Houseplants. You either love them, or you love them and somehow murder them with good intentions. Or you’re completely indifferent and probably aren’t reading this blog post. Carry on!
My love of houseplants started pretty early on and is wholly and unquestionably the fault of Laura at Olive and Love. When we met in the tenth grade and became immediately inseparable, I all but moved into her house. Her bedroom was this magical place where every nook and cranny had something leafy and green planted in it. In fact, she had this incredible pothos plant that she trained to grow like a vine around the perimeter of the ceiling.
Like I said: magic. So I pretty much decided then and there that I, too, wanted to have houseplants. All the cool kids were doing it. And of course, my plants in those days never really did very well. I didn’t quite have the hang of it back then, but it sure didn’t stop me from trying.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things, and I seem to keep most of my plants alive these days. Am I the houseplant whisperer? Heeeeeeeeeeeck no. I’m more of a Houseplant Yell-Random-Movie-Quotes-and-Startle-Them type of gal. But I get by, and so do they.
So I thought I’d share my suggestions for ‘getting by’ with houseplants.
Firstly and foremostly, if you’ve struggled with keeping them alive in other parts of your house, try keeping some in your bathroom. Since most houseplants are tropical and love humidity, warmth, and low light–bathrooms tend to be the best house habitat for them. Our master bathroom is the perfect storm of houseplant happiness: a bright, west-facing window (so there is only strong light late in the afternoon for a short time), and a, frankly, improperly-functioning exhaust fan that really doesn’t seem to suck much moisture out–so the bathroom is nice and humid.
Pothos love this bathroom (pictured above ‘Neon’ pothos sitting on the red cabinet, and some sort of variegated golden pathos in the mirror reflection trailing down from the wall cabinet). But I find they do pretty well in most parts of my house as long as they are sitting near a bright window. And as long as I can manage to remember to water them when they look a little deflated.
In fact, that’s my second suggestion for getting by with houseplants: you have to pay attention. If you are the person that walks through a room and doesn’t notice the plants, you probably shouldn’t try to keep them. You have to put your looking balls on them at least once a week to keep tabs on what they need. Sure, you can schedule the waterings, and the feedings–set a reminder on your phone…but the problem is that houseplants do what they want. They don’t care about your schedule. In fact, they laugh at your schedule. They will, however, send you plenty of smoke signals if you just give them a glance now and again. Droopy? Give them a little water. Dead bits? Trim them off. Leggy and reaching dramatically for the nearest light source? Move them closer to said light source. Dusty? Gather them up and put them in the shower for a good ol’ fashioned hose-down (this is a little trick I learned from Olive and Love–houseplants love to shower together from time to time. True story.)
Bromeliads also love this particular window sill, in this particular bathroom (although it depends on the type because some love bright, filtered light, but some like it pretty darn dark–check the care instructions or The Google when you’re buying one to make sure what exactly floats their goat). And I love them because dang if they don’t provide the loveliest, loveliest pop of color.
And speaking of bromeliads…anybody besides me like to keep tillandsia in the shower?
My shower has the benefit of a nice bright window, which they like–but what they really love is soaking up all that shower mist and overspray. When we designed the bathroom and chose to install these little corner shelves, I’m not sure that airplants were what we envisioned storing here. But hey, who needs shampoo anyway? (Me. But fortunately there is plenty of window-sill space for all that silliness.) I’ve had a lot of people complain that they can’t seem to keep airplants alive because they dry out easily (in dry climates). Try putting them in your shower (unless you live where it’s very humid, and in that case, you probably don’t struggle with them drying out as much).
In fact, when I’ve got a plant in another part of the house and it starts seeming distressed for reasons that I can’t identify, I’ll move it to this bathroom for a bit, and that usually makes it happy.
This brings us to my third bit of advice for getting-by-with-houseplants, and it goes a little something like this: snake plant.
Also called viper’s bowstring hemp, tiger tail, mother-in-law’s tongue, or St. George’s sword (a rose by any other name would smell as sweet). Sansevieria trifasciata is the houseplant for people who can’t houseplant. It survives in nearly any light situation (or lack thereof), requires pretty much no water, and no maintenance. And yet it is completely aesthetically striking.
Case study: my downstairs bathroom. Since this room is basically a basement bathroom, it gets almost no light through its one tiny, useless window. It’s a glorified cave.
Furthermore, because this is the room in the house that I typically go into the least, I almost never water this plant. Out of sight, out of mind.
And yet, there it sits, thriving and smug.
I have them growing in several different spots throughout my house, all with varying degrees of light, and they flourish everywhere. Including outside (because I live in a warm climate) with succulents. Try as I might, I can’t kill these things. And believe me, I’ve tried.
But back to the bathroom:
I thought I’d take a moment to address the big red elephant in the room. A lot of people have pointed out that we changed our bathroom–it got a bit of notice back when it was all yellow and grey:
But yeah…I changed it…because that’s what I do. NO REGRETS. We really, really needed some closed storage instead of that open metal shelf (as much as I loved that shelf). It’s tricky, though, to find pieces of furniture to fit in that narrow of a space, so I wound up cobbling together a couple of random side tables that we had had sitting around forever, taking up space. Who knew that they had such a greater destiny?
I DID. I KNEW. That’s why I refused to get rid of them for so long. We simply screwed the white one onto the top of the grey one, and then I painted the whole thing, and lined the inside of the glass cabinet with decorative contact paper.
Et voilà! Poor man’s apothecary cabinet.
But back to bathroom plants. During my recent visit to the Olive and Love house, I got to take a look at her current selection.
You guys. She has plants hanging from an old ladder over her soaking tub. I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE AND IN MY BATHROOM.
Also, j’adore this sunny little curated window ledge. Especially that darling geranium basking in the sun.
Bathroom plant goalz.
After seeing Laura’s collection, it was glaringly apparent to me that I still have a lot of space for more plants in my master bath. And then I went and stumbled across these images:
Thank you, interwebs.
It’s official: I want to peer through foliage to see myself in the mirror, people. This is happening.