Houseplants 101

Nothing says spring as do breezy-windows welcoming in the fresh air and morning sunshine. 

Spring is the perfect season to deep-clean and add a new plant.

Green thumb or not, the fact is plants have incredible health benefits and can transform any room to look vogue. Houseplants help purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide & release oxygen – which helps prevent illness & improves overall air quality for our breathing. Some studies found that plants can actually boost healing – they’re therapeutic to care of; they can help decrease fatigue and lower anxiety.

He that plants trees loves someone else beside himself…

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These two fellas added some nice dimension to this corner of my house.

If you’re intimidated by houseplants, don’t feel alone. One of the most common mistakes people make, is that they buy a plant simply for its appearance without considering whether or not their home has the right environment for it. Upon coming home, like any good housekeeper, they water it. Sadly, this often leads to a wilted plant that gets tossed to the trash.

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A few of my favorite low-maintenance plants…

1. Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
This is my favorite. I love its defined sleek lines. Snake Plants are durable and can handle a lot of neglect. They are the easiest plants to look after and are known for air-purifying benefits. There are several species – the difference is in the color of the leaves & and overall size it will grow to. This plant requires well-draining soil to prevent root rot. I water my Snake Plant about every 2 weeks with 1 cup of water. In the winter I water it about once a month. It is better to underwater than to over water. I always let the soil completely dry before watering again. Although this plant loves warmth, it doesn’t like direct light – indirect sunlight is perfect, or even low lighting. Use scissors to gently trim tips if you need & dust the leaves regularly with a damp cloth.

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2. Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)
This plant has beautiful glossy leaves that can gather and hold water for drought. The best part is how lovely it ‘blooms’ as the leaf is born and unfolded. It’s very beautiful and doesn’t require a lot of attention. Much like the Snake Plant, it’s also known as an excellent air-purifier. A brightly lit room is perfect for this plant with indirect light (curtains/blinds help), although it can tolerate low light as well. It prefers warmth but not direct hot sun. Similarly, it needs well-drained soil and minimal water. Water it about once a week (1 cup or even less), and it will be happy. It also needs drought between each watering. Wiping the leaves will help prevent dust & foliage pests.

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3. Phothos (Philodndrone)
This is the plant your grandmother has. Lovely glossy heart-shaped leaves. Today, it has evolved to be quite popular too – it can look very trendy if you keep the vines pruned regularly to prevent them from growing like crazy. Using scissors, simply snip off any vines you don’t want. The best part about this plant is that it can even thrive in almost no sunlight – great for a bathroom or an office. It will not tolerate direct sun or heat. However, the lighter the leaves are, the more light it could benefit from. Unlike the others, the Pothos requires regular watering. Only let the top two inches of soil dry off in between each watering. If you wait longer than that, the roots can dry out, which can trigger disease. Excess water can also cause root rot, so let it drain all the way through. This one is really fun to propagate: simply cut off about 6 inches of a healthy vine (make sure there are at least 4-5 leaves on it) and place in a jar of water. As soon as you notice roots forming, immediately plant into soil. If you wait too long, it won’t like the transition from water to soil b/c it adapts to the one it’s “born” in quickly. It can also survive in just water alone, as its permanent home, if you want to leave it that way.

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4. Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)
This is plant is on every hip blog and home magazine. It’s native to western Africa, with stunning foliage that comes either in a bush or tree form. The problem is, it gets a really bad rep for being extremely fussy and impossible to please. My secret to a thriving Fiddle Leaf, is to just ignore it. It seems to like that. It does require regular water and a little drought in between watering – if the top few inches of soil are dry, it’s ready for a cup of water or more, depending on its size. Make sure you buy a healthy fiddle to start with. When you bring it home, don’t replant it right away from the plastic pot. It doesn’t like change. Simply place it into a large decorative basket and cover the top with decorative moss. This plant requires bright natural light. It’s dependent on sunlight but it does not tolerate direct sunlight. Mine is in front of a window only because I have drapes that filter the sun. Fiddle Leaf does not like to be moved around, except to simply rotate. It’s a homebody.  The Fiddle roots love to be tight and snug in the pot. It hibernates in the winter, so wait until spring to re-pot it. Don’t buy too large of a pot & make sure it has drainage holes on the bottom. It needs course well-draining soil. Keep the leaves dust-free so they can absorb light. And lastly, rub some coconut oil on the foliage to make them happy and glossy. Remember, ignore it all other times & you will have more than a statistic. 🙂

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My glossy happy leaf after a coconut oil rub.

 

5. Succulents
These are desert plants that thrive in hot places with lots of sunshine but can adapt to many environments. They can thrive outdoor and indoor. The cutest in all of history! They come in endless selection of sizes, shapes & colors and are generally under $10. Perfect décor for a window-sill, especially by the kitchen sink. Not all are the same, their preferences vary in soil & temperature. The greener the leaves, the more chances it will survive inside. Stay away from gray, blue & purple ones.  Aloe plant succulents can do well if placed in a bright window. In general, succulents require at least 6 hours of natural sunlight a day. They need containers with drainage holes in the bottom so water can drain away from the roots. Planting succulents in unglazed pots can help the soil breathe. Because its pillowy leaves, stems & roots store moisture, over-watering is the number one way people kill succulents. They prefer course soil and it’s good to let the soil dry thoroughly between watering – a little neglect is okay.

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I love the simplicity of Terra Cotta pots. They always come with a drainage hole and are relatively inexpensive.

 

Some general golden-nuggets…

Watering with ice cubes can be an effective way to release water slowly enough to for a plant’s roots to absorb it. Start with a handful of ice cubes and then test the soil after they have melted. If the top soil is still dry, add more.

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Here’s one of my babies 🙂

For all of these plants, use a course well-draining soil. Miracle-Grow Potting Soil Mix has fertilizer in it & drains well.

  1. Indoor plants grow mostly in the spring & summer. They hibernate in the winter, so don’t water them as much.
  2. Spring is the best time to replant plants, right before new growth begins.
  3.  Fertilize your potted plants in the spring, summer & fall. Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Spikes are an easy way to fertilize potted plants – about once a month or once every 2 months. The result will be lush plants with vibrant color. (Over-fertilizing can kill your plant).
  4. When replanting: do not water right way. Potting soil is already moist. Go up to one or two sizes in pot – avoid drastic change. Use a pot with drainage hole. Some nurseries will drill a hole for your pot if you bring it in, but this can be risky.
  5. Roots don’t like to be soggy. Place small decorative rocks on the bottom of the pot before you add your soil and the plant. This helps drain water. Adding decorative moss or rocks to the top of the plant’s soil can help keep it healthy too.
  6. Please note: the type of plants listed here, if eaten, can make pets and babies sick.
  7. Buy your plants from a local nursery. Do a google search. You get more for your dollar and there is always an experienced plant-expert that will help answer questions and offer carry-out (a plus if you have little ones). Oftentimes, they have great sales and if your plant ever has issues, you can bring it in for help. Just ask. Besides, what’s better than supporting local business rather than big chain stores like Home Depot or Ikea? (Their plants can sometimes be damaged & untended to, if you look closely).


Few things are lovelier than walking into a nursery greenhouse. I can be there all day. The plants are thriving & the air is moist. So peaceful…

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I really hope this helps. I am not an expert by any means. Just a momma with a few plant babies. Please feel free to add any tips you might have, in the comments. There is always something new to learn and different things work for different people.

The important thing is to never give up.

Keep trying and trust yourself in the process. Don’t beat yourself up over a dead plant – remember, you are not alone.

Blessings & love…

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