Hello, my name is Hattie, and I have more houseplants than I do teeth…
Whilst this may seem a strange way to start, when you take into account that adults have 32 gnashers, you may be able to see why this admission is made slightly easier when hiding behind a slightly-panicked smile.
Starting with the staples – you know… a sturdy peace lily here, an un-killable snake plant for the bathroom, and a cactus to sit on that inch of empty space on the mantelpiece – my house quickly became home to around 45 plant-babies. And if you thought an international lockdown might quell the plant-purchasing, well, you’d be wrong. Thanks to Isherwood’s online shop, Root Houseplant’s free delivery over £10, and new-kid-on-the-block Jungle’s door-drop deliveries, I’ve been unstoppable (and insatiable).
So, what makes them so satisfying?
Aside from looking good – as the 3.5m posts tagged #houseplants on Instagram can vouch for – what actually are the joys of having so much greenery indoors?
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, research suggests that the greatest benefits of indoor plants are their impact on improving wellbeing. From reduced stress levels, through to increased productivity, the research into the positive power of plants on our mental health and mind-set speaks volumes.
There seems to be as much evidence of physical improvements too: data showed that the benefits of indoor plants included lowering blood pressure, as well as reducing fatigue and headaches by between 20-25 percent in one study. The list of reasons for creating the household forest seems to be well-rooted in positive facts.
However, while starting your growing collection is only a click away, there’s lots to learn when it comes to showing your green-friends love. Never fear though: we chatted to Natalie, one of the experts behind the city’s newest independent plant shop Jungle, and asked her all you need to know…
I want plants, what should I start with?
This is the question we get most. Friends and family always commented that they loved our plants but would never be able to keep any alive. You need to start with the right plants and build your confidence slowly until you find your plant care routine. This plant selection anxiety is the main reason behind our bundles; they help you cater to your needs and you get three plants in one order!
Help! My plants have brown tips/are looking a little yellow – why is this happening, can I save them, and what do I do now?
In most instances the plant is definitely still saveable! Brown tips can mean different things depending on the plant but for most plants it’ll be connected to humidity. Most people forget how essential humidity is to plants. The plants we take into our homes would naturally live in vast forests or jungles surrounded by other plants encompassed in a constant bubble of humidity. That’s a stark contrast to our heated homes! Unfortunately, a little spritz first thing in the morning won’t create the humidity your plants need. We advise grouping plants together to help them create their own little micro-climate of humidity or investing in a humidifier and running this for a few hours a day.
How do I know when I need to repot my plants?
The simplest rule of thumb here is if there are roots coming out of the bottom, it’s time to repot. There are a few exceptions to this, the Bird of Paradise likes to be snug in its pot so can be left a little longer. It’s important to remember that you should only bump a plant up one pot size as placing a plant in a pot that’s too big for it can be detrimental to the plant’s overall health. Remember to always wash out old pots if you plan on reusing them, this will help avoid any nasty infestations of pests.
Misting, watering, and feeding: what am I doing, when am I doing them, and is it possible to do these too much?!
Misting is a bit of a fruitless task (unless you’re misting into a terrarium) you’d need to be spending a long period of time standing and spraying your plants for it to have a significant impact. Watering is always plant dependent, therefore ensure you check your individual plant’s needs. Our general rule of thumb is the knuckle test: if you pop your middle finger into the soil up to the first knuckle and it comes out dry you’re safe to give it a water. If the soil is still moist, you need to put the watering can down! Plants susceptible to root rot, such as Peperomia, should be bottom watered. Pop them in a sink or bowl of water for around half an hour and let them absorb what they need, as this will minimize the risk of overwatering. Feeding is essential for great growth and happy well balanced plants, some plants such as cacti and palms have particular requirements and do not require excessive feeds. In our own home jungle, we water our 140 plants every two weeks spring through autumn with Liquid Gold Leaf, which is hands down the best plant fertiliser on the market.
Talk to me about cacti – am I meant to be watering these?
If it’s winter, no! Leave them be, we start giving ours a little drink around March time and water them every week or two. It’s important to mimic their natural environment and allow them to dry out between waterings.
My plant has started to lose some leaves – is it a gonner?
Nope, it’s natural, in most cases! Leaves age and lower leaves that can’t reach light or have been damaged will be sacrificed by the plant. For instance, it’s common in Alocasia for them to sacrifice an older leaf as they push out a new one. The important thing here is not to pull or cut off a damaged leaf, let the plant drop it itself. Cutting leaves without sterile tools can leave plants open to infection. If you have a mass dropping of leaves (and your plant isn’t the super diva-ish Croton) consider any factors that may have caused stress such as cold draughts, movements or pests.
Instagram *made* me buy a cheese plant, a string of hearts, and a rubber plant… now I have them, how do I care for them?
Instagram is responsible for a lot of plant deaths! It’s important to weigh up your home in comparison to the plant you want. Fiddle Leaf Figs (Ficus Lyrata) are popular on Instagram but they’re high maintenance divas and without the right light and attention you’re going to kill it slowly! Research is key; speak to your plant loving friends, reach out to the Instagram plant community, it’s a friendly corner of the internet; speak to the people you’re purchasing your plants from and most importantly know what light your house has!
What pests do I need to be aware of?
When you have a lot of plants like we do, pests are inevitable. There are three that we’ve had experience with and can advise on:
Fungus Gnats: These annoying and slow moving flies actually don’t do damage to your plants but they are annoying. They live in the top three inches of damp soil and breed rapidly. Unfortunately, they’re very common due to how plants are grown in the greenhouse. To eradicate them, do a complete soil change, invest in cheap yellow sticky traps to get the adults or order some nematodes, which will eat the larvae in the soil. You can prevent them by making it difficult for them to get to the soil, we use the beautiful Shell on Earth to top our pots which prevents the adults getting to the soil and being able to lay their eggs.
Spider Mites: These live on the underside of leaves and eat away at the layers of the plant and suck plant fluids. Leaves turn yellow and drop off and you’ll often spot webbing. They thrive in hot and dry conditions. To get rid of them, prune leaves and stems that are infected and grab some bug spray.
Mealybugs: Look like smaller white woodlice, they suck sap from your plants and can cling on and hide well on your plants. If you spot one grab a cotton pad and some rubbing alcohol. The bugs will die on contact.
The main thing with pests is to quarantine any plant you spot them to avoid them spreading.
So, there you have it: the one-stop guide to house plant care! Bookmark it, share it, and treasure it; after a pay-day plant-buying spree, you might be needing it sooner than you think…