How to Make a Plant Plan
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Plant ladies of the northeast rejoice! Though any time is a good time to get a new plant, spring is almost here and with it comes a great opportunity to bring home some new plant babies.
My annual visit to my local plant store is one of my favorite markers of the return of spring. Though my options are limited to indoor plants, the greenhouse and the herb seedling aisles offer plenty of options that work for my apartment. I’m going in with a game plan this year, partly because I just love thinking about plants and partly to prevent myself from making too many spur of the moment purchases as I already have a pretty full bench:
This year, my plant plan includes:
1) Herbs for my kitchen windowsill and fire escape. My fire escape happens to be right outside my kitchen window, and I want to have herbs close at hand for when we cook. I'll be shopping for basil, thyme, chamomile and sage this year.
2) Replacements of previously loved plants. I'm going to give maidenhair fern another go. It'll be my fourth try, though my last attempt was not technically a failure because my mom took it home with her after taking a liking to its delicate leaves and springy movement. I'm also in the market for a mini olive tree to replace one that was left outside for too long in the chill of late fall. Olive trees remind me of our trip to Tuscany and I'd love another bonsai version of it for my home.
3) Something that hangs. I installed shelving in my bedroom as extra storage space for my pottery, and I'd like to add one plant to the top shelf that drapes down with a touch of drama.
If you’re looking to introduce or add plants to your home, here are a few guiding questions and considerations I would suggest as you develop your plant plan:
What’s my objective?
Having an understanding of what you're looking for and why you want to get plants will help focus your search, guide your decisions, and build a collection of plants around what works for you. Do you want your plants to serve a purpose other than decor? Do you want plants that purify the air, provide produce for your cooking, or serve as a source of fresh flowers for your dinner table? Also important, which plants do you find beautiful?
My goal is to build an interesting, varied, collection around a core of food-centric plants such as herbs and my two fruit trees. I want plants to be featured as part of the look and feel in most of the rooms in my apartment. I'd like for the majority to be easy-going, and to represent a mix of shades of green, types of leaves, and the occasional small bloom of flowers.
What kind of habitat(s) can I offer?
How much sunlight does your home get? How much growing space can you provide? How humid are the different rooms in your home, and how much do the temperatures vary through the seasons or even from day to night? Apartments can be tricky as older buildings with radiators tend to get very dry in winter, so you may want to consider adding a humidifier to your place for both yourself and your plants.
How much maintenance can I deal with?
Honesty is key here. Do you want to be a doting, nurturing plant mom who interacts with your plants all the time for watering, moving them in and out of direct light, pruning, repotting, and plant food feeding? Do you want mostly low maintenance plants that do well on benign neglect?
It's helpful to understand the extent to which you can accommodate high maintenance plants. I can work with a mix as long as most of my plants are easy (jade plants, aloe, cacti, snake plants). I've also found that trees can be a nice in-between. I currently have a lime tree, a clementine tree, three small coffee plants, and one 8" tall avocado tree that my dad sprouted at home and gave to me for potting. They only need to be watered once or twice a week. Every so often, I pamper them with a shower in the bathtub and that brightens them up immensely.
What are my health and safety considerations (allergies, pets, kids)?
I always research whether plants are okay for pets before bringing them into the home around my dogs. I also put a premium on plants that are good for air quality. I have one aloe plant in the living room and may add another in the bedroom. When my citrus trees are blooming, even their tiny flowers trigger my air filter to work harder than usual. I avoid plants with large blooms as much as I love some of them because I want to minimize the amount of pollen in the air.
What's my plan if I travel or move?
If you travel often, you may need to stick to plants that can handle long periods between watering. Thinking ahead helps to avoid the sad scene of dried out, wilted, or dead plants in pots littered here and there. Also, if you are planning a move, decide whether you will be able to take a potential new purchase with you. Smaller plants are easy, but perhaps don't spring for a 10' peach tree in a whiskey barrel that you might not be able to take into your next place.
Once you've assessed your circumstances, moving on to the fun part is easy. Pinterest is a great way to find some plant inspiration. I’ve gathered a few plant and plant styling ideas on my Urban Jungle board to get you started.
Buy your plants, soil, planters, and plant food. Home Depot or Lowe's are easy one stop shops. Also check out your local farmers market and any gardening centers nearby. See if friends have plant clippings that can be propagated for a fun little project (basil propagates easily, succulents too). Etsy also offers plants for sale, which I’d recommend if you’re eyeing more obscure types of plants.
Good luck and green thumbs up to you!