Tropical Gardening: Father’s Day origin is not that old

Plants for Father's Day gifts make for a great family project. Used as single specimens or grouping several species, they add to home interiors and lanais. (Voltaire Moise/Courtesy photo)

Mother’s Day has been celebrated long before Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in one form or another. Art in early cultures of Asia, Europe and the Middle East recognized that women were the source of life and fertility. Somewhere along the path of history, patriarchies became en vogue and here we are today trying to recognize the importance of both men and women.

Making that work has been challenging to say the least! We especially see this in politics and religious practices.


Since we already had Mother’s Day, one way to seek balance was to create Father’s Day. By the way, this was before women had the right to vote! Father’s Day has only been celebrated for around one hundred years in the United States. It was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd in Spokane, Wash., at the local YMCA in 1910. Her father, William Jackson Smart was a Civil War veteran who raised his six children as a single parent. In Catholic countries of Europe it has been celebrated as St. Joseph’s Day since the Middle Ages.

Of course it is celebrated to honor our fathers. To make it really special, it is an opportunity to share the day doing something together.

If you want to make this day truly special, then plant a tree with dad knowing that trees are the lungs of the planet and will live for generations to come. Even grass, shrubs and houseplants add oxygen to thwart the effects of global warming. A fun thing to do as a family is a little landscaping project. Dad will appreciate the help.

If you have already found that special gift for Dad then here is an additional gift he should appreciate. Most lucky fathers will receive something practical like a new lawn mower, tools or maybe a box of cigars, but think about a living gift as well. Flowers are for Mom but a living gift is something he can keep at the office or in the home. Every time he sees it, it will remind him of you. You can share care with dad for a bonding experience without having the responsibility of an animal like a dog or cat.

Plants for use indoors are essential in homes today. With condominiums, apartment living and smaller yards becoming more common, one of the best ways to enjoy nature is by making it part of the indoors, especially on hot summer days. Even if you are lucky enough to have a home with a yard, interior landscaping brings it all together.

Plants are an inexpensive way to beautify the house in a professional way. If you are short on cash and your home needs a few extra pieces of furniture that you can’t afford or if you want to try a little gardening but don’t want to get grubby, then indoor gardening is for you!

The secret to successful gardening in the home is selecting the right plant for the right place and then caring for it properly. Local nurserymen or garden supply dealers can give you some help in selection as well as plant care.

Here are some tips now that will keep his green thumb green.

If you are just beginning a houseplant project with your loved one, start with the right container. Wooden tubs are excellent since wood prevents rapid drying out of the soil. Some containers lack drainage holes that may cause a watering problem unless you are growing plants that prefer or tolerate wet conditions like papyrus. Clay pots are fine and can be painted to blend with the colors in the home. Brass and copper are ideal for table and mantle arrangements. But, as these containers are usually small, pay careful attention to supplies of water and fertilizer. Too much or too little can be fatal to many plants.

Soil is very important for houseplants. Since they must survive on a very small amount, give them the best soil mixture available. There is no perfect mixture. However, a longtime favorite for many homeowners is a blend of one part peat and one part coarse garden soil or cinder and one part vermiculite or sponge rock. These may come already mixed for you at the garden supply store.

When choosing plants for interior locations, select varieties that will withstand adverse growing conditions such as low light intensity and dry air. To be satisfactory, houseplants must do more than merely survive under indoor conditions. They must maintain an attractive appearance with a minimum of care. Air conditioning and gas appliances, as nice to have as they are, may be rough on houseplants.

Consider such plants as bromeliads, aglaonema, aspidistra, dracaena, monstera, peperomia, Philodendrons, Nephytis, sansevieria, bird nest fern, Boston fern or rhapis palm. These plants don’t seem to mind low light intensity or warm, dry rooms. In fact, they are sometimes called “cast iron” types.

Plants that will grow in high light include asparagus ferns, strelitzia, crotons, aralia or panax, philodendron, wandering Jew and sansevieria. Plants that will tolerate dryer soils are bromeliads, jade plant, pandanus, peperomia, sansevieria and pothos, aloe, sedum, and cactus. Many palms are ideal for a bold tropical effect in the home.

The proper watering of plants is important. Too big a drink or too little spells disaster. In general, most house plants require a thorough soaking, and then must be allowed to get a little on the dry side but not too dry.

Plants also like their food served at regular intervals. The best suggestion on feeding plants is to follow the directions on the container. Use a houseplant fertilizer in liquid, tablet or powder form, but with any type, go lightly. Too much can easily burn tender roots.

Several books are also available at local garden shops to assist you and your main man in your landscape endeavors, so include one as a gift as well.

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