The Houseplant Guru
by Mary Jasch
HOUSEPLANTS: The Complete guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants written by Lisa Eldred Steinkpof (Cool Springs Press November 2017), vies for the number one book on tropical and subtropical plants as houseplants. (The other is The Apartment Gardener by Stan and Floss Dworkin [Plume 1979])
As former owner/operator of Exotic Designs, an interior plantscape company that serviced corporations with design, installation and maintenance of tropical plantings for 23 years, I know that Lisa knows her stuff. She teaches you how to know the signs of a plant that needs water – a plant that is confined to life in a pot indoors instead of the earth outside in its natural habitat. (Yes, Mathilda, you must touch the soil, lift the plant to feel its weight if it's not too heavy, recognize the color of its soil when wet and dry, and experience fully the plant’s gestalt as you approach it from across the room.) No wonder so many houseplants croak. Watering is truly an art and a science and Lisa explains how.
The book covers every aspect of indoor plant care: planting, repotting, watering and fertilizing, lighting, environment, grooming (get that sooty mold off those leaves!), propagation, problem solving and 104 plant profiles –covering all the details you’ve ever wondered about. The book contains gorgeous and sometimes gruesome photos of exquisite plants and bothersome bugs. Ms. Steinkopf leaves no stone unturned!
Known as “The Houseplant Guru,” Lisa writes for Michigan Magazine, speaks at conferences and shows such as the Tropical Plant International Expo in Florida, radio shows, podcasts and appearances on cable. Her horticultural acumen came early from family, work and school. She grew up under the influence of her mother and her ferns and grandmother and her African violets.
“My grandma had the most beautiful window of African violets and ferns. She always had on the dining room table a bouquet of the biggest snapdragons I ever saw,” she says.
She grew up in the sticks, she says of playing outdoors in fields, woods and meadows. “My mom would ring the bell and we’d come home. We rode our bikes to Grandma’s house and gathered eggs.”
When she and her husband got married, they moved to the suburbs of Detroit where Lisa worked for thirteen years in her in-laws’ garden center, dangerous – or a dream come true – for a plant collector.
Lisa's house is filled with maybe 1,000 plants. There, 200 plants occupy the first floor and every bedroom has a light stand with African violets. She has 50 hanging tillandsias. Mounted orchids attach to the sides of her cupboards and on the kitchen table, window sill and counter and on a dining room shelf. In the sun room, where she admits most people would have a hot tub, she has bleachers for her plants – four levels, each one ten feet long. “They are spectacular. I have so many plants I can’t keep track of them all.”
As luck would have it, Lisa got her book deal through Twitter, where her editor found her and asked the magic question: Did she want to write a book? The dream didn’t end there, though. She eventually met Elvin McDonald, Botanical Educator and Ambassador Emeritus of Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, who was pleased to edit her book. The tome took over a year from start to finish.
I love this book. Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, the Houseplant Guru, is a brilliant writer and expert.
If you have tropical and subtropical plants that live in your house (or none because you have killed them all) buy this book! You will treasure it as I do.
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf: http://www.thehouseplantguru.com/
** All photos courtesy of Lisa Eldred Steinkopf
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published March 28, 2018