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


September 18, 2017

I saw six solid yellow leaves on my beloved Aralia one day last week. “Why?” I asked myself. “I followed every plant care rule in the book!” It is one of the most frustrating things a plant parent can experience: you work so hard to maintain and care for something, yet it doesn’t end up right!

If I’m being honest with myself, I noticed the yellowing slowly happen in the past couple weeks… but I kept following my usual care routine. Eventually I panicked and announced the unavoidable death of my Aralia tree to all my plant-nerdy friends. “It could be stress,” one friend said. “It could be the season transitioning,” another friend chimed in. “Oh! It’s not you, it’s them,” said another friend trying to make me feel better.

Luckily – instead of giving up on my beloved tree completely – I chatted with our plant specialist, Christopher Satch, the next day at work. He explained that yellow leaves do not always signal plant problems! So what’s the real deal here? Is my Aralia OK? 

The yellow leaves!

According to Christopher, it comes down to the plant and the symptom. Plants can have similar symptoms for completely different reasons! For example – yellowing leaves could be a sign of nutrient deficiency, overwatering, underwatering, a pest attack, and more. It’s always advisable to combine symptoms for an accurate diagnosis.

Below are few common reasons why a houseplant’s leaves could be yellowing:

Too much *or* too little water 

A watering issue is the most common culprit of the appearance of yellow leaves on your houseplant. For example, if you see yellow leaves that are curling, along with dry soil, that usually means that the plant is underwatered. Another tell tale symptom of under-watering is a droopy plant. But on the other hand, too much water can be just as damaging to leaves as too little. If you see yellow leaves, and feel the soil and it is too wet, then you know that you have probably been giving it too much water.

Nutrient deficiency

Little did I know that yellow leaves can also be a good indication that your plant’s nutrition level is out of wack! You can easily solve this by applying fertilizer. Just make sure to dilute it to half the recommended strength on the fertilizer’s packaging to avoid overfertilizing. Giving a plant too much fertilizer can do more harm than good! It can actually burn a plant’s roots (ouch), and cause more yellowing leaves.

Natural aging

Yup, plants are just like us: they age, too! Think of each leaf as having a solid cycle – baby leaves are usually lighter and more fragile, and as it matures, it turns darker (greener) and tougher. Ultimately, yellowing, browning and leaf dropping are all part of the leaf saying goodbye to the world. There could be nothing wrong with the plant itself – just the leaf’s time to go. The rule of thumb here is that you never want to see all the leaves doing this together at the same time, or the majority of the leaves. It should be a gradual cycle. Think of this as normal shedding.

The bottom line is *pay attention to your plant*! One or two yellow leaves? No biggie. More? Give your plant a good once over. Check it’s soil. As you can see below – my beloved Aralia is back – loving life! After chatting with Christopher, we figured out it was just trying to tell me to give it a little bit more water. I’m sure glad I caught on before it got worse, but if it did (and I lost my beloved tree), it would have been a learning experience for me.

P.S. If you don’t want to freak out (like me) over nothing, read more Monday Plant Myths HERE.


Meet Our Fall Plant Pick – Ferns

September 15, 2017

Ferns – we have all heard of them, yet we fail to completely understand, and maybe even appreciate, them. It seems that people either love them, or hate them. But ferns, as houseplants, are relatively easy to care for once you get to know them! They might be a little needy, in comparison to say snake plants, but that can be great for people who enjoy taking care of their plants everyday. (I am looking at you, overwaterers!) Either way, they have became one of the most popular houseplants. If you are looking to add a new addition to your sill this fall, try a Fern!

So What is a Fern?

The ferns that we see and know today are actually quite ancient and mysterious. They first appeared on Earth as far back as 360-400 MYA! Fossil records indicate that they have outlived dinosaurs, saw the civilization of man, and survived numerous extinction threats. Before ferns – there were mosses, lichens, algae, and fungi scattered about, but nothing taller than those grew on the landscape. Ferns became the dominant plant life form because unlike their predecessors, the mosses, they had evolved a primitive but true vascular system. And around 360 MYA, the landmasses of the earth collided, forming the supercontinent Pangaea. Ferns spread throughout Pangaea, covering it almost entirely! Interestingly enough though, most surviving ferns that we see today actually evolved much later, during the Cretaceous Period, after flowering plants existed (about 100-70 MYA).  Many of the original ferns went extinct due to the several ice ages.  And to this day, there are still new fern species being discovered yearly!

Image via earthlyuniverse

How are ferns different from most plants?

Ferns are their own lineages. What that mean is they do not grow seeds, nor flowers, but reproduce by splitting, rhizomes, and spores.

Fern spores via here

Because the spores have no protective shell to protect it, unlike seeds, it also explains why they love high humidity environment. In addition, they are more primitive than other plants.

Common Ferns

Staghorn Ferns

Platycerium spp., natives to tropical South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. They are different from most ferns because they are epiphytes-living on trees instead of in the soil. They have pronounced sporophytes (the stags) and pronounced gametophytes (the shields), and both are separate parts in the staghorn fern’s life cycle.  Not to get to scientific-y here, but each ‘stag’ frond is created upon successful fusion of gametes produced by the gametophyte. Staghorn fern looks great, and does well, in hanging and mounted planters.Shop Staghorn Fern and Olmsted


Boston Fern 

Photo via Pinterest

Birds Nest Fern

Asplenium nidus, Birds Nest, is another easygoing fern that is native to tropical regions such as southeast Asia, Australia, east Africa and Hawaii. The fronds emerge coiled up from the center of the plant. As their unique ruffly leaves unfurled, they create a vase-like or bird’s nest shape. Hence the name, birds nest. Given the right indoor environment-high humid and medium to bright light-they will thrive.  They also make a great gift since they are known for the love ferns.

  1. Shop our Bird Nest Fern

General Ferns care

SUNLIGHT: Medium indirect bright light to low light.  Never direct sun, unless the species demands it.

WATER: Water weekly. Allow potting mix to half-dry out before watering.  However, soil can be moist or wet, but not sopping-wet.  Water more frequently during warmer months and drier months and fertilize during growth.

HUMIDITY: Any humidity level other than dry will do, but it prefers very moist air that will help lead to larger leaves and faster growth. A regular misting with a squirt-bottle will help raise the humidity.

TEMPERATURE: 65°F-85°F (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C).

In general, Ferns have been known to purify the air, and are excellent starter plants due to their low maintenance. There are thousands of fern species today. I am curious, do you have ferns? What’s your favorite? Comment below.


#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care

Go ‘Back To School’ with Our Top 10 Plant Care Tips!

September 14, 2017


Because plants are for everyone. No “green thumb” required. 

1.​ ​Always​ ​pick​ ​your​ ​plant​ ​based​ ​on​ ​your​ ​light 

Our number one rule of thumb is to determine the amount of sunlight your space receives, and then to choose your plant accordingly! If you’re not sure just by looking – start by figuring out which direction the windows in your space face. If there’s something outside your window – a large tree or building, for example – that could obstruct sunlight, make sure to take that into consideration, too. Generally speaking:

South-facing windows = bright light 

East/West-facing windows = moderate light 

North-facing windows = low light 

Remember that most houseplants prefer bright (indirect*) light – be careful to protect them from intense direct sun. If the summer sun is intense enough to burn your skin, it’s certainly too much for your plant’s leaves! To protect your plants from burning, draw a sheer curtain during the day or move them a foot or two away from the window.

*For your tropical plants! Most cacti, and some other types of succulents like the aloe below, can handle bright, direct light. 

2.​ ​Be​ ​mindful​ ​of​ ​your​ ​work schedule + social​ ​life 

Be sure to consider your daily schedule, travel frequency, and general forgetfulness (nothing to be ashamed about!) when deciding on a new plant. If your absent-mindedness or crazy work schedule is what stands in the way of plant ownership – pick a plant that tolerates from neglect. For example – if you have bright light, try a bunch of super low-maintenance succulents; and if you have lower light, try a low-maintenance snake plant or ZZ plant.

If it’s just the opposite (re: plenty of time on your hands), try a bunch of air plants or a fern, which both like a little extra TLC – a daily spritz of purified water to keep humidity high.

3.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​better​ ​to​ ​underwater,​ ​than​ ​to​ ​overwater… 

Beware of over-watering – it’s the easiest way to kill a houseplant! You may be tempted to water your plant on a strict schedule, or create a Google Calendar alert (guilty!), but the best thing to do is to water it only when needed. Always check the soil first before giving it a drink to make sure it’s dry.

Keep in mind that environmental and seasonal changes can throw your plant’s watering schedule off. For example – plants need less water in the winter, when they’re growing slower, days are shorter, and light is less intense. But if you’re blasting your heater… their soil might dry out quicker, and they might need more. A telltale sign your plant is past due for a watering? Wilting leaves or soil pulling away from the sides of the planter. If the soil is darker in color and sticks to your finger, your plant should be fine for the time being.

Always use tepid water to water your plant! Water directly into the soil, around the base of the plant. Never water directly on top of the plant, as most plants do not absorb water through their leaves*. Let the potting soil soak up the water for half a day or so, then empty any remaining water from the saucer.

*Epiphytes, like the air plants (Tillandsia spp.) flanking the cacti below, are an exception to this tip. 

4.​ ​Increase​ ​humidity​ ​when​ ​necessary

For plants that prefer more humid conditions such as ferns, ivies, or some tropical plants, don’t be afraid to mist them using a small spray bottle in​-between regular waterings. During the dry months of winter, grouping your plants together also helps to create a more humid microclimate. A humidifier can help, too, and is an added bonus for your skin!

Keep in mind that drought-tolerant plants like succulents and cacti do not need added humidity – they don’t mind being dry! In fact, their native habitat – the desert – is pretty damn dry, and that’s how they like it. Misting them will do more harm than good.

Keeping a houseplant’s native environment in mind should always apply to your plant care routine. You are trying to recreate that environment inside your home to help your plant thrive. Most tropical plants prefer high humidity and bright to moderate, indirect light; while most desert dwellers prefer dry air and bright, direct light (there’s no shade in the desert!).

5.​ ​Keep​ ​your​ ​plant’s​ ​environment​ ​as​ ​stable​ ​as​ ​possible 

Plants, just like us, are most comfortable between 65 and 75 degrees F. Extreme fluctuation in a plant’s environment can seriously stress them out. Do your best to avoid placing your plant near temperature hazards like vents, radiators and exterior doors, which might create hot or cold spots and drafts.

6.​ ​It’s​ ​totally​ ​OK​ ​to​ ​skip​ ​fertilizer 

If you’re a plant novice, it’s OK to stay away from fertilizer. Too much fertilizer is another easy way to kill your plant. Plants get their minerals from the soil, and their food from the sun. Houseplants tend to not need fertilizer as often as outdoor plants do, and it is possible to have a healthy houseplant without additives. If you do choose to fertilizer your plant, it’s best to only do so during the growing season (early spring to early fall) and follow the general rule of thumb ‘less is more’. Most store-​bought fertilizers should be diluted with water before use.

Find our top 5 tips for fertilizing houseplants HERE.

7.​ ​Purchase​ ​a​ ​healthy​ ​plant​ ​from​ ​a​ ​reputable​ ​source 

Do your best to buy a quality plant from someone or somewhere with a little expertise. In most cases, you’ll want to stay away from larger department stores and supermarkets, where plants are stored in basements and dark warehouses, and instead stick to your local nurseries, garden centers, and specialty stores or florists. Definitely give your plant a once-​over before purchasing: watch out for yellowed leaves, powdery mildew, leaf spots, brown leaf tips, weak or wobbly stems and other obvious signs of poor plant health.

An added bonus of purchasing from a source with plant expertise – they can answer all your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask, either. Most people who sell or work with plants, love talking about them! (We definitely do.

8.​ ​Show​ ​a​ ​little​ ​extra​ ​TLC​ ​in​ ​the​ ​beginning 

Show your plant a little extra attention in the beginning of your plantship. When you bring a new plant home for the first time, establish a routine of checking in with it every 3 to 4 days to ensure it’s looking happy and healthy. A little extra attention can go a long way – and it can be pretty therapeutic, we promise. Slight environmental changes can cause fluctuations in the frequency of your care, so best not to just assume “every Monday is watering day for all my plants.”

Besides, it’s nice to check in and say “hello!” to your plant every few days. Watching it adapt and grow in its new environment can be fulfilling, even if you are not a first-time plant parent.

9.​ ​Do​ ​not​ ​be​ ​afraid​ ​to​ ​repot 

A common misconception – repotting does not necessarily mean putting your plant in a new planter, but rather, changing out your plant’s soil with fresh potting mix. This is because plants receive some of the nutrients they need to thrive from their soil. This is great news if you love your current planter.

If you’re looking to splurge on a new one to change up a space’s decor, or if you plant needs a little more wiggle room, try to choose a planter that is no more than 2 to 4 inches larger than the current planter, depending on your plant’s current size. You do not want your plant swimming in soil! Excess soil can lend itself to overwatering, and eventually root rot.

Find our signs you need to repot your plants, and steps for how-to, HERE.

10.​ ​Make​ ​sure​ ​your​ ​planter​ ​has​ ​drainage​ ​–​ ​or​ ​create​ ​it

Most plants are sold in plastic grow pots, which are not meant for long-term growth. More often than not, the plant has already overgrown it’s plastic pot at the nursery, and needs to be repotted into something more substantial. We recommend picking a planter slightly larger in size than the plant’s current grow pot, in a reliable material like ceramic, terra cotta, or fiberglass.

If your plant’s new planter does not have a drainage hole at the bottom of it to allow excess water to escape from the potting soil – it is extremely important to create makeshift drainage. You can do this by lining the bottom of your planter with rocks to create crevices for the water to drain into. Here at The Sill, we use lava rocks because of their porous nature. This added precaution helps you from overwatering your plants in the long run.

But most importantly, remember to have fun! Being a plant parent should be a positive experience. Enjoy learning about your new plants, caring for them, and watching them grow.

Questions about your particular plants? Email our help hotline at help@thesill.com










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


September 11, 2017


Myth: “I am all good because I set a once-a-week watering reminder on my Google Calendar to remind myself to water my plants…” 

When it comes to houseplants – being methodical can actually be detrimental. Nature is a variable. For example, it doesn’t rain in the desert on the first Thursday of every month. It is more about the average rain over time – that forms your plant’s native climate, and your goal is to recreate that climate to help your plant thrive. The golden rule? Water only when the soil is dry, and you can’t go wrong. (It’s better to underwater than overwater!)

If you are guilty of over-caring for your houseplants like I am – with a coffee in one hand and watering can in the other every morning – try a variety of Ferns! They love moisture – and can handle a bit of overwatering, as long as the soil dries out somewhat. This plant may also be a good starter for new plant parents because of their easy going personality.

Meet our Fern picks here: Staghorn Fern , Birds Nest Fern

Find previous Monday Plant Myths HERE.


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


August 28, 2017

Moisture managing soil is often soil that’s higher in peat and sphagnum content – which means that it holds onto water for longer. Here at The Sill, we’ve found that ‘moisture managing’ soil, although meant to be helpful, can do more harm than good. It can become a problem for your plant’s health when the soil surrounding its roots holds too much water for too long, especially for plants that prefer a dry environment like succulents. It is also extremely easy to overwater plants that are potted in moisture-managing potting soil! Generally speaking, we actually recommend not using it for your houseplants – but will make exceptions for plants that prefer to stay moist, like some types of ferns. Another thing to note – the moisture-holding ability can set up a perfect breeding ground for fungus gnats, and who really wants those hanging around their plants? Not us! Best to stick with regular ‘ole indoor potting soil when it comes to your house – and office – plants. 

Find previous Monday Plant Myths HERE.




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


August 21, 2017

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.


#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!




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


August 14, 2017

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.




#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!