My life has changed night and day. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and new experiences, but it’s been so incredibly exciting. I’ve finally learned how to not just drown in all the bad but to see how much I’ve gained. It’s still a new skill and I have my days, but I’m positive. I’m hopeful. I’m excited for this period of my life. I finally believe that everything is eventually going to be okay. There is a lot to share about well everything, but let’s start with something light and fun. Plants. I briefly shared my plant obsession before, but those were my outdoor plants. My indoor plants are a whole different type of obsession. I went from zero to a fucking thousand before you could say Hi.
See, I wasn’t lying. This is just from March and there are a few more scattered around the house. The dining room table is the main area though. I think we can all agree on the fact that I know a thing or two about keeping my indoor plants alive.
The best place to start is to walk you through my planting system. The reason why I was able to go from one indoor plant from my parents in law to a good hundred is that your girl over here loves a good deal. The plant nursery close to our home has the best deal when it comes to indoor plants. 3 infant plants for 5 euros. That’s nothing. On my first few trips to them, I would walk away with 15 to 20 new plants. It’s incredibly important to always replant your nursery plants. They’re 9/10 times desperate to be re-potted and if you want them to flourish, their roots need to be loose and happy in the correct soil. I’m quick to re-pot my plants. Once I see their roots poking out at the bottom, I will re-pot them within a week. I also maintain their health by not only cutting off any dying leaves – plants don’t recover so if you see a yellowing leaf, cut it off so the plant won’t focus any of its energy on a dying leaf – I also feed my plants once every six months. You need to be very careful when it comes to fertilizing your plants. Most potting soils are packed to the brim with nutrition so your plants don’t need an immediate and constant fertilizing treatment. I treat mine every six months, once just before spring and once just before autumn or early winter. I will walk you through the perfect location, watering needs, and more in a bit.
First, let’s start with re-potting time after I come home from the nursery. By now, I have quite a set-up, which you will see in the picture below.
I always start by getting everything ready. I have my soil – regular potting soil -, Hydroton clay pebbles, a tray to replant in to minimize the mess, and gloves. I prefer to use gloves as I don’t want the dirt to get stuck underneath my nails. Now before I proceed, I realize there are hundreds, heck probably a good million, of all sorts of information out there. A quick google search told me that the clay pebbles I live by are discouraged by others. And then, there is also a hot debate on the best soil and how you need to do x, y, z. What’s important is to have fun and experiment. See what works and what doesn’t. It’s okay to make a mistake. I walked into this with zero knowledge and zero research. I don’t know the names of all my plants or what their exact needs are. I don’t baby my plants. I set them up in the best environment I can but from there it’s up to them. Plants are tough. Okay, now that we have that little disclaimer out of the way we can get back to the fun stuff.
I start off by laying a small layer of clay pebbles at the bottom of the pot. A good rule of thumb is to have it be two fingers wide. The smaller the pot, the less you need. I then add my soil. I will fill it up to about a third of the way, cave out my hole, and then finally it’s time to re-pot my plant.
To free the plant from its pot, always squeeze the pot with your hand and hold the plant at the bottom of it’s stem. Don’t pull to hard – more like tug and wiggle it free -, just rock it back and forth until it pops right out. It depends on the size of the plant you’re dealing with but it usually pops out without too much of a battle.
Once the plant is out of its old pot, you can get a very good idea of the state of its roots. To encourage the plant to grow in its new pot – this also helps with the success of the plant and if it will take in its new pot – you need to message those roots lose. Take your time to unwrap the roots to loosen them up.
Some plants will have those thick white roots and others will have this thin almost hair-like roots. The thicker roots are easier to untangle but just gentled massaged those thin roots, don’t try to untangle them. By gentle rubbing at those thin roots, you encourage the roots to grow. But always untangle and loosen up where you can. It’s okay to break a root here or there. Once the roots are nice and lose, you can pop the plant into its cave.
The rest is pretty straightforward. Fill the sides and gently press down the soil so it’s level with the edge of the container. Don’t press too hard as you don’t want to compress the soil. Roots don’t like compressed soil.
Depending on the state of the plant, I will either water once I’m done re-potting or give it a few days. Most of the time the plants your purchase from the nursery is dry as a bone – ‘dry’ plants are easier to re-pot in my experience – but every now and again you might get a plant that just got watered. I prefer to not water those again after the re-potting as I don’t want to ‘drown’ the plant. But this happens very rarely and I only do this when the soil is basically soaked to the consistency of mud. Before we proceed, let me take you through a really satisfying re-potting session. This plant was desperate for a new home.
My watering system is also very simple. I save my leftover soda bottles, drill a little hole in the cap, and use that to water my plants. It allows me to be precise and not get water absolutely everywhere when I water my plants.
I also like to loosen up my ground every few weeks. Over time, your soil will get quite compressed and stiff. I will use a little stick – think one of those big and long toothpicks – to loosen up the ground all the way, at the bottom too. I wouldn’t be too worried about possibly injuring a root. It can take a punch. Other than that, you need to be very mindful of not over watering your plants. There is a lot of ways to check if your plants need to be watered. First, what you need to keep in the back of your mind with those clay pebbles I like is that 1) they take up space in your pot so it could mean that your plant would need to be re-potted earlier and 2) those pebbles retain water so with them in place, you don’t have to water your plants as frequently. They’re wonderful for drainage but they retain water so you need to be careful. We really don’t want root rot now, do we?
To check if your plants need to be watered, you can 1) feel its leaves. If the leaves are soft and squeezy(?) in your hands – you want the edges to feel firm – your plant needs to be watered. I don’t love this approach as every plant has different leaves and how do you know when the normal is firm and the soft is, I’m thirsty? 2) Poke the same stick from before into the ground, pull it out, and if it’s wet and some soil transferred, the plant is okay and if it’s dry, the plant needs water. It’s very similar to when you would check a cake to see if it’s done or not. 3) You also get those humidity meters that will tell you if the ground is dry, moist, or wet. I personally use option number two but as my collection kept growing, I’m now considering getting number 3.
Now let’s talk about location, location, location. I mentioned before that with almost all my plants, I have no idea what they’re called nor what their needs are. I don’t know if they like a lot of sunlight or no sun. I simply place them all on the dining room table – indirect sun – and move them around as I observe how they’re responding to their environment. This is just what I enjoy doing, you could definitely get one of those plant apps that will identify your plant and tell you all of its needs. I just enjoy the fun of experimenting and solving the puzzle. I’ve noticed online that a lot of people almost over complicate it. You have people that get special growing lights, humidifiers, and more for their plants. I love my plants, but they do just fine without all those extra bells and whistles.
There are two smaller details I want to discuss before I round off this blog. Firstly, we have little leaf insects. I know the go-to reaction to this could be that they’re causing harm and you need to kill these little bugs, but in my experience, they’ve been pretty harmless. They don’t eat my leaves, they simply just exist. I honestly just leave them as is, but there are home remedies – garlic and some dish soap in water – that you can try. Secondly, we have pots, pots, pots. The reason why I’m able to just re-pot as I need to is that when we redid our garden – we went from pavement to lavish green everywhere – I saved all those pots the plants came with. But obviously not everyone is going to have hundreds of nursery pots lying around so there are a few things you could do other than see if Amazon has a good deal. Any plastic container can work. You just need to poke/drill some holes in it and that’s about it. So, you could in theory see if any of the plastic containers from your groceries are a perfect size – think butter, yogurt and ice-cream containers. Those plastic containers that fruit gets packaged in could also work. Otherwise, you could see if there are any cheap plastic containers available at the dollar store that you can turn into a nursery pot. I personally don’t care to put all of my plants into fancy nice-looking pots which gives me endless options. To catch the water, I either use plastic plates from the dollar store or serving trays – also available at the dollar store. I got my trays from IKEA for one euro each.
There is so much more I can say and share, but I think a good place to end is a plant recommendation. I realize not all of you would have the same 3 for 5 euros deal but would still want a jungle of plants. if you’re not against having multiple plants of the same plant specie, I would recommend these two.
Spider Plant and Snake Plant
I actually had to google to find their names. I knew the one was a snake plant but the other one was a mystery. Both of these plants are very easier to care for and they both will give you a lot of babies. With the spider plant, you would have to propagate them for a few weeks wherein the snake plant you can harvest them from the mother itself. I found this difficult to do when I just got her, so I cut off some of the bigger pieces – they wouldn’t fit in the location I had planned – and popped them in the water. If you don’t mind a less-than-pretty plant for a while, you can harvest a lot of the snake plants leaves, propagate them, and then after a few months, one plant purchase can turn into 8-10 new plants who will make their own babies.
With the spider plants, once they mature, they will give you babies – mine matured after 6 months – and those babies can grow up to give you new babies. It’s an endless cycle. So just from two plants, you can go from 15 if not more in 6-9 months. But another way to get a variety of plants is to one, harvest from your friends – ask for their babies or any piece to propagate – and go from there. I’ve also seen people go to the nursery home and pick up any fallen leaves – succulents – to propagate once they’re home. I also wouldn’t be afraid to save plants that have been discarded. It’s a fun challenge but I wouldn’t get too attached to the one you’re trying to save.
Some quick random facts that I still want to share:
Ferns love moist and damp areas. They will love your bathroom. They like the indirect sun. In the ‘wild’ ferns are often close to rivers and in the forest, which means the trees block out most of their sun and it’s hot. They will love the bathroom steam. I would recommend watering them a bit less as they will almost get all of their water needs through the steam. I only water mine every two weeks (13-17 days) in the winter.
Water your plants more in the summer. As it’s so hot your plants will dry out quicker. The air-con will also have an effect on your plants. In the summer I will water my plants every 11 days give or take to their needs.
If you’re propagating your plants, be sure to give it fresh water every week. Some will add honey at the bottom of the stem to encourage new growth. I personally didn’t bother with that and so far, it’s been a success. I wouldn’t be too worried if the stem does brown a little. My snake plant got a bit brown around the area I cut it and I thought it might die, but a week after that I had roots so it just worked out.
Your safest bet if you don’t know the needs of your plants is: indirect sun. What the hell is indirect sun? It’s basically when the sun doesn’t shine directly onto your plants. In my case, we have direct sun in the south. So, all my north windows are indirect sun. And if I want to use the light coming in from my south-facing windows, I will always place them at a distance. So, either one the wall or table at the other side of the room – a few steps away from the window – or place them right at the window if I know the south window gets blocked. In our downstairs south window – by the dining room table – some of the sun gets blocked from our garden outside so by the time the light gets inside its indirect sun.
Fatty plants like less water and less sun. When I say fatty plants, think of those plants with thicker leaves. Succulents are a good example of this.
That’s about all of the wisdom I have to share about indoor plants.