This week we talked to Lindsay (@alltheplantbabies) from Oak Park, IL about growing up with plants and creating her own indoor jungle.
WATER & LIGHT: HOW DID YOU GET INTO PLANTS?
Lindsay (L): I inherited the crazy plant person gene from my father. As a kid my playroom was filled with plants and I have fond memories of roaming through them. In my teenage years I started to buy plants of my own, but try as I might I could not keep one alive. Twenty years and fifty dead plants later I have this plant care thing down to a science and now I have a jungle for my own kids to roam through. The legacy continues!
W&L: DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU GOT YOUR FIRST PLANT AND WHAT PLANT IT WAS?
L: My first plant was a ponytail palm. It was also my second and third and probably tenth, as I would continue to buy them, always making a valiant effort to keep one alive for good. Each time I would alter the care routine slightly in hopes that it would solve the whole “dead plant” problem, but that never worked. Knowing what I know now, I was consistently watering it too much for the amount of light the plants were receiving and for the pots and soil that they were in (proper plant care requires a balance of all those factors after all). I have one now that I’ve managed to keep alive for two years now and it’s still going strong.
W&L: WHERE DO YOU GET MOST OF YOUR PLANTS?
L: I get about 90% of my plants from a plant nursery called Sprout Home Chicago.
W&L: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLANT SHOPS TO VISIT?
Sprout Home Chicago for hard to find tropical plants and modern planters, Chicago Plant Shop for the fun urban vibe and rare cacti selection, and Adams and Sons for their excellent prices and that quaint family-run business feel.
W&L: HOW MANT PLANTS DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
L: 96…wait, no joke two just arrived in the mail as I’m writing this. 98!
W&L: WHAT ARE THE RAREST PLANTS THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR COLLECTION?
L: I have a trio of philodendrons that are pretty hard to get a hold of : Philodendron White Knight, White Wizard and Pink Princess. I also have some weird caudiciforms (they look like sprouting potatoes): stephania erecta, stephania suberosa and phyllanthus mirabilis.
W&L: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLANTS?
L: What are NOT some of my favorite plants is a better question. I LOVE string of hearts, ceropegia woodii. I also have a weakness for aroids: philodendrons, anthuriums, monsteras. Their foliage is just so breathtaking and varies so much species to species. I also cannot resist hoyas or staghorn ferns. This is why I have so many plants.
W&L: WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT BEING A PLANT PERSON?
L: I love the escape that plants provide me from anxious thoughts and worries about everyday life. I like to get lost in the beauty of a leaf, or within the process of watering. Plant care is a moving meditation. I also appreciate that plants not only give me the opportunity to nurture and care for a living thing, but also to design and create. They cater to both my mothering instincts and creative desires.
W&L: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU HAVE WITH PLANTS?
L: Keeping humidity-loving tropical plants happy throughout the freezing, dry Chicago winters is a struggle. It requires a lot of humidifiers, pebble trays, misting, and cloche’s / clear plastic bags over the top of ailing plants. In the warmer months, pests are a challenge, since I have so many plants grouped together.
W&L: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR PLANT SPECIALITY?
L: I am a plant pest exterminator! I take exhaustive preventative measures to avoid a major outbreak. Throughout the week you can find me wandering throughout my house like a sneaky sleuth with my magnifying glass in hand inspecting my plants for insects. Once pests invade my plants, I make them sorry that they ever came with a weekly treatment regimen of homemade insecticidal soap (Dr. Bronner’s + Distilled Water) and Neem Oil spray (diluted in distilled water). I’ve also used diatomaceous earth dusted on soil as well as spinosad spray for treating thrips.
W&L: WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 PLANT CARE TIPS?
L: 1. Light matters. All plants need light to survive. ALL plants. Ideally, your plants will always be right near a window or skylight and able to see the sky. If your plant is not getting plenty of light from the sun through a window, you will need a specialized grow light or a fluorescent light, such as in an office setting.
2. Soil matters. Don’t just use commercial potting soil straight up from the bag. It’s almost always too heavy for your plants (contains too much peat), and therefore will hold too much water for too long, and will contribute to root rot. Mix in generous amounts of perlite or pumice and/or pine bark at the very least to commercial potting soil to lighten it up and increase drainage. The amounts that you will mix it will vary from plant to plant based on its individual needs, which you can easily search for on the interwebs.
3. Planters matter. If you tend to overwater your plants, use terra-cotta planters, as they “breathe” and water will evaporate out the sides, preventing root rot. If you tend to neglect your plants, try using ceramic, concrete or plastic planters, as the soil will stay damp longer, allowing you to go longer between waterings.