Over the past 200 years or so, orchids have went from a mysterious and challenging plant, barely sustained in cultivation, to a fixture in many homes and businesses. Today, easy-care varieties of these beautiful flowering houseplants can be purchased just about anywhere, including the supermarket checkout lane.
Have you ever heard of a plant with no roots? How about a plant that has no roots in the soil, but rather root-like structures that grow into other plants to steal water and nutrients? Doesn’t that sound like something right out of a sci-fi movie? Well, every holiday season, many of us hang a plant with these very characteristics in our homes.
Nothing symbolizes the holiday season to a horticulturalist like a holiday cactus in full bloom. These fascinating plants are cacti, but not at all like the full-sun, desert loving specimens we commonly think of. Instead, these plants hail from the treetops of forests in Brazil, which is quite different than the desert ecosystems associated with other species of cacti. They are all epiphytes, living in mostly shaded tree tops and rooting into pockets of organic debris instead of soil.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are the most popular holiday plant in US households. It is estimated that over 30 million poinsettias are sold each year around the holiday season, accounting for about one quarter of all flowering houseplants sold in the US, year-round. That is a staggering statistic, making it the highest-selling potted plant nationwide. It is so interesting to me that a plant which most of us purchase, enjoy for the holiday season and discard when blooms fade can be so widely sold.
The last thing any homeowner wants this time of year is a cold draft from the outdoors. We humans have become exceedingly good at sealing up all of our indoor spaces in the interest of trapping heat during the winter or cooled air during the summer. These type of improvements in home construction, insulation, and the overall sealing of our “building envelop” have gone a long way in reducing our energy costs, and our carbon footprint.