Raise your hand if you bought a luscious green thriving thing of beauty and placed it somewhere in your abode only to slowly (or rather quickly) torture it to death? The most common question I receive upon someone walking into our house: HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR PLANTS ALIVE?
I get it. I always asked the same thing in every house with non-crispy critter plants like mine always were. These pics are all from my phone taken in not great lighting at home. Oh well.
Alas, I’m no expert, but I am a 70’s child and am completely gaga for Jungalow Style mostly because I think it recaptures the best things about what I remember about our home decor when I was a child: rattan galore, jute-a-plenty, bohemian flare, abundant macramé, and the star of the show: ALL THINGS GREEN!!!
So, I’m gonna just tell you now…what little plant cultivating knowledge I have is completely trial and error. This green thumb was once murderous: I’ve slowly killed my share of plants and while we don’t face the same obstacles as outdoor gardening (like the rabbits that ate my entire winter garden, sigh), indoor gardening is all based ON THE SPACE IN WHICH YOU LIVE.
I had the squeal-inducing honor of meeting my décor/plant Girl Crush, Justina Blakeney last year and I had just one question for her…
Level with me, Justina, all these amazing plant laden homes in your books and posts, how do people actually keep them alive? I mean, I live in a bungalow in the city and we get a limited amount of light and I’ve slowly killed a greenhouse worth of greenery and feel like maybe I’m missing something?
She assured me that I’m not alone and many of the fiddle leaf fig accented living room photos you see pinned all over Pinterest are staged… it’s just not possible to maintain a Croton Petra in the dark corner of your den next to your papasan. It’ll be doomed to a torturous, leaf dropping demise.
And with that we exhale, because we can do this. We can have the real thing, please don’t buy fake plants, especially from Ikea as cute as they make them look. We just have to figure out the amount of light we have in our rooms and then choose the right greenery that’ll thrive in that space.
Yes, succulents are amazing. Mostly, other than Jade, they need windowsill kind of sun…not sitting on a table in the middle of your living room kind of sun. Pass them over unless you’re willing to have them right in a window or if maybe you live in like Zones 8 and higher and can leave them outside.
Fiddle Leaf Figs? Ah, dear Ficus Lyrata. FLF. Post for another day, fo’ sho’. They’re all that has ever been right with vegetation. But, beware: they need WAY MORE LIGHT then they’ll tell you. I realized this after almost killing one in my shady living room then seeing them thrive in the blazing sun on a beach in Puerto Rico.
I had to almost kill one to now nourish three beauties, whom my sons must refer to as their “plant brothers”. That’s how much care they need. Children kind of care. If you don’t have a window in which to place a FLF smack in front of and you can’t give it showers and remember to water weekly (remember tropical, beach, sun, rain) and a compass then step away from the Fig. But they’re amazing IMHO and if you’re up for it I can tell you what I’ve learned in another post. Also, I have a way to get them for SUPER CHEAP, more on that later. (Tell the Anthropologie in Southend here in town that they definitely need to read this upcoming post because theirs are making me want to go in and scoop them up take them home to rescue them).
But this isn’t about high maintenance, so if you want easy, lots of bang for your buck, livable in non-sunroom conditions, something that can be ignored and not croak while still reasonable, then this is your ticket. So, my friends, after fail after fail and one root rot after another, I present to you the
THREE HOUSEPLANTS EVEN THE FORGETFUL GARDENER WON’T KILL
Take this list to your local greenhouse. I believe in you.
1. SNAKE PLANT
aka Mother-In-Law’s Tongue: let’s not even go there, but I dare you to gift one to your MIL!
This sinuous beauty, Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii' is ubiquitous- you’ve seen it in airports, in adobe style homes in cool terra cotta pots, you don’t know you love it but you already do. It gives you a lot of height for your buck and is a stellar addition to any room needing a little height and pop of green.
It is: carefree and ignorable. It’s deserty (drought tolerant) and that’s not a word.
It likes bright light but it can survive in dimmer light. I bought one YEARS AGO for our finished basement in our former house to spruce it up for showing our home and I had no idea it’d be unkillable. Cue Kimmy Schmidt song.
NOTES: don’t overwater it- it’ll get root rot.
LIGHT: Low to bright light; 60-85 degrees F. (I have mine in a semi shady corner). So in your house: it could be by a window or somewhere in a room with a window but will survive either way. You’re welcome
CARE: I water mine once every other week* (see watering note at bottom) but if you really want to water once a week you can. But who really wants to?
SIZE: up to 4 feet tall and wide
WHERE TO FIND: I’ll always say first: your local greenhouse. My favorite in Charlotte is Campbell’s. But the good news? They’re at Home Depot and Lowe’s (in the tropical/greenhouse section) and even AMAZON SHIPS PLANTS (whaaaa? same price as getting it at Home Depot). But make sure you’re around the day of delivery (I have a story and it involved cold weather and at tropical delivery). Note: that cute woven basket WITH FRINGE around the pot is from Target (Nate B. of course) .
COST: $20 for decent sized pot/plant
2. ZEEZEE PLANT
People will think this plant is fake because it’s that pretty, that cool and does well in odd places. And if you’re a succulent lover, here’s your new baby. It’s very jungly and I have one on my mantle in a green pot and it makes me very happy. I also have them lots of other places because I have a plant problem. (It's the tall one on the left in photo).
The ZZ, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. aka Eternity Plant because it endures so well and it’s almost a challenge to kill and I swear they look greener the more shade they get! There’s a place for us…
NOTES: This plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by kids/pets. It’s a slow grower so if you want big NOW then buy a more mature plant.
LIGHT: Low to bright light; 60-75 degrees F (I have three of these and all are in semi shady spots not directly in front of windows). So yes, you could put this on a table or shelf in a room and it’ll still be green!
CARE: Only water when the soil is dry (for me this is once a week). They don’t require fertilizer but you can give the plants half strength fertilizer one to two times a year just in the summer. Probably the best bet would be every 1 ½ weeks but ain’t nobody got time for that so I do weekly.
SIZE: 2-3 feet tall and wide
WHERE TO FIND: start with your local greenhouse, Home Depot sells them online (and often in the stores in the tropical greenhouse section), Amazon. They’re at Lowe’s online too but a bit pricier there- try in store.
COST: $18-20 for a 6” pot or you can get itty bitty ones on Amazon for under $5 plus shipping
3. POTHOS (Golden)
Low maintenance, easy to please, fast growing and viney…Pothos, aka Devil’s Ivy or Epipremnum aureum 'Marble Queen', can be grown as a mounding tabletop plant, in a hanging basket, or trained upright on a pole. SO MANY OPTIONS. They are the ultimate trailing plant so if you have that full on hippie desire to have plants growing up around your windows and all looped into your macramé, here’s the one. I prefer the Golden Pothos but there are several varieties.
I have three of these as well and after killing an unnamed number of plants in my one-window very dark bedroom, I have found the answer and she is Pothos. They like both shade and light so it’s an all skate here. Let’s just stop and talk about how amazing plant hangers are inside your house. Do it.
Fun fact: in their natural environment they can grow up to 60’ long! Don’t worry, your pot in your kitchen isn’t its natural environment. And, get this, Pothos are 1 of the plants that are champions at cleaning the air. When you live with three boys and a boy dog, this part is more important than even looking pretty.
NOTES: This plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by kids/pets. Full sun will cause the marbling to fade and insufficient light cause the variegation to fade. They LOVE totems (I found awesome Porthos on totems at my local Lowe’s!)
LIGHT: Low to bright light; 65-80 degrees F.(I have one in a dark tiny bedroom as seen here, one on my mantel and one on top of a corner cabinet none of which are really sunny places)
CARE: Only water when the soil is dry (for me this is once a weekish). Feed your Pothos once yearly, in early spring with a granular, slow-release fertilizer, or feed every two weeks from spring through fall with a half strength dilution of house plant fertilizer.
SIZE: Trailing plant 8 feet long (think of all the winding possibilities).
WHERE TO FIND: Home Depot/Lowe’s (online and in store in the houseplant section), Amazon, and always check your local greenhouse first. Home depot is selling one in a self-watering pot for $15.30 (this would make an awesome gift to send someone and maybe even better than sending flowers because it will last). This photo with my pup Lincoln is at our local Home Depot. These potted Golden Pothos were about $24 at Home Depot and had a post in the pot! look at how gorgeous! Lincoln wasn't as impressed apparently.
COST: $15-18 for a 6 inch pot (which still looks big because it trails!)
CARE FOR ALL THREE
This is the make it or break it part. If you don’t do it like this I don’t know what will happen. Using a cute little watering can here and there doesn’t cut it if you want them to stay alive.
- WATERING: About once a week I take all the plants in my house, sit them in my sink and spray them with a little lukewarm shower (like rain) and let them drain out in my sink well before returning to their spot in the home. The draining part is key because this is how you can never overwater! And for the love of all things decent make sure your plants are in pots that can drain!!!
- FERTILIZING: I use SuperThrive non-toxic vitamin solution intermittently in my watering can according to what the plant needs. Maybe like once a quarterish? You can buy it from lots of places and you can get a free sample from them here.
- CRITTER PROTECTION I don’t know how, and I really don't want to know but little mites and spiders will be drawn to your plants and pots. You don’t want that. I haven’t had any issues with these three types of plants other than spiders somehow wanting to make a home in the pot of the Snake Plant… so here’s my secret weapon:
PLANT PROTECTION OIL SPRAY
add 1 drop of Peppermint EO
1 drop of Rosemary EO
1 drop Cinnamon Bark EO
1 drop Cedarwood EO
per ounce of Neem Oil Extract
(add to a spray bottle)
Spray on leaves, on soil and around edge of pot as needed (after watering is best time). If you’d like a little sample of this spray, message me and I’ll mail you one! I make oil blends and potions if you want to know more secret weapons and recipes.
Don't even get me started about plant pot shopping. It's almost as fun as plant shopping. Greenhouses often sell broken in terra cotta pots (the best kind) for cheap! Nate Berkus, my favorite, designs the best baskets ever that can be used over pots for Target and Target also carries other brand planters like this adorable green Threshold brand planter on a wooden base! GAAAAAHHHH.
So, if you’ve killed houseplants before, give it another try (maybe just start with one! ). I feel like a room comes alive literally with someone living and thriving in it. It gives you a good reason to get up and open the blinds/curtains, you know? Just set a time weekly where you’ll give them all a little shower in the sink and there you have it!
Cheers to greener homes, cleaner air, #JungalowStyle and not murdering all the botanical things!!! You’ll be very surprised to find that you have a green thumb no matter where you live and who you are.