Some of my strongest childhood memories involve gardening. I have very vivid images of my mom weeding her gardens, turning the soil, and planting week after week, year after year. After the days work was done, she’d clap off the soil on her gardening gloves and remove them, one finger pull at a time.
Growing up, there was always a garden to look after. One at our back door, one near the side of the garage, one near the driveway turn-around, one at the front of the house. And then one day, my parents added a large garden to the side yard. It began at the top of the hill and sloped downward toward the sidewalk. Gardens galore; growth galore.
Additionally, my memories go back a generation to my dad’s childhood home, to the gardens my grandmother so faithfully tended. My family would drive to their home, from Michigan to Indiana, and my mom would walk the gardens with her mother-in-law. They discussed what was new, what was split, what has done so well in the sunlight, or in the cool of the shade. Eventually, I walked with them through my grandmother’s gardens, listening to them chatter, but mostly hopping on the large stones and patio pavers as I made my way to my grandfather’s workshop.
There’s just something so natural about caring for things that live, even something as quiet as a lush green plant. This catches my attention, and I see many resemblances between plants and people. To look after a plant requires tender care, a healthy mix of sunlight, watering, fertilizer (food), dormancy. It requires noticing. And have you noticed, people thrive on these things too? If you watch your plants, they’ll tell you exactly what they need, and the same for your people.
Are you paying attention to the living beings in your life? Gardens galore. Care galore; growth galore.
A TOUR OF MY HOUSEPLANTS + CARE TIPS:
Here is my personal stance on decorating: if you could choose just one type of decoration for your room, choose a large houseplant. Houseplants add a gentle blanket of peace to our homes. They are natural, beautiful beings that teach us so much about life and growth. Houseplants never go out of style and are not driven by seasonal or holiday decorating. They present a welcoming home atmosphere, which I love.
Through trial and (accidental) error, I have learned a few lessons about keeping houseplants alive. But, plants are resilient, so don’t be afraid to add them to your home. Below are photos of some of the houseplants I have, plus a few care tips on watering, lighting, fertilization & pest control, and houseplants & children. Because you know this is a house full of young children (ages 7, 5.5, 4, and 2yo).
PS. I am no plant expert, but I have kept my plants alive for quite some time now, and they are consistently producing new growth. If you have specific questions about your home and which houseplants to buy, remember you can always ask your local nursery. They would love to chat with you! And save the tag on the plant as it contains helpful information :) But as always, you may leave a comment at the end of the post and I’ll reply!
upper: Monstera Deliciosa
lower L to R: ZZ plant, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Dracaena “dragon tree”, Calathea “rattlesnake plant”
Snake Plant, two varieties
see above photo for details
Philodendron “prince of orange”
hanging: Scindapsus Pictus “silver satin pothos”
dresser L to R: Philodendron “prince of orange”, Croton Petra “Joseph’s coat”, Monstera Deliciosa
Scindapsus Pictus “silver satin pothos”
L to R: Croton Petra “Joseph’s coat”, Monstera Deliciosa
L to R: Boston fern and Button fern
– it is generally easier for a houseplant to survive under-watering than over-watering
– if you tend to overwater your plants, consider plants that prefer to be watered frequently (such as a fern). The same is true for underwatering, many plants thrive when infrequently watered (such as a rattlesnake plant or snake plant)
– my experience has been the heartier/denser the leaf, the less frequently you water. The opposite has also been true for me: the more tender/delicate the leaf, the more frequently you water. However, frequent watering does not mean you dump water on the plant leaves or stems. Slowly wet the soil until the drain tray begins to fill, then dump the excess water
– always test the soil’s dampness before watering. Push your finger down into the soil 1″, if it’s damp do not water. Unless your plant likes to stay damp, as ferns do
– if you’re unsure whether you should water, wait a few days
– if you’ve over-watered and are concerned the roots have rotted (rotted roots are soft and brown; healthy roots are firm and white), remove the soil from the pot and roots, and re-pot with fresh soil. If you’ve caught this early you may be able to save the plant
– aerate the soil every 4-6 weeks by poking a pencil, chopstick or paintbrush into the soil to create tiny holes. Aerating replicates the natural work of bugs/insects by turning over the soil and creates pockets of air for the water to effectively dampen the roots
– most plants do very well near south / southeast windows
– is your plant dull in color? Increase the lighting, just be mindful the leaves don’t burn from direct sunlight
– the closer you place your houseplants to a window, the stronger the indirect light
– check the strength of the shadow the plant puts on the wall. The darker the shadow, the more indirect sunlight it’s receiving; vice versa
– plants generally enjoy being rotated every few months. This keeps the plant from leaning and/or growing unevenly in a particular direction
– plants drop leaves (or the leaves yellow) as the plant matures and can no longer support older leaves. This is normal! If your plant is dropping yellow leaves from time to time, you aren’t doing anything wrong, and the plant isn’t unhealthy
DUST, FERTILIZATION & PEST CONTROL:
– be sure to wipe your plant leaves with a clean, damp cloth as dust collects (generally every 2-3 weeks). This will keep the pores open so the plant can breathe
– your houseplants will likely benefit from fertilizing during the spring & summer months. Here is a brand I use and love (Jobes). To use, simply insert the sticks into the soil and water. Check the packaging for where to place the sticks (generally halfway between the plant base and edge of pot) and how many sticks to use (based on the size of your pot)
– if your plant becomes infested with pests, here is a pesticide powder to consider. This particular brand includes pages of helpful instruction. Also, I’ll be praying for you!
HOUSEPLANTS & CHILDREN:
One frequently asked question is how I keep my young children away from my houseplants. And here’s my answer: I simply guide them by saying, “You may not touch my plants.”
When my children were crawling and/or under 1 year old, I would consider moving a plant if it’s on the floor. One of the neatest things about babies and children is that they understand more than we realize. So talk to your children, explain what is allowed and what is not, and then practice consistent parenting. If you don’t want your children playing with your plants, don’t waver from that stance.
Most of my plants are on a table or shelf, which means they’re generally out of reach from very young children. However, children climb and are naturally curious, so as my children get older, more mobile, and the temptation to touch is simply unbearable, I am consistent with my response to them: “You may not touch my plants, but you can help me care for them.” This has worked very well for me, and my children LOVE helping me with my plants.
I will redirect little hands and begin to explain what they’re looking at. We have a variety of “plant conversations” starting at an early age. Here are some things I’ll say:
- isn’t this a beautiful plant? What do you like about it?
- plants are my favorite decoration in our home. Look at how pretty / detailed / delicate / large this leaf is! What do you like about this plant?
- watch how I touch the plant. I am gentle with my hands, and I will help you be gentle, too
- plants love when we talk to them, our voices help them to grow healthy & strong. Their leafs absorb the yucky gases in our home and keep our air clean. Isn’t that interesting?
- please leave the plant alone, it’s not a toy. Here is a book (or activity) you can play with instead
- would you help me care for our plant? We need to give the plant some water, can you help me hold the watering can? Oh look, this leaf fell off, let’s remove it from the soil
What are your questions? Which houseplant is your favorite? Do you have helpful phrases in which you teach children not to touch your houseplants? Have you ever propagated plants? Do you enjoy outdoor gardening? So many questions, let’s discuss below.