Bodega Rose’s Guide to Thriving House Plants
Bodega Rose’s Guide to Thriving House Plants
PORTRAIT BY : VALINE BRANA | OTHER PHOTOS : COURTESY OF OLIVIA ROSE
Maintaining plants in urban environments can be tricky. There are just so many more obstacles that city dwellers face. Our tiny apartments generally offer fewer and less conveniently placed sources of sunlight, we rarely control our thermostats so in winter the ancient gas heaters usually suck all moisture from the air, and our hectic work and social schedules mean that we often neglect to feed ourselves, let alone our home’s non-verbal inhabitants.
Determined to dismiss these excuses and take the first step towards adulthood — keeping a plant alive — we reached out to New York-based plant designer Olivia Rose (aka Bodega Rose) for some advice. A true native, Rose still resides in the Kips Bay home where she was born and raised — her mother literally walked to the hospital across the street to give birth to her. Known for repurposing items like basketballs, soccer balls and sneakers to use as planters, she also designs her own ceramics in their form.
Briefly back in the city from a world-wide tour with her brand, which took her to White Street Market in Milan, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London and ComplexCon in Chicago (to name just a handful), we caught up with the designer to glean some fool-proof advice.
1. GET TO KNOW YOUR NURSERY
I think it’s good if you build relationships with your local vendor and ask some questions about where the plants come from. Generally, in New York, most of our plants come from big nurseries in Florida. But beyond that, it’s also important to know how long they’ve had the plant for. For instance, maybe the plant’s been sitting in a truck for five days and it’s light-deprived. In this case, you wouldn’t want to put it into sunlight right away as this might shock it and hinder its growth. You can simply ask your local plant purveyor what’s the best way to acclimate your plant. Especially with larger plants, you want to be careful. So it’s just figuring out the best way to transition plants.
2. LEARN YOUR PLANT’S NATIVE HABITAT
When you’re buying a plant, sometimes it can be really helpful to learn a little bit about where the plant is from and what its natural habitat is. This can give you insight about how it needs to be taken care of. Understory plants, for instance, naturally grow wild and thrive under a lot of shade. These are great for indoors because they require less light and can survive in a less tending and caring forum.
3. DON’T BUY POACHED PLANTS
If you live in California, sometimes the plants are poached or stolen from national parks and the wild. Poachers can get around $100 per foot on some cactuses, for instance. But because these plants take so long to grow and they’re being cut down illegally, they’re becoming less common in the wild. Not enough of them are being given time to grow to their natural size. So you want to make sure you’re getting ethically sourced plants. Make sure you’re buying from reputable sources. Don’t buy a cactus in a back alley.
4. BUY TOUGHER PLANTS
I get plants that can go to the brink of death and then come back. I don’t buy ferns because when they dry up, they are donezo. But I do have a lot of different types of euphorbias and pencil cactuses and pothos. Even if you neglect those, if you just spend one or two days taking care of them again, they will immediately start blooming again. We are all busy people, and some people have more time to micro-obsess about every baby plant, but for the majority of us, we just want to have plants to be at bay. We don’t want to be bossed by them.
5. BUY LARGER PLANTS
The larger the plant, the easier it is to manage because it has a larger root bulb. As a more established plant, it has the ability to survive without daily water. If you have a really small plant, you’ll have to constantly water it to keep the soil moist.
6. UP-CYCLE, MAKE YOUR OWN PLANTERS
If it has a bowl, it can be a planter. You don’t have to use traditional planters. You can repurpose so many different objects in your house and put plants in them, depending on what kind of plant you use. If you have an old monitor in your house and you want to take all that stuff out and make it a terrarium, go ahead and explore it. Things don’t have to be limited. Experimenting adds character to your house. You’re saving money, and you can find something that has lost purpose and give it new purpose.
7. MONITOR NEW PLANTS FOR A WEEK AND GET TO KNOW THEIR NEEDS
Monitor your plants and check in on them. What does it need from you? Knowing the signs of a plant are really simple; if it’s brown, it’s thirsty. If it’s yellow and it smells, it’s overwatered. If the leaves turn pale, there’s a nutrient deficiency. If you have a succulent that gets very pale, that means the plant’s not getting enough light. There’s just a basic plant sign language that’s good for people to know. Once you get that down, you can get a feel for anything.
8. LOCATION MATTERS
The same plant can need less water in one room than it would in another. It depends on how hot the room gets, how much sun the room gets, if there’s a draft.
9. WHEN IN QUESTION, UNDERWATER RATHER THAN OVERWATER
With house plants, it’s easier to come back from an underwatering than it is from an overwatering. When something’s overwatered, and you get root rot, you can’t really recover from that. For the majority of house plants, it’s safer to underwater than overwater. I think it takes time to learn about each plant in your house.
10. WATER PROPERLY
Misting is not the same as watering. It’s not sufficiently watering the plants. Use room temperature water, because you don’t want to shock the plant. Don’t water from too far up. It can erode the soil and expose the roots. Instead, gently and slowly water at the base of the plant.
11. DON’T SHAME YOURSELF
When you’re learning about plants, experiment. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. You should allow yourself to learn instead of shaming yourself or feeling badly because you killed something.
12. SHARE YOUR PLANTS
Sharing clippings of plants with friends can be kind of fun. Like I can give you a piece of my pencil cactus for you to plant, and then maybe later once it’s grown, you can share a clipping with another friend. It’s just a cool way to bond with your friends.