Plant by Numbers Makes it So Easy

Is there a correlation between casseroles and container gardening? With me there is. If I had to choose between making a main meat, veg and starch meal in which all were presented in separate dishes, and making a meal that included all of those in one pot, I would hands-down choose the latter.

I wonder if Steve Asbell is a casserole guy. If I had to judge by the cover of his book, Plant By Numbers: 50 Houseplant Combinations to Decorate Your Space, I'd have to say yes. You see, Steve calls his first combination "Lime and Coconut," an adorable medley of ornamental pineapple, two varieties of Peperomia, a pink earth star (Cryptanthus), and a perky little ivy. And one of the best things about this mix is that it doesn't need a whole lot of sun to keep it happy.

Steve gives just enough detail about potting mixes, amendments, containers, texture and color contrast, and even planting without the planter!

Mixing up houseplants is different than combining plants in an outdoor container. For one thing, they are totally at your mercy for water. Steve gives some of the best explanations I've seen on this topic, as it's the first thing people tend to ask about a plant: "How often should I water it?"

Plant by Numbers (Cool Springs Press) devotes a page and a half to watering, all laid out in easy-to-follow whys and hows. Getting a grip on the watering goes a long way toward becoming a great gardener. Get its name and origin for a start, Steve says about each plant obtained, as this is his first secret to growing healthy plants. The second secret, he reveals, is to learn how to listen to the plant's signals in order to determine its needs.

I started my gardening career growing houseplants. It's a great way to learn the basics, the importance of paying attention to your plants, and when to toss a plant and replace it with something else. As Steve says, "Every time you kill a plant, you learn a new way to keep the next one alive."

Steve writes a blog, The Rainforest Garden, that takes you further along in the world of tropicals. Residents of tropical regions world-wide, after all, are the ones that find their way to his designs. It's easy to get lost for awhile in the many and creative pages of Steve's blog. Wow!

Plant by Numbers is like Alton Brown's first cookbook, blending science, taste, and in Steve's case, plants. Like the best cookbooks, Plant by Numbers also offers substitutions, which is great because some of the plants listed might be difficult to find at a certain time of year.

I wish I'd had this book when I started out gardening with houseplants. Plant by Numbers is for beginner gardeners, anyone who is given a plant to care for, and the experienced gardener looking for ways to bring the mixed container indoors. I can't wait to get started!

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