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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care

Winter Plant Care

December 13, 2017

Plants are super keen on seasonal changes, and have different needs in the winter as compared with the summer.  In the winter, the sun is setting (much) earlier, swinging lower in the sky, and is often covered with clouds. Although your plants are inside, these changes will impact them. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Mind the drafts – A temperature flux or draft can seriously stress your plants out.  Some plants are extra sensitive to drafts, and will immediately decline if it gets in the low 60’s (I’m looking at you, Tillandsia!)  Keep your plants away from heating units, radiators, fires, and from open windows or front doors that might create drafts.  Remember, if its chilly for you, it’s chilly for your plants! 

Dormancy – In the winter, the days are short- so short that most tropical plants will enter a phase of dormancy from October to February.  Because of this,  it is important to tweak your watering schedule. Allow soil to dry out completely between waterings.  This may mean waiting longer between waterings, or reducing the amount given (but try not to do both at once unless absolutely necessary).  If you know your plant prefers humid conditions, like the Bird’s Nest Fern, mist it weekly so it stays moist but not soaked. Soaked soil can lead to root rot. 

Put away the fertilizer – Give your plant a much deserved break. 

Sunlight – If your plants are leaning towards their light source, gradually rotate them to help them straighten up.  PROTIP: If your plants are spindly and reaching for the light, that means that they are not getting enough light. 

Dust – Dust off leaves bi-weekly.  Closed windows during the winter increases dust and indoor pollution.  Dust and dirt build-up can reduce the amount of light getting to your plant – which can be detrimental when days are short!  To combat extreme build-up, use water with a drop or two of lemon juice or household soap and a soft cloth.

Artificial lighting – Consider supplemental lighting.  The secret sauce?  It’s all in the bulb!  You can use any fixture so long as it’s 1-3 feet from the plant that needs it.  Although there are many lightbulbs on the market, how do you know which is good for you?  Go for a bulb that has >850 lumens of output, ideally in white. Either CFL or LED will do, but plants tend to respond to CFL better (until LED tech gets better).

Winter travel  If you’re travelling, and you’re worried about the plants getting too dry, you can simply move them away from sources of heat including the window.  Temporary light deficit while you’re gone will cause the plant to use less water.  Find more vacation plant care tips here

Some dieback is OK – With less light, plants will drop their leaves to compensate.  If light is food for plants, less light means less food, which means that the plant can’t feed all of its leaves.  Therefore it makes an executive decision to drop them.  However, your plant may have grown to a summer size during the summer, and is now dying back, but not completely dying off.  That is just the plant adjusting to the level of food that it is receiving.  PROTIP: If you know (or sense) that your plant is overgrown, you can pull off a few leaves anywhere to force the plant to not drop any extra leaves.  This is useful for keeping the plant fuller and bushier, as opposed to leggy. 

If you keep your plants happy during the winter, they have a bonus effect  studies have shown indoor plants combat SAD (Seasonal-Affective Disorder).  If you feel seasonal depression or seasonal moodiness, plants are proven to help reduce that stress and anxiety, and even bring happiness to offices, workspaces, and even homes! 

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

Jesse Goldfarb, Plant Artist, @teenytinyterra

December 12, 2017

Our newest installment in our Tastemaker series features Canada-based plant artists – Jesse Goldfarb, aka @teenytinyterra! We came across his whimsical terrariums that he builds and wanted to know more about where his inspiration comes from. Check out our Q&A with Jesse below! photo via David Pike

Name: Jesse Goldfarb
Location: Toronto, Canada
Occupation: Plant Artist/Digital Marketer [at Hudson’s Bay]
Favorite plant:
Oh, great question. I go through little crushes with plants, but always find my way back to our
family’s Dwarf Barbados Cherry Bonsai. Making it happy enough to bloom is a fine art that is
rewarded with the sweet smell of hundreds of tiny cherry blossoms. When I first met my wife,
she had two bonsai and that’s what got me seriously into plants.

Can you share a little bit of background about yourself?
Sure. I grew up in Toronto. At school I was always bored; I wanted to do things rather than sit
around learning about the people who did them. My professional life has included a lot of
different jobs –– I’ve worked as a large-format screen printer, an apprentice to a corporate
events florist, a cold caller selling ads (which was actually fun), a DJ at raves and clubs (in my
heyday when I was way too young to be out all night), and spent too long in the salon industry
listening to stylists who believed they were saving the world. I ran social channels for mid-size
apparel companies before I started my current role in digital marketing. Now I do that during
the day, and play with plants evenings and weekends. I have a wonderfully patient wife and
daughter and another daughter on the way.

Can you share a little bit about your Instagram feed, @teenytinyterra?
@teenytinyterra is an outlet for me to share my creativity with terrariums, plants, moss and
everything tiny. I like to have fun with it and keep things fresh. 90% of my posts are shot from a
lighting shelf I installed aquarium lights on. As my plants are all very small, using this platform
makes it easy to move things around and create a different feel for each photo. My south-
facing kitchen windowsill is also a favorite spot for shooting, as the light is perfect for two hours
every day. (Timing a quick shoot using natural light is always a juggling act with a young family.)

What’s a secret skill you have?
I can whistle five different ways? Is that a skill? (Editor’s note: YES!)

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?
When I turned 18, my dad took me out for a birthday dinner with my grandparents. After the
main course he gave me a tiny model of a vintage Vespa. I thought it was great and all, but then
he threw me a set of keys to a full-size 1967 Vespa. It was a dream to drive when it worked
(which was 60% of the time). My love for both miniatures and Vespas began that day. Now I
own a 2005 150 cc Vespa. Every model manufactured after that year doesn’t seem to have the
brand’s classic look and feel.

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?
If I was alone I’d grab a picture of my mother. She died when I was four years old and all I have
to remember her are some photos. If I was home with the fam, I’d throw them over my shoulder and jet out the door. I assume you want me to say plants, but they came from the earth and would be happy to feed other plants as ash.

What’s on your to-do list today?
Booking our family holiday to our favorite place in Mexico, Azul Fives, cleaning up after a
terrarium workshop I held over the weekend, watering plants, going ice skating with my
daughter, making bread pudding for a work event called Bakemas, and watching Christmas
movies on the couch with a few strong rum and eggnogs.

Do you have a “green thumb”?
Yes, but I believe everyone does. It’s about how much you want to invest in making your thumb
green, not if you naturally have one. When people say “I kill everything” it’s actually due to a
lack of interest.

Any plant care tips you can share?

  • Easy on the water, bro! Think of it this way: a person can live close to a week without water, but they’d die if submerged for more than three minutes. Your plants need air too, so don’t
    drown them.
  • Know your space and the light within it… Buy plants to suit that light.
  • Don’t buy a plant without knowing how much light it needs. It’s easier to adjust other conditions, but not as easy to adjust light.
  •  If you name your plants or dress up a dog, it’s time to start thinking about having a kid.

What tops your houseplant wish list?
More space and better light.
By the way, where do you shop for plants?
Sheridan Nurseries, Vallyview Gardens, Kim’s Nature and Plant World.

Favorite hobby: Cooking; Plants
Favorite television show: Currently? Stranger Things
Favorite movie: Cronos
Favorite food: Burrito (Duh, it has all four food groups)
Favorite weekend activity: Chilling with the family
Favorite home decor store: Thrift stores

Thank you so much, Jesse! Follow his Instagram page here if you would like. 

P.S Check out how Jesse builds a terrarium here under 24 seconds (not really though ;)).

P.P.S You can find more of our tastemaker series here, including plant time-lapse master @houseplantjournaland the lovely plant couple @warsawjungle

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

YOU MUST FERTILIZE YOUR HOUSEPLANTS ALL YEAR ROUND – PLANY MYTH MONDAY #13

November 17, 2017


MONDAY 11.13.17 MYTH: You must fertilize your houseplants all year round

All plants, like all humans, need vitamins and minerals to grow big and strong!  When plants are in the wild, they have plenty of access to the world, and a theoretically infinite supply of nutrients (the Earth is an isolated system, so not actually infinite).  However, when growing plants in a container, they are essentially stranded on a desert isle with no real means of going beyond the pot.  And that’s where you come in (hello plant parents)!  

Plants that you just purchase on a whim are usually heavily fertilized by the growers. They are good to stay in the same pot and soil for up to a year.  Yet, as the plant exhausts its supply of nutrients in the soil over time, you must replenish them for the continued health of the plant (you probably are not aware of this, but every time you water your plant, nutrients unavoidably leach out of the soil). This can be done by either using a fertilizer of your choice, or by changing the soil with fresh soil, which comes with a baseline of nutrients.

How to Fertilize your plant

Fertilize your plants only once a month when plants are flowering or actively growing. What that mean is, you only give plant food from the spring time to end of summer time. During the winter,  plants are generally not growing much, so giving your plants fertilizer can only do more harm then good. Also, be careful not to add too much fertilizer at once—too much can burn your plant’s roots! Finally, read the instructions carefully before you apply any fertilizer. We usually recommend applying half the strength that the label suggests. Also keep in mind that faster growing plants, like a pothos, will want more frequent applications than slow growers, like a snake plant.

Things to keep in mind

Fertilizers are not your cure-all! If you see a plant is wilting, yellowing, or browning, it may be a telltale sign of a problem. Take the time to analyze the symptoms before you feed the plant food. Think of your vitamins, you wouldn’t take extra so that you can cure your toothache, right?  Adding fertilizer when a plant does not need it, or when a plant is actually sick, can be worse than doing nothing at all.

Fertilizer will only work on healthy plants, or plants that need the extra oomph 😉 Do you have any tips when it comes to fertilizer? Please share it with us in the comment below.

P.S Read more debunked Plant Myth Monday HERE.

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Houseplant Tastemakers, How-to, Interview, Plants on TV

Liz Kirby, Host and Author, The Indoor Garden

November 8, 2017

For our latest tastemaker series, we are so honor to introduce you to Liz Kirby. We were first introduced to her by a fellow workshop attendant, we were soon hooked on Liz’s genuine personality and informative plant care tips on her Youtube channels. Liz was in the plant world before the #urbanjubgle was even a thing. She is the plant lady you definitely don’t want to miss out! 

Meet Liz

 Name:  Liz Kirby

Location:  Arlington, VA

Occupation:  Realtor, Host of “The Indoor Garden” TV series and Author of the corresponding blog

Favorite Plant:  I have such a great appreciation, in general, for all plants that I just can’t say that I have a favorite. I have favored Aralias and orchids for my home.                                         

Can you share a little bit of background about yourself?   Like many eighteen-year-olds,   I did not know what I would want to study in college. Fortunately, after I graduated from high school, a friend of mine who sold wholesale plants from Florida had the thought that I might enjoy a job in a plant store and he found one for me.  So I did that instead of getting a college degree. I truly enjoyed working there with great people who taught me a lot about indoor plants. I ended up working in the horticulture and floriculture field for twenty-five years.

For those who haven’t watched The Indoor Garden on YouTube, can you share a little bit about the series?  The idea was conceived around 1988. For a long time, I felt that the general public did not get very good specific instructions on growing houseplants. There were some books but  sometimes they just got vague or even wrong instructions. Lots of good experience and a few good  books were my best teacher.  I met many customers who truly believed they could not grow plants and I was sure they could. I thought doing a television series on the care and appreciation of indoor plants would be a great way to share what I had learned. It aired for three years on a local PBS station. When YouTube came along I saw the opportunity to share plant care all over again. The show was videotaped but translates pretty well to a digital format.

What’s a secret skill you have?   I don’t think I have any that I would keep a secret. One skill I have and wish I used more, is that I can very easily come up with a harmony to many songs. It’s one skill I couldn’t teach, it just comes naturally.

What’s the best present you’ve given or received?   Friendship

If your space was on fire, what’s the first thing you’d grab to save?   The living things

What’s on your to-do list today?   Some housekeeping, getting the hummingbird feeder out, finding a rental apartment for a lovely woman from New Jersey and to catch up on correspondence

What is your favorite plant and why?  It’s difficult to pinpoint one but since I began learning about them, I’ve thought that ferns were amazing. They make you think. As best we know, they have lived on the earth longer than just about any other group of plants. You can find them all over the world. They appear somewhat delicate and fragile, but are they?

Do you have a “green thumb”?  I do now. I had to cultivate it, so that enabled me to encourage others that they could too. I heard many times from others that they did not have a ‘green thumb” and I just don’t accept that. I truly believe anyone who wants to, can develop that skill.

Any plant care tips you can share?  Watering plants once a week is not a good rule of thumb. It’s usually best to start out with hardier varieties if you are just beginning to learn how to grow plants. Get good instructions and look for an expert if your plant is not doing well. Most plants will recover and thrive with the right instructions.  

What tops your houseplant wish list?  If I had the space, I would love a cymbidium orchid.

How did The Indoor Garden television series start?   I befriended a television producer who had a local TV series airing in the area. I had the thought that a television series could be a great way to teach what I had learned about indoor plants, so I started looking into how to make that possible.

Do you have a favorite episode or show memory?  I especially enjoyed having guests on the show. It was quite easy to work with them.

Do you think there’s been a resurgence interest of houseplants recently?  It seems to be going that way. There are many different types of retail outlets and online places that have been selling plants for a long time. I do believe they’d stop if interest was low.

Any words of advice for plant novices?   Don’t give up if you aren’t very successful at first. There are many easy-to-grow plants and you may want to buy your first plants at a plant store, garden center or nursery where someone should be informed enough to help you choose a plant that suits you. For example, a busy person may want a large plant that doesn’t need water often. Make sure your plants are placed in the best light situation for your particular plant. Find out how to water them properly.  Those two aspects of care, light and correct watering, are most important to success.

Thank you so much, Liz!

PS: Check out more of our tastemakers series here 

 

 

 

How-to, Plant Care, Plant History

Daylight Savings Time 101

November 2, 2017

It’s getting to be that time of the year again – that unofficial holiday called Daylight Savings Time (DST). Often, it catches us off-guard, when our digital clocks reset themselves, but our bodies are still programmed to get up at what was the same time.

Ever wonder why we change the clocks in the first place?  

DST was proposed by multiple thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th century, each with their own spin on the concept, but the goal remained the same – to “save” daylight by resetting the clocks so that we can utilize the most sunlight in our day. Although towns in Canada had been implementing DST independently since 1908, the Austria-Hungarian Empire was the first to nationally implement DST in 1916, two years into WWI. Other powers soon followed suit. It is thought that energy is saved by maximizing the use of daylight, by making people get up later in winter (setting the clocks backwards) when the sun rises later, and getting up earlier in spring (setting them forwards) when the sun rises earlier. 

However, there is much controversy over DTS. Opponents claim that since the average person is up for 16 hours a day on average anyway, the time they will be up in the daytime includes when the sun will be up, and that one hour does not make any difference in average energy usage. They also argue that if we simply leave the clocks forward to maximize summer light, that it will work for winter as well without a need to turn the clocks back since the days are so short. Since there has never been any real statistics measuring the efficacy of energy savings, we may never know whether or not DST really does save energy… 

So, the burning question – how does this relate to plants? It is a reminder for those of us who live in temperate zones that the seasons are changing, and that the amount of sunlight is changing too. The sun swings lower in the sky during winter, but the sun is actually becoming more intense! That’s because during winter in the northern hemisphere, the earth is actually closer to the sun than in the summertime. So if we’re closer to a huge burning fireball, why is winter so cold? Well, that’s because angles matter! The earth’s tilting the northern hemisphere away from the sun deflects enough of the sun’s rays to keep the northern hemisphere cold. In the southern hemisphere, the summers are much more intense, being both closer and angled towards the sun. That’s why there are a lot of regions in the southern hemisphere that are not temperate – the summers are much hotter, and the winters, much drier. 

In any case, no matter where you are, be mindful of the changing position of the sun, and adjust plant positions accordingly! Winterize for drafts, and mind your watering as well. If your plants start to drop a leaf or two, take it as an opportunity to give your plant a little more attention then usual, and figure out if it’s just seasonal shedding, lack of light, or a watering issue. 

Plant questions? Shoot our houseplant hotline an email at help@thesill.com! Make sure to include photos if your question is plant-specific.

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care

Why Your Plant Is Dropping Leaves

November 1, 2017

Does your world stop when your plant drops a leaf or two? 

It is important to keep in mind that for some plants, like the infamous Fiddle Leaf Fig, that leaf drop is a cause for concern, but for other plants, like a Euphorbia, it is nothing to be concerned about. Knowing whether or not leaf shedding is a healthy part of your plant’s lifecyle is important. Some plants seasonally shed leaves, some shed leaves all the time, and some never shed! Many of the tropical houseplants will shed a leaf or two every once in awhile. And some houseplants, like Euphorbs, will shed leaves seasonally, as will temperate plants.

There are also certain situations where plants will shed leaves under stress due to environmental conditions. When a plant is stressed, the leaves will senesce (from the Latin, senex, to age), or fall off to help the plant achieve homeostatic balance.

Let’s explore leaf drop due to insufficient light first:

We may think of leaves as units of production, like plant sugar factories, but just like any other factory, the workers need to be fed! Leaf cells consume about half to two-thirds of the sugars that they make. Photosynthesis alone costs 18 ATP (ATP is the energy currency of the cell) plus two NADPH to generate 36 ATP’s-worth of energy.

ATP = Adenosine triphosphate

NADPH = Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate

Although this is a gain, consider that the cell uses most of the gained ATP very quickly, just to sustain itself! The problem with leaves is that although they capture energy to make sugars for the rest of the plant, they are also expensive to maintain.

So, the plant runs into problems if the light dissipates, or if the plant receives less light than it is used to. It has all these hungry leaf cells, but there is not enough light to support them. The plant makes an executive decision to drop the leaf.

Although this might happen quickly in your eyes – “I woke up and my fiddle had dropped 2 leaves!” – it’s a slow process. The plant first needs to suck out all the minerals and nutrients from that leaf and redistribute them throughout the rest of the plant. The leaf will turn yellow, as chlorophyll degrades and photosynthesis shuts down, and may crisp from the edges inwards, those cells being the first to go.

It should be noted that different plants will drop leaves in different ways in response to light. Generally, they will drop random leaves to thin themselves out if not receiving enough light to achieve homeostasis- the idea being that by thinning out the bushiness, more light will hit all the leaves that are left.  The plant will stop dropping leaves when the plant is able to sustain the amount of leaves that are left. A good way to keep a plant bushy and full if it’s dropping leaves is to pull off healthy leaves from the bottom of the plant in order to take away the leaves that the plant cannot support so that it does not randomly drop leaves. This is applicable to all plants that you want to keep bushy if you cannot increase the light!

Another reason for leaf drop can be overwatering:

Overwatering is a common reason for a plant to drop a leaf but not by choice. When soil is too wet for too long, water rushes into the cells, which causes them to swell and sometimes burst. This damage continues up the vascular system, bursting cells, as the excess water has nowhere to go, and finds its way up to the leaves!

This explains why the bottom leaves are generally the first to yellow when a plant is overwatered – the lower leaves are the first to be hit by the deluge of water. The cells flood, changing the pH, and diluting the cells, causing them to yellow and turn slightly transparent, while being bloated and mushy. The cells die from the petiole (leaf stalk) outwards, and in the early stages, the outer parts of the leaves might still be green. If left to continue, the stem will likely become mushy and lose its structural integrity, causing the plant to mush over and collapse. Sometimes, the stem will blacken at the base, and mold fungi (different from mushroom fungi) may be seen at the base as well.

Some plants like cacti or succulents have adapted to dry environments, and are adapted to actually sponge as much water as possible – making overwatering them quite easy and dangerous to them. Others have adaptations for wet environments, like ferns which have primitive vascular systems, or mosses, which have no vascular system at all, making overwatering quite difficult, as all of these plants have adapted to allowing as much water as possible to flow through them.

Which brings us to another reason for leaf drop – dryness:

For the opposite extreme – dryness – plants will behave differently based on how many succulent adaptations they have, as well as their general structure.

For all non-woody/non-fibrous plants, turgor pressure (water pressure) is what holds a plant up! Plants do not have skeletons, and instead use well-managed turgor pressure to keep upright. They’re basically a water balloon. Too much water and they burst. Too little, and they shrivel.

When there is not enough water, the cells shrivel, and the plasma membrane pulls back from the cell walls, causing weakness, which on a macro-level causes drooping.

Water escapes the plant through the stomata, or plant pores, through a process called transpiration. Transpiration is the process where sunlight and heat evaporate water from the plant through the stomata, and pull water through the plant, like a big straw. When a plant has been getting a lot of sunlight, transpiration will pull water from the soil until is depleted, and when there is no more water, the plant will dry out and wilt. ALL leaves will droop or curl upwards and inwards, and that droopiness/curling will progress into the leaves crisping at the edges, with the crispiness working its way inwards.

Note that salt stress mimics this, as an imbalance of salts will cause the same symptoms, but generally with more burning.  In any case, with dryness, depending on the plant, the leaves may turn yellow too, but a paler yellow than they would turn for overwatering. This is caused by the slow denaturing and degradation of the pigments, with the cell structures and fibers intact.

In more succulent plants, wilting will actually manifest itself as wrinkling – the thickened leaves are so waxy and fortified that they cannot wilt, but they can crenate or wrinkle. Some semi-succulent plants like Dracaenas, will both crisp at the leaf’s edges and shrivel at the leaf’s base. Others like cacti will just shrivel at the base. For succulent plants like the cacti, it is wise if one is inexperienced with watering to wait until they shrivel, and then soak them for only one day then leave them out in the sun to dry, to avoid overwatering.

So next time your houseplant drops a leaf or two outside of its usual shedding, take it as an opportunity to check in with your plant: is it receiving less light than usual? Have you been too heavy on the watering? Is it super dry in your apartment? 

Plant questions? Shoot our houseplant hotline an email at help@thesill.com! Make sure to include photos if your question is plant-specific.

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

Houseplants Don’t Need Sunlight – PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #11

October 30, 2017

MONDAY 10.23.17 MYTH: Houseplants don’t need sunlight

Absolutely not true – saying houseplants don’t need sunlight is like saying humans do not need food to grow. Sunlight is food to plants. And food is energy that plants need to grow bigger and stronger. However, how much sunlight does your plant need? How much sunlight is enough

I am sure you have heard people saying “bright light”, “medium light”, and “low light” before, along with “direct light” and “indirect right”, when talking about houseplants. But what are these terms referring to? See their simplified definitions below:

Bright/Direct Light

Bright light, or full sun, means there are no curtains or blinds between the plant and the sunny window. There’s no tree, building, or anything outside the window to obstruct the light either. For example, the windowsill that’s right next to your widow is generally where your plant will receive the most light inside.

Medium/Filtered light

Medium or filtered sunlight is diffused by your curtains in the window. There also might be a building in front of your widows blocking some of your light during the day. Coffee tables or dressers that are few feet away is another example of medium light and a filtered light environment.

Low light

This means no direct sun will touch your plants. It is generally few feet a way from your widow (light source), or sometimes in a room without window with only artificial light.

Test

When in doubt, you can always do a shadow test to determine how much light your environment actually provides. Take a sheet of paper and put it where you would like to have your plant around mid-day on a sunny day. Now hold your hand a foot or so over the paper. If you see a clear, sharp shadow, that means you have a bright light environment. Like how you go to the beach and your shadow is vivid and clear on the sandy ground. On the other hand, you probably have a low light environment if the shadow is fuzzy and indistinguishable. Image on raining days when you can barely see your shadow walking down the street.

Plants

Aloes, succulents, and palm trees – are sun loving plants. Ideally, they should be getting direct sun for at least 6 hours a day. Generally speaking, you would want to put them the brightest spot you have at home. For example, your windowsills or coffee table that’s right next to your window.And some plants – like ferns and aroid plants (monsteras, aglaonemas, etc.) – have evolved to live on the forest floor, so they are used to being shaded from the sun. They have not evolved to handle the harsh rays of the sun directly and cannot protect themselves against them (like desert-dwelling cacti can). These types of plants, that prefer indirect light similar to their native environment, are perfect for inside spots away from windows. Hence, the medium or low light environment is great.

Remember sunlight is food for plants. When bringing a new plant home, make sure you understand how much natural sunlight your space can provide, and visa versa, how much natural sunlight your plant needs. In ideal situations, as in nature, a little bit of natural sunlight, even just a splash of light, is always better than none!  No natural light = no happy plants.

PS: Read more debunked Plant Myth Monday here, including where you put your plants and how much water to give your plants.

#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

All Soil Is Created Equally– PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #11

October 23, 2017

MONDAY 10.23.17 MYTH: All soil is created equally

The day when I purchased my first plant – a succulent – I armed myself with a bucket and a digger, and headed to my city-dwelling courtyard to start poking the ground. I made repotting a mission since I rewarded myself a pretty designer planter. In the middle of the sweat, a senior neighbor struck up a conversation on how nice to see young people caring about plants nowadays. I gently corrected her, telling her all my efforts were only for a small succulent I just bought and was uber excited about. She surprisingly laid down the law – that no indoor plants should be living in dirt. Dirt? Indoor plants? I was perplexed- don’t all plants live in dirt? 

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between soil, potting mix, and dirt? Does it matter which one you use for indoor plants?

Image via Online

Soil VS. Potting Mix

Potting mix:

AKA potting soil is in fact not real soil from the earth. Instead, it’s a fine mixture made from compost such as bark, peat moss, perlite, and other ingredients.  In addition, it is low in mineral content and microbial diversity – but needs to be that way. Because potting mix is mainly used for indoor plants.

Soil:

On the other hands, is a rich medium that is rich in nutrients and microbes from the mother nature. Soil is what you see on the ground, in the park, or use in outdoor gardens mostly. Soil outside is the result of hundreds of years of erosion of rocks and a little bit of organic matter. Soil outside also contains insects and possibly plant pathogens that you won’t want to have indoors.

Other Media 

Dirt:

I don’t know about you, but I often confused the difference between soil and dirt. Frankly, I used it interchangeably. Little did I know that dirt is dead soil, basically. When you hold dirt in your hand, the consistency is often rocky and silty. In addition, dirt lacks beneficial nutrients and microorganisms that healthy plants need and thrive on.

Compost:

Compost is the decayed organic material and should only be used when it has broken down completely. Compost will often look dark and have a rich, earthy smell. In addition, it is used as a fertilization for garden soil, not meant to replace your regular soil or potting mix.

What media should you use? 

What media you use really depends on where you grow your plants. For example, you want to use a potting mix to grow plants, herbs, and vegetables that are indoors. Whereas soil is best for any outdoor planting, such as your garden. Why? You wouldn’t want to use soil for any potted plants indoors because soil is so heavy that it will make your containers much heavier than if you use a potting mix. Your indoor plants need good air circulation in their roots system. Using soil in a planter is often too heavy and compact, not allowing for plant roots to spread, and not allowing for moisture to penetrate the soil. As a result, diseases and bacterias can easily creep on your plant and attack it – your plant may die.

In addition, different plants sometimes will prefer different potting mix made up. For example, a succulent, snake plant, or aloe will like a media that is more porous, such as perlite, that water can run through quickly and not hold as much water. (We all know how they prefer to be on the dry side, right?) On the other hand, ferns and mini terrarium plants will prefer a medium with more peat.  Since it helps the soil to stay uniformly moist, which is what most tropical plants prefer.

The bottom line is potting mix is different from the soil outside! Remember, it’s best to use potting mix for any indoor plants. Use one that gives your plant roots the preferred air, moisture, and nutrition balance it needs. Oh, and if you are wondering what happened to my first succulent, it died after a few month because I used soil. Lesson learned!

PS: Not sure what kind of potting soil to buy? Email us at help@thesill.com.

PPS: Read more plant knowledge here, including know where to put your plants, and find the correct size planter for your plants

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Behind The Scenes, How-to, Style Tips

Halloween Costume Inspiration

October 18, 2017

Can you believe it’s mid-October already? We barely can! With Halloween less than two weeks away, we decided to round up a few of our favorite costume ideas from around the web. The only requirements? They have to be budget-friendly, plant-themed, and easy to DIY!

Our favorite is this classic Cactus Costume by Studio DIY. All you need is a green dress, some yarn, and a glue gun (or thread & needle). If it’s a bit chilly on come October 31st – simply add green leggings, or swap the form-fitting dress for an oversized hoodie and comfy sweats!

Dressing up with a buddy? Equally as charming is Studio DIY’s Pineapple Costume! Did you know the pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a bromeliad from the family Bromeliaceae? That’s the same family as air plants (Tillandsia). It is the only bromeliad that is a commercially important food crop. Most other bromeliads are grown simply for their good looks!

Have a little more time on your hands? The Houseplant Costume by Oh Happy Day below is slightly more involved then the two above… but oh so impressive! Added bonus – keep your candy away from greedy hands by adding a hidden pouch inside your burlap basket!

We’re thinking those crepe paper fronds (looks almost like a bird’s nest fern to us!) could be swapped for construction paper, whose sturdier shape would lend itself to some awesome oversized Monstera deliciosa leaves! Or opt for the real thing.

Looking for a creative costume with a bit more room to move around? This Potted Plant Hat by the super duper crafty blog The House That Lars Built is for you. The plant itself is made entirely of paper, making it incredibly light-weight (and removable if your plans change). If you’re not that crafty – opt for using fake foliage from your local craft store instead.

Also deserving of a mention is The House That Lars Built’s Bouquet Costume below. This doesn’t look like the easiest thing to move around in… but if you plan to spend Halloween night relaxing on your couch like I do, it’s absolutely perfect.

And if you are the kind of person that likes to subject your pets to costumes (isn’t that the whole point of having one?) – may we present, the Chia Pet:

Adorable mug not included.

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, How-to, Interview, Plant Care

Creating an Herb Garden in Your Kitchen – by Katie Kuchta

October 4, 2017

We’re thrilled to feature a guest post by our friend, Katie Kuchta, on creating an herb garden right in your own kitchen.  Katie came to appreciate nature’s beauty through her plein air painting and finds passion in designing gardens and outdoor living spaces. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing Tai Chi on a nearby beach and taking meditative walks through forests. 

Photo via online

Transitioning into the fall weather has its ups and downs. Frequenting lawn care on the weekends to prepare for a lush yard in the springtime and the dwindling sadness of cleaning out your garden bed. Gardening doesn’t have to end there!

You can do one of two things or both– utilize your freshly cleaned out garden bed for quick growing vegetables or bring the gardening indoors. Lettuce is easy to grow and with some varieties can keep the cold where the winters are mild. If you prefer to bring the garden indoors instead of bearing the chill to exercise your green-thumb, try growing something similar and rewarding like fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs will add zest to the most ordinary of meals. Dried herbs are good enough, but there is no comparison to the vibrant scent and flavor of fresh herbs. Besides, when have you ever been satisfied with “good enough” in your culinary artistry?

There are no fresher herbs than those that you grow at home, let alone in your own kitchen. Not only is it easy to establish and maintain your indoor herb garden, but it’s also an extremely satisfying way of exercising your green thumb year-round. Here are some tips on bringing the outside in by creating an herb garden right in your kitchen!

Let there be light

Photo via online

Of course you want your herb garden in the kitchen where you can reach over and snip the fresh herbs as you cook, but if there is not enough light in the kitchen, an herb garden in any other room works just as well.

Herbs need as much natural light as possible—at least four to five hours of sun a day. Four seasons rooms and rooms with a skylight or larger windows work best. Windows with south or southwest sunlight exposure is ideal, but windows facing the east or west work fine as well.

None of those in your home? Purchase grow lights and position them so that they light the area over your herbs for four to six hours a day. No matter how your herbs receive light, remember to turn them regularly for even exposure and growth.

Keep the herbs comfy

Photo via online

Indoor herbs prefer the same temperatures that most people do— around 65 to 70 degrees F. If you’re comfortable, they probably are too. At night, the temperature near a window may drop to 55 or 60, most herbs are okay with that, just don’t let foliage touch the cold glass. It will turn brown and the plant can die from thermal shock.

Herbs find it difficult to deal with dry air, whether it’s from air conditioning or heating. They’ll appreciate a weekly shower with lukewarm water. Put the pots in the sink, spray them gently but thoroughly and let them drip dry.

Pot and Plant

Photo credit: dogeared (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Now that you’ve found the right spot, select the pots. You may automatically head for clay pots, but they dry out quickly, a real problem in dry climates or when the heater is on in the winter. Stick with glazed or plastic pots. They are better for your herbs, in particular– the glazed pots are so beautifully made that they add another dimension to your home’s décor. Be sure that the pots have drainage holes.

Use a fast-draining potting mix with perlite or vermiculite rather than garden soil to keep the soil loose and aerated. You will need good drainage and protection for your window sill or table top. Place the potted plants on a saucer, liner, or drain pan to catch the drainage.

Photo credit: online

Herbs to start with
When taking care of herbs indoors, it’s best to start with established plants rather than seeds. You’ll have herbs months sooner.

  • Basil: “Genovese” for classic aroma and flavor or “Siam Queen” for a more exotic spicy flavor.
  • Chervil: Also known as French parsley, with delicate overtones of anise.
  • Chives: “Grolau” has a delicate onion flavor and loves growing by a window.
  • Cilantro: Also known as Chinese parsley, with a distinctive flavorful blend of parsley, sage, and citrus.
  • Dill: Grows best indoors. “Fernleaf” dill is an ideal compact variety.
  • Marjoram: This Mediterranean native is related to oregano, but the flavor is sweeter and more delicate.
  • Mint: Peppermint, spearmint or “English” mint—all are good choices. Each needs its own pot. They can get aggressive with other herbs.

Once your herbs are planted, they aren’t particularly demanding. The most important thing to do is to snip or prune back your herbs, once a week on average. Keeping them pruned will make them sturdier and more productive.

Thanks for the tips, Katie! Now you can exercise your green-thumb in the cooler months and enjoy your own farm-to-table herbs year-round. How amazing is that? Do you have any tips when it comes to growing herbs indoors? Comment below! 

P.S Check out more plant care tips and tricks HERE

 

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