Catherine StewartThe oldest houseplant

Photo Ryan Somma. Philodendron in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Photo Ryan Somma. Philodendron in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

What’s the oldest houseplant you know of? 10 years? Maybe 20? And what becomes of it when its owner dies?

Philodendron_speciosum_01_by_Line1Rona Scoratow Of Pittsburgh PA, has decided that her 42 year old philodendron shouldn’t be cast aside (or be burned/buried with her) when she dies, so she’s left a $5000 provision in her will for the plant to be cared for by a friend.

Although Rona is currently a healthy 63, the thought that her beloved philly might not be cared for after she goes fills her with horror. “This is my girl!” she says of the plant which was only 1ft tall when she acquired it back in 1972 but now spreads all around her living room.

One of Gordon's relatives

One of Gordon’s relatives

Many house plants if well-cared for will live for decades. I had a date palm called Uncle Fester I got as a gift for my 18th birthday which I think is still alive in a pot somewhere and the Uptons in Maryland, both horticulturists, have a ponytail palm they believe is about 50 years old. They call it Gordon, after a friend who swapped it to Ms. Upton 37 years ago for a Porsche steering wheel.

Do you have a deathless houseplant Methuselah in your home?



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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Original creator of GardenDrum. South Coast NSW.

10 thoughts on “The oldest houseplant

  1. Brings back memories, Catherine. One of my very first houseplants – the only one to survive the rigours of college accommodation, share housing, many relocations and subsequently children and teenagers of my own – is a dwarf umbrella plant that I bought to brighten my dorm room when I moved out of home , so that makes it (ahem) let’s say over 35 years old. But I’m cheating a bit because it’s no longer really a houseplant: for the last 25 years it’s been planted out in the garden under the loquat tree, surviving on no artificial irrigation and still only a sprawling 1.2 metres tall! Together with the aptly named cast-iron plant, this must surely be one of the toughest of all houseplants!

    Of course during college/uni in the 70s, many students had on the verandah or in a well-lit discreet corner at least one particular “pot plant” that was inevitably a glowing specimen of verdant health, whereas every other specimen languished unwatered and unfed…

  2. My mum has a monsteria in her bathroom that must be over 40 years old. Still in the same pot. Almost never gets fertilized, sometimes gets watered. It has taken over half of the room. I had to tie it back for her so she could get in the shower.

  3. My dad has a hoya in a pot just outside the back door that has been in the same pot for at least 30 years. It has grown all around the floor to ceiling windows and flowers each year quite happily. He doesn’t look after it in any special way – just some water when he thinks of it. Defies logic.

  4. My wife bought a sampling elephant ear philladendrum in 1969. She has nurtured it indoors and I’m happy to say is thriving, and as healthy as ever.

  5. My mother has her grandmother’s houseplant that is well over 70 years old and still in the same pot and dirt! I rememeber seeing its vines reach almost to the floor from the counter but it is much shorter now but I see new growth. She doesnt do anything to it but give it a tiny bit of water from time to time. I call her Gladys. Haha.

  6. “Inez” (named after my late mother) is a Dragon Tree, aka Madagascar, aka Dracaena marginata; she is about 25 years old and going strong.. She has 10 offspring spawned from her… oldest offspring is about 10 years old..

  7. I love the idea of naming a plant for your mother – did she know? I’m not sure my late mother would have appreciated the association with a dragon!

  8. I have a philodendron that belonged to my grandmother who passed in 1980. She had the plant back in 1960, given to her by my late grandfather who passed just after he gave it to Grammy. I call her Effie, after my late grandmother. Next year Effie will be 60! I consider her birthday to be when my grandfather gave it to my grandmother, but I’m sure it must be much older.

    My Grampy received Effie from the owner of an estate. He was their gardener at the time, mostly taking care of their vineyard and their extensive lawn, so I am not sure exactly how old this this plant really is. They had the huge plant in their conservatory and gave my grandfather a hefty cutting for my grandmother to start. Both my mother and my daughter have a plant that has been started from cuttings from mine. I have also taken cuttings and started another plant for myself.

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