Gardening in 2020 is no longer just for those who have a big garden, ample balcony space, or even a green thumb. It’s possible to nurture a veritable jungle within the confines of your own kitchen, living room, or bedroom, which is great news for anybody previously afraid of bringing home even the hardiest little cactus. Maybe you’ve admired the luscious peace lilies, elegant Zanzibar gems, and winsome Monsteras (also known as Swiss cheese plants) on your Instagram feed, and have been daydreaming about starting your own nursery to have, to hold, and to document on social media. Now, you’re sifting through the mountains of plant care information available online. Why not take a professional’s advice?
Vogue recently spoke with plant care specialist Alex Low about how a beginner can go about introducing a plant to their home. As a professional plant owner at urban garden centre Potta Plantta, Low provides advice and recommendations every day about which plants are best suited to his customers’ individual needs and environments. He shared with us why plants make good companions and how to decide which plant is right for you. Below, a handy little primer on what we believe to be the most important tips and tricks of the plant care trade.
Plants do much more than just add a splash of colour to your home
Having a plant will almost inevitably boost the mood of a room, keeping things fresh, lively, and green. “We love indoor plants because it adds life to the space,” says Low, “especially at a time like this where most of us are spending a lot more time at home.” Not to mention the fact that plants will regulate the quality of your home by producing oxygen at night. Select greenery like the rubber plant, the snake plant, the peace lily, and the weeping fig also have the added benefit of removing chemical vapors and human carcinogens from the air, allowing denizens an opportunity for increased productivity, creativity, and concentration. There are physical benefits, like lower stress levels and reduced blood pressure.
Social media often dictates plant trends that are popular, but may not always be right for you
The devil’s ivy is an incredibly popular plant amongst millennials and Gen Z. An evergreen vine that stays green even when kept in the dark, it is also notoriously difficult to kill. Not all plants are so robust, however. If you have an incredibly busy work or social schedule, buying a plant that requires more than one daily watering, like the begonia, will likely result in wilting flowers and a guilty conscience. Instead, perhaps opt for the sago palm, a tough little plant which has been around since dinosaurs walked the earth. One of the most important things that Low emphasises is knowing the ins and outs of your chosen plant before you purchase it. A more delicate plant like the fiddle leaf fig or African violet, no matter how beautiful, is probably not the right flora for you if you have small, curious children or destructive pets. The same goes for deadly beauties like the arrowhead plant or the philodendron, both of which are moderately toxic to humans and animals if ingested.
Know your home before you pick a plant
Following knowledge of your dream plant, it’s important to take a step back, look around, and assess your home. What are your space’s sunniest corners? Is your ceiling low enough for that hanging plant you have your eye on? Do you have old metal or plastic cans you could upcycle into environmentally-friendly plant pots? Do you have organic waste coming out of your kitchen that you could compost into tasty plant food? Tea leaves, coffee ground, powdered eggshells, and banana peels all provide a plant with useful nutrients, as does the water you use to wash vegetables.
You don’t need an arsenal of professional tools to care for your plants
Take the plant care kit and professional-grade pruning shears out of your shopping cart; it’s relatively simple to care for most plants using what’s already around you. “Interestingly, most common household items can be used to grow your plants,” Low notes. “We like to use a cup to water our plants as it is just the right amount of water for most indoor plants. We also use a regular pair of scissors to trim them.” However, he adds that one tool that could come in very handy for beginners, at least until they get used to their plant’s needs, is a good-quality water meter.
Care for your plants, and you’ll inevitably care for yourself
“Plants help us to be more in tune with our surroundings,” Low says. Learning to care for a living thing naturally increases our empathy, establishes a routine, and can even go so far as to be a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Talking to your plants or playing them upbeat music, as some experts recommend you do, fills your home with sound and upbeat vibes. Encouraging your plants verbally also implicitly trains you in the art of positive speech, which you can harness and turn back in on yourself. Not to mention that adopting a plant is also a small but vital step towards environmental responsibility. Maybe you haven’t managed to participate in a beach cleanup or tree-planting campaign this year, and perhaps making the full switch to vegetarianism or veganism still seems too daunting, but having a small green space in your home will remind you that the Earth requires our care if it is to survive and thrive.
“If in doubt, don’t buy it”
Coming from someone whose job it is to sell plants to people, this last tip from Low is a little surprising. “It’s what we always tell our customers,” he says. If you don’t have complete confidence in your home’s ability to sustain a particular plant, or if you’re not sure a certain shrub’s needs will fit into your schedule, his professional advice is to nip the urge to purchase it in the bud and hold off until you have complete confidence. Once you’re certain of your choice of plant, however, there’s nothing to do but take it home and wait for everything to come up roses.