You can’t open a magazine these days without seeing lots of plants added to any interior design. Plants are beautiful decoration items. They also help you distress (something very important in this day and age) because they make you feel like you are on a tropical holiday.
I just moved to a new place and my aim is to get that resort felling when you walk into the house. That is basically ‘fancy’ for getting lot of plants.
I have not been the best gardener lately so I had to do some research to find out what will be hard to kill and what else do I need to keep in mind when buying plants, beside the obvious aesthetic factor.
SHORTCUT! – If you want that insta-worthy look to be really instant, pick one easy plant from THE LIST and go big. That means getting a plant that’s 2/3 or even 3/4 of the height of your ceiling. You can always use a stool or a console to elevate it and Boom! There you have it. A statement plant just made your place look more tropical relaxing.
This could do the job for you, but I have too much balcony space to fill, so I had to deep dive into the whole plants topic. The only plant I have managed to keep alive in Singapore for 8 years has just been nearly destroyed by the movers. Let’s be real, I don’t have a lot of recent experience looking after plants.
So how to ensure I don’t end up spending a lot of money and then killing them all?! With the help of Pinterest and the lovely people that sold me my plants, I got some great tips and advice.
Study the surroundings
Plants in essence need three things: Sun, water and fresh air. So after you have decided where they will look better, ask your self: How much of those will your plants get?
If your balcony get a lot of rain and sun, do not choose indoor plants. Go for those you see in parks and gardens around where you live. If your balconies, like mine, don’t get much direct sunlight or much rainfall, indoor plants can be used for outdoors. Particularly in the tropics. If you don’t have balconies your watering needs will be more.
The plants on this LIST can adapt and live in both scenarios, that’s why they are easy to maintain (read hard to kill).
- Buy second hand plants. They are not delicate babies and they are seasoned (red survivors). Big old plants and very expensive from the nurseries and they might have grown in artificial conditions. Ask the seller how old they are, if they have been under sun rain etc. With the amount of people that move in and out of Singapore this is always easy. Facebook groups or my beloved Carousell have been a great source of pre-loved plants for me.
- Get plants that come in self watering pots for when you go on holiday, or make sure you have a space where they can get rain while you are away. Watch out for the sun. Some plants will burn in a matter of days if they have never been exposed to direct sun. If you have no choice but to do this, make sure you make a gradual approximation to the light. This is the moment when keeping plants starts to sound like having a pet…
- Dark corners with no light inside of the house can also have plants, they just need plants that can survive there. The plants that grow at the bottom of the rain forest will like these places as long as they are moist. There’s others on the succulent family that require little light and little water too.
- Spray your plants of they are indoors and do not get much rain. It will help them stay clean from dust and keep moist. Some people told me not to water but to spray the plants. I love doing this because it gives a fresh breeze to the house.
- Buy local plant varieties that will thrive on the weather. I would like to grow tulips and lavender in Singapore but why would you do that when you can have wild orchids that require ZERO effort and are guaranteed to stay alive for long?
- Watch out for plants grown in artificial environment. IKEA for example sources plants in local nurseries, but to make them look so nice for long in those IKEA basements, they grow with artificial light and fertilizers. That makes the plants very attractive. Bright green that’s nearly fluorescent, lush big leaves….but they are not ready for the world. They might not make if you move them to harder conditions (weather related or simple owner neglect)
Five easy-to-look-after plants to decorate your house
We want a resort like feeling and to ensure they stay alive without putting much effort, right? Here you have them, these are the ones I learn need little care and check all the boxes of beauty and adaptability.
1- Fiddle leaf fig – Ficus Lyrata
It must be trendy plant of the moment. There’s millions of photos of these babies on the internet. Open any magazine and you will see them. Their leaves are thick and leathery. They curl up in a really beautiful shape, like a giant lettuce. That makes them very decorative.
The truth is that there are entire two story tall trees of this plant in Singapore. They do well in the weather. For interior use they come in two varieties. The one on the photo above grows like a tree, and the one below grows like a bush. It’s how they prune them when young that makes the difference. The latter one is better for exterior I think. For indoors I like a little tree. Tall stem and busy on the top.
Fiddle Figs are originally from Western and Central Africa. If you get one from a nursery to be placed indoors it will be a good idea make sure they get fresh air and enough light. They don’t really need direct sun but ‘don’t put baby in a dark corner’.
- Rotate the pot so it doesn’t grow sideways.
- Water them once a week and check them out to make sure they are healthy, green and firm.
- If the weather gets a bit dry, also spray them once a week
- They grow very slow so don’t expect new leaves very often
- Clean the dust on the leaves with a wet cloths every once in a while
- You can also shine them with 2 drops of coconut oil on a cloth. It’s like magic
A nice planter and a fiddle fig will make your house look a bit more like an interior decor magazine! I love the basket plantes and also the mid-century elevated ones.
2- Swiss cheese plant – Monstera Delisiosa
Monstera leaves are super tropical and very popular these days. From cushions to bikinis to rompers. You will find these tropical prints on everything these days. Definitely another trendy plant.
I’m getting one these purely for sentimental reasons. My parents always had a few of these at home, and they are really monstrous! The must be at least as old as me because I always remember them around. Mine is a young small one because they take a lot of space. they grow in all directions. Even in the dry Mediterranean weather.
Monstera Deliciosa is originally from South America. The leaves are shaped like that to survive torrential rain and strong winds in the rainforest. Without them they would break.
- Monster leaves means that you definitely need to elevate it, because they spread in all directions. I love they way the one on the first photo is just sitting on a stool.
- If it starts growing aerial roots pull them and dig them in the pot. You probably need a bigger pot if this goes out of control. It happens mostly in older plants.
- In the tropics you can keep them outdoors but they are very good indoor winter plants too.
- Do not give them too many hours of direct sunlight. Put them near a window but not facing south and better if they are sheltered by a wall. These plants are from the bottom of the rain forest. The corners will become dry and brown when they get sun burnt.
- Water once a week. The more sun they get the greener and bigger the leaves will be, and the more holes they will have.
3- Snake plants -Sansevieria
Also called Mother in law’s tongue. (no idea where the name comes from) These very flashy plants require hardly any attention. They grow without much light so they can go to decorate those dark corners. They also don’t need much water. A bit every two weeks does the job. I have one at my parents place that I bought in Ikea many many years ago. it doesn’t grow much but It’s still standing.
4- Rubber plant – Ficus Elastica
My Ficus is the ONLY plant I have managed to keep alive for the last 8 years in Singapore. Orchids, palms, cactus… anything else, I have killed. My old friend is a survivor that made it through long periods of neglect.
The movers severely damaged it in the last relocation, but it’s still going to make it through. Out of the 3 original stems only one survives, but I have never reported it, or filled up the soil ,or fertilized it. Call it survival of the fittest. This thing will pretty much overcome a nuclear holocaust (together with cockroaches).
Disclaimer! That’s a pretty photo isn’t it? Well, I can assure you this lovely plant on top has been grown outdoors and placed there for the shoot. They trick us all the time with these things.
To get a rubber plant to look like that they need 12h a day of direct light. That’s how they look in the park next to my house, where they grow by the lake. I have never seen them looking like that anywhere else. The leaves don’t get the pink color on the back and red on the tips if you grow them indoors. Also they don’t grow so tight. This much I know from first hand experience.
I would bet this is a segment from a massive plant outdoors placed in a pot for the photo. And I would bet that It will lose that look very soon after living in this bedroom.
This is what a Ficus Elastica might end up looking if it doesn’t get enough light. Smaller leaves, more separate, lighter shade of green and sides of the leaves cascading down. My old friend has segments like this. BTW the chaotic growth is very natural too.
5- Palms, and all the members of the family
Resort feeling? Check. Easy to keep? Check. Widely available? Check. Hundreds of options? Check What else do you want? Get a palm for your house now and the tropical holiday feeling will be instant.
These are my favorite palms. They can be very architectural or very wallpaper flower bland. I obviously like the first type better.
How do I know if my plant is doing OK?
Here’s a few diagnosis tips for dummies. Plant diseases can make your plants look bad and ruin your resort feeling so it’s worth to watch out for them.
Sun related: Plants have a natural reaction to protect themselves from excessive sunlight. They do this by keeping leaves close together, vertically to reduce the surface of exposure. When leaves are too far apart in the stem, they are small and they lose the inward curve shape it means they need more light. When they become dry and brown on the tips, that means they are burnt from too much sun.
Water and related: When the leaves become black front the bottom it means they are rotting. When they become sad, like hanging down or thin and brittle it means they need more water.
Common pests: Watch out for these little buggers or they can destroy your oasis. The first two, aphids and cottony scales, spread easily and you will need to isolate infected plants and treat them.
Snails are much easier to spot and control. They sell these little balls you sprinkle on the pots and they dissolve them like acid. It’s disgusting but necessary if they grow a liking for your tropical leaves.
Why doing all of this?
Living in the tropics doesn’t mean living like you are on holidays. In fact the level of noise and overall sensorial over stimulation in Singapore recently started to annoy me. It’s crowded here, traffic noise everywhere, and it can get very stressing, because you don’t give your eyes and ears a goo enough break. Having that little heaven of peace and quiet in my house, with greenery, was essential for me to stay longer here.
Luckily my lovely boyfriend the Troglodyte agreed and we found the right place to do so.
With all of these tips I hope you are ready to create that space for yourself and invest in your wellness. Maybe I will get adventurous and once I graduate from these plants I will move to level 2, to slightly more delicate plants.
I will write about it don’t worry. Until then, ciao!