Good day, dear reader, and I do hope my greeting is not just a salutation but quite possibly an affirmation about your day – I sincerely hope it is good, and that your mood is as stable as possible considering the current conditions.
We’ve crossed 100 days of quarantine and we’re quite literally back to square one. Not really – but it certainly feels that way. But you know what helps with that? Focusing on something that can center you, and for me, that is almost exclusively art and plants. There’s plenty of the first going around in this beautiful publication of ours, so read away to your heart’s desire. As far as plants goes, there’s not much (yet), but let’s try and turn that around one article at a time, shall we?
Without further ado, here’s part two of our plant guide for dummies (check out part one here). Yes, even you, person who feels they have been born without a green thumb, can make your home feel a bit more like being outside. Check it out:
1) Monstera Deliciosa
This has to be one of my favorite plants of all times, in any and all of its presentations. The Monstera, a name that, yes, comes from the word “monster,” is also known as Adam’s Rib or Swiss Cheese plant, and it’s a beautiful plant that can grow to become massively big with minimal care. In addition, its weird-looking leaves always make it stand out, no matter where you put it! (I currently have one in my kitchen and one in my bedroom, so I should know!).
Note, however, that the Monstera does prefer warmer environments – if temperature drops below 10°C where she is, you’ll see growth stopping completely (translation: don’t leave her outside during BA winter).
Light: No direct sunlight (you’ll see her leaves starting to brown) but lots of indirect light. If it’s lacking sunlight, the plant will likely continue to grow, but you’ll see the leaves don’t develop their traditional holes.*
Water: Around once a week in summer, once every two weeks in winter. Check the soil before watering – if you find it’s still moist, then wait a few more days!
Propagation: The lovely Monstera develops aerial roots as it grows, which really helps with reproduction. To reproduce it, grab a pair of clean scissors and cut one of the leaves, making sure it has a node (the section from where new leaves will grow) and one of the aerial roots. Place it in water, making sure the whole root is submerged, and wait ’til you see new, white roots stem from it. Once you do, feel free to plant it, but you can also leave it in water for several months and marvel at your growing roots and soon-to-come new leaves!
*Why? Because the more holes per leaf, the less green surface (so, plant surface with chlorophyll) to absorb sunlight and kickstart photosynthesis. If your plant is desperate for more light, it will stop developing holes!
Yes, all of the above are Peperomis, and yes, they’re all beautiful and different. Because of their thick leaves, Peperomias are incredibly generous with their growth. Their leaves store a lot of the nutrients they need to grow, which means that while they will naturally need care from time to time, they have quite a lot of energy stored for a rainy day (or, in their case, a dry one). Am I saying beautiful and low maintenance? Why, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
Light: Lots of indirect light, they really don’t like to be left in the dark (and they’re so pretty, why would you?).
Water: As said, they store a lot of nutrients in their leaves, so make sure the soil is completely dry before watering them once again. In winter, that can mean up to two weeks of no water. Check by sticking your finger about 2 cm in the soil!
Propagation: Choose a stem with three or more leaves on it and clip it right below the bottom leaf. Remove the lower leaves so there are only two left at the top. Place your cutting in water and leave it there, and in around two to six weeks, you’ll see the roots start to grow from the joints where the removed leaves were.
3) Spider Plant
Together with the Pothos, this has to be 100% the easiest plant (other than succulents, I suppose) to propagate. It’s so easy, in fact, that I once inadvertently dropped a baby spider plant while doing some repotting, and a few days later, found it had taken root just by laying in the soil. In Spanish, these are also called malamadre (bad mother) and lazos de amor (love bonds). Talk about a mixed message.
Fun fact: spider plants are one of cats’ favorite meals (idk why, but trust me, my plants can attest), so if you have one of these and also possess a cat, you’ll find bite marks all over it pretty soon. The bite marks don’t hurt the plant (other than aesthetically) and the plant doesn’t hurt the cat (it’s not poisonous or anything), but still, now you know.
Light: They love direct sunlight as long as it’s for a few hours a day. However, as long as it’s not pitch dark, this undemanding plant will thrive in a variety of light conditions.
Water: Water generously, and while you should avoid overwatering (as with any other plant, it will rot the roots), the spider plant prefers to have slightly damp soil pretty much all the time.
Propagation: If you find any big spider plant (there are tons of these when you walk around any neighborhood), you’ll see that the momma plant sometimes sprouts a big branch of sorts from which tiny spiderettes emerge (in the above picture you see quite a few). Just grab one of these and put them in soil – voilá, you’re done.
4) Aloe Vera
Ah, yes, the noble Aloe Vera! A succulent at heart, the Aloe needs very, very little care and just loves to be left alone. How will it repay you for this? By creating thick leaves filled with its magical gel that can be applied to most skin lesions, from burns to cuts, and make them a lot better. In addition, and not that you care, but it’s one of my favorite plants because we share the same last name.
Light: Place in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light. Can also thrive in direct sunlight, and that will in fact drive flowering during spring!
Water: Very little. Its thick leaves store a lot of moisture, just like the rest of the succulents, and while they’re hardy, overwatering will definitely kill it. Once every three weeks is fine, and even less so during the winter.
Propagation: While you can cut a leaf to try and propagate Aloe Vera, it is not the most reliable method. Instead, try to find an Aloe pup next to a full grown Aloe. Aloe pups, also known as aloe offsets or aloe offshoots, are essentially baby plants that share part of their root system with the parent plant, so all you need to do to start an aloe plant from a pup is to wait until it is big enough to remove from the mother plant. As a general rule, that means waiting until the offset is at least one-fifth the size of the parent plant or has several sets of true leaves. Once you have that, place it in soil and don’t water it for at least a week until it’s grown used to its new terrain, and after that, off you go!
Last but not least, the adorable and super resistant Ficus Lyrata or Fiddle Leaf Fig Care. Now, this is a plant that can grow fairly big (something to keep in mind), and can in fact become a full blown tree, all while requesting minimal care from you. What’s not to love?
Light: Needs bright, filtered light. Will rapidly deteriorate in dim lighting.
Water: Keep soil evenly moist at all times, so water around two or three times per week in the summer and a bit less during winter. Be careful not to overwater it or leave the plants sitting in water; otherwise, roots will rot.
Propagation: Use a sharp, clean scissor or razor blade to cut a 15 to 20 cm piece from the end of a healthy stem just below a leaf node (where the leaf joins the stem), and remove all leaves from the bottom third of the stem. Place the stem in water, and wait for a few weeks (I’d say between a month or two) until roots start showing before potting. Alternatively, you can dip the cut end of the stem into a small amount of rooting hormone and plant the stem in moist potting soil.
So, that’s it! Now that your house is full of plants, it’s time to learn a bit more about some general rules of thumb when it comes to plant care, like types of soil, moisture, and ways of curing most common plagues… But that’s enough for now. Stay tuned!