The Joy of Houseplants, It'll Grow on You
Interest in indoor gardening keeps growing and creates a world of happiness.
By MJ Kravec
Outside the clouds loom. It’s dark. It’s cold.
But not in here.
Inside Carol Watson Greenhouse in LaFayette, owner Carol Watson takes a writer on a walk through a tropical world where lacy, delicate plants sit grouped on vintage planters, large-leaf greenery looms prehistoric over visitors and trailing vines dangle from pots hanging overhead. The sound of trickling water from a seven-foot fountain washes over us — rippling waves of calm.
It’s a jungle in here.
“So many people call this their happy place,” says Watson as we take a seat at an iron bistro table near purple bougainvillea and palm trees. “Plants make you happy.”
Numerous studies show plants are a boost to your mental health — reducing stress, improving mood, creativity and productivity as well as helping to speed healing and recovery. A 2009 study found patients whose rooms contained plants had a higher tolerance for pain, felt less tired and less stressed and had lower blood pressure than patients in rooms without plants.
If that’s not enough to encourage you to start your own indoor garden, a glance at the plants of Instagram might. These so-called plantstagrammers, or Instagram accounts that are all about plants, showcase enviable urban and suburban jungles and displays of perfect plant life in all its shiny-leafed, vines-up-the-wall, macrame-hanging glory.
“It’s a give-and-take relationship. You have these living beings in your home and you water them and you get to watch them grow,” says Sarah Hardy, owner of Found Things plant shop in Syracuse. “There are all these studies about the health benefits of being outdoors — I think having plants in your home is like being outdoors.”
Be warned. Once you start an indoor garden, it’s a collecting habit that, well, grows. Hardy says she has 105 plants in her home. “It’s addictive,” she laughs. “It’s a combination of worlds. I think it gives people a habit — it’s the collection factor.”
Now with more people working from home, the interest in house plants has increased. Both Watson and Hardy say they have seen more people coming into their stores looking to start indoor gardens.
Hardy recently moved her shop to a bigger location on South Collingwood Avenue and has seen steady business since her shop reopened in May 2020 after the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Now with people working at home … they need plants around them,” says Watson.
When arranging your plants, display them in groups and vary your textures and heights. Mix bigger leaves with small, spiky with lacy, long with short. “Think visually and what’s aesthetically pleasing” says Hardy.
Another tip is to mix in vintage pieces. Both Watson and Hardy like displaying plants with wrought iron and vintage accents. “I think plants really balance that and give old pieces new life.” Hardy says.
There are several varieties of easy-care plants to help new plant parents grow more confident. Make note of each plant’s light and water requirements. Hardy advises making it a weekly habit to walk through your green space and get to know your plants — it’s a habit that’s good for your plant babies and your mental health.
“Take an inventory of your plants. Mist the leaves, feel the soil. People do it to take care of their plants, but it also gives people an opportunity to unplug, to take a breather,” says Hardy.
Once you start bringing plants into your home, the real fun begins. When it comes to decorating with greenery, you’re only limited by your imagination, says Hardy, who recently created a feature wall in her dining room with trailing plants on shelves and fresh wallpaper. Look to Instagram for ideas and inspiration and don’t be afraid to go all out.
“That’s one of my favorite things – mixing plants into home décor… it’s also a feature of your home that changes and matures over time,” she says. You can start by placing a large plant in one corner of your room and working your way out.
“A plant in a corner brings the whole look of a room together. That’s why the big ones are so popular. You can mix them up and start with bigger leaf plants and layer in a variety of textures,” says Watson, noting plants such as Monsteras, Ficus, Natal Mahogany and Sansevieria are ideal for corners.
If you lack the floor space for plants, hang them from the ceiling or place them high on a shelf. You’ll draw eyes upward and add life and texture to unexpected spaces. Hardy suggests installing a curtain rod in front of a window and hanging jungle cacti from the bar. “That hanging plant will visually transform your space and it won’t take up floor space,” she says.
Watson likes displaying succulents in macrame hangers. “You don’t water them as much,” she says. And succulents can tolerate warmer air at higher levels in a room better than other plants. For even more decorative impact with hanging trailing plants, Hardy likes using Command hooks that allow plants to climb around a room. Use them to attach long vines from Pothos, Philodendron and Ivy on walls and ceilings.
Other climbers, such as low-light Philodendrons and Pothos, will benefit from a moss pole that the plant can cling to, says Hardy. “Aroids [such as Pothos] are natural climbers. Put a climbing pole in a pot and the plant will naturally attach and climb up.”
A GROWING COMMUNITY
For ideas, inspiration and advice in caring for plants, check out the following groups on Facebook. Syracuse Plant Swap and Sales offers a place to post photos of plants, ask questions, swap plants and cuttings, let others know about great deals and more. Syracuse Gardening and Plants offers advice, help on identifying plants and general plant talk. For more specific plants, Upstate NY Succulents, “where things can get a bit prickly,” offers tips and advice on growing succulents and cacti, plant humor postings and a place to share photos and ideas.