Good Habits: Building an Indoor Garden

Pictured: The  Nakagawa Poncho in Sand .

In this new series on Rikumo Journal we’ll explore the beginning steps of establishing good habits in our lives. Our first step: bringing a little outdoor beauty into our homes by way of household plants.

How are you doing on your new year’s resolutions? If your list included self-care, exercise, and efforts to eat healthier, there’s a chance you may have fallen by the wayside after three months of chewing on nothing but muesli. Luckily, there’s a step you can take that’s easier than eating organic or signing up for the gym: bringing some nature into the house. Putting a few indoor plants inside your home is an easy way to brighten up the spirits, and can do wonders for your health. Lush houseplants are not only beautiful but also good for you- plants release oxygen to help you breathe better, and can naturally purify and regulate the quality of the air around us. They’re usually low maintenance, easy to decorate with, and strangely addicting to collect after you take the plunge. In short, they offer a lifetime of benefits- as long as you can keep them alive. To help you on this mini-resolution, we put together our best tips for building your own indoor garden. From choosing the perfect plant for you to repotting an old one, here's what we learned.

Adopt A Plant

Before taking on a plant, know that it's a responsibility. We often think of adoption as something reserved for children or pets, but plants are also living beings that need attention and care. Think of yourself as a plant-parent and get to know its patterns of behavior. Do the leaves begin to yellow after two weeks in the sun? Are the stalks drooping after two days without water? Most plants are able to take care of themselves as long as sun and regular water are provided, but keeping an eye for your plant’s individual needs can help you figure out how you can help it look its best. Commit seriously to taking care of your plant, and it’ll thank you in the long run!

Choose Your Space

Whether it’s a windowsill or on your bookshelf, choose an area with at least 4 to 6 hours of partial sunlight on any given day. Avoid trouble spots like air conditioners or heating vents, which can dry out leaves and stalks. Humid places like bathrooms and damp basements can be great for plants, since they love the humidity of regular steam baths from your shower and can even increase the overall air quality of your space.

Choose Plants With Benefits

When deciding where to put a household plant, make sure to take into consideration the needs of each room. Aloe plants are known for their skin-friendly gel, but they can also help clear air pollutants found in chemical cleaning products in bathrooms. English Ivy is also a great air-filtering houseplant and drapes elegantly as a hanging plant in the bath or kitchen. Snake plants are perfect in the bedroom, as they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the night (most plants do this during the day). And if you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant but are bored with cacti, consider investing in a rubber tree- they thrive in cooler climates with dim lighting and are one of the easiest plants to grow (though, fair warning, they do grow quite a lot).

Upgrade Your Pots

The downside of indoor plants is that, unlike outdoor plants, they only have a limited space to grow before their roots start outgrowing their container. Repotting your plants with fresh soil adds nutrients to help plants grow, so look to repot your plant every 12-18 months. If your plant is showing signs of outgrowing its pot (roots poking out of the soil, straggly pale leaves, slow growth), moving it into a pot that is 10-20% bigger can help it stretch its roots. When you transfer plants into another pot, make sure to massage the roots to loosen them up—this sends a signal that there’s now room to move and lowers stress on their part. Repotted plants can experience shock, but it should subside in 2-3 weeks. The best time to repot is in late winter and early spring, when plants get ready to begin their spring growth spurt.

Take Care

There’s nothing quite as dismaying as the moment when you turn to look adoringly at your plant and realize its stalks are drooping– except for the drop of panic that drops when you realize you have no clue how to fix them. Even though each plant has its own rhythm, there are a couple of quick general fix tips that are handy to keep around. When you find dead stems on your plant, trim them away freely. If your plant’s leaves start turning yellow, that may be a sign of overwatering. Adjust your water schedule correctly and cut off the yellow leaves, as they will not grow again. Likewise, if your plants’ leaves are turning brown on the edges that may be a sign of underwatering. To get rid of pests, spritz leaves with a solution of mild soap and water. And the simplest way to keep your plants looking fresh is to take them outside once a month and gently hose down the leaves to remove any dust particles.

Be True To Your Inner Plant

Everybody, it seems, has a cactus on their bookshelf or an herb medley on their windowsill. But have you ever owned a Japanese marimo ball? Or a string of pearls? What about an air plant? There are hundreds of plants out there, so find some that suit every part of your personality. Biodiversity is good for them, and you’ll always have a foolproof conversation piece at the ready.