Are Your Plants Making You Crazy?

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I know there must be a whole slew of you who have jumped aboard the plant-obsessed bandwagon, and who treasure your new jungles as much as if they were your children.  Trust me, I can relate, though this isn’t the first time in my life that I have gone plant crazy and filled my home with living green things.

The first time I went overboard with buying and maintaining plants was back in 2000, when I amassed a collection of over 70 indoor plants in a 2 bedroom cottage-style apartment, and I loved it.  The idea of being surrounded by lush greenery was incredibly appealing, and I was swept off my feet until I went through a divorce which shifted my priorities and pulled me away from my plant hobby.

I took such a sharp about-face that I only had six indoor plants for many, many years, leading into the spring of 2020.  Then shortly after lockdown hit, I found myself at a plant nursery in May and purchased three lovely plants.  Little did I know that I was about to fall deep into plant obsession.  By July, I had over 40 indoor plants, and now, I have about 60 indoor plants.  Some were purchased through Etsy, many were purchased from a local supplier (@Brandontheplantguy on IG), and I even bought some from eBay and Amazon.

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Though I feel a certain amount of embarrassment over the fact that my home now declares to everyone that I am a crazy plant lady, I take great comfort in knowing that such an obsession is almost trendy these days.  The truth is, houseplants are more popular than ever, especially in millennials who are pushing against the idea of having children, and who are instead opting for a collection of Hoya or Senecio plants which will never demand that the plant parent pony up for a college education.  That being said, having a plant habit can set one back quite a bit, not only in the cost of the plants, but also the planters, spring water, plant food, insecticides, etc.

Those of you who aren’t captured by the idea of collecting a bunch of potted living things might be scratching your heads and wondering why people have suddenly gone plant crazy.  The COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns forced us all to stay at home, which meant that suddenly, our home environments took on a greater significance.  This is why there was a surge in home improvement projects which kept the big box home improvement stores packed during a time when many other businesses were floundering.  Plants certainly can beautify a home, and they also clean the air, but probably the most compelling feature about houseplants which appeals to most folks is the fact that they are living things, and with a bit of nurturing, they will grow and thrive.

That being said, plants don’t always thrive, and when they start to droop or otherwise show that they aren’t happy, plant owners may find themselves dealing with a lot of frustration.  Another thing I have noticed about now being responsible for a brood of 60 indoor plants is that I often get pissy when a plant decides to become finicky.  It can make a plant parent downright neurotic to try to determine what a failing plant needs. Maybe there’s too much sunlight and the leaves are getting scorched.  Or maybe there isn’t enough sunlight.  Could it be that the plant needs more/less humidity?  Is the plant getting too much/not enough water? Are there pests on the plant which need to be eradicated? What, what, WHAT does this plant want or need?

Even the task of taking care of the plants which are doing well (thankfully, 99% of my plants are doing extremely well) is a daunting one.  The one day per week when I look at all my plants and determine which need to be watered is a day I have begun to dread, because it takes a full hour or more for me to complete the task, all the while lugging jugs of spring water, plant fertilizer, orchid plant food spray, neem oil, my watering can, my plant log, and a stepladder all throughout the second and third floors of my home.  It’s exhausting.

I know that plant people can relate to what I am about to say regarding plants which stubbornly refuse to do well despite everything, especially popular plants which are supposedly “easy care” plants.  When a plant begins to show that it isn’t happy, I honestly feel like I have failed the plant.  I get frustrated and want to figure out the solution to the plant’s woes.  If the plant refuses to rebound, and is close to its demise, I adopt a very “fed up” attitude, and will very abruptly dump a plant in the trash or banish it outside.  It’s the best way for me to disconnect from that irksome creature and get on with my life.

I now have a trusted list of plants I gravitate towards so that I don’t tear my hair out in frustration.  Here are the plants which I truly do enjoy, because they are all doing well in my home:

  • all my Zamioculcas zamiifolias (including zenzi, raven)
  • all but one of my Hoyas (incuding shepherdii, pubicalyx, retusa, australis, multiflora, tricolor, carnosa compacta, lacunosa, and obovata)
  • my Monstera adansoniis
  • my Philodendron brasils
  • the one Scindapsus pictus which didn’t die
  • my Sansevieria starfish
  • my Pachira aquatica
  • my Beaucarnea recurvata
  • my large Senecio rowleyanus, my Senecio herrianus, and my Senecio radicans

In stark contrast, there are plants which I have had little to no success with despite all my efforts.  The plants which have stirred up a great deal of frustration include ALL peperomias, n’joy pothos, Tradescantia multiflora (quite possibly the messiest plant ever), Othonna capensis (tried two of these plants and finally gave up), and Begonia maculata.  I now avoid those plants in the same way I would avoid a person I didn’t like, and certainly would never welcome them into my home again.

In conclusion, the healthiest way to approach plant ownership is to educate yourself on the particular needs of the plants you have, and if a plant begins to falter, just let it go instead of beating yourself up for not being able to save it.  I actually found out that many nurseries will keep stocking certain plants because they know that the plants will be fussy.  Since many people are stubborn about trying to succeed in nurturing a plant, they will often purchase the same type of plant repeatedly in hopes of somehow figuring out its needs.  I know I did this with Scindapsus, Begonia maculata, Pilea peperomioides, Hoya wayettii, and every time one of these plants would die, I would take the loss personally, as if I was totally responsible.  I’ve learned that it is not worth the heartache, not to mention the financial expense, to keep buying those plants.

 

 

Hug A Plant…It’s The Cool Thing To Do

One of the hottest trends over the past few years, which definitely intensified this year as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, has been the heightened interest in indoor houseplants and home gardens. There is something about being forced to stay indoors that makes the idea of nurturing different types of flora very appealing.

Before I dive into this topic, I will admit that I have fallen headfirst into the plant obsession trend, and though it has made my wallet leaner than I would have liked, I have gotten immense enjoyment out of nurturing the close to 50 indoor plants and 36 outdoor potted plants (this number doesn’t include the soil-filled lot in my side yard which probably holds about 30 succulents) which are now in my home.  Never mind that I had SIX indoor plants and about half the number of outdoor potted plants before lockdown began.

Curious about which plants are the hottest right now?  Here’s one article which has a pretty interesting list:

16 Trendy Indoor Plants for 2020

Out of the list of 16 trendy indoor plants featured on the above link, I only own 4 of them:

  • Money tree
  • Raven ZZ
  • Split leaf philodendron
  • Monstera deliciosa 

As for the other plant species listed in the article, there are numerous reasons why I don’t currently own them.  Some plants simply don’t appeal to me, such as snake plants (though I used to have several Sansevierias in my home years ago), cacti, zebrinas, ceropegias, and maranta.  I am hesitant to get any type of palm because my home environment is simply not humid enough for palms to flourish.  As striking as alocasias are, I try to avoid plants which are toxic to cats, and since this entire genus is known for being toxic to pets, I’m steering clear of them. Stephania erecta caudex is just plain WEIRD and I have zero desire for one.  Peperomias are a bit temperamental, so I will just stick with the Peperomia species I have (scandens, caperata “Rosso”, obtusifolia).

I actually have a Euphorbia, but it is not inside my house.  It sits on my balcony along with several jade plants, dracaena, aloe vera, and assorted other succulents.  As for the White knight philodendron and the Hoya imperialis, well, let’s just say that I am not willing to hunt all over the internet to find either plant, only to spend exorbitant sums of cash on plants which really aren’t that special.

Some plants are so ridiculously rare and expensive that I just had to share them here.  The first description is of rare Albo Monstera variegated CUTTINGS (not even a live plant!).  The Etsy listing is no longer available, because someone actually purchased it.

Rare Albo Monstera variegated gorgeous multi leaf cuttings US seller

$475.00

Only 1 available

Thaumatophyllum (previously Philodendron) stenobolum VERY RARE Hard to FIND

$850.00

Only 1 available

At first I thought the listing  for the Thaumatophyllum stenobolum might have been for the gigantic plant the guy is holding in the featured image, but alas, no.  It looks like the plant the lucky buyer would get comes in a 6 inch nursery pot.  All for $850, with free shipping, thank goodness.

Finally, here is the most expensive plant I found:

Variegated Adansonii Plant Monstera Adansonii Albo Half Moon – Rare + Free Shipping

$5,500.00

I have a Monstera adansonii in an 8 inch pot which is not variegated, which I purchased for $15 at a local nursery.  Who in the world would want to pay such a ridiculous amount of money on a plant?

If you are interested in reasonably priced and popular houseplants which are easy to maintain, here are some of my personal recommendations.

Pachira: I have one which I purchased in April, and it has more than doubled in size since then.  Feng Shui practitioners state that these plants, also known as money plants, bring good luck and good fortune to their owners.

Pothos: Some varieties now fall under the Epipremnum genus, while others fall under Scindapsus, but if you look for the characteristic thick green, heart-shaped leaves, chances are you will easily find Epipremnum aureum, which is found in just about every nursery and big box store.  They are very easy to care for and will survive different light and watering conditions.

ZZ plant:  If you want a truly indestructible plant which actually PREFERS to be dry, then get a ZZ plant.  Zamioculcas zamiifolia features beautiful, glossy, dark green leaves and thick stems which sprout from a very unique root system.  The roots are rhizomes, bulbs which are designed to hold water.  I purchased several back in late April, two regular ZZ’s, and two ravens, which have glossy black leaves and are considered relatively rare.  The large ZZ plant which I purchased is in an 8-inch nursery pot, and the plant itself stood 11 inches in height when I brought it home.  The plant is now 24 inches tall, with tons of new growth!  The best thing is, I’ve watered it only ONCE since I bought it.  ZZ plants can tolerate low light conditions, and actually seem to prefer slightly lower light versus bright indirect light.

Hoyas:  Hoyas are my favorite plant genus now, partially because there are several hundred varieties, partially because they are relatively easy to care for, and partially because some of the species have attractive foliage.  Most Hoyas also produce very interesting, fragrant clusters of flowers.

 

Green Thumb

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Like many others who have been sequestered at home for the last few months and have gained a  new appreciation for the homestead, I found myself gravitating towards cultivating plant species which I had never grown before.  At first, I thought it would be nice to add a collection of vegetables, fruits and herbs to my side yard, so that is where I started.  I ended up with a small collection of edible plants which are a nice addition to the succulents I have out there.

Evidently, the side yard project wasn’t enough for me, and I slowly began adding numerous new houseplants into the interior of my home towards the end of May.  In the span of less than a month, my indoor plant collection grew from 6 to 35.

A view of my kitchen plants

 

I’ve had this Aglaonema commutatum “Silver Bay” for many years. I bought it in 2003!

 

Before you start thinking that I had suddenly taken on more than I could handle, I once had over 70 plants inside a 1,320 square foot cottage-style apartment back when I was in the midst of my medical training, as well as a whole patio full of outdoor plants, and rosebushes at my front door.  During that time, I proved to myself that I did indeed have a decent green thumb, and thought nothing of allowing my vining and creeping plants to encroach the walls of the place and assert their presence.  Entering my abode was like entering a lush jungle, and people would remark constantly on how many plants I managed to squeeze in that space.

My largest Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant, which threw out all this growth less than one month after I purchased it.

 

My Peperomia shelf…Peperomia scandens, Peperomia caperata rosso, Peperomia obtusifolia variegata

 

Now I am in a 1,632 square foot townhouse, with less than half the number of plants I once nurtured.  These days, I favor more hardy plants like Hoyas, Senecios, and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (aka ZZ plant) which won’t beg to be watered constantly.  Not that I plan to traipse all over the globe anytime soon, but 1) you never know, and 2) I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of petulant plant babies.

Lovely Hoya shepherdii in the master bath…

 

Hoya obovatas are so cool…I’m training this one on a loop…

 

Hoya pubicalyx…I loved this plant so much, I bought a second one!

To be honest, I cringe at the phrases “plant mom” and “plant dad”, but I can see how people would be compelled to fuss over plants in the same way they fuss over pets or children.  Whenever I see new growth on a plant, I get a bit giddy, and tend to monitor it to see how it is progressing.  I now also juggle a staggered watering schedule, which means that some plants are watered weekly, some every two weeks, a few every three weeks, and once every six weeks, my largest ZZ plant gets a drink.  However, other than watering and fertilizing, the needs of my plants don’t interfere with my normal daily life.  I also don’t worry about light needs, because I have intentionally chosen prime spots for the plants which require more sunlight.

The science nerd in me also enjoys learning all the nomenclature, which is no surprise coming from someone who memorized the longest word in the English language (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis) at the tender age of nine, and who was forced to learn about 15,000 terms while in medical school.  There is something about scientific language which absolutely thrills me and satisfies my constant thirst for learning.

Who has developed a new interest in gardening since the lockdown started?  I’d love to hear what other people have been drawn to plant-wise.

 

 

 

Oatmeal…For Your Houseplants?

I love this recommendation which Tess Panzer makes on her article, “3 Easy DIY Ways to Rescue Your Dying Houseplants” on Yahoo! Makers! She suggests giving houseplants a dose of dry oats every month to provide nutrients. Fantastic!

Original post: https://www.yahoo.com/makers/3-easy-diy-ways-to-rescue-your-dying-houseplants-164754287.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

You know how a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning makes you feel like you could tackle anything? It makes you stand up taller, think harder, and focus more clearly. Well, your plant feels the same. Adding oatmeal to your plant’s soil gives it a burst of nutrients, including iron and phosphorous, that will help plants flourish.

Materials:

2-3 tablespoons Oatmeal
Instructions:

1. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oatmeal to the soil of your plant and water.
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2. Repeat every month.
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