February 12, 2021
So many things changed in 2020. For some it was a shift in social interactions, from coffee dates and bar hopping, to bike rides and picnics, while others have picked up new hobbies all together. “Indoor Jungles” have become a hot trend, even pre-covid, especially among millennials. And plant purchases have been spiking drastically during the Covid quarantine.
It is understandable why there is a huge draw to house plants given the mess that was 2020. During the lockdown, plant nurseries and hardware stores were deemed as essential. With an extremely limited amount of things to do, people turned to home improvement projects, at a speed we’ve not seen before. Upping our houseplant game and giving our gardens a facelift were no exceptions. It is not just something to do, when people can’t be around their friends, the mental and emotional effects of gardening have been proven time and time again. Plants also add a certain aesthetic to homes (or in the case of a big percentage of millennials, it can add an element of a ‘home’ to a rental,) which is especially important when you’re at home a lot more often.
So, you’ve filled your home with plants. You’ve created an Instagram worthy indoor jungle. Now that we are looking ahead to not only a new normal, but a new year, what the heck happens to all those plants you acquire, when you’re not home day in and day out to take care of them? When were all setting expectations and goals for ourselves, where do the Philodendrons, Monsteras, Sansevierias and Zamioculcas Zamiifolia fit in?
My love for plants started a few years ago, after acquiring a couple basic plants from big box stores. Prior to that, the only plants I had been able to keep alive were some Desert roses I bought around 10 years ago at the local Saturday Morning Market here in St. Pete, during college, that are still alive today. But once I had a Philodendron, Snake Plant and Chinese evergreen thriving, and realized I could not only separate the plants into more plants, but propagate them to share with friends, I was hooked.
In addition to the casualties, there have been many plant experiments, success stories and a significant amount of growth. Along the way, I’ve met wonderful planty-people who share my passion for plants. One person in particular that I was lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time with, not only introduced me to my favorite local nursery, but encouraged me to start @PlantedinPots , an Instagram to share my indoor jungle, and from there, it just ‘bloomed’ (pun intended.) Shortly after beginning the Instagram feed, we launched PlantedinPots.com, a blog that features propagation, plant care, tips and tricks and DIY’s for Plants, in pots.
Plants are meant to be a way to unwind and de-stress, not add more stress. One thing that I have figured out very quickly in my plant journey, is that. Especially while working from home, plants are a way for me to ‘stop the grind’. Whether its taking a quick mid-day break to repot a plant or to change the water in my propagations, or spending 10 minutes checking the leaves on some of my plants after work, to make sure there is not any pests hiding, I can tune out the rest of the world for a short while, Instead of looking at plant care as a chore.
The first step to achieving a plant-filled bliss, is mastering the basics:
As you’re looking at your plant care routine, the best advice I can give anyone: your pots NEED drainage. Improper drainage can lead to a host of problems, and inevitably will kill your plant. An easy solution? Falsely pot your plants (leave the plant in the nursery pot, and simply insert the entire pot into the fancy pot) or use an inexpensive terracotta pot, with holes in the bottom. (Terracotta actually helps to wick away extra moisture, as an added bonus).
It is a lot easier to prevent pests and disease, or cure it at the start than to cure it once it has spread to your entire garden. While bugs might be inevitable eventually, simple tasks like checking the underside of leaves, wiping dust off of your leaves, hosing off plants and keeping a look out for damage, can help catch insect problems or damage to plants before it becomes catastrophic.
Watering either too much or too little (surprisingly it is usually too much) is the biggest plant killer for beginners. With almost all tropical foliage type plants (such as Birds of Paradise and Monsteras), you can simply stick your finger in the pot, about 2 inches down, to tell if the plant needs water. If the soil is dry when you stick your finger in, water it. If it is still moist, hold off. Different varieties such as Snake Plants and ZZ Plants will need less. The amount of light your plant is getting will also affect the amount of water it needs. (Reminder: there is less sunshine in the winter, so your plants will need less water during these months). I recommend talking to people at your local nurseries and plant shops, to find out the watering needs of the kinds of plants you have, once you know the watering requirements, you can make it a part of your routine, so you don’t forget to water them all together, which is another plant killer!
In addition to the right pot, the right soil is also a factor in making sure the roots of the plant get the right aeration and drainage. Choosing a soil that is ‘chunky’ with things like perlite or making your own soil, by adding amendments such as perlite and orchid bark into the soil, is the best way to make sure that your plant gets both. These amendments will help keep your soil from becoming too compact. You can check out my post on aroid soil for a more detailed view into the type of soil I use for most of my tropical plants.
While living in the sunshine state makes getting adequate light a little easier than in other parts of the world, it is still something to pay attention to. While some plants like ZZ plants and Chinese Evergreen, can tolerate low light, they do still need light to survive. On the other hand, plants like Philodendrons and Monstera’s love bright light, but direct sun can lead to sunburn. You should look into the ideal conditions for the types of plants that you have, to make sure they aren’t getting sunburned or vise versa.
February 8, 2021
DIY CONCRETE POTS, FOR PLANTS
Let me start off by saying, if this project intimidates you, it shouldn’t! If you have worked with concrete before, even better.
But, no matter what your experience level is, don’t be afraid to try this out! I personally had never worked with concrete, EVER, until my good friend, Angelica, and I decided on a whim to try out making some planters!
While there were some VERY entertaining moments (like us spilling bags of concrete all over the floor of the hardware store) and some failed attempts and cracked planters, we finally got it down, and now I can’t stop making them!
Every time I see something that is a fun shape, my first thought is, “I could probably make a concrete planter out of that!” So now, I am going to share with you, how we made it work, in ways that even someone who has never used concrete before can easily understand. (and how to fix your mistakes if you end up breaking one!)
Keep reading to find out how! Or you can check out PlantedinPots on Youtube, to watch the video!
The first step is to collect your materials, vegetable oil, a pool noodle, duct tape, concrete, nitrile coated gloves, a small shovel, a bucket to mix your concrete in, a face mask, and Rustolem matte clear spray paint. In addition, you will also need items that will become your molds for the pots. Personally, I ventured off to Goodwill and the Dollar Tree, as well as using some recycled materials from around the house.
A couple things to keep in mind while you’re looking for the molds:
- You need an inner mold and an outer mold, they shouldn’t be too close in size (as you want the concrete to be thick enough that it doesn’t crack) but they also shouldn’t be too far apart in size (as this will make your planter VERY heavy.)
- Materials you should be looking for: Styrofoam, plastic, cardboard or glass. DO NOT USE METAL. It expands and you will not be able to get it out without killing yourself and breaking a couple of can openers. (I know this from experience).
- If you use glass, in most cases you will need to break the molds to get them off of the concrete, so keep this in mind! They will most likely be single use molds.
DO NOT USE METAL. It expands and you will not be able to get it out without killing yourself and breaking a couple of can openers.
Prepping your molds:
Once you have your molds, you will start prepping for the drainage holes. Anyone who is into plants knows, that finding the perfect planter without a drainage
hole (unless your falsely potting) is like the worst thing, ever! So, lets make sure these babies have them! For this part, whip out your pool noodle (I picked up mine on my trip to the dollar store) and hold it up to the first molds you’re going to use. You are going to want to cut the pool noodle to the height between the larger mold and the inner mold. (So when you put the inner mold in, it rests on top of the pool noodle.) Then, take a piece of duct tape and secure the pool noodle to the bottom interior of the outer mold (or the exterior of the inner mold) press the tape down well.
Then, you’re going to take your vegetable oil, and cover the exterior of the inner mold generously, as well as the interior of the outer mold. This will help when removing your molds from the concrete later, So make sure and lather them up well! (Don’t forget to put the oil on the noodle – just think pasta!)
Now it is time mix your concrete and make your pots!
Take your bucket, and add a little bit of water. This is kind of trial and error. So start with a couple of cups worth. Then add some concrete. Mix. Keep adding slowly, until you get to the right amount of concrete and it is mixed to be like an oatmealy/peanut butter consistency.
Depending on the type of concrete you use, it does dry out rather quickly when exposed to open air (while in your mold it dries much slower, depending on the materials used). Because of this, I found it was much easier to make the concrete in smaller amounts (enough for one planter at a time, or a couple of small planters).
Building it up by slowly adding concrete and water as you mix, makes it a lot more easy to mix. If you dump the whole bag of concrete into the bucket, and then adding water, will most likely lead to your mix being too watery as well as your arm being ready to fall off.
Once your concrete is fully mixed, pour or shovel the concrete into the outer mold. Don’t fill it up all the way (more like half) because you’re going to now push the inner mold until you get to the pool noodle! tap/shake the mold, to get out the air bubbles and disperse the concrete. Then, put something heavy (I used paint buckets, packs of beer and bricks for different molds) on top of the inner mold (or inside of it) to hold it in place so it doesn’t float up or shift. Put it somewhere to dry, and start on your next mold!
The planters will take a while to dry, so wait at minimum a few days, depending on the thickness of the mix you used, the size of the planters, the material and the weather!
Once they are completely dry, you can remove them from the molds. Keep in mind, some molds will be easier than others to take out. You may have to beat some, break some glass or get creative with some tools. However, some seem to slide right out! For the inner molds, I find that jiggling them slightly before trying to pull them out works wonders, and for the outer molds, especially on the heavier pieces, gravity is your friend! flip those babies upside down! It is a LOT easier to get them out if the concrete is completely dry. Think of the concrete like soil, even if the top is dry, the bottom is most likely not, so patience is key here!
Think of the concrete like soil, even if the top is dry, the bottom is most likely not.
Once your planters are out of their molds, I recommend letting them fully dry out, then spray them down with Rustoleum clear matte spray paint. Some types of concrete can also release chemicals over time into your soil, causing the pH to raise, depending on where you live and what the climate is, so a recommendation is to leave them out in the rain or hose them down well before you plant your plant in them.
Reddit users also recommended soaking them with a mix of vinegar and water followed by sealing with a “concrete sealant”. I have not tried this method, but this could be another way to avoid raising the pH in the soil or soaking them in a bucket with a trickle of water running through it for a few days. Or, you can choose to falsely pot the plants, in a grow pot, which will also help. I’d love to hear your experiences with concrete planters as you try it! I am not certain if any issues will be caused, and I am not extraordinarily concerned, as the reading I did noticed it is rare for the issues to occur.
Personally, I am going to run water through them use the rustoleum clear spray paint and keep an eye on the plants inside of them!
Now, the only thing left to do is take some beautiful plants, and get them PlantedinPots!
Here are the links from products I really use! Some are amazon affiliate links. If you buy anything using these links, I may make a small commission, so thanks!
Materials for planters:
- Molds: Styrofoam, plastic, glass or cardboard
- recycled items or things from Goodwill or Dollar Tree!
- Quikrete Quick Setting Cement 10-15 Min 10 Lb https://amzn.to/2YwDrYp
- Quikrete mortar: https://amzn.to/3crrziu
- Small shovel: https://amzn.to/3rbujVE
- Nitrile disposable gloves: https://amzn.to/3r9NgYB
- Reusable nitrile gloves: https://amzn.to/3adZsk4
- Duct tape: https://amzn.to/3tduh19
- Pool noodle: https://amzn.to/3tdeqzv
- Vegetable oil: https://amzn.to/3tgcLcL
- Rustoleum clear matte spray paint: https://amzn.to/2MdvlBH
For repairs (if you crack one of your planters!):
- Putty knife: https://amzn.to/2Yz4u5j
- Versa bond thin set mortar: https://amzn.to/2NTQuBe
- Gorilla Glue: https://amzn.to/2MEOdcs