Photo courtesy of Grace & Thorn

As someone who spent 4 years living alone without a plant in sight, you can trust me when I say I know next to nothing about owning plants. I know more about taking care of a dog and I've never even had one. But when lockdown happened, our closest companions became whoever we lived with and we found solace in the the new hobbies we took up; and so I thought it was high time that I brought some green friends into my life.

In our comfort series, we talked about the benefits of having plants in your home and the therapeutic effect they can have. What's not so therapeutic is when your plant starts dying and you have no idea what went wrong. But before you become a self-confessed plant-killer, it's not too late to get a green thumb. We sought out 3 experts from our favourite independent London florists to equip us with the basic knowledge to bring greenery into our homes and let them flourish, not just survive.

Tip #1: Indoor plants love the sun...but not that much
As a rookie botanist, when I think of how to take of indoor plants, two words come to mind: sunshine and water. And lots of it. While plants need both elements to thrive, that’s also where the common issue of plants dying lies. Too much of a good thing has the opposite effect. “Most houseplants are from tropical regions and do not require full sun all day.  Move your plants to a bright spot in the house with indirect sun exposure [which] reduces leaf burn and plants drying out too quickly,” advises Darren, co-founder and director of terrarium specialist shop, Botanical Boys.
So, as tempting as it is, let’s not stick our plants outside in direct sunlight as soon as a sunny spell breaks through the grey London skies. Where should you put your plants then, you ask? Well, Darren suggests, “moving plants into a slightly less direct position such as towards the middle of the room or back of the room on a shelf where the sun may not shine directly.”

Tip #2: Choose wisely
While enthusiasm is a welcome trait in any field, we may need to tone down our expectations and avoid buying a plant or flower that needs a lot of attention because remember, there are (plant) lives at stake here. So, turn your attention to low-maintenance plants. Darren recommends going for a Sanseveria and Cactus. Not only have they got great colour and shape but they “only need watering monthly” – that’s right, monthly! If that’s not easing yourself into the world of plants, then I don’t know what is.

For those who can’t wait for flowers to bloom and want to add vibrancy to their homes then look out for ranunculus, as recommended by Whitney, founder of FLOWERBX (as part of our comfort series). “For me, they are winter’s peony and few flowers rival the ranunculus in its delicate, but breathtaking, beauty.” We’re sold. 

Tip #3: Water runs check it!
Like sunlight, we can’t talk about plants without mentioning water. Alas, we’ve all had those moments when we couldn’t tell how much water to pour. We’ve dabbed the soil while trying to follow advice we googled, and we (sometimes) naively thought that our plants would like a drink of water everyday. If you’re navigating the “Will I? Won’t I?” landscape then remember the good rule of thumb is to “stick your finger a couple of cm into the soil; if it's dry - water it, if it's wet - don't!” says Nik Southern, founder of Grace & Thorn. If, like me, you shy away from having to put your finger in – just do it! Your plants will thank you. 

Another tip that is especially applicable during these colder months is to "let the soil dry out, so that the roots are not constantly damp as this can cause root rot. You can also lightly mist the plant to increase humidity," Whitney recommends – and now I remember my hair-misting bottle's original use. 

Tip #4: Learn from the best
If the above tips showed us anything, it’s that we’ve got a lot to learn! So while you set out to follow them, our last tip is to continue learning from the experts. Admittedly, we've googled "Why did my plant die?" many a time but the plethora of answers leaves us with more questions.
With so many independent flower shops around London, we recommend finding one you love so that you can ask all your queries to trusted experts as well as learn new skills. Workshops are still taking place, albeit online: Botanical Boys are the experts when it comes to terrariums and they host beginner workshops or if you’d like to try your hand at delicate dried flower arrangements then look to Grace & Thorn workshops. For those feeling festive then sign up for Botanique's in-person wreath making class!