DIY Planter Pick-Me-Ups
There are tons of ways for frugal plant fanatics to get crafty on the cheap. These easy DIY projects will take basic terracotta pots up a notch.
Add a cute pop of color to a clay-colored pot with a swath of bright paint. I scored a tube of this weatherproof periwinkle shade at Pearl Paint. Line the base of the planter’s rim with masking tape and dab on two fast-drying coats with a sponge brush. To keep the paint from dripping, wait a few hours before potting or watering.
Vintage containers like this old-school creamer can also be repurposed as plant homes. Check out thrift shops for colorful steals. Grow the plant in a tiny terracotta pot and nest it inside of the cool container. This will give the plant room to drain post-watering, and help prevent root rot.
Bookish plant geeks can channel grade school days with chalkboard paint planter labels. Download a stencil from this DesignSponge feature, or get creative with a pair of scissors and make your own pattern. Grab some chalk and doodle the name of whatever you’re growing, or scrawl a sweet message and tote the planter as a homemade hostess or housewarming gift.
It’s no secret that I let my nerd flag fly. Let’s just say that while my hand-eye coordination is entirely unimpressive, my vocabulary has been working out. I’m unashamed of my unabashed geekiness, and love to spend my weekends breaking a mental sweat. My fantasy afternoon would involve a trip to a stately, high-ceilinged library and soaring museum with lots of salon-style galleries (and, ok, an adorable fellow geek to hold my hand while we stare at paintings). I’ve always loved to swoon over canvases, but since starting a new job at a historical society, I’ve started to get downright giddy in archives. My inner dork salivates over the prospect of wading through old manuscripts and ephemera and decoding illegible scrawls or watermarked pages—it would be so exciting to be the Sherlock Holmes of musty old documents!
So imagine my glee when I discovered the existence of herbaria, archives of preserved plants. I like to press flowers between the pages of the heavy art history volumes that clutter my room, but I didn’t realize that there were entire buildings devoted to housing these fragile works. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has 300,000 preserved specimens from all over the world. (Search the collection.) Many date from the mid-1800s, and were collected by people ranging from esteemed scientists to amateur gardening enthusiasts like me. I love the idea of studying a flower plucked a century ago by a lady in a floral bonnet who stooped to pluck some souvenirs on an afternoon stroll. Although less individual and sentimental than a found photograph or letter, somehow, these plants don’t feel any less intimate. My inner geek just started hyperventilating.
Indoor Gardening for Plant Killers—Part 1: Choosing Your Plants
Can you learn to grow a green thumb? Growing up in suburban Michigan and a beachside town in Canada, I never really thought about plants, because they were everywhere. From the bright yellow forsythia signaling the beginning of spring to the tufts of beach grass that scratched at my ankles as I raced towards the lake, plants weren’t things I learned to grow—they were just things I grew up with.
When I relocated to Brooklyn last year, I missed the quiet, shady spots where I was raised, but I fell in love with Park Slope’s graceful, tree-lined streets and colorful brownstone window boxes. As the stale summer air started to make my sweltering apartment feel like a greenhouse, I decided to get my hands dirty and give gardening a try.
The first attempt was a colossal failure. It all started when I made my first pilgrimage to IKEA. As I stuffed my cart with silverware, mixing bowls, cutting boards, and frozen meatballs (snacks for later!), I thought about other adult accoutrements that would make my apartment feel like a Place Grown-ups Live. I wandered through the gardening section, and tossed an ivy plant into the cart. If a cheese grater and tiny plant don’t signal arrival in the Real World, I don’t know what does.
I doted on my plant like a proud (and terrified) first-time parent. I watered it carefully, I moved it around the apartment looking for the right amount of light—and in response, it shriveled, yellowed, and died. I enlisted the help of a nurturing friend, almost a plant-whisperer, known to bring even the saddest-looking specimens back to life. No luck. This poor little guy was too far-gone, and as I pitched him in the trash, I wondered if I was destined for a lifetime of doling out big bucks for short-lived bouquets. Months (and many gardening tips) later, I’m a proud plant mama with an ever-growing brood. My eldest, a spider plant, is starting to take over the windowsill, and I’ve even (miraculously, and probably through a combination of watering and pleading) managed to keep my orchid alive.
Here are some humble tips for growing indoor plants. May you learn from my mistakes and never watch your plants wither in pain.
Part 1—Choosing Your Plants
Tip 1: Select hearty plants
Last February, the lovely plant purveyors at Zuzu’s Petals wisely discouraged me from buying both an orchid and an African violet. Two high-maintenance plants would have been too many for me to handle. If you’re just starting out, you probably want to take a dip in the kiddie pool, rather than plunge headfirst into the deep end. Do yourself a favor and choose some leafy greens that are damn near indestructible.
Spider plants fit the bill perfectly. These are unfussy, grow quickly, and do well in most temperatures and kinds of light. Also, they sprout little while flowers that turn into adorable “babies” that you can root in water and replant. Circle of life!
Pothos plants are also total troupers and can handle almost any conditions. I have some growing in my north-facing window, some in my south-facing window, and grew one in my fluorescent-light-filled former office.
Fellow plant enthusiasts, which ones do you recommend for first-time indoor gardeners?
Tip 2: Find your light (smizing not required)
As Tyra always says, you’ve got to find your light. Different plants flourish in different lighting conditions, so think about the light in different parts of your apartment. My croton, whose leaves turn bright colors after basking in strong light, is happiest in my brightest, south-facing window. My orchid, which doesn’t need so much direct sunlight, lives on the sill of a shadowy, north-facing window. If you’re buying plants from a florist or garden store chain, ask an expert what kind of light is best. Otherwise, Google it! A bevy of plant ladies (and men) can help.
Fear not, well-intentioned plant butchers: we’re just getting started. Stay tuned for Part 2: Potting Your Plants.
What happened to the end of April showers? The downpour continues outside, but these sunny May flowers sprung up on my desk this morning.
Just came back indoors after a nice picnic lunch on the Great Lawn. John Vanderlyn’s 1818 painting of the well-manicured gardens of Versailles is quite a contrast to the untamed tangles of greenery in Central Park. It’s fun to peek at the old-school leisure activities of the Parisian ladies who lunch (a promenade with a parasol, anyone?), but I think that the native plants on this side of the pond have a certain je ne sais quoi.
Beautiful leafy croton from Zuzu’s Petals on 5th Ave. These sweet ladies grow hearty plants that are perfect for beginning indoor gardeners, and also ease my orchid anxiety every time I call them swearing that it’s about to keel over. Someone suggested that I water this little guy every 3–5 days, but I think he needs a little more love. I usually water him when the speckled leaves start to wilt. He perks up in no time.
I made these moss terrariums out of a mason jar and apothecary-inspired jar from Target. These were simple, but check out the whimsical creations by the crafty chicks at Twig. Love how the little figurines make the self-contained creation feel like a tiny world. You can also visit them at the Brooklyn Flea. The Flea is a great place to hunt for creative receptacles for your plants! I’m on the lookout. Stay tuned to see my haul.