This week we had the pleasure of talking to Darryl (@houseplantjournal) from Toronto, Canada. Darryl is a houseplant expert that has answered thousands of plant care questions on his blog and Instagram. He has recently written and published a plant care book - The New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-Plant Family.
WATER & LIGHT (W&L): HOW DID YOU GET INTO PLANTS?
Darryl (D): A few years ago I bought an apartment long before construction and I had to wait 4 years until it was ready so I was living with my parents. My mom came up with the idea to decorate the entire house with plants and she said that she wasn’t good at taking care of them and I would be the one to figure it out. I found that interesting since she was really good at taking care of outdoor plants and she was the one who taught me gardening. I ended up buying a few plants and getting really into them. I did some research on those plants and I quickly noticed the lack of depth in how people describe houseplant care. Plants were viewed like pieces of decor that you somehow had to keep alive and I found that approach rather disappointing.
Later on I started attending garden writers meetings and they talked about much broader topics related to plant care and houseplants were always the butt-end of the joke about how they always die. That got me thinking that outdoor gardening has a broader and more scientific approach and houseplants just never got the same treatment. That lead me to investigate current houseplant care and that’s what lead me to start my first plant blog where I documented what was happening to my plants and my experiments with plant care. Eventually I got into lighting and measuring light in more detailed way which I found to be so critical. Light is so important and human understanding of light is incompatible with how plants work. When they write about light they are so vague about it and that’s what kills plants.
W&L: WOULD YOU SAY THAT LIGHT IS YOUR SPECIALITY WHEN IT COMES TO PLANTS?
D: For sure! In a broader context I teach what I call a plant-centered approach to houseplant care as opposed to a human-centered approach to houseplant care. I have answered thousands of questions and the thread that goes through all of them is people focusing on what they need to do for the plant in terms of watering, but they often don’t realize how the plant works and how the water even fits into the whole biological system. They just think, "here is a plant I was told to water once a week." Same happens with light - when people try to describe light they use very vague terms and unless somebody really tries to understand what that means they’ll just think that it’s not that important because the description is so vague.
W&L: HOW MANY PLANTS DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
D: If I count plants in my parents house, my apartment and a few other places that I frequent then it’s in the 100s.
W&L: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PLANTS?
D: I like to go to a couple of nurseries in Toronto area, one of them being Valleyview Gardens. I mention this place a lot because through the years they’ve been very supportive of all the work that I am doing and even occasionally given me some plants. Some of the rarer plants come from some growers in Miami. I did a couple of collaborations, one of them was Rainforest Flora an air plant nursery in California. They sent me air plants that I can’t find here in Toronto.
W&L: DO YOU HAVE FAVORITE PLANTS?
D: Well, definitely that big Monstera that has been on my Instagram feed for a couple of years and the rabbit’s foot fern. The thing with plants that are my favorite comes back to having a more in-depth appreciation for plants. These 2 plants have a story that I can tell. The monstera I’ve been growing for a couple of years and recently I brought two pieces of it to my wife’s church that I go to now. In a way it feels like I brought a piece of my old church to the new church.
W&L: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE IDEA OF THE PLANT BEING ABLE TO FEEL THE ENERGY OF THE CARETAKER?
D: In terms of plant detecting some physical energy from a human, I don’t know about that but I do know that there is a psychological reaction. When a person sees something that they don’t like about the plant they will either try to correct it and become worried about it or they would start giving up on the plant.
W&L: WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AND YOUR PLANT PASSION GOING IN 2019 and 2020?
I am going to try and do more book events and I suppose it would lend itself to continue doing more speaking. When you write a book you tell the story in just one way but there are more ways to tell it. Maybe I will get back on YouTube. Potentially I would like to work on a second book. I can come up with more ways to systematize houseplant care.
Checkout Darryl’s blog for in-depth plant care tips - HOUSEPLANT JOURNAL