*ding* you’ve got plant mail

As much as I love plants, and I do –I love them to death as I mentioned yesterday– part of the bringing this blog back to life is about experimenting with content creation, publishing, and content delivery. At the end of last year while chatting with friends they suggested that I would be the ideal person to create and voice some simple plant care and maintenance DIY videos. As a video blogger from way back in the day I find this idea to be both intriguing and terrifying. I know exactly how much work goes into producing video content and while I think it’s something I will probably get around to. Someday. I’m not ready for it now.

This post is unrelated to that….

But that idea really opened up a conversation about new types of content and delivery and I *think* it was my friend who said she would enjoy a plant newsletter. Just something that arrives in her inbox about plants. And I thought, yeah. I can do that. There is no structure to it yet, but I intend for this newsletter to go out weekly on Fridays. I’ll start next week if any of you have signed up. It’s still taking shape in my head but I expect it to be part link roundup of the cools plant posts and pics I’ve seen during the week accompanied by some of my own babble about what’s most interesting to me in the plant world.

I also promise to tell you if I get any new plants. That’s totally something I would want to know.

If you’re interested, sign up here!

Photo by Davide Baraldi on Unsplash

Top three plants most killed by Cami…

I’m not always the best with my plants. The other day as I was sitting at my desk doing some work task or another my partner pointed out that one of my plants wasn’t doing so well. And then… well. He said a thing that will make you gasp.

He asked if I just brought plants home to give them a safe place to die or if I had other ambitions for them.

I’ll give you a moment to recover from the sting of that. It probably feels like you stuck your paw in a prickly cactus. But you know, I’m sure, that sometimes we really do bring plants home just to give them a safe space to die. There are plants that no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to find a way to keep alive. I keep trying, logic be damned. Again and again I kill these poor plants and then, once again, I try.

So to kick off my renewed attempt at plant blogging I present to you the top 3 plants most killed by Cami…

Three

The third most murdered plant, thanks to yours truly, is the Alocasia Poly, otherwise known as the African Mask Plant. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing to kill this cutie, but I’ve had three of them. Before their ultimate demise they always sprout a gorgeous tiny new leaf or two. But then they yellow and wilt and sag and then they ultimately mold a little even though I KNOW I am not overwatering them. I seriously have no idea how but I’ve murdered three.

Two

Sigh. I love love love a Sting of Pearls, also called Senecio Rowleyanus. They’re so precious. Somehow both cute and sophisticated at the same time. I’ve killed them large and small. I should note that this is to be expected because I really have the worst time keeping succulents alive in general. I fuss too much. I worry. I water. I move them around if I think they aren’t happy and then I wind up with string of shriveled peas. Sigh. It’s not a pretty sight. I can propagate a single string of pearls like nobody’s business though.

One

And the number one most murdered plant in Cami plant history… the challenging… the hard to manage… the very very delicate and rare… Spider Plant.

um… can someone check this content please. I think she said Spider Plant but those are literally impossible to kill. You can do anything to them and they thrive.

Yes. Yes I know. But my name is Cami and I kill Spider Plants. It’s shameful. But for some reason they hate me despite the fact that I love them so. Don’t believe me? In September I had this beauty delivered from a local store that sources really good plants. Every other plant they’ve ever sold me is thriving. I love them. Seriously if you’re in Portland please shop from Ecovibe... they’re the best.

I bought this gorgeous piece of plant goodness. In September. It had babies popping out of it when it got here. It was bright and beautiful and healthy. Take a peek:

Big fat bushy cutie. They brought it right to my door with several other plants that are happy and thriving and now that plant… I hesitate to even show you… But, you know. Transparency is good right? Are you sure you’re okay seeing this? It’s really bad. Grisly.

Yeah. Same plant four months later. See…. it’s real bad. It’s dead dead. Not like Dread Pirate Roberts almost done in Princess Bride. It’s like for real a dead lil plant and I killed it.

And even if I wanted to place the blame elsewhere I can’t. I can’t do that. I also can’t tell you how many spider plants I’ve had over the years. I can keep a lot of things alive for a reasonable amount of time. We once had a Betta fish that lived like way longer than its 3 year life expectancy. I think it was like twice as long. But it’s not a spider plant.

I don’t know what else to say here. It’s dead and sad. And I have to be honest and admit I’m getting ready to try again. I’ve been killing the same plant since like 1987. But try try again.

It’s like Groundhog Day and I’m Bill Murray but the only thing I have to do is keep a fucking spider plant alive and I’m still failing. It’s a work in progress and so am I.

This little post is part of my attempt to blog on weekdays for a month. You can read about that right here if you’d like…

a return to plant love…

I thought I had neglected this site and its companion instagram account for like 6 months. And then I thought about it and it became clear to me that it was probably a year. But after getting back into the Instagram account and then diving in here I saw the date of my last plant blog post.

It’s been more than two years. If I neglected my plants the way I neglect his blog they’d all be dead. Except the snake plants. We all know you can’t kill those with neglect. Perhaps my succulents would last a bit longer if I were able to leave them alone the way I do my blogs…

So what have the plants and I been up to for the last 2 years and 3 months? A lot. And not much. I’ve killed many plants in that time. Helped others to thrive. Procured more plant babies. Continued to drive my partner and kid nuts with plants that appear as if from nowhere.

And I’ve learned. I’ve developed patience I didn’t have before. I’ve gotten experimental. And I have way too many orchids that aren’t in bloom right now but that will totally bloom again because I’ve got that down now.

But I digress. This long abandoned blog. It’s probably maybe coming back and being put to good use.

So yes I totally think I’m going to start posting here again. But with a different flair. I’m always happy to babble to my own ends but if there’s something you want to know, I want to tell you. If I don’t have the answers I want to look it up. I have a couple of posts already on the mind because I few people have asked the same questions. I’ll be tackling a set of frequently asked questions one at a time but so much of my plant knowledge just feels like common sense.

And you know what they say about common sense. It’s only common to you.

So if you think I know something you don’t know or want to go on a learning expedition together ask me something in the comments.

Also welcome or welcome back.

the desk plant…

I’ve been absent here on the plant blog. Mostly because I’ve been in a period of readjustment. My 3 month sabbatical ended about a month ago and I’ve had to figure out the best way to still be me. To integrate my sabbatical learnings into my daily work. To figure out how to be the nurturing plant lady while nurturing the community in which I work. 

There was a lot of fear on my end that I would wind up undoing all the good work I did with my plethora of plants once I went back to work. That I wouldn’t be able to focus on one more thing. That on top of being a parent, a partner, a friend, a family member, a community member, an employee that I wouldn’t have time to be the plant lady I had come to know and love over the past months. 

Turns out that being that plant lady. Taking the time to tend to and nurture all these beautiful plants I’ve cultivated seems to be helping me with the other stuff. Caring for the plants gives me some much needed space, both mentally and physically. I take the time to care for them and in a way that’s become one of the ways I care for me. Taking time to breath. Taking time that is just my own for something that I love. On days I work from home I take a plant care and mindfulness break every day. On days I work out of the office I come home, put down my bag and then check on my plants while I check in with myself. And I breathe. 

But as could easily be predicted I found that anywhere I spent significant time was a place I wanted to be around plants. I’ve spent the month back at work not only readjusting to the job but also transitioning from being a full time stay at home worker to working most of my week out of an office. It’s an experiment to see if I can maintain some of the healthy mindfulness I set in place more easily if I have separation of work and home life. Though I’ve become fond of just calling it separation of church and state. 

So before I even moved in a monitor and keyboard. before I put up a picture of any loved ones. before I brought in a coffee mug of my own. Before almost anything I moved in a plant. Just a little one. A few weeks ago I picked up a big beautiful and unusual Sansevieria (also known as Snake Plant and Mother-In-Law’s Tongue.) It was too big for it’s part. It had sprouted pups and those pups had grown into fully formed plants. They’d grown so much that I divided the plant into three separate pots. Since the only place in my home I can have snake plants is my bedroom since the cats can’t go in there I decided that at least one of them should make its way to the new office. 

Sansevieria, aside from being absolutely beautiful and also completely toxic to cats and dogs, is one of the easiest plants to grow and hardest plants to kill. You can lock it in a dry dark room and not open the door for 6 months and when you peek back in on it, it’ll probably be happy as can be. I’ve heard it said more times than I can count that the only way to kill it is to care for it. You can water it a few times a year and it still seems to thrive. Plus  create more oxygen than most other houseplants so it seems an all around win.  

At the moment it’s the only plant on my desk. It stands tall and proud between my monitor and my jar of protein bars and gum. I think it might be a little lonely. But not for long. 

plant nanny?

I’m on sabbatical at the moment but when I’m not I have to travel for work from time to time. Also sometimes a person just likes to get away. I have a kid. I have a couple of cats. So I’m not unfamiliar with needing to make sure someone is around to handle things while I’m on the road, whether that be for work or a getaway. But Until the past couple of months the instructions for plant care while I’m away have been super simple.

water those on Sunday…

But that’s just not going to cut it anymore, you know. I’m currently resisting counting the number of plants I have in the house. Partly because I’m not sure I want to know, partly because what counts? Full grown plants and baby plants? Plants in the kid’s room? Starts in water? That tray of succulents I’m playing around with to see how they do? If I have one planter with many plants in it does that count as 1 plant or 8?

Better just not to count them right? Not to reveal the depths of my plant depravity.

But I do need to document these sweet sprouts and full-grown plants in some way so it’s not just all in my head.

This feels kind of like when my daughter was much younger and obsessed with My Little Pony. First of all, yes I was totally stoked. I loved MLP when I was a kid and to have her into them was AMAZING. But here’s the thing, I had to know all of their proper names. You know their Hasbro given names. But I also had to know all of their kid given names. It was a complex dance that my daughter and I did and if some adult that wasn’t me was playing ponies with her… HOW WOULD THEY POSSIBLY KNOW THE PONIES’ NAMES AND PERSONALITIES?!

Well the answer was simple, they could just ask the kid. She was always more than happy to tell them.

But my plants, last I checked, don’t speak. And my people, while patient, don’t read the tell-tale signs of plant health and wellness. They won’t remember which plants need water daily and which need to dry out between waterings. Which plants like to be misted and which like to have their water poured. Which should be moved into the sunny spot for a couple of hours, which need to just stay there all the time, and which prefer to dwell in darkness.

If only the cats could be trained to do plant care…

But because I can’t possibly expect my cats or my family to keep track of all of that and there’s no way I’m going to document all of that here I’m thinking of starting a little plant journal, probably complete with polaroids, in the hope that when I come back from a week away this fall I won’t return to a house full of drooping, damaged, or dead plants.

It’s that or garishly colored post-its on every surface in all the rooms. Maybe I should flip a coin.

If you have a house full of plants how do you leave care instructions while you’re away?

(string of) pearls are always appropriate…

In my spare time when I’m not working, or parenting, or partnering, or being completely obsessed with plants, or thinking about how incredibly perfect a nice bourbon can be I spend a fair amount of time appreciating polka dots.

The polka dot is, in my reckoning, the perfect pattern. It’s versatile, clean, sophisticated, and whimsical all at the same time. And when I found that appreciation for polka dots and detached a bit from my goth-girl roots to realize that it’s okay to love polka dots I also invested in one of my first really nice purses. A black and white Kate Spade structured handbag with a pattern of tiny little polka dots. It was the perfect combination of fun and fashionable and every time I picked it up I thought of two things:

First “Wow this is a really nice purse… am I really responsible enough to have this?”

Second for some reason it made me think about Jackie Kennedy who seemed to wear pearls quite often and was famously quoted as saying “Pearls are always appropriate.”

Why am I rambling about polka dots and pearls you ask? Well because the plant I’m going on about today not only looks like a delicate string of green pearls, but is aptly named String of Pearls. Well that’s its common name because it’s a little easier to remember than Senecio Rowleyanus.

Now I tell you the little technical things… at least the little technical things I’ve picked up from the back alley plant dealers. And, you know, internet research and caring for my plant for a whole month.

String of Pearls is a succulent which means that they’re super easy to care for and super simple to propagate. They tend to grow in long dangling strands. Not up, not out. They hang and trail. Beautifully I think. As I said, I’ve only had mine for about a month but so far, so good. I’ve read a few folks complaining about how hard they are to keep alive but mine is as happy as can be.

Care tips to remember?

  • They love light. Yay light. But it shouldn’t be beating down on them.
  • Don’t over water. Those little pearls? They soak it up and store it for later.
  • Those strings? They’re like stems and they’re delicate so be careful with them, but…

If one of those strings happens to pop off it’s time to help that little string be a plant all its own. Gently pop off a few of those pearls and plant the end of the string from which the pearls have been removed into the soil of a new little pot, give it a good first time water, and wait for plant magic to happen.

Or you could try to wear it, but I wouldn’t actually recommend that…

 

buy plant. repot. repeat…

Over the past few days or so, as happens, I brought home a few new plants. And by a few new plants I mean… well let me count. Well first let me decide how to count. Do plants I bought for my daughter count?

Well I’m the one who’ll likely be taking care of it.. so yes?

  1. I got a tiny little baby Plantation Palm
  2. a little white Echevaria (for the teen)
  3. a little pinkish-lavender Echevaria
  4. a Monstera Deliciosa
  5. a Selenicereus Chrysocardium

So 5 new plants. That’s not as scary as I thought it was. Except that all but one of them needs to be repotted. And there are a few other plants that need to be repotted. Like my big ol Pothos who is tangly and unruly and if I’m reading the yellowing leaves correctly, isn’t getting the drainage it needs.

And so I also bought a few new pots. A few fancy pots that I think are just amazing and a handful of good old-fashioned terra-cotta pots. I go with the terra-cotta pots mostly because I know they have excellent drainage. And the lovely pots I have without drainage?  I need to drill a hole in the bottom of each and risk breaking them or just use them to hold a more drainage friendly pot. I chalk all of those up to a rookie mistake but it’s one I will likely make again and again.

But the big thing I’m noticing as I repot plants is that I’m left with little lovely pots that once served me so well sitting sad and empty. So clearly it’s time for some new little plants to fill them?

Does anyone else thin this whole healthy houseplant thing is a beautiful vicious circle?

 

** update** I potted/repotted 14 plants today… and yet there are four lovely pots (and a ton of throw-aways) that sit empty. Whatever shall I do?IMG_5309.JPG

 

pilea peperomioides – or as I like to call it – Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan

The first moment I realized this whole thing with the plants was a “thing” wasn’t when I lost count of how many plants I had. It wasn’t when I started talking to them. Or when I started frequenting neighborhood plant shops. It wasn’t even when I started following plant shops and plant accounts on the socials. It was when one of the local plant shops posted a picture of the Pileas they had just gotten in stock and I changed my plans for the day to include going straight there to get a plant as soon as they opened. You know, just to make sure they didn’t sell all of them right away.

It was then that I realized that there were three plants that I had desperately been wanting to add to my collection. Also it was then that I realized I had a collection.

I really hope that in the next few weeks I will have acquired and be able to post about all three (as of this posting I have only two of the coveted beauties), but today the spotlight is on my darling little Pilea. I’ve named it Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan (Lorne for short) after the Pylean demon lounge singer from Angel. Because I can. But this popular little plant goes by many names. Often called the Chinese Money Plant, UFO Plant, or Missionary Plant this thing just exudes whimsy.

Lorne and I are still getting to know one another so I’m certainly not going to pretend to be an expert, but I’ve picked up some tips and tricks for caring for Lorne from the shop where I picked it up and from the zillion posts about them on the internet.

  • they love sun (but indirect sun please)
  • you should let them fully dry between waterings
  • and for goodness sake turn that pot. like every damn day.

To me the most exciting thing about this plant, aside from how fucking adorable it is and the completely obvious reminder of Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, is the fact that it’s so easy to share. Just a few weeks after I brought it home I noticed first one, then two, then three little baby Pileas just breaching the surface of the soil surrounding it.

In minutes I was able to harvest and plant all of those tiny little guys in their own tiny little pots. I’m just letting them grow up enough to make sure they’ll survive before I give them to some friends.

Propagating this plant was so easy in fact that I had never even thought to take part in the magic of plant reproduction until I saw the miracle of plant life happening right there in my very own pot. Since then I’ve been learning to divide and root any number of plants.

Because more plants, I’m sure we can all agree that’s just what I need…

the beginning of an obsession…

I’m not yet entirely sure what kind of blog this will be. I do know that it will be about plants and about me. And those two subjects alone open up an entire multiverse of possibilities. So as one should often do, let’s start at the beginning and when we come to the end, we’ll stop.

I’m Cami Kaos.

In case you stumbled upon this site by happenstance and not because you know and love (or hate) me and if for some reason you become uncommonly curious and want to know the origins of Cami or Cami on the internet it all started years and years ago with a blog about how to still be myself while being a mom. My kid is almost fully grown now. I don’t really blog about any of that anymore. But you can read more about me and my thoughts on life, love, and technology as well as other incredibly random stuff at camikaos.com.

A note to those of you who stumbled your way onto this site looking for pure plant information and goodness, that’s probably never going to happen. I tend to assign deeper meaning, profanity, and whimsy to everything I’m invested in and this plant site will be no different.

Now that you have an introduction to me I’ll tell you where my current fascination with houseplants began… It was about two years ago when…

*cue wavy flashback visuals and harp music*

I was seeking a way to better deal with my lifelong overwhelming anxiety. I decided on a whim that the best place to start would be to deal with my bouts of insomnia. I wondered if, as a bonus, there was a way I could do something to improve my amount and quality of sleep while also improving my partner’s amount and quality of sleep. I was looking for a magic cure-all, because aren’t we all, but I was willing to just find something that would start me in a good direction.

In my random reading and scouring of the internet I discovered an article (or 700) that impressed upon me something I’m sure I already knew in the recesses of my mind. That higher oxygen content in your bedroom improves your ability to sleep and sleep well.

I had a flashback to my childhood self hearing the rumor that Michael Jackson slept in an oxygen chamber. I wondered how severe his insomnia must have been. I contemplated the practical application of an oxygen chamber in the bedroom but then realized they’re probably single person chambers and it turns out I like to snuggle in my sleep. Also I’m sure they’re probably ridiculously expensive, ugly, and probably not worthwhile. So I moved on. If not an oxygen chamber for two what was the answer?

Well some of those 700 posts I read had an answer. Plants. Plants make oxygen. And when they’re in an enclosed area they can increase the oxygen level in that area. You know, like in a bedroom.

What a simple amazing solution. Houseplants. But there was a catch because there always is. I spent my entire life believing that I killed every houseplant I tried to care for. And to be fair, I had that belief because I had, in fact, killed every houseplant I ever owned. I managed to grow vegetables a time or two but to my dismay I had also been known to kill the hardiest herbs and even strawberries. So I knew if I was going to make this whole plants in the bedroom thing work I’d have to change my houseplant killing ways.

I bought a couple of plants that were both ill-suited to the bedroom. One died. One I wised up and moved to another room. Moving that plant to another room was the beginning of my not killing plants. I tried a few more times to bring home a plant that would work in the dark quiet space that is my room. When they started to suffer I moved them elsewhere.

It turns out that in most cases “doesn’t need a lot of light” doesn’t mean “you can keep it in your completely dark cavern and it will thrive and produce oxygen and joy regardless.”

After trial and error I did find some plants that are amazing for my dim constantly shaded bedroom. But while I was looking for them I amassed a small collection of plants. And I find that not only did I not want them to die, I wanted them to live. And my affection for them led me down a dark and dangerous path… plant collecting and *gasp* light macrame.

*cue wavy end of flashback visuals and harp music*

And that, my dears, brings us to where we are today. For the first time in many years I’ve decided to combine my passion for writing with my passion for some random thing I’m into and the culmination is a new blog. To write about plants I have. Plants I’ve killed. Plants I’m rooting. Plants I’m dividing. Plants I want. Stuff that plants like. And, you know, stuff like that.

Welcome to Fits and Starts…