More Than Just Plants (Part 1)

How do plant parents view their plants?

By Demie Makamache / 29 December 2021

What does it mean to be a plant parent? Source: Floweraura

 

  • Ever wondered what it felt like to be a plant parent?

  • Here is what these awesome plant enthusiasts had to say about their babies! 

 

While a significant number might be indifferent to the world of plants and how they help sustain our livelihoods, to others, they are the very essence of life itself – for reasons beyond food, air and water.

 

With the #plantbaby posts trending across various social media channels, we have always wondered what it is about plants that has the world in a craze. Could the reason be that they find their unique place of zen within the verdant greens or that from every shoot or new leaf, they are reminded of the supremacy of nature? While some might not even articulate their thoughts into words, the passion remains a profound desire to care for that which is typically ignored.

 

On our quest to discover the various aspects that make us happy and more content, we were honoured to interview incredible powerhouses in the plant community. Not only have they sown seeds of hope and inspiration in the hearts of the multitudes, but they have also shared insightful knowledge about plant care from their experiences. As we delved into topics everyone has always wondered about the plant community, read on what they have to say.

Jessy Christopher – Tham: @jcchris

 

Remember, you are not in any competition, and you don’t need to impress others with your plants – Jessy.

 

When did you start buying plants, and why?

 

I started buying plants when I shifted houses, lots of light was pouring into the living room, so I decided to pick some plants from IKEA at the end of 2017. With time, I slowly started buying a few more from local nurseries. In 2018, I shifted my focus from succulents to houseplants again. This only happened when I got older, as I didn’t have an interest in plants when I was younger, despite witnessing the dedication both my parents poured into caring for the patch of garden in front of the house.

 

What do they mean to you?

 

Plants helped me to step away from the world as a parent and with my thought process too. The greenery helps to calm me down whenever I look at them. You may say it is like a therapy and bonding session.

 

What’s a typical day in life as a plant parent?

 

The outdoor garden was built & curated so that my family and I could enjoy it. Teaching my girls about plants have made them aware that plants are living things, and they should learn to appreciate & care for them, too- Jessy

 

I must say I don’t spend a lot of time, only if I want to do repotting or spend some time pruning the leaves. Usually, I will come out to the garden once I’m done with my morning routines. I would just go around and water plants that are required for watering. The same goes with the one placed indoors too.

 

What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a plant parent, and how did you overcome it?

 

When my plants are being attacked by pests, especially during my early days with succulents, mealy bugs repeatedly infested them because of the wrong soil mix. After changing the soil in my pallets three times, I finally got them right. Those moments were challenging, but they taught me that different gardens have different challenges and opportunities. Along the way, I learned that not all plants are suitable for my place and for that reason, I have passed on those plants to friends, family members, and the community garden.

 

 What is the most insightful knowledge you have gained from keeping plants?

 

I have learned that everything is easier once you know how to tackle the plant basics: light, water, soil mix, plant food, and good aeration. And of course, growing plants need lots of dedication, perseverance, time, love & care to see the plants thrive. There are no shortcuts, just time, effort, love and dedication to making the plants thrive. I have also learned a lot from fellow local plant friends about caring for and propagating plants. It’s lifelong learning.

 

What is the most expensive plant in your care?

 

It has to be the Monstera Albo Variegata.

 

Jessy standing next to her highest-priced plant from her collection, the Monstera Albo Variegata

 

Describe the most stubborn plant in your care, and why do you think so?

 

The most stubborn plant I ever have tried is Philodendron Verrucosum. Somehow I didn’t have the suitable condition for it because it preferred sustainable humidity. To make it worse, at one point, it got attacked by mites. I have tried them a few times but still failed. Finally, I have accepted that I was not meant to have it. Haha.

 

Have your plants served a greater purpose in your life than just being plants?

 

Yes, it has connected me with my late dad. He loved plants, which gave me the chance to bond with him whenever I visited his garden. It has also connected me with lots of plant friends on social media. Plants do open up friendship and opportunities.

 

Do you talk to your plants? If yes, then do you believe it has a positive effect on them? What do you typically say to them?

 

Sorry. I don’t speak to my plants. Haha.

 

How did you create the ideal environment for your plants?

 

You should spend some time researching what your plants want. There is tons of info these days on google regarding the plant habitat. But pls take this advice with a pinch of salt because most of the posters or charts shared are by westerners. They do not have the same temperature & lighting as our tropical weather. Take it as a guide to know more about the plants you intend to bring home and alter accordingly to your environment.

What I did was to group my plants according to their genus, species and needs. That way, it is easy for me to monitor, water & tend to them.

 

Ena Hadzir – @ena_hadzir

 

They have evolved into an extension of my lifestyle and passion – Ena. 

 

 When did you start buying plants, and why?

 

I’ve always had this considerable fascination with plants, and l love how plants can beautify home space and create a character for your home.

 

My journey started about five years ago when I bought a few basic house plants to decorate my home. But they didn’t survive, and this cycle went on for almost two years of me struggling to care for them. Most of the delicate ones didn’t survive, and if I am being fair, I was the type that bought plants and left them in the corner and only attended to them when they needed watering. That was the relationship I had with them. Little did I know plants required more from us.

 

What do they mean to you?

 

It used to be just a part of decorative elements for my home, but now they have evolved into an extension of my lifestyle and passion, the positive frequency that I get from them is therapeutic. Grooming them gives me a release outlet for daily stress and a place to switch off and calm myself.

 

My outdoor feature wall. And my fav place in the entire house. This is where I sit every day with my coffee.

 

What’s a typical day in life as a plant parent?

 

As I’m currently working from home, I’ll have my breakfast outside while mending my plants right after for 2 hours. It’s a place where time doesn’t exist for me.

 

What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a plant parent, and how did you overcome it?

 

Earlier, I mentioned that I struggled with plants because I failed to provide them with an environment to thrive. They must be placed in the right location and have adequate humidity; this knowledge came with experience, which meant killing many before I got to understand.

 

What is the most insightful knowledge you have gained from keeping plants?

 

Experience through seeing them thrive in different locations and humidity. And it’s good to focus on a few species that you love and have the most passion for.

 

What is the most expensive plant in your care?

 

My Variegated Drynaria Quercifolia.

 

The Variegated Drynaria Quercifolia, my most prized possession. I’m very much into rare forest plants and wild ferns. This is one of the rare species that I have in my care.

 

Describe the most stubborn plant in your care, and why do you think so?

 

I have no luck with ivy and peperomia. I don’t understand why they are super sensitive; it’s either too much water or too little. I can never get it right.

 

Have your plants served a greater purpose in your life than just being plants?

 

Definitely! My passion for my plants has impacted me deeply that I’ve planned to move out from my current home to settle down in my orchard just a short drive outside the city. This decision was made based on our current lifestyle, and we want to spend more time surrounded by nature.

 

Do you talk to your plants? If yes, then do you believe it has a positive effect on them? What do you typically say to them?

 

I don’t exactly talk to them, but I spend a lot of time admiring them. I believe the frequency that we channel is important for plants to survive.

 

How did you create the ideal environment for your plants?

 

I use a humidifier to increase humidity in my house and water them occasionally, as I have killed many by just watering too often. I only picked the tough one to be indoor; the rest sits outside my porch, as I’ve created a high humidity corner for my plants using driftwood, a small water plant corner and lots of shade. It’s incredible to see them doing well here in this corner.

 

Tanah Leila: @tanah.leila

 

They mean everything; they have helped me go through hard times – Tanah Leila.

 

When did you start buying plants, and why?

 

I started buying plants about three or four years ago because I began to work at home as a freelance designer, so I need a good environment to spend all my days at home.

 

What do they mean to you?

 

They mean everything; they have helped me go through hard times, and I do enjoy being around them.

 

What’s a typical day in life as a plant parent?

 

My morning routine starts with watering my outdoor plants, and then I will check my indoor plants, whether they need watering or not. If not, I just sit and enjoy my day.

 

It’s not about how beautiful or rare or expensive that plant is, but the journey I have had growing that plant – Tanah Leila.

 

What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a plant parent, and how did you overcome it?

 

The most difficult challenge that I faced was when the weather started to change. It was tough for my plants to face the hot weather when the rainy season came, but I have learned so much through these years and how to handle weather changes.

 

What is the most insightful knowledge you have gained from keeping plants?

 

The most insightful knowledge that I learned is not about how beautiful or rare or expensive that plant is, but the journey I have had growing that plant.

 

What is the most expensive plant in your care?

 

The most expensive plant that I bought is Scindapsus Platinum. It is not the most expensive plant in the market, but I love this plant.

 

Tanah Leila’s most expensive plant, the Scindapsus Platinum. 

 

Describe the most stubborn plant in your care, and why do you think so?

The most stubborn plant under my care is the Alocasia genus. I love them, but they tend to be deficient under my supervision.

 

Have your plants served a greater purpose in your life than just being plants?

 

Yes, they do; they are my therapy. Having plants and looking at them eases my mind (when they have not had a problem). They give me something to do and have a better day every single day.

 

Do you talk to your plants? If yes, then do you believe it has a positive effect on them?

 

To be frank, I don’t; I’m not that talkative type of person, so I don’t talk with my plants, but I think it has a positive effect, and I need to start talking with them.

 

How did you create the ideal environment for your plants?

 

I provide the ideal environment by exploring and experimenting with the space before I put the

plants. Having a house facing the evening sun is a bit challenging, so I provide an excellent shade like blind and hanging plants that can handle harsh sun so that they can cover my other plants.

 

Irene: @leafing.around

 

First and foremost, plants are a piece of living art to me – Irene.

 

When did you start buying plants, and why?

 

I started sometime in 2018 when we moved into a new place next to a forest, and the previous owner, being a nature lover, had also planted many trees enveloping the house. It was truly magical already with lots of greens, but some sections were pretty barren, and I thought to myself, “Hmm…I’d like to get this place landscaped.”

 

Thus, I went out to buy plants to landscape my garden. The buying, however, never stopped. I quickly descended the rabbit hole of plant collection, where there is no return! It was no longer about selecting and buying plants for landscaping purposes. It was about lusting after a specific plant for its beauty but, more often than not, very much influenced by its presence on social media. And the strange phenomenon that the more ‘rare’ the plant is, it seems to rank higher on one’s wishlist – because supply was hard to come by, it became more desirable!

 

On why I buy plants – this demands an honest self-reflection. On the surface, I can say because they are pretty – I love them; they make me happy. I wanted to landscape my garden. A closer examination might reveal that I have a plant buying addiction – much like any shopping addiction – that gives you a kick for a short while when you acquire something new. Or that I am truly passionate about plants – bordering on obsession, some might say!

 

What do they mean to you?

 

Plants mean a lot of things to me – first and foremost, they are a piece of living art to me. They are beautiful and ever-changing with new growth, unfurling of a leaf and propagating is especially rewarding when you spot new roots, seeds sprouting, babies popping up! But with the circle of life – it could go the other way too – the worries when they fall prey to infections, disease and pest attacks and finally, the heartbreak when they die (especially if they cost a pretty penny!)

 

And increasingly so since June 2020 when I launched my Youtube plant channel “Leafing Around” to share my plant and gardening journey with the world. And what an adventure this channel had been. It pushed me out of my comfort zone to talk in front of the camera. I had always been the person behind the camera (sometimes I am a maternity & portrait photographer www.irenechen.com). Then I discovered I have the talent to talk and talk forever without any script about plants! And increasingly, plants have engulfed my entire being – to the extent I could say plants are my life!

 

Sharing my planting journey, dishing out tips on garden design, and presenting new ideas on easy DIY things to do in the garden via my channel https://www.youtube.com/leafingaround have been fulfilling. I’m delighted when people tell me I had inspired them in their own gardening journey or had given them some good ideas to work on. I am truly honoured – I cannot think of a better compliment than being an inspiration to someone. As much as I have shared with others, I have also gained for myself – the connection with other plant lovers and the knowledge that I have gained from others is immense. And in trying to educate others, I am forced to understand the subject matter well myself, and the more I teach and share, the more I learn!

 

What’s a typical day in life as a plant parent?

 

Like a doctor doing their morning rounds, a quick inspection in the morning for apparent damages – that nothing had fallen on any of my darling babies. Because I have tall big trees, palms and heliconias around, sometimes a falling leaf or branch can be traumatic for the plants below. And when I say a falling leaf – this is a palm tree I have which the leaves are about 3 to 4 feet wide, and the damage can be pretty severe! Then see if any plants need immediate attention – a half-eaten leaf may suggest a caterpillar is nearby, so I hunt a little for it. A yellowing leaf may suggest problems with the roots – then you look around the stem and roots to see if there is rot or disease to be treated. The browning of my Huperzias may suggest it is too dry and needs another round of drinks. It is pretty much endless! Then I’d accumulate all the to-dos and work on them in the evenings or the weekends.

 

What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a plant parent, and how did you overcome it?

 

When our soil dies, we die – Irene.

 

The most difficult challenge I’d have to say is in the early days when I lacked knowledge; I wasted some money buying plants that were simply not suitable for my place.  My garden is super shady, which is great for big tropical foliage plants but bad for anything that demands full sun – as needed by many flowering and fruiting plants.  And it took me the death of several precious plants to understand and figure out suitable potting media for different plants that suit my growing conditions. I overcame this by shamelessly asking for information all around, reading up, seeking opinions and advice.  A challenge that I had earlier this year is trying to understand the many different kinds of potting media: their profile, function, how they compare with each other, and how they would decide what to use and in what proportion.  I studied it extensively and shared my learnings in a Youtube video titled “The Ultimate Guide to Potting Media”.  It’s a bit of a big claim, but I think it is one of the most comprehensive videos made in a way that is easy to understand.

 

What is the most insightful knowledge you have gained from keeping plants?

 

The fact is that we have to accept things that are not perfect. Plants are not perfect – because, in nature, it is part of an ecological system, so it gets eaten by bugs.  We don’t like that and call them pests.  But then I started to realise that yes, there are unwanted pests but also helpful bugs.  And there is a whole world of microbes in the soil – soil health is so important – if we kill all the living things in the soil, the soil will be destroyed.  We need microorganisms to help break down nutrients for our plants.  Therefore, never apply systemic pesticide, which kills everything, including the rich world of microbes in the soil.  Systemic pesticides are like your Starkle G and Furadan.  If you have Netflix, I highly encourage you to watch the documentary “Kiss the Ground” – it is all about the world of soil and how reliant we are on soils. Pesticides can damage the soil.  When our soil dies, we die.

 

What is the most expensive plant in your care?

 

I would rather talk about my favourite and most prized plant instead of my most expensive plant. So let me share with you what I call my most ‘wow’ plant.  This is the Licuala cordata.  The Licuala Cordata is a breathtaking palm with its almost perfectly circular leaves. It is considered a dwarf palm species – meaning that it will not grow into a giant palm tree.  It holds a special place in my heart as it is endemic to Sarawak, where I am from.  It grows in the tropical rainforest floor, shielded by tall trees and loves shady positions.  I’m blessed that this has been a very fuss-free plant too – no infection, no pest problems and getting bigger & bigger – most rewarding!

 

Irene is standing next to her magnificent Licuala Cordata.

 

Describe the most stubborn plant in your care, and why do you think so?

 

The most stubborn plant I have are the ferns, and I love them for it!  They sprout themselves in empty pots where other plants have died.  A cluster sprouted up in my Platycerium ridleyi that had died and is now hosting a happy bunch of wild ferns.  So I consider them the most stubborn as they have made their way into my garden uninvited, but I love them!

Have your plants served a greater purpose in your life than just being plants?

Apart from being aesthetically pleasing and opening up a network of fantastic plant people to connect with, I have found plants to be an outlet for my creativity in 2 ways.

 

I am always working on my garden and figuring out how to best layout or place my plants – my garden is like a living piece of art.  Lately, I have also gone into making kokedamas and what I call artisanal moss poles that my climbing plants (mostly philodendrons) can climb upon.

 

Second is my plant YouTube channel, where I am forced to come up with content regularly, so I have to get creative to think about engaging content.  I had ventured into plant-related comedy and skits that I enjoyed making – taking a jab at myself and those addicted to plant shopping.  Ridiculing our craze and readiness to part with quite a bit of money in the chase for rare plants – I even did an episode on plant shopping addiction where I played both the patient and doctor.  That was fun to script and act out – it was so good to connect with others who felt they were in the same situation!

 

Do you talk to your plants? If yes, then do you believe it has a positive effect on them? What do you typically say to them?

 

No, I don’t, actually!  I should probably start by welcoming them to my home & garden whenever I bring new ones back.

 

How did you create the ideal environment for your plants?

I think it is more the other way around, for example, how do I select the plants that will thrive in my environment.  Since my original purpose is to create a beautiful garden, the plants that I select must thrive on their own outside without much intervention.  This means plants that need to be mollycoddled in terrariums or need humidifiers or misting systems or special grow lights are not for me.

 

Let’s paint the world green together.

 

As a gardener, you have probably gone through intense feelings of doubt and questioned your ability to care for plants. Even when the results are eminent, never forget that you are playing an incredible role in saving the planet. You’re okay right where you are and never overlook your efforts. Should you have questions or concerns, a loving community is waiting to share their tips and insights with you. Rome was not built in one day; we take it one seed at a time.

 

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