WATER & LIGHT (W&L): HOW DID YOU GET INTO PLANTS?
Bethany (B): Plants trickled into my life very slowly. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but I’ve been living in Florida since 2005. When I moved into my current house 6 years ago, the yard had no landscaping at all, so gardening became my special project. I had a lot of fun picking out plants and learning about tropical plants to grow here in Florida. Then 3 or 4 years ago, I started keeping a few houseplants too. I got completely hooked, then my collecting really turned “hardcore” in the past 2 years. I’m fascinated by how plants grow, adapt, and change.
W&L: DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU GOT YOUR FIRST PLANT AND WHAT PLANT IT WAS?
B: When I was 14 years old, I got a Dracena fragrans for my bedroom. I named it Francis. I would talk to it, water it, and wipe its leaves. I left Francis at home when I moved to Florida for college, and unfortunately he didn’t survive without me.
W&L: WHERE DO YOU GET MOST OF YOUR PLANTS?
B: With Florida’s climate, tons of nurseries and plant shops have amazing selections year-round, so I find most of my plants locally. I’m also in the International Aroid Society as well as the Rare Plant Network of Saint Petersburg, so I get a lot of plants at their events or through trades with friends I’ve made in those organizations. I hardly ever purchase plants online.
W&L: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLANT SHOPS TO VISIT?
B: I love going to local nurseries and plant shops around Tampa and Saint Petersburg.
W&L: HOW MANY PLANTS DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
B: My collection of potted plants usually hovers around 150 types of plants. I’ve also planted a lot of things outside too, so overall I’ve got to be somewhere around 200 different kinds of plants at this point.
W&L: WHAT ARE THE RAREST PLANTS THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
B: I mainly collect interesting aroids, so I have many different types of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, Monsteras, and Aglaonemas-- the majority of them are difficult to find commonly in stores. I also have a lot of variegated plants. I have this big, unnamed Anthurium that was discovered and brought back from Ecuador—that plant seems rare and exotic to me since it’s not even an officially named species yet!
W&L: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLANTS?
B: I’m a sucker for any type of Philodendron. I have a big Philodendron Gloriosum in my living room that is one of my favorite plants in my entire collection. Also, I just love Monstera deliciosa so much and can’t ever get tired of it—I’ll always get excited whenever I see one!
W&L: WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT BEING A PLANT PERSON?
B: I’d like to describe myself as an ambassador for the plant community. I love making plant friends, and I never mind or judge anyone who approaches me to as ask questions or talk about not only plants, but even just life in general. My friends would describe me as open, approachable, and real. I do what I can to brighten someone else’s day and be a friend. I’ll make you laugh, I’ll answer plant questions, I’ll help you feel less alone in the world, and maybe I can even help you find a plant on your wish list!
W&L: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE WITH PLANTS?
B: Currently my challenge is lack of space. I’m planning on moving in the next year, same geographical area, but I want a bigger yard, plus I’m planning to build a greenhouse for my collection!
W&L: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR PLANT SPECIALTY?
B: Lots of people reach out to me with questions about plants, and I love helping anyone I can. Even if I don’t know the answer myself, I’m very likely to know where I can find the answer from one of my expert friends! I’m a plant hobbyist – I work a full-time day job in an office-- so it’s hard for me to consider myself a bona fide plant expert, since plants aren’t my profession. But I’m always very open to talk to anyone about plants, and I love making plant friends.
W&L: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 PLANT CARE TIPS?
- Mimic your plant’s natural environment as much as possible. Research the plant’s growing conditions (such as lighting, soil, humidity, etc.), then do your best to duplicate that.
- Soil needs drainage! Buy pots that already have holes on the bottom for excess water to escape. It’s also super easy to drill your own holes in pots too, if needed. Or keep a super cute planter as a cache pot—keep your plant potted in a plastic nursery pot with holes on the bottom, then drop the plastic nursery pot into the cute planter. Putting rocks, Styrofoam peanuts, or anything else in the bottom of an enclosed pot WILL NOT give your plant the drainage that it needs.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out, ask questions and start conversations. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have a fantastic, supportive plant community. Plus, see if you can find local gardening clubs to join or plant-related events to attend, then you’ll be able to make all kinds of plant friends! You’ll be amazed at how many knowledgeable folks are in the plant community, and a lot of us are helpful, passionate, and super friendly—like myself!