And now, before we return to our regularly scheduled programming



Discussion of house plants are never welcomed on this blog; it seems I am the only Garden Ranter who’s willing to put up with their supposed difficulties—or who feels those difficulties are worth enduring.

Especially in the summer, when all our attention is turned outside, it seems talk of common indoor plants is superfluous at best. I would agree, but I must note that a relatively recent solution for African violets presents a great answer to the common houseplant problem—what to do with them when you’re on vacation. This pot is really a porous clay insert within a decorative bowl, which generally has water in it. you water the bowl, not the pot the plant is in.


I must say, I have never seen my African violets do so well, now that I am using these pots. I wonder if regular clay pots, placed in a bowl of water, would work as well, though of course they wouldn’t be so decorative. If so, it would enable them to subsist for at least two weeks without watering.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I used to raise African Violets. I don’t have a good place at this house so I had to give them up. I miss them.
    I always used regular clay pots, even though it was advised against it. I liked the way the clay absorbed and released the water. The only problem was the clay and their leaves don’t get along. If you line the edge of the pot with aluminum foil, it works just fine; it just doesn’t look too good. But I found once they were in bloom, no one looked at the pot anyway.

  2. When mom died recently I received a HUGE orchid as a gift,left on the proch in the middle of a cold winter. Great I thought, mom is gone and this plant will soon be as well. So I placed this precious plant in the room where where my mom spent her last hours on earth, which fortunately faces the north (so I learned from the enclosed card). This plant lives gloriously and I know I have nothing to do with it, other than the fact I can read. Thanks mom.

  3. I have a table of African violets that thrive despite getting almost no attention from me. I use random, shallow bowls, many with no drainage holes. The plants sit near a window with a southern exposure but the light is very filtered. I water them occasionally, maybe every week but not necessarily. There is very little soil in the pots and what soil is there is old. I think these humble little plants are very sweet and quite amazing in what they will tolerate. And as an aside I am always a bit baffled by the animosity surrounding house plants. Is it because it seems artificial to grow something indoors? Or to grow something in a small pot rather than in the ground?

    Thanks for the excellent idea for watering violets.

  4. Shelley, I agree that your mom has something to do with it. I would also cite the best orchid advice I have received. Leave them alone. My late mother-in-law had tons and she never fussed over a plant.

    I am thrilled to say that an orchid I bought in february is now in it s SECOND blooming period. I am awaiting the verdict on 2 others. Like you I went into it with no expectations.

  5. My mom used to have a dozen or so lovely African violets on an old tea cart in an eat-facing dining room window, where they flourished. After my dad passed away, she got rid of them all. I don’t know why. I wish she’d offered them to me first. I think they’re lovely. I finally went out and bought a pretty little white-and-purple picotee African violet for my desk, where it lives happily under a little fluorescent light.

  6. Houseplants do seem insignificant right now, but damn do they ever get you through the dead of winter! My orchids are utterly forgotten about right now on benches outside, but as soon as the temperatures drop they come inside and get my undivided attention for the winter months. I like the pattern…

  7. I use the special pots you wrote about and have wonderful success growing African violets. They even bloom!

    I think a clay pot without a hole in the bottom would be best. Water would slowly reach the roots keeping them evenly watered. I think the hole in the bottom would allow too much water at one time and be injurious to the plant’s roots. I understand this is contrary to what Jane posted and probably contrary to all African violets’ indoor experiences for hundreds of years!

  8. Not really a new solution at all. Just becoming main stream in decorator colrs and mass roduced by New England Pottery.

    The(still kills violets) TROLL

  9. Well, your co-bloggers are all clearly great big poopyheads.

    It’s still necessary to use a little discretion with these pots; depending on what you’re used to, it can be easy to keep the plants too wet. But yeah, when you get the hang of it, it’s as easy as anything else.

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