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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Outdoorsy Girls Guide To: HOUSE PLANTS

Okay, so this might seem like a weird one in the OGG series and fine, it sort of is - But let's be honest... it's winter in New England and early December is just ugly stick season. The green is gone save for the evergreens and it's dark at 4:30. I am spending much more time inside than I want to and I miss being outside in the sunshine. It's also 2020 and the coronavirus is on the rise so we are all home a lot more than we are used to. 

COVID, winter, lack of greenery.... cue the plant collection. 
Let's face it... Crazy Plant Girl is so 2020. 

I was never "big into plants". 
 Don't get me wrong, I always loved how they looked on someone's Instagram but I was known for my black thumb and I was sick of spending money on plants I couldn't keep alive (RIP to all the IKEA plants I took home to their grave and all my regrets to the orchids I cannot get to rebloom). When we bought the new house in Old Saybrook, I stuck with a "modern colonial" vibe and the house took over the theme of light wood tones, black, and white. It was a neutral haven and * I love it * but I knew the addition of some greenery would bring a little warmth (and some life) into this neutral space I was now spending so much time in. 

Monastera and Philodendron

I had a few succulents that were all pretty touch and go and even had a pothos plant that had survived several months in a windowless bathroom with minimal water at Adam's house.  I eventually started to venture out of the $5 home depot cactus variety and I started small - with trips to the local greenhouse to purchase some inexpensive plants that were known to be very hardy. 

My number 1 advice to you? While the prices are tempting, avoid getting your plants somewhere like Home Depot or Walmart... do some research and find your local greenhouse where you can talk to a knowledgable person. Tell them about your lifestyle, experience, house/lighting, and what you are looking for. I just about went in and said "Hello, I have a lot of windows and I want some plants that are insanely easy to keep alive". On my first trip to the huge greenhouse about 20 minutes away, I left with some easy keepers - a snake plant, a ZZ plant, and a Manta plant (prayer plant).  Let's just say that I went home with a happy inexpensive collection of a few smaller houseplants that are virtually impossible to kill and immediately did my research on how to not kill these hard to kill plants.  

Aloe Plant 

Spider Plant 

My first real plant "investment" into the plant collection (read: a plant that cost me more than $15) was an elephant ear. I went out for a snake plant and instead, came home with this HUGE gorgeous leafy plant that looked like it belonged in the tropics. It barely fit in my car but there was something about those tropical looking gigantic leaves that convinced me that I could be devoted to keeping this $60 plant alive.  

Elephant Ear, ZZ Plant and Snake Plant 

I did my research and diligently started to care for my elephant ear - water, sunshine, dusting leaves, rotating, humidity, looking for signs of distress. Just about every day I exclaimed to Adam how proud I was of my plant parenting skills and showed off its perky leaves and new growth as it happily thrived in our living room.  

My plant collection was expanding fast and my notes on Operation Green Thumb was getting a little out of control.  I decided to take my diligence one step further with a table detailing all of the care instructions for each plant in my arsenal (watering, light, other needs).  I started a watering schedule and as I scrolled through my table, I realized I was really committed and probably losing my mind in all that was 2020.  I guess you could say I took a big quick leap into plant lady life and I will argue it was a healthier pandemic hobby than drinking or collecting cats. 

Prayer Plant 

A trip to IKEA returned with a Dracaena (spiky fun looing and again, inexpensive) and the plants were taking their space in nearly every room in the house and this little bit of life and greenery really helped with the winter blues.  My elephant ear was a few months in and THRIVING and I finally felt confident enough to start adding those popular but pricey and a bit more fussy plants into my home sweet home. 

 The Monstera (commonly called the swiss cheese plant) joined the plant fam and after repeating the mantra "I CAN KEEP PLANTS ALIVE" several times, I started to keep my eyes open for an affordable fiddle-leaf fig. I talked to the staff at my local garden store as I eyed their gorgeous display of fiddle leafs. She said they are fussy but they are the least fussy of the fichus family. Fiddle-leaf fig trees don’t like: drafts, soil that is too wet or too dry, too much sun, not enough sun, dry air, and the list goes on. I eyed the $90 trees from a safe distance and decided I wasn't ready for that kind of investment, but maybe it was best to find a smaller fiddle leaf at a much smaller price tag and start from there.

I put the finicky ficus in the back of my mind, accepting that my long list of plants at home would suit me fine for now. We kept working on the house and I started to design the study, deciding on four sets of Billy Bookshelves to create a custom built-in library look. On my way to the register with bookshelves in hand, I stopped by the plant section for a quick peek and saw a little fiddle leaf (Ficus Lyrata) with the humble price tag of $19 and squealed in delight while my husband shook his head and kept pushing our cart. Felicia the Fiddle-leaf came home with us and my happy little plant family felt complete (for now).

Fiddle Leaf Fig 

I went from a black thumb to a collection of houseplants that add so much warmth to our home. Turns out, all it took was a bit of research to determine watering schedules, light needs, and other key features in happy plants. When some plants need to be watered every 8 weeks and some every 8 days, you can see just how easy it is to kill your precious plants without the proper research.


And so, if you find yourself in need of a little green as the month of December rolls on by, I have a few tips and tricks to get you started.  If you are looking to grow your collection, here are some things you need to know about your plant of choice.  If you want to start with a popular list of easy keepers, my table down below is exactly what you need to get started. 

What You Need To Know 

  • Water Schedule - how often should you water your plant?  Does it need to dry out between waterings or should the soil stay evenly moist? Does your plant require filtered water? You can invest in a soil moisture reader if you want the added security to keep your plants happy. When it comes to watering your plants, I have sort of learned that less is more - they don't need as much water as you think. 
  • Light Availability - does your plant do well in low light conditions?  Does it need more light?  Does it need indirect light to not suffer from sunburn?  
  • Fertilizing Schedule - when does your plant need to be fertilized?  What kind and how much?
  • Temperature and Humidity - what temperature range does your plant prefer?  Does it need a more humid environment?  Does it need to be misted or does it need a humidifier?
  • Maintenance - Does your plant need to be dusted? Do you need to trim leaves? Should the plant be rotated often?
  • Hazards - If you have kids or pets in the house, is this plant potentially toxic?
  • Signs of Distress - Do you know what your plant's "signs of distress" are?  What does yellowing leaves mean for your plant?
  • Talk To An Expert - one of the best things you can do is visit your local greenhouse where they can tell you everything you need to know about keeping your new plant alive.  Avoid the Home Depot plant collection to start and go somewhere knowledgeable. 

To get you started, here is my guide to keep some relatively easy popular houseplants alive.  
You can find a printable PDF here

These are just some general guidelines I found while researching my collection of houseplants.  I know there are different tips, tricks, and opinions and if you have one that has helped to keep your happy house plant thriving - let's hear it in the comments. 

Happy House Planting 
Cheers to making winter a little greener 

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