Growing Green Thumbs: Plant Care for Beginners

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By: Kristen Bingle / Photo Credit: @angelsbotanicalgarden

Long before houseplants became an Instagram feed staple, humans were fascinated with nature. English poets like John Keats constantly expressed their love for nature in their writing and Claude Monet was obsessed with his water lilies. Nature at large has also been the source of food, shelter and protection for humans, so it’s no wonder we subconsciously have positive associations with it. 

@patchplants

We may not be roaming the English countryside or chilling in our Parisian hideaways, but we can still enjoy the benefits of mother nature. Spending time in outdoors evokes a sense of tranquility and encourages mindfulness. When we can’t be outside — due to quarantine, a lack of green space or medical conditions — we can bring nature inside. Plants have a huge impact on our mental health too. Indoor Nature Exposure — INE — has been described as a ‘health promoting tool’ and the act of caring for a houseplant is in itself beneficial. The positive reinforcement of completing a simple action like watering a plant or repotting flowers yields noticeable results. Having plants in our environment also help us cope with many symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, and reduces stress levels.

I recently purchased my first houseplant, a Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum Wallisii — to be technical. It’s green-leafed and sprouts white lilies in spring and summer. Although its aesthetic influenced me, the main reason I bought this plant was for its beginner-proof qualities. I unfortunately have not been blessed with a ‘green-thumb,’ my attempts at growing cress on the window-sill have always been an epic fail. Despite my shaky past, I was ready to commit once again to being a plant-mom.

To help me on my journey of plant-parenthood, I spoke to three seasoned plant-care experts, who also happen to have some of the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram feeds I’ve ever seen. Deborah Choi is the founder of Horticure, a global platform which connects busy or inexperienced plant owners with horticulturists in their city. Angel Holmes is an undergrad at San Francisco State University and has over 100 plants in her care! Aimée Grant Cumberbatch is the founder of Grown, a plant and gardening club for women and non-binary people of color. 

Deborah, Aimée and Angel all suggested beginning with a low-maintenance plant, like the Monstera Deliciosa. “It’s a surprisingly forgiving and easy-care plant. You can pop a Monstera in a semi bright corner or that shady spot — it will be happy and grow in either,” Deborah says. The Monstera is toxic for pets, but Angel had some pet-friendly options: the Golden Pothos, the Snake Plant or the Spider Plant. Before even purchasing your plant though, think about what type of care and commitment you can manage. Aimée advises to “research the water and light needs of the plants you want before you get them and pick ones that are best-suited to your lifestyle and living space. If you can only water once a week, for example, then buy plants that will be happy with that.”

“The number one issue is definitely around watering, both over and under-watering,” Deborah tells me, “Learning how much water your plant needs can alleviate 80% of the challenges you might face!” Angel uses a water schedule. “Sometimes it can be frustrating not having enough time to water your plants due to other responsibilities! A water schedule will definitely help you make time for watering your plants.”

Plant-parenthood doesn’t end with watering though, there’s lots of other things our green friends need to thrive. Both Aimée and Deborah suggest investing in pots with drainage holes, “not many houseplants love to sit with their roots in water,” Aimée adds. A good quality soil — that enables the roots to get their fair share of water — is also necessary. Angel’s plant essentials are a soil temperature thermometer, propagation jars — propagation is growing new plants from seeds, cuttings or other plant parts — and a mist spray bottle. Aimeé recommends scissors for trimming dead leaves and brown bits.

If like me, you’re ready to become a plant-parent, then go for it. Looking after plants can be a full-time job, but the benefits far outweigh the responsibility. By following the tips from these three experts, you’ll be well on your way to nurturing happy and thriving plant babies. If you still need an extra hand, you can enlist the help of a horticulturist in your city through Horticure, join a gardening club like Grown, or follow some of the amazing plant feeds on Instagram.

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