Some plants surprise me with their high degree of invincibility. You know the ones I mean, the kind that persist despite overwatering, underwatering and near-total lack of care.

Here’s my latest “Almost Immortal” award nomination. The winner is common geranium, Pelargonium. Now, let me tell you the story of this hardy plant.

Last summer, I bought one red geranium to put in a plant pot on my front porch. I thought about buying another soon after, since the pot was quite large, but that one little geranium quickly grew and spread and filled the pot. All summer long it rewarded me with bright, red flowers. Deadheading helped the plant to keep pushing out blooms. I watered it regularly and only gave a minimum of fertilizer.

All good things must come to an end, and, by late September, I kept checking the television weather for the first frost warnings. As it turned out, the one night I missed was the night of a killing frost. Plants in hanging baskets were instantly destroyed, but the geranium didn’t show any signs of damage.

Since there were no more frost warnings predicted for a while, I allowed the geranium to remain on the porch, protected from unexpected frosts by the roof. One night I miscalculated and we had a hard freeze. Now it appeared the poor geranium was toast. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to pull it from the pot and discard it, so I removed the pot, with the dying geranium still in it, to a south-facing room — the laundry room.

This was a cool room, but situated over the basement and furnace it didn’t get cold enough to freeze. And it got plenty of light. After another week, all signs of life had departed from the geranium and now it appeared that it truly was dead.

But hope springs eternal, and I wondered if any of the below-ground parts survived, so I left the plant alone. About one month later, I noticed some tiny, green leaves on the seemingly dead stalk. I could scarcely believe my eyes.

And then, week-by-week, more little leaves appeared. Would this new growth be enough to start a new plant?

Now, as the sun grows higher in the sky and the room becomes even brighter, it appears as if that once “dead” geranium, like the Phoenix, rose from the ashes and will become a viable plant for setting out next season. Besides the tentative new growth of last fall, the plant has sprouted a new, main stalk and larger, mature leaves have formed.


I have learned several things from this experience. First, common geraniums are able to withstand the most extreme neglect and abuse, and my laundry room offers perfect conditions for a number of plants that don’t require overly warm temperatures.

Now I’m planning and visualizing what exactly to grow in the laundry room. It’s a new learning experience, since I’ve never had a room with these exact specifications. One thing is for sure, though, and that is a number of the new laundry room plants will be geraniums.

Some may wonder why I was eloquent about growing houseplants in a laundry room, a place designed for utilitarian, rather than aesthetic, value. To that, I say, “Why not?”

As an old cottage gardener, I’m fond of being able to plug a plant in anywhere a space becomes available. The overall effect, though somewhat cluttered, seems pleasant and even has a degree of charm. So if that concept works for outdoor gardens, why not for inside ones?

Therefore, I’m all for using any and all indoor spaces that are suitable for plants — any kind of plants.

Plants can turn an otherwise sterile setting into a warm and comfortable one. Also, the more plants the merrier. If you can find a setting to grow perennial — geraniums are rated as evergreen perennials, if grown in above-freezing conditions — plants inside, remember in time, your plants will grow to large sizes.

How many times have you visited someone’s house and were awestruck by some common houseplant that was so big and old it demanded center of attention? You can have the same. All it takes is some inspiration and lots of time.

Getting back to geraniums, also note you can easily start new geraniums from an old plant simply by setting slip cuttings in soil or water. These easily root and don’t require lots of expensive gear or accessories to do so. You can keep a geranium going in perpetuity by propagating cuttings. Give these away, use them yourself, or do anything you wish with them. You really can’t have too many geraniums.

To get started, either buy some seeds and start them indoors soon, or wait until spring and buy a few geranium plants from your local outlet. Either way, you’ll have the makings for a lavish and colorful, inside garden.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.