A Limited Understanding and Knowledge Guide to Selecting and Caring for Houseplants

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I am not a plant expert.  I have zero plant training other than talking to other people who range from seeming to know a couple of things to hired help at Lowe’s to the wildly helpful and knowledgeable dude over at Wright in the Garden.  I started collecting houseplants about 2 years ago and as a way to help pacify my sadness during Covid Quarantine I added a lot more in the last year.  I’m definitely a novice plant mom.  So this guide is based on my very limited understanding and knowledge of a subject that has deep and twisting roots.  I give to you, Scottsdale Moms, the Limited Understanding & Knowledge Guide to Selecting & Caring for Houseplants.   

Disclaimer: You may or may not find this helpful.  Some of my statements are not literal.   

Fact: The number one cause of houseplant death is from overwatering.  In my personal experience, whenever I suspect that I might be overwatering, I probably am.  If I think I should water my plants today, I usually wait until tomorrow.  Houseplant parenting is very complicated.   

I have 7 different species of houseplants and I’ll tell you a little bit about each of them.  They are all unique in appearance and temperaments but all relatively easy to care for.  Except for Dieffenbachia.  That dude is a pistol and all I can do is keep loving it.   

Succulents – I buy succulents like loaves of bread.  They might as well be on my grocery list.  I seem to come home with a new succulent or two each week.  I can’t help it, they are just so cute.  Their intricate geometry just blows my mind.  Succulents are also super duper simple to care for.  Give them sunlight and basically four drops of water every now and then and they’re fine.  The people who have more understanding and knowledge than I do say to let the soil dry out between waterings.  They need more in the spring & summer and less in fall & winter.  They also say to only water the soil, not the leaves or else they could get moldy.  These are the rules I follow with my succulents and they are as cute as they could possibly be.   

Aloe Vera – I’m not supposed to have a favorite because I love them all, but Aloe Vera never gives me any trouble.  She is such a pleasant and delightful plant child.  Although, she is getting so tall that she’s a little top heavy for her small pot, so I’m going to have to replant her soon.  I treat her like a succulent because technically she is.  When I burn myself or get a bug bite or a weird rash, I cut a little stem and it’s like my own personal urgent care.   

Snake Plant – Sometimes called Mother-In-Law’s Tongue because the leaves are long with sharp, pointy ends.  If you are going to venture into the world of raising houseplants, get this one.  It’s the perfect starter plant because they are so low maintenance.  There are also tons of benefits to snake plants.  They can filter indoor air by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, even at night.  They can also be helpful in removing toxic air pollutants.  Get yourself one if you have environmental, air-borne allergies.  The drawback is that they are mildly toxic if consumed so keep away from children & pets.  Note: I have 4 cats and one of them took a couple nibbles out of my snake plant one time and never did it again. She was totally fine and didn’t show any signs of distress.  She probably didn’t like it and learned her lesson.   

Pothos – Oh, that beautiful, branchy, extravaganza of greenery!  Pothos is a very common houseplant as it tends to do very well and other than figuring out a watering routine, it’s very low maintenance.  I found a super cute macrame hanging plant holder at IKEA that I wanted my pothos to go into, but the plant was so big that I couldn’t get it in the macrame without trimming it all up.  I consulted my Instagram followers and the general consensus was to propogate it.  That word made my head explode because I didn’t know what it meant and it sounded like a very advanced plant parenting technique.  It turns out that propogating isn’t really that big of a deal, and now it’s a part of my regular lexicon.  I trimmed off a lot of the branches so that I could fit it in my macrame and kept some of the branches for myself and gave some to my dear friend and fellow Scottsdale Moms contributor, Elizabeth.  It’s so cool that there are now all these new pothos babies that came from my mama.  And she looks way too cute hanging from the ceiling in the foyer of my home.   

Peace Lily – This plant has…So. Much. Foliage.  The leaves are big and dark, shiny green.  If placed in a spot with a lot of sunlight, Peace Lily will grow pretty white flowers.  My Peace Lily’s space is moderately sunny but she hasn’t ever bloomed.  A tell-tale sign that she needs watering is when the leaves begin to droop.  I give her a good watering and her leaves will perk right back up within a few hours.  Peace Lily is also good at purifying the air, which is very important to me because of all the boys and dogs that live here.   

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree – You’ve seen this beauty everywhere you look.  Home décor magazines and every influencer on your Insta-scroll has one.  I literally asked Santa for a Fiddle Leaf Fig and he delivered.  I was advised that FLFT is a finicky ficus, but I’ve had very little trouble with mine.  The expert plant dude over at Wright in the Garden (32nd Street & Shea) told me to give it a gallon of water every two weeks and the sunniest spot of the house.  I also rotate it a quarter turn with each watering.  That is literally all I do.  However, it’s leaves get dusty despite my efforts and I seem to always be telling my children to back away from Fiddle Leaf.   

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Dieffenbachia – I don’t know if I’ll ever figure this one out.  You have to keep the soil moist but not soggy.  It has to be in well-draining soil but still has to retain moisture.  It likes sunshine but not too much.  It can get a sunburn easily.  But please don’t keep it in the dark.  I just don’t know what it wants most of the time.  I’ve been heartbroken to see its big, beautiful leaves die off, but also filled with joy to see new ones come in.  All I can tell you is that she’s lovely and makes me happy and her basket pot (also from IKEA) is so simple and cute.   

Growing and caring for my houseplants has been fun and therapeutic for me in the last year.  There are certain houseplants that I’m continuously adding to my collection, such as Pothos.  Others are a one and done situation, like Fiddle Leaf Fig.  One thing is for sure, I find that having plants makes the room more cheerful and I find a lot of peace from just looking at them.   

If you consider yourself to have a black thumb or just don’t know anything about how to get started with houseplants, I definitely suggest starting with a snake plant and a pothos.  They are so hearty and do well in most home environments.  With a little love and patience, you can be a plant parent, too. 

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