Saturday, January 20, 2018

How the Lifesaver Plant Got Its Name

Winter is a time when most of my houseplants get the most love they're ever going to get. That's because if I want to keep these plants - mostly tropicals - they have to live in the house with us during the winter and I generally pay more attention to those things that share my living space. We're in Zone 5b here and it gets way too cold for them to stay outside year round.

These begonias do well in the bright shade of the pergola, but need to
go inside for the winter.

One day, in the summer of 2016, I went nursery hopping with my good friend, Shelley, and while I showed some restraint as we visited various places, only buying what I needed for a photo shoot for a trade industry magazine article I was doing, I found something I couldn't live without. It only cost a few dollars, but we all know that when it comes to plants, cost often has little to do with our buying decisions.

I'd heard about the lifesaver plant many years ago and had seen photos of it - such a cactus-y looking thing with surreal candy blooms. I wondered if those flowers (I felt funny even calling them that) really looked as plasticky in real life.

But now here it was, right in front of me, and oh boy, yeah. It really did look like its photos. So I bought it. In the time since that day, it has taken turns growing in the house, in the conservatory, and outside during the summer. It seems to be a happy camper no matter where it is. You've got to love a plant like that.

Here are the growing stats:

Common name: Lifesaver plant
Botanical name: Huernia zebrina
Plant type: Succulent
Zone: 10
Light: Full sun
Water: Let dry thoroughly between watering, then soak. Tolerates neglectful watering.
Height: Under 6 inches 
Bloom time: Intermittent

FUN FACT: Huernia zebrina belongs to the same family as milkweed -  Apocynaceae. But no, monarch butterflies don't use it as a host plant. 😉

For ideas on how to use houseplants that coordinate with your personal style and decor, see my first book, co-authored with Jenny Peterson: Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants. (2013, St. Lynn's Press)


Alison said...

Thanks to the tolerance of my blogger friends in Portland who have allowed me to beg starts from them, I have a few different versions of these kinds of plants. My Huernia zebrina flowered last summer, and I too was amazed how much the flower looks like a lifesaver. Thanks to Loree/danger garden, I have one that has much bigger, stinkier flowers. Can't wait for that to bloom.

Lisa Greenbow said...

Hmmmmm, I have never seen this plant before. Such an unusual bloom.

Kylee Baumle said...

Alison ~ Ooh, stinkier flowers! YASSSSS!! I should have known Loree would be behind such shenanigans. She's an enabler of the best kind. 😍

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ I'd only seen photos until I came across it a couple of summers ago. You should try and find one. It's SO easy to grow and very unique!

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