A few of my favorite things!
Here are a few of my favorite resources for new (or experienced) plant lovers to learn things they didn’t realize they needed to know about being a plant parent.
My number one favorite book that I recommend to absolutely everyone who wants to know the real basics about being a green thumb is The New Plant Parent by Darryl Cheng. This book is great for anyone just looking for a new perspective on caring for houseplants, I recommend this for beginners and experts!
My new favorite way to fertilize and encourage root growth is by making my own Aloe Vera fertilizer. It’s like a natural “protein shake” for plants with SO many vitamins and nutrients. I recommend blending about 2 Tbsp of fresh Aloe Vera gel (from a plant) with a gallon of distilled or rainwater (if possible). I dilute this down even more and use it to water just about all of my plants, but you can leave it at this level use every other watering. So far my results have been amazing! Expect a blog post with more on this soon!
If you are just starting out, the best most readily available “basic” store-bought potting mix for house plants is Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix. It is affordable, light enough for young plants, and easy to aerate. It contains coconut coir, which holds and releases water easily, so it is a great base soil for houseplants if you want to start your own mix. Moisture control properties are very important when choosing a potting soil as a new plant parent or just if you are a big fan of decorative planters without proper drainage. Adding horticultural charcoal and/ or perlite to the soil mixture can greatly help with this! Drainage stones can help for decorative planters also, but nothing makes up for a hole to allow excess water to escape.
For succulents and cacti, I always recommend a pot with drainage, and at the very least, a good potting mix formulated for these desert plants. Keep an eye out for my soil recipes coming soon to the blog!
My favorite "extra" to include in a potting medium is horticultural charcoal. It has a long list of benefits and almost no negatives. Charcoal increases the soil’s ability to hold onto nutrients. The low density of charcoal lightens heavy soils to encourage root growth, it can aid drainage and help keep the soil aerated. Charcoal has also been said to have cleansing properties, it can be used with drainage stones to help keep unwanted bacteria from growing.
I also recommend amending other soil amendments to help with drainage, especially if you are prone to overwatering. If you have pests like fungus gnats, my #1 recommendation is to add charcoal, coarse sand, perlite, and mosquito bits to the soil and repot all plants that are in the vicinity of the little buggers. Mosquito bits are small pellets that release Bacillus thuringiensis v. israelensis when watered. Bti is a bacteria that controls mosquito, fungus gnats, and black flies in their larval stage of development, killing them before they mature! I usually also use a fungicidal soap including neem oil also, but nothing seemed to work for me until I added these to the mix. I will also be posting about the soil mixture I make and use!
For orchids varieties, especially Phalaenopsis, I recommend a specially formulated orchid bark mix (I also like fir bark) and/or New Zealand Sphagnum moss (long fiber) (AAA grade is noticeably better quality, but not totally necessary). Be aware that the most important thing with orchids is to remember they are epiphytes and need good drainage and airflow- so no matter what make sure you use orchid pots or some other pot with holes and drainage. Remember that caring for an orchid will change depending on what medium is used. I still haven't had a lot of luck with Leca except when rehabbing seedlings with almost no roots, so I don't generally use that. Feel free to post in the Forum if you like that best! I would love to hear success stories.
For all you new plant parents out there, I recommend saving yourself some grief when learning how to properly water your plants and invest in a moisture meter! You can find moisture meters at your local big-box stores like Lowe's, or you can snag one online for under $20 bucks. Some of these also offer pH meter or light meter options, but they might not be super reliable (I personally use a digital light meter to measure foot candles when exploring new locations, but honestly knowing what way your windows face should be enough info to get you started). I can tell you that these moisture meters can tell you if your plant is thirsty or not! They don't require batteries or really any maintenance, it will be the best money you ever spend.
Houseplants: (Reviews, Opinion & Insight) NickPileggiPlants
Houseplants: (Rare & Unusual + experience) Kaylee Ellen
My Favorite Blogs about plants:
(The list keeps growing! If you have a blog you think I should check out, let me know!)
Houseplants: (+ living with plants & Pets) Leaf & Paw
Houseplants: (Overall Amazing) The House Plant Journal