BY CINDY JONES
I don’t know about you, but in January, I crave all things green, and I’ve come to rely on my houseplants for that midwinter fix. My houseplant collection started about five years ago, when the open field behind my home was developed into a subdivision. I had always liked indoor plants and had a few around my home, but the loss of that green space as part of my everyday surroundings hit me harder than I expected. After the fields and some of our woods were gone, I started subconsciously adding a few plants around the common spaces where my family gathered. Over time, I realized how much I loved having leafy greens in my everyday spaces. Now I have a pretty diverse collection with at least one houseplant in every room. It’s been such a rewarding hobby, and I continue to learn with every new plant.
Why Keep Houseplants?
Besides just brightening up your home and adding a dash of green to your living spaces, owning houseplants has so many benefits.
- Rooms with plants tend to have less dust and mold than rooms without them. Leaves act as filters to catch tiny debris and allergens that naturally occur indoors.
- We’re all familiar with dry winter air in Utah, but did you know houseplants can add humidity to indoor spaces? One study found a collection of spider plants boosted the relative humidity in a bedroom by 10%.
- Plants help to brighten and soften areas around our homes, adding a layer of calm that helps us cope with anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that plants in our surroundings enhance memory, problem-solving skills, and creativity.
- Growing and caring for a living thing provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Before You Buy
Before you purchase a plant, it’s a good idea to do a quick assessment of the spaces you want to keep them in. Do you have areas with natural light coming from a window, or do your rooms have minimal light? I’ve learned that my Oxalis plants (clover) prefer indirect, filtered light and my Aloe Vera loves direct sun. If you’re lucky enough to have a sunroom or a room with lots of south or east facing windows, you can fill it with ferns, palms, and succulents.
You’ll want to gather a few essentials before you start your plant collection. You’ll need some good potting soil and a few different kinds of pots, depending on the plants you’d like to grow.
As far as soil, a good bet for most indoor plants that aren’t succulents is potting mix. Potting mix has a light texture and is mixed with elements like perlite and peat moss that that help keep the soil from getting packed down or waterlogged. For succulents, you’ll want a loose soil mixture with plenty of sand or fine gravel for proper drainage. You can make your own succulent soil using three parts regular potting mix, two parts sand and one part perlite. Potting mix and all the separate elements can be found at most home improvement stores.
Choosing the right container is also important. Terracotta will dry out more evenly and faster than plastic pots, and wooden pots or planters will dry even faster. Ceramic pots are great choices for most plants that aren’t succulents. For bigger plants, fiberglass planters are a good lightweight option.
Collecting a few simple vessels for watering can help you remember the task, and fun prints and colors are a great way to add an element of whimsy to your plant hobby. I have a cute pitcher that’s designated for just my plants, and a couple of green spray bottles I use for misting or in-between watering.
Finally, it’s helpful to have a quick reference for some common houseplants at your fingertips. Like with most hobbies, Google is your best friend, but a couple of books I really like for quick reference are Houseplants for Beginners by Rebecca De La Paz and Happy Houseplants by Angela Staehling, which has some quick tips for common houseplants with lovely watercolor illustrations. You can get both on Amazon for $10-$20.
Jump On the Plantwagon!
Between the pandemic, the budding work-at-home culture, and our growing interest in our health and our homes, collecting houseplants has become a rising trend.
A 2019 article by the National Post states that U.S. houseplant sales had increased by 50% in the prior three years to a total of $1.7 billion! This is great news, not only because you have access to all the information you need to successfully grow houseplants at your fingertips, but there are countless communities where you can foster your enthusiasm.
Here are some of my favorites on social media:
- Utah Plants is a beautifully diverse group full of experts and novices alike and a great place to ask questions about your houseplants. I’ve been a part of this group for just over a year and I’m going to venture to say there’s no plant problem this page can’t solve!
- Utah Plant Purge and Sell is exactly what the title says, a group for plant people to trade, sell, purge, and chat about their plants. If you’re just starting out, this is a great place to score some new plants at an affordable price, or sometimes even for free.
- @Succulentcity – is the internet’s largest succulent and cacti community. They provide tips and inspiration about succulents and their feed is just so pretty, you’ll want to run out and buy some new succulents!
- @Welcometothejunglehome – Phoebe Cheong posts pictures of all her houseplants (and her cute cats) in bright and cheery settings along with plant tips and advice about how to get houseplants to thrive in low-light spaces, like her own apartment.
- @Joy.of.plants – Emily Joy Rosen posts videos especially for plant beginners, with easy-to-understand tips and lists of plants that fit all kinds of people and places.
- @Reagankastner – Reagan Kastner combines practical plant tips with creative ways to style houseplants in your home.
Kim’s Plant Tips
It turns out we have several plant lovers and gardeners right here on the magazine team, and one of them is our contributor Kim Crook. Here are some of her best plant growing tips.
- Don’t overwater! The best way to avoid root rot is to let it dry out completely. Poke a small popsicle stick or bamboo skewer into the soil and leave it for a few minutes. If you pull it out and the stick is moist or soil sticks to it, don’t water yet!
- Inspect the entire plant for pests before bringing it inside. This avoids spreading pests to your other plants.
- Wipe down leaves regularly with a damp rag or microfiber cloth. This helps remove dust and improves photosynthesis.
- Watering with distilled water is best – it avoids hard water buildup on the soil’s surface.
- Use a soil that has good drainage, as well as a pot with drainage holes.