I’m a gardener who lives in a redwood forest. I share a little cabin with my boyfriend, my two cats, and over 100 houseplants.


It’s peaceful here. With majestic redwood trees that tower over everything, stillness in the fresh air, and wildlife that roams in our wooded backyard, it’s very calming, but it is a challenge keeping my plants happy. Why? I have little light. Yet I have hundreds of thriving cacti, succulents, and tropical houseplants, both inside and outside. How do I do it? Strategic placement, listening to every plant’s needs (constantly watching and learning), and indoor LED grow lights.


It’s definitely a challenge, but I make it work. Each plant is different. Every past assumption or knowledge acquired about every plant’s needs are put to the test. Not all succulents are treated equal. Some need more light, some less. Some want all the light you can give them, and others seem happier in the shade. Some cacti like full sun, others want part shade. Some tropical houseplants want bright indirect light all day, some are OK tucked away in a bathroom. It’s a dance; a game; a delicate balance. It’s always evolving, and only time tells what works and what doesn’t. There’s all the books (and blogs) you can read, but you can only observe and listen to what each plant is telling you. What works for one might not work for another.


I’ve gotten to know each of my plants so much better since I’ve moved them all to this challenging situation. And the coolest part is, they’re still happy! I see new growth all the time, and they seem to be thriving. Some do show signs of stress or etiolation at times. Etiolation is a fancy plant nerd term for getting leggy or stretched out from reaching towards the light.



v. e·ti·o·lat·ede·ti·o·lat·ing,


1. To cause (a plant) to develop without chlorophyll by preventing exposure to sunlight
a. To cause to appear pale and sickly
b. To make weak by stunting the growth or development of

When I see my plants start stretching, I rotate them to more light, and wait. Sometimes when it goes too far, propagation is required. Sometimes the only means of saving a leggy succulent is by propagating individual leaves. I’ve had to start over with some of my Echeverias and Aeoniums, but I never give up. If I have a plant ready to die, I’ll at least take a cutting of even just one leaf, with the hopes of allowing it to live on. If I have to deconstruct the whole plant, I’ll make the sacrifice. Here is an Echeveria ‘Black Prince’ that was completely etiolated past the point of no return, so I had to deconstruct the whole plant in order to give it another chance at life. (See individual blog post about how to save stretched-out succulents here.)

I’m not saying I’ve never killed a plant. I’ve killed my fair share of plants. Failure is necessary for learning, and it helps you know what not to do. I think everyone has a chance to have a green thumb, but it requires patience. You have to want the plant to live. And every plant I’ve ever killed completely that I didn’t get a cutting from before I let it go, I’ve went out and bought a new one to try again.


Please visit my contact page if you have any questions or plant problems.  I am here to assist you.


PS: I don’t always have spider decals on my windows.  It was October when those photos were taken. ; )

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All photo rights belong to Cristie R. Kiley.  Please ask permission before taking.

1 Comment on “Gardener in the Redwoods

  1. Pingback: Fighting the Winter Blues – Part 1 – Xylem Rising

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