A Tale of Two Grandmas: Houseplants and COPD

Growing up, I had the privilege of having two, wonderful grandmas. They were as different as night and day, but both of them were special ladies.

My Mimi was a firecracker. She was always teaching my brother and I to do things that my mom hated (i.e. flipping off my grandpa behind a menu at a restaurant or letting us watch TV shows that my mom would NEVER let us watch). We loved it, and thought she was the coolest grandma ever!

Whenever my Mimi would visit, I would drag her to my room for some “talk time,” and would share my little world with her: boys, trainer bras, best friend drama – you name it. When I got older, I would talk to her every Sunday on the phone like clockwork.

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A sweet moment between my Mimi and I (circa 1987)

My Grandma Joyce was the complete opposite. While she was sassy in her own right, she enjoyed teaching my brother and I church songs while she played the piano or would make (terribly inaccurate) birdcalls for us. When we would go visit her, we would enjoy roaming around her property in Indiana, looking for fossils in her creek bed and fishing in her pond.

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My Grandma Joyce and I (circle 1988)

Despite these women’s differences, they both were hit by the same affliction at the end of their lives: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Mimi had COPD from her life-long smoking habit – an addiction that she just couldn’t kick. Grandma Joyce smoked when she was younger, but stopped when she was older. Yet the damage was done.

Both of my grandmothers died with COPD; because of this, COPD is a topic that is close to my heart. I am honored today to have guest writer Erin Lowry of 1stClass Medical sharing how houseplants can have a positive impact on those who struggle with COPD.

– the {house}plant momma

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a progressive disease that makes breathing continually harder to do. COPD is a broad term that covers multiple lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. These diseases can trigger coughing, which in turn causes an excess amount of mucus, wheezing, chest tightness, as well as other similar symptoms.

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Image from British Lung Foundation

While cigarette smoke is a main cause of COPD, you do not necessarily need to smoke a day in your life to get COPD. Any harmful pollutant in the air can also cause COPD; additionally, constant exposure to those pollutants (smoke included) can worsen the effects of COPD. Minimizing these triggers means doing what you can to avoid the irritant or keeping your home clean to lower the amount of pollutants in your home.

Many respiratory patients spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, as outside air has been believed to cause COPD flare-ups. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there may actually be more indoor air pollutants than outdoor air pollutants. One reason is that many homes now have a better seals against the outside, which helps them be more energy efficient. However, this process also locks in pollutants. Also, pollutants such as harsh fumes from cleaners, dust, and pollen can get inside and embed themselves into carpets and upholstery. All of this may mean the home is not as safe for COPD patients as they might think.

A safe and relatively easy way to reduce these pollutants in your home is to invest in houseplants. Indoor plants are known to reduce harmful pollutants from the air by up to 87% in only 24 hours! How, you might ask? Plants use the process of photosynthesis to take in carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the air, and in turn, release clean oxygen. By absorbing the unhealthy gases and releasing clean gases, plants can help clean the air; this is much easier – and cheaper – than paying for an expensive machine to clean the air for you!

In 1989, NASA put together a list of plants they believe to help clean indoor air the most efficiently. English ivy, peace lilies, flamingo lilies, variegated snake plants, chrysanthemums, and bamboo palms are all great plants to remove many pollutants in the air.

If you aren’t familiar with these plants, here is some basic information about them.

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English Ivy: English ivy needs to be grow in a shaded area with rich soil; it should be watered enough to keep the soil moist. It’s vines can grow up to 50 feet long – or more – over time.

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Peace Lily: Peace lilies need partial shade, but can survive off virtually no sun at all. They should be watered when they start to droop.

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Flamingo Lily: Flamingo lilies are from the rainforest, so they enjoy growing in a humid area, in a pot of moss-based soil. This lily requires enough water to keep the soil moist; however, do not allow the soil to get overly wet and make sure the pot has a way to drain.

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Snake Plants: Snake plants grow best in a pot with good drainage or in a soilless potting mix, so that it does not get overly moist. These plants can handle indirect sunlight, and only need to be watered when the soil dries out.

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Chrysanthemums: These plants need regular watering, poured under their leaves to avoid any fungus growth. Chrysanthemums do not like humidity and only bloom for 3-4 weeks total, leaving behind their beautiful leaves.

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Bamboo Palm: Bamboo palms only need indirect or filtered light. They like to have their soil kept moist, but be careful not to overwater, as it can lead to root rot.

All of the best plants for the air quality are also fairly low maintenance. This makes it easier for those with COPD and other respiratory diseases to maintain a plant without having to constantly provide care for it. Many of the plants listed only require enough water to keep the soil moist and a minimal amount of indirect light.

It should be noted that many of these plants are not pet friendly. If you have pets, make sure you get non-toxic plants or keep your plants in places you are confident your pet cannot reach. (To learn more about plants that are pet safe, click here).

Before bringing home any plant, I recommend making sure you are well educated about the plant you are buying. Speaking with a specialist at your local nursery or garden store, or doing research online, can help ensure you know how to care for the plant in your climate and region.

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A note of caution: If you aren’t careful, an over-watered plant can produce mold; this will have the exact opposite effect of the plants air cleaning purpose.

Houseplants have many benefits for their owners, but for those with COPD, those benefits can be life – and health – altering!

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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

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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

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

Moving With Plants

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been…I promise: I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. My family and I just made a big move, and things have been absolutely insane. As part of sharing my plant journey with you all, I wanted to share my experiences with moving with plants.

We placed our home in Dayton, Ohio on the market on July 15, 2017 as we left for a few days vacation with my parents. I jokingly told our realtor as we left, “Get this thing sold before we get home!”

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Some of my plants lined up by the door before moving

And he did. In four days – yes, before we returned – our house was under contract. Although we had anticipated it would sell quickly, we hadn’t counted on it selling THAT quickly. The next month approaching our closing was an absolute whirlwind of packing and trying to figure out what was next for our family.

We planned to move to Dublin, Ohio, to be closer to where my stepson, Alex, lives with his mom. However, homes were selling like hotcakes in the area (for well above our price range, no less). Finally, a week before we were set to move out of our home in Dayton, we went under contract on a “fixer-upper” less than half a mile from Alex’s mom’s house.

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Cutest little moving helper I ever did see! (Note the tongue out in concentration as he walks down the steep plank!)

And then I began to panic – where was all our stuff going to go? And, more importantly, where were all my plant babies going to go? (You know that was my real concern!) My in-laws graciously allowed to let us keep all our stuff in their pole barn while we waited to close on our new house; they also agreed let me keep all my plants in their basement.

I really fought my husband about taking my plants with us. We secured a short-term apartment (through Airbnb), and I felt like we’d have plenty of space for my plants. My husband told me – no plants. (Insert crying face emoji!) I did manage to keep a few of my cuttings with me, but all of my other plants – large and small – were packed up into the drawers of our dresser and transported to my in-laws in the moving truck.

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R.I.P. rubber tree (and you can see the battered monstera in the foreground)

Some of my plants didn’t do so well in the move. My beautiful monstera took a beating in the moving truck. Also, once moved into my in-laws, my rubber tree that had been struggling at our home completely gave up the goat.

However, most of my plants did pretty well (amazingly!!). My in-laws have a split-level home, and their basement has some fantastic southern-facing windows. Also, the room where the plants were is fairly humid, and they sure liked that!

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Checking in on my plant babes in my in-laws basement

I visited my plants a couple times while they were away from me, being sure they had enough water, pruning them as needed, moving them towards the window or away, depending on their needs.

On September 22, 2017, we closed on our new house and got keys right away. I wanted to pick up my plants the instant we were done at the closing, but my husband (ever the logical one) said we needed to move in “stuff” before plants. (Such a killjoy, right?? HA!)

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YAY! They’re home!

Finally, last week, my in-laws brought all my plant babies to their new home! I can’t tell you how big I was smiling as I carried in each drawer and crate filled with green goodness. After all the plants were in the house, I spent several hours with my hands happily covered in soil as I worked with each one in-depth: pruning, repotting, etc.

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So this is where I am: living out of boxes, plants stacked anywhere that’s flat (including on piles of boxes), painting my fireplace a color my husband hates, and preparing to strip miles of wallpaper from every room in the house.

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I’ll definitely share how my plants adjust to their new environment, especially as we get ready for winter.  Fingers crossed they do well!

– the {house}plant momma

Poison! Stay Back!

Every time my mother-in-law comes over, she brings gifts. It’s not generally anything big – a pack of gum for my oldest son, homemade tortillas, change for the kids’ to jingle into their piggy banks – but she likes to bring something special when she comes.

A year or so before my husband and I got married, she brought me a lovely white potted Easter lily. I was thrilled by the wonderful-smelling white flowers, and proudly set the pot by the sink in my kitchen where I could see it often.

However, a few hours later as I was doing dishes, I noticed that a few of the petals looked beat up and one of the leaves had a rip in it. I shrugged it off, turning my attention to other things.

It was then that I discovered cat vomit on the carpet…and in the midst I could see lily petals. Apparently, my cat Felix (who is notorious for being generally naughty!) was the cause of the beat up petals and ripped leaf. I was annoyed! That little scoundrel had ruined my beautiful plant.

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Felix the Cat (a.k.a. Mr. Mischief)

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Even in the midst of my annoyance, I turned to the Internet to see if he would experience any ill effects from his snack, and what I found turned my stomach. As it turns out, Easter lilies are highly toxic when eaten by cats; even ingesting a small portion (including drinking water from the vase) can cause acute kidney failure. Needless to say, I was extremely worried (and quickly forgave him), and spent the evening watching him like a hawk. Luckily, Felix experienced no ill effects of his Easter lily snack. However, since then, I have been much more cautious about the plants I bring into my home.

Have you ever wondered about the effects your houseplants might have if a beloved cat or dog decided to munch on one as a snack? If you haven’t considered this before, it’s important that you are aware of the effects your plants could have if they were ingested by your pets. Below you can see a list of 10 common poisonous houseplants that are poisonous to cats and dogs.

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Recently, my best friend was asking me if I knew about plants that could be added into her home that were cat-friendly, as she has kitties who like to gnaw on things. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a wonderful resource for that information, as they have a complete list of plants that poisonous to pets, as well as plants that are safe to have around cats and dogs.

ASPCA Dog Plant List

ASPCA Cat Plant List

If you have never considered the toxicity of the plants you currently have in your home, take a minute to look them up and be sure that you are keeping your furry friends safe!

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What “pet children” do you have in your home that you’d like to protect? Tell me about them in the comments below!

– the {house}plant momma