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10 ways to bond with your houseplants while you’re at home

Tending to your green children will help you stay sane during these dark times.
Tending to your green children will help you stay sane during these dark times.
(Sandra Navarro / For The Times)

Now that we’ve been ordered to stay home, the surrealness of the global pandemic has set in. While many people are coming together virtually, now is a good time to tend to your houseplants. Does your Dracaena ‘lemon lime’ need dusting? Is your Chinese evergreen getting too much sun? Are you watering your plants too much? Or not enough? Below, we offer some ways to cultivate your indoor garden, while helping you stay sane in the process. (Note: We know it’s hard, but try to resist the urge to overwater your plants while you are stuck at home).

1
Start styling with plants
Design swap: Living room
Interior designer Emily Henderson arranged plants on a coffee table to give this stylish Silver Lake duplex a boost.
(Laure Joliet)

You know that table next to your bed? The one littered with bills, change and receipts for your income taxes? The first thing you see when you wake up in the morning and wonder what day it is in this ongoing pandemic? Put a plant on it. Trust us, it’ll make you feel better. Take this time to tap into your inner Justina Blakeney or Hilton Carter. Try hanging plants from a curtain rod. Create a lush vignette on a bench or table top. Add a plant to your home office, whatever that might be right now. Plants add warmth and beauty to our interiors and can soothe our spirits as we ride out this quarantine. Have a favorite plant vignette? Post it on Instagram and tag #latimesplants and we’ll share it.

2
Research a new plant
Folia Collective
Folia Collective in Eagle Rock.
(Danae Horst)

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Treat yourself to a new houseplant. You deserve it. But before you do, make the most of your newfound time at home by doing some research to find the plant that’s right for you. What kind of lighting conditions do you have at home? Do you normally travel, or do you spend a lot of time at home? You may need a low-maintenance houseplant. At press time, many nurseries and plant stores were offering phone orders, online sales and curbside pickup, including Folia Collective, Mickey’s Plants, the Sill, Fig Earth Supply, Plant Material, Potted and Sunset Nursery. The Juicy Leaf is even offering FaceTime consults.

3
Build a #plantshelf
Instagram plant influencers
Follow the evolution of Christine Kelso’s kitchen shelves via #whphkitchenshelves on her Instagram. 
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Look it up on Instagram and Pinterest and you’ll get the idea. Plant shelves are an aesthetically pleasing way to add life to your interiors while calming your nerves. Many retailers offer creative and inexpensive ways to display plants such as the Satsumas bamboo and powder-coated metal stands from Ikea, an assortment that works well in small spaces and allows you to display multiple plants at once. (Remember, humidity-loving plants do better in groups.) Etsy also offers a variety of fun plant shelves and if you’re feeling inspired, you can use this time to build your own.

4
Propagate
Plants hang on display outside of the Leaf and Spine store.
Plants hang on display outside of the Leaf and Spine store.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

Propagating houseplants, such as Epipremnum aureum, or pothos, is one of the easiest ways to clone your favorite houseplants. Simply cut the vine just below the node (where the leaf joins the stem), leaving two to three leafs at the top, and place several stems in water, or around the rim of a 3-inch pot. Allow the stems to stand in a warm area of the house and, eventually, rooting will occur. After three months, move each individual plant to a 3- or 4-inch pot. Pilea peperomioides, known as “the friendship plant” is another popular houseplant that is easy to propagate. Cut the “babies” that pop up at the base of the plant with a clean, sharp knife and place them in water. When new roots and leaves materialize, transfer the cutting to a small pot with well-drained potting soil. (These make great homemade hostess gifts when the time comes to socialize again).

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5
Start an indoor herb garden
A spearmint plant grows in a vintage yellow Bauer Pottery coffee cup.
A spearmint plant grows in a vintage yellow Bauer Pottery coffee cup.
(Karen Tapia¿Andersen / Los Angeles Times)

Now that you’re spending a lot more time cooking, why not plant some of your favorite culinary herbs, such as parsley, thyme and basil? Plant them in pots that are at least 8 inches in diameter, and place them in a south-facing kitchen window. You can propagate store-bought basil too. Cut below the leaf node, and place the stems in water. After several weeks, you should have a good root structure. Transfer the cuttings to a pot, or outdoors, and before long you will be in pesto heaven.

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Try a new location
My Favorite Room | Tanya Acker
Houseplants add greenery.
(Jesse Goddard / For The Times)

Is your plant thriving in its current location? Does it need more sun, or less? Is it getting enough humidity? Now is a good time to observe what’s going on with your houseplant. Are leaves turning brown or yellow, or falling off? Your plant may be unhappy. Try a new location and watch what happens.

7
Dust your plants
Instagram plant influencers
Plants hang along with the pots in Darlene Zavala’s kitchen. 
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Houseplants collect a surprising amount of dust at home, especially if they live in the kitchen where they are exposed to cooking grease. Some experts advise wiping leaves clean with a damp cloth and giving them a bath in the sink or outdoors in the rain. Keeping plants clean helps with their overall health as it is a preventative measure against pests and insects.

8
Get creative with presentation
A kokedama-style “string garden.”
On the front porch, Annette Gutierrez hung a kokedama-style “string garden,” hanging plants that emulate Japanese moss-ball arrangements. The net effect is a loose web of flora that serves as a partial visual screen.
(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

Find creative ways to have fun with your houseplants. Make a macrame plant hanger. Create a terrarium or fairy garden in a glass container — fishbowls, globes , pitchers or water glasses. You can add some lushness to your interiors by hanging a kokedama string garden — the Japanese art of growing plants in a moss-covered ball of soil wrapped with string or fishing line. You can even transform one of your empty candle containers into an up-cycled planter.

9
Is it time to repot?
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Pots and planters can add new life to a space. Here are some of our favorites.
(Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

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Most plants need to be repotted at some point. To determine if your plant needs a new home, look to see if the roots are growing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If it’s a large plant, lay it on its side and tap the rim before running a knife around the inside. Water the plant before removing it and then transfer it to a pot that is about 2 inches larger than the previous planter.

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Elevate your planter game
Vases by ceramist Pawena Thimaporn
Vases by ceramist Pawena Thimaporn. Her handmade, hand-painted pieces are available online.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Invest in some beautiful handmade ceramic planters by local artists who may be struggling right now: Clay Street, Dustin Gimble, Pawena Thimaporn, Black Mountain Ceramics, Kat and Roger, O-M Ceramics, Mt. Washington Pottery , Meredith Metcalf and B Zipppy. Bauer Pottery is having a seconds sale. Have a favorite? Let us know. Many planters can be purchased directly from artists as well as at online retailers Individual Medley, Potted, Big Red Sun and Poketo, among others.


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Lisa Boone is a design writer for the Los Angeles Times. Since 2003, she has covered home design, gardening, parenting, even youth sports, for the Home section and L.A. at Home. She is a native of Los Angeles.