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

PLANT MYTH MONDAYS – MYTH 4

August 21, 2017
MONDAY 08.21.2017 MYTH: POT YOUR PLANT IN A GIANT PLANTER TO MAKE IT GROW BIGGER

Think of your houseplant and its planter as your foot and its shoe… if your foot is a size 6, you would never wear a size 10 shoe, right? That would make it super difficult to get around comfortably.

Well the same goes for your houseplants! They want a “comfortable” planter that is just the right size for them to call home for the time-being (yes – you will have to eventually repot your plant). The key to growth, when it comes to the role of the pot, is to increase the size of the planter gradually. 

Plant growth is more correlated with the amount of sunlight your plant receives and the amount of fertilizer you give it – than it is with pot size. Although pot size can do the opposite: it can limit plant growth. That’s when repotting your plant comes into play.

When repotting your houseplants, we recommend going only one to two inches larger than the previous size pot for tabletop plants (and a little bit larger, say three to four inches, for large floor plants). Otherwise, with all the excess soil around your plant’s smaller root system, you’re setting yourself up for a boatload of watering issues. If there is too much soil that your plant is practically swimming in it – there’s also a ton of space within that soil for water to pool and sit, that your plant’s roots won’t reach. The excess soil leads to excess water, which can eventually lead to root rot and, ultimately, a plant fatality.

Repotting your plants might sound like a chore at first – but keep in mind most common houseplants typically only need to be repotted every 12 to 18 months. And some slow growers can call the same pot home for years! Repotting can also be a fun and therapeutic activity. It gives you an opportunity to change up your planter’s style – and find a brand new plant for the older planter.

Not sure if your current plant needs a repot? Here’s some signs to look for:

  • The roots are growing through the drainage hole at the bottom of the planter
  • The roots are pushing the plant up, out of the planter
  • The plant is growing much slower than normal
  • The plant is extremely top heavy, and falls over easily
  • The plant dries out more quickly than usual, requiring more frequent waterings
  • There is noticeable salt and mineral build up on the plant or current planter

Need to repot? Click HERE for our step-by-step instructions!

Find previous Monday Plant Myths HERE.

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Interview, Plant History

Travel Within Your Home With These 7 Houseplants

August 17, 2017

Why settle for a souvenir when you could have a living memento of your travels?

Plants bring colors to life, they grow with your care, they originate from fascinating places…

We teamed up with HomeToGo to suggest 7 unique houseplants you can use to create vacation vibes in your home. From the tropical Myanmar jungle to the refreshingly high altitude of the Himalayas, these plants will make your home a travel expedition!

P.S. Find HomeToGo’s interview with our plant expert extraordinaire Christopher Satch HERE.

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant History

Leaf Variegation

August 17, 2017

We still do not know what exactly causes plants to be variegated, we can only make an educated guess, but we do know how plants become variegated. Variegation is a change in pigment production or plastid development in the plant.

What are plastids? Well, besides the chloro-plast, plastids generally serve some metabolic function, usually creating pigments to deal with excess light. It is believed that variegation arose as a means for lower light plants to deal with excess light, for example when trees fall and the forest clears in their native habitat.

Photo by the Exeter Area Garden Club (link)

Plants can ‘revert’, too! For example, a variegated rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can go back to regular coloring – usually due to it being moved to a space with lower light. Reverts are random as much as variegation is.

Try moving a houseplant known for its variegation – for example a pothos or philodendron – into a sunnier space at home and see if the new leaves become more variegated over time!

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

PLANT MYTH MONDAYS – MYTH 3

August 14, 2017
MONDAY 08.14.2017 MYTH: HOUSEPLANTS GO DORMANT IN THE WINTER

Myth: “All houseplants go dormant in the winter, so I don’t need to water them then…” 

It is true that some houseplants do go semi-dormant in the wintertime – for example, euphorbia houseplants will lose their little leaves due to the seasonal light changes. But the majority of tropical plants are actually used as houseplants for the exact reason that they do not go dormant! This doesn’t mean they won’t need less water and attention though – as their growth will slow down due to seasonal changes outside – but they’ll still need a little TLC (natural sunlight and the occasional watering). Some of your houseplants might need to be moved closer to a window during the winter months, to receive adequate sunlight, while others might need even more water than usual, if you blast your heater. As always, never keep your houseplants directly in the line of drafts caused by air conditioners, heating units, or open windows. Try to keep them in as temperature stable of an environment as possible. 

Meet a few of our team’s favorite tropical houseplants: Pothos Plant, Parlor Palm, Peperomia obtusifolia, Rattlesnake Calathea, and Bird’s Nest Fern

Find previous Monday Plant Myths HERE.

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care

Summer Vacation Plant Care

August 7, 2017

Whether you’ll be spending a long weekend down the shore or a few weeks abroad – we’re sharing our top tips and tricks below for keeping your houseplants happy and healthy while you’re away. 

It only takes a little time to prep your plants so you can focus on more important things – like strong sunscreen and a good book.

Maintain Moisture

If you’ll be away for a week or less, a good soil-soaking* before departure should be sufficient. While you shouldn’t regularly overwater your plants, this is a rare exception to the rule. Make sure to let any excess water drain from your potted plant before you’re on your way – so the soil is moist but your plants aren’t sitting in a saucer of water, which could attract pests or lead to root rot.

*This is only necessary for plants that need to be watered once a week or more. Your drought-tolerant houseplants will be fine without a soaking. 

If you’ll be away for more than a week, there are a couple of ways to prepare your plant. Try one of the tips below or a combination, depending on the length of your trip and the variety of plant (i.e. how much water does it usually need?) 

  1. Add mulch, rocks, or wood chips directly to your plant’s soil to help hold moisture before giving the soil a good soaking. We’ve heard damp newspaper can also do the trick. Remove any excess water from the saucer. Again, you want to make sure your soil is damp/moist – not soaking – to avoid any potential pest problems or rot. 
  2. Water your plant thoroughly and then cover with a clear plastic bag to just below the lip of the planter, creating a makeshift greenhouse. Make sure to cut a couple slits in the plastic to allow for ample air circulation – plants need to breathe, too! Use birch sticks (of leftover chopsticks) to hold the bag up and completely away from the foliage. 
  3. Line a shallow tray with small rocks and fill the tray up with water to slightly beneath the top of the rocks. Set your planter on top of the rocks – the base of the planter should not be touching or sitting directly in the idle water but right above it. This will help to increase humidity and moisture levels, but should not lead to over-watering or root rot because the base of the plant isn’t sitting in the water. 
  4. Transport your humidity-loving plants, like ferns and air plants, to your bathroom (provided you have a window that receives some natural light) or another small room and group them together. The smaller the room – the easier it is for your plants to maintain humidity and moisture.
  5. Call on a friend! If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time and have a friend that’s willing to water your houseplants for you – take them up on the generous offer! Houseplants can be unpredictable and a slight change in their environment can cause them to need more water, or less. Leave your friend with crystal clear plant care instructions, or walk them through your watering schedule a week or two beforehand. We won’t judge if you ask them for photo updates while you’re gone. Just make sure to bring them back a decent souvenir… 
Tweak Temperature

The more sunlight your plant receives, the more thirsty it will be! This is for a few reasons, the biggest being that plants utilize the most water during a process called transpiration, and the rate of transpiration is dependent on, and increases with, the amount of sunlight the plant receives (learn more about transpiration here). So the more natural light your plant is getting, the more water it’ll need. 

To help your plants from wilting while you’re away from lack of water, you can move them a little bit further away from their source of natural light – the window. Place them in the middle of the room so that the heat and light from the windows does not dry them out as quickly. Even if it’s a full-sun plant, it can handle a week or two of lower than ideal light. Once you return, you can move your plants back to their usual spot! 

Remember that the majority of houseplants prefer a stable environment with a temperature between 65-85 degrees fahrenheit. Whether you’re home or away, never leave an air conditioning blasting on or near a houseplant! Although a luxury for humans, an AC tends to rob the indoor environment of the heat and humidity most houseplants crave. 

Forgo Fertilizer 

If you occasionally use fertilizer on your houseplants, make sure to hold off on it until you return. Do not fertilize your plants in the weeks prior to your departure. You’ll want your plants to grow as slowly as possible while you’re gone, which will help them to conserve energy and water! 

Please Prune  

In addition to pruning off any dead, dying, or unhealthy-looking foliage – you can prune off buds and flowers, which usually require more frequent waterings to stay happy and healthy. 

The tips above apply to mostly tropical, foliage plants. Drought-tolerant plants like succulents and cacti, ZZ plants, and snake plants can go over a month without a watering. If you’re an avid traveler – those are the plants for you. 

Whatever preparation you to take – give yourself a big pat on the back when you return to a healthy and happy houseplant. It missed you, too. 

Have a tip you’d like to share? Comment below! 

 

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

PLANT MYTH MONDAYS – MYTH 2

August 7, 2017
MONDAY 08.07.17 MYTH: MIST YOUR SUCCULENTS

Myth: “I should mist my succulent plants…” 

There is no mist or humidity in the desert! It’s not necessary, or beneficial, to mist your succulent plants at home. Remember that to help a plant thrive indoors – you want to try your best to mimic its natural habitat outdoors. Succulents, including cacti, have spent so much of their time evolving to keep water inside of themselves that they have zero defenses against the fungi that attack when the plant itself is covered with water. This is also one of the reasons why they die so easily from overwatering – water rushes in and bursts the plant cells, and the plant has no chemical defense against the fungi that plunder all of the remaining cells. 

The moral of the story: never mist your succulent plants! Instead, water directly into the surrounding potting soil, and only when the soil is completely dry. It is always better to underwater, than overwater, a succulent plant.

Find previous Monday Plant Myths HERE.

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#PlantPorn, #PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes

Behind the Scenes of our Go Green event with Andie

August 2, 2017

Last week we hosted Andie, a revolutionary women’s swimwear company, at our 84 Hester Street shop in New York City to celebrate the launch of their newest collection, featuring swimsuits in our favorite color – green, of course.

Check out all the behind the scenes photos from the event below:

And don’t forget to follow our friends Andie on Instagram to see where they’ll be popping up next!

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Style Tips

MakeSpace for The Sill: 13 DIY Hanging Planters for Renters

August 1, 2017

(The following article is a guest post for The Sill by friends MakeSpace

With great leases often come great limitations.

On the one hand, rent stability and maintenance coverage are obvious godsends. On the other, aspirations to Pinterest-worthy renos usually require explicit written permission – triggering a whole minefield of miscommunications and migraines. 

So you play it safe. You’re hip to snazzy rugs and standout furniture, of course, but when it comes to vertical surfaces, you keep them bare. Sure, you lust after hanging planters (who doesn’t?). But installing that hook wouldn’t be worth sacrificing your entire security deposit. 

What if we told you that you could have your shrub and hang it, too? 

Get your watering can and tippy toes ready, because these hanging planters – most of which are DIY, too! – are safe for even the strictest of leases. 

 

1) Upgrade your loo with Sugru 

Image via Made Up Style

Incorporating greenery to your WC is the surefire way to convert it into a mini oasis. But if your baño’s floor space is more tub than tile, take a cue from textile designer Anna of Made Up Style. She hung her gorgeous DIY planter with a hook she sculpted from a renter-friendly adhesive known as Sugru

Suggested plant for hanging? The Bird’s Nest Fern, which thrives in high humidity and will, ahem, flush any air toxins. 

 

2) Eye-catching cacti

 

Image via Etsy

Magnets: They’re the ultimate temporary decoration. And these sweet little planters come from a 3D printer, making them cool enough in their own right.

But on top of that, they’re also magnetic – which means they’ll elevate your fridge design game to next-level chill. Pot ’em with low-maintenance miniature succulents

 

3) Dream a little dream 

Image via Be Frenchie

Daphne from Be Frenchie shows us how to suspend a trivet-based hanger using wool, wood, and some cheap IKEA accoutrements. To make this pretty mobile renter-friendly, use a Super Hook to hang it. 

Natural materials, a reversible DIY, and a plant? Sweet dreams are made of this.

 

4) Work your way up the ladder 

Image via Lobster and Swan

This has got the be the easiest DIY of the bunch. If we were to write a tutorial, it would go something like this: 

Step 1: Get a ladder.

Step 2: Trick out your living room with whatever photosynthesizing goodness is best suited to your home.

Step 3: Enjoy the joys of greenery without the hassle of installation.

For inspiration and more detailed how-tos, check out Lobster and Swan. Bonus points if you hang vines down along the side.

 

5) Prop a breath of fresh air 

Image from The Sill

Remember the Sugru hook from tip #1? It would work perfectly for hoisting a light air plant (or 12). 

All you need is an air plant stand, an assortment of air beauties, removable hooks, and plenty of sunlight. (Or save a step and purchase them together!) 

 

6) Take a seed – er, seat 

Image via Home Depot

Your walls may be off-limits, but furniture is ripe for the planting!

Although this tutorial from Gloribell Lebron for Home Depot is intended for patio use, we could see it working virtually anywhere with a chair.

Hang thyme and cilantro from a kitchen chair for easy cooking access, or add some peppermint (a reputed energizer) to the back of your home office roller.

 

7) Give new meaning to “on the rocks”

Image via Succulents and Sunshine

There are bar carts, and then there are bar carts loaded with smile-inducing succulents.

This wheely wonderland from Succulents and Sunshine is the latter, making for a mini-garden as adorable as it is transportable. You could easily leave one layer unpotted and fill it with actual, y’know, bar cart gear. Or not.

 

8) Hanging h20 

Image via The Merry Thought

Already got some shelves installed? Then you’ve got license to drill.

Take full advantage with this hanging water garden from The Merry Thought. And how cute would the Marimo Moss Ball be in this planter? 

 

9) 3 hooks for the risk of 1 

Image via A Beautiful Mess

If you’re going to hang one plant, you might as well hang three! That’s the glorious inspiration behind this tiered basket from A Beautiful Mess

For minimal impact (sans sacrificing a dazzling effect), you could use a Command hook to suspend the contraption.

 

10) A new definition for “green screen” 

Image via Ikea

The dilemma: Your dream studio allows for zero privacy… and also zero alterations.

The solution: This 100% reversible IKEA hack.

This lush partition serves as the perfect barrier for makeshift nooks. Divvy up a large space at will, or transform a corner into part jungle, part home office.

 

11) Shower flower power 

Image via Peaches & Salt

Rub-a-dub beneath your plant of choice using these waterproof super strong hooks

You could hang a simple macrame planter, or make like Madalyn from Peaches & Salt and go for a delightfully elaborate overhead jungle. 

We recommend picking fast-growing, trailing plants like pothos plants and philodendrons.

 

12) Make your window pop 

Image via Jill M.

So you want to cultivate some herbs. Great! But what if you don’t have anywhere in your tiny kitchen for a traditional, bulky herb box? 

No problemo, parsley. This herb garden from blogger Jill M. uses a shower curtain rod and S-hooks that ingeniously nestle into the window. 

The best part (besides cilantro for days)? No drilling is required.  

 

13) Win with a tie 

Image via ModCloth

And the ultimate hanger is… a literal hanger! As evidenced by these quirky pops of joy from ModCloth. If you’ve got an old tie handy, plus a hardy succulent and a touch of flair, then you’ve got the recipe for a fun, chipper, and totally non-permanent planter. 

This post was written by MakeSpace, a full-service storage company that picks up, stores, and delivers your stuff so you never have to visit a self-storage unit.

 

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

PLANT MYTH MONDAYS – MYTH 1

July 31, 2017

We’re kicking off August with a new series: Plant Myth Mondays. Every Monday we’ll tackle a new myth related to plants and plant care. Submissions are welcome – simply leave a comment on any Plant Myth Monday post, or email us at help@thesill.com with the subject line ‘Plant Myth Submission’. 

 

MONDAY 07.31.17 MYTH: WATER YOUR HOUSEPLANTS WITH ICE CUBES 

The majority of houseplants – including desert-dwelling succulents, tropical plants, and orchids – do not come into contact with ice in their natural habitat! Ice can potentially cold-shock your plant and reduce its immunity against fungi. Remember that most houseplants prefer temperatures above 65 degrees. Additionally, ice will not provide enough water to the plant where it is needed – the roots below the soil. It is always best to water directly into your houseplant’s potting soil – with tepid water. 

P.S. If watering your orchids with ice cubes works for you – more power to you! Just keep in mind that according to the American Orchid Society, it is not the best practice, and can damage your orchid in the long run. Check out this article on watering orchids with ice cubes by the Oregon Orchid Society to learn more.

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

Plants and Mushrooms

July 19, 2017

PLANTS AND FUNGI
Soil is life for plants. For millions of years, plant have been interacting with microbes in the soil – and have formed strong, intricate relationships with them.

Plants interact with both bacteria and fungi in the soil, and in fact, if it were not for fungi – there would be no life on land.

It is agreed on by scientists that fungi colonized land well before plants have! However, the question of when they colonized land is a difficult one to answer, as our approximations are based on the fossil record, which can only tell us when only some organisms have existed – i.e. organisms with hard or solid body parts or spores (which many fungi are anything but).

Regardless of when fungi colonized land, they added a component to soils that was not present in soils before – large amounts of carbon. This helped to not only break down the rocks on land, but also to help retain water on land, and consequently help pave the way for plants!

Image via Planet Permaculture (link)

LICHEN
One of the first and oldest interactions between plants and fungi is the symbiotic relationship known as a lichen. A lichen is formed from cells of algae and a filamentous fungus weaving together to form a unit that is different from either organism. The algae feeds the fungus sugars and the fungus helps to retain moisture and occasionally provide nutrients from either the substrate that they’re growing on or from dust in the air.

Lichen covering a tree

On the surface this relationship seems symbiotic, which would mean both organisms can exist separately, but cooperation makes survival easier for both organisms. However, this is not the case for the lichen. Lichen does extend the range in which each organism can survive, but although the algae can exist and live freely – the fungus cannot.

Whether or not the fungus was able to survive in the past by itself but has lost that ability is up for debate, but either way, the relationship has evolved to be either one of commensalism or parasitism.

ENDOPHYTES
Other fungi in the soil that we know are relative to plants belong to three major groups: the Basidiomycetes, the Ascomycetes, and the Oomycetes. Most endophytic fungi (fungi that lives between living plant cells) are Ascomycetes, with some being Basidiomycetes. And the relationships of many endophytes to their plants are symbiotic.

(Interesting side note – endophytes are responsible in part for the flavor of most wine grapes, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon!)

Yellow Parasol Mushroom (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii) 

Occasionally, the fungi which live in the soil or the endophyte (or in some cases, it is the same fungus) may be in ideal conditions, and will reproduce sexually by producing a mushroom. This is perfectly normal, and considered in to be good luck in some areas of the world.

HOUSEPLANTS
We think of houseplants as just the plants – but we often forget that each pot of soil is a tiny ecosystem. Microbes like bacteria and fungi live in the soil. Some of them are helpful to the plant, and some of them are hurtful to the plant. Some of them do nothing too! Most fungi in healthy soil exist to help the plant, and do so by many means.

Yellow Parasol Mushroom (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii)

To communicate with the plant, the fungus must connect with its roots. Through these root connections, the fungus can send and receive chemical signals to/from the plant. Some fungi will stay outside of the roots, while others may penetrate the root cells.

Regardless of which type of fungus the plant is interacting with – it accomplishes two major functions:

First – the fungus lowers the pH of the soil by selectively absorbing NH4+ (ammonium) and kicking out the H+. This helps solubilize and mobilize metals and phosphates that are essential for the plant! As a consequence of the ammonium absorption, this excess source of nitrogen also leaks into the plant. The plant trades carbon in the form of hexoses to the fungus for the phosphates and other minerals. Phosphate is essential for plant life.

Second – not only do fungi provide nutrients to the plant, but they also allow chemical communication amongst plants. This internet of fungi has been shown to allow insect-attacked plants communication to their neighbors. It has been measured that nearby plants will boost their own innate defenses if they hear over the mycelium that one of their neighbors is being attacked. (Some plants even use the mycelial network for more devious purposes – spreading toxins and growth suppressants so that other plants cannot grow. While others use it for more altruistic purposes – sharing sugars and nutrients to neighboring plants.)

Whether or not plants invented the idea of the internet first remains a discussion for the philosophers…

Yellow Parasol Mushroom (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii)

Either way, fungi – masters of the soil, can be beneficial for your houseplants! Consider mushrooms a sign of a happy, healthy mini ecosystem.

Questions? Comment below or shoot us an email: help@thesill.com