(1) Fill a container large enough that the entire air plant can be submerged with room-temperature water.
(2) Remove airplants from there regular pot and place them in bath. Make sure the tips remain as submerged as possible.
(3) Leave in water for 20 minutes.
(4) Remove from bath and place somewhere to dry, making sure roots are sat upward so that they can absolutely dry out.
Watering air plants is pretty simple, albeit different from how you might water most plants. There are two important things to remember, so I’ve been told and experienced: The tips dry out the easiest, and the roots will rot if they remain wet.
When placing my airplants in their bath, I try and position them so that the tips are as completely submerged as possible. This can be hard with plants that have the tips oriented in myriad directions. Keep in mind that regularly misting your air plants can be a helpful way to keep the tips from drying out.
Once their bath is over, it’s time for the air plants to dry out. The air in my apartment tends to be pretty dry but I still make sure they stay out of their regular pot and upside-down for a few hours.
The point of their being upside-down is that the roots are open to the air and can dry out well. Remember – it’s not as big a deal if those tips stay wet, but we don’t want root rot!
And that’s really it! I mist maybe once a week between waterings, especially if the weather’s been especially dry.
A bonus tip for y’all darling readers who made it this far:
Have a plant that’s struggling? Maybe it’s surviving, but not thriving? Needs new growth? Try white willow!
White willow releases a growth hormone (and is easy to propagate in just water, which is how I got my sapling). So when my original basil plant was super anemic and only very slowly/barely growing new stems and leaves, I gently pruned off two twigs from my sapling and placed them in the soil of my basil plant. And it looks so much less anemic! The new growth is green and proud, especially so on the side where the twigs are inserted:
I hope these tips help you cultivate your gardens!
I’m in a transitional phase; a season of pruning. I find myself craving severing poor ties; not craving forced conncetion over joyful solitude any longer. I still want to share of myself with others but I feel much more discerning about whom and how much, in a way I sometimes worry may come off as cruel when my only real goal is to protect my energy.
I was raised a people-pleaser. I grew up doubting my decisions; I was raised taking the “higher road” of self-sacrifice for others, to baby others because I was “smarter,” “more mature,” etcetera. I was raised to bite my tongue when angry and dissect every interaction, every thought before it became spoken word. I was a priveleged kid, I have privelege now, my family is good and kind – but I would not say I’ve ever been fostered for who I am. Supported to a point, but it’s that classic Catholic-school conundrum – if you went to Catholic school most of your life, you probably understand what I’m getting at.
I got in trouble for humming in school. Even though I was the top student, never got in trouble, and that meant I was supposed to get to play Mary in the school pageant in 8th grade, the part was given to one of the worst-behaved students to “help her out” – because her mom yelled the loudest. I wasn’t allowed to play a Who in our Christmas pageant because I wasn’t “small and cute and Who-looking enough.” (This is all just elementary school, mind you.) I was told I couldn’t be an actress because “I’d never look like them.” If I’m being honest – and it’s hard for me to be, because I feel that someone-else-has-it-worse sense of guilt every time – I was bullied quite a few times. And I wasn’t really listened to, either. I feel like I’ve always been fighting something and I didn’t know what; now I’m realizing maybe I’ve been fighting myself I grew up feeling bad about myself.
But enough complaining – that’s not what this post is about. I’m working on transitioning out of that old me, starting a new timeline of wild self-love and enjoyability. I’m “re-parenting” myself. The Artist’s Way taught me to treat my inner child, to love and support it now because now I’m both that inner child and the adult who can give that inner child support!
So I’m doing the things I love to do, even if they seem scary or pointless. For the joy of the day, the moment. This ties into “opposite action,” to be discussed if you read on. I’m
🌿Making art and music
🌿Hanging out with my cats
🌿Spending time outside
🌿Spending time with a few close friends
🌿Cooking tasty, healthy meals
🌿Eating farmer’s market cherry pies
🌿Singing along with Spotify
🌿Hitting the bars
🌿Going thrifting for new clothes
and more. Because these are things I enjoy, and when greater Society feels pointless, these things are there for me.
Like I said, [capitalist] Society feels pointless. A friend once told me he was happier when he was homeless, and I don’t doubt it. I can imagine a feeling of surviving for yourself and for your circle; every complaint now, when I’m above survival threshhold, feels measly. And of course that’s because survival now looks different than it does to my monkey brain. Survival may be different now but we have too much – or at least too much of the wrong things. That’s why landfills are overflowing and I had to drop $15 for the only recycled toilet paper option. That’s near an hur’s pay literally down the toilet.
I’m certainly not advocating that anyone should go without home or comfort, I just hope we as a Society change our values and actions a bit. I’m tired of hearing “sustainability journey” and the other green-team buzzwords. This isn’t a holiday. This isn’t just for fun. This isn’t a round-the-world fun cruise “journey.” We’re literally trying to change the way we function so that we and our children and our children’s children will be able to have home and comfort.
Sometimes, between OCD and depressive symptoms, I struggle with momentum. There are many things I want to do but I sometimes feel like a lead sinker in the middle of the ocean; stuck and heavy.
I recently learned about opposite action and as I understand it, it’s basically pushing through mucky feelings and doing the opposite of what your anxiety/depression is telling you will feel the best. For example:
🧠I’m feeling down on a Sunday afternoon and I want to just sit in front of the TV and binge Supernatural. Instead, with opposite action in mind, I put on something light and happy (like Bob’s Burgers), stand up, and stretch out while I watch.
🧠I don’t feel like going outside. I just want to sit around the apartment. So thinking opposite action, I throw on some headphones and go for a walk around the block.
🧠I don’t want to take a break from staring at my computer screen doing work. So – because opposite action – I get up and wander around for a few minutes just to shift my mindset.
🧠I’m anxious about getting together with anyone, but I also know that sitting alone in my apartment for days won’t feel good – even though it seems easier. So – thinking opposite action – I set up a time to see a close friend for an hour or so.
🧠I worry that my bass-playing won’t be good enough and I’ll get grumpy, which makes me not want to pick up the instrument and play at all. But opposite action: I pick it up and play anyway.
What’s important here, I believe, is to notice the layers of want. Take that last example for instance. I both want to play the bass and want to not be grumpy/feel bad about my bass playing. And this is where my values-driven opposite action comes in. I value creativity, I value the enjoyment of playing music. So I push through the anxiety – I’m nervous that I’m going to feel bad if I don’t play well – and I play anyway.
In fact, a values-driven opposite action practice is going to inform the rest of this post – 🧠I really do not feel like taking care of my plants today because I’m nervous about getting dirt all over the floor or realizing that a plant is dead. But the health of my houseplants matters to me, so I’m going to do it anyway.
Cactus & Succulent Care
It’s the summer now, and warming temperatures mean an updated watering schedule for my cacti and succulents. Of course they still don’t get watered very often; I’m a proponent of rare and heavy watering for these types of plants.
Increased temperature and more intense sunny days also means I can remove my grow light setup for my adult desert plants.
As you can see in the image above at right, the vacuum will need to be broken out after all this.
My echeveria got a coffee treatment today to lower the soil pH. Luckily, I had some leftover bean juice I couldn’t finish and that just got funneled right into the soil. Plus I pruned away the dried-out flower stalks just so my cat wouldn’t chew on them and inadvertantly make a mess.
I’ve also still got my little infant jade plant going. I suspect she may need a larger home to grow into soon, but for now she got some very-diluted fertilizer and water.
Care for all the other plants
First things first, my own care. I stopped to eat a chamomile flower – I love the grassy-yet-sweet taste of these little darlings.
We start with the easy things to do. My kitchen window basils get misted, my recently-pruned celery gets checked on, and my epiphytes go in for their bath. My crispy wave fern goes in for its shower.
While the gorgini sit in their 20-minute warm water bath, I get to the rest of the plant care. The parlor palms also get checked on, and they seem plenty watered and happy. Next the ponytail palm gets checked on – same situation there. Take a look at the closed terrarium – all good, seeing some growth there. White willow sapling gets a good drenching from the watering can. All spider plants get a watering. Peperomia gets a look-see and since the soil’s dry down two inches, a good watering is had.
Gorgons come out of the bath, and look – these two are hugging are they dry!
Next comes two bigger undertakings: (1) Pruning and cleanup, and (2) Re-seeding. These primarily take place for my bedroom and bathroom plants.
Check out the before-and-after of cleanup in my bedroom window:
You might notice that a wheatgrass is missing in both photos. All of my wheatgrasses needed replanted. With grasses, regular pruning/cutting can help keep them healthy and green, but I fell off with my pruning because wheatgrass just grows so fast! So I saved what I could and re-seeded.
Now, one of my bathroom plants died and so I had to prune the rotted-out remnants away. Someday, in my dreams, I’ll have somewhere to compost this type of thing. But otherwise I make sure all the bathroom plants are dust-free, doing well, and watered.
I suppose life is always up in the air; my life feels particularly up in the air right now. That’s not really a complaint, as years of therapy for OCD in particular have taught me to live with the maybe’s. It’s really just an observation, something I’m sitting with. What other choice is there? I find a lot of beauty in uncertainty, as much as it does cause me stress at times – depends on what I’m uncertain of.
There are so many creative endeavors I want to pursue. My wonderful houseplants are, I suppose, an endearing creative outlet for me; I get to care for lovely living things while arranging them to beautify my home, and it brings me much joy and acts as a bolster to my mental health. I gave my plants their first actual shower the other day (yes I literally put them in the tub and turned on the shower) and I like to play music for them and sing to them sometimes. There’s evidence that stuff really helps them. I also saw recently someone dances around the house with their plants to mimic wind, and I’ve started doing that a bit. I love to dance.
I suppose there’s this bit of my creative side that wants to make in order to be known. I want to show myself, be vulnerable; at the same time I have no desire to be vulnerable. I feel like I have a history of being too generous with others and not generous enough with myself. I’ve been the one to do a lot of emotional work.
I’m thinking of myself like a little fruit fly. If I zig-zag to land on every surface, sure I could hit a sweet flower – but I could also hit a sticky trap. I’m trying to not force a landing on “what I should do next” but rather just be okay with the uncertainty.
I’ve been doing the so-called “little things.” Making myself nice dinners; going to the farmers’ market; making art; daydreaming.
It has taken all of my self-control not to buy a 42nd houseplant! I just can’t handle learning the care of a brand new plant baby right now. Especially when I have some work to do:
I need to give my crispy wave fern diluted fertilizer. It’s becoming pale because there’s not enough nutrients in its home.
I’d like to figure out what’s going on with my peacock plant. It’s suddenly gotten really droopy, and it has been watered and the humidifier’s running. It also got coffee yesterday.
I’ll re-seed the wheatgrass and clean up some dead plants/do some pruning.
It looks like my spider plant needs a good watering.
The three air plants need a full soak watering. They got misted a few times over the week since my apartment’s air is dry.
The celery appears to need some sort of treatment, possibly neem oil. Suddenly the leaves don’t look right – little white dots and they’re off color. I’m guessing spider mites but I can’t understand yet how that could’ve happened.
I’d like to consider moving the little baby jade propagate. Now that it’s warm I’ll bet it wants to grow. I have to read up on what it might need at this little baby stage.
I have so many creative ideas bouncing around in my head; I swear, plant care and having plants around helps my brain work.
🌹 I could make lo-fi music. I even have some song titles in my head, and I know how to record and stuff. I could learn to mix; I have the time!
🌹I could sell plant propagates in cute thrifted containers. I saw someone doing this at a craft market recently and I thought it was a lovely idea. They were selling all succulents. I’d probably focus on all varieties of pet-safe plants.
🌹I could somehow share the art I’ve been making.
🌹I could continue work on the children’s book I’m writing with my dad. If only I could convince him to do the illustration…
🌹I could learn how to screen print. I’m pretty sure there are local classes.
🌹I could write a play. I’m not really a big theater fan and yet I always loved Shakespeare. And there are a few choice plays that I adore.
🌹I could do some gardening out on my building’s shared lawn. I wouldn’t plant anything edible because I’m not the one in charge of lawn care and I don’t know what chemicals are used, but some native flowers would be nice. I did seed-bomb it earlier in the spring.
I wonder if part of the loveliness of caring for plants is how easy it is to feel happy for them. It can be hard to be proud of other humans who are thriving, especially when you’re just surviving – it takes practice. But it’s easy, at least for me, to be happy when my celery grows a new shoot, or my parlor palm grows taller, or new spiderettes appear off my spider plant. It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, those things make me happy and proud. I suppose that’s why plant care is such a labor of love; we can give them so much, and although they do it quietly they give us so much in return. They give us fresh air, calming colors, beauty and life all their own. Unlike with people, I don’t feel like my plants take from me. Of course, they literally do – they take my water, the food I give to them, carbon dioxide that I breathe out. But this is symbiosis. I’ve been hard-pressed to find that with people, although I do have it with a select few folks. And so for now I live happily among the houseplants.
You’ll read here: 🌱 Gettin’ thrifty when you’re out of money and have plants that need planting/container planting on a space & money budget 🌱 Chamomile, tulsi, basil, sage 🌱 Slug buddies 🌱 Container planting tips from a friend
Container Planting on a Spacial & Monetary Budget
Well – I helped out with a super fun planting event earlier this week and got to take home a couple of the extra plants that there wasn’t enough space for! I feel very lucky – but I’m out of money, soil, and planters at my place. So I had to get thrifty with rehoming some chamomile, some sage, some holy basil, and some un-holy basil (ha ha).
My friend taught me a useful way of container planting:
DRAINAGE. Make sure your container has drainage holes and space for the water to seep out.
BOTTOM LAYER. At the event we used peat as the bottom layer because it drains easily. At home, because I don’t have the space or money for a big bag of peat, I use rocks. When I’m out of rocks, I get thrifty with what I do have – more on that below.
UPPER LAYER(S). Good quality organic soil. I use potting soil from my favorite local nursery and spice it up with some organic powdered fertilizer. I also have added some perlite to it.
Now, as mentioned, I was out of money, out of new soil, and out of planters with proper drainage. So I opened up my hall closet and took stock of what I had available: and I found a forgotton stack of mini seedling ‘greenhouses’ that I was able to repurpose into a mini window garden container with drainage!
I took what would be the bottom of the seedling ‘greenhouse’ and filled it with perlite. This was to mimic where I would use rocks if I had any left or space between the bottom of a pot and the ground if outside, for drainage.
I inverted what would have been the top of the ‘greenhouse,’ the part that has holes for humidity control. This was to become the pot itself, where the soil and plants go.
Luckily the plants I have are pretty small, so I didn’t need a super deep container for them to live in.
Soil time. I had some old soil stuck in a jar, which I fished out, loosened, and gave a little buck-up with my organic pet-safe fertilizer.
When that wasn’t enough soil, I went and used some of those packed-peat pellets you get with cute mini grow kits, like these Save the Bees kits I have yet to plant.
Planting time! In this container went the sage and the two types of basil; the chamomile had already been planted separately.
While planting the regular basil, I found a little friendly slug! Their little antennae just get me every time. It wasn’t easy to photograph, though, as it was on the move.
But you can just see it on the very-root-bound roots of the newly freed basil plant there.
Now – we shall see if this DIY planter situation works, if these plants need more light, different soil, or whatnot. I’m historically not great with herbs, but I’m excited to try this out. Especially with the loneliness I’m feeling in my life currently – friends who I love are moving, getting married, making changes, and I’m changing too – a new challenge is a blessing.
I hope any challenges in your lives, readers, are blessings to you.
I had a very lovely with my best friend of 20 years. My basil plant is starting to appear healthier, my sunflower seedlings are growing, and I got a few new plants (houseplants 33, 34, and 35) – i miei gorgoni, or my gorgons.
The gorgons are three airplants: a “caput medusae,” a “capitata peach,” and a very teenie-weenie “crocata.” Now, I didn’t/don’t know much about air plants – I was gifted some when I was younger but my dad takes care of them now – so it was time to do some research.
Peep my cat doing her own research:
My first research method is, as always, ASK THE PLANT LADY YOU GOT THE PLANTS FROM. So I asked her about caring for these little dudettes and she said:
Soak 20 minutes once a week, making sure the tips definitely get drenched – those are the bits most likely to dry out
Let them dry out, upside-down, a few hours before putting back in their pot so they don’t rot out from the roots
They don’t need to be planted in any kind of soil
Some of that I vaguely knew, but I wasn’t sure and it never hurts to ask. The next curiosity was about the names/species. All three are in the well-known genus Tillandsia which is basically synonymous with “air plant.”
Based on what I can find, this species comes in two cultivated varieties – one that flowers yellow and one that flowers orange. The orange cultivar is apparently one of only a few that forms an orange flower. Both cultivars are apparently fragrant once they flower, which should be lovely! I read about these here and here.
Based on images, this dudette is going to have foliage similar to the bromeliad I took from a school event back in high school. I’m excited for this; if I can get the care right, I’ll see a beautiful spiral-tower red flower come out of my medusae.
I didn’t see consistent naming convention for this one; based on what I’ve found I’m guessing it’s a cultivar, T. capitata ‘Peach’. According to Air Plant Supply Co., during bloom “the leaves blush beautiful shades of peach and pink with spectacular purple blossom” – exciting!
More research will come with time as I live with & care for these plants.
For now, some other weekend-in-May thoughts:
Reminder: You can’t make someone love you. You can’t make someone appreciate you. You can only love and appreciate yourself.
And bonus photo: a buckeye butterfly my best friend & I encountered:
I’m down today and I need to tell myself that I can let myself be hurt by things people have done to me. It doesn’t have to be “it wasn’t that bad” or “____ had it worse.” I deserve to acknowledge my hurt because I haven’t gotten anywhere ignoring it or pushing it down.
Well, technically. I sort of foraged with two friends a few months back but it was less about foraging and more about learning/experiencing the woods that day. But today, thanks to my city’s lovely parks program putting together guided walks with an herbalist, I did my first foraging and flower-eating!
Well, okay, I’ve eaten flowers before. But not flowers I’d picked myself.
So today I learned about:
garlic mustard (*see my upcoming post on invasive species!*)
knotweed (my friend actually taught me about this on aforementioned woods trip prior)
dandelion (the same friend has also taught me some tricks with dandelions)
plantain (not the plantain you’re thinking of)
I really enjoyed the taste of bittercress; I had to stop myself from eating a piece that I’d picked to press in order to remember it’s shape (I ended up losing the piece along the journey home, ugh). Violet flowers also tasted alright. Motherwort was bitter but not so bitter that I was unhappy, and I was told it’s good for cardiovascular support and it’s a nervine.
I think my biggest excitement is stinging nettle. Apparently there are histamines that give you the “stinging” reaction if you handle stinging nettle for too long or without being gentle – and it turns out the stinging can be medicinal! It can promote circulation which, if you have a sac of fluid in your knee six years post-op and numbness, which I do, is nice to know because it can help reduce my swelling! I was quite literally told that I could tap myself in the knee with the leaves and let it sting me. I’m looking forward to this.
And as someone who wants to forage responsibly and for others to do the same, here’s a tip I learned: When plucking nettle, [gently] pluck just above the next leaf layer the same way you would pick basil to make it bushier.
Now, I don’t feel even remotely experienced enough yet to share much about these plants; rather I just want to share my excitement that these things grow in my very own local park! Where there are no pesticides sprayed! And where I may or may not know spots where people don’t walk their dogs where plants are pee-free…
I will share what I made with what I foraged today, though!
New Planties: Crispy Wave Fern, Willow (yes, a whole-ass tree), Zinnia, another Friendship Plant
Seedlings! Both Indoor & Outdoor
Here I have a couple of pollinator see packs. The tiny one is a strawberry plant, and that will be staying inside simply because I don’t have any outdoor space where I teenie weenie pot like that would stay safe. The other two are sunflowers and daisies; I actually have some other sunflower seeds that are going directly in the ground outside tomorrow!
As for these two medium-sized seed potting kits, there’s also not anywhere outside I’d feel super safe keeping them – except for doing exactly what I plan to do, which is creating a way for these little dudes to hang from our big strong maple out front. I’m hoping to make some hemp string hangers for them!
I’m not into bombing – unless it’s seed bombing. These little seed bombs (clay + compost/dirt + local native plant seeds + water) starting to actually sprout while still in the container!
Making them was a blast, and throwing them about has been a blast as well. Hopefully I’m blessed with a beautiful alleyway full of wildflowers this season.
Last but not least for the seedlings – some basil seeds have been laid beneath their elder basil brother!
No sprouts yet, but peep my new yoga gnome thanks to my absolute favorite Pittsburgh nursery (Cavacini’s) – who sort of offered me a part-time position, by the way.
The folk at the counter overheard me talking plants to my family and said “ah you brought your own plant lady!” And later they said “I’m so glad you’re gnome people.” I’m very into gnomes and so is my dad, honestly.
An Artistic Endeavor
This isn’t the artistic endeavor I came here to talk about, but: if I made tee shirts that said “I’m just foraging” or something for people to wear like at the park or something… I don’t know. That’s just in my head.
Anyway – a while ago I started working on a self-portrait based on one of my favorite photos of myself. I didn’t finish it but I’ve decided to scale up and do a canvas painting alla the Andy Warhol fingerpaint of late. I’m feeling the Sunday depressies today (even though it’s Saturday) but I hope my energy’ll be up later and I’ll work on it.
A Curly Girl Success Story
I wanted to be sure to drop this here because (a) I want to be able to replicate it and (b) it took me F O R E V E R to find something that worked to return my hair to how I remember it being at it’s healthiest, so maybe this could work for you if you’re struggling to find a routine for your curls!
So, the morning curl post-cowash* refresh:
Filtered water spray soak – like, I got it basically dripping with a spray bottle full of Brita water
Mielle Hawaiin Ginger organic leave-in conditioner squished in, up to the roots
Denman brush – first just a regular brushing, then brushing from under the roots for volume
Let air dry in the warm weather!
*I had cowashed the day before; this routing was done on none-shampooed, non-apple-cider-vinegared, dry hair.
I’ve been using SheaMoisture intensive hydration conditioner with manuka honey and mafura oil to cowash lately. Occassionally when my hair is super dry I use I AM hydration elation instead. I have not shampooed in weeks, I use a 1:3-ish ratio of apple cider vinegar to filtered water to wash/clarify. My hair is also cut into relatively short layers.
If you want money more than anything, you’ll be bought and sold your whole life.”
There is much guilt that surrounds finances for me. We as a society have moved so far from trade of meaningful goods; we worship green paper like salvation.
We choose values over other values all the time. We have to to survive, especially in a capitalist economy; isn’t its very basis trade? And there isn’t really anything wrong with having to choose between values at times because although capitalism makes it systematic, we cannot be everything at every second.
I recently had a group session with other folks with OCD. We talked about the difficulty of making decisions with this disease and how the will to stay true to our values can help fight OCD – and also how we cannot be everything at every second! For example, lately I’ve been struggling between two things I value: (1) Taking care of animals and (2) having a clean, orderly home. One of my cats has been getting nosebleeds and so I’ve been constantly cleaning blood, giving him messy medicine, and falling behind on laundry. Things aren’t neat. OCD wants me to stay stuck and stressed about not being able to be perfect; I am choosing to pick the “taking care of animals” value for now and doing my best to keep the apartment livable. We’re just out here doing the best we can right now.
Then today, I saw the incredible Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer speak. She is truly a wonder. She spoke of authenticity instead of appropriation; of naturalizing to the land; of returning humanity to its rightful place as part of nature. These things are beautiful, and they are inspiring.
And earlier today as well, I talked to a friend and coworker about my desire to return to university and earn my PhD. And we talked about what a cult academia is – and it is. We talked about the financial and temporal difficulties of graduate programs (and college in general) and Dr. Kimmerer brought it all full-circle when she brought up her distaste for achievement hierarchies – not as a way to belittle the achievements but as a way of freeing us from that modern cult of push, push, push and add more letter after your name.
All of this has me thinking of money and of what I value. There is value to the experiences of the PhD candidate. There is value other than the financial in jobs, in academic programs. And there is even value – an energy – in money if you respect yourself & your world more than your dollar.
I want nothing more than a life filled with joy and the senses. I need money to survive, but something Dr. Kimmerer said earlier really stood out to me – that the measure of wealth can be how much you have to share. And I wonder what I can do with that wisdom?
I thought I’d lied to you recently! I called one of my latest plant additions a calathea, thinking it wasn’t a prayer plant because it wasn’t doing very much praying (as I wrote about here, prayer plants get their common name from the way they fold up almost into the shape of praying hands at night). Turns out, though, it sort of does pray up at night and so I’d started thinking it actually was a maranta.
It is not! The ‘peacock plant’ is actually a calathea, as I first wrote. Calathea makoyana, to be specific. And this has got me thinking – just how closely related are calathea and maranta?
Marantas are true prayer plants because they perform nyctinasty, a response to nighttime where the leaves fold up. This is the major difference between the two plants, as Calathea does not have that reaction. The nyctinasty is just one main trait that is different. Leaf shape is another.
Gardening Know How [linked in Resources section]
You’ll read here:
🌱What do ‘calathea‘ and ‘maranta‘ mean?
🌱What do ‘lemon lime‘ and ‘peacock‘ mean?
🌱Who decides? Lumpers & Splitters
🌱Characteristics & Care
What do ‘calathea‘ and ‘maranta‘ Mean?
‘Calathea‘ and ‘maranta‘ are genus names. If it’s been a while since you took a biology class, or if you’re like me and have a degree in biology but still struggle to remember the taxonomic order, here’s a refresher:
So: the “calathea” (or “goeppertia”; this is an example of modern taxonomical drama*) in calathea makoyana and the “maranta” in maranta leuconeura tell you the genus.
As a precursor to the following discussion of relatedness between my maranta and calathea plants: the genuses calathea and maranta are in the same family. It’s also important to remember that an organism’s scientific name consistes of first the genus name and then the species name.
What do “Lemon Lime” and “Peacock” Mean?
The first thing you need to know here is something I’ve just learned myself: there is actually a difference between varieties and cultivars.
All cultivars are varieties, but not all varieties are cultivars. A cultivar is a cultivated variety. Cultivars are basically human-created varieties.
When a variety is named in writing (for example, in a book, on the Web, or a plant label), it should appear differently than a cultivar name. Rather than being presented in single quotes (with the first letter capitalized), it should be italicized and in lower case—just like the species name, which it follows.
The Spruce, What to Know About the Difference Between Cultivars and Varieties (linked in Resources)
With this research came another twist of fate! My prayer plant, sold to me as the cultivar lemon-lime, actually appears to be the variety rabbit’s foot! I love it just the same but I’m curious;keep your eyes peeled for another post on just that specific topic!
And so, are “lemon lime” and “peacock” variety names or cultivar names? And what about “rabbit’s foot,” for the fun of it?
“Lemon lime” is a cultivar name, and thus a lemon-lime prayer plant should be taxonomically written as such: Maranta leuconeura “Lemon-lime”
“Rabbit’s foot” is a common name for the variety name “Kerchoviana” and thus would be written in this way: Maranta leuconeuravar. kerchoviana
And finally, to throw more scientific classification confusion at you, “Peacock plant” is actually just a common name for the species C. makoyana; it’s not a taxonomic term at all.
If you’ve never checked out NCBI’s website, I recommend you do it. The taxonomy browser is one of my favorite things.
There’s a lot that goes into taxonomic relatedness and I don’t want to go into all that here. So to summarize: the more taxonomic layers two organisms share, the more closely related they are/the more recent common ancestor they share; these two beautiful plants of mine are pretty closely related, organized together down to the level of family.
Also keep in mind that once two organisms split off at a level, they can’t come back together. For example two organisms can’t be in different genuses but the same species.
Who Decides? Lumpers & Splitters
Let’s play a game. Here are a bunch of things sharing a space; organize them into groups.
There are so many ways you could organize these things. You could go by shape, by color, by relative size, by what letters are inside, by orientation in space, by number of corners, by angle size or number of angles, by which ones you like and which ones you don’t, or even by more than one of these categories. For example:
sorted by color
sorted letters vs. no letters
sorted by letters vs. no letters then again by color
sorted by shape
And now let’s pretend we have two folks individually organizing these things. This is how each of them does it:
If you take a close look you might notice that person number 1 painstakingly separated out the things down to the finest of differences. The three rainbow shapes are each by themselves because they’re each a different color. On the other hand, person number 2 seemed to focus more on the connections than the differences; their things are separated such that the individuals in each grouping are very different but do share at least a trait or two.
Taxonomists can organize differently too! Historically those who take person 1’s approach are known as splitters, and those who take person 2’s approach are lumpers.
Now, C. makoyana and M. leuconeura are in different genuses so there’s a good chance their separation didn’t come down to a lumper vs. splitter choice; I believe that’d be more likely to occur at the species breakdown. But this is still interesting because (a) these plants really do have quite the similarities and it’s really an ode to observatory science that we’re able to recognize their individualities; and (b) relatively recently the Calathea genus had ~200 members removed and put in the genus Goeppertia instead (read: taxonomic drama*) proving the transitory, ambiguous, absurd nature of taxonomical organization once again.
In fact, when researching C. makoyana I’ve found it named both ways: Calathea makoyana (C. makoyana) AND Goeppertia makoyana (G. makoyana)!
Now you may ask: but what about the most recent common ancestor? If we know where two organisms started to differ, don’t we know objectively if they’re the same species or not? That shit is complex, and the topic of its own future blog post.
Characteristics & Care
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty, down in the dirt, into the thick of it – what’re these plants like and how do I take care of them?
Let’s start by summarizing which plant is which from what we’ve learned above. Maranta leuconeura var. kerchoviana is the smaller green dude that I’ve had for a while. My newer plant, the big purple-and-green dude, is a peacock plant a.k.a. C. or G. makoyana.
As for their behavior, they actually act pretty similarly! Although peacock plants don’t fold up into prayer hands at night technically, mine certaintly does shift into a different more-folded position as darkness approaches. Meanwhile because it’s recovering from a health scare, my prayer plant actually hasn’t been folding up as noticeably at night as it used to. But, you’ll notice that little M. leuconeura has a big new leaf and some color back, so health is improving!
Since I’ve had the leuconeura longer I’ve learned more about it’s care and I have a more defined regimen for it. However, the care I give my other calathea plant (not the peacock plant) is very similar to that of the prayer plant, so I assume the care regimens will converge soon. For now, here’s how they live:
These plants live together next to one high-powered humidifier and two simple humidifiers, sharing water with one another and their baby button fern buddy. I keep that humidifier set to 60% humidity; when that drops to 5% too high or too low the humidifier adapts accordingly. This has been great as the weather gets warmer and I have the forced-hot-air heat on less, as the humidifier doesn’t have to work as hard or use as much water. Their little setup is located across the room from a south-facing window and a west-facing window. It seems to be warm, wet, and bright enough for these two where they are right now.
UHawai’i Manoa (This is a fantastically written, in-depth article on biological classification. It includes activity resources and gives amazing examples; I’d definitely recommend this if you’re interested in further reading on how taxonomy works!)
Completely Arbortrary [podcast where I first heard the phrases “lumpers” and “splitters”; sorry I couldn’t remember the episode! So here’s their entire site.]
Well, okay, life begins with single-celled organisms. But in the sense that our current existence is fully hinged on plants, la vita inizia con i pianti! Whether you’re vegetarian or carnivore, vegan or pescatarian, you are nourished by plants – you’re either eating them, or what you eat is eating them. Or both.
Plants are also culturally important – think the redwoods of California, or sugarcane’s fraught history in the Americas, or taro in Hawaiian culture. Think of the decades-long cultivations of Bonsai trees or fig trees in the front yards of Italians. Plants, although far from passive, are silent sentinels carrying nourishment, meaning, and spirit across generations of human beings.
Earlier today, I visited Phipps, one of my all-time favorite places to be in the world. Each time I’m there I’m reminded of the simple tranquility plants can bring us in all their myriad forms and colors and shapes and biologies. I’m also reminded of the way we’ve strayed from a balanced relationship with not only plants but all other living species besides ourselves; the hubris we as humans, especially those societies with a history of colonization, carry with us is astounding and has cost many species their existences – and for what? For a human-led world built to fail? That is, sometimes, what it looks like.
I don’t want to paint too dark a picture of things here, because I do believe and want to believe that there is hope for our planet’s ecosystems beyond us. Plus, I think we all know what colonizers did to the Hawai’ian islands. So I’ll skip most of that discussion here while still including important points from Phipps’ newest installation, Tropical Forest Hawai’i. The positive and beautiful side here is how native Hawai’ians and Polynesian seafarers lived as part of their land. The Phipps Tropical Forest Hawai’i room does a lovely job of showcasing that.
A quick synopsis of what I think are the coolest things to learn about in this exhibit:
So, as you can read above, fish ponds using sluice gates to let small fish in and fatten them up for eating is a feat found nowhere else in the world but the Hawai’ian islands. What a brilliant way to support a human population without disrupting a nonhuman ecosystem. Plus, I love fish and this made my mouth water a little.
If you were taking a long journey and didn’t know where you’d end up or if you’d ever see home again, what would you bring with you? Probably your cell phone, because that’s what life is like now. But imagine a post-apocalyptic world – or, a pre-5G world – where there are no working cellphones. Now what? Maybe you’d bring some energy drinks and canned food, but the infamous Polynesian seafarers brought plants.
There was quite a lot more to see and read about, but I think your best bet is to just head to Phipps and check it out yourself!
And now here’s a part I find particularly upsetting. Did you know pineapples aren’t native to the Hawai’ian islands? I find this upsetting because of how embedded visions of the pineapple are with popular conceptions of Hawai’ian culture. This would be like the history of US land centering on just white folks from Europe…oh, wait.
There was a lot more to enjoy at Phipps. It seemed like they’d gotten quite a few new floral marvels since last time I’d been there, so let me share some of my favorite photos of the day.
This was definitely a new guy – eucalyptus “Ghost Rider.” How cool is that common name? That’s probably one of the most badass plant nicknames I’ve ever heard.
Then, there’s this, which has thrown me for a loop. I got all excited seeing this in the little garden section thinking it was celery, because it looks just like my gorgeous celery plant at home. But no, folks. This is Italian flat-leaved parsley! I am dazed and confused and will be doing more research. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture as big as I can get it where you can see the placard:
Look at that little leaf, growing among the thick aerial roots of a Swiss Cheese Plant! I wonder what it is, and how old it is, and how it got there? It seemed to be a separate plant, as there was a stem growing from the ground. It almost looks like pothos but I’m not sure. Ah, the incredible resiliency of flora.
Although it makes total sense, it never struck me that an orchid could be grown at any angle. But as this is Phipps’ orchid and tropical Bonsai show, I should expect nothing less! Amazing.
As my Phipps trip ended I couldn’t help myself but stop at the gift shop and see if they had any neanthe bella, or parlor, palms. As you may know I already had one at home, lovingly named Adora, but she hasn’t been doing so well. Although she’s much better and the spider mites have cleared up she just still seemed to need some help. And so I bought her some friends, whose health I’m hoping will help bolster hers.
What I bought today was a 6-inch parlor palm. I then separated it into four separate plantlets, three of which are surrounding Adora (you can see her, still a little brown and wobbly, at the front of the pot) and one of which is in its own recycled-Jiggy-puzzle-container pot. And, fun fact: the little floral pedestal that pot stands on is a recycled Jiggy container top that I put some of the extra decorative contact paper from my fireplace on.
Today was Repot & Rescue Day
This past week I’ve gotten two – technically three, more on that if you read on – new houseplants. One is the parlor palm previously mentioned, and the other is a “peacock” calathea.
Now this lil’ sweetie came with a surprise!
There was an extra little plant baby inside! The shop owner was kind enough to give me a little mini pot to grow the button fern in, but I figured since it’s happy to grow alongside this calathea I’d rather not disturb their relationship. So I had to repot very carefully:
Normally I’d do a lot more root work than this. I like to get the roots nice and loosened from any clod-up dirt. I did loosen the bottom more than the top, as evidenced by the dirt all over the place.
The fantastic news is that the button fern is also supposed to be nontoxic for cats, so it has found a happy, healthy home here with me. I hope.
Sidenote: look at that beautiful root structure!
I also planted some wheatgrass seeds today, but that won’t be all that interesting until the seeds sprout. What is interesting is the rescue I had to perform today.
A few weeks ago I got watermelon peperomia and another calathea, which I planted together and kept in my bathroom – which was a mistake. The plants didn’t have enough space to air out and the calathea got a white, powdery mildew which not only brough gnats but smelled gross up close. I treated it with neem oil up until I had time for repotting, which was today.
I separated the plants, cut off infected tissue, added fertilizer to the soil in both the pot meant for the peperomia and the pot meant for the calathea, repotted the peperomia in the original container but more centrally, and put the calathea in the vase that came with my Valentine’s roses.
In Other Plant News
My celery was very melodramatic this morning. Here’s a timelapse from less than an hour. Keep in mind I watered this lady like a few days ago. She’s a growing girl though; she needs lots of support.
Last but not least, I actually *might* have managed to save my withering prayer plant! They can die back in the winter, and this one died back fast all of a sudden. But, now there’s new growth! I did notice a few tiny spots of what may have been powdery mildew during plant care today, but I gently wiped them off (they came off with no trouble) and used some neem oil. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
Let me leave you with this after my long day of solo plant time. Sometimes you plan and plan and the universe just laughs at you. Friends bail, you get an infected cut on your thumb. Dirt falls outside the lines, and you have to vacuum. That’s life. I’m anxious and I like to have control but I’m learning to with the flow on some things, because otherwise we just won’t survive the stress. Go with the flow a lil’ bit today, folks.
First of all: you need to feel today’s vibes to fully enjoy this blog post. So put on my playlist.
Or, note: If you’re feeling a little down and lonely as we roll into a warm weekend, and you’re prepared to just lean into it and go on long walks/runs and craft like I am, here’s another playlist suggestion for ya!
The Plants (there are lots of updates!)
Okay! Let’s take a rollcall of all the plants currently in the house.
Adora, the parlor palm
Celeste, my [giant now!] celery plant
Simeon the totem pole cactus
Echeveria (which is blooming again!)
Unknown species of blobby cactus
Rattlesnake plant (calathea rufibarba)
A maidenhair fern who is barely holding on for dear life
Watermelon peperomia (yes, two peperomias, I didn’t make a mistake)
A second cultivar of calathea (currently has some mold, which I’m treating with neem oil)
Baby jade propagate
2 African Violets (that’s right, I got another one!)
Moss, also barely
Chinese money plant, a.k.a. Friendship Plant which is what I prefer to call it
5 spider plants (several were murdered by my cat but a few of the 5 also have new spiderettes, so soon there shall be more individuals!)
All together, counting multiples, that’s 27 plants in this lil’ urban garden. And about the ones that say “mostly” – those plants aren’t doing so hot right now. Most of my plants are happy and healthy (other than those my cat murdered) but a few are struggling. I actually planted a new baby celery a few months ago and it was doing well for a time, but it’s gone now. I overwatered it. That’s right, I somehow overwatered celery. I suspect the issue may have been exacerbated because of weather changes: we’ve been getting swinging temperatures here. It was super warm, I added what was probably a bit too much water to the youthful celery, the temperature dropped to freezing, aaaand that was that. I tried to save it but was unable.
Come with me on a Plant Care Day
This first one isn’t exactly “plant care,” but I thought it was interesting! I got roses for Valentine’s Day but didn’t want them to go to waste, and there’s quite a bit you can use rose petals for! So once they were all dried and tuckered out I hung the best-shaped ones and made some decor out of them (think: the floral swag item from Animal Crossing). I also saved as many dried petals as I could; theoretically these could be used to make rosewater but I’m concerned about what pesticides and whatnot might’ve been used on commercial flowers. I’ll have to look into that more.
The basics of plant care days are observation, watering, and treating. During the winter these are less frequent, except for the observation part; I always try and keep a good eye on the plants.
Although some plants it’s said shouldn’t be fertilized in winter, I’ve been finding that my celery shoots through the roof with joy if fertilized about once a week – no more than that, sometimes less. Look at all that growth! I always use Joyful Dirt fertilizer for my houseplants.
Now, my basils are alive but janky-looking. I read recently that pruning basil plants a certain way makes them bushier, and gosh mine could sure use whatever help they can get. This is the video I watched and how I’ll be pruning my basil from now on:
And finally, what I’m most excited about recently – crafts, crafts crafts! Spring crafts!
I’m making a stick wreath for my front door, so I went out to the park and collected sticks along one of my favorite trails. Peep my amazing Columbia hiking boots, which have survived both the Amazon Rainforest and Pittsburgh puddles.
Here’s the wreath so far: I’ve used hemp string from my local art store to tie the sticks together and some hot glue to secure the string. Now, to make that circular shape I was lucky enough to find some pre-bent sticks but I also used the flexibility of wood to bend the final stick (the longest one you see there) into place. I gently maneuvered the wreath into the shape I wanted it once everything was tied together and then used my laptop and some heavy candles to ‘press’ that shape/hold it still. I left it like that for almost 24 hours, and voila! a rounded wreath. Next steps are to add some finishing touches, namely some hemp string details, make a loop at the top (the knobby part; isn’t nature wonderful! Mother Nature is the queen crafter) so that it can hang peaceably at my door. I imagine coming home and seeing my handiwork every day will bring me an extra ounce of joy on top of the ounces of joy spring itself brings!
The OCD Thing
Ah, so about the title. The OCD I deal with has been rough for more than a month now for personal reasons I don’t have the desire to share; let’s just say my germaphobia has reached levels much like those of it’s peak when I was a kid. But I’ve finally found a therapist, and I really like her and feel supported so far (thank you, NOCD app! I’d recommend this for all my OCD babes out there).
I know, I know, we’ve all heard the words “mental health” every waking moment for the past six years or so now. But I want to talk about mental health for a sec, specifically relating to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I know that OCD often gets used as an adjective, as something we all “hAvE a LiTtLe bIt oF,” as something that means if the curtain rod isn’t at an exact 180-degree angle we go into the full Avatar State. Now, I also know that “OCD is an illness, not an adjective” is a big push, and I know that I get annoyed when people who didn’t cry every day before school or pass out from panic attacks as a kid make light of OCD not knowing what they’re talking about. But I also know I don’t want to be gatekeepy about mental health. That’s not to say I don’t take my diagnosis and my care seriously; OCD has had a real and traumatizing impact on my life and I want to be able to better manage it so that I can be the me I want to be. However I think there are coping mechanisms for OCD that actually would help a lot of people without the disorder, and I think there are some things about having OCD that make me unique in ways I wouldn’t want to change. And I don’t think having a diagnosis of any sort is about playing the Trauma Olympics. Yes, OCD has given me trauma and yes, plenty of others have plenty of other kinds of trauma. Those things are important to recognize and to work through. I just don’t want to play this game of “who has the worst trauma” anymore. I don’t want to be pitted against anyone else or anyone else to be pitted against me. I speak about my own mental health stuff because I hope that someone else out there with nasty OCD realizes that they, of course, deserve to be their best, happiest, healthiest self, not because I want everyone to look at my trauma and think anything of it.
And with that diatribe, I leave you to more silly subjects.
Things I Learned Recently That No One Asked to Hear About
Okay, first – I’m not vegan but sometimes I just cannot stomach eggs. I make a vegetarian version of the Italian breaded chicken that my mom makes using sliced firm tofu instead, but usually to get the breadcrumbs to stick I wash the tofu slices in egg first. I didn’t want to waste money on eggs since I won’t eat them all, and I discovered that something else actually works to get the crumb to stick – dry out the tofu, then toss them in flour, then put them in a room-temp olive oil bath, then toss in breadcrumbs! And then bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, flip and bake another ~10 minutes.
And second – Cantu cream actually works pretty well on my hair, BUT: when I finger-comb it through my curls get stringy. But I have to comb it, because otherwise my head is just one big knot. If I spritz and scrunch after my hair’s dry with homemade saltwater spray, though, it looks better!