Rooney Bloom: The Joy of “Greens”

Some time ago, I shared a bit about my personal journey with mental health. I have always been an anxious person. However, when my daughter Ana was born in 2016, I began battling postpartum anxiety

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My little cutie at two months – too bad being cute doesn’t stop postpartum depression or anxiety from rearing its ugly head!

It didn’t help that my youngest son August – not even three-years-old at the time – was hospitalized due to uncontrollable febrile seizures just two months after her birth. The postpartum anxiety, coupled with very real concerns about August’s health, turned me into a giant hot mess.

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Holding my sweet boy during his hospital stay

I like to think that I held it together pretty well on the outside, but looking back, I’m not sure…because inside, I was completely falling apart. Anything and everything caused me excess anxiety, and as a result, I began experiencing other issues with my health.

Finally, I reached the point where I knew I needed to do something – anything – to make things better. So I did two things that changed my path: I went to my doctor and was prescribed medication to manage my anxiety; and I pursued a hobby that would allow me to unwind and find rest for my mind and body – namely, working with houseplants.

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Today, I am still medicated and still battle anxiety, but it is nowhere near as serious as it was two years ago. Also, I continue to work with my plants on a daily basis; they still bring me the same sense of “internal quiet” that they did when I first began my plant journey.

Today I am honored to feature a guest post by Eric Rooney, of Rooney Bloom. Previously a teacher in more formal settings, Eric is passionate about teaching and sharing the benefits plants to people’s physical and emotional bodies.

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I began my early career as a teacher, predominantly teaching science in middle grade education. I dabbled in formal teaching, technology in San Francisco, and retail work but my creativity and, as some would call it, ADHD had me going somewhere else. I didn’t feel content.  I wasn’t consciously aware of it, but I hadn’t yet found what made me “tick”.

In 2015, I lived in San Francisco, and was let go from my highest paying job ever. As you probably know, living in San Francisco (where rent is the highest in the USA) with no job meant, well, hurry the F up and start making money, or move along.  Rent alone was over 3k a month, and I had a background in education. California doesn’t make it easy to become certified to teach in their public schools, and I was NOT about to go back to making a mere 28k a year teaching young adolescents, nor could I afford to. I felt as though I was slowly losing my sanity, my connection to the earth, and people!

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Image courtesy of Rooney Bloom

To stay motivated, I’d get up early and head to the flower mart, continually filling my windows with plants and fresh cuts. I’d design and create with flowers, offering them to neighbors as a gift. I’d buy cheap plants at the Wednesday farmers markets, repot them, and bring them home.  I’d freak out when I had a new bloom, a new leaf, yelling to my partner “LOOK! There’s a new leaf! She loves it in our apartment.”  He often told me, “No more plants, we don’t have the room.”  But still, I’d come home with fresh cuts, waiting to be styled, or a new plant, looking for a new, upcycled pot!

I loved it.  I loved seeing plants change, and react to my touch and care.  I loved knowing their care was dependent on me, their next bloom was reliant on if I remembered to water.  I was intrigued by their ability to break down carbon dioxide and produce clean, fresh, oxygen that my body needed.  I got excited to see a new bloom or a little tiny teeny baby leaf that wasn’t even a leaf yet. Slowly I, myself, began to transform and to find significant pieces of peace and tranquility allowing my soul to rest. My plant “disease” was quickly spreading.

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Image courtesy of Rooney Bloom

I learned a deeper foundation of care.  Knowing that not any two plants smell, grow, or produce the same, kind of like humans. I was taught about patience as I waited for my plants to product the next blooms or my cacti to grow (because golly, grow slowly!)  Japanese Maple bonsai trees from seed take weeks to germinate alone, and the joy I felt when they finally broke the soil is indescribable.  I didn’t at first feel and notice these things; it took time, repetition, and a little coaxing. It took paying attention and slowing down, and I really have learned it’s a must to “stop and smell the roses.”

I will forever be learning from and with plants. They continually allow me to grow up and learn. They also provide a fount of connection, worth, and community. Plants have connected civilizations since the beginning of time, and I now venture to connect people with horticultural and plants, discovering what they offer for each personal individually.

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Image courtesy of Rooney Bloom

I now work full time, lifting humans’ subconscious love and “underground” connection to plants to a conscience level for full benefit. With my roots being anchored in education, I know it’s my role to make plant knowledge and horticultural benefits known, sharing and teaching them to others.  I am now involved with plants in a variety of ways, including organic, pesticide-free farming, floral design, free home foliage advice, native landscape design, heirloom gardening, and even classes on floral crowns; these lovely “greens” are changing lives.

I owe much of my own personal happiness to plants, as do we all: our clean oxygen, the colors we see, the smells we enjoy, all that our sun allows to flourish. The benefits of plants are real: they reduce stress, increase motivation, promote better sleep, clean the air, enhance creativity, promote relaxation, give you more energy – the list goes on and on!

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Image courtesy of Rooney Bloom

My personal desire is share this love of plants with anyone and everyone. Not only do I have a store located in Denver, CO, but I also offer consultations if you just need some plant-related help. If you have general questions about how to properly care for your plants, check out the “Common Questions” link on my page. Also, you can give me a follow on Instagram (@rooney_bloom) to indulge in the magic and healing of plants.

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Plants have changed my life. I’d love to help them change yours!

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The 8 Best Plants for Your Space: Bright Light

This summer, I traded some cuttings with a fellow plant enthusiast. She gave me a couple of new succulent and cactus varieties, and told me, “Just throw them outside in the sun. They’ll be fine.” I wasn’t sure, based on my experiences with my own ever-going succulent/cactus collection, but against my better judgment I followed her instructions.

The direct sun on my back porch burned the living daylights out of those poor plants! First they turned white and showed major signs of sunburn (and as a fair-skinned person who is extremely prone to sunburn, I sympathized with them). Then, they turned brown and died.

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The brightest spot in my house is a large window seat in my kitchen…I pack as many plants on there as I can!

And thus I should clarify: when talking about bright light for houseplants, I do not mean putting them outside in direct sun for the whole day. What is meant by bright light is that these plants will do well receiving a bit of direct sun throughout the day. They are great picks for conservatories, south-facing windows, and sitting on windowsills.

Something you will notice as you look through this list is that many of the plants that do well in bright light have variegation on their leaves OR are the types of plants that grow in deserts/dry places. Keep in mind when growing them indoors that they will be happiest when you are basically replicating their growing conditions outdoors.

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Aloe vera is a common houseplant, as it has medicinal qualities. I remember one time when I was a kid, my mom was helping a friend cook and she burned her hand on a pan. Her friend grabbed some aloe vera, broke a piece off, and put the aloe sap on the wound. My mom immediately experience relief – which I thought that was CRAZY cool, even at a young age! Aloe vera is a type of succulent and will do best when planted in quick-draining/cactus soil in a terracotta pot. All of this will keep the roots from rotting out.

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Jade is another common succulent, although there are many types of jade available. Jade grow best when they receive at least four hours of direct sunlight a day, ideally from a south-facing window. Although it is drought-tolerant, water jade plants when the soil surface is dry. They will also grown best in quick-draining/cactus soil in a terracotta pot.

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Croton plants are easily recognized by their brilliantly colored leaves – proving that leaves can be just as beautiful and appealing as flowers! Keep in mind that direct sunlight will actually brighten up the coloration in croton leaves. Crotons should not be overwatered, but should receive a drink when their soil surface feels dry.

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Jasmine vines are known for the sweet-smelling flowers they produce, and always remind me of a trip I took to India when I was 16 years old. Every time I smell them, I am immediately transported! Although jasmine like bright light, it should be noted that they do not like directlight. They need humidity, and it is recommended that they spend their summers outside, if possible, to increase their lifespan.

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String of pearls is another succulent that enjoys bright, indirect sunlight, but is unique in that it is a vining succulent. It should be watered when the surface soil is dry – just like other succulents. It is easy to propagate (either in water or by just poking pieces of the strings back into the soil), so it is a great plant to share with friends. I have a large pot of string of pearls, and I have to frequently give it a “haircut,” as it grows very quickly.

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Many varieties of dracaena do well in bright light and as a result, have beautiful variegation on their leaves. Most varieties enjoy bright, indirect light. Their soil should be moist in the growing season (summer) but waterings should be less frequent in the dormant season (winter). I just got a large dracaena for my birthday in August, and it is in a planter near a south-facing window. So far, it seems pretty happy!

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Snake plants thrive in bright light. (Whoa, wait. Didn’t we just see those on the low-light list a few blogs back? Yes, you did!) Snake plants are very versatile and can survive in almost any light conditions. Some varieties that do especially well in bright light are: Sansevieria kirkii, Sansevieria metallica, and Sansevieria zeylanica. As said before, snake plants do well when allowed to dry out completely between waterings.

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African milk bushes (formally known as Euphorbia trigona) are plants that looks like a cactus, but actually are succulents with spines. Be careful if you get one of these as their spikes are merciless! As with most succulents, be sure to water only when the surface soil is dry. (I also recommend potting in a terracotta planter.)

Now it’s time to survey your space, taking into account where you want to put plants and the type of lighting you have in those areas. Once you have done that, you will have a much better chance of selecting plants that won’t just stay alive, but will thrive in your space!

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As always, thanks for joining me on this journey!

- the {house}plant momma.png

The 8 Best Plants for Your Space: Medium Light

If you read my last blog, you know that I am currently going through a series about the best plants for your space based on their light requirements. The last blog covered the best plants for spaces with low light. Today’s blog is going to look at plants that will do well in medium light.

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My living room gets medium light throughout the day, but ironically does not house almost ANY of the plants on my medium-light list! Hmmmm…time to re-think my setup!

Sometimes when you purchase a plant, it will say on the tag “indirect light;” this is the same as saying “medium light.” Plants who require medium light will die if they are put in dark places, but also will likely burn if they are put in direct sun.

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Begonias are a plant that does well in indirect light. I have seen them listed on low-light lists before, but because of my personal experience, I would definitely keep them in this medium light category. (I once put a begonia in a low-light area and within a few weeks, it was dropping leaves like crazy!) Begonias like evenly moist soil. If properly cared for, many varieties produce flowers.

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African violets are not a plant that I am personally drawn to, and therefore do not have any in my home. However, they are a plant that does well in medium light; they enjoy moist soil, but it should be noted that water should not get on their leaves. They, like begonias, are a flower-producing plant.

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While some types of ferns do well in low light, other types – specifically bird’s nest, staghorn, and Boston ferns – are considered medium light plants. Both of these varieties like moist soil and thrive in humid conditions, such as bathrooms.

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Aluminum plants are another common medium-light plant. They grow most quickly in warm temperatures and high humidity (which is basically Ohio in the summer!), but should dry out between waterings. I like mine to grown tall, but many people pinch off growth to create a fuller, bushier plant.

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Although as a general rule, pothos are low-light plants, marble queen pothos do better in medium light due to the variegation in their leaves. However, like their counterparts, they should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Also, I personally have found marble queens to grow more slowly than my other pothos verities.

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Flamingo lilies are a plant that is known to help clean the air (link) but they also do well in medium light conditions. Their long-lasting pink or red flowers and their glossy foliage make them easily recognizable. They thrive in warm conditions with high humidity/soil moisture.

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Marantas (also known as prayer plants) are a gorgeous plant that is relatively easy to grow. These plants do well in medium light, but their markings actually begin fading if they get too much direct light. Their soil should not be allowed to dry out. And, for some reason, these plants seem to attract a ton of dust! Keep their leaves clean in order for the leaves to photosynthesize properly.

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Silver philodendrons do better in medium light than many other varieties of the same species. They thrive when their soil is kept moist. If the plant is not getting enough light, it will be evident because it’s trademark silver spots will begin to fade. I have had two of these plants now, and have found that they are pretty picky as far as philodendron go.

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Most homes have a large number of low or medium light spaces. However, what about bright spaces or windows that get direct afternoon sun? Be sure to check out the last blog in this series, which will take a look at plants that like bright light.

Until next time!

- the {house}plant momma.png

The 8 Best Plants for Your Space: Low Light

Recently, I have been adding to my side-hustle ventures (because I needed one more thing to do, right??), and have been selling some baby plants. As I have interacted with customers through this process, I have learned that most people don’t know which plants will do well in their spaces. This makes me think that perhaps there isn’t enough information out there (or people don’t know where to look) about what plants do well in different types of light.

And thus this three-part series – The Best Plants for Your Space – was born. Together, we will look at some of the best plants for your space based on the plant’s light requirement. I hope this will be helpful information!

When I first got started with houseplants, I had a cute little hanging planter that was designed to mount on the wall. I planted a succulent (which needed bright light) in the planter…and promptly hung it on a wall that was far from a window. I couldn’t figure out why my plant wasn’t thriving – that is, until I learned more about plants.

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Low light planters in my house – now holding the CORRECT plants for their location!

Today, we are going to look at plants that enjoy low light – the type of plant that would have been perfect in my little wall planter!

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ZZ plants do great in low light. In fact, once I was told that they could even survive in florescent light ONLY. (Dang, these guys are resilient!) ZZ plants also enjoy a dry environment. They are a great plant for beginners, as they basically thrive on neglect!

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Snake plants are another plant that does well in low light. I have seen in my own home, though, that while they will survive in low light, they will produce more growth when they are in moderate light. However, I have several stuck in dark corners because they look so dang cool there, and the plants are doing great. Keep in mind that snake plants need to dry out completely between waterings.

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Ivy – specifically English ivy – does well in low light settings. I have kept several varieties in my own home, and they are pretty hardy all-around. Just keep in mind they are another variety that likes to dry out between waterings.

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Pothos is a great go-to plant for beginners. Not only is it easy to find and relatively cheap to buy, but it is super forgiving. Pothos does best in low to moderate light and should be allowed to dry out between waterings to prevent root-rot. If you are new to houseplants, this is definitely a plant that you should try out!

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Philodendrons, similarly to pothos, are great for beginners as many of the varieties are very forgiving. They do well in low to moderate light and like to be allowed to dry out between waterings. Plus, there are so many different varieties – some that trail/vine, others that are more “bushy” – that it’s impossible to get bored.

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Ferns – specifically button, rabbit’s foot, and maidenhair ferns – are great for low-light spaces; however, I will warn you – they are a little less user-friendly than some of the plants on this list. Typically, ferns like to have their soil kept moist and don’t like any direct light.

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Peace lilies are not only great for keeping the air in your home clean but are also a plant that does well in low light. They like having soil that is consistently moist; if allowed to dry out, they will dramatically “wilt,” although they can usually be revived with a good drink of water.

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Calatheas are another plant that thrives in low light, but they can be finicky. (I, personally, have lost several calatheas by not providing the correct conditions for them.) They thrive in soil that is constantly moist, and they also appreciate high air humidity.

If you are new to houseplants and have low-light spaces, I would definitely recommend starting off with a pothos or philodendron. If you are more experienced with houseplants but are looking to fill a dark corner, you may feel brave enough to take on a fern or calathea.

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What if you have areas that get a medium amount of light? Check back next time to learn about plants that would be perfect in that space!

- the {house}plant momma.png

Products I {Heart}: Concrete Planters

For Christmas last year, my oldest son Alex (who had just turned 13) made me a special surprise. He came across a video on Instagram that showed how to make your own concrete planters. Knowing my love of plants, he took the video to my husband and said, “I want to make those for Mom.”

About a week before Christmas, both my husband and son spent a Saturday afternoon, cooped up in the basement; weird smells streamed from under the closed door. I was suspicious, but was told I wasn’t allowed to go see what was going on…that Alex was making me a present and I had to roll with it. (I am NOT a flexible, ”roll-with-it” kind of girl…but I sucked it up and endured.)

On Christmas morning, Alex proudly handed me a gift bag that was strangely heavy. I couldn’t figure out what could possibly be inside! When I parted the tissue paper, I found three awesome concrete planters inside, each one decorated with a unique design painted on with spray paint (hence the mysterious smell). I am NOT a crier, but I almost burst into tears I was so incredibly touched!

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Awesome planters made by my biggest boy!

Concrete planters are majorly on trend right now and add a unique touch to any décor. I have seen a lot of the awesome planters online lately and, while none of them will ever be as special or amazing as the ones made for me by my Alex (insert alllllll the heart eyes), I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

Cube Concrete Planter with Metallic Paint

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Image via Etsy

Octagonal Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Geometric Concrete Air Plant Holders – Set of 3

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Image via Etsy

Cube Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

 

Mini Mod Style Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Stairway Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Hanging Cone Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Brontosaurus Dinosaur Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Rose Gold Cylinder Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

Mini Geometric Concrete Planter

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Image via Etsy

I have yet to experiment with making concrete planters myself, but I hope that one day soon, I will have the time – and courage – to give it a try! (And, if I do, you can be sure I will have pictures to show you of my adventure!)

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Which concrete planter is your favorite? Tell me in the comments below!

- the {house}plant momma.png

 

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

 

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

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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