Can I keep a plant in my car?
February 13, 2013 8:07 PM   Subscribe

I would like to keep a plant (alive) in my car, possibly in a cup holder. Is there a plant that could handle my car's interior environment, isn't too fussy about watering, and is not covered in needles?

I live in southern California where it's nearly constantly sunny, so the inside of my car often gets very hot.
posted by mnemonic to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am not a horticulturist, nor your horticulturist (IANAH, IANYH, etc)
But ...
Cars go from blazing hot (especially in your environment) to freezing cold much more mercurially than than in a home.
The SUN blazing in the window will burn it up, methinks.
And the humidity (not!) will be a big factor.
The plant's microenvironment will be experiencing a speeded-up version of apocalypse. Weird dark times in the heat, cold-ish sun-times, your heater and air conditioner etc.
Plants are kinda like cats. They like life to be predictable. And if you give sun, water, and food in the appropriate amounts in an environment that suits them and is predictable (not varying too much from the usual) they (usually) thrive.
I want to see what the other posters say!

Maybe a tiny little tropical thing that has an enclosed environment (terrarium?) that is kept out of the direct sunlight (ALWAYS). But do you want this in your car?
Anyway, Good Luck!
posted by bebrave! at 8:55 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I dug up some hens-and-chicks the other day and put them, bare-rooted, in a paper bag in my back seat. Then I forgot all about them and left them inside the car in the hot sun all day. I re-planted them outside after that and they were fine.

Granted, it was only one day, but maybe hens-and-chicks, or some other type of drought-resistant succulent? I'd say a cactus could take it but you said you don't want needles. (Soft and fuzzy cacti exist, though, and might be kind of cute!)
posted by (F)utility at 9:29 PM on February 13, 2013

Best answer: I kept an aloe vera plant in my car in Southern California for MONTHS. No water, maximum neglect. At some point it rolled out of its pot and bounced and slid around in the back for a few more months.

Eventually I decided to be merciful (God knows) and stuck it in the ground outside the little house I was renting in South Pasadena. Water, sunlight, soil. Soon its brown shriveled stalks became brown plump stalks which became green and spiky and so on until it sprouted an aloe vera flower-spear from the center of its being and reached for God.

Long story short: I think with just a modicum of care an aloe vera is likely to prosper in your car.
posted by notyou at 9:49 PM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

African violet?
posted by taff at 9:54 PM on February 13, 2013

Tillandsia (air plant) maybe. They like bright but filtered light and can handle temps between 50F and 90F. Direct sun will burn them though.
posted by faineant at 10:35 PM on February 13, 2013

Best answer: If you have a jar with an inch of water, you can grow a philodendron. I say "jar" because it's more aesthetically pleasing than plastic Big Gulp vessel.
posted by infinite joy at 10:57 PM on February 13, 2013

Best answer: I was thinking Jade Plant, or better, a Flowering Jade Plant.

Since you live in SoCal, Jade is about to flower in a month or two. I promise your neighbor won't notice when you steal a cutting for your car.

In soil or water, it'll do fine. As mentioned above, maximum neglect. As long as it doesn't totally dry out, it is still viable. A very vey hardy succulent, and very pretty IMHO!!
posted by jbenben at 10:58 PM on February 13, 2013

How about basil? It probably needs decent watering, but it loves heat and will make your car smell great.
posted by threeants at 11:02 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rosemary. The stuff is so damn hard to kill they plant it along the side of the highway in Arizona.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:38 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

The rosemary in my backyard has survived 25-115F without batting an eye. Aloe vera is also a good recommendation, though it may turn brown from the amount of direct sunlight in a car.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:43 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

(F)utility: "I dug up some hens-and-chicks the other day and put them, bare-rooted, in a paper bag in my back seat. Then I forgot all about them and left them inside the car in the hot sun all day. "

I did the same with hens-and-chicks, but left them in a paper bag in my Chicago area garage for over a year, through a blazing summer and a freezing winter. When I planted them, they perked right up and grew so much four separate neighbors took cuttings. My old bag of hens-and-chicks now cover the neighborhood.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:26 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You need a plant that can get very hot and then cold in short succession. The places where that happens in nature are deserts. You might consider picking out a small annual from here, or else go down to your local nursery and ask specifically after something from the Mojave.
Getting the drainage right is going to be tricky in a cupholder. Desert plants will mostly want well-drained soils, which will mean letting water leak out the bottom of its container--into your cupholder, where you will need to clean it up.
Succulents, as suggested above, also seem like a good idea, again, look for something from the Mojave.
Are you comfortable leaving a window cracked when you're parked? It would help, if you're not too afraid of additional break-in risk.
posted by agentofselection at 10:33 AM on February 14, 2013

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