As seen in the St. Petian Digital Magazine 2.12.21
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.
For more on house plant basics, the best house plants for your space & how to stop killing plants, visit my house plants 101 post.
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