Minimalist Decor with Houseplants

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I am not one for house decor. My white walls speak for themselves. My furniture fills up what little space we have. My husband and cat are more than enough. My creative work takes up the rest of the room. So I find it absolutely ironic to be giving home decorating advice in this space. I do, however, try my best.

To be completely transparent, I find deciding on decor a stressful activity. Nothing ever seems right. I worry about the decor’s permanence. My likes and dislikes change with the weather, so I’m certain that a photo I want to frame today would look lame in a month’s time. I obsess about the lack of function. What good is a wall-hanging to me?? I fret about the white noise. I view most decor as distractions, subtracting from my life instead of adding value. I suppose that’s the minimalist in me. I worry about the cost. Not just the monetary cost, but the true cost, like “who made this?” and “which ocean will it end up in?”

However, when outfitting a home, there is one exception (isn’t there always?). If there is one form of decor that I happily allow into our tiny home, it’s going to be houseplants. Living, breathing things that bring me great happiness. Take me to a nursery and out the window goes minimalism, out the door goes my hard-earned dollars. There is no such thing as frugality in a greenhouse at Lowe’s. Still, I leave richer than when I entered, a new plant baby in my arms. Or perhaps two.

There are many reasons why I proclaim plant life as the optimal form of decoration. First, they have increasing permanence. For those arguing against this with anecdotes of black thumbs, this previous post I wrote on how to care for houseplants is a good place to start. Anyone who has ever taken in a chain of hearts or a Monsterra will attest to the fact that these tenacious plants are going to outlive even you one day.

Second, they have function. Plants liven up any space. More than referring to their rich, vibrant color (I prefer leafy greens over florals), I also speak of their ability to freshen the air which we breathe. The fact that they can detox our home environment is just as important as the way in which plants detox our minds, boost our moods, and speak to our spirit. We have a deep-rooted connection with plants, an unexplained symbiosis and harmony that is arguably stronger than that with animals.

Lastly, plants have the ability to teach us a thing or two about the art of introspection. Its growth depends on our awareness to its surroundings, our willingness to take time to listen and observe its needs, and our ability to care for something other than ourselves. I, myself, am still learning. It’s a process. In exchange, our reward: happiness. I have yet to outgrow that excited feeling … a skip of a heart-beat every time I see a brand new leaf unfurling.

Which leads me to my final point about home decor: adding value to human life.

This post was sponsored by The Sill, a company delivering joy to people’s doorsteps in the form of foliage. Think of a food delivery system, but for plants. Based in NYC and California, The Sill has a few storefronts for locals to shop at, but they mostly operate via their contact-less delivery service.

They recently collaborated with The Met, who celebrated their 150th Anniversary this summer. In the collaboration, The Sill joined a number of other companies (a line-up that includes Catbird, Allbirds, BAGGU, and more) to create products inspired by famous artwork found at the museum. They kindly sent me a Bird’s Fern nestled within one of the pots from The Met 150 collection. Inspired by ancient Precolombian vessels found in the museum, the matte, yellow pot with its tiny saucer (a MUST feature for plants needing well-draining soil and newbie plant owners alike) exudes a subdued elegance that adds character without overshadowing its plant’s beauty. Their collab also includes a smaller, brighter planter in Met Red with a smooth finish for those homes in need of a pop of color. You can shop the entire MET 150 Collection here. You can shop The Sill’s collection here.

I can’t recommend The Sill enough. If you have doubts about whether a plant can survive a shipping, rest assured knowing that The Sill packages the plants quite securely using cardboard housing and an innovative nest that prevents the soil from falling out. Of course, unwrapping the plant may result in stray dirt falling from the box, so do be mindful of where you choose to meet your new plant baby. And for those who question their abilities to parent a plant, The Sill hosts a number of online workshops walking newbie parents through different plant preferences and care. Plus, your order is shipped with a care guide for your greenery of choice. Still unsure? Opt for a faux plant so that you may still decorate a home with confidence.

Bird’s Nest Fern; Asplenium nidus

Origin: Southeast Asia, Polynesia

Plant Care:

  • Thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light.
  • Water weekly; adjust frequency depending on the light levels provided. Allow potting mix to dry out at least two inches down between waterings.
  • Do not water directly into the center of your fern, but instead, water around it.
  • This plant is pet-friendly.

Sad Plant Signs:

  • Pale green leaves, dry potting mix: Thirsty plant, underwatered.
  • Yellowing lower leaves, wet potting mix: Overwatered.

How to Care for House Plants

We’ve been mulling a question for a while, tossing it around, letting it linger on our lips. “When this is all over, what will be the first thing you’ll do?” We’ve got answers up the wazoo that show signs of who we are, and what we miss – the little things that meant more than we could even know. Happy hour cocktails and cheap pub food surrounded by a large group of friends; Gym memberships to be rid of the COVID-15 and to be a part of a community; Sand in my hair and thongs between my toes.

To the last one, I say “Cheers!”

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Rather than lamenting the current situation and wallowing in self-pity, I do think that we can start to amend for the last bit of longing by bringing the outdoors in, or at least, introducing a bit of nature to our internal spaces. Houseplants can be a reprieve from the cabin fever signs and symptoms that we have all been exhibiting. They are especially useful in calming the distraught and frustrated, feelings which I’m sure have surfaced during this time of personal introspection. Additionally, they boost overall mood, purify the air of toxins, boosts creativity, and makes the indoors more aesthetically pleasing.

We are all dying to get outside. The weather is turning nicer by the day and we’ve pretty much written off Spring and moved on to summer. But despite the long list of “firsts” that our house has planned once the stay-at-home mandates lift, I have also been enjoying this time at home (truly!) and it would be a shame to rush on to to-do lists and whatever the future holds when there is so much work left to do here in the present.

Today, I go over a few houseplant care routines to help refocus the mind into the now, to facilitate a continual tending to the home, and to, well, bring the outdoors in.

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  • Repot plants in new, healthy soil. Plants outgrow their vessels and their soil. Every year, around Spring time, we repot our plants by gently easing them out of their current vessels, removing some of the soil around the roots, and placing them in their new home. It may take a while for a plant to adjust to a new pot, so don’t be discouraged if you see a pause in growth. Over time, you will find that the soil helps to grow your plant much quicker than before.
  • Wipe the leaves of your plants. Some plant leaves take up a large amount of real estate. All the more to take in sunlight! But also, all the more to collect dust particles. Plants like Monsteras and Fiddles can accidentally collect too much dust, which will then prevent them from absorbing light. Try wiping down plant leaves regularly with a cloth towel and water. Be gentle so as not to damage tender greens. Get ready to admire your plants even more – they’ll look fairly glossy and polished!
  • Rotate plants a quarter turn every week. Technically, you can follow a different rotation schedule, but just try to rotate the plants every once in a while for even growth. Plants are in love with the sun and if they aren’t rotated, they can start to lean towards a single direction or grow unevenly, which doesn’t make for a pretty sight.
  • Prune off dead or wilted leaves. When leaves start to yellow and wilt, don’t take it as a sign of failure. Perhaps the plant is making way for new leaves to grow. I can’t recount how many times yellowing leaves have been a signal for two more to grow in its place. However, you will want to remove these leaves as they can affect the health of the rest of the plant. Don’t wait until they start to rot, as this can cause unwanted fungus or mold to start cohabiting with your favorite shrub.

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  • Mist plants with water.  Plants love a good misting. The cat, however, hates my spray bottle and runs away until it’s all over. I place water in an amber bottle which remains at hand on a shelf for random spritzes throughout the week. The leaves definitely perk up after a nice splash. I like the effect so much that sometimes, when I water my plants, I haul them into the shower to mimic a rainforest environment and drizzle the water right over them. Unfortunately, my Monsterra and Fiddle are getting way too large to move around, but I’m not complaining!

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  • Propagate. When you’ve done all you can to care for your existing plants, the only thing left to do is … MAKE MORE PLANT BABIES! My favorite to propagate are fast growing plants like our Pothos. It’s quite easy to do. Snip off a few stems with the node still intact, and place them in a glass container filled with water (no soil). After it starts to root (about a month later), gently pot the plant, surrounding the baby roots with healthy Earth. Plus, plants make great non-material, frugal gifts and I have gifted two propagated Pothos plants in the last year!

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I hope these tips have at least helped to pass another five minutes of your morning. I hope your plants have calmed you down, and you are energized by the fact that you’ve already taken care of one small aspect of your home today.

I know we are all itching to get outdoors and for quarantine to be over, but mayhap our discomfort with being at home signals an even deeper mal-alignment. I encourage you to hang in there and stop burying unrest with things to do in the future. It’s what we’ve always done … but it wasn’t working. It takes a great deal of strength and courage to sit in an uncomfortable situation but a presence of mind can really bring light to what is at the root of our malaise. Whenever you feel like moving on to “better days”, I ask that you pause and take the opportunity to dig just a little deeper.

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Below are a list of my favorite indoor houseplants. I favor sturdy greens over flowery or delicate types.

  • Split Leaf Philodendron
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
  • Pothos
  • Snake Plant
  • ZZ Plant
  • Rubber Plant
  • Pilea