A Guide to keeping your indoor plants alive one day at a time
The only plant I’ve had that stayed alive for more than one season has been a hearty aloe vera plant I bought at Ikea. Against all odds, this plant flourished despite my embarrassingly infrequent waterings, marginal sunshine and arctic temperatures we all endure through the harsh Canadian winters. My cactus farm, spider plants and baby benjamina tree have gone through rough patches to be sure, and have only really lasted this long because my dad is now looking after them. I often think I am a neglectful plant parent and I have vowed to do better this year. The Meadow is filled with plants, giving it the airy quality of the outdoors despite being located in the heart of the city, so it seems apt that we discuss plant care for everyone’s sake (but especially mine).
The humble indoor potted plant, while a chic addition to any office space, is not simply for decoration; rather, it acts as a necessary air purifier, not only reducing air pollution but also stress and anxiety. Many of us spend the better part of our days working inside, where we don’t even realise the air becoming close and uncomfortable. That dastardly unseen killer, carbon dioxide, is created when so many people are working together within a close environment, leading to drowsiness, headaches and lack of concentration. In addition, computers, floorboards, carpets and window coverings all contribute to the polluted air and can lead to health issues such as asthma, allergies and the common cold. Plants, namely the bacteria found in potting mix, effectively and efficiently filter these toxins through photosynthesis, releasing fresh oxygen back into the air. Potted plants can even reduce airborne pollutants by up to 75 percent within 24 hours. They are the real office heroes in our opinion. What is more, flowering plants have proven effect in increasing creative ideas, productivity and problem solving. Potted plants in general are shown to improve overall office morale by reducing feelings of depression, fatigue, and anger. We’re a lively and happy bunch here at the Meadow, so all these plants must be working!
Here are some helpful tips to keeping your potted plants happy and healthy:
- Pruning: While it may seem counterintuitive, by pruning overgrown branches, the plant is able to rejuvenate itself by stimulating new growth. Removing all the dead, disused or yellowing leaves not only makes the plant look better, but it helps the problem from spreading to the rest of the healthy shoots and leaves.
- Watering: Seems a bit silly to write this as a “tip”, but most plant parents tend to overwater, which is the leading cause of houseplant deaths the word over. Too much moisture in a houseplant, a species designed for optimal water retention, reduces the amount of air in the soil and ultimately leads to increased bacteria and fungi. This effectively rots the plant. Sure signs of overwatering are: brown mushy leaves or roots, old and new leaves falling off at the same time, mouldy flowers and standing water at the bottom of the pot. In contrast, signs of dehydration include: lower leaves curling and yellowing, slow leaf growth, leaves becoming transparent and the side of the leaves becoming dry, brown and brittle. A good first step in preventing the aforementioned afflictions is to ensure the plant has adequate drainage holes at the bottom; clay pots are especially porous and thus the soil drains at a faster rate, so be sure to watch for signs of dehydration.
- Feeding: plants need to eat too! It is recommended to fertilise a plant during its growing season, typically in spring and summer, while in the autumn and winter houseplants will need little, if any food. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots and stunt growth so be sure to choose the fertilizer specific to your plants requirements. If chemical fertilizers are not your bag, then try eggshells and coffee grounds! The neutral ph balance of coffee grounds makes it an ideal alternative to chemical fertilizer. You will need to experiment with the amount of grounds applied to suit your plants needs. Eggshells are an excellent source of calcium and are essential for producing beautiful blooms. The best way to utilize eggshells is to either “steep” them for a number of days to create a kind of eggshell tea (add this mixture to your regular watering routine for best results), or finely grind the eggshells into a powder and sprinkle around the base of the plant.
- Insects: like humans, plants can get frightened by insects. The most effective way to get rid of them is to be consistent and diligent with whatever treatment you so choose. Chemical pesticides have proven results but are also linked with health issues and other negative side effects. There are several natural alternatives such as neem, d-limonene oil (which is FDA approved), sulfur and copper. Be sure to do adequate research both on the type of insecticide, be it natural or synthetic, you are intending to use and the type of insect in question, as some that are considered pests are often benefitting the plant.
Debating what kind of plant to bring into your home? Let plant symbolism be your guide!
Aloe vera: healing, protection, affection
Bamboo: joy, luck, wealth, spirituality, great for pandas
Honeysuckle: money, protection and has a very pleasing smell
Jasmine: love, money and is a powerful aphrodisiac.
Lemon: purification, friendship, and happiness.
Lavender: calm and tranquility.
Sage: protection, longevity, wisdom, immortality.
If you are searching for a plant that will survive even your most regretful neglect, look no further than the Zanzibar gem! It is well known for thriving in less than optimal conditions and really excelling in a “tough love” environment. Native to the dry forests of Tanzania and Zanzibar, the long succulent stems covered in glossy leaves and potato shaped tubular roots make it a shining success in dark shady rooms or gardens, and can withstand extremely long periods of time without water. When you need a plant to compliment your bedroom aesthetic, but a lack of natural sunlight is getting you down, the Zanzibar gem is here to save the day!
Whatever plant you choose to accent your home or office, be sure to give it ample love and affection and you will surely be rewarded! The plant family at The Meadow is growing everyday, so come on by and check them out!