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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, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

All Houseplants Have the Same Watering Requirements – PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #12

November 7, 2017

MONDAY 11.6.17 MYTH: All houseplants have the same watering requirements

image via here

With over-watering being the most common cause of death for indoor plants (RIP), it is important to first understand how over-watering can kill your plants. Imagine yourself standing still in a pool of water – your feet would get prunes after 30 minutes, right? Now imagine what your skin would feel like after 3 to 6 months standing in water… Definitely not great. When the roots of a plant are surrounded by water constantly, they can’t absorb oxygen. Plants need water and oxygen to survive and thrive. But over-watering kills the plant by rotting the roots – and preventing the plant from absorbing that much-needed oxygen.

There’s no universal answer to “how much water should I give my plant?” The amount can depend on the type of plant you have, where it is located in your space, the type and size of the pot it is potted in, your environment, and so much more… But it is important to understand generally how much and how frequently your plant likes to be watered. Different plants require different care and attention, but you can usually label them within one of two categories:

Dry-tolerant Plants

Succulent plants, like the cactus, snake plant, and aloe may only want to be watered once every few weeks. During the summer growing season, the most frequently you might find yourself watering them is once every few days. But during the dormant winter, it could be once every few months! We always recommend erring on the under-watering side, than the over-watering for these guys. Once their roots are rotted, there are no going back, sadly. So it’s best to keep them super dry – and only water when they start to wrinkle. 

Moisture-loving Plants

Ferns, air plants, and most tropical plants that are natives to environments with high humidity, may need to be watered thoroughly once a week depending on how much sun they are receiving. During the peak of summer, you may even find yourself watering even more frequently, like twice of three times a week! 

The best way to know when it is time to water your indoor plants is to touch the soil, or potting mix. Poke your forefinger down about 1 to 2 inches deep. If the plant’s soil is dry to the touch, than it is generally time to re-water! But if the soil feels moist still, almost like a sponge, you can wait a little longer to water it until the soil has mostly dried out.

Make sure to water the plant until the water comes out of the bottom of the planter (if you have a drainage hole). This will guarantee that the bottom roots in the planter have gotten water as well. However, make sure to dump out any excess water that’s sitting in the saucer! Lastly, keep in mind that if a plant wilts, it doesn’t always mean it is thirsty! Yes – you should still double check the soil before giving it water.

Read more of our Monday Plant Myths HERE, including everything you need to know about your potting soil, and why you should never mist succulents!

 

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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, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

Leaf Shining Products – Plant Myth Mondays – #10

October 9, 2017

MONDAY 10.09.17 MYTH: You should use leaf-shining products

We do not recommend using leaf-shining products on your houseplants. PERIOD.

Image via Jeannie Phan

Sadly though, you can still see many commercial plant shine products on the market, or retailers who use it to beautify their plants today. So why are leaf-shining products bad news? Because they can potentially suffocate a plant by clogging its pores. Think of a leaf’s surface like your skin – you can get blemishes when you have too much residue on the surface blocking your pores. For plants, congested pores are even worse. They may even be life-threating because the plants can not properly breath and photosynthesize!

In addition, the high shine looks very artificial. It makes your living plant look almost plastic and fake. And the glossy look actually draws clouds of dust and requires more maintenance afterward. We always say that a happy plant should have healthy leaves that are free of dust and calcium residue. Learn a few easy and gentle methods to achieve that natural, shiny-leaf look that you love below:

Damp cloth

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Wet your cloth (or sponge) and wring out any excess water. Support each leaf with one hand, and wipe down away from the stem very carefully with the other. Make sure you get to the undersides too, which is where pests usually like to hide! For delicate or very small leaves, try using a soft brush.

Soap + water

Another foolproof method is to try a mixture of liquid dish detergent and water. There are two ways to do this: you can either dip a soft cloth in the concoction and wipe the leaves carefully, or lather your hands with soap/water and gently apply it to the plant. Either way, be sure to clean both the top and bottom of the leaves, because it will also help to remove pests like spider mites. Thoroughly rinse the plant and you are good to go.

Vinegar and water

Mixing vinegar with water is especially effective at getting rid of residue buildup on leaves. However, do not overdo it! This one is not meant to be part of your routine plant maintenance, but instead only when needed. Start by mixing one teaspoon of the vinegar with about a gallon of water. Then dip the cloth in your concoction – and apply to gently to your plants. An added bonus, the vinegar scent is great at repelling pests or your naughty pets!

Dusting feather 

Use a dusting feather to gently sweep through your plants’ leaves. Obviously, this one will only work on larger, leafy plants. For example, a Monstera deliciosa, ZZ plant, or Bird of Paradise. Make sure you get the undersides as well. FYI, we do not recommend this method with a fern, since you may disrupt its spores. Try using a soft makeup brush or paint brush for smaller, more delicate plants.

Keep in mind that it is imperative that you treat plants as carefully as possible when implementing any of the methods above. Steer clear of leaf-shine products, which will clog leaf pores. Keeping your plant’s leaves shiny and clean the natural way will also help to keep pests at bay. You can use this maintenance time to inspect the plant for damage, disease, or any early signs of an unhappy plant. Natural means may not leave the glossy appearance leaf shines do, but we do what’s best for our plants so they can thrive.

P.S Did you think this was awesome and informative? Then you may like more of our Plant Myth Monday Series

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

I Can Put a Plant Anywhere – PLANT MYTH MONDAYS # 9

October 2, 2017

image via Dwell

MONDAY 10.02.17 MYTH: I can put a plant anywhere 

As the temperature is dipping outside, a lot of you may be thinking about giving your houseplants a little extra love inside before winter comes. While you’re repotting, pruning, or bringing inside – you may want to consider the spot you usually place your plant for the coming months. Remember as you sadly say goodbye to summer – your plants probably feel the same way.

Today we are going to talk about why where you put your plant really matters! Especially come fall and winter…

SUNLIGHT

First thing first, 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 vice versa, how much natural sunlight your plant needs. Some questions you may want to ask yourself: how much sun does my space receive, what direction does my window(s) face, are there any obstacles outside my window blocking natural light, and so on… For example, if you have a floor-to-ceiling window, and live all the way up on 20th floor with nothing blocking your view (lucky you!), your best bet is a sun-loving plant like a succulent, parlor palm, or aloe. If you have tiny little window that faces the back of a building, you would want to try a plant that can tolerate low light, like a snake plant, marimo “moss” ball, or pothos.

HUMIDITY

The second question you need to ask yourself is, what’s the humidity level in my home like? Generally speaking, most houseplants will like slightly higher humidity level then you may like since the majority of them are native to tropical environments, like the rainforest. For example, you may want to put your ferns in a spot that’s near a water source that creates some humidity, like in a bathroom or kitchen. However, there are also plants could not care less about humidity, such as ZZ plant or succulents. You wouldn’t want to put them right next to your shower or bathtub. Best bet is to find out what your houseplant’s native environment is like – and try your best to recreate it inside your home.

TEMPERATURE

Once you nail down the sunlight and humidity, you’ll want to think about temperature. Most common houseplants prefer a stable environment! Extreme fluctuations in temperature can stress them out. Make sure you don’t place your houseplant right in front of an AC unit, radiator, or drafty window. Ask yourself, would you like to sit on a radiator or be blasted with AC all day long?  Probably not (it could make you sick!). And neither does your plant.

Be mindful of your surroundings- your plant generally likes the same temperatures that you do. “70 and sunny”, anyone? You may say, “what should I do if I only have a window right next to my radiator that’s accessible to provide enough light for my ferns?” Try to mist your plant regularly. In fact, make it a priority to do so especially in the colder months, as the radiator will dry them out considerably. 

Overall – remember that a plant is a living thing – not a piece of furniture (although aesthetically-speaking, plants can really up your decor game!). If you are overheated or freezing, so is your plant. Hate sitting in bathwater too long and getting pruny? Your plant does, too. Although plants are beautiful where you put them – you can’t place one somewhere just because it looks good. Inside pick the perfect place for them based on the sunlight, humidity, and temperature that will help them thrive (hint: a spot that mimics their native environment!) 🙂 

Find more debunked Plant Myths HERE!

 

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#PlantsMakePeopleHappy, Plant Care, Plant Myth Mondays

AIR PLANTS DON’T NEED WATER – PLANT MYTH MONDAY #8

September 26, 2017

MONDAY 09.25.17 MYTH: AIR PLANTS DON’T NEED WATER

The Tillandsia, also nicknamed the “air plant”, receives a lot of hype because of its weird, sea-creature like appearance. But how much do you really know about air plants? Do you assume they don’t need water- because they grow in the “air” instead of in a planter with potting mix like most houseplants?

Tillandsia is a genus of plants native to South and Central American and parts of the southern United States, and they have been come to known as ‘air plants’ because they can grow without soil. Most people don’t know that air plants are in the same family as the common bromeliad – Bromeliaceae! The difference is that the common bromeliad we see at our local plant shops, with big colorful leaves, grows in the soil – whereas air plants don’t. Hundreds of different air plant varieties (over 600!) grow on trees, rocks, and cliffs. Because of their natural habitats, they have adapted, and use their root system to clutch on to surrounding surfaces, rather than for absorbing water- what most plants do with their roots.

But just because they’re not absorbing water through their roots- does not mean they don’t absorb water at all. Actually, they require more water than most common houseplants! How do they receive this water? Air plants absorb most of the water and nutrients they need through their crazy-looking leaves!


Shop our  Tillandz and Air Plants!

The ideal growing conditions for air plants: 

  • Bright, indirect light, or partly sunny (some direct sun is recommended)
  • Water, or mist, your air plants two to three times a week! Remember, the more light it gets, the more frequently you will want to water and mist it!
  • Make sure you shake off excess water after watering. You can also turn it upside-down for 5 minutes before putting it back to its usual spot.
  • Don’t keep your air plants in air-tight containers- they need air circulation! (Opt for an air plant stand instead of a container!)
  • Use warm, purified water when watering and/or misting. In the wild, they only receive warm rainwater, which is very pure. You might want to use purified water when watering. They are also extremely cold-sensitive, so keep out of the way of drafts.

Mount your airplants! Shop plants + stands here.

So remember- air plants DO need water. And arguably even more than other common houseplants. They’re called air plants because they live ‘in the air’, not because they can magically conjure things from the air 😉  Did I mention they are pet-friendly plants too?

Learn more about the Tillandsia HERE, and check out more of our Plant Myth Mondays HERE.

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

YELLOW LEAVES MEAN OVERWATERING – PLANT MYTH MONDAYS #7

September 18, 2017
MONDAY 09.18.2017 MYTH: YELLOW LEAVES MEAN OVERWATERING

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.

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

PLANT MYTH MONDAYS – MYTH 6

September 11, 2017

MONDAY 09.04.17 MYTH: YOU MUST WATER YOUR PLANT ONCE A WEEK

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.

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

PLANT MYTH MONDAYS – MYTH 5

August 28, 2017
MONDAY 08.28.17 MYTH: YOU MUST USE MOISTURE-MANAGING POTTING SOIL FOR HOUSEPLANTS

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.

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