A Birthday Terrarium

My life has been insane lately, with very little time for creativity. I am currently working two part-time jobs, as well as being a full-time stay-at-home mom to three kids (ages 13, 4, and 2). In addition, my husband and I have been working hard to remodel our house since moving in about a year ago. Most nights, I fall into bed with barely enough brainpower to watch a mindless show on Netflix or flip through my Instagram feed.

Last week, I celebrated my 33rdbirthday – woohoo! I decided that for my birthday, I was going to take the day “off” from work and responsibility, and was going to make time for creativity. That was literally the BEST gift I could have given myself!

The morning of my birthday, the little kids and I went to my favorite local nursery. I had told the kids that for my birthday, all I wanted from them was for them not to fight all day – HA! Oddly enough, though, they listened and were really well behaved while we were plant shopping. (Well…mostly well behaved…)

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Are they fighting or loving each other? You’ll never know…
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I love this place!

As I pushed through the greenhouse, I remembered that I had a gorgeous fishbowl at home, just waiting to be turned a terrarium – and suddenly my birthday project took shape!

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Hoping my plants survives better in this vessel than this little guy did…RIP Albus Dumbledore.

My local nursery has a big section of fairy garden/terrarium plants and, while I haven’t had much luck with ferns in the past, I decided to take a risk and make my terrarium hold ferns exclusively. I selected three itty-bitty varieties of ferns and excitedly added them to my cart.

I also picked up some other supplies for my terrarium that I didn’t have at home. I already had potting soil on hand (because I always do – of course), but I bought some horticulture charcoal and some decorative moss. I also went to the nursery’s little fairy garden section and picked out two bright red mushrooms to add – just to add cute, novel touch. (Plus, my kids were absolutely obsessed all of the little fairy garden items, so when I picked out the mushrooms, they were thrilled!)

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I had to wait until the kids went down for their naps to begin working on my terrarium, but as soon as they were in bed, I hustled downstairs and began my project!

The first thing I did was add a layer of charcoal to the bottom of my terrarium. If my vessel had been larger, I would have added a layer of gravel and then the charcoal. However, the bowl is not too big or tall, and I wanted to be sure my plants had adequate room to sit on top of the soil, so I just opted for charcoal.

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Since terrariums do not have any drainage, adding this layer of charcoal (and gravel, if you use it) allows for excess water to drain to the bottom and keeps the soil from being too soggy, which can cause root rot. Charcoal is great to use, too, because it is absorbent and soaks up excess water.

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Please note that while you can use grilling charcoal at the bottom of a plant pot, most grilling charcoal includes chemical additives. These additives are not good for plants, so that type of charcoal should typically be avoided. I personally recommend finding horticulture charcoal either at your local nursery (like I did) or online. (Amazon has options available such as this and this.)

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Oops!

After the charcoal was in place, I added a generous layer of dirt. Then, I used my finger to hollow out little wells for each of my ferns. I gently removed each fern from its tiny pot, broke up the root ball a bit, and carefully set it in the well I had made in the soil. Then I added extra soil around each of the stems and smoothed it out.

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Next, I added in the decorative elements. I had bought a bunch of moss – way more than I actually needed – so I broke it into pieces and carefully added the smaller pieces around the bases of the ferns. While this moss is honestly mostly just to make the terrarium look more lush and green, it will serve to hold in some of the soil’s moisture. (Fingers crossed that this extra help with keeping in moisture will help me have a successful fern-growing experience!)

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Finally, I selected the perfect spot to put my itty-bitty red mushrooms, and carefully pushed them into the moss and soil.

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Just about the time I was finishing up my terrarium, my kids woke up from their naps, and it was back to being a momma. But let me tell you how good this creative time was for my soul! I felt so refreshed after some time focused on me, feeding into the side of my personality that frequently is neglected.

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The finished product!

My birthday ended with a delicious dinner with my entire family, and a humongous ice cream sundae (not pictured, because it was gone in a second!).

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Have you ever made a terrarium? If not, do you think you might be ready to tackle it now? Tell me in the comments below!

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- the {house}plant momma.png

 

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

 

Pumpkin Succulent Planter DIY

It finally feels like autumn here in Central Ohio! After months of hot, sticky days – even though the entire month of September – the weather finally cooled down with some rain over the weekend.

Something I love about living in the Midwest is the changing of the seasons; I am always so excited for the next season to arrive! In the spring, I’m dying to get out of my sweaters and boots and into cute little dresses and flip-flops. However, this time of year, I’m eager to snuggle up in an oversized hoodie (generally stolen from my oldest son’s closer) with a cup of tea.

Fall is also one of my favorite times of year with my family. From going to the pumpkin patch to making homemade applesauce and apple pie, from taking the kids trick-or-treating to making caramel apples, autumn holds many treasured traditions for our little crew.

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Me and my crew at the pumpkin patch

With the crisp feel of fall in the air, I decided to take on a fun (and easy!) little DIY that I wanted to share with you: turning a pumpkin into a succulent planter. This little project makes a perfect centerpiece for a table or would look adorable on your porch (climate permitting!).

As I said, this project is very simple. First, go to your local greenhouse or favorite plant store and select some succulents. I recommend picking ones that aren’t too short, as you want to add some dimension to your planter; however, picking succulents in a variety of heights is a good idea.

For my planter, I decided to use a white pumpkin, which I found for $6.99 at Trader Joe’s. Truthfully, you can use any color or shape of pumpkin you want; you can even use a plastic or Styrofoam pumpkin, which you should be able to easily find at your local craft store or hobby shop.

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Begin by cutting the top of your pumpkin out, just as if you were making a jack-o-lantern. I should note that the shorter pumpkins – like the one I used – are a little harder to work with. Because they have less area in the middle filled with seeds, you have to work a little harder to separate the top from the rest of the pumpkin.

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Once the top of your pumpkin is removed, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and “goo” from the inside of your pumpkin. As I was working on this step, a little “helper” came along… “Whacha doin’, Momma?” So…my little “helper” assisted me with the scooping process!

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When your pumpkin is empty, fill it about half-way with soil. I used a soil that is specific for cacti and succulents, as I have found the faster-draining soil does really well for those plants.

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Gently remove your succulents from their pots and set them in the pumpkin as desired. Carefully fill in around your succulents with more soil until they are well supported, but do not pack the soil in too tightly.

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I gave my succulents a nice drink after they were planted, which also helped wash off some of the loose soil that had settled on them. And ta-da! Your pumpkin planter is complete!

(I told you that was easy, didn’t I?)

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I am so excited to display my planter on my dining room table, and add a little bit of festive autumn décor into my home.

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If you decide to take on this project, I would absolutely LOVE to see what you come up with! Please e-mail me pictures to the.houseplant.momma@gmail.com or tag me on Instagram @the.houseplant.momma – I can’t wait to see how yours turn out!

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What’d your favorite autumn tradition? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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– the {house}plant momma

DIY: Animal Air Plant Holders

Before we get too far into today’s blog, I have to confess something to you. I’m currently writing from the driver’s seat of my car, parked outside a Starbucks, while my kids are both asleep in the back in their carseats. I’ve got an iced coffee in my cup holder and a scone to snack on, but every time I reach for a bite of scone, the bag crinkles. I’m pretty sure my kids are going to hear it, wake up, and rapidly consume the rest of my treat. (In case you’re wondering, this is what my “mommy time” looks like these days.)

I also just discovered I have some succulents in my cup holder next to my coffee. Seriously, who does that?

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Anyway, I have a super-fun tutorial in store today. Several weeks ago, I posted about novelty planters. As I was preparing that blog, I kept coming across pictures of air plant holders made from plastic animals or dinosaurs; and every time I saw them, I thought to myself, “I could do that!”

The rest is history!

My three-year-old son is becoming obsessed with plants. I don’t think he so much appreciates them for the same reasons that I do, but he loves them simply because I love them. I asked him if he would like some more plants in his room, and he jumped at the idea! With that in mind, I decided to make these fun (and easy!) animal plant holders for him.

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When you search on Amazon for plastic animals, you’ll find that you have a ton of different options. I selected these animals (pictured below) based on size (I wanted them big enough to support the air plant, but not so but that it couldn’t be seen), and on price. When it comes to price, I bought something that was relatively cheap because I didn’t want to experiment with these on an expensive toy. The quality of the animals was a little cheaper than I typically like to buy, honestly. If I bought animals again, I would go with some that were better quality. However, because I knew these would ultimately get painted, I wasn’t too worried.

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Image via Amazon

The plant holders are very easy to make. The first thing I did was use a hole saw attachment for a drill to make a circle hole in the backs of the animals. The size of saw you’ll use will depend on the size of your animals, but for mine, I used a 7/8-inch bit.

**If you are cutting a hole in a solid plastic animal (as opposed to a hallow one, like I used), you would want to use a paddle bit, also known as a spade bit.

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Once you have drilled a hole in the back of the animal, lay your animals flat on cardboard in an area that is not at-risk from overspray. Even though my cardboard was rather large, I sprayed mine in my grass – just to be safe. I used a spray paint that was a paint/primer combo, in the hopes of masking the brightly-colored animals more easily. Any color will work; the possibilities are endless!

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Be sure to get paint into every nook and cranny of the animals, turning them at different angles to get paint into open mouths, texted “hair” areas, and their underside. (Beware of over-spraying your animals or you will deal with runs in the paint. Multiple light coats of spray paint are always better than a few heavy coats.)

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Let your animals dry overnight, and check for any stickiness/tackiness in the morning. Once you are sure they are dry, add air plants on the holes, and presto! A cute little addition to your home décor!

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Plants on top of my son’s toy bins

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If DIY is not your style, but you like this idea, Etsy has some really cute products for sale that are reasonably priced, such as these kissing giraffe air plant holders:

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Image via Etsy

Or these dinosaur air plant holders:

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Image via Etsy

There are even polka dotted dino air plant holders!

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Image via Etsy 

I hope you enjoyed this fun little project.  I know I sure did!

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– the {house}plant momma