#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Interview

Having Pets AND Plants

June 22, 2017

We interviewed a few of our team members that are parents to both pets *and* plants for their top tips about keeping the peace in a jungle-like apartment… 

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Above is Tweeks, one of our Marketing Director Erin’s cats, sharing her favorite sill with a few potted plants! 

MEET ANGELA, PLANT SPECIALIST

NAME: Angela Muriel

PETS: I have 5 cats living in my apartment. I got involved doing some TNR (trap, neuter, return) volunteer work in my Crown Heights neighborhood and in the process found an abandoned litter of kittens. I was able to get a few adopted but a couple still remain in my care so they are now a part of my crew.

Cisco _ Helios (Angela)

PLANTS: I currently have a Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), a Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) and several terrariums. I always keep a flat of grass for all the kitties to enjoy and to provide them with some nature.

TIPS: Cats will find their way into just about anything and are incredible climbers. My large plants are in hanging baskets out of their reach and of course the terrariums are enclosed in glass so they can’t get to those (ha ha!). I am able to enjoy a huge variety of plants in the terrariums, as well as create a whole environment in miniature form.

Sally on grass (Angela)

I have reviewed many poisonous plant lists and quite frankly if one were to adhere closely to them your choices would be really limited. One thing to keep in mind is that with many plants the animal would have to ingest a substantial amount to become ill. It is most important to observe the behaviour of your pet in regards to your plants. Many pets will simply ignore the greenery, where as others may be attracted to certain leaves or growth habits. That said, there are certain plants that can be fatal if eaten i.e. Sago Palm (not a “true palm” but a Cycad which are a primitive group), some plants from the Euphorbia family which produce a milky sap when cut, a few Aroids especially the Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) and any bulb plants such as Lilies, Hyacinth, Daffodil, Amaryllis, etc.

Never assume that an animal will instinctively “know” which plant is “good” or “bad” and this isn’t any measure of their intelligence. Our pets are domesticated animals and so much of nature is just not in their realm of experience. A good pet owner will just have to practice keen observation.

 

MEET PEGGY, SHOP MANAGER

NAME: Peggy Lu

PETS: I have a 2-year-old French Bulldog, Olivia, and a 10-month-old cat, Mia, who my husband rescued off the street.

Peggy's dog-2

PLANTS: I cohabit with probably 40ish plants now. Most of them are air-purifying plants – Fern, Snake plant, ZZ plant, Pothos, Ivy, Philodendron, Spider plant, terrarium plants, and many cacti and succulents – that I bought since I started working at The Sill. Yes, I am that girl who wants to put her plants to work: providing fresh oxygen.

Peggy's cat-2

TIPS: My dog, Olivia, could not care less about plants, the one I had trouble with was my kitty, Mia. She is only a baby – she has so much energy in her. She bites and swaps my plants ALL THE TIME. It used to bother me a lot; however, I realized she only does it out of boredom or when she is in a playful mood. I’ve learned some tips that hopefully will help your pet and your plants live in harmony:

1. Buy cat grass. Bonus: you’ve got another plant!
2. Don’t discipline your pet when they’ve chew/attacked you plants. Especially cats will react to negative and positive reinforcement the same. Trust me, they will do it while you sleep. I pretend to not see it while Mia is at it now, and quietly clean up after her while she is not looking.
3. Try a citrus spray! Dogs and cats do not like anything that is in citrus family. Bonus: your home will not only will look nice with plants, but it will smell amazing too!
4. Play with them! Enjoy one-on-one time and tire them out. A happy and tired dog/cat will leave things alone.
5. Live with it. I’ve learned to live with imperfect foliages. Overall, It is your pet’s home too!
6. Do your research before buying a plant – both for the health of the plant and your lovely companions at home.

Peggy's cat-1

 

MEET CATHERINE, OPERATIONS + PLANT SPECIALIST

NAME: Catherine Cummings

PETS: I recently adopted a kitten from the Somerset County Shelter in NJ to grow my little family! Her name’s Lana after the character on Archer. She’s non-stop energy and endlessly curious.

PLANTS: My house is filled with plants of all kinds, including hanging pothos and philodendrons, cacti, succulents, ferns, etc. I’ve completely lost track of how many I have at this point, but they cover every available surface…

TIPS: I keep most plants up out of her reach on shelves mounted on the walls. The plants that take over the windows I always make sure are safe for pets, such as haworthia succulents and bromeliads. She’s never shown any interest in chewing any of them – and I make sure she has plenty to keep her busy while I’m gone by leaving out boxes and new things for her to explore. Luckily she’s more interested in trying to catch my fish than chewing on the plants!

 

MEET SARINA, PLANT MAINTENANCE

NAME: Sarina Perez

PETS: My chubster, Gideon. I adopted him after a former roommate found a box of kittens in the dumpster three years ago. Back home, we have a dog named Cash who lives in my mom’s country garden on the outskirts of San Antonio.

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PLANTS: I have around 30 houseplants, but unfortunately only one window in my LES apartment’s living room. My bedroom is actually subterranean. Thankfully through my time working at The Sill I’ve found there are so many types of plants that can tolerate moderate to low-light situations. I have a lot of philodendron and pothos variations, snake plants, a few broadleaf ferns, and palms.

Being a Texas native – I really miss all the cacti that line the streets, so I cram what I can into the biggest spots on my window. I love large plants, so I have a nice big rubber tree (Ficus elastica), Philodendron vellum, and Monstera deliciosa right by the window. My mom has everything from a prickly pear cactus over 7ft tall, to ivy, to begonias, to elephant ears, to palm trees. Cash pulls some weeds every now and then – but he also loves to nap amongst them.

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TIPS: Gideon loves hiding behind the large ones and jumping out to scare me. Also has been known to nap under the wide leaves of my monstera, which I totally understand. Sometimes when he is mad at me though he will dig the soil of the larger plants. I’ve found that if I put a few large rocks on top of the soil, he won’t do it again. If you’re thinking about getting a cat – I would keep small plants off the edges of your shelves and tables, since they’re bound to knock a few over. If you notice your pet going around a certain plant, try surrounding it with a few potted cacti…

 

MEET JENNA, SHOPKEEPER + PLANT MAINTENANCE

NAME: Jenna Kohl

PETS: I have two Siberian cats named Munch and Finn. I adopted them from the Meow Parlour a few blocks away from The Sill shop. My boyfriend named them after detectives on Law and Order SVU.

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PLANTS: I have over one hundred plants the last time I counted; they are everywhere. Luckily, my apartment has space to fill, so it doesn’t look overwhelming – i.e., there is still room for more plants. I have snakes and aglaonema in a hall with low light. Then scattered everywhere else are monstera, ponytail palm, pilea peperomioides, calathea, aralia, a lot of pothos and philodendron, fiddle leaf fig tree, peperomia, fern, and the list goes on.

TIPS: If you’ve got a furry nibbler like mine are, the ASPCA has lists of toxic plants that are worth looking at. All my toxic plants live either on high shelves, kitchen cabinets, plant stands, or a wardrobe. My cats aren’t great jumpers so they don’t even attempt to get them. The accessible plants are all pet friendly; if they chew on one I don’t have to worry. I also deter them with wheatgrass which is good for their digestion.

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MEET RACHEL, DESIGNER + ACCOUNT MANAGER

NAME: Rachel Lyons

PETS: Peloton Seelyons

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PLANTS: My Brooklyn apartment houses a few Monstera deliciosa, Pothos, Bird of Paradise, Agave, Schefflera, Prickly Pear Cactus, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Calathea, Xerographica, Boston Fern, Orchids, Snake Plants, Jade, and much much more…

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TIPS: My 1.5 year old barn kitty rescue rarely tries to eat any of the plants. He was raised with them from a tiny kitten, so for Pelo it’s more about using the greenery to get my attention – by rustling leaves, teetering terra cotta, or snapping branches in the early morning hours to say ‘feed me now’. Sometimes he’ll chew my aloe, which is toxic, but he never swallows it or shows signs of distress. Don’t let feline friends ruin the bliss of having houseplant friends. Put up shelving, get creative and wall-mount your greens. Or have one sacrificial non-toxic plant that takes the pouncing each day so that the others can flourish safely.

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MEET ROBYN, DESIGNER + ACCOUNT MANAGER

NAME: Robyn Moore

PETS: My dog Disco!

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PLANTS: Succulents, Cacti, a Snake Plant, an Avocado Tree (yes…!), an Aglaonema, and assorted Ferns

TIPS: I keep all my plans up high (countertops, planter stands, shelves, etc.) so Disco is less likely to be distracted by them. I have friends who have had issues with their dogs eating more toxic items – like bad foods, or garbage – but plants have never been an issue. Dogs are smarter than cats (sorry…) and will leave it alone once they realize it doesn’t taste good or make them feel good! It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior. Most often, the warning signs of consumption are clear and rarely fatal. But it’s always best to just avoid any occurrence – if your dog is prone to chewing, stay away from plants with a latex-like sap (pencil cactus, rubber plant, ZZ).

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P.S. Shop our team’s favorite pet-friendly houseplants.

 

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, How-to, Plant Care

Summer Plant Care

June 21, 2017

Did you know plants face dehydration and sunburn during the summer just like we do?

It is important to make tweaks to your regular houseplant care routine in preparation for the hot months ahead! With some proper precautions, summer – a time for growth and regeneration for plants – can be the best season for your houseplants.

Here’s our top tips for keeping your plants healthy and happy:

WATER
  • You might find yourself watering your houseplants more than usual. This is to make up for both the increase in heat and in growth that is common during the summer months. The best time to water your plants is early morning or early evening – when it is cooler and the water is less likely to evaporate right away.
  • You can help your houseplants retain moisture by adding mulch or rocks as top-dressing to the soil.

  • Group plants that require similar care together, and mist them lightly with filtered water to increase the level of humidity around them. Avoid misting plants that don’t like to get their leaves wet, or prefer the dry heat!
  • Keep a closer eye on all your houseplants. If they begin to wilt, start to water more frequently.
LIGHT
  • If you keep your houseplants on a windowsill or in a spot that receives bright, direct sunlight – you may want to draw a sheer curtain during the day when the sun is at its strongest, or move your plants more into the center of the room, to avoid potential leaf-burn.

  • Rotate your plants on a weekly basis so each side gets equal sun exposure. This will help them from leaning over or becoming leggy.
  • If you’re unsure if the light your plant is receiving during the summer is too intense, put your hand in that same area midday. If it is too hot for you – it is probably too hot for your plant! Unless it’s a desert-dwelling cactus, of course.
TEMPERATURE
  • Try not to blast your air conditioner when you’re not home – and don’t place plants directly by it. (An added bonus – you might save a little on your electric bill!) Most houseplants are tropical plants – and prefer a warmer, more humid climate. An exception to this rule is succulents and cacti, which are dry-heat lovers. They prefer for the AC off as well. 

  • Increase humidity levels by grouping your plants together, or moving them to a more humid environment like your bathroom or kitchen (if you can still provide them with their preferred amount of natural light in those spaces). If you don’t mind the look aesthetically, you can also place plants on pebble-filled trays allowing you to add water to the bottom of the tray without over-soaking the roots, which could cause root rot.
  • Invest in a humidifier for your plants (and you).
PRUNE
  • Regularly prune off any dying or unnecessary foliage, which use up nutrients and water, and can attract pesky insects. Do not allow dropped leaves to collect on top of the soil, which can also increases the chance of pests and diseases! 

FERTILIZE
  • Now is the best time of the year to fertilize! Although sometimes overlooked, fertilization can be quite important for the long-term health of your plant. Find our top 5 tips for houseplant fertilization here: Fertilizing 101
BRING OUTSIDE
  • If you have an outdoor space, consider putting your indoor houseplants outside for the summer. Most plants can be invigorated by a summer outdoors. Just be sure to make the move gradual to avoid shock! For example, don’t move a plant from a dark corner inside to a reflective rooftop outside. 

  • Place the plants in a super shady spot first, then gradually move them to a spot with light conditions similar to what they enjoyed inside. Never put them in direct sunlight! Remember that the shadiest spot outside is equivalent to the sunniest spot inside. A north or west-side exposure is usually a good bet.
  • Make sure your planters placed outside have drainage holes in case of heavy rain, or place them in a spot where they won’t be soaked, which can cause root-rot. 

P.S. Browse what’s new at The SillSHOP NOW (shipping nationwide) 

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Interview, Plant Care, Plant History

Interview: Lena Struwe

June 14, 2017

Dr. Lena Struwe (Credit: Susanne Ruemmele)

We interviewed Dr. Lena Struwe, an accomplished professor at Rutgers University, as well as the Director of the Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers University, a leading herbarium in the world for the preservation of important plant taxa samples and records!

Dr. Struwe is the mentor of our resident Plant Scientist here at The Sill, Christopher Satch. Her research involves the order, Gentianlaes, which encompases a few plant families that are extremely economically important – including Rubiaceae (the coffee family), Gentianaceae (the gentian family), Apocynaceae (the dogbane family), and more. These plant families contain countless plants that we use on a daily basis – oleander, coffee, and periwinkle, just to name a few. With this in mind, we asked what she could share with us about what plants have taught her…

Gentiana verna CC BY-SA 3.0, Michael Gasperl (Migas)

What inspired you to choose Gentians to study?

When I started out in grad school my advisor had a grant to work on this group of plants, so I actually didn’t choose gentians. But I quickly fell in love with this family and have worked on them for over 25 years now.

What about Gentians makes them special?

They have a long history of being used by humans as medicinal plants around the world, and they also are incredibly gorgeous. Their flowers come in all colors, even black, and there are gentians on every continent and in every kind of habitat (except on top of glaciers and in the driest deserts).

Are there any easy ways to grow Gentians?

No, gentians are generally rather hard to grow. Some are suitable for rock gardens, but most live in symbioses with fungi and are very specific of what kind of soils they want. Some species in the Gentiana genus are probably the easiest for people in the temperate zones.

Are there any indoor Gentians for the houseplant lover?

Prairie gentians (Eustoma) are sometimes sold as a potted plant, but this species is not long-lived and they often get root rot. The same species is often found at florists as well and is a beloved cut flower.  Gentians are best grown outdoors. 

Eustoma grandiflorum Andrew Dunn, CC BY-SA 2.0

What inspired you to do taxonomy studies?

I have always loved plants, since I was very young. In third grade our teacher made us do a class herbarium and an inventory of a little forest plot, and I loved to explore and figure out what was growing and flowering there. I come from an outdoorsy family that sailed, canoed, hiked, picked mushrooms, etc., and cool plants are everywhere so it never got boring. When I went to college I had planned to do environmental studies, but ended up in botany classes and with an undergraduate part-time job in the herbarium, and the rest is history. The idea to explore the unknown when it comes to biodiversity, which is really what taxonomy is about, is something that fascinates me every day.

Any cool recent finds or new discoveries in the taxonomic world?

The recent news of a million-years old fossil tomatillo plant is a marvelous find. (Learn more!)

Fossil Tomatillo (Credit: Peter Wilf)

I’ve noticed that a lot of houseplants hail from Araceae family. Is there anything special about that family, to your knowledge, that makes them resilient to indoor conditions?

Many of the indoor Araceae plants grow naturally either as epiphytes (on trees) or on the forest floors in tropical countries. They are used to low light conditions, and sometimes droughts. Even in a rain forest it can be dry, especially if you are an epiphyte with no deep roots in the soil, or no way to catch the water that is falling down. 

Do you have any interesting plants in your home or garden?

In our backyard is a large dawn redwood tree planted by the previous owners. It is a tree that is only found wild in a small area in China, but cultivated across the world. Scientists thought it was extinct since it only was known from fossils, but then it was found in the mid-1900s. There are similar stories of other rediscovered conifers, like ginkgo and the Wollemi pine. This is like finding a living Tyrannosaurus rex somewhere on Earth… 

Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Public Domain)

If there’s one thing you want the world to know about plants, what would that be?

If there weren’t any plants, there wouldn’t be civilization, agriculture, humans, food, spices, log cabins, hamburgers, gardens, or cupcakes. Wherever you are there are plants to explore, and they are a lot easier to look at than birds and mammals because they sit still! 

 

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview, Plant Care

Meet Tastemaker Yanna Garecka

June 13, 2017

Meet our June Houseplant Tastemaker – Squidlicks jewelry designer and orchid mom Yanna Garecka! 

NAME: 
Yanna Garecka

LOCATION: 
Northern Virginia

OCCUPATION: Kitchen Manager by night. Graphic Design Student by day. Jewelry Designer in-between.

FAVORITE PLANT: Orchids!

Can you share a little bit about yourself – and your jewelry? 

Thanks to apples not falling far from trees – my whole life I have been fascinated both by art and nature, specifically geology and botany. I grew up with my plant-hoarding, oil-painting mother constantly reciting names of plant to me as we would pass them by. My fascination with jewelry design began as a therapeutic hobby when I was a struggling in my teenage years, which quickly lead me to selling bright and bold collage necklaces on the beta era of Etsy in 2006. These pieces usually featuring plastic toys such as squids and bugs. Over the years I have experimented with many mediums. Three years ago I feel in love with eco-resin and haven’t stopped since.

[THE PERSON] 


What’s a secret skill you have? 
I can make balloon animals.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received? 
My boyfriend made me candles – shaped and carved like the stones from the 5th Element (we are sci-fi nerds, one of our favorite movies). Everyone who recognizes them in our home gets very excited.

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save? 
I would grab my cats of course! Boo and Grey – jewelry is replaceable, they aren’t!

What’s on your to-do list today? Catching up on social media posts today (hosting a giveaway on my Instagram right now!). Tend to my cats, plants, and then go into my night job, which is running a kitchen in music venue.

[THE PLANTS] 


What is your favorite plant and why? 
Orchids! All my life I have struggled to keep them alive and I have finally cracked the code.

Do you have a green thumb? 
Any plant care tips you can share? 
Over all you could say I have a green thumb, honestly it’s all a matter of timing your watering, and not overwatering.

What tops your houseplant wish list? The thing to top my houseplant wish list would be for Grey Kitty to stop chewing and eating all my plants so I don’t have to put them in strange cat inaccessible places. That would be great. 

[THE JEWELRY] 


What or who inspires you? The overall impression of mosses and lichens in resin remind me a lot of natural resin – amber. My family is Polish, and one thing Polish people like as much as potatoes and pickles is beautiful glowing amber. More then anything though, I love the color green. I love forests carpeted with moss and rocks living with lichens. I want to capture those elements into a piece of wearable jewelry, just like how people like to keep terrariums in their homes.

P.S. Follow Yanna & Squidlicks on Instagram here

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant History, Plant of The Month

ALOE – June Plant of the Month

May 31, 2017

Meet our June Plant of the Month – the Aloe!

The succulent genus Aloe contains over 300 species, but the most widely known is Aloe vera. Commonly used for medicinal purposes, Aloe vera or “true Aloe”, is a member of the family Asphodelaceae, and has its origins in northern Africa. The specific origins are quite murky, but they are believed to have originated from the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. There is also quite a lot of variation in Aloe vera plants, which has led to the rise of the theory that Aloe vera is not a species at all – but rather a natural or ancient hybrid. 

Aloe vera in The Sill locally made August planter in Yellow (Shop)

Aloe vera has been known and used since ancient times, and is well-documented in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian records. Aloe is even referenced in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as part of the skin-preservation process during mummification! Know for its skin-healing properties, Aloe gel has been used throughout time as a treatment for many types of skin aliments. 

Depiction of Aloe from the Juliana Anicia Codex written in Constantinople in 515 AD (Source)

Additionally, ingesting Aloe was also used as a laxative in ancient times. Although aloe juice now exists as a beverage at most health food stores – the National Institute of Health does not recommend the consumption of raw aloe! In fact, for many beverages that contain aloe gel, the aloe extract must be processed first to remove toxic compounds (the same compounds responsible for the laxative action).

Aloe drinks by our NYC Shop

Other Aloe species do exist, and come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, variegations, and shapes! In fact – aloe species come in every color except for blue. (Blue is a rare pigment in nature, and most natural things that appear blue are actually a shade of purple.) 

Aloes are closely related to Gasterias (Gasteria) and Haworthias (Haworthia), and the jury is still out with regards to species placement within the genera and ultimately, the family. Intergeneric hybridization, the ability to cross-breed with an organism in another genus, is often rare, so there is a strong argument for placing all these organisms together as one genus (and recently, as one family). However, the morphologies of each species vary too greatly to fully support that. 

Aloes are distributed across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Gasterias are native to the southern Africa, and Haworthias are native to South Africa proper. Natural hybridization occurs within these ranges, and interestingly enough, southern Africa has given rise to many new plant species. Southern Africa has a unique climate that is mostly responsible for the unique species of plants that can be found there and nowhere else in the world. 

Hedgehog Aloe in The Sill’s locally made Olmsted planter in Black (Shop)

Aloe Houseplant Care 101

Sunlight

Bright, full sun to medium, filtered sunlight.

Water

Once weekly or monthly – depending on the time of year and amount of light your place is receiving. For example, in full summer sun, you may need to water once weekly. In the winter, when the plant is semi-dormant, once a month should be sufficient. Make sure the soil has completely dried out in-between waterings.

Soil

Aloes will tolerate many soils, but a well-drained loamy soil (potting soil) amended with sand is best.

Temperature and Humidity

Aloes like dry environments. Regular room humidity and normal room temperature will do. Between 65-85ºF (18-30ºC) is ideal. 

Fertilization

Feed Aloes only during the spring and summer months once every 3 weeks or month. Be sure to follow the standard application rates on the label of whatever fertilizer you choose. Do not feed in the winter. 

Flowering

Aloes will flower about once a year if the conditions are ideal (bright, full sun). 

Trimming

Aloes don’t need to be trimmed, but one can pluck the larger leaves to use the gooey insides for burns or skin ailments. 

Split Aloe Leaf (Source)

Common Problems

Yellowing leaves, possible black stems

If the leaves of your Aloe are starting to yellow it is usually due to overwatering, but occasionally it can be due to nutrient deficiency or pot-boundedness. If this occurs, let the soil dry out first and if it continues to show signs of distress, re-pot your Aloe.

Leaves turning brown or wrinkling, curly leaf edges

This is usually a sign of underwatering, or potassium deficiency. If this occurs, give your Aloe more water.

Leaf Spots

Bacterial leaf spot. Try to avoid splashing water on the leaves when watering.

Aloe vera in The Sill’s locally made August planter in White (Shop)

P.S. Shop Aloes, or join us for an Aloe workshop

Shop all Aloe plants at The Sill here (ship nationwide), or join us for an Aloe Workshop at our New York City Shop here (ticket required). 

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant History, Plant of The Month

Meet Sempervivum (aka Hen and Chicks)

May 19, 2017

The common name “hen and chicks” usually refers to the ground-hugging and clumping Sempervivum succulents. Sempervivum is a genus of succulents in the stonecrop family Crassulaceae. It is one of the few succulents native to Europe and Asia.

Hen and Chick and Ezra (Shop Now)

Sempervivum grow close to the ground, have a rosette shape, and propagate through offsets – giving them the appearance of a mother hen with a group of baby chicks gathered around her. The “hen” refers to the main plant – and the “chicks” are the offsets. These offsets start as tiny buds on the main plant, and even when they sprout their own roots, they take up residence right next to the main – or mother – plant.

Sempervivum arachnoideum by Schnobby (Image Credit)

They are also called stonecrops because they are often seen growing in-between cracks on rock faces and boulders. In ancient times, it was observed that thunderbolts would never strike these plants! Because of this, they were thought to ward off thunderbolts, sorcery, storm damage, and more – making them a popular plant for the roofs and siding of houses. We now know that it is likely the boulders – that the plant grew on – that are the real reason why these plants were rarely struck by lightning.

Supervivum tectorum on roof by Arnoldius (Image Credit)

Also because of this, Sempervivum became associated with the gods of thunder – Jupiter, Thor, and Perun (or depending on your flavor of mythology – Roman, Norse, and Slavic respectively). The plant’s clumping habit is said to resemble the gods’ beards.

Sempervivum, a clumping rosette-forming succulent, is native to the mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are frost-tolerant, and have been used successfully on green roofs for thousands of years (although ancient peoples planted these on roofs not for the environment – but as a way to ward off lightning strikes!) They flower about once a year, but mostly reproduce by clumping, forming tight mats of plants. Unfortunately, they are monocarpic, so once an individual rosette flowers, it does die – but it produces multiple offsets before then. They occur in many colors, with the most color being expressed with the most sunlight.

Hen and Chick and Jules (Shop Now)

Most plants produce pigments to adapt to high-light conditions. Light exists as photons – and full sun is a massive amount of photons bombarding the plant. The excess energy from the light is actually absorbed by these pigments. A good way to know if your sempervivum is getting enough natural light is to monitor its color! More light means more vibrance or color, which means a healthy plant!

SEMPERVIVUM HOUSEPLANT CARE:

SUNLIGHT: Bright, direct sun to medium, filtered light.

WATER: Water weekly or monthly, depending on season and amount of light. Allow potting mix to completely dry out in-between watering. Water more frequently during the warmer months, as the soil dries out quicker, and fertilize weakly during the growing season. (Do not overwater – overwatering will cause this plant to rot! Remember that it is always better to underwater than to overwater.)

HUMIDITY: Not applicable. Regular indoor humidity to dry.

TEMPERATURE: 65°F-90°F (18°C-33°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F if possible (15°C).

SIZE: Dependent on species. Can grow slowly, or increase in size in flushes of growth.

P.S. Shop ‘Hen and Chicks‘ houseplants at The Sill here!

 

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Houseplant Tastemakers, Interview, Plant Care

Tastemakers: Darryl Cheng

May 8, 2017

*This feature was originally posted on October 3rd, 2016.

Our team has been a huge fan of the Instagram feed @houseplantjournal since we can remember, so we’re thrilled to finally feature the man behind the feed, Toronto-based Darryl Cheng, in this edition of our Tastemakers series

Meet Darryl Cheng

img_4379_monstera

Who is Darryl Cheng? 
By day, I’m a business analyst for a tech company. In general, my job is to understand client requirements before delivering a product. By nights/weekends, I spend time with my fiancee; take care of my plants; play music (piano, vocal, guitar – I’m the music director at my church); play sports with my brother/friends; play with my niece.

What’s your ideal ‘happy place’?
A garden nursery of tropical plants.

Darryl plant hunting

What’s your favorite thing about living in Toronto?
Definitely the variety of neighborhoods. I work in the bustling downtown area but live in a peaceful, yet accessible suburb.

What T.V. show do you love to binge watch?
Star Trek Voyager

What can’t you leave your house without?
My iPod. Yes, I still use one for music.

Have you always dreamt about working with plants?
I still do since I’m technically not paid to work with them. If The Sill comes to Toronto, please hire me!

Darryl in his element!

Can you explain what the House Plant Journal is and how it started? 
House Plant Journal is the result of my love for photography and house plants. The thing I love most about plants is how they grow and become a long-term friend (well, most of them). I started documenting my plant hobby on Tumblr because it was easy to use its tagging system to find my photos on a particular topic: I still frequently refer to them when I get asked questions like “how do you propagate pothos?” or “what did your monstera look like when you first got it?” I just wanted a reference to my personal experiences with house plants. I moved to Instagram to share my more artistic photos, “plant art”, and time-lapse videos. More recently, I started a blog where I hope to instill the very basics of house plant care. I’ve also started a Youtube channel but I’m having difficulty finding time to shoot and edit videos these days.

Darryl's Houseplants

Do you have any tips for aspiring plant parents that you can share?
This mostly applies to indoor tropical foliage plants:
– If you want to keep a plant alive for a few weeks: you must give it adequate light and water.
– If you want to keep a plant alive for a few months: you must aerate the soil.
– If you want to keep a plant alive for a few years: you must repot and refresh the soil.

Plant Portrait

What’s your coolest plant find?
During a trip in Hong Kong, I spent an afternoon wandering their Flower Market district – 2 blocks of plant shops! It was really cool to see all the different varieties of plants their suppliers provide. I found many cool plants but I’d say the coolest would have to be three intertwined blades of a type of snake plant I had never seen before (photo below). Unfortunately, plants are strictly controlled items and I would never have been able to bring any home to Canada.

snakeplant_inhongkong

Your Instagram feed is so inspiring! What is your favorite picture that you have ever posted?
Thanks! In fact, I should thank @thesill for twice featuring my photos! My favorite photo would have to be the ones of my plant shelf (photo below). The landing of my stairway receives so much bright indirect light from my skylight, it seemed a waste not to have some kind of shelving system just for plants. I know I’m very fortunate to have such ideal lighting for plants, which is why I share it often. (P.S. Check out Darryl’s Instagram feed here!)

plantshelf

How many plants do you own?
I would estimate 100 to 120 if you combine my home, office, and church plants.

When did your love for plants begin?
I’ve helped my mom in the garden since I was a child but it wasn’t until we moved into our current house, which features two large skylights – that’s when I went plant-crazy indoors. I love to see new growth and flowering – signs that a plant is happy living in my home.

Time for a drink

What plant would you recommend for a person with a super busy schedule?
Sansevieria – they look good without much attention (photos below); they tolerate completely dry soil; they don’t need too much sunlight.

snakeplants_1

snakeplants_2

What is on your to-do list today?
Survey my jungle to see which plants need water or other attention. Honestly, it’s impossible for me to keep any kind of watering schedule but it’s a testament to the notion that you should be watering the plant whenever it needs and not by adhering to a schedule (great tip!). I need to queue up my next few Instagram posts. Sometimes I’ll even type out the captions beforehand – I put a lot of thought into some of them!

What is your favorite plant at the moment? 
Snake plants – I’ve been collecting different varieties as I find them.

P.S. DARRYL’S NYC VISIT!

Darryl Cheng is visiting us in New York City! Join The Sill’s Christopher Satch and Darryl Cheng for an Instagram Live on Plant Care this Wednesday, May 10th, at 3PM EST – followed by a meet-and-greet with Darryl at our NYC Shop from 5PM-7PM. All plant care questions welcome.

 

 

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Plant Care, Plant History, Plant of The Month, Style Tips

Fiddle Fever: Meet The Fiddle Leaf Fig

May 1, 2017

THE PLANT

The Fiddle Leaf Fig, or Ficus lyrata, is a species of fig tree native to western Africa that is most at home in lowland tropical rainforests. In its native habitat, the Ficus lyrata can grow over 40 feet tall – and produce green figs! Even though indoor fiddles are significantly smaller, grow slower, and do not produce fruit – they make for majestic houseplants.

The leaves of a Fiddle Leaf Fig can vary in shape, but are often broad, and leathery in texture, with prominent veins and a vibrant green hue. Their silhouette usually resembles that of a fiddle – hence their common name.

Whether you’re a plant lover or not – chances are, you’ve been seeing fiddles everywhere recently. “Fiddle Fever” seems to coincide with the popularity of online social platforms, like Pinterest and Tumblr, and the rise of home and design blogging. Our hunch is the trend was sparked via aspirational image sharing on the web.

A little background: Pinterest soft-launched around 2010-2011, but it really didn’t take off as a popular social platform till 2012. Its peak as a trending search on Google was in February of 2012. This coincides with the sudden appearance of fiddle leaf fig trees, and a handful of other popular plants like miniature succulents and cacti, on just about every design-focused blog.

From 2012 to 2013, designers, bloggers, DIY-ers… everyone had fiddle fever! Since then, the fiddle leaf fig has only become more and more popular – and more accessible, which has directly contributed to the growth of its popularity even more so. For example, IKEA has been selling the Ficus lyrata since around 2010, but they saw an influx of fiddles sales within the past three years.

THE IMAGES

It is the aspirational images of stunning 6+ foot fiddles in homes in the glossy pages of magazines like ELLE Decor, that made their way to Pinterest – and arguably jumped started the fiddle movement, as we know it today.

Some of these iconic images include: the dramatic fiddle in the living room of Laurie and Adam Herz’s Hollywood Hills home by interior decorator Peter Dunham (in Elle Décor*); the two statuesque fiddles flanking the paintings in Claiborne Swanson Frank’s Manhattan apartment’s dining room (in Elle Décor*); a large, wild fiddle in front of the fireplace in Anna Burke’s West Village apartment (in Lonny Magazine*); and the matching large fiddles in bright orange planters in Jonathan Adler’s dining area in his NY apartment (in Elle Décor France*). *Click the links to see the original photos.

And thanks to technology – those images really started to circulate. Bloggers started to share these aspirational images, and show how they recreated something similar in their own space…

THE CARE

If you’re lucky enough to have the space and the sunlight, then a fiddle leaf fig can make for a wonderful houseplant. It is one of the easier ficus plants to care for – making it an excellent choice, even for beginners. To keep it happiest – think of its native environment. It is going to want to be in a spot that receives bright, indirect light, including some sun and warm air (don’t let the temperature drop below 65 degrees).  The more direct sunlight, the better. If it is not receiving enough natural light, then it will start to drop leaves. This makes sense, as light equals food, and each leaf has hungry cells that need to be supported! Remember that this plant is native to the tropics near the equator, and loves to bathe in sunlight.

Be aware that fiddle leaf figs can be finicky when placed in a brand new environment. When stressed, their leaves tend to brown and drop off. Make sure to give it time to acclimate to its new home before sounding the alarm. Keep it far away from drafts or heat sources, as it likes its environment to stay consistent in temperature and humidity. And note, it can be toxic if ingested.

COMMON TROUBLESHOOTING

  • Leaf crinkling, loss, and rot —> Sign of overwatering
  • Surface burns, leaf loss —> Sign of extreme heat or too much direct sun
  • Leaves overly soft and flexible —> Sign of underwatering
  • Brown disc-shaped spots under leaves —> Sign of scale/pests  

P.S. SHOP THE FIDDLE LEAF FIG FOR NYC DELIVERY

 

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Plant Care, Plant History, Plant of The Month

Phalaenopsis Orchid 101

April 25, 2017

Meet the Phalaenopsis (Phalaenopsis spp. and hybrids) 

The Phalaenopsis, also known as the moth orchid because its flowers resemble moths in flight, is an orchid genus of approximately 60 species. It’s easy-care nature makes it arguably the most popular orchid genus when it comes to choosing one as a houseplant. It is native to China, Taiwan, and the majority of Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia). Phalaenopsis orchids are generally epiphytic, but can also be terrestrial or lithophytic. 

Orchid_4

Although they are often called the “moth orchid” – Phalaenopsis is actually pollinated by bees! Most Phalaenopsis are not fragrant and rely on showy flowers to attract the pollinator bees (whereas moth-pollinated orchids rely mainly on scent to attract moths, which are most active at night).  These bees land on the modified labellum (lip – or lowest petal of the flower) and pollinate each flower by acquiring pollen on their backs. As they go deeper into the flower, they rub that pollen onto the stigmal surface as they reach for the nectar.

Many Phalaenopsis flower once a year, but due to increasing hybridization and polyploidy, many can be induced into blooming twice a year.  It has been found that stable, cooler temperatures during the day actually influence flowering time and production. Regular fertilization can also helps. 

Terra_Cotta_Orchid_2

They belong to the family, Orchidaceae, which is the second-most diverse family of Angiosperms (flowering plants) – second only to Asteraceae (the sunflower family). Like many orchids, and monocots for that matter, there are three sepals and three petals – arranged in a triangle and an inverse triangle, respectively. The lower petal, referred to as the lip or labellum, is usually the most modified part of an orchid. Many orchids have evolved modified flower structures in order to form complex symbiotic relationships with their pollinators.

Because of such diversity within the family Orchidaceae, there is a need to divide plants in groups that are broader than Genera, but more specific than Family, and we call those Tribes.  For example, the genus Phalaenopsis is within the tribe Vandeae along with Vanda, Angraecum, Aerangis, and Aerides – to name a few. 

Orchid_1

Phalaenopsis species generally evolved in three different habitats: seasonally dry areas, seasonally cool areas, and constantly warm and humid areas. In the seasonally dry, or seasonally cool areas, some species are semi-deciduous, losing some of their leaves when the weather becomes unfavorable. Many have evolved some level of succulence, too. However, most Phalaenopsis are evergreen (not deciduous), and the greatest number of species are native to the constantly warm and moist areas of the world – i.e. your Phalaenopsis at home probably prefers bright to moderate, indirect light and high humidity! 

Orchid_3

Orchid obsession has never gone out of style – and even oligarchs and dictators have had their fair share of it! In 1964, the orchid hybrid ‘Kimilsungia’ was named in honor of the North Korean Leader, Kim Il-sung. It is said that on a diplomatic mission to Indonesia, Il-sung – 

“stopped before a particular flower, its stem stretching straight, its leaves spreading fair, giving a cool appearance, and its pink blossoms showing off their elegance and preciousness; he said the plant looked lovely, speaking highly of the success in raising it.  Sukarno said that the plant had not yet been named, and that he would name it after Kim Il Sung.  Kim Il Sung declined his offer, but Sukarno insisted earnestly that respected Kim Il Sung was entitled to such a great honour, for he had already performed great exploits for the benefit of mankind.”  

Kimilsungia flower shows are held every year in Pyongyang. Traditionally, diplomatic missions & embassies of foreign countries in North Korea each present their own bouquet of the flower to the annual exhibition. 

Calvert_Orchid_4

The original fascination with orchids began during the Victorian Era (late 1850s), and “orchid mania” thus ensued – with hundreds of wealthy collectors scouring the world for a sample of all the world’s orchids. It wasn’t until much later in 1921 that the American Orchid Society (AOS) was founded to satiate our own obsession with orchids. Many chapters of the society exist throughout the country, each with its shows, awarding certificates of cultural merit (CCM), and other awards to the best-grown orchids. The largest show on the east coast is the Philadelphia Flower Show, where the American Orchid Society works with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. Much of the proceeds of AOS membership go towards orchid conservation, research, and awareness. 

Orchid_2

PHALAENOPSIS PLANT CARE

SUNLIGHT: Bright to medium, indirect light. Can handle a few hours of direct sun. 

WATER: Spritz with purified, warm water daily. Soak once a week. Let orchid dry between waterings. Water more frequently during warmer months, the fertilize during the growing season. Generally drooping and wrinkling will be signs of under-watering. Do not over-water, which will encourage root rot. 

SOIL: Plant in orchid mix, never regular potting soil. 

HUMIDITY: The more humidity – the better. Normal room humidity is fine, but your plant will want more. Try not to let the air become too dry. 

TEMPERATURE: 65°-85°F (18°-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F. 

COMMON PROBLEMS: It is generally a very easy-going plant. Like all plants – it may get scale and mealybugs. Treat as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of horticultural (Neem) oil and regular wipe-downs. 

I. SYMPTOM: Leaves turning brown and crispy at leaf edges

CAUSE: Under watered, low humidity, high salts, or potassium deficiency

II. SYMPTOM: Wilting/wrinkling

CAUSE: Under watered

III. SYMPTOM: Yellowing, possible black stems, mushiness

CAUSE: Rot or root disease; overwatering

PRECAUTIONS: Generally OK (non-toxic) to cats, dogs, and humans if consumed – but best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets. 

P.S. In New York City? Join us in-person for a Plant Care Workshop on the Phalaenopsis this May. Learn more here!

 

#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, Holiday Gifting, How-to, Plant Care, Plant History, Plant of The Month

Marimo 101

April 22, 2017

The name Marimo (毬藻, Aegagropila linnaei) originated from Japanese botanist Tatsuhiko Kawakami: 毬 ‘mari’ = ball and 藻 ‘mo’ = generic term for aquatic plants!

The Marimo ‘Moss’ Ball, as it’s commonly called, is not moss at all – but a freshwater, filamentous green algal colony! Native to previously glaciated areas of the world including Japan, Russia, Iceland, and parts of North America – the Marimo’s round shape is the result of freshwater lake motion. And although Marimo live in water, they’re not as slimy as you’d think they are. They’re actually quite fluffy, almost velvety, in nature.

Pet Marimo - The Sill

MARIMO FAQs

1. How do I care my Marimo at home?
Clean, cool water – and minimal light!

The lakes that Marimo have evolved in are alkaline, calciferous lakes – so for the optimal health of your Marimo at home, always use filtered water. Because Marimo balls live at the bottom of lakes, and roll along the bottom with the current, they receive very little light. In caring for your Marimo – keep it out of direct sun. An hour or so of direct sun is tolerable, as long as the temperature of the water stays cool. Freshwater lakes, especially at the bottom where Marimo live, are cold – and temperatures can range from 5C to 35C.

2. What type of light source do I use?
Moderate to low, natural or artificial light will help keep your Marimo happy and healthy. An hour or so of direct sunlight is fine, as long as it is far away from a window, and the Marimo’s water doesn’t heat up.

Trio of Marimo balls - The Sill

3. Do I need to change the water? What water do I use?
Although tap water is OK, we prefer to use either brita-filtered water, or bottled water. If possible, change your Marimo’s water once every two weeks.

4. What should I do when changing water?
Gently squeeze your Marimo to remove any dirt trapped in it’s fluff, then roll your Marimo back and forth on a soft surface, like your palm, to help it retain its circular shape.

Gently roll your Marimo in your palm to help it retain its circular shape - The Sill

5. How long will my Marimo live?
Marimos are slow growers – growing one or two tenths of an inch a year. However, the world’s largest Marimo is almost 40 inches in diameter, making it an estimated 200+ years old. Your Marimo can last for decades with the proper care and environment.

6. Help! My Marimo is changing in color. 
A yellow or brown Marimo is a sick Marimo. Your Marimo could be receiving too much sunlight, have an infection, or its water quality could have decreased. We recommend washing your Marimo under running water, replacing its water, and adding some salt. Make sure to use aquarium salt – not table salt! You can find it on Amazon, or at your local pet store. Add this directly to your Marimo’s container – about 5% of your water volume.

7. How long can a Marimo last without water? 
If conditions are ideal – Marimos can live for one month without water.

Marimo balls - The Sill

8. Will my Marimo float or sink?
Your Marimo will spend its majority of time at the bottom of its container, like it would in its native lake environment. However, a Marimo does perform photosynthesis, and makes oxygen. These oxygen bubbles may make your Marimo float up to the surface of the water for a period of time. The more sun your Marimo receives, the more oxygen it will produce. You can also make your Marimo float by squeezing the water out of it, but we don’t recommend toying with them too often – they’re happiest when left to float or sink on their own.

9. Will my Marimo reproduce? 
Your Marimo might reproduce when large enough and kept in a large container. You will see a bump growing on your Marimo – that’s a baby Marimo in the making. We do not recommend forcing your Marimo to reproduce by splitting it in two – more often than not, it will not be able to bounce back.

10. Is there anyway to get my Marimo to grow faster?
Marimo are slow growers! Be patient. Lower water temperatures, better water quality, and an extremely diluted amount of fertilizer can help. More light equals more growth, so a few hours of sunlight can also give your Marimo a boost, but be very careful not to cook your Marimo in direct light.

11. Can my Marimo survive in a fully sealed container?
A Marimo can survive in fully sealed container, but we recommend picking one with a loose lid, which will allow your marimo to breathe with its environment.

Happy Marimo - The Sill

12. Fun Fact
According to a Japanese legend, there were two lovers who longed to be together. One, the daughter of a tribe chief; the other a poor commoner. When the chief forbade them from being together – the couple ran away, fell into the water, and became Marimo balls – able to live together forever. Because of this, Marimo balls, sometimes referred to as ‘love plants’, are thought to bring luck, love, and happiness, and have the ability to heal a broken heart.

P.S. ADOPT YOUR VERY OWN MARIMO: Shop now.