Spring has sprung here and Winnipeg, and it's got me in the mood to bring some green indoors. So I made my first visit to Shelmerdine this week to add a few more plants to my windowsills. As
I wandered through the lush, light and airy interior, I was reminded of how far I've come in regards to houseplants.
See, I'm recovered black thumb. It used to be that I would kill any plant that crossed over my threshold with a speed and finality that was almost impressive. I've killed hydrangeas, herbs, succulents; at one point, I even killed a grass centrepiece I'd brought home from wedding in less than a week. My biggest issues were aggressive over-watering combined with complete neglect. I'd forget about a plant, let it dry out completely, notice it all limp and sad, water it diligently for days in a row and thereby cement its death.
But over the years, I've done my research and mended my ways, and I'm here to help my fellow black thumbs (or just those of you who are new to houseplants) do the same.
There are a few key ways to keep houseplants alive. The first is to buy hardy, low-maintenance plants. Succulents - like jade, aloe vera and zebra plants - are drought resistant and excellent for forgetful people. Also, snake and spider plants grow like weeds, and as with succulents, they don't need much watering. And finally, I've had very good luck with money plants. After a move in a freezing car and some overwatering, I thought I had completely killed the plant pictured below. I left in on the windowsill with the intent to throw it out, but forgot about it for several weeks. When I finally got around to throwing it away, I noticed new shoots sprouting from the trunk. Two years later, the plant has completely come back to life.
Once you have your hardy indoor plants, you need to pot them right. For all the plants I've recommended above, you'll absolutely need to buy a pot with a drain hole. If that's not possible, be sure to put plenty of large rocks at the bottom of the pot. Also, spider plants grow quickly, so err on the side of too big rather than small when choosing a pot for them. And although you see succulents featured in many terrariums online, they will die fairly quickly in a closed-air terrarium. Naturally, succulents grow in arid climates, so air circulation is critical.
Now that you've got your plant picked out and potted, you have to do the thing that's hardest for we black thumbs: you've got to stop watering inconsistently. Water your plants once a week, and once a week only. Do it the same way every time. Soak the soil evenly across the top, making sure that you see water draining out of the bottom of the pot. Once the plant's drained fully, dump the excess water (a collecting tray is handy here) and return it to its spot. Don't water it again until next week. Not even if it the plant starts looking dry mid-week. For all of the plants I've recommended above, the soil needs to dry out between waterings, so just ignore them.
You may have to tweak your watering schedule a bit here and there, depending on how much light your place gets. For example, because our windows face directly onto another building, I occasionally skip a watering and will give my plants two weeks without water if they're looking good. So there's room for small tweaks, but if you stick to the once a week schedule, you should be fine either way.
And finally, ask a greenhouse employee for advice. At a good greenhouse like Shelmardine, you should be able to describe your growing situation and needs to a staff member and get a few recommendations and tips that way.
I first noticed Shelmerdine's glorious interior pop up on Robin Ellis's Insta-feed, and after I saw it featured on my friend Sybil's blog, Animated Confessions, I was bound and determined to go. The terra cotta pots in the photos above are cheapies from Dollarama, and the vest I'm wearing in the photos is Tony Chestnut (now on sale!) Crescent manicure by Sarah Gurevich at Prep Hair.