Guest Post By Rachel Ma
I often joke that my kids can survive on little water, bright light and a bit of neglect. This certainly holds true when the “kids” are what I call my house plants. Currently, I have two terrariums (7 weeks old), two air plants (7 months old), and a bunch of mini potted succulents (6-12 months old). Awww.
Here’s my big secret to keeping plants around for so long: #plantparenthood. I’m serious. Raise them as you would with anything that’s alive and breathing so think parenting, not planting. You wouldn’t just pour water on a kid and tell her to go sit in the sun all day. Well, it’s the same with plants. Water and sun are important but they also need the right surroundings to grow. Before I introduce any plant into my apartment, there are three big things I have to consider:
Not if there’s enough space (although that’s important too) but what kind of space will this plant be surrounded by. My apartment is on the top floor of a house, so the air is usually warmer. The living room skylight faces NW. There is no direct sunlight. I have no central air. All these things add up and ultimately help me decide which plants I can raise without quitting my job and becoming a full-time gardener. For me, I can safely say that succulents, cacti and air plants are my friends. I found out the hard way that anything with flowers (orchids) or tall and thin (lavender) will just collapse from sadness. Also, try out different spots in the room. Plants like a change in scenery too.
Green is my colour. I don’t know anything about botany so from my experience, the more colourful the plant, the harder it is for me to maintain. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but a steady streak of colourful plants dying under my care say otherwise. Also, keeping things green makes it super easy to tell if your plant is doing well. Bright, solid greens is good news; dull, blotchy greens is bad news. If you’re after colour, do so in the accessories: a bright coloured pot, coloured reindeer moss, maybe some plastic animal figures.
One of the most overlooked factors in keeping plants alive is where you are buying them from. If the plant you bring home isn’t in good shape to begin with, it’ll be harder to maintain or bring it back to life unless you’re up for that sort of thing. I’m okay with big chain grocery stores for herbs and common house plants, but specialty plants should come from a specialty store, preferably local. Talk to the store owners and ask where they get their plants. Know your sources and know your sources’ sources.
My final piece of advice: Keep at it. Like anything you want to get good at, you must keep the momentum going. Of course, with plant parenthood, it’s okay to let things die, unlike with, um, real parenthood. I went through so many plants and plant caring tips before I found the right combination of things. If you stop after your 10th plant dies, you’ll never know how to raise your 11th plant, right? It’s all about creating the perfect storm and watching your plants thrive in it.
Rachel Ma lives in Toronto with her assortment of plants and Bill Murry accessories….
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