A Beginner’s Guide To Houseplants And 5 Of The Best Types To Buy

Want to become more green-fingered? Well, class is in session, so grab a pen, says Denise Curtin 

Spring has officially sprung and I don’t know about you, but every year this season urges me to give my home a little rejuvenation in ways that won’t cost me my rental deposit. And this year, having looked at the same four walls day in and day out, I’m only gagging for a change. Like many, being at home full-time has made me more aware of my space, the areas that need a lick of paint, the lampshade that has surely been there since day dot and the empty candle holders at the bottom of the fireplace. It has made me realise the importance of being in a space that you love and one that feels like home, even if it isn’t yours to keep.

And so, with a desire to tszuj up my gaff, I’ve been doing what everyone does these days when in need of interior inspiration, scrolling through Pinterest to beat the band. Creating a little board called ‘what my house should look like’, I recently noticed one common theme in all the photos and one missing element from my house, plants. Beautiful houseplants flood through all my pinned photos and I think it’s what primarily attracted me to them in the first place. They make the space look contemporary, colourful and inviting. But if you’ve never cared for a plant in your life, where the hell do you begin? My plastic bedroom plants will just about tell you how green-fingered I am and my childhood Tamagotchi is the only thing I’ve ever had to keep alive besides myself, so if you’re new to this business, what should you know?

Well, it’s only right that I don’t fake it till I make it in this instance, and instead, call in the experts. Speaking to Erin Thomas from Hopeless Botanics @hopelessbotanics, Erin says that the most commonly asked question she gets is about the tips and tricks for keeping plants alive when in fact, it just comes down to the fundamentals. ‘You need to understand the soil, how much it likes to dry out, and then what level of light it needs,’ explains Erin. Specialists in beautiful houseplants delivered to your door in Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow, and Meath, Erin is plant obsessed and loves educating and sharing her love for plants with newbies on the block. ‘You don’t need a library of knowledge for each plant, you just need to understand the basics of light and soil and then apply it to all your plants,’ notes Erin. Adding that people are always fearful that they’ll kill their plant of not water it enough, Erin adds that you need to get ‘out of the practice of thinking you need to water your plants every Sunday. Instead, Erin explains that you need to check your plants every Sunday and instead of lashing the water in, check the soil, stick your finger in or a stick and see if the plants need water, getting to understand how much water each plant likes before then, watering them if needs be.

 

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When it comes to light, Erin notes that again, knowing how much sunlight each plant likes is vital, something which can be done with a quick Google search. ‘Some plants can handle direct light, so you could put them a few feet away from a south-facing window, whereas some plants really do not like that and it would burn the leaves, so you need to understand how many hours of maybe, direct sunlight it can handle or if it just needs a shady spot,’ says Erin. Emphasising the importance of being in tune with your plants, Erin explains that during the winter you might need to pull your plants closer to the window due to the lack of light and again, similar to the soil situation, it all comes down to watching your plant and following its lead on what it needs.

Above all, Erin noted that it’s important to remember that having plants is to benefit your life and not to stress you out, so don’t get too worried if you see a brown leaf or not every piece of foliage is looking amazing at all times. Similar to humans getting spots and pimples, plants too go through rough patches, so don’t be too hard on yourself. As Erin highlights, owning plants is so rewarding and at the end of the day, it’s all about having a little fun.

Erin’s top 5 plant picks for new plant moms! 

 

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Top tip: ‘New plant parents, you don’t always have to gravitate towards small, tiny plants’ says Erin. ‘Medium or larger size plants are often more established and hardier. They have an established root system and the soil doesn’t dry out as quick, so don’t be afraid of buying a medium or large size plant, in some ways, it’s going to be way easier for you!” 

Aspidistra – ‘They’re known as the Cast Iron plant and I just love them. When you put them in a nice, decorative pot, they look tall, structural and slender. You can wipe up the leaves and they’re very glossy, but not showy! They’re just very elegant. Also; you can walk away and leave them for four to six weeks and they wouldn’t care at all!’

Chinese Evergreens – ‘Chinese Evergreens are great, they come in a variety of leaf patterns, shapes and sizes but they’re really easy care because they don’t need a huge amount of light. So saying that, they’re good for people that maybe aren’t sure about their light situation. Plus, they can dry out up to 70 percent or more, so if you’re forgetful or you’re going away, they’re a sturdy plant and that makes them really easygoing.’

 

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Snake Plants – ‘These are water once a month kind of job, so they like to dry out fully and then get a good soaking. Actually, we always joke and tell people that when you get your period, pay your mortgage or pay your rent, that’s when you water these plants. Then you can just leave them alone for weeks, so that’s really good. Snake plants also look awesome in multiples, so like in collections of three, on a shelf or on a window ledge, I think they look cool styled like that.’

Pothos (Marble Queen / Satin) – ‘These are the same gene, the same family, but a Marble Queen has a really pale leaf, it’s really beautiful and then the Satin Pothos is like a silvery leaf and they’re both brilliant for first time plant parents because they can dry out almost fully, they’re trailing plants so you can let them trial or snip them and keep them bushy, and lastly, they tell you when they need water. The plants’ leaves curl up a little bit, so that’s a really nice indication, a bit of a signpost for you to water them.’

 

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Philodendron scandens – ‘These are also known as the heartleaf philodendron and they’re just these gorgeous, heart shaped, trailing plants that’ll climb as well. They’re just so easy going. I’ve often used them in installations where I’m doing a wall of plants and stuff like that because they need so little maintenance and they just grow, grow, grow like wild beasts, they’re amazing!’

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