus- and a Ridiculously Excited Auntie Em

I know you’re not supposed to play favorites, but I think of all the beautiful flowers in my garden, I love this dinnerplate hibicus best! A friend gave it to me when I was teaching her son, about 10 years ago; it had sprouted up beside hers. She told me that these are very persnickety about propagation and rarely make babies.

So last spring when I saw this little baby peeking up near the big bush, I held my breath and waited…

When it reached about a foot tall, I dug it up, potted it to grow a bigger root system, kept it over the winter, then gave it to Sis this spring for her garden. She kept me updated and we were so excited when it finally bloomed! Here it is:

And another unusual thing happened last summer- Since I will reuse potting soil if a plant “bites the dust” (HA- usually that’s exactly what happens; I don’t water enough and it dies of thirst!), sometimes random plants come up in newly-potted plants. I sometimes recognize what they are; sometimes I debate whether they are weeds or something desirable, and wait it out; and sometimes I have no idea! Last summer I had 2 babies which looked like hibiscus come up in a pot. I posted the picture to Facebook and asked friends what they thought it could be– hibiscus? Watermelon? I hadn’t planted any dinnerplate seeds in a long time… a few years back I had, but they never germinated.

What do you think?

I put them in separate pots and kept them alive all through our horrible drought last summer, then this spring planted them in the ground.

One died. But one thrived. I kept watching, holding my breath, and hoping it would be a dinnerplate… and finally… TADAAA! I was so excited you would have thought I’d have bred a Kentucky Derby winning horse!

Such is the life of a frugal gardener!


Gardening on the Cheap– Passalong Plants

One of Auntie Em’s Guides to Life is to BE FRUGAL. If you love having a beautiful garden it can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to! I like low-maintenance plants… the law of the jungle applies in Auntie Em’s garden– the survival of the fittest. No divas here!

The good thing about passalong plants is that they usually propagate (make new plants) easily. The other fun thing is that then you have a plant with story! I’ll share some that I’ve had success with, and how I did it. Most of the time I cut a tender stem (not a hard woody one) and put it in regular potting soil. Sis usually roots in water; experiment to see what works best! Some really hardy plants can go directly into the ground, especially if you water regularly.

I took a snip off the top of Sunshine’s coleus. I stuck the stem in a pot, but there were some big leaves too. I pulled this one off and tucked it in among a hibiscus, not knowing whether or not it would root that way. It did.

Here is the pot where I put all the little babies. It will grow into a beautiful accent; then I can pinch off more! Coleus is a wonderful, versatile plant that is available in many different colors, and does will in pots or in the ground, in sun or in shade.

This althea (Rose of Sharon, in the mallow family) came from a cutting from my mother-in-law (Granny of Granny’s cornbread). I actually thought it was a hibiscus (They are cousins.) and put it in a pot, and by the time I realized it was althea, it was too late to put it in the ground. I’ll do that this fall after the weather cools off.

This exotic-looking trumpet shaped flower is called  alstromeria, or Peruvian lily. It has a fancy cousin that is often used in cut arrangements, but this is anything but fancy! I got this one from Granny too, and have given away tons of it. If it’s planted in a happy place, it can become invasive, spreading by seed on top and tubers below ground. Be sure to cut the seedpods off to slow it down.

I got this hardy gladiola from a lady that went to our church for much longer than I have. She was there when Granny and PawPaw took Mr X and his brother and sister as children, and she has passed now. But every spring, when these come up again, I remember Miss Freddie and how she shared what she had with whoever needed it!

I got this gorgeous angel wing begonia from my friend Nedra. We’ve shared lots of cuttings and snips over the years. This one actually started life at Granny’s house, then Nedra got a snip, so mine is sort of like a grandchild!

I discovered Persian shield this year, and I LOVE it! I bought 4 overgrown, leggy, 4 inch pots; put 3 in the ground and one in a pot to see where it was happiest. The ones in the ground died quickly. I pinched off several pieces from the one in the pot (here is one; it rooted almost overnight!) and it was a good thing, because I let the pot dry out and it died! Fortunately, I still have the new one. 

The lantana was a seedling from my piano teacher. He always keeps a beautiful, well-manicured lawn, and I love the way the lantana looks like a party! The butterflies love it. Seedlings come up easlity, but they aren’t invasive.

Here are some more that I’ve shared, or that reseed easily and come back year after year. Sometimes, flower colors will change from one year to the next (as with the vinca, which started life 3 generations ago as lavendar) but that’s just part of the fun.

Don’t let frugality keep you from having beautiful flowers!

Portulaca- reseed easily, and root from cuttings.

I wish I knew what this was called. Granny gave me some from a plant from her mother’s funeral. I love it!

Sis got me an Easter lily one year at her church.

Miss Winnie has shared daylillies with many people from our church.

Crinum lillies are old-timey because they are dependable, no-care flowers! Their pink or white blooms come in late summer.

AHHH agapanthas, or Lily of the Nile. A lady at school gave me some.

These are 3rd or 4th generation vinca. I bought a flat one year and have had them every year since. If I were a better gardener, I’d move them to optimum places, but I just let them come up where they will! They began life lavendar, but are usually pink. These white ones are the first I’ve seen!


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