Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I never thought I’d become a plant lady. My mom loved to garden, both indoors and out, and would often take me and my sister to the local gardening store in the spring and the botanical gardens in the winter. Like most surly preteens, I hated it. I thought plants were creepy, requiring as much attention and care as a family pet without the fun of learning tricks or cuddling on the couch.
But then I grew up and moved to New York City. Ah, the concrete jungle that is pretty much 99% concrete and 1% jungle—the jungle comprised mostly of insects and rodents that come uninvited into your studio apartment. I quickly learned to find solace in the green-ish places that dotted my neighborhood. Washington Square Park, the West Side Highway bike path, and Grammercy Park were frequent haunts but didn’t come close to the lush parks and landscapes of my youth. Then, one day, a friend and I made a pilgrimage out to the Lowe’s Hardware Store in Park Slope, and I came home with my first plant: an umbrella tree that I immediately named Rihanna after the singer’s 2007 chart-topping hit. The good news is that four apartments and several years later, Rihanna is still with me. The even better news is that we now live in Brooklyn with almost 20 other plants and all of us are more or less thriving.
Despite my accumulation of apartment greenery, it wasn’t until I met Maryah Greene, plant doctor, stylist, and founder of Greene Piece, that I began to understand how much plants had become an integral part of my own wellness practice. I’ve written before about my stress management techniques, but it took a plant styling session with Greene to appreciate how I had brought the nature element of my wellness ritual into my home. Greene had a similar experience, explaining, “My plant practice really started when I moved to NYC and realized that greenery was only respected in Central Park and community gardens.” She continues, “Incorporating house plants was not only a way to create a more beautiful aesthetic, but also a small act of love for myself and my environment. Home care is self-care.” I couldn’t agree more.
Below you’ll find photos of my plant styling session with Greene, plus her expert tips on how to choose the right plants for your home, and, perhaps most importantly, keep them alive and well as you support each other on your wellness journey.
How to Choose the Best Plants for Your Space
When it comes to finding the perfect apartment in NYC, the struggle is real. This is particularly true if natural light and ample space rank high on your list of priorities as a human being. Of course, the same goes for plants. Fortunately, Greene assured me that there is a plant out there that is perfect for even the darkest dwellings. She explained, “I find that most people have had a bad first-plant experience and have either chalked it up to lighting or not knowing the needs of the plant they brought into their home.”
My apartment gets bright indirect light, so it’s pretty comfortable year-round without being blinding or oppressively hot. With this in mind, we chose plants that would benefit from bright light by being closest to the window, and lower indirect light deeper in the apartment. The secret to plant-parenting, Greene confided, is knowing the right plants for your space and not just following along with the trends.
How to Care for Your Plants
Believe it or not, caring for plants can be (almost) as rewarding as caring for a pet. Greene recalls moving into her first NYC apartment and spending $20 on a pothos plant from her local bodega because she knew it would make her appreciate her brand-new (albeit dark) living space. She muses, “It’s about how the plants make you feel, and how they repay you emotionally and mentally.” Case in point, the feeling of peace, confidence, and even pride one might experience when coming home to find a brand-new leaf.
However, there is such a thing as giving a plant a little too much love—specifically by overwatering. Greene has come across many an overhydrated plant and recommends watering most species from once a week to once every two to three weeks. It’s easy to incorporate plant care into your existing home care routine, by pruning dead lives, wiping down pots, and cleaning surfaces on a regular cadence. Additionally, consider repotting your larger plants every three to five years (depending on how fast it grows). Choose a new planter that is no more than one to two inches larger in diameter to give the plant and its roots more room and replenish the soil with nutrients. Repotting with fresh soil is the best way to revamp your plant’s space and encourage growth.
Benefits of Living with Plants
If you’ve read this far, you probably are of the belief that living among plants is a worthwhile endeavor. And guess what? NASA agrees! According to a recent study, even the smallest house plants can create positive health effects in your home, including removing formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene from the air.
While the study mentions a few specific plants that possess these qualities, Greene likes to think that all houseplants play a role in our mental and emotional well-being and productivity. Her favorite plant pros include fresher air, easy décor upgrades, and the therapeutic act of tending to plants as part of your overall self-care practice.
Keeping Your Home Clean and Green
Ready to add plant care to your wellness routine? Greene Piece partnered with Love Home and Planet, a plant-based line of recyclable laundry, dish, and surface products, not only to provide this educational experience but also to share product recommendations for you to create your own apartment oasis.
Below are a mix of plant accessories and cleaning products that can be used together to create a cleaner, greener home.
Greene recommends buying a watering can that goes with the rest of your décor. Alternatively, if you have limited space, reusable waterbottles work just fine.
Greene recommends using misters on plants that thrive in humid environments like ZZ, pothos, and snake varieties. You can also place these plants near a humidifier during the winter months.
Pick a planter that goes with your plant's needs and apartment aesthetic.
As your plants grow, they'll need to be repotted. Plan on giving your largest plants a new home every three to five years along with new soil to replenish nutrients and encourage growth.
All Love Home and Planet products are vegan, gluten-free, and made without parabens or added bleach. Plus, they feature a combination of recycled and recyclable packaging. We love these multi-purpose cleaning wipes in this relaxing lavender and argan oil scent.
If citrus is more your thing, try yuzu- and vanilla-scented products like this multi-purpose spray. Another great thing about Love Home and Planet products is that all of its products have identifiable scents that resonate with fine fragrance profiles—way more natural than cliché themes or straight-up bleach.
If you care about the planet, odds are your already conscious about water use and wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible. The Love Home and Planet laundry cleaners are designed to work effectively in cold water and smell great, which is a win-win.
As a final note, we encourage you to head into 2020 treating your home how you’d like to be treated and include home care into self-care. While cleaning regimens may differ, Greene Piece and Love Home and Planet invite all to join their eco-conscious mission and keep the planet in mind while beautifying your living space.
Plants in the above apartment photos were provided by Love Home and Planet from Rooted, NYC, a Greene Piece partner.