This is part two in a little micro series on using plants in your home, read part 1 here.
The other day, in part 1, I showed off all the plants in my home. Now I’d like to try to convince you that it’s worth risking killing a plant in hopes that it will live and give you years of enjoyment. And I’m going to use the word “plants” to describe both plants and fresh flowers. If I were rich I’d probably have fresh flowers delivered daily. But fresh flowers are much more expensive so potted, living plants are an obvious alternative.
The most common phrase that people use when talking about plants and decorating is that plants breathe life into a room. And it’s true, plants and fresh flowers are the cherry on top of a room, the finishing touch, the lemon zest, the polish, the completer of a room. If a room feels stale or spiritless or undone, sometimes the addition of one plant can make all the difference.
These two gorgeous rooms (by Napoli and the second unsourced from tumblr) are both somewhat similar with their focus on white and wood and neutrals but one photo pulls me in more than the other. You too? The one with the flowers seems more complete.
If you have a Pinterest account pop over to some of your boards where you pinned photos of rooms you like my guess is most of the rooms will have plants. Look at that photo again, would the room be as finished without the plants? You can do the same with photos in a shelter magazine–have you ever noticed all the plants that are a part of every room? Consider how the room would look if the plants were removed.
I promised I would tell you all my planty secrets. And it’s tempting for me to google a bunch of planty tips so I can make sure I tell you everything there is to know about keeping plants alive. But really, want I want to tell you is how I keep my plants. You can google things on your own but this is what works for me, a forgetful mom who loves pretty things but doesn’t care to baby something like a plant. Most likely, there is a plant that suits your home environment and your personality and natural nurturing tendencies, the trick is to find that plant. It’s fun!
And here’s a secret, sooner or later you will kill every plant you ever own. If you go ahead and accept that fact you will be much better off. Plants are not forever investments, I don’t have a plant that’s over a year and a half old right now which means that every single one of the plants I’ve ever had before that, I’ve killed. But, THEY ALL brought enjoyment and some I had for many years, some just a few months. The key is to be willing to take a risk and find out which kinds of plants work for you. Ideally, you want to be able to keep your plants for years and years and years but even if you have a pretty plant for 6 months–isn’t that worth it compared to paying the same price for fresh flowers?
Most of my plant deaths are due to moving (for some reason moving always seems to kill my plants even when we simply moved one neighborhood over, not sure if I forgot to take care of them or if the change in environment got to them) or to due to me um, dropping them. I can be quiet clumsy.
I’ve learned that I always kill African Violets, Ivy, Topiary, Indoor Herbs and Indoor Ferns, so I stay away from those. But I had to learn the hard way buying a few plants over the years to see what works.
Plants That Work For Me
- Succulents of all sorts (I LOVE Burro’s Tail it’s easy to grow but fragile)
- Pony Tail Palm (AKA: Elephant’s Foot)
- Snake Plant
- Creeping Fig (I used to only grow this outside but I’m testing it inside, so far so good)
- Bonsai Tree
I’ve always heard that you should start with succulents if you are just getting into plants because they thrive on neglect. And do you know what the number one killer of plants is? Over watering. The second is probably pets. I’m totally making the second one up but it’s a good guess.
I water most of my plants about every 2-3 weeks. I’ve gotten in the habit of watering them every other Monday unless they seem fine or super dry I don’t bother with them. My outdoor ferns are a totally different story, they are potted and get afternoon sun so they are happy to be watered a little every single day–so don’t do outdoor potted anything unless you can commit to their high maintenancy selves.
Bringing A Plant Home
When I first get a plant I don’t immediately repot it. I always have it “on trial” for a few weeks and try it different places in my home to see if I could use it in the place where it’s the happiest. If you read the tag on the plant you can find out if it wants lots of light or hardly any, do your best to accommodate and your plant will thank you.
Once I know I’m going to keep a plant (yep, you can return plants to most places if they aren’t going to work for you) then I’ll start looking for the perfect pot. Many plants can stay in the plastic pot they came in and you can slip them into a decorative planter but, I figure if I’m going to have the plant for the long haul (which is always my goal) it’s best to go ahead and get it acclimated and repot it directly into a planter.
I purchase most of my planters from Home Goods/TJMaxx/Marshall’s where you can get large planters for under $15. But don’t limit yourself to ordained, labeled “for plants” planters, you can use an interesting vase, a hollowed out stump, a ceramic bowl, just about anything to pot a plant. You just need to make sure you have adequate drainage either by putting your plant in an actual planter and placing the planter inside the fun non-planer OR you can use gravel at the bottom of your unusual, un-ordained planter and that will help drain any extra water away from the roots.
I also think that the biggest mistake people make when they repot plants is that they don’t loosen up the roots. If your plant has been in one pot for a long time the roots can begin to grow in a circle and strangle the plant itself. Even if you have a non rootbound plant you want to make sure the dirt that comes with the plant is not in one hard pot shaped clog. Have you ever pulled up a dead plant only to find that the soil that comes up with it is in the exact shape of the pot the plant came in? This means that the roots and original soil weren’t loosened up before the plant was repotted.
I want a Fig tree (insert Nellie Olsen voice)
Where I Buy Plants
I am not a plant snob. I prefer to purchase plants at the least expensive places possible like grocery stores, yard sales, IKEA, Lowes and Home Depot. Just like thrift store shopping it’s smart to visit the plant section of the home improvement shops every time you go because there is usually something different. My stores have a few different sections where they have plants that could work indoors–usually they have an area set up right when you enter the store for seasonal indoor plants, then there is a greenhouse and also the outdoor area, I always visit all three. Many stores also have a one year guarantee for plants–just keep the original receipt and the pot it came in and it’s no risk–check out your local store to find out about their return policy.
And unless I know I can grow a specific plant, I look for the smallest plant I can find–so instead of buying the gallon sized plant, I’ll look for the one that can fit in the palm of my hand, that way I can experiment without wasting too much money.
I was doing my CVS coupon/shopping the other day and noticed a big shelf full of succulents! At CVS!! You can use your ECBs on them if you want and they start at just $1.99. I’m going to purchase a few to add into the empty corners of my planters. Succulents are great plants to fill in little gaps of your planters, I love to plant them all together so they can get to know each other.
A Few Bonus Tips
See that planter up there? Ideally the few plants that are actually planted there will grow big and strong, so I didn’t pack it full of plants. Instead I left some empty space but, I didn’t want it to look empty in the mean time so, I tucked a smaller planter inside…
…and I have a little pretend succulent that I use to fill in any gaps during the growing process. You can mix pretend with real, there’s no law against it, just make sure your pretend plants are high quality. Lucky for us, pretend succulents are very realistic.
When I notice that a plant is looking frail, the first thing I do is check and see if it’s dry as a bone (whoops, maybe I forgot to water it) the second thing I do is move the plant. Maybe it needs more or less light? Many of the plants in our home get moved around from place to place, I don’t really have a specific spot that each plant must stay in order for my house to look right.
Hosting a get together and want flowers but don’t want to invest in something that gets thrown out the next week? Many times in the spring and summer I’ll purchase potted perennials like foxglove and hydrangea and bring them inside and put them in a decorative basket for a week or so to finish off a table setting or empty corner while we have guests. After they leave, I plant the flowering whatever it is outside and then I get to enjoy it year after year (or at least until we move) a great use of $20. And something you could do this Sunday if you are hosting Easter dinner.
If you’ve never had plants here’s your assignment, go buy a succulent. If it’s in a plastic, temporary pot, go ahead and buy a small bag of potting soil and a new pot, a little larger then the one your plant came in. Feeling risky? Purchase three succulents an a little larger pot. Come home, break up any roots and pop them in that new pot with some fresh potting soil. Check out how Sherry planted her succulents.
Hate to see nekkid soil on top of your plants? Cover the top of your soil with gravel, little river rocks, marbles, moss, tiny ceramic animals….
Need more plant inspiration? Here’s my Pinterest Plant board.
Reader Tips from the comments of the first post::
- Water your plants in the tub so they can drain.
- Mist the leaves of your plants.
- Use half strength Miracle Gro to feed your plants
- Don’t be afraid to trim back your plant if it’s growing wild (try a test spot first to see how it reacts)
Feel free to leave your best planty tips in the comments