Getting Started: Plant Selection & Potting

Emily Hostetter

jarred succulents on counter potted succulents

Plant Selection
Care Plan
Picking a Pot
Repotting

Alright, newcomers: it’s time for us to kick plant ownership in to full gear. Our last conversation covered a quick spring refresh for your existing urban jungle. Today, we’re starting from the ground up (you knew I couldn’t resist an early pun): selecting the right plants for your space and lifestyle, and preparing to bring them home.

Plant Selection:

If it were up to me, I’d wrangle up armfuls of Insta-worthy fiddle leaf figs and create a mini-forest in my living room. Most of my previous plant ownership has started with an impulse purchase of a “cute” plant in a big box store and ended with a drooping, dried-up husk where my plant-loving dreams once lived. Suffice it to say, I know nothing about how to be a good plant parent.

With this in mind, Shylah arranged a time to come view my space and help me analyze what type of plants would work best for me. We discussed the available light in each room, and how that light changes throughout the day. My husband and I share a mid-sized apartment, so we also wanted to make the best possible use of my available space.

My first takeaway: don’t let limited indoor real estate scare you. As I am quickly learning, there is always room for plants - and Shylah was full of great ideas about how to make my space feel like an urban oasis.

 indoor potted plants on wooden shelves

Care Plan:

We also talked about my ideal level of engagement with my new plant pals. Did I want to be a once-a-week waterer? A daily doter? A casual caretaker? We talked about my daily routine, and how plant care could fit in to my lifestyle - something I hadn’t considered during my previous plant disasters.

After our conversation, Shylah put together a curated selection of four plants that were the best fit for my space and time requirements: a snake plant, a philodendron, a parlour palm, and a Chinese evergreen. We’ll talk about them in detail in my next post, but these four require very low natural light (though all plants need at least some light to survive), and a mid-level amount of care. Perfect for someone like me. 

Great news for you: this in-home advice isn’t just for guest bloggers. Shylah and Andrea are available to help out anyone with questions about what plants are ideal for your individual space and lifestyle. Whether you want a few air cleaning plants to live at your desk or a full blown jungle in your living room (I haven’t given up on my fiddle leaf forest), their staggering botanical knowledge will set you on the right path from day one.Picking a Pot:

I popped in to Art Terrarium on a Thursday afternoon to pick up my four new plants and learn all about the potting process. Andrea and I walked through how to select the right container for my space and plant varieties. The size and drainage of your pot plays a big role in your plant’s overall health - and happy, healthy plants contribute to happy, healthy owners.

I loved perusing all of the options in the shop - each pot and planter felt like a beautiful sculpture, an art piece in itself before my plant even took up residence. We chose two sleek, minimalist white planters for the snake plant and Chinese evergreen. Since my spare bedroom already had a hook in the ceiling, we placed my philodendron in a hanging basket. And my playful parlor palm moved in to this planter from Group Partner.

When purchasing a new plant, it’s important to transfer from their plastic transport containers as soon as possible. Art Terrarium’s potting bar places you at a huge advantage here - you can select (or bring in) your planter and transfer your new plant right on the spot, with expert help.

You like to stretch your arms and legs out when you wake up in the morning to wake up after a good night’s sleep. Your plant wants the same in a new pot - room to stretch out her roots. That’s why, any time that you approach repotting, it’s important to select a new container that has a diameter 1-2” larger than it’s existing planter.

Drainage is another important component to your plant’s health. It can take time for water to absorb in to the soil, especially if it’s gotten too dry, and if all of that moisture just sits in the bottom of your pot, it becomes vulnerable to mold and rot. However, not all planters have built-in drainage, so you may have to DIY this step.

Begin by scattering pebbles or pea gravel ½” deep in the bottom of your container. This creates separation between the bottom of the pot and your soil and gives the water someplace to go. Sprinkle chipped activated charcoal on top of the pea gravel to help fortify your soil against mold and mildew. Ensure that you are watering thoughtfully - just enough to give your plant a drink, not so much that the soil becomes oversaturated.

Repotting:

Now you’re ready to transfer containers! Your goal is for the top of the soil to sit about 1” beneath the lip of the new pot or planter, so begin by packing some potting soil in to the bottom. Next, gently manipulate the flexible, plastic transport container around your plant. Depending on how root-bound she is, this may take a little work.

When I transferred my plants, I lost some soil along the way and had some minor root ripping - don’t feel alarmed if this happens to you! It’s best for your plant if you do shake-shake-shake-it-off with some of the old soil. Chances are that the nutrients have already been depleted, so this is also an opportunity to give your plant a nice snack when you replace it with fresh soil. (For those taking notes, my favorite snack is rocky road ice cream. Just felt this was important for you to know.)

Place your roots atop the soil in your new container, and begin to firmly pack potting soil around the edges. All-purpose potting soil was the best fit for all four of my new plants, and I packed each one so that the center of the plant sits a bit lower than the outer edge of the soil. This encourages water to drain down the center of your plant, where it will do the most good. Water running around the outer edges of your planter is unlikely to make it to the roots at the center.

Once your soil level reaches the right height, you can choose to top your plant with more pea gravel, moss, or a variety of other additions to your mini landscape, all found at the Potting Bar. Make sure you consider your moisture needs and avoid trapping moisture in the top of plants that are okay with locking it in. I only topped the planter for my parlor palm - I wanted to be able to see and touch the soil to determine dryness on the rest.

And just like that, your plant babies will be ready to come home! Check in next time to learn about proper placement and how to style your plants at home, and as always, hop over to the @artterrarium page Instagram with your questions!



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