PLANTMOM’s tips for parenting your house plants

Is your Monstera Deliciosa plant thriving or just surviving? Amsterdam member Monai McCullough can help

A woman standing in a large greenhouse full of green plants.

Monai McCullough is a Soho House Amsterdam member and founder of PLANTMOM, a company dedicated to guiding house plant owners through the complexities of indoor gardening, providing design services and workshops, as well as supplying locally sourced plants and sustainably designed care products.

By Monai McCullough    Monday 27 April, 2020   Long read

AMSTERDAM – I don’t believe in ‘easy plants’– a lot of varieties are marketed as easy and, to me, that’s a disservice to the plants’ needs and your expectations. Problems that new ‘plant parents’ come up against can usually be traced back to the purchasing stage – for instance, know a plant’s light requirements before bringing it into your home. You can measure the light in your place using a light meter app, then pick the best plant accordingly. Regardless of how Instagrammable your wish-list plant is, the first step to being a great parent is accepting them for who they are and what they need. Reassuringly, killing plants is a part of the journey, and if you want to be a better parent, move on and learn from your mistakes.   

Below are some of the most popular plants with my tips for their care: 
A green leafed plant.

Zamioculas Zamiifolia

Pawel Czerwinski

A small green leafed tree.

Ficus Lyrata

Mike Marquez

Best for beginners: Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (ZZ plant)
A really hardy option and the first plant I would recommend to beginners who don’t want a trailing variety. This plant is known for its waxy leaves and low maintenance, so if it does perish, it’ll be from overexposure to sun or too much water (in general, it’s best to underwater than overwater plants).

Light: Low light or bright, indirect sunlight. You can place this plant in any sunlight except direct sun. If you place it in a strong light, the plant will lose leaf quality and begin to yellow. 
Water: This plant should be watered no more than three times a month, unless you see it has wrinkly stems.
Tip: These plants like to be rootbound. But, if yours begins to curve or lean, it’s time for a larger pot.

Needy but worth it: Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) 
A truly beautiful statement plant that can reach several metres high in the right environment. As lovely and popular as this plant is, it’s not for beginners and certain needs have to be met for it to thrive. 

Light: Bright, indirect or bright, filtered sunlight. This plant does best in western or eastern exposure and should avoid being in direct sunlight at all times. 
Water: Ficus trees do not like to have moist, soggy soil and would prefer to dry out at least 2in or 5cm from the top of the soil. This plant should be watered fully no less than once a week and no more than twice a week. 
Tip: Ficus trees need drainage (a place where the water can drain out of the pot) and enjoy tight roots, so repotting should occur no less than every two to three years. 
An exotic-looking orange flowered plant.

Strelitzia Nicolai

Nika Akin

A large green-leaved plant.

Monstera Deliciosa

Chris Lee

The thirsty one: Strelitzia Nicolai (White Bird of Paradise) 
This water-loving plant can reach up to more than 13m high in its natural, tropical environment. Water and light are key to ensuring its success.

Light: Bright, indirect light. This plant can handle southern exposure and the brightest indoor light settings.
Water: Strelitzia plants enjoy thorough watering, as they need high humidity to keep their leaves from browning too much. Water once to twice weekly during the spring and summer, and mist the plant frequently. 
Tip: Well-draining soil is required to avoid fungus gnats and a Strelitzia should be repotted every two to three years. 

Potential to grow larger than life: Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant)
This plant lives up to its name – as popular as it is, most people have an issue because it can get monstrously big. It has striking leaves that can become large and full of small holes as it ages.

Light: Bright, indirect sunlight is the best, but this plant can also grow in shade. (Disclaimer: shade does not mean low light, this is not a low-light plant). It does well in bright, northern light and eastern and western exposure, but direct sunlight should be avoided at all times. 
Water: This plant should never dry out completely, and loves to be watered one to two times a week in summer and once a week in winter.
Tip: To keep yours under control, it’s important to trim or stake it onto a moss pole.
A succulent in a white vase on a wooden floor.
Kari Shea
Low maintenance: Cacti and Succulents
Desert plants are bright, light, low-maintenance plants that are not only easy to care for in the right light requirements, but also slow growing and great for the neglectful plant parent. 

Light: Bright, direct sun. Desert plants should be in the brightest light setting possible.
Water: Little to no water in the winter months and once every 10 days in the summer. 
Tip: Well-draining soil is important for cacti plants.

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