Ten years ago, I saw indoor plants as inconvenient, unwieldy, and dirty. Now, my house looks like this:
One year for Christmas, my roommate in Portland gave me a book and a single plant, and once I figured out how not to kill it, I got addicted to greenery.
I think it was the combination of cloudy skies, and an appreciation of the outdoors that Portland granted me which helped me change. I’d seen Laurel grow a few house plants, and reading the book she gave me, it seemed like a thing I could do too.
From the pothos I started with, I quickly expanded to a stag horn fern, and a few birds of paradise. I killed more than a few plants by overwatering the first few months of trying to understand how to plant though.
When I moved to Oakland, I realized I wouldn’t be able to bring my plants with me. The thought of staring over with plants was daunting, but I found Cactus Jungle on the recommendation of a friend, and quickly set about picking up a few snake plants and pothos. Every time I visit that shop, I pick up a new plant, pot, or little gift for a friend. It’s a delightful place, with helpful staff and usually a bit of available street parking. A few of my plants even came from my pals Wonja and Dan as a very special and thoughtful housewarming gift.
My main worry once I sorted out how to keep plants alive was whether or not Snorri would eat any of them and get sick. Not knowing a ton about plants, I was constantly googling and reading about non-toxic plants, often opting for 'this might make your cat throw up' when I couldn't find "chow down". Luckily, outside of a few very small snake plants (sansevieria trifasciata), he's largely uninterested in my plants. As long as I keep the ones he like to gnaw or bat at higher than he can reach, my plants and my cat seem to peacefully coexist.
One thing I eventually learned is that plants don’t like being crowded in their pots. When the visible above-soil leaves look crowded, or they start to grow tall or long, often the roots underneath are super cramped. To fix this, I give my plants a new pot that’s significantly larger than before, with fresh soil. Usually, this means a mass shuffle, wherein I move 3-7 plants from smallest to largest after buying a big pot. I’ve even worked together with my friend Wonja to help repot particularly heavy or large snake plants on her back deck.
Usually, the easiest way to loosen the plant from the pot is just to reach your hand in and under, gently pulling it out. I then dust the soil off, and sometimes wash the roots a bit, then re-pot and add soil.
If you own a tarp, it might be a good idea to throw one down while you do this, or you’ll be doing quite a bit of sweeping afterwards.
Sometimes during this phase of plant life, I also split my plants up, propagating or relocating sections of the plan in a smaller pot. After you get an initial plant, outside of water, and occasional soil and fertilizer, these babies grow you new plants at no cost.
With the COVID quarantine, there are days where it’s too challenging or stressful for me to go outside, but I learned when Laurel first introduced me to house plants that they really help make a house feel good. Now, even though I may be stuck inside due to smoke or disease, I can look around at a veritable forest of gorgeous plants. Studies suggest that this plants are generally very positive for your mental and physical health. I still love when I can go to an actual forest, but when it’s not possible, I try to breathe and run my fingers over the leaves of my green pals.
At some point, I’d love to have birds of paradise again, and plants suspended from the ceiling—maybe spider plants? There’s a ton of vertical space in my apartment, and it could be very neat to have a small run of plants overhead. My courtyard outside already has a wealth of plant life, and I’ve added a few aloe plants to it, but I think once the out of doors is less dangerous, I might go ahead and spruce it up as well with a small table and perhaps a few more big plants.
If you’ve never been a fan of indoor plants, this might be the perfect time to find a small nursery or succulent shop nearby and stain your thumbs a bit green.