City Girl Guide: House Plants For Beginners
Six years ago, I was a serial killer. I would buy plants from IKEA and wonder why they died so quickly. I would trot into homebase and buy a plant I fancied the look of and chuck it in my bedroom mindlessly and whinge "Whyyyy?" over it's rotten leaves months later.
After the massacre, I swore off plants. I even (please don't tell) bought those hideous fake-ass plants just to pretend I had some kind of green thumb in my flat on Brunswick Road.
Now - I am pleased to say, not only am I an avid houseplant hostess; I am also proud to say I have a healthy following on my plant specific Instagram. So what changed ? Well, for one, I read about them. I studied their backgrounds and found myself actually enjoying it. Plants really are fascinating and most of them are surprisingly resistant to death… if you treat them right.
I'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU SOME COMMON DO'S AND DON'TS WITH PLANTS AND ALSO INTRODUCE YOU TO SOME FRIENDS THAT ARE EASY TO CARE FOR!
WHAT'S YA NAME, AND WHERE'D YA COME FROM?
So this is massive one: try to mimic it's origins. This doesn't mean have a full-on rainstorm in your flat but if you do some research the one thing I'd want you to know is where it is from. Is it a cactus ? Then it needs lots of light. Is it a rubber plant ? It needs little light and good watering. All of this can seem strange when it's bred in a big nursery in South London but without sounding mental - the seed remembers its roots. A quick look on auntie Google will help you tremendously.
LET’S TALK ABOUT WATER!
This is the most common cause of death amongst our green buddies. Over watering and under watering are lethal. But it isn't too hard to get right if you follow this tip. Press down on the soil, is it damp? Then it doesn't need to be watered. That's honestly it.
Try to test it once a week at least. Don't be conned into buying special self watering thingymabobs - just follow this tip. Also, I excuse how patronising this sounds, but plants drink from the roots and not the leaves. Best way to water them is baring this in mind. I even leave my big plants in a bath of filtered water to drink from the roots up… but I am also a perfectionist (and a bit mad).
YOUR PLANT POT NEEDS HOLES!
Honestly, as pretty as your urban outfitters pots are if they don't have drainage holes they'll end up dead very, very quickly. Pop it in a plant pot then in the nice one! Dont get me wrong I flippin' love a fancy pot, however, on it's own, your plant won't drain and it'll get root rot. It's about as sexy as it sounds.
BUY YOUR PLANTS FROM A PLANT SHOP!
Specifically a plant shop. Not a "home shop" not a "vintage clothes shop". Proper plant shops are dedicated to their babies and will place them correctly, water them appropriately and give you a plant in excellent condition. See my local recommendations at the bottom of this article.
When you go to buy it, have a bloody good look. You can look at the roots, are they coming out of the bottom? Are they brown and nasty looking? Are there brown or yellow leaves at the bottom - then step away Sandra, that plant has a one way ticket.
SO STARTER PLANTS; LET'S 'AVE YA…
Honestly, this plant will not die. It's a beauty that you'll have seen all over Instagram and the slow beauty of the plants unravelling from the existing stems is really cool. It needs fairly regular water (follow the damp finger test) and even a little light it'll be cool. So mine is in the corner of my room about 4ft from the window. That’s okay, don't worry too much about it and be patient with it. You'll love it and the holes will come, don't worry. Be patient.
In the 70’s these were all the rage. They went out of fashion in the 90s and 00s but are having a massive comeback thanks to how easy they are to keep alive. Mine hangs on the wall and it's called a spider plant because 'legs' grow from it and produce little spider plant babies.
When you're feeling more confident you can plant the babies in their own pot and give them to friends, family or yourself (no judgement here). Again, light is just regular, water using the damp finger method. Also, theres no way for me to describe that without sounding gross.
This one is really sexy and impressive in size and shine. You can get it in black as well as green if you're feeling witchy but it'll be slightly more pricey. Again, people, this plant will not die if you keep it moist and make sure it's relatively near a window to get some light. The stems will bend towards the light and the leaves will keep their amazing shine (see picture) this is quite a good one to show off, because it looks well fancy.
Throwing this in there, because it looks fantastic and it's slightly above a starter plant but I believe in you. This is quite a fast grower and you'll love it, I'm certain. Brings good luck if you're into that jazz and looks very lucious. I got mine at a car boot (be very cautious about this!) and I've been nurturing it above my wardrobe.
With this one, keep the pot relatively small. If you put a tiny plant in a massive pot all the soil will soak up the water and thus you'll have a plant thirsty and sad akin to my massive hangover yesterday.
THESE ARE MY LOCAL BRIGHTON PLANT SHOP RECOMMENDATIONS:
BETWEEN TWO THORNS
67 Upper North Street, Brighton.
Where I buy about 80% of my plants. Excellent service and excellent plants.
MARKET FLORIST BRIGHTON
The Open Market, Brighton
Fabulous, unusual selection - they know their onions and are very very helpful and friendly.
THE BRIGHTON FLOWER COMPANY
102 Western Road, Brighton
Excellent cacti and succulents, excellent rare plants and again, the service is wonderful.
So, In the words of Ru Paul: “Good luck, and don't f**k it up!” - I believe in you, girl.
Written by Amy Smith
Finally, if you’d still like some guidance, I post regular care tips and tutorial videos as well as showing off my collection on my Instagram: @amysindoorplant.