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How to Keep Your House Plants Alive If You're Going Back to the Office

Scared your greens won't survive? A plant shop owner shares all the essential tips.
How to Keep Your House Plants Alive If You're Going Back to the Office
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Scared your greens won't survive? A plant shop owner shares all the essential tips.

Plants served as a trusty living companion for Filipinos stuck in quarantine, with sales skyrocketing at the onset of the pandemic. As millions return to the office, little time and energy is left for green friends, resulting in limp leaves and shriveled roots.

“It’s not surprising because I know how taking care of plants can be therapeutic. A lot of our customers shared how having plants around during the lockdowns helped with their anxiety or even depression,” said Justine Alonzo, co-founder of plant store Shopleaf.

The 33-year-old has long seen the wonders of plants, experimenting on cuttings from neighbors as a young girl and gardening with her mom. As more friends asked her where she got her house plants, the next step was to share the love even further with plantitos and plantitas.

“It began as an online shop offering potted plants straight from our makeshift garden in our garage. After a few months, we took a huge step and hired a full team of passionate and talented individuals and started offering not just plants but also a variety of pots, potting mixes and other plant care accessories,” Alonzo said.

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Have trouble keeping plants alive with work on top of your mind? Here are tips from Alonzo to keep them thriving.

Check the essentials

Like people, each plant has different needs. Some are thirstier than others while some need more sunlight, less humidity, or frequent trimming.

“The biggest and most important factor when it comes to taking care of houseplants is providing the right amount of light. Choose plants based on the light available in your space,” Alonzo said.

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Check for signs of thirst

Contrary to popular belief, too much water can kill plants. “A good rule of thumb we live by is to always water with intuition. Before watering plants, it’s a must to feel the soil first. A moist soil tells you to skip watering day,” Alonzo said.

Where your plant resides in your home will determine how often it needs to be watered. “Plants that are getting more light most likely need to be watered more often as their soil dries out faster than those in shaded areas,” she said.

“Giving your plants a good, thorough soak is a must. It’s better than doing frequent, shallow waterings and remember to water where the roots are,” she added.

The Bonsai Money Plant (P950), a beginner-friendly option, is also safe for pets. courtesy of Shopleaf
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Just in case you forget to water, your plant will let you know through their leaves. Drooping or wrinkly leaves or crisp leaf edges may be indicators of a thirsty plant. Slow growth can also stem from underwatering.

Busy plant parents, or cautious newbies, can use Sustee to track watering, Alonzo said: “It’s a soil moisture meter that changes its color so you’ll know when your plant is thirsty. It’s a great product that takes the guesswork out of watering plants.”

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Check the leaves

It’s easy to mistake yellow leaves as a problem, but it could just be old leaves, which are a natural part of a plant’s life cycle. If you’ve ruled out the possibility that it’s an old leaf, Alonzo said it can mean a variety of things.

“If the soil is dry, your plant may have yellowing leaves due to under watering. Otherwise, it may indicate moisture stress. Too much water may also cause yellow leaves on plants,” she said.

There are other reasons for why your plants’ leaves are turning yellow:

  • too much or too little light
  • nutrient deficiencies
  • the plant is root bound
  • incorrect humidity levels

“Once you determine what’s causing it, take action to help your plant recover,” Alonzo said.

Check the pots

“This is entirely dependent on what kind of plant parent you are. There are people who are heavy waterers so we always recommend porous pots to them,” Alonzo said.

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For Shopleaf, durable and well-designed pots are the go-to recommendation for customers. Having a pretty vessel that can double as decoration is also a factor for many plant parents.

ecopots
The sustainable Ecopots (P150-P5,000) are made with 80% recycled plastic and are available in different sizes. courtesy of Shopleaf

According to Alonzo, the shop often suggests Ecopots, sustainable pots made from recycled plastic.

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“It’s also crucial to match the size of the pot to the plant’s current size. Using a big pot for a tiny plant will most likely result in root rot,” Alonzo said.

Using too small of a pot can also hamper the natural growth of a plant.

Which can you leave without worry?

“We always recommend Sansevierias for beginners. They are very sturdy because they are drought-tolerant and can handle low light as well as full sun conditions,” Alonzo said.

The Sansevieria plant comes in different types and sizes. Pictured is the Sansevieria Moonshine (P499) in small. courtesy of Shopleaf
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ZZ Plants, Peace Lilies, Sensation Plants, and Dracaenas are also good easygoing plants to consider keeping.

If you’re low on time, it’s best to avoid needier plants like Calatheas, Begonias and Alocasias, which require certain conditions to survive.

“These are plants that need to be monitored on a regular basis to ensure their care requirements are in check,” Alonzo said.

“Variegated plants, which really rose in popularity during the pandemic, need more light to prevent brown leaves,” she added.

Pothos, considered beginner-friendly on the Shopleaf website, also comes in smaller round pots. courtesy of Shopleaf
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If you must downsize

Shifting your time and energy to work in the outside world isn’t such a bad thing for your plants. You can keep a few pots to yourself at home, but it would also be a great opportunity to rehome them.

“Plant parents can downsize their plant collection by giving them as gifts. A friend who just moved to a new place will need a plant or two,” Alonzo said.

“Sharing plant propagations to relatives is a sweet way to get in touch,” she added.

Haven’t spoken to officemates in a long time? You can break the ice with a little plant decor or gift. “Giving plants to work colleagues to use as desk plants is also a fun way to create a nice and cozy work atmosphere,” Alonzo said.

* This story originally appeared on Reportr.worldMinor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.

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