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Indoor Plants

Houseplant Parenting

February 28, 2018 5 min read

From personalized succulent designs to the famous fiddle leaf fig and the low maintenance snake plant; tropical plants are becoming a must-have for homeowners. Being a houseplant parent is more than a trend, it’s a lifestyle

For some, connecting with nature isn’t always a walk in the park. Those renting a home or residing in a small living space don’t always have a backyard or even a balcony with perennials; however, it’s easy to bring greenery indoors.

In this blog post, we talk to local houseplant collectors about what they’ve learned along their journey of plant parenthood and how to seamlessly create an urban jungle inside any living space.

Meet the Parents

Jeannie Phan, a full-time freelance illustrator in Toronto, gets inspiration from the botanical world around her. Her mom is a talented gardener, and her father was a farmer in Vietnam before he immigrated to Canada. “The green gene was in me; it was just dormant until a few years ago,” she says.

Studio Plants - Jeannie Phan
@studioplants (Jeannie Phan)

Phan’s first plant (after a few unsuccessful attempts with succulents) was an Aechmea fasciata, a “Silver Vase” bromeliad. She still has the plant today, and it has produced pups!

So what inspired her to share her journey through #FieldNotesbyStudioPlants?

“Having a ritual that grounds me and puts me in touch with the outdoors. Houseplants have been a conduit for my desire to learn more about nature, Earth, and specifically what it means to live peacefully and beneficially alongside plants,” she explains. “I’ve become a lot more environmentally conscious about what I take and leave behind on our planet.”

Freelance writer, Erin Kobayashi, lives alongside her partner Christian and her dog Luna, in Liberty Village, Toronto. Before she had 12 snake plants (also referred to as “The Snake Pit”), she started with a Sansevieria trifasciata “Laurentii”.

@leighkiyoko (Erin Kobayashi) houseplant jungle in Toronto.
@leighkiyoko (Erin Kobayashi) taken by Carlos Osorio for the Toronto Star

“I felt the desire to show how rewarding indoor plants can be and wanted to share my small space plant experience online where I found a larger community of urban jungle bloggers,” she says.

Kobayashi started a movement by the name of #FLFFriday with another houseplant collector (@alina.fassakhova). “After the New York Times called the fiddle leaf fig the “it” plant, I started noticing the fiddle leaf fig pop up everywhere,” she says.

“I find that out of all houseplants, a Fiddle Leaf Fig appears most often in interior design images and are sometimes treated more like objects rather than something alive. The houseplant community continues to impress me because it is supportive and even sympathetic to our struggles.”

The face of @Houseplantjournal, Darryl Cheng started his journey into plant parenthood with a handful of plants, most notably a money tree which is still growing strong after five years.

@houseplantjournal (Darryl Cheng)

“I started House Plant Journal as a way to document the progression of my houseplants. Not all plants stay “nice looking” in the long run so either start over (hard pruning/propagation), give it away, or learn to love a wilder shape. When planting indoors is done well, it has a positive, calming effect,” he says. “I was most fascinated by new leaf growth and how a plant’s character developed into the space, making it feel like home.”

It’s a Journey Through the Jungle

Creating an indoor jungle takes time, and you will learn to take pleasure in each moment of plant parenthood. Start small, and watch your collection grow.

Every home is of different size and receives various levels of sunlight. A cactus will not thrive in a location that receives three hours of indirect sunlight, but a pothos (Devil’s Ivy) or sansevieria (snake plant) will. Sometimes we can learn this the hard way.

Studio Plants - Jeannie Phan holding a houseplant
Photo courtesy of @studioplants (Jeannie Phan)

“Collecting houseplants is not a race. Enjoy the journey of getting to know your plants. Purchasing plants is easy but keeping them healthy is the challenge,” Kobayashi explains. “Only a small mind will make a space feel small. I believe any space can feel open if you are creative with your furniture and add plants that instantly brings new life and energy to an environment like a condo.”

From Phan’s perspective, “There is almost no way to plateau your learning of houseplants because there is always something new around the corner. It’s a truly enriching hobby! I’ve learned to respect my plants, give them space when needed and acknowledge how capable they are without my excessive interference.”

“Caring for houseplants is a fine balance of being in control (giving plants the proper light/water/soil/food) and also release of control (plants naturally grow and look a certain way),” she says.

Have you ever bought potted herbs to have in your kitchen, only to be used a couple of times? You quickly learn that they are living pieces and need proper water and sunlight to grow. Along your journey through plant parenthood, you might have a few casualties, and that’s okay, you can only control so much of a plant’s life cycle.

“Understanding indirect light is the key to success with houseplants,” Cheng explains. “The majority of tropical foliage plants need indirect light. Let your plants see as much of the sky as possible, but shield it from direct sun. Once you get the right light, watering works as directed.  Death by overwatering isn’t just caused by keeping the soil constantly wet. It’s caused by lack of light, which slows the rate of water usage, which causes the soil to stay moist and grow stale, which causes root rot.”

Health Benefits of an Urban Jungle

NASA studied the impact that certain indoor plants can remove toxic agents from the air, as well as absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Our green friends also have a positive impact on mental health.

Phan says, “Plants go at their own, often slower rhythm and I think it’ll help remind the busy-bodies of urbanites to pause and take a breath. Being compacted, thrown in societies that cultivate competition and efficiency, urban dwellers need the help of plants to break away. Plants make people happy!”

We could not agree more.

@leighkiyoko (Erin Kobayashi)
Photo courtesy of @leighkiyoko (Erin Kobayashi)