Pesky Plant Pests

Warning: This post is full of gross creepy things. But it’s also full of cute (old!) pictures of my hubby and I on our honeymoon, so…balance, right?

June 20, 2010. Andres and I walked down the aisle, said “I do,” kissed, and the next day, headed to Tulum, Mexico to celebrate the beginning of our life together. While there, we stayed at a gorgeous bed and breakfast out in the jungle. As we were given a tour of the facilities upon our arrival, we thought we must have arrived in paradise.

Our room was decorated in quaint, authentic Mexican décor, and was surrounded by several small, private swimming pools. A hammock swung lazily on our private porch. A masseuse could be scheduled to give you a private massage in a beautiful jungle villa.

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Private pool at our B&B! A dream!
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Fresh fruit every morning for breakfast
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Beautiful artwork in our room

It was great…’til nighttime. Turns out our room had no air-conditioning. June in Tulum can be described in two words: hot and humid. Andres and I laid in our bed, covers kicked off, ceiling fan going full blast, just trying to feel one tiny gust of cool air. Sleep felt impossible.

As soon as I dozed off, Andres woke me, speaking in a quiet, overly-calm voice. “Allison. Wake up and get out of bed.” I sleepily sat up, wondering what was going on. After only a moment, Andres told me to go back to sleep, that everything was fine. It wasn’t until the next morning that he told me a cockroach had been on my pillow, approaching my face.

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A cockroach caught in our room

During our honeymoon our days were full of fantastic memories – beach walking, snorkeling with tropical fish, Andres losing his wedding ring in the deeps of the ocean (that’s another story for another day), delicious food, treats from street vendors, shopping at the little local shops. Yes, the days were wonderful.

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Beach days!
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Tacos at a road-side stand for dinner – YUM!

But the nights… Oh yes, the nights brought many shudder-worthy pests. Our room was actually equipped with a “pik-stick” (like elderly people might use to pick up something our of reach on the floor) to collect pests and keep them at arm’s length.

While there, we saw more than our share of cockroaches, giant spiders with glinty eyes, a scorpion in the eves over our bed, and a GIANT whip scorpion (which looks like a humongous spider) in our shower.

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Oh hey, scorpion in the eves above my bed…
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This is a terrible picture, but this is a whip scorpion…in my shower…and then it charged at me and all of Mexico heard me scream.

Let me tell you: pests like that have a way of stealing the romance RIGHT out of your honeymoon. (But they also give you HILARIOUS stories to tell later!)

Unfortunately, pests are just a part of life. And, when you have houseplants, pests just come along with the territory. The important thing is that you understand plant pests before you get them. If you have this understanding, you can more effectively treat them before they do some serious damage to your plant family.
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Aphids are one of the most commonly found houseplant pests. These insects pierce plants with their mouthparts and drink out the sap inside the plant. After eating, the excrete a sticky, sweet “honeydew.” This leaves a residue on plants, which then attracts other pests, especially ants, or can even create a black, sooty mold.

What pest looks like:

  • small (1/8 inch), soft-bodied, and pear-shaped; can be green, yellow, brown, red or black in color
  • adults are typically wingless, but if populations are high, they can grow wings
  • two whip-like antennae on the tip of the head and a pair of tube-like structures projecting backwards on their hindquarters

 Signs of pest:

  • sticky residue (honeydew) on plants
  • black, sooty mold caused by honeydew
  • presence of insects

 Treating pest:

  • prune off any infected areas on the plant
  • spray plant with a strong stream of water, knocking off most of the population
  • crush remaining bugs between fingers

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The common whitefly is a nasty little pest that don’t discriminate when it comes to what type of houseplants they infest. They lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves while they eat; the eggs hatch in less than a week. Once hatched, the nymphs act similar to scale: they crawl a short distance, plant themselves, and suck the plant until they go into a dormant phase. They remain dormant for approximately two weeks, before emerging as adults and beginning the process over again.

What the pest looks like:

  • moderately small (1/16 inch); moth-like insects with white wings and short antenna

Signs of pest:

  • stunted plant growth, leaf yellowing
  • sticky residue (honeydew) on plants
  • black, sooty mold caused by honeydew
  • presence of insects

Treating pest:

  • yellow sticky traps (as they are attracted to the color yellow)
  • spray plant with a strong stream of water, knocking off most of the population

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Fungus gnats are common in homes with houseplants – especially where humidity/moisture is high. They look similar to fruit flies, and many times are mistaken as such. While the adults are mostly just a pain in the butt, the larvae (which are laid in the soil) can damage tender plant roots.

What pest looks like:

  • adults: grayish-black; somewhat resemble mosquitos with long legs and one pair of clear wings; 1/8 inch long.
  • larvae: shiny black head; long whitish (or transparent) body; about 1/4 inch long.

Signs of pest:

  • sudden wilting, poor growth, or yellowing of a plant
  • presence of insects

Treating pest:

  • sticky traps
  • add sand to the top of the soil
  • top soil with cinnamon (which I have tried, and found successful)
  • spraying soil with a 3 parts water: 1 part hydrogen peroxide mixture to kill larvae


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While mealybugs are an unarmored insect, they are difficult to control because they move. This means that if another plant is touching an infected plant, there’s the possibility that the mealybugs will transfer from one plant to another. Mealybugs are another species that feed on the sap of a plant; they insert their long sucking mouthparts into the plant and draw out the sap.

What pest looks like:

  • small (1/10-1/14 inch), oval-shaped, white or gray in color
  • covered in a mealy wax
  • active early on but move little once they begin feeding

Signs of pest:

  • in small numbers, damage might not be apparent
  • leaf yellowing and curling
  • sticky residue (honeydew) on plants
  • black, sooty mold caused by honeydew
  • presence of insects

Treating pest:

  • prune out light infestations
  • dab insects with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol
  • do not overwater or over-fertilize, as mealybugs are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft growth areas

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Scale is a sap-sucking insect that attaches itself to plants – specifically twigs, leaves, and branches. They are immobile and many times can be mistaken for simply a bump on a branch. Because of this, an infestation can occur unnoticed. They also secrete honeydew, which can attract other pests.

What pest looks like:

  • oddly-shaped, immobile pest that resemble bumps on a plant
  • armored scale: small (1/8 inch), secrete a hard protective covering over themselves; immobile; do not secrete honeydew
  • soft scale: larger (up to1/2 inch), secrete a waxy film that is part of their body able to move (but rarely do); secrete large amounts of honeydew

Signs of pest:

  • small bumps on twigs, leaves, branches, etc. where scale insects are attached, drinking sap out of the plant
  • sticky residue (honeydew) on plants (soft scale only)
  • black, sooty mold caused by honeydew (soft scale only)
  • presence of insects

Treating pest:

  • prune off any infected areas on the plant
  • pick off the scale by hand, or rub off using a solution of water and alcohol – if infected area is small
  • apply neem oil with cotton ball – if infected area is small

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I had a small spider mite outbreak recently. I had a calathea that had struggling, but was on the mend; one day when I was checking her out, examining her leaves, I noticed some webbing. At first, I thought perhaps it had been a while since I looked at her, but then I saw tiny little spiders moving on the webbing.

I freaked. I checked every plant near her and then I did what every good plant parent does: I took pictures. Looking at those tiny spiders up close through the camera lens was totally gross and unnerving. I didn’t know what to do…so I tossed the whole plant.

Spider mites are a concern to plants because they are yet another sap-sucking pest. They live on the underside of leaves; they feed by piercing the leaves and drinking the sap. Feeding marks appear as light dots on the leaves.

What pest looks like:

  • spider mites are not true insects, but are classified as arachnids, a relative of “real” spiders
  • adults are reddish brown or a pale color, oval-shaped, and tiny (about 1/50 inch long)
  • immature spider mites look similar, just smaller

Signs of pest:

  • may appear to be “dust” on the bottom of leaves
  • appear most in hot, dry conditions
  • large populations of spider mites are accompanied by a fine webbing
  • feeding marks (light dots) on leaves
  • presence of spider mites

Treating pest:

  • spray off leaves either outdoors or in a shower; leave plant in a humid environment to help rid of spider mites (they hate humidity!)
  • prune off any infected areas and any webbing, and discard of it in the trash.
  • entire plant may need to be disposed of infection is too severe

Keep in mind that chemical pesticides can actually encourage the spread of spider mites by killing of beneficial insects that prey on the mites. Spider mites are also known to quickly develop a resistance to various pesticides. Use these products with caution!
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Thrips are a pest that damages plants by drinking their juices and scraping at fruits, flowers, and leaves. They are a commonly found pest in greenhouses and indoor/outdoor gardens.

What pest looks like:

  • very small (less than 1/25 inch); straw-colored or black and slender; two pairs of feathery wings
  • thrips are extremely active and feed in large groups

Signs of pest:

  • leaves turn pale, splotchy, and slivery, then die
  • injured plants are discolored, scarred, and deformed
  • presence of insects, typically in groups

Treating pest:

  • discard any infested plants by securely bagging and putting in the trash
  • blue sticky traps
  • wash plant with a smothering insecticidal soaps made of naturally-occurring plant oils and fats
  • apply neem oil with cotton ball

Thrips tend to congregate on the underside of leaves and where leaves attach to the stem; when treating a plant for thrips, focus especially on these areas. Also, thrips especially seem to like philodendrons. In these plants, a sign of their presence is a yellowing of the leaves.

A few items to note:

  • There are many products available on the market for treating each of these pests. Many of them have mixed reviews. Since I, myself, have never tried any of them and prefer to use more organic methods, I have not discussed these products in this blog.
  • When using neem oil, be sure to read the package and dilute, dilute, dilute! If you don’t, you can actually suffocate your plant and cause more damage than the pest itself.
  • With any infestation, it is vital that you quarantine your plant as soon as you notice a pest. This will allow you to treat the plant without running the risk of the pest spreading to other plants. In my home, I actually move the plant to a room all by itself. (Since my house is always in the process of renovations, I move the infected plant into our “construction room.”)

If you want to learn more about controlling these, as well as other, pests that frequently attack houseplants, check out these helpful resources:

How to Identify Common Houseplant Pests – By Homestead Brooklyn

Houseplant Pests – By Planet Natural

**Special thanks to my friend Devoney Mills, manager at Stump in German Village, for her willingness to share her personal experience (and experiences of Stump customers) as I developed this blog. Her expertise and knowledge has truly been priceless!

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All of these creepy pests give me the willies! Gross! So, one might ask, what can you do to prevent these pests from ever entering your home in the first place? Be sure to check in next time for these answers and more!

– the {house}plant momma

 

Products I {Heart}: Tiny Planters

Growing up, I was obsessed with tiny things. I loved toys with teeny tiny parts – literally, the smaller the better. Polly Pocket clamshells, Playmobile sets (but only the girly ones), Littlest Petshop animals (the old-school ones!), Mapletown fuzzy animals, and so on…they were all my jam.

Amongst the tiny toys, I always picked the smallest pieces with which to form an attachment. I still have some of the itty bitty pieces of random sets from my childhood – a baby bottle that could sit on top of a dime, Polly Pocket sets that I bought on Etsy in the hopes that my daughter will one day play with them, a baby that was part of a Playmobile set – complete with a removable bib and bonnet.

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My littlest one playing with Mapletown fuzzy animals from her momma’s childhood….

Even as I have gotten older, I still love tiny things. I’m not sure what it is about them – beyond the “aw” factor – that I love, but I have an unexplained draw to all things minute.

I guess its no surprise then, that I love tiny little planters. Not only are the planters themselves adorable, but the itty bitty plants that fit inside are precious, too. Eek! I seriously cannot handle the cuteness.

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one of my own itty bitty planters

And so, without further ado, here are some of my favorite tiny planters found ‘round the interwebs!

Tiny Geometric Planters

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Image via Etsy

Tiny Monochromatic Shot Glass Planters

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Image via Etsy

Tiny Concrete Planter with Metallic Paint

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Image via Etsy

Tiny Heart Planter

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Image via Etsy

Tiny Cylindrical Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Tiny Cobalt Blue Planter

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Image via Etsy

Teensy-tiny Mushroom Planter

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Image via Etsy

Tiny Cat Planter

Tiny Kitty
Image via Etsy

Tiny Succulent and Ceramic Planter

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Image via Etsy

Tiny, Bright Airplant Holder

Tiny Airplant
Image via Etsy

Are you dying of the cuteness?! Because I sure am! Goodness! I feel like I need to go and buy every single one of these and find perfect little nooks and crannies around my home to stick them!

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Which one of these tiny planters is your favorite? Tell me about it in the comments below.

– the {house}plant momma

To Mist or Not to Mist: That Is the Question

My friend Eliza with Stamen and Stem recently posted a meme about misting plants, essentially saying the practice has no benefit. This is a controversial topic within the plant community…and as soon as I saw her meme, I knew it was going to create some drama! And needless to say, I was NOT disappointed. Whew – talk about a hot topic!

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Image via Stamen and Stem

The topic of misting comes down to on important element of plant care:  humidity. Most houseplants are considered tropical plants, meaning that they require a tropical-like environment to thrive. What do you know about weather in the tropics? It’s typically hot and humid, right? Because of that, many tropical houseplants do well with a relative humidity of around 70-80% (source). If you live in a space where the humidity is lower than that, your tropical plants may not do grow as well.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to misting: those who feel it is beneficial to a plant, and those who feel it is not.

As I prepared to write this blog, I decided to do a little poll on Instagram to see how many of my followers were misters and how many were non-misters. I was absolutely shocked to see how close the numbers were – with even more misters than non-misters responding! What a fun little tidbit of research to do as I dove into this subject!

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Background image via Williams-Sonoma
Misters

I know that misting is a very common practice in the plant community. Many of my plant friends swear by misting, saying that it helps their plants thrive. My Instagram friend @allidoesyoga told me, “I mist because it seems like a gentle rain for the plant babies.” Another Instagram friend, @foliage_therapy, swears that misting helps leaves grow bigger, while @naomiplanter says that misting helps leaves on her velvet philos unfurl without getting stuck and tearing.

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My little mister – a Christmas gift from my BFF!

The rationale behind most misting is that it boosts the humidity of the plant’s environment. The increased humidity helps meet the plants biological needs and thereby helps the plant thrive.

I searched all over the Internet to find research supporting misting, but unfortunately, I could not find anything concrete. I found many, many articles encouraging/advising the practice of misting, but none of them really explained benefits beyond increased humidity.

Non-Misters

Those who feel that misting isn’t beneficial argue that misting only raises the humidity around the plant for a few minutes – until the tiny water droplets have evaporated. The University of Illinois Extension explains it this way, “The humidity level is affected for only a short time and repeated misting is necessary” (source). This leaves your plant living in a low-humidity environment the rest of the time.

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Image via Frida Florentina

One of my IG plant friends – @that_one_plant_guy – explains another concern with misting. He says, “Water that sits on the leaf surface is the perfect for bacteria and fungi to start their life cycle. All that’s needed is the pathogen, the correct environment (water on the leaf), and a host (your plant).”

Research backs him up: according to the University of Vermont Extension, “A film of water on the foliage is often all that various fungus spores need to germinate” (source).Yikes! Like I don’t have enough to worry about when it comes to my plant babies…

Me? Oh, I’m a….

I’m sure some of you are wondering: “Is the {house}plant momma a mister or a non-mister?” Well, here’s the truth: I have a little mister that my BFF got me, and I absolute love it. It sits on one of my shelves, styled nicely with some plants.

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Image via Appetite Shop 

But…that’s all it does: sits on a shelf looking pretty. I am a non-mister. Initially, I didn’t mist my plants because I didn’t like the “mess” that my mister made. There’s no way to control where the water spray goes, and I didn’t like having to wipe down a bunch of surfaces every time I used the mister. However, the more I have learned about misting, the more I have realized that I don’t feel it is a best practice.

Methods of Increasing Moisture

There’s no denying that plants need moisture and humidity. One way to increase humidity around plants is to use a humidifier. Many humidifiers even have a gauge on them that tells you the relative humidity of the space. (This is the humidifier I have.) Keen in mind that as you raise your humidity, it is important that you don’t raise the temperature too much. “With a given amount of water in the air, the higher the air temperature, the lower the relative humidity” (source). 

Another way to increase humidity for your plants is to group them together. Plants naturally release moisture through their leaves in a process called transpiration. This release of moisture can help create a humid microclimate.

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Plants grouped together in my home – my husband refers to this as my “jungle.”

Some people feel that putting plants on a water tray with pebbles. This method, however, is about as controversial is misting – raising the question if this truly raises the overall humidity of the environment. However, a word of caution: This method can cause the plant to run the risk of root rot if not implemented properly. Additionally, standing water can become a breeding ground for insects. (Gross!)

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So tell me: are you a mister or a non-mister? Please tell me in the comments below….and don’t forget to tell me WHY!

– the {house}plant momma

Com’mon! Gimme the Dirt!

I love a good pun! Growing up, my dad was always cracking corny jokes, causing my brother and I to roll our eyes.

Ugh.
So dumb.
So embarrassing.
“DAD…STAHHHHHHHHP!”

But now that I’m a parent, I think puns are comedy gold! Any time I can make a play on words, I feel like a champion. It’s my oldest son (who just happens to be 13) who now rolls his eyes. He’ll give me the look, say “Mom…stop,” and then I’ll burst into giggles. His rejection of my humor only makes me love it more.

Omg. I’m such a mom.

Ahem. Anyway. Today I want to “give you the dirt” on soil. Did you know that different species of plants do best in different kinds of soil? If your soil holds too much moisture, plants that prefer dryer conditions – such as succulents and cacti – can easily experience root rot or the plant itself can even rot. If you use a fast draining soil for plants that like lots of moisture – such as a calathea, they can quickly dry out. Selecting the correct type of soil for your plant is part of good plant care.

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When I first started keeping houseplants, I didn’t know this. I had a large planter and was preparing to put a giant snake plant in it. I went outside, dug up some dirt from my flowerbeds, dumped in the planter, and put the snake plant inside. (Seriously, I’m cringing as I tell this story.) The soil from outside was a) not sterile, b) didn’t have the correct nutrients for houseplants, and c) was way too dense. Needless to say, my snake plant suffered until I realized my error and gave it the correct type of soil!

You can purchase pre-mixed soil at your local garden store or nursery. Or, you can mix it yourself, which happens to be a cheaper option most of the time. (Plus, who doesn’t like getting their hands a little dirty?)

There are four main elements present in different types of soil.

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When mixing soil, you will notice that each recipe calls for a certain number of “parts” of different elements. A “part” is simply anything you use to measure your ingredients. Therefore, if you are using a scoop to measure elements in a recipe that calls for “1 part all-purpose soil and 1 part sand,” you would use one scoop of soil and one scoop of sand.

Soil-based Planting Media

  • 1 part all-purpose soil
  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite

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Soil-less Planting Media

  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite

(Please note that because there is no soil in this planting media, plants will not receive the nutrients they need. If you choose to use a soil-less planting media, be sure to fertilize/feed your plants frequently!)

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Planting Media for Succulents

  • 3 parts all-purpose soil
  • 2 parts coarse sand
  • 1 part perlite

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Planting Media for Cacti

  • 3 parts all-purpose
  • 3 parts coarse sand
  • 2 parts perlite

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My favorite way to mix soil is to do so in a giant bucket.  I dump of my ingredients into the bucket and mix with a small hand shovel. (You can also mix with your hands if that works better for you.)

It should be noted: you can use plain ole’ all-purpose soil in your planters if you want! There is nothing wrong with this plant medium. However, if you discover that your plants are not thriving, you can add in elements to help your plants grow bigger and better. If you think your plants need some extra drainage, add in some coarse sand or perlite to the soil. If you feel your plants need to hold in moisture better, mix some peat moss into the soil. Through time and experience, you will begin to learn what your plants need!

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Now that I’ve “given the dirt” on soil…get out there and get dirty!

– the {house}plant momma

Spring Cleaning: Plant Edition

Spring is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. After a gray, cold winter, spring comes in with warm breezes, brightly colored flowers, and longer days full of sun. (Oh, sweet, sweet sunshine!) This winter has seemed to drag on especially long, with snow coming to Ohio all the way into April.

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April showers bring May flowers…

Another aspect of spring that I love is spring-cleaning. I am a self-professed neat freak and a serious germaphob. Add those two together with my Type A personality and…well, you get the picture. Every spring, I look forward to purging unneeded junk we have acquired over the winter, washing every single sheet and towel in sight, and organizing all of our closets, dressers, and cabinets.

There’s another aspect of spring-cleaning that has been on my mind this year – especially after all of the home renovations we have done over the winter – and that is cleaning my plants. Despite my best efforts to dust them off here and there during the winter, or occasionally give them a good rinse in the sink, many of my plants have a fine layer of drywall dust covering their sweet leaves. With the dust blocking the sun’s rays from the leaves, the plants can’t properly photosynthesize, which inhibits their development and could even cause them to die.

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Poor, dusty leaf…

**I’d like to add that I never thought I would use the word “photosynthesize” in my life – ever – so shout out to Mrs. C, my sophomore year biology teacher, for enduring all of my attitude, eye rolls, and attempted manipulation to not do any work. Turns out I learned something after all!

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Here I am at age 16 with the infamous Mrs. C (dressed as “Proton Woman”), and my BFF – a picture of a picture right out of my high school scrapbook!
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Another shot of “Proton Woman”

Well, that was a fun little aside. *clears throat* ANYWAY….

Needless to say, spring-cleaning my plants has been at the forefront of my mind. However, as this is my first spring with plants, I wasn’t quite sure of the best method(s) to clean them. I read up on many different products and methods, and thought I would give some of them a try!

Spraying with Water

Have you ever watched a four-year-old wash their hands unattended? I watch it – literally – everyday. My son is the worst at WASHING his hands. He thinks that by putting one squirt of soap on his hands and instantly washing it off, he has done his due diligence and his hands are “clean.” (Guys, kids are gross. If you have them, then you understand. If you don’t, then you should be forewarned. Gross. Gross. Gross.)

This is what I feel like happens when I spray my plants with water to clean them. All the water does is move around a little of the dust and dirt on the leaves, but as soon as the water dries, the dust is still there, just dried in the shape of water droplets.

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Old dust and dirt dried in the shape of water droplets on my peace lily

While this method feels easiest and might give you the vibe that something good is happening, I don’t really think it’s very effective in actually cleaning the leaves.

Washing with Water

I have, however, found that washing my plants with water is an effective way to clean the leaves. Typically, I put some water on my fingers or a soft cloth; then gently rub the leaf – both top and bottom – clean. When I’m done with all the leaves, I spray the plant down with the sprayer on my sink, just to rinse off any extra dust or dirt that I might have loosened.

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Peace lily much cleaner and happier after an actual WASH in the water!

I would like to add that both of the water cleaning methods are best done in conjunction with watering. If you wash them in addition to watering your plants, there’s a good chance that they will get overwatered and/or possibly flood.

Dusting Glove

For Christmas, my mom got me a microfiber dusting glove as a joke. She forgot, however, with whom she was dealing. I love the glove, and I actually use it frequently when cleaning around the house. My kids think it’s hilarious, and since the glove is big and blue, we refer to it as the “Cookie Monster Hand.”

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Poor monstera…all covered in dust…

I decided to try the microfiber side of the dusting glove on my plants to see if it might effectively remove dust. I feel like this method is preferable to many of the other methods I tried, and it doesn’t include any products that might potentially block the leaves pores, which clearly does more damage than good.

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All ready to soak in that gorgeous spring sunshine!

Overall, I felt like this method was effective – especially on my plants with bigger leaves such as my monstera, snake plants, or pothos. However, for any plants that have smaller leaves, I’m not sure that the big, bulky glove is as effective, as it can’t get into small crevasses. For smaller leaves, I have found that a microfiber cloth does a great job!

Milk and Water

This is a method that I read about on Instagram. One of the accounts I follow (and please forgive me, I cannot remember whose account I saw this on!) said that she was cleaning her leaves with a mixture that was equal parts water and milk. I had never heard of this (and was also pretty skeptical, as I didn’t want my entire house smelling like sour milk), so I decided to do a little research.

Turns out that this is actually a thing called foliar feeding. Apparently, if you have an empty milk container, you can add water to it before throwing it away and can water your plants with that. Or, you can dilute the milk and spray it on the leaves. (If you have skim milk, you can supposedly put that directly on the leaves.) This process is said to give the plants a nutritional boost; additionally, the milk can serve as an antifungal, and and can even potentially cure some of the fungal issues to which some plants are susceptible. (I found this information here.)

However, there is conflicting opinions about this method. Some people contend that using this method might attract pests and potentially make your house smell like sour milk. (NO THANKS!) Another argument against foliar feeding is that, while using food products like milk might make your plant have shiny leaves, it’s not actually doing anything helpful for the plant itself.

I debated trying this process of cleaning/shining leaves with the milk/water solution, but decided against it. I couldn’t run the risk of my house smelling like sour milk or attracting any unwanted pests. (We are currently facing a “lovely” invasion of springtime ants…so I am currently focused on making my house as un-bug-friendly as possible.)

Vinegar and Water

According to the Garden Report website, a good way to remove hard water stains from leaves is to use a weak vinegar solution (1 part vinegar to 5 parts water). This site claims that if you spray the hard water stains and wipe them away with a soft cloth, this will remove the stains.

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Hard water stains on my Christmas Cactus

I have a Christmas Cactus that I purchased at IKEA that has hard water spots (plus dust on top of that!), so I decided to give it a try. I was really nervous to spray something as acidic as vinegar – even in a diluted form – onto my plants (plus it doesn’t smell great), but I went for it.

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A much cleaner and happier Christmas Cactus

I sprayed the solution on my cactus, and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I was pleasantly surprised to see the hard water spots disappear! I’m honestly not sure if the spots disappeared because of the pressure I used when wiping the leaves , or because of the solution. However, this is definitely a method I would try again.

Treating Scale

I currently have a rubber tree that is fighting scale. It is so sad to watch the spots appear on the under sides of the leaves and then watch the life slowly drain from the leaf. I read online that you can use rubbing alcohol to treat the scale spots, which I have been doing for about a month now. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any improvement.

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Scale up close – GROSS! (Image via BugGuide.net)

My next idea for treating scale was to give neem oil a try. If you haven’t heard of it, neem oil is well known around the plant community, and according to the Today’s Homeowner website:

Neem oil is made from the seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which is native to India. Since ancient times, the neem tree has been prized as a sacred remedy and important ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. In the garden, neem oil boasts a powerful insecticidal ingredient, azadirachtin, which makes it a great organic choice for controlling a variety of problems.

Because of all of these fantastic properties, neem oil can be used to combat insects, fungus, and even some kinds of plant disease. Additionally, it’s nontoxic (meaning that it won’t hurt predatory wasps, honeybees, earthworms, ants, spiders, ladybugs, and adult butterflies, as well as being nontoxic to humans, birds, and other animals), organic (meaning it’s plant-based and it’s easy to find a brand that is organically grown), and biodegradable (meaning it breaks down easily and has no lasting residue).

The jury is still out on if the neem oil is going to help with the scale…I’m going to keep applying, though, and will see if I can save my poor little rubber tree!

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After all of these cleaning experiments, I’m pretty sure I have the cleanest plants in Columbus, Ohio. (HA!) But seriously, I have learned a lot, and have gathered some new methods of keeping my plants healthy and happy. I am hoping that all of the cleaning I have done will  help all of my plants have a healthy, happy summer!

What methods do you use to clean your plants? Is there a product that I didn’t try that you swear by? I hope that you’ll take the time to tell me about it in the comments below.

– the {house}plant momma

 

Stump

Before my family and I were even thinking of moving to Columbus, Ohio, I had already scoped out the plant scene here. As part of my search, I stumbled upon Stump’s Italian Village location. The moment I walked into the store, I was surrounded by what can only be described as “art.” The dark walls and carefully placed lighting accentuated the incredible greenery and handmade ceramics all around. I could instantly tell this was a special place.

While I have visited Stump on multiple occasions, including a workshop I took in the fall, I had only had a chance to chat briefly with owners Emily and Brian Kellett. It was a pleasure to sit down with them several weeks ago and learn more about Stump. With Ray, the sweetest shop “mascot” you will ever meet, lying sleepily on the floor at their feet, Emily and Brian shared their story with me.

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Ray was thoroughly unimpressed with my attempts to take her picture…

Before Emily and Brian met, Emily went to school for industrial design with a focus on design research; as part of one of her projects, she researched what the future of garden retail could potentially look like. At the time, many garden centers across the country were having difficulty remaining relevant year-round, as almost all of their sales were made in the spring. Additionally, many garden centers struggled with appealing to people of different generations, ethnicities, etc. Emily traveled around the country, visiting different garden centers, and interviewed owners, employees, and customers about their experiences.

Around that time, Emily and Brian met when some mutual friends invited them both out for drinks. Brian was teaching full-time, going to Ohio State University for his doctorate, and was working to help with the design of Rockmill Brewery. However despite both being insanely busy, the two hit it off and began dating. With their corresponding backgrounds, they dreamed of starting a plant business together.

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At first, Emily and Brian considered running a plant booth at a farmer’s market or owning a plant truck that would host pop-ups in the Columbus area. However, when a retail space became available about two and a half years ago – the space where they are now located in Italian Village – they took a leap of faith and decided to launch their business as a brick and mortar space instead.

“The outside [of the building] was kind of a mess, but it had potential” Emily says, laughing. The building was light gray with green trim, and had lots of cracks in the exterior finish. The inside featured lime green walls and fluorescent lights. (Sounds lovely, right?!) After some TLC from Emily and Brian, along with their friends and family, they transformed the space, and within a month, they opened the shop. (Fun fact: Stump opened its doors exactly one year to the day from when Emily and Brian met.) Less than two years later in February 2017, Stump opened its second location in German Village.

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Stump’s German Village Location

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Working together at Stump only brought Emily and Brian closer together. (Let me tell you how LUCKY they are…because I’m not so sure I could work in such close proximity to someone I also lived with…ha!). Last month, in March 2018, Emily and Brian eloped to Rocky Mountain National Park!

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Woohoo! Congratulations Emily and Brian! (Image courtesy of Stump)

Something else that makes Stump really special is that they carry an ever-rotating collection of curated, handmade ceramics. When they first started, they facilitated several artist residencies, where ceramic artists came into the shop and created pieces of art on the premises. These pieces of art bring something special to the shop, and work to compliment the beautiful plants that they hold.

Emily and Brian are currently expanding Stump with the recent purchase of 10 acres of land outside of Columbus. They are planning to build a greenhouse on there so that they can keep extra inventory on hand, as well as grow some of their own plants. They also plan to reinstate the artist residency program once they build a ceramic studio on that property.

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Before ending our time together, I asked Emily and Brian if they had any tips for those just beginning their plant journey. One tip they had was to select a forgiving plant to start. Stump always keeps ZZ plants and snake plants in stock, as they are some of the best plants for beginners. They also have extremely knowledgeable staff members on hand that are able to advise customers on the right plant for their own, personal space.

Another thing that Stump does to make their customers have a successful plant experience is that they fill out a plant care card for every plant they sell. The card indicates the name of the plant, how often the plant should be watered, and the type of light the plant needs. This is fantastic for any plant owner – especially new ones!

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Emily and Brian are seriously some of the nicest people I have met during my time in Columbus. Case in point: Emily ended our interview together with a hug. I love getting to know the people behind the plant stores I love, and getting to know Emily and Brian a little has only made me want to shop at Stump even more.

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If you are from the Columbus area or are ever visiting, you must check out one of Stump’s locations! They are located in Italian Village at 305 E. 5th Avenue (Monday thru Saturday, 11:00-6:00 and Sunday, 12:00-5:00) and German Village at 220 Thurman Avenue (Monday thru Friday, 11:00-6:00 and Saturday/Sunday, 10:00-5:00). If you stop by, be sure to tell them that the {house}plant momma sent you!

To learn more about Stump…
Website: http://stumpplants.com
Instagram: @stumpplants
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stumpplants/

– the {house}plant momma

Products I {Heart}: Water Propagation Stations

If you’ve been following along with my plant journey, you know that I find the propagation process to be absolutely magical – especially water propagation. (You can read my thoughts about it here.) However, I also find the process beautiful. I love sticking little snippets of greenery into different water-filled vessels, and watching the roots emerge.

Another reason I think that water propagation is so lovely is because I enjoy adding propagation vessels to my home. There are so many options out there – bottles, jars, vases, test tubes – and each one adds something special to your space. The options are virtually limitless. As long as the stem and roots of your plant are able to get light, then you should be able to use almost any container for water propagation.

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My favorite water propagation station in my house…

If you are new to the propagation process and want some inspiration for a water propagation station, then look no further! Here are some of my favorites found ‘round the internet.

Test Tube Water Propagation Station

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Image via Etsy

Round Bud Vases 

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Image via Amazon

Glass Orb Vase Himmeli Water Propagation Station 

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Image via Etsy

Milk Bottles – Vintage milk bottles make great water propagation stations! My momma gifted me with these from her childhood, and I love the nostalgia they add to my house house, coupled with the beauty of my plants. You can find similar ones here.

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Vintage milk bottles from my momma

Wooden Water Propagation Station Cylinders 

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Image via Etsy

Square Bud Vases 

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Image via Amazon

Hanging Succulent Water Propagation Station 

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Image via Etsy

Hanging Cylinder Vase – I have several of these hanging cylinder vases hanging around the house that I use for propagation. I love how they showcase my clippings, but using them also makes it easy to change up little portions of my décor when I switch out the clippings.

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Hanging cylinder vase, located in the entryway of my home

Quad Cradle Water Propagation Station 

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Image via Things by HC

Beaker Water Propagation Station

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Image via Etsy

If you would like to learn more about propagation in general, please check out these two fantastic articles.

Do you feel inspired yet??

I would love to see what YOU are using for your own water propagation stations! Please tag me – @thehouseplantmomma – on Instagram to show me your propagation stations. I will be featuring some of my favorites on an upcoming version of my #FeaturedFriday Instagram Stories!

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I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

– the {house}plant momma

My Favorite Plant People

If you’re part of the plant community, then you already know…plant people are literally the best! I have been part of a lot of groups, clubs, and organizations throughout the years – be it church groups, mommy groups, music groups, etc. – but never have I seen the level of openness and kindness that I see in this community.

Being part of the plant community has opened me up to many new friendships, found around the world. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my favorite plant people with you. Please take a few minutes to read about these amazing folks; then give them a follow on social media, check out their websites, buy their amazing products – just give them some love!


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Favorite thing about plants: Propagating! There is something so magical about being able to create new plants from cuttings. It makes me feel like a plant-magician!

Fun facts:
– I wear many hats owning my own business, but my favorite part across all aspects of my content is photography. Challenging myself to be a better photographer always brings me joy and excitement.
– I love playing video games and my favorite is League of Legends!

Why she made my list: When I first started my plant journey, Alessia was super-encouraging; she even sent me some clippings from her own urban jungle! Her Instagram account is absolute eye-candy, and she is really engaged with her followers. This is a plant lover you definitely want to get to know!


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Favorite thing about plants: I am obsessed with beautiful foliage and plants that interact with the environment (e.g. Oxalis triangularis). They bring joy and serenity to me; a green space reminds me of nature and how it gives generously.

Fun fact: I’ve always been a fan of Biology (it’s my favorite subject) and fancy plants a great deal. My love for them grew exponentially when I received a succulent from my mum. From there, things sky-rocketed. I deeply enjoy planting and interacting with the plant community on Instagram.

Why he made my list: Marvin is not has a beautiful Instagram feed and a fellow plant lover, but he is also a top-notch guy! He frequently gives me positive feedback and advice about my own plant experiences. I have also really enjoyed watching his plant journey – even if it’s halfway around the world!


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Favorite thing about plants: I love how it seems like they each have their own personalities and quirks. There’s always new things to learn about each one!

Fun facts: 
– I actually have my masters in Interior Architecture & Design, but soon after college my love for plants and my need to help others with their plant journeys took over. I was way happier inside with the change.
– I’m pretty obsessed with Corgis. I follow about 20 different ones on my personal Instagram account. The day I finally bring one home will literally be the best. day. ever.

Why she made my list: I initially met Alicia through a group of plant lovers on Instagram, and was thrilled to discover that she sells plants on Etsy. Her store, Land of Alice Studio, sells excellent-quality plants at fair prices; plus, Alicia is able to get ahold of plants that I am not able to get locally in Ohio. Oh, and did I mention she’s a total sweetheart??



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Favorite thing about plants: How much they have taught me – patience, mindfulness + intentionality, and letting go.

Fun fact: I was born on Valentine’s Day!

Why she made my list: I also met Eliza through a group of plant lovers on Instagram. She is a wealth of plant knowledge, and has an awesome blog. (You should totally check it out!) Another thing I love about her is that she is a mom, so we can sympathize with #momlife things together.


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Favorite thing about plants: Learning, exploring, sometimes failing, the bewilderment and magic, sharing and connecting with others doing the same. Not to mention the beauty it brings to any environment!

Fun fact: I make pretty decent sushi.

Why he made my list: Jonathan manages a an absolutely gorgeous Instagram feed. If you are not following him, you should be! He also has been a big encouragement to me throughout my plant journey. So thankful for this Insta-friend!


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Favorite thing about plants: Watching them grow and nurturing something so innocent and pure, and they way they bring life to any space!

Fun facts about me: I’m an only child. I have MANY creative outlets and started my blog so that I could honor them all instead of choosing just one. I love working with crystals to bring more balance and serenity into my life. Currently saving up for some new tattoos and a puppy.

Why she made my list: If you have had any interactions with Joi, you know that she absolutely radiates positivity and kindness. In my early Instagram days, Joi and I forged a friendship as newbies to the Instagram world and “beginning bloggers;” I am so thankful that we have formed a fast friendship since then. It’s amazing when online friends become REAL friends!


Have you met any amazing people in the plant community? How have they impacted you? Please tell me about it in the comments below!

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And if there’s a new Instagram account, Facebook account, or blog that I should be following – let me know! I’m always excited to meet new friends, learn new things, and invest even more in the #plantlife!

– the {house}plant momma

Spring Awakening

I’m baaaaaaaaack!

After a winter away from the world of blogging, I have returned! Spring is a time of restoration and renewal – not just in the natural world, but also for individuals. The gloom that winter brings – gray days, ice and snow, tree skeletons framing the sky – prevents not only plants from growing, but people, too.

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This winter, I have been buried. Not under depression, as I have spent many winters before, but under “life.” I am currently working two part-time jobs, working to renovate my house, and trying to balance all the aspects of being a good wife and mother. We’ve also battled sickness after sickness this winter. (Um, hand-foot-mouth is LITERALLY the most disgusting thing to ever happen in the history of ever.) It’s honestly been overwhelming. I keep waiting for life to “calm down,” but it seems that never happens. There’s been no time for me to breathe, no time for me to pursue my hobbies, no time for myself.

Real talk: winter has been hard.

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But warmer days are coming. Days filled with blue skies and balmy breezes. Days with sunshine from sun up to sundown. Days without feeling quite so “buried.” I feel winter lifting.

My plants can feel it, too. This winter has been hard on them. I have lost at least 15 plants for various reasons. Some of them died from lack of sun, as they couldn’t seem to thrive no matter where I tried to move them in the house. Others needed more moisture than I could provide (let me tell you that running a heater almost 24/7 makes a house as dry as can be!). Still others died just because…well, I really can’t figure out what happened. They just gave up the ghost.

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However, across the last few weeks, I see signs of spring bursting from my plants. My monstera – who is still pouting from our move last September – is starting to put out some new shoots. All of my tradescantia varieties are growing new baby leaves, and are reaching out their vines. Two of my snake plants have brand new shoots pushing out of the soil.

Spring signifies hope in so many ways.

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I know I have been absent for quite some time, but I hope that you will come along with me as I continue blogging about my plant journey. I know there is still tons left to experience in this {house}plant world, and I have a whole list of new blog topics to share with you.

What do you say? Will you join me?

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– the {house}plant momma

HandHeld & Co.: Beautiful Art, Beautiful Heart

I moved to Dayton, Ohio eight years to be closer to my then-boyfriend/now-husband, and ended up falling in love with everything about the city. It was the city where I got married, where I became a mom to my step-son Alex, where we bought our first house, where my two babies August and Ana were born.

However, my family and I recently moved from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio. Even though Columbus is only about an hour and a half from Dayton, moving was H-A-R-D. Leaving all of those sweet memories behind, packing up our belongings, and saying goodbye to friends was, honestly, heartbreaking. As we pulled away from the house for the last time, I vowed I wouldn’t cry…but found myself blinking back tears anyway.

The first weekend we were in Columbus, I was lonely but determined to stay busy and not allow myself be miserable or sad. I saw on Instagram that an account I followed – HandHeld & Co. – was going to be part of a local street bazaar. I was thrilled that I might be able to make a connection in my new town, and messaged the owner that I would be stopping by.

The day of the bazaar, though in early September, was cold and rainy. All of my warm clothes were still packed away in boxes, as I thought I wouldn’t need them for a long time. However, I bundled up the best I could, threw on some rain boots, and headed to the bazaar.

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FREEZING, but thrilled to meet Isabella at the street bazaar!

It was there that I had my first interaction with Isabella Cartolano, owner and artist of HandHeld & Co. Not only did she have an awesome booth at the bazaar – which was evident in spite of the rain – but it was also immediately clear that this girl has a sweet spirit.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Isabella and learn more about her journey with HandHeld.

Isabella has been making cards since she was twelve; at that time, she made scrapbooking-style cards, which were carried at several local stores in Columbus.  “And I’ve been painting since…forever,” Isabella says with a smile during our time together.

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Image via HandHeld & Co.

However, “life” happened, and making each card individually became too cumbersome. After taking a break from card-making for several years and attending an 30-week class focused on entrepreneurial skills, the idea was sparked for Isabella to start her own business. As a result HandHeld & Co. was born at the beginning of 2017.

Isabella says she gains much of the inspiration for her cards from one of the local nurseries, where she works fulltime. “I love working there,” Isabella tells me. (And I have to admit…the nursery where she works is my absolute favorite in the area!)

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Image via HandHeld & Co.

Each card design is hand-painted by Isabella using a combination of watercolors and gouache (which is basically an opaque watercolor), then is reproduced and beautifully packaged before being sold. She also sells place cards, gift tags, clothing patches, and pins.

But Isabella isn’t just a talented artist; she also has an amazing heart. As she was kicking off HandHeld & Co, she decided that she wanted to donate a portion of each of her sales to a cause. Through some friends, she learned of an organization in Columbus called She Has a Name, which combats human trafficking right here in Columbus.

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Image via She Has a Name

According to their mission statement, She Has a Name is “committed to engaging the community, strengthening partner organizations, and equipping survivors through workforce development.” They do this in three ways: by educating communities about human trafficking, by serving as a resource and support for survivors, and by collaborating with practitioners in order to provide the best possible care to survivors. They strongly believe that “survivors of human trafficking have a name, a nobility, and a narrative.”

Ten percent of Isabella’s profits go to the organization to further the efforts of She Has a Name in our very own community!

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Image via HandHeld & Co.

Succulents and cacti are Isabella’s “thing,” which is evident when looking at her work. Many of her cards feature beautiful succulent and cacti subjects.  When asked what her favorite houseplant was, Isabella responds, “Probably silver Philodendron and most types of Euphorbia.”

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Image via HandHeld & Co.

You can find HandHeld & Co. products on their website and at various festivals, bazaars, and pop-ups. (Check out the HandHeld Instagram account for updated information on events!) You can also find her products in some boutiques and stores in both Columbus and Dayton.

As a seasonal side note, I also want to add that right now HandHeld & Co. is offering some gorgeous Christmas-themed cards, shown below. If you haven’t bought your seasonal cards yet, be sure to check out the website!

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Image via HandHeld & Co.

Not only is Isabella of HandHeld an amazing artist, but she also is a kind and wonderful person.  It is a pleasure to not only live in the same community as her, but to share her amazing work here on my blog!

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Check out HandHeld & Co. here:
Website: https://www.handheldandco.com
Instagram: @handheldandco

– the {house}plant momma