Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Growing Houseplants from Food

It’s relatively easy to grow houseplants from food using the seeds, pits and parts of fruits and vegetables that you would normally throw away.  It takes more time and patience than buying a plant at the store, but I think it's a good trade off.  I'm taking my Grandma's favorite saying to heart -  'Use it up, wear it out, make it do new, do without'.
If you have kids (whether or not you’re homeschooling) you can make this a family project and use it to teach them the concept of life cycles, simple plant biology and much more.  A quick search online will yield multiple ideas and helpful materials. 
I’d really recommend also planting some seeds that are quick to grow so that the kids (and you) won’t get bored while waiting the month or so it can take the seeds I’ve listed below.  While they’re not houseplants, lettuce seeds sprout within days, as do lentils and mung beans (which I’ll discuss at the end of this post).  The bonus with these is that they take up little space and can go from pot to plate, which will provide valuable lessons in where our food comes from.  That extra nutrition won’t hurt you or your wallet either!
When you’re finished making and enjoying that luscious guacamole, don’t toss the avocado pit!  Rinse the pit to get rid of any pulp and grab a small glass or small mason jar and 2 or 3 toothpicks.  Insert the toothpicks, at an angle, into the sides of the pit.  You’ll want the flat part facing down.  The toothpicks will help to hold the top half of the pit out of the water. 
Fill the glass or jar with enough water to cover the bottom half of the pit.  This should be put in a dark place (cabinet, garage, etc) for 2-4 weeks and the water should be checked regularly. I usually change the water every couple of days and never let the water level fall below the pit.
The pit will split in half as it begins to root.  This will be followed by a small shoot.  Once the shoot is about an inch and a half long, you can place it in a pot of soil.  Keep the shoot just above the soil and, because you want to help acclimate it to the outdoors, you’ll need to cover it for the first few days to protect it from direct sun. 
Sweet potato
Sweet potato vines make beautiful, leafy houseplants. Simply cut off a few inches from the pointed end of the potato and plant it, cut side down, in a pot of soil. Keep it watered and you'll have a vine within a few weeks. You can also start it the same way as you would an avocado - placing the potato end in water. 

A word of caution: These vines are poisonous once they've sprouted, so please keep them out of reach of children. The containers can always be moved into reaching distance for watering and then put back out of reach.

Pineapples are a type of bromeliad and can make wonderful houseplants (don’t expect to grow fruit though!) and are fairly easy to start.  Use fresh pineapple to make a smoothie or to broil on the barbeque, but don’t toss the pineapple top! 
When cutting, keep about an inch of the fruit (attached to the leaves) and let this dry for a few days. You’ll need to bury the fruit portion in potting soil and then water.  Water often because the soil needs to stay wet.  Rooting will take about two weeks.  You may not be successful at first, but a way to check is to see if the central leaf is growing.  If it is, then roots are taking.  If not, you’ll have to toss it and try again.
Keep the plant in a sunny window and it should do well!

There are two different methods of rooting mango pits, both of which I’m in the process of trying (sorry, no pictures yet!).
The first method involves planting the pit, including the fibers it will be covered with, in potting soil and then watering.Easy, peasy.
The second method requires removing the husk (with fibers).Be sure not to cut or damage the seeds inside.The seeds will be shaped a bit like a lima bean.Lightly push the seed into a container of potting soil.It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to sprout.

 Mung beans and lentils
Sprouted mung beans are most often used in stirfrys and other oriental dishes.  Sprouted lentils are more often used in salads and sandwiches.  Both contain a lot of nutrition and add a bit of crunch to foods. The following links will take you to information and simple instructions for mung beans and lentils

Shared for Catch As Catch Can at My Repurposed Life


  1. oh my gosh!! i cannot believe the timing of this post!! we keep trying to plant avocado pits but have never really researched it..the kids just keep planting them...I am so going to try this!! how fun!!
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

  2. Yay AnnMarie! So glad the timing was perfect for you - and that you're a new follower as well :) If you're on Facebook, you should like my page. It's where I post giveaways and other goodies that I find online, and I'd love to have you there as well.
    Oh, and I'm following your blog. I've read back through a few of your posts and love your take on things!

  3. Great post, love the idea of your grandma's quote, i try to do as she says but havent yet tried growing plants from food
    hugs June x

    1. I love the quote too June, but confess to changing 'make it do' to 'make it new' to reflect repurposing. But I'm sure she wouldn't mind, lol.

  4. My kids love growing avocado seeds. So I gotta try pineapple next - that is one I never knew.

    Cool ideas and cool blog.

    1. Claudia, thanks so much! Your kids will enjoy growing the pineapple :)
      I'm so glad that you decided to follow my blog - that, I think, is the biggest compliment of all!

  5. Great post! I'll add this NZ Ecochick's facebook page. I am so going to grow my very own avo plant.

  6. Perfect timing! I just received an overly ripe avocado from a neighbor. We're going to try this, thanks!

    1. Jax, is that you? Lol! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's a non-Monsanto pit ;)

  7. Madeleine, thank you! I've liked your FB page - so glad to meet you :)

  8. Love it!! Will try some of these :)

    1. Hooray! You'll have to let me know how it goes - I'd love to know :)

  9. Hi Cynthia, I've grown several of these before, but with the reminder of your article I'm going to do a pineapple soon. I"m following you here now too. I have another blog you might like to check out and possibly follow. It's our missions blog here in Ukraine:
    I'd sure appreciate if you did.
    Blessings, Coleen in Ukraine


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