Purple Power


Time to bring in the houseplants. I try to put it off as long as possible, knowing that my poor plants will have to adapt to cramped spaces and varying degrees of light and humidity. They come inside so full of themselves, having soaked up just enough sunlight and nutrients to get them through the winter. My task will be to keep them happy (and alive) until next April. The clivia don’t mind too much—they’re already in their dormant period and will gladly huddle together in front of the big studio window until I start to water them at the beginning of February. The orchids are less certain, especially since  the dryness of the last two months hasn't pleased them. Only one plant seems eager to get indoors and that’s the purple secretia (it’s already taken over all the containers in the garden). Secretia (Tradescantia pallida) has many common names, but whatever you call it, it’s my hardiest indoor plant. I can put it anywhere, in soil or water, and it will thrive. In the bathroom, I have it in a handblown purple glass vase, and it twines itself up the shade cord. In the bedroom, it hangs off a curtain rod in a ceramic pot and droops to the floor. I have so much of it growing outside that I just cut off the last 10 inches or so of each plant and stuff the pieces into vases of water, where they will root and stay healthy until I plant them outdoors next spring. Meanwhile I get to enjoy the unusual deep purple leaves that compliment all the shades of live green as well as giving depth to winter flower arrangements. I sometimes doubt my ability to keep houseplants healthy, but secretia has shown me I definitely have a purple thumb.