If you spoke to me a year ago about houseplants, I would have told you that I couldn't keep ONE alive. Don't give me a plant as a gift, and don't try and make me have one in my house! Any plant that entered my house in the last decade succumbed to its unfortunate demise within just a few months. I overwatered, I underwatered…who the heck knows? All I knew was that I could not keep them alive. And, I found myself being okay with that. I had children and pets to keep fed and sheltered, and I didn't need anything else to take care of.
Well, it's now October 2020 and I went from having zero house plants in March 2020 to now having 45. YES. 45. And they are all growing and flourishing and loving their houseplant lives. Here's how it all started…
Back in April, I moved into our new house. Then in May, I moved out of our large studio/office. We had a ton of plants at the former office that were used for photoshoots, so I inherited about 20 of those. The timing worked to bring a bunch with me as I had a new house to put them in, and I was excited to bring these familiar plants to my personal home and have some of that life and warmth that plants bring. After that, I slowly grew my plant collection…a few here and there all summer and into the fall. As I saw that I could keep the first batch alive, I added more and more in spaces where I knew they could thrive. I now have plants in a variety of sizes from lots of small and mediums to some large (and VERY large like the one above).
Now that I am happily an official plant lady, here are a few tips from me (a novice) about how I managed to keep these plants alive and happy in my home after a decade of thinking I could never do it…
1. Start with a once-a-week watering schedule. While plant experts will tell you that every plant is different and require various watering schedules, it would have overwhelmed me too much to think that I had to have different waterings days and times for different plants. Many of the plants that I inherited from our office, I had no idea what kind of light or watering they required. I wasn't about to search all the plant types online, so I kept it simple for myself. When my first batch of 20 plants were at my office, Jess (from the Oh Joy! team) was so good about watering them. She watered them every Friday, so I decided to stick with that day of the week. I added it as a re-occurring item on my calendar, and now I never forget. Over time, I have gotten used to how much water each plant needs—based on how much the pot can hold, when it starts to overflow, or how well it did from the previous week's watering.
2. Buy plants based on your typical sunlight and move plants around if they seem like they aren’t succeeding. When I began buying new plants over the summer, I was very aware to buy ones based on the light we have most of the time (not during a small window of the day). Most plants at a nursery or plant store have recommendations written on them. But if they don't say anything, always ask. If I see that a plant is starting to wilt, get brown/yellow leaves, or have other issues arising, I'll move it to a slightly less or more sunny spot and see how it does for a few weeks. I had a bunch of plants on a windowsill in my bathroom, and most were doing just great. But then I noticed one was always curling up it's leaves so I moved it to a less directly sunny spot, and she's much happier!
3. Trim when you water. When I do my weekly water, I will also trim and prune leaves that feel like they have shriveled, turned, or aren't thriving in some way. I don't know if you SHOULD do that, but I found that if one leaf had issues, more would have the same issue if I left it there. Whereas if I trimmed it, the rest would get better. It's as if the dead leaves were taking energy from alive ones.
4. Propagate if you love a plant that's thriving and turn it into decor in the meantime. I have some plants that seem to never have issues and have grown exceptionally well. These tend to be the climbing types of plants that often grow long tendrils. If you find a couple tendrils getting too long for the space the plant is in, it's a great time to trim them. You can also clip that healthy stem into making another new plant! This type of plant propagating is to clip a part of a plant and put it in water to allow new roots to grow before planting it into soil. They look so pretty in smaller bud vases you would normally use for flowers (like photo above)! And, they take the place of flowers nicely while lasting a lot longer.
5. Read some cool plant books! I only know what I have learned from my own experience, but for when I have issues with a plant or have no idea what is happening to it, a great plant book is your best friend. I also love ones that inspire plant life within home decor so two of my favorites are: Houseplants for All by Danae Horst and Wild at Home by Hilton Carter.
Some people made sourdough bread over quarantine, and I became a plant lady. There you have it folks…now you know anything is possible 😛
A tip I picked up that I find useful: Dedicate a chopstick to soil aeration + dampness checks. Poke a chopstick into the pot in a few places–aerates the soil (something worms and wild bugs aren’t able to do for indoor plants), and also gives you an idea of how damp or dry the soil is from your last watering.
Not sure if that gorgeous bird of paradise (leading pic) is planted in that pot (or if there’s a plastic pot within the outside ceramic pot), but I would suggest putting something under the pot to lift it off your wood floors. I had a huge FLF in a large pot, similar in size to your bird of paradise, and even though it was not touching the wood floors (it was raised off by planter “feet”, it was so big/so much moisture that it over the course of a year, it ruined the wood floors beneath it. (And at the time, we had just finished a major reno and MAN when you see that invoice $$ line for flooring it sure makes you want to take extra good care of them!)
There is a tray inside the large pot to catch the water :).
Thanks for checking!
Thanks for these tips. I have 3 plants, with the 3rd being a bird of paradise I’ve just treated myself too because I’ve managed to keep the other two alive. I’m praying it all works out haha.
Slow and steady for sure!!
That huge plant looks so cool – almost unreal in the best way 😀 Really awesome.
Wish I had the ceiling ehight for it.