Houseplant ‘has risen to its glory days again’

Are you ready to embrace ‘responsible plant parenthood’?

In her new book, New York Botanical Garden workshop instructor Maria Colletti shares her passion for indoor plants and offers drool-worthy pictures and step-by-step instructions of displays you can create using everything from terrariums and macramé hangers to food cans rescued from the recycling bin.

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She’s thrilled the houseplant has “risen to its glory days again” and cites their numerous benefits. “Plants can reduce dry skin by increasing humidity indoors, which makes us look and feel healthier,” she writes in Living Decor: Plants, Potting and DIY Projects (March 19, 2019, Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc.).

Plants also purify our air indoors, which improves our respiratory comfort. In the workplace, plants can increase our feelings of wellness and have been credited with reducing stress and increasing productivity. When we are calmer and happier, our minds are free to be creative.”

Living décor has definitely returned to the spotlight. “It’s very social. We have terrarium classes in bars and plant exchanges,” says Colletti. “Plants appeal to our senses. Maybe the appeal is a reaction to the digital age and electronic life. It’s a total mind-body immersion and I think it’s really fun.”

She describes plants as “living building blocks for home decorating,” pointing to folks who are rearranging their homes to accommodate plant collections – making room on shelves and windowsills to accommodate pots and moving furniture to ensure their green friends have prime access to natural light. “We want to make room for other living things, just like we do for our pets,” says Colletti.

She spent 13 years managing the garden shop at New York Botanical Garden and is now a workshop instructor there. “Plants evoke something in us and recharge us. Underneath it all, caring for a plant and watching it grow is an accomplishment.” Case in point: a fiddle-leaf fig Colletti rescued from a dumpster about eight years ago. One of her favourite houseplants, the fiddle-leaf fig is “an interior designer’s dream plant, a photo stylist’s preferred prop.”

When choosing a houseplant, pay attention to your personality. “Am I very facetious and will I hover over it every day or do I not want to think about it but just have it sit there and look lovely? You need to choose plants that fit your personality and what you’d like to get out of them. That might be the most important thing besides light and climate.”

Toronto’s Darryl Cheng, creator of the popular blog and Instagram account, Houseplant Journal, sees houseplants as “botanical companions,” not simply decorations. Being a “responsible plant parent” is not about passively following rules for the care of each species but learning to do the right things for them through observation and insight.

In his book, The New Plant Parent. Develop your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-Plant Family (March 19, 2019, Abrams Image), Cheng teaches the art of understanding a plant’s needs and giving it a home with the right balance of light, water and nutrients. As plant owners become more confident, they’ll become plant lovers – bonded to these beautiful living things by a simple love and appreciation of nature, he assures.

Cheng encourages plant parents to get out of what he calls “sun tunnel vision, where you think having a direct line of sight to the sun is the only thing a plant ever wants.” It’s important to understand your environment and do your best to provide the necessary care.

They are creatures of their environment so we must also acknowledge there are many things beyond our control that determine how a plant grows,” he says. “Let nature take its course. Don’t panic every time you see some sort of decay. Nature includes both life and death so we shouldn’t stigmatize any sort of decay on the plant, such as a yellowing leaf at its base.”

Cheng believes there’s truth to suggestions that millennials who are choosing to have children later in life are embracing plant parenthood to fill a void. “They’re having a relationship with a living thing” and can take pride in it, just as they would a pet or even a child, he says.


What does your plant see?

Warnings about ‘overwatering’ should really be replaced by advice on where to put your plants to prevent poor plant nourishment, says blogger Darryl Cheng. “Make sure your plant has the widest possible view of the sky and check for its tolerance for direct sun.”

If the soil is compatible with the plant, you can then safely bring the soil to saturation because the plant will receive enough light to use up the soil moisture before root rot can take hold. “You want the soil to become dry because the plant is using it for photosynthesis. Therefore, proper light is the prerequisite of proper plant care.”



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