No space, no problem. Get the green thumb guide from Portland plant expert Alea Joy from Solabee Flowers and Botanicals, who’s sharing her top tips for bringing nature inside (no matter how small an apartment!).
Photos by Michael J. Spear
"My main passion is to help people plants into their homes, as well as cultivate the balance and symbiosis of living with plants," Alea explains. "Healthy house plants are way more than a style feature. They are a reminder that we are part of a larger world. That there are beings which can flourish near us, be part of our everyday lives and actually reach a joyous expression there. It creates almost a happiness spell in the home. When a new person comes to my home literally filled with healthy, humming house plants, I watch their reaction. While plants are beautiful, that isn't what people comment on, they comment on the feeling. It feels beautiful, often they stand for a minute with eyes closed or walk from room to room, ignoring me for their presence. I love it!" Read on for Alea's tips for developing your collection.
Know your environment.
In small spaces it is important to give plants best placement to light sources and research what the needs are for each plant you acquire. I often will read a bit about the place they are indigenous, then try to figure out in what ways I can emulate that. Do you have a hot, dry, South-facing window? Try cactus and succulents for a dessert vibe. Tropicals go crazy in a steamy bathroom with a nice east facing window, create a jungle! Happy plants are beautiful plants, so keep your environmental circumstance in the front of your mind.
Success also depends on your habits and how you relate with plants. Do you love to water and check in with your plants daily? Steer towards ferns, and maybe avoid cactus. Do you travel a lot? Cactus thrive on neglect. Putting yourself on a schedule can help keep your watering consistent, but maybe that's not your thing? Some philodendrons are very forgiving if they get too dry, while ferns won't perk back up as easily.
Buy from a reputable source.
The quality of the plant you choose and how it was treated before it came into our home make a big difference in you success setting up your green paradise. In the world of big box store plants, ask yourself this: does the person you are buying it from know where the farm or greenhouse this plant came from is? They should be able to tell you. If they can, then it is likely you are cutting out a lot of the brokerage houses ship mass amounts of plants. Go to farmers markets, or try nursery direct plant sources like florists or small specialized plant stores. Not only will have a chance of getting cooler stuff with more personality, the quality is way higher, the environmental impact is way lower, and surprisingly, the cost is most often very comparable.
Stock up on herbs.
A great plant to have on hand for kitchens. They can grow very similarly to many common houseplants, but differ in relationship as you can use them. Herbs like rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme work out well, but have need for larger soil wells, lots more water and moister air. They often flourish better outdoors in pots, even on a fire escape or front steps. Many of these plants also have a natural resting state in the winter months, so fear not if they look tired, just give them a little time outside and they should pop back in the spring.
Tropicals do really well indoors as they like the same temperature range as we do. Consider plants like—
Many fern types
Cactus and succulents, given you have good strong direct light available and don't over water.
Learn more about Alea's work on her website