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Plant Lady Is The New Cat Lady

Sitting under my Neon Pothos, which is my favourite plant of the moment. 

For those who know me personally in any capacity will know that I’ve developed a verging-on too aggressive obsession with plants. It all started a couple months back after having moved into a new lower floor flat and having to deal with street pollution. I decided to do some research about which plants were the best for removing toxins from the air and needless to say, things escalated quickly from there.

While my flat does not look like this (yet), I felt very inspired about creating a lush environment and adding some colour to our bite-sized Hong Kong home. If you're living in Hong Kong, I would unsurprisingly suggest a visit to the Flower Market. Not only is a plant haven, but a nice escape from the hustle of the city and its smog.  

The Orchids greenhouse at the Hong Kong Botanical Garden.

Before I embarked on my pensioner transformation, I was like many in believing that everything I touch dies. I've made a few attempts in the past to be a disciplined plant owner, but most would inevitably keel over after a short and sad life. Like everything else, a bit of research, discipline, and experience will have you owning your new Plant Lady / Gentleman status in no time. Here are some tips to get you started: 

  • Watering: The number one tip when it comes to indoor plants is that overwatering is the most common plant-killing practice. You hear different things from different sources, but the general consensus is to follow the instructions that come with the plant. For me, that's gotten a bit difficult to keep track due to the number I have, so I follow this simple rule: dip your finger into the soil about one inch deep, and water thoroughly (i.e. until water drains from the bottom) if it's dry to the touch. I prefer this method because how quickly he water is absorbed can depend on the weather and indoor conditions. During humid weeks, the plants definitely don't need to be watered with the same frequency. 
  • Soil: Almost all indoor plants do best in well-draining potting soil, which can easily be purchased. Since roots need oxygen to thrive, I always use a stick to poke some holes to aerate the soil after watering, as the soil tends to become more compact. This also prevents again root rotting, which is a main culprit of houseplant death. 
  • Light: It goes without saying that it's easiest way to determine how much sun a plant should get is to follow the instructions that come with it. While some plants require less light than others, it's my personal belief that no plant will thrive and live its full potential in extremely low light. If you like the idea of having some plants in a room that doesn't get much light (e.g. the bathroom), then it's probably best to swap them out every couple of weeks. 
  • Fertilising: Houseplants do need help on the fertilising front, as the don't have access to the natural fertilisation of outdoor life. While you can purchase them in stores, I prefer the natural route and water them with fortified water (e.g. water saved from washing rice, water used to boil eggshells, green tea, rainwater). Some people like to use coffee grounds, compost, or even deceased pets as you'll read below, but I'm weary about the smell and mess that comes with those methods.
  • Pruning: This is a pretty straightforward tip, but when you see a sad-looking brown leaf, trim it from the closest node. Not only does it keep you're plant looking pretty, and you encouraged, it also saves the plant from unnecessary photosynthesis to keep the leaf alive. Of course, if you're getting a lot of these leaves then you're probably doing something wrong. 

*On a side note: I personally prefer leafy indoor plants, so I'm not sure if these tips are effective for flowers and cacti. 

At the risk of sounding a bit too earth goddess-like, I feel strongly about incorporating more plant life in your home or office. Not only are they natural purifiers and make for the perfect home decor item, they also symbolise the foundation to which are natural cycle of life is built.

Plants are also close to my heart because my Grandma has always loved them, and I have vivid memories helping her water her plants as a kid. If one of our goldfish died, she would always bury it in one of the larger plant pots as fertiliser. She would always apply a bit of fresh Aloe Vera from her plant if one of us got a mosquito bite.

I hope I inspire some of you, and don't hesitate to reach out if you want to know more, or are a fellow green thumb-er, as I'm always happy to answer any questions. Until next time!