Updated: Sep 15, 2020
4 steps to live by for those of us who don't have a green thumb
We’ve all had a little green thumb envy. I’m the first to confess. As a child, visiting my aunts house on weekends I’d like to say it’s the stimulating conversation and summer BBQ antics I remember the most… but it’s not. No, most summer evenings you could find me snuggled up in her reading room nestled in amongst the perky potted trees and willowy ivy daintily hanging in their macrame hammocks. Even as a child I instinctively felt the power and subtle majesty of plants. They made the atmosphere feel fresh and comforting.
You're Not Alone
“The National Gardening Association of America stated in their 2020 report that indoor gardening in growing by leaps and bounds.”
Fast forward to thirty five year old me. Now I’m the one inviting weekend guests over in the summer. Unfortunately, I did not inherit my aunts seemingly Buddha like green thumb. Not even close. In fact at one point, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, I was literally buying new house plants monthly to replace the sadly departed that hadn’t survived my efforts. The guilt of my murderous spree led me to finally take a stand one sobering Saturday. I dove headfirst into house plants 101… and this is what I learned.
Five steps to live by if you don’t have a green thumb
1. Think low maintenance: Set yourself up for success with a game plan. Choose plants that need as little care as possible. When I first started collecting plants for my favorite windowsill I was admittedly overly ambitious. If I liked it… I bought it… it went in my window. I was in way over my head. Looking back I know now that I had plants with differing complex lighting, watering and climate needs all forced into the same space. Think of plants like your friends. They all thrive in different circumstances and have unique needs. If loved properly, they will grow, thrive and reward you with their beauty. Here are ten easy to grow house plants guaranteed to please: Aloe, Air Plants, Snake Plant, ZZ Plant, Jade, Succulents, Philodendron, Spider Plant, Chinese Money Plant and the Rabbit’s Ear.
2. Looking on the bright side: Location can be everything. choose spots in your home that get consistent indirect sunlight. A sure way to kill a plant is to deprive it of sun. Windowsills are natural locations. If you haven’t got the sill or floor space, consider hanging plants. It’s a great way to maximize space especially if not many areas in your home get good natural lighting. Be careful not to place delicate plants in areas that get blasted with hot sunlight all day. I learned that the hard way. Tropical plants can take the high heat while more delicate varieties such as ferns will surely wither.
3. To water or not to water: Don’t be a nervous waterer! Set a watering schedule one to two times a week and stick to it. Remember, plants are living things and they need water to survive. But not too much. In my early plant hoarding days I was so eager to be the best plant mom that I watered them every other day. Don’t do that. I basically drowned them and the roots began to rot. Of all the tips I’ll list here I think this one is perhaps the most important. Before each watering press your finger into the soil to test. The soil should be consistently moist… not soggy…not dry. Also, invest in a water spritzer. Sometimes all your plants need is a sweet cool misting on a warm day.
4. Plants get cold too: If you live in cooler climates be careful not to leave your green friends in drafty areas. For example, If you live in Michigan during the winter season, take delicate plants out of the windowsills and bring them to table tops or cozier spots in your home. Droopy discolored leaves are a sure sign that a plant is suffering from cold shock. If this happens don’t panic. Place the plant in a warmer area for it to recover. The wilted leaves will die and fall off but with time new ones will take their place. Plants can be more resilient than we think and knowing how to read the signs of distress will help us to keep them healthy and happy for many years.
5. Choose your pot wisely: Drainage is a very important factor in the survival of your green friends. They depend on you to put them in a good home. A fun trick I learned is to use an inch of packing peanuts or styrofoam bits in the bottom of my pots. For larger pots try plastic bottles. It’s an inexpensive solution and a chance to recycle. Don’t for get to be mindful of the pot size. I know this sounds like a given but I’m going to say it anyways. Choose a container that gives the plant room to breath. If you have to cram the plant in… it probably needs a bigger pot. I had the most adorable vintage orange glass scooped vase. I wanted so badly to put my newest succulent in it. As I plopped the roots down into the glass it was immediately obvious that while I could have left it in the vase, the poor succulent had no room to grow or stretch out. I gave in and used a larger pot instead, saving my orange beauty for another time. It’s also worth saying that over the years it’s okay to repot plants. As they thrive and grow it’s always nice to give them a roomier abode to spread their roots.
Growing plants can be an incredibly relaxing and rewarding hobby. Plants clean our air and add to the positive flow of fresh energy in any space. Don’t be afraid to bring some greenery into your home. Even the smallest plants can give such joy. Begin with one or two and slowly build your collection. Remember, they aren’t the only ones growing… you are too! Good luck and may your garden always be Zen… no matter where it’s planted!