Updated: Apr 15
Featured Author: Magdalena Wesolowska
Day to day, we strive for peace of mind (and a million in the bank would be nice too)! In this crazy life, a stress-free existence is getting harder and harder to achieve. Some social and environmental changes are upon us, and we search for anchors that will make us feel safer and stable on one hand, and keep us entertained and relaxed on the other. I think that is the main reason why cultivation of houseplants is becoming so popular these days.
If you take a portion of social media with your morning coffee, you will promptly get immersed in images of gorgeous interiors stuffed with plants and smiley faces. People in the pictures look relaxed, inspired and you immediately want to join this cradle of pure joy.
You can now either look at your apartment and start to compare the idealized creative work of your favorite influencers with your own studio, get even more stressed about whole process of “getting it right”, or just chill and treat it as it is: an art form that should inspire to lead a more mindful and beautiful life. I can assure you that attitude in this subject (and many others for a matter of fact) is everything. So, make yourself a cup of your favorite, hot beverage, sit in a cozy chair and let your imagination run wild. Building a friendly environment in our homes is a process and don’t worry, I will lead you through it.
Starting from scratch
Maybe there is a lonely cactus or an IKEA Calathea, Pachira, or Schefflera in the corner of your living room. It fades somewhere between a bookshelf and the sofa, and it doesn’t really click. The first step in our journey of building your own jungle is to think about the windows in your space. Yes. Windows are our source of light and they determine how to approach plant décor. But, you say, I saw plants everywhere on Instagram, even in the dark corners! Again I will say this: we should always remember that those are photo shots. Plants are moved around especially for the purpose of the picture, or, very often they just arrived out of the nursery. Want to avoid frustration associated with yellowing leaves, pests, and to “relax in the jungle” (and without the wild fauna)? Here’s what you can do.
Note where in your apartment the sun rises and where it sets. The first one is your East window, and the other is the West. If you stand having East on your right hand, then the North is in front of you and South behind you. Tadaaa! Good job, now we know our coordinates. (By the way, don’t you think that the compass rose is an excellent wall decoration?) If you’re not sure how to approach this, don’t worry, your smartphone almost certainly has a compass feature. Fire it up and go to the windows in your apartment. The easiest way to remember is to temporarily stick a post-it with a note on your window.
Ok,now it is time to get inspired. Make or go through your Pinterest inspiration of green interiors and choose what you like the most. Hanging plants? Little ferns in cages, maybe a green wall, or contrasts (dark wall and light pots?) Reflect on your desires for 30 mins or an hour (don’t exaggerate!) and try to be mindful of repetitive things that you pinned to your collections – this is what you really like!
Still at home, look around and try to estimate how much free space you have. Then take a few deep breaths and divide this by 2. You still have to be able to move around freely.
Now let’s think about your budget according to the list of essentials to run your own apartment jungle.
Obviously, that is what we came here for. Let’s pause for a longer moment.
If you, my dear future plant hoarder, have no plants in your living space, I recommend that you start….big. Yes, this is what you wanted to hear, right? But I don’t mean that you should buy fifty plants, no. Start with one or two large plants. And I mean it, BIG. Trust me. First of all, they will be truly visible even in a spacious living room and you will immediately get the jungle vibe with a one meter-tall Chamedora or Monstera.
Second of all, not only for beginners…large plants have established root systems and it is much easier to keep it in good health. When they grow it is also more visible and so, so fulfilling. A new leaf on a big Monstera is a work of art. You don’t want to spend three years waiting for a first hole in your leaf (personal experience).
Now let’s get back to the windows. If you have a South-facing window, this is the one that will enable you to get exotic with more demanding plants. You can go crazy with Palm trees, Ficuses, Philodendrons, Alocasias, big Succulents or Cacti. The East window will be the most forgiving one. Plants get a proper amount of a morning, diffused, but fairly strong light, and they are usually happy. They don’t get burned or thirsty in a single day.
Go crazy with a huge Hoya, or an Anthurium, Monstera or Zamioculcas or Sansevieria, big, lush Epipremnums and Scindapsuses that will brighten up any space
For a West and South window, I recommend furniture. The South window is a place where some plants will survive (like Sansevierias), but they will not grow much. If you want your plants there, consider a grow light. There is a wide offer of growing lights on the market and you can have a white, pleasant light that will help your plant stay healthy and happy.
Ok, when you choose your big plants, let’s think about their future friends. Choose three or four other plants with similar growing needs. This way you won’t run with a watering can every day and wonder if it is time to water one of your plants. Now write down your plant shopping list.
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We do not leave our plants in plastic containers with the soil they came in! Plants in big nurseries are grown in particular conditions and many of them are provided with artificial light and growing hormones. When you buy the plant this comes to an end, the soil is not suitable for apartment conditions. Those plants will not decorate the space or a long time, and the roots won’t be happy for sure.
Second of all, pots are a huge style boost to your space. Think about what you want to achieve. Right now it is a good moment to go back to your Pinterest list and reflect.
Maybe boho baskets or stone pots with an exotic vibe, or minimalistic, elegant black? You can get practically anything. It is better to be consistent - then you can avoid a feeling of chaos in your jungle. It's good when the style of the pots complements the style of the interior. Choose one pot for each plant. It should be one size bigger than the pot the plant is already in.
Treat it as an investment. We try to avoid running a morgue or a graveyard. We start fresh, and plants deserve the same. Repotting is a very pleasant, meditative endeavor. In the nurseries you can find ready-made potting mixes for different types of plants.
If your list contains plants with similar needs, then you have to buy only one type of soil. How to calculate the amount of soil that you need? Check the volume of your pot, then subtract about 1/3 (roots!) and there it is, you have your answer.
In the beginning you will need a basic one, to nourish the plants. You don’t need anything fancy. Ask in the shop for a natural fertilizer like BioBizz fish mix, or NPK fertilizer for green plants.
Macrames, cages, little greenhouses, propagation stations and other plant décor are for later. But, if you have a specific vision – go for it! Our goal is to not get overwhelmed or clutter the apartment.
Journey to the Wonderland
We live in times when all or part of all shopping can be made online, so choose the way in which you like to do your purchase. I like to go and touch, smell, and appreciate hundreds of plants. It relaxes me a lot, and I do this for long stretches of time, so I don’t go crazy and buy everything that I like, but do I understand that it is not everybody’s pleasure. In the nursery you are able to assess the health of your future plant a bit better, but there are also many online shops that are very reliable!
Consider the day of the week – will it relax you to take a walk through a nursery after a long week of work, Friday or Saturday maybe? Then you will have the time to install everything properly in your apartment. Take your shopping list and enjoy your trip. If you see something interesting outside of the list, write it down and do research at home.
Your own home jungle
There are many approaches to dealing with newly arrived plants. I will tell you now about mine. Summer is a time when the temperature amplitudes in Europe are smaller, and then I would bring plants home and immediately repot them into fresh soil. I do this without disturbing the roots. I take out the plant from its original container, give the roots a gentle pat (a lot of the old soil will stay, yes), so they can loosen up a bit, and put them into fresh soil. This way, the plant does not go into shock. It is important, because it already changed its whole environment going from the nursery to my house.
Other seasons are a bit more tricky. Plants get more stressed more easily and they often want to go dormant for the winter, because there is not enough light outside, let alone indoors. Then it is good to leave them in the original pot (but of course water them as you normally would) for a week, so they can acclimate at their own pace.
You can place the repotted plants where you planned earlier and see how they resonate with the space. Get to know them, observe, water, gently remove dust form the leaves, don’t be afraid of some autumn leaves. A cycle of life needs something to decompose in order to give life again. If you chose good spots for them, you will see in a month or two that they will start to grow. Well done! You’ve just started your private jungle. Now don’t be afraid to add some more plants to your interior.
About The Author
Hi, my name is Magdalena and I am a plant enthusiast and a member of the European Aroid Society. I want to share with you my knowledge of plants and entertain you with plant-based stories and plant talks with other crazy plant ladies and gentlemen. By profession I’m a pharmacist and philosopher (if you can say that is a profession).
Follow my instagram here for more plant content!