#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!


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!


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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


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.


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!)


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.



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.


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.



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Fiddle Fever: Meet The Fiddle Leaf Fig

May 1, 2017


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.


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…


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.


  • 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  



#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. 


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. 


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. 


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 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. 


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. 



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!


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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


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.



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Terrariums 101

April 19, 2017

Doctor Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward developed the first terrarium in 1842. Ward noticed that a fern and grass had sprouted from the damp soil inside an airtight glass container that he had placed a chrysalis of a moth inside. The glass containers, which came to be known as Wardian cases, could maintain a constant humidity. During the day the evaporated moisture condensed on the container walls, while at night it would drip down, back into the soil. The cases became especially popular as a way to transport plants across long distances, when they would otherwise perish.


Now widely called terrariums, they are a generally low-maintenance way to add a little life to your space. Terrariums make it possible to grow things in places that aren’t exactly conducive to growth, and can pretty much be self-sufficient aside from the occasional watering. Making a terrarium can be a great way to experiment with new plant varieties, or to unleash some creativity.

There are two general types of terrariums we pot here at The Sill (although arguably the first type doesn’t fall into the same category as Dr. Ward’s namesake case) –


An open terrarium provides ample air circulation and low levels of humidity. It is not airtight, and there is no tight bottleneck or removable top. Instead, it creates more of a contained space for plants that require similar care to grow together. It is perfect for assorted varieties of succulents and cacti. Think of it as a miniature desert:


An enclosed terrarium, with a removable cover or lid, provides ample humidity and can create its own tiny ecosystem. The plants inside an enclosed terrarium release moisture, which condenses inside the vessel and trickles back into the soil. For an enclosed terrarium, it’s best to choose varieties of plants that are compact, to keep pruning to a minimum, and thrive in high humidity, like ferns.


  • Pick generally slow-growing plants – which will require less pruning, and are less likely to outgrow the container
  • If you’re mixing plant varieties, choose plants that thrive in very similar environments – i.e. plants that prefer a similar amount of sunlight, humidity, and water
  • Choose a clean, clear container to allow for natural light to flow in
    • We recommend choosing a glass container
  • Before adding potting soil to your terrarium, layer half an inch or so of gravel at the bottom to create drainage for excess water
    • Here at The Sill we use lava rocks because they’re porous, but any material that creates crevices for excess water to trickle down into should do the trick
  • When you add the potting soil, lightly press down on it to remove any air pockets
  • Arrange your plants inside, making sure to leave some room for new growth

  • Once the plants are securely potted – use a paintbrush (or toothbrush) to remove any excess soil from the sides of the container or the leaves of your plants
  • Place your terrarium in a spot that receives natural sunlight
    • Enclosed terrariums, usually home to plants that prefer high humidity and moderate light, should be kept out of direct sun (a couple hours of full sun can easily fry the contents inside)
    • Open terrariums, usually home to plants that prefer dry conditions and bright light, can be kept in bright, direct to indirect light – like your windowsill!
  • Water directly at the base of the plants/into the potting soil so the water is able to reach the root systems


  • Do your best to not overwater your terrarium
    • An enclosed terrarium can be watered about 1x about every 2-3 weeks, and you can help keep humidity high by misting in-between waterings
    • An open terrarium can be watered 1x about every 3-4 weeks, and requires no misting
    • Because there’s no drainage hole for excess water to be released from the terrarium – make sure not to completely soak the soil – is should be moist but not sopping wet
    • Remember that it is much easier to add water to soil than to subtract it!
  • Let an enclosed terrarium breathe every 1-2 weeks by removing it’s lid or keeping the lid ajar for a few days
  • If you see any dead or dying foliage inside your terrarium, remove it immediately
  • To keep plants grow upward and fill-in extra space, rotate your terrarium every 1-2 weeks

Questions? Reach us directly at help@thesill.com, or leave a comment below! 

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care

Spring Plant Care Tips

April 13, 2017

Spring is the best time of the year for your houseplants – the start of the growing season, your plants will seem to come alive again right before your eyes. They’re excited for warmer weather and longer days, too! Up the ante in your plant care and reap the results in real time.

Rubber Plant_Baby Rubber_Golden Pothos_Sidney


You might find yourself needing to water your plants more than usual to make up for the increase in temperature and hours of daylight. The best time to water is early morning or early evening, when temperatures are cooler and water is less likely to evaporate.

Remember that overwatering is the easiest way to kill a plant, so make sure to increase your watering gradually, and check on your plant regularly turning this time of adjustment. If they begin to wilt – water and mist more frequently. If their soil is soggy more than a day or two – water less.

For plants that thrive in moderate to high humidity, continue to mist them lightly in-between waterings. If you find yourself now needing to water a plant daily – you can help it retain moisture better by adding rocks to the top of the potting soil, or covering it with a plastic or glass cup in-between waterings.


If you kept your houseplants in a spot that receives direct sunlight for that hour or two during the winter, gradually move them further into a room or draw a sheer curtain during the day. The sun is stronger in the spring and summer, and the daylight hours are longer. Moving them to spot that receives indirect light will help them avoid leaf burn – ouch! 


If you’re unsure if the sunlight your plant now receives with the seasonal change is too intense – put your hand in that same area during the middle of the day. If the sunlight is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your plant.

You can help your houseplant by rotating it weekly so each side gets equal sun exposure and nutrients.

*Remember that most cacti and succulents are considered exclusions from these seasonal tweaks – as they prefer dry heat and direct sun.


Do not blast your air conditioning in the direct line of your houseplant! Move plants away from cooling devices that create fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels. Most houseplants are tropical natives and prefer a warmer, more humid climate – preferably between 65-75 degrees F. 



Regularly prune off dying or lackluster foliage, which can use up nutrients and water, leaving little for the rest of the plant, and attract pesky insects. Do not allow dropped leaves to collect on top of the soil – which can also increase the chance of plant pests and diseases.


Consider preparing your houseplants to be put outside for the summer. Most plants can be invigorated by a summer outdoors. Here in New York City, late-April is usually a good bet to start the move – or when nighttime temperatures are consistently higher than 55 degrees F. Just be sure to make the move gradual to avoid shock – for example, don’t move a plant from a dark corner indoors to a reflective rooftop outside in a single go! 


We recommend placing them in a shadier spot first, followed by light conditions similar to what they enjoyed inside.

Make sure the planters have drainage holes in case of heavy rain, or place them where they won’t be soaked, which – like overwatering – can cause root rot.  However, they ought to have a tray to collect water for when it is dry.  Shelter smaller plants from strong winds.


Spring is the best time to repot your houseplants. Plants typically need to be repotted every 12 to 18 months – so if you can work it into your spring cleaning schedule every year or two, that’s ideal. A common misconception, repotting does not necessarily mean putting the plant in a new planter, but rather, changing its soil or potting mix. Fresh soil provides the plant with fresh nutrients. 

You can find ‘signs you need to repot’, ‘what you need to repot’, and ‘how to repot’ – here



Fertilization is one of those things that tends to get overlooked by most novices, but it can be quite important for the long-term health of your plant! Fertilizer should be thought of as vitamins for plants – not plant food (as plants make their own food via light and photosynthesis). There are a few rules surrounding fertilization, and even the types of fertilizer that you should use. Find our top 5 tips for fertilization here.


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Having Pets AND Plants

April 11, 2017

In honor of National Pet Day – we interviewed a handful of Sill team members that are parents to both pets and plants for their top tips about keeping the peace in a jungle-like apartment…


Above is one of my (Erin Marino, Marketing Manager) babes, Tweeks, sharing her favorite sill with a few of my plants.


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.



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



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!



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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.12.13 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.12.04 PM

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…



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.


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.




NAME: Rachel Lyons

PETS: Peloton Seelyons

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.28.01 PM copy_2

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…

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.28.53 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.29.05 PM



NAME: Robyn Moore

PETS: My dog Disco!


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).


P.S. Start your indoor jungle – shop The Sill (we ship nationwide!) 


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

Fertilizer 101

March 29, 2017

Christopher Satch, head of plant science and education here at The Sill, gives us the 4-1-1 on fertilizer – just in time for the start of the growing season… spring!  


The fresh smell of soil in the morning really does it for me. It really does it for your plants, too. Fertilization is one of those things that tends to get overlooked by most novices, but it can be quite important for the long-term health of your plant. Fertilizer should be thought of as vitamins for plants – not plant food (plants make their own food via light and photosynthesis). There are a few rules surrounding fertilization, and even the types of fertilizer that you should use.

Rule 1

Fertilization should follow growth, and the pace of growth. Spring is the start of the growing season. If you’re going to fertilize your plants – it’s best to do it in the springtime, when those vitamins will really come in handy. Use a slightly weaker dilution than the package recommends. Like with watering, it’s always better to under-fertilize than to over-fertilize! Do not fertilize if you’ve just repotted – new potting soil will provide enough new nutrients for your plant. (You can fertilize a month after repotting).


Plants that grow faster should be fertilized more often than plants that grow slowly. For example, a begonia should be fertilized more regularly than a snake plant, and even more regularly than a cactus. That being said, if new growth on a plant you’ve had for a while is visibly smaller than previous growth, if the plant has been stagnant for months (not to be confused with a plant being dormant in the winter!), or if there is a clear indication of nutrient deficiency – you can fertilize your plant.

Rule 2

Plants that do more – ought to be fertilized more heavily. Fruits, veggies, and spices all need the most fertilizer because those plants are in production and fruiting regularly. For every leaf or fruit that you take from a plant, you’re also taking all the nutrients that went into that product, i.e. that leaf or fruit. It goes without saying that the plant needs the nutrients to grow the leaf or fruit in the first place. Flowering plants need a little less fertilizer than crop-producing plants. And other plants that just grow vegetatively need less.


Rule 3

Know thy NPK values! What are NPK values? It’s the ratio of the three most-consumed macronutrients that plants need (that should be in your fertilizer) – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. These values will usually be given on the label of the fertilizer box, for example: you’ll see 10-15-10, or a similar variation, on the label. If a value is not given, then we’d skip that fertilizer altogether and find another brand to use.

Rule 4

Know thy micronutrients! Micro-nutrients are just as important as macro-nutrients. Why micro? Because plants need less of them – even though they are just as important. Micronutrients include: calcium, magnesium, boron, iron, zinc, sulfur, nickel, manganese, copper, and molybdenum (but not necessarily in that order). Each micronutrient serves a role in plant enzymatic, cellular, and developmental functions. For example, calcium is involved in cell-wall thickening, and lack of calcium can lead to necrotic buds as well as mottled growth. You generally don’t have to worry about these for your houseplant. For your outdoor plants though, you do have to worry about these.


Rule 5

Know the difference between organic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are made from some decaying organism, whether it be a fish emulsion, bat guano, or kelp – it’s coming from some other organism. Great in theory, but tough in practice, to make sure that organism naturally provides the right amount of nutrients for your plant. Chemical fertilizers are actually made from ground up minerals, which allows them to be formulated to be the correct amount of each macro and micro nutrient.


Not convinced to go with a chemical fertilizer over an organic fertilizer? Remember that everything is a chemical of some sort – even water is technically a chemical. So, both organic and ‘chemical’ fertilizers accomplish the same job, just in different ways. Fish emulsion and chemical fertilizers deliver the same nitrates, the same potassium ions, and the same phosphates to plants. So, is one “better” than the other? Not really. Chemical fertilizers just happen to be more concentrated, and are usually more affordable. But it’s totally a personal preference.

Questions about fertilizing? Leave a comment below.


#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant of The Month, Style Tips

Meet the Tillandsia (Air Plant)

March 27, 2017



Air plants, Tillandsia spp., are native to Central and South America, the southeastern United States, and the West Indies. Instead of using roots to absorb water and nutrients from soil – they use their specialized leaves to absorb both from the air and sun, hence their common name: air plants!

In their native habitat, air plants also grow high up, usually attached to other plants, like trees, or rock formations. When it rains or there is moisture in the air, their special scales called trichromes transfer the water to storage areas inside the plant.

Air plants can be incredibly adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of conditions. They prefer bright to medium, indirect light – and high humidity. They’d be happiest in a bathroom or kitchen with a sunny window.


There are about 650 recognized species of air plants, and the diversity in appearance among them is truly remarkable! They can be seen in colors from a silvery white to red and pink to bright green – and many have stunning blooms that can last for several months, even indoors.

The Tillandz - Air Plants + Holders - available at TheSill.com


Most Tillandsias are native to humid climates – so they appreciate high levels of humidity indoors, too. We recommend misting your air plant daily (or couple of days depending on your schedule) to help keep humidity high. Placing your air plant next to potted plants in your home will be a great help too, as the air plant will be able to absorb the moisture that evaporates off the other plants when they’re watered.

In addition to misting your air plant with warm water multiple times a week, a once-a-week (or every other week) soak for about 10 minutes can do wonders. After soaking, gently shake your air plant to help remove any excess water and decrease the possibility of rot.

Fortunately, air plants are not typically bothered by insect pests. Scale and mealy bugs are the most common – but are easily eradicated with a short soaking of the plants in soapy water.

The Tillandz - Single in Yellow - available at TheSill.com


Bright to moderate, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight.

Mist frequently with tepid water (increase frequency in spring and summer months); in addition, soak once a week or every other week. Make sure excess water drips off air plant, or help it with a gentle shake.

Prefers average home temperate and normal to high humidity. Keep air plant in a well ventilated area with plenty of air circulation!

Curling or “rolling” leaves can be a sign of dehydration, while mushiness and discoloration can be a sign of over-watering. Have an unhappy air plant at home? Send us a photo via email at help@thesill.com and we’ll try our best to diagnosis it for you.


  • Ample air circulation is paramount to the health of your air plant. If you’re looking for a container to keep your air plant in, opt for one with large holes allowing for air flow, or a fun plant stand.
  • Although air plants thrive in sunny conditions, they can fry in full sun. A good rule of thumb – if it sun is too strong for your skin, it is too strong for the leaves of your air plant. Make sure to keep your air plant in a partially shady spot where it receives bright to moderate, indirect light.
  • Like with other houseplants, increase your air plant’s watering schedule from late spring to early autumn when days are longer and the sun is stronger. For example, if you mist your air plant 2x a week during the winter, increase misting to every other day (or even daily) during the summer.
  • Although tolerant of lower temperatures than most common tropical houseplants, make sure to keep your air plant in an environment that’s above 50 degrees F at all times.

P.S. Shop all Air Plants (ships nationwide!) or join us for an Air Plant Workshop in NYC