Lots of young urban adults — OK, let’s call them millennials — seem to be forgoing children, cars and family heirlooms, and instead are filling their lives with pets, houseplants and travel.
A Washington Post story from September about millennials and their houseplants and how the act of nurturing plants is important to them got us thinking about all of this. Then several houseplant books arrived for our review.
Yep, houseplants are popular again. And, nope, we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets. Kristen Boswell Keenan, who owns Vertical Gardens Northwest in Everett and specializes in houseplants, can attest to the trend, especially among millennials.
Taylor O’Brien Johnston, 32, of Everett, likes her houseplants, despite having a north-facing house with trees on the back side. Her home, with its nifty vintage decor, hosts numerous low-light plants such as fern species and philodendron.
“I’m not the most skilled plant owner, but I am learning as I go,” she said. “Plants add an element that brightens and lightens. Lots of my friends like houseplants.”
“My husband, Derek, and I are on the fence about whether or not we’ll have children, so being able to nurture a plant is satisfying,” she said. “My folks always had a good garden, and I have an outdoor garden, too.”
Johnston has had plant coaching from a friend who worked at a nursery. “And I’ve also picked up plants at garage sales.”
Keenan makes and sells all sorts of containers for houseplants. She encourages people to hang them on walls and from ceilings instead of taking up floor or furniture space. White plant pots are popular now, because they tend to let the colors and textures of the plant take center stage.
It takes a bit of education to get the hang of caring for plants in your home. Most houseplants die because they get too much water and fertilizer, not the right amount of light and heat, too much dust on the leaves or are moved around too much, Keenan said. Guide books, such as the ones listed below, will help the novice houseplant gardener.
One way to enjoy caring for a plant without soil and stress is to raise an air plant. Keenan makes delightful hanging containers for these little air plants, which in their native habitats grow on trees. Not parasitic, these epiphytes just need a place to rest and a weekly soaking.
“Air plants are an easy way to show off living, textured art. Many of them even bloom.”
One of Keenan’s favorite indoor potted plants is the corn palm, which can reach 6 feet in height. It needs some bright light, but not the full rays of the sun.
Another Keenan fave is the popular fiddle-leaf fig, which also tends to grow big. One of the trendiest plants around — find them in all the home design magazines — this ficus family plant needs even moisture, dusting and bright light.
She also likes echeverias, but these “hens and chicks” succulents need to be kept warm. Place them in a window that gets lots of light and in a potting soil that can drain quickly. Same with the timeless jade, a plant that can easily be propagated and shared. Hot windows also are great places for cacti and aloes.
The most popular of houseplants arguably is the heart-leaf philodendron vine, in part because it can survive in low light and will revive if you don’t water it for awhile. Many kitchen windows have been framed in this vine.
I like begonias, zebra plants, orchids, Boston ferns and the tree philodendron, another architectural plant.
No matter what you choose to display, collect or even hoard, it’s important to know that indoor plants are good for you, Keenan said.
“Many species of plants remove indoor air pollution and filter toxins,” she said. “Lots of houseplants can actually freshen up a room. And people want to nurture. Houseplants are a good way to get that hands-on sort of therapy for yourself.”
Books to check out
“Houseplants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants”
By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, Cool Springs Press
This is a fabulous book with chapters on: planting; watering and fertilizing; lighting; environment, grooming and propagation; bugs and problem solving; specialty growing, water gardens, terrariums, vertical planters, bonsai; how to take care of holiday plants such as poinsettia, amaryllis, cyclamen, paperwhites, Christmas cactus; and profiles of plants, from those that are easy to grow to those that are challenging.
The author’s blog is at www.thehouseplantguru.com.
“Prick: Cacti and Succulents — Choosing, Styling, Caring”
By Gynelle Leon, Octopus Books
“Prick” is about spiny little plants that can prick your fingers, and it’s also the name of the author’s plant shop in London, England. Leon, a young photographer, shares inspirational and achievable styling tips. The book has profiles on many cacti for indoors and outside.
“Growing Healthy Houseplants”
By Ellen Zachos, Storey Publishing Basics Series
OK, yeah, the book’s cover shows an African violet, but this pocket-size publication is handy.
Chapters include those on light, water, soil, fertilizer, tools, re-potting, propagation, vacation, pests, diseases, displays, foliage, flowering plants, trees and cacti.