San Diego Floral Association
From The Archives of California Garden
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Tomatoes in the Living Room
March/April 2010, Volume 102 No. 2
Houseplants were essential home décor in the 1970s. When all her common houseplants died, Barbara Rojas grew an indoor tomato plant named Pixie. Did she know that American colonists grew tomatoes only as ornamentals because they thought the fruit poisonous? Perhaps she was a romantic, familiar with the time when tomatoes were called “love apples” and believed to be an aphrodisiac. California Garden carried stories on the indoor tomato and tomato trees, a tropical species, distinct from the garden tomato, and capable of reaching eight feet in height.
–Nancy Carol Carter
Tomatoes in the Living Room
by Barbara B. Rojas
For many years, I have admired and secretly envied people whose homes boasted an ivy-covered window sill or an elegant collection of African Violets on the coffee table. Even the Philodendron and Rubber Plant in my doctor’s office made me feel insecure. (Modesty aside, I have two green thumbs when gardening outdoors - my definition of a green thumber being one who selects the right plant for the right location and proceeds to care for it in the right way.) However, my verdant appendages--chameleon like--became brown when I tried growing plants indoors. African Violets? The continent would never have willingly lent its name to my poor specimens. Ivy and Philodendrons? Disaster! In desperation, I bought an Air Fern. Within weeks, its vibrant green color turned to pale chartreuse and finally matched our beige walls.
In January, my husband brought me a tomato plant in a four inch pot and said, “Babsy, this is a new kind of tomato plant. It can be grown in the house.” I flinched visibly.
Catching the wild look in my eyes he hurriedly added, “Think of it as an experiment, something just for fun.” . . .
First I found out all I could about my new plant … a PIXIE, dwarf hybrid. After selecting a bright red glazed, eight inch pot with adequate draining hole, I planted PIXIE in a commercial potting mixture--strictly first class for this plant. Something to use as a pot base posed a problem until I thought of my glass pie pan. (I bake pies about twice a year and knew I would never miss the pan.)
Sitting on the floor by an inside wall, PIXIE is scooted across the carpet every day to get sunlight. On warm windless days, I take the plant outside, but I bring it in before evening. Realizing that over-watering is the most common cause of failure with house plants, PIXIE is watered about once a week or whenever the soil is dry to the touch.
To date, there are two large tomatoes and three smaller ones in various stages of ripening. Blossoms and healthy new leaf growth predict a good future harvest, but my change in attitude toward house plants is the biggest accomplishment. Replete with confidence and no longer afraid of failure, I may even try another Air Fern.
Mission: To promote the knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and floriculture in the San Diego region.