I attribute my brand-new interest in houseplants to the following factors:
Current trends on social media, especially on Pinterest. I’m mostly attracted to houseplants as functional decor items, because I’m not quite the minimalist (I love having things around the house to look at and be inspired by) but I don’t like buying knickknacks just for the sake of decoration either.
Needing something to do in the house that is not on the computer. This is complicated to explain, but as a stay-at-home mother, over the years I’ve concluded that it’s best not to do work when the kids – my sons are aged four and one-and-a-half – are awake and at home and there’s nobody else watching them. They absolutely cannot handle seeing me on the computer, and I also feel guilty doing work while they’re there. Other activities are somehow totally okay though, like reading, sewing, baking, cleaning, and… fiddling with plants.
I realised I enjoy learning new skills, especially hands-on skills and projects. Last year I learnt soapmaking, the year before that I went to a breadmaking class, and currently my husband and I are also dabbling into woodworking. I enjoy watching YouTube videos on houseplants (told you it’s so trendy) and found myself inevitably recalling plant names after seeing them online. It’s also fun nerding out over a subject with other people all over the world.
How did I start?
I think around Election time last year, which was in May, I asked my mum for some snake plants to take home with me. Mama loves plants too, but they all sit outside the house. Personally I’m not keen on keeping plants outside my house because… I don’t enjoy being in the hot outdoors! Functional interior decor items are my goal.
Previously I’d tried starting some herbs from seed, and then also planted some sprouted onions and garlic but quickly learnt that that kind of gardening was not for me. (To date we still have a curry plant, a lime tree and a serai [lemongrass] bush in the garden but I don’t pay much attention to them.) Planting food for consumption seems too much an investment of effort and doesn’t quite bring the same level of enjoyment/satisfaction for me.
I read that snake plants were one of the toughest to kill, but guess what? Over the months, they died from root rot. I also bought some indoor plants from IKEA and they too slowly wilted. And so, I started to learn my lessons.
What have I learnt?
I learnt loads. For one, having plants indoors mean that the conditions aren’t like plants that live outdoors, even if they are also planted in containers. The climate conditions inside are totally different. These were my mistakes:
I just used plain black soil in my pots. I believe this is organic matter with hardly any other stuff mixed in. Over time, the dense soil stays compact and doesn’t aerate well, despite adequate room ventilation and moderate watering frequency, leading to root rot. Now I know (at least a little bit) about mixing in additives to improve the soil for indoor use, like cocopeat, tree bark and perlite.
I didn’t know about plants’ different requirements. Especially on water and light! And so, I killed a small fiddle leaf fig and a beautiful red fittonia plant. Now I specifically Google for easy beginner houseplants and low light houseplants and am planning to stick to the list until my thumbs get a bit greener.
I used too-big pots. This also leads to root rot because when there’s too much soil, there’s the risk of too much water. Most houseplants like a tight fit and it’s safer to use small pots that need more frequent watering rather than oversized pots that drown the plant.
Which channels do I follow?
Most YouTubers are from the USA and UK / Europe, and I find their complaints on lack of humidity (for their tropical plants) somewhat amusing because here our humidity is like… 70%? Yet I don’t know much about local plant enthusiasts (probably because I don’t use Instagram) and I do learn a lot from YouTube! Here are a few channels I recommend:
Planterina: I love her casual and funny chatting style, she speaks so nonchalantly about her many plants in her huge home.
Harli G: Harli’s plant collection is so diverse, and she shares the interest with her mum so there’s always new hauls and activities going on.
Plants are my Therapy: you would be surprised how many male plant YouTubers there are! My husband says it might be because plant-caring is quite a science, so guys would get all technical and nerdy about it. This guy is in Hawaii and covers many of the common houseplant species.
Kaylee Ellen: she is quite the storyteller and I like her accent! I learnt from her anti-hauls that it’s perfectly OK to let go of plants that don’t “spark joy” for you anymore. It makes sense especially when you’re figuring out your taste and preference for plants.
Summer Rayne Oakes: she is quite the professional and has technical help on dealing with pests, etc. She also travels and interviews other plant enthusiasts which is fascinating.
That’s it for now. I mostly share plant photos and links on Facebook but thought I’d share this introduction on the blog once I have the chance. Have fun appreciating plants!