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Heritage houseplants: Readers share stories of long-living plants

Maryanne Cox has named their 55-year-old corn plant "Beauty." Special to Forum News Service1 / 6
Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist for The ForumMichael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 6
Paul DuBowy's inherited Christmas cactus is more than 60 years old. Special to Forum News Service3 / 6
Cynthia Koltes' snake plant is estimated to be more than 80 years old. Special to Forum News Service4 / 6
Nicki Almquist's jade plant is 40 years old. Special to Forum News Service5 / 6
This Ming aralia was given to Cindy Gray as a gift when their son was born 25 years ago. Special to Forum News Service6 / 6

In a recent column about long-lived houseplants, I invited readers to share stories about their own older-than-average plants. Houseplants become part of the family, and responses came from states north, south, east and west as people were eager to tell their plant histories.

Each story is unique, involving an assortment of long-lived plant species. Many have been passed to second, third and even fourth generations. These plants are a cherished connection with family heritage or events. Cuttings have often been shared with other relatives, which genetically produces a clone of the original for the recipient.

Here are stories of houseplants with a heritage:

• My grandmother received a Christmas cactus slip from a neighbor, and in 1890 the cactus moved with them to Traverse County, Minn. In 1918, the cactus moved along once again as the family transported farm equipment, livestock, seven children, plus the Christmas cactus to Sheyenne, N.D., by train. My mother, born in 1905, remembers the cactus blooming every year, and after she passed away in 1997, the cactus was handed down to me. The cactus, over 128 years old, is about three-and-one-half feet in diameter, and blooms every year. - Evelyn Karppinen, Sabin, Minn.

• Our 121-year-old maidenhair fern was given to my great-grandmother in 1897. It was passed down to my grandmother, then my mother and now to me. I think it is miraculous that it has survived this long. - Katie Meiners, Fargo

• Our only houseplant is a fern, which has been in the family for more than 111 years, traveling with my great-grandparents by train in 1911 when they moved from Illinois to Caledonia, N.D. The fern was passed down to relatives, and since 1999, I became its caretaker by default. I didn't want to be the generation to kill the fern so I took it home, repotted it and have cared for it since. - John Wright, Hillsboro, N.D.

• I inherited a snake plant from my mother-in-law, and I'm estimating the plant is a minimum of 80 years old, and it's now about five feet tall. - Cynthia Koltes, Hettinger, N.D.

• My mother received a Christmas cactus as a gift on Nov.10, 1940 — the day I was born. The cactus and I celebrated our 77th anniversary together last November and we are heading toward 78 years together. - Al Schneiter, Fargo

• A 1950s picture shows the hoya plant in my grandparents' home in Moorhead. My mom and sister have kept the Reinertsen hoya plants going throughout the years and now I'm doing the same. Every time I look at this plant I think of my grandparents. - Monica Roland Heuer, Sioux Falls, S.D.

• I have my grandmother's Christmas cactus that was passed on to my mother, who remembers it when growing up, and she would have been more than 100 now. I always remember this plant in my home as a little girl, and now I've had the cactus for at least 40 years. I've started new plants from the branches to share with family. - Margie Stoy, Fargo

• Our family Pedilanthus has been growing since 1952. I still manage to kill my fair share of plants, but this one has persisted. - Karen Schneider, Midland, Texas

• Our Christmas cactus belonged to my wife's grandmother's in Napoleon N.D. My wife remembers it as a girl from more than 60 years ago. When her grandparents passed away, it went to her parents' home in Enderlin, N.D. When her mother passed, we took it home, first to Mississippi and now Wyoming. - Paul DuBowy, Cowley, Wyo.

• Our hoya is 68 years old and was given to us when we moved to Fargo. The original plant got leggy and not so lovely anymore, so we started new plants from cuttings. - Cynthia Baumgardner, Fargo

• Our jade plant was in my parent's house in the 1960s when I was growing up. I took it over when my parents were downsizing to a smaller home. About 1-2 years ago it started blooming, and now flowers every year. Many starter plants have come from "Jade." - Debra Juelson, Hillsboro, N.D.

• Our Dracaena massangeana was purchased by my mother-in-law at a grocery store in New Jersey in 1962. When it hits the ceiling, we cut it down and give the stalks to anyone interested in propagating it. Its progeny is in family homes from Massachusetts to New Jersey to California. - Robert Randall, Rumson, New Jersey

• Our cornstalk houseplant, aka "Beauty," was given to my mom by her father in 1962 as a housewarming gift for my parents' first house. In 2017, it took a family effort to cut her back, as it was 14 feet tall. She's still alive and gorgeous at 55 years, is part of the family, and we love her! - Maryanne Cox, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

• In 1966, we purchased a Meyer lemon tree at Piggly Wiggly grocery store. It has been blooming and producing lemons every year, and perfumes the whole living room. In the summer we put it on the front step and move it to the sunroom before fall frost. I really should name it, it's such a part of the family. - Jean Madsen, Mapleton, N.D.

• I acquired a sansevieria snake plant from an elementary school where it was going to be thrown out after about 30 years, and now I've had it for 25 years since. To my delight this summer it had a very pretty bloom. - Nancy Selisky, Palmertown, Pa.

• Our Swedish Ivy houseplant is 45 years old. My husband, Allan, was given a couple of cuttings from MSUM's Professor (Clarence) Glasrud, back in 1973. Allan likes to share cuttings from this special plant, as Professor Glasrud was much admired by many. - Linda Dregseth, Fargo

• In 1976, I bought a ficus with money my husband and I got for our wedding. It grew well, survived four moves to different houses and was pruned many times. It now flourishes in the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute atrium cared for by the good people of the Northern Plains Botanical Garden Society, 42 years later. - Mary I., West Fargo

• My jade plant is 40 years old and has been divided twice. Nicki Almquist, Fargo

• Our clivia, also known as Kaffir lily, is more than 40 years old. They are the easiest, almost indestructible houseplant that never ceases to amaze me. - Amanda Mueller, Valparaiso, Ind.

• I've had my croton plant since March 1985. It has moved from Kansas City to Dallas to east Texas, outside in spring and summer and inside until spring. I love this plant. - Mary K Shreffler, Alba, Texas

• Our Ming aralia was in a small planter we received as a gift when our son was born 25 years ago. It's become very special to us, and we get many comments about it, so we're able to retell its story. It moved from the Twin Cities to Fargo with us in 1996. - Cindy Gray, Fargo

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.

He also blogs at " target="_blank">growingtogether.areavoices.com.