Everyone talks about plant goals. It’s time for plant reality.
Failing to care for a cute succulent you received as a birthday present, or an impulse buy peace lily is a rite of passage. The heartbreak of discovering the mass of dried out leaves or rotting roots teaches you to both care more and let go. But through the good and the bad, you don’t need to do it alone.
Becca Schneider started the Facebook group Philly Plant Exchange in 2016 to after being a part of similar groups in her home state of Virginia. She inherited her mom’s love of gardening and that translated into filling her home with plants. The group currently has more than 5,000 members.
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“I thought I would just meet one or two people who had a pothos to trade,” Scheider laughs. “I don’t think I have met someone who had plants who I didn’t care for. They hone in on this thought that there’s something a little more magical to life.”
When you gradually gather your first few houseplants, a lot can go awry. Everyone starts out with a plant sin. You can be an over-waterer, an under-waterer, or a wrong place to keep them away from the cat-er.
“I fell into buying plants I couldn’t keep up with,” says member Shelly Forrester. “When I talk to people who say they kill everything, I tell them you just need to find the right plants. I built up my collection based on things that worked out.”
For the moments when things don’t work out, the Plant Exchange is a a great resource for advice on either saving your current plant that set off alarm bells, or what to do for next time if it’s too late. There is even a chance you can get a new plant to start over with from one of the members. The spirit of the Plant Exchange is sharing what you can when one of your plants grows from one to many: cuttings, a piece that needs to grow roots via propagation, or what is known as “babies”, little plants that already have their own roots.
“I think a lot of the hobbies with the house plants are coming back from the 1970s,” says member Yvanna Sherman. “There’s a lot of trade and barter, and you learn a lot of plant identification.”
According to the Plant Exchange, these are the most common plant parent mistakes:
1. Over-watering can cause root rot that is difficult to stop once it appears. “Most things don’t die because they are under watered,” says Forrester. When in doubt, water less.
2. Cater your plant selections to the natural light you have. Some plants prefer a lot of light, others limited or filtered light. If your home has little light to provide for your leafy friends, think of supplementing your natural light with grow lights.
3. Growing almost in anything in pots or containers that lack drainage is a gamble. Terracotta or clay pots with holes at the bottom usually work best.
4. Soil also affects drainage. Succulents and cacti like soil that drains quickly with the help of sand or perlite, whereas ferns often prefer soil rich with humus and fertilizer.
If you're interested in joining Philly Plant Exchange, click here.