I recently skyped with my mom, plant lady extraordinaire, for some advice. Along with useful tips she warned me "you're going to kill a lot of plants along the way while you learn" which made me feel a little better about the brutality I've shown the plant kingdom.
When I first posted about my plant love, Alyssa suggested I do a post about plants. I was super flattered she thought I knew enough to merit a whole blog post when in real life I had plants dropping dead all around me, but having been newly imbued with confidence from my mother, I figured what the hell. Here we go!
So if you're a black thumb gardener you should start off with the two plants varieties I've tortured for years and they have lived to tell the tale. The winners of my biotic "Hunger Games?" Air plants and Mother-In-Law's tongue (It's growing back! It's growing BACK!)
They come in crazy different sizes, shapes and colors but pretty much all require the same conditions. Indirect light and occasional soaks in water. The hipster at the Portland terrarium store suggested a 5 minute daily soak, with one overnight soak every other week (or as needed if they are looking wrinkled because wrinkled = dehydrated.) And then the hipster at the Denver store suggested just one 30-60 minute soak per week. I've compromised on two half-hour soaks per week, and making sure to shake out the excess water to prevent rot.
(PS Can you see the above pic from Instagram? It's not showing up for me but I wonder if it's just my computer being goofy?)
When I was living in Ohio, these plants really thrived in my bathroom. I had a north facing window with diffused glass which provided enough filtered light and humid atmosphere from the shower that they thrived by being run under the faucet once a day. My Colorado apartment has no window in the bathroom so they're kickin' it in my living room (North and Western light, not sitting in the window directly.)
Don't know where to find air plants near you? You can order them off Etsy. Don't worry, they'll be fine during shipping, unless you are shipping to freezing temperatures in which case you will have to pay extra for a heat pack.
Even less maintenance than the air plant is the aforementioned mother-in-law's tongue (also known as snake plant or Saint George's sword). These are my incredible survivors. You can abuse them all you like: put them in a dark room, forget to water them for a month, leave them freezing overnight in a car (TWICE), and God bless them, they'll hold onto life. I usually water them once every other week or whenever they feel dry. Test dryness by sticking your finger in the soil about an inch. If it still feels moist, wait a few more days.
Apart from starting out with these two very forgiving plants, I have a few other simple tips I've learned from my mom and trial and error.
1. Don't go to Home Depot with the expectation of receiving help with indoor plants. With exception to my mom, who used to be a plant guru at her local Home Depot, the garden department associates nationwide are wholly unhelpful and the labeling is dismal. Everything says "House plant" with no further information. (I HOPE YOU'RE READING THIS, HOME DEPOT MANAGEMENT!) You can certainly buy there, but you will have to do your own research to discover what they actually are.
2. Don't fight your climate/light conditions. I kept trying to buy tropical plants that need a lot of water. Surprisingly they died in my apartment located in the high desert.
3. If you have pets consult here first to ensure they aren't poisonous. Some cut Gladiolus for my kitchen table turned into an emergency trip to the vet for gastroenteritis. Sad times for Gremlin, the rugs he barfed on, and my wallet.
4. Start out slow. Don't bring home 10 different kinds at once; you'll be overwhelmed. Buy one or two, learn what they like, where they are happy in your home and then add on. I am guilty of overbuying. It always leads to dead plants.
5. If you put your plants in a glass terrarium for the love of god don't put them in direct sunlight, it will fry the leaves and you'll be so sad like my poor half-dead mallemonti clump (the one near the pterodactyl.)