In her first book,
Toronto plant influencer and designer Melissa Lo of Houseplant Oasis: A Guide to Caring for Your Plants + Styling Them in Your Home, (Page Street Publishing, 2022, $23) @houseplant.oasis dispenses advice on plant care and styling. Melissa’s eye for plant display is keen, so she not only covers basics to keep the most popular houseplants healthy, but also shows off inspiring rooms filled with greenery. “As humans, we are wired with a natural affinity to nature and living things. Being in and around nature has a mood-boosting and calming effect,” writes Melissa. “Surrounding yourself with plants can ease your state of mind and help reduce stress, anxiety and negativity, making room to increase motivation, productivity and creativity.”
Scroll down for more for her practical advice on keeping plants thriving and beautiful!
This book is a journey into the world of plant parenthood, embracing not just houseplant aesthetics but also the benefits that stem from caring for them. There are chapters that detail optimal light, water, temperature, substrates (complete with soil recipes) and nutrients for the most popular houseplants, in addition to covering the common issues that affect them.
Melissa encourages readers to explore the different ways to display houseplants to enhance the ambiance of your home. “The very act of tending houseplants puts me in a state of consciousness and grounds me in the moment to nurture them for the future. The process has a calming and meditative effect, and watching them thrive and evolve is deeply gratifying.”
“The ficus tree lends itself to a modern yet timeless display, pairing well with a simple matte white planter to create a bold contrast against the deep green elliptical leaves. For larger specimens, opt for a sizable planter to anchor the stately plant. Staking it with supports such as natural gardening bamboo sticks will stabilize the weight of a plant and give it a more tree-like appearance.” Before purchasing large specimens, ask yourself: Where will it live in my home and what kind — amount and intensity — of light will it receive? How much time can I afford to care for this plant based on my current schedule and lifestyle?
“Elevate your tropical retreat with a bird of paradise situated in a brightly lit room — think beside south-or west-facing windows — and let the stately leaf blades canopy over a sitting or lounging area. When it comes to planters, look for patterns, colors and textures that mimic natural materials: wood, concrete, stone, marble and clay in neutral colors are great options to create warmth while promoting a sense of the great outdoors. The large broad leaves of these bird of paradise plants require dusting as a regular form of maintenance, not only to keep them looking their best, but to also allow optimal photosynthesis.”
Give kids a head start on plant parenting and let them care for their own cute plants like a trailing string of turtles or a medium-sized peperomia. “To help highlight and contrast plants in their containers, pair plants with solid-colored leaves with patterned planters and plants with texture or variegated varieties with solid ones,” says Melissa.
Save space by suspending plants beside your bed or lounge chair. Let your plants cascade down the edges of the tray or wrap them around the main rope to train your vines to grow skyward.
Vining plants can be trained to climb up the rope, just use coated garden wire or garden tape to affix the vines. For simplicity, style a larger specimen in a basket on its own, hung from the ceiling or draped from a staircase ledge.
Plants love and can benefit greatly from the humidity of regular showers with a thorough rinsing under the garden hose, running faucet or even in the bathtub or shower using a handheld attachment. If a shower is not feasible, try grouping plants together, adding a pebble tray with water underneath a pot, misting regularly or setting up a humidifier nearby. Shake off excess water or increase the air circulation by opening a window during milder temperatures or turning on a fan.
Due to the string of heart’s svelte silhouette, this plant can be inserted into smaller, discreet nooks of the home without worrying that it will need to be relocated or overtake a space as it matures. Create rhythm on a wall of floating shelves or narrow picture ledges by staggering strings that lead the viewer from tier to tier.
Some plants can be propagated via segments of stems, free of leaves. With a clean, sharp knife, cut several inches of stem to ensure that at least one node is included. Insert the cut parts into water or a sterile starting medium. This propagation technique is best reserved for thick-stemmed cane type plants such as corn plants. Rooting in water typically yields faster results compared to soil and using a clear container allows you to monitor rooting activity. You want to see at least ½ inch (1.3 cm) of roots for small plants and up to several inches in larger ones before transplanting. When the rooted specimen is ready to be potted, opt for a small nursery pot to start, allowing you to closely monitor moisture levels and for the roots to find their footing quicker. Use a suitable mix for the species and keep the soil moist, but not wet, for the next month or so until the roots have acclimated to the new substrate.
Think about how the piece will fit into the existing decor of your home — complement the wood tray with other wooden details or stain the wood to highlight specific color palettes of your home. “When watering plants, use residual water from washing or blanching vegetables, boiling eggs, rinsing rice or soaking beans to water your plants — beneficial trace minerals are released into these types of water and can act as fertilizer. This is an eco-friendly way to reuse nutrient-fortified water that you would otherwise be pouring down the drain. Just remember not to use any cooking water that has added salt or oils, be sure to cool boiling water down to room temperature and water only when needed.”
Division is a method also used on newly emerged baby plants — also known as pups, offsets or plantlets — attached to the mother plant. Without the need to remove the entire plant out of its pot, firmly and carefully pluck the pups from the parent plant. If this is not feasible, use a sharp knife or small trowel to help. This method works great for plants such as haworthias, echeverias, and snake plants. On mature spider plants, small plantlets form on the flowering ends of runners that can then be cut and easily rooted either in water or soil.
Author: Wendy Jacob
Melissa Lo, Justin Wong, and Danielle Sum