Won’t somebody please think of the tables!

Tables. Stools. Floors. Whatever. Wherever. Because no matter where you put it, you need to think about protecting the surface your plant is sitting on. Well. You know. Under the plant. Beneath it. Even if you’re not actually setting it on something. You might be hanging it. Plants do that. They hang.

So whether you’re setting it on a surface like a table or the ground, you’re hanging it on the wall, or you’re hanging it from the ceiling, we all know that plants can make a mess. With water, with soil, and sometimes with the scratchy bottom of planters and pots.

This is just one of those universal plant truths. So much so that there are products custom made to solve this problem. Some of them are better at the job than others. But I don’t like being limited by what society says I should be putting under my plants. I like to play fast and loose with the rules here and get a little creative. A while ago when one of my Courtney’s told me she needs help finding to stuff to put under all her plants to protect the surfaces they rest on I immediately wondered what plants she had. And then I wondered just how stunning they are. But like a split second after that I started to think of all the things I’ve put under my plants over the years and decided that I wouldn’t just send her a message… I’d write a whole blog post just on things that can go underneath your plants.

Exciting right?! Oh… Well it is to me so here we go.

The Matched Set

From my earliest remembering of potted plants I think of two things. One of them is the giant terracotta strawberry pot we had in the backyard when I was a kid. But the other is the simple clay or terracotta pot and saucer combo. Even now that I have a metric ton of different pots and planters, that combination is what I think of first any time my mind conjures an image of a potted plant. It’s incredibly effective for a number of reasons. Is it okay if I tell you why? Oh good because I was going to anyway. The natural clay helps to wick moisture out of the soil to avoid the roots getting overly soggy and the saucer beneath catches water that pours our of the hole on the bottom of the pot.

It also helps with overflowing water or soil from the top if you accidentally get a little too water happy. If you’re not sure what kind of pot or planter your houseplant belongs in it is my amateur opinion (remember I don’t get paid for this it’s just a very intense hobby) that the unglazed pot and saucer is the way to go. But if you are prone to overwatering and it’s sitting on a wood surface or anything with a water soluble finish you may want an added layer of protection.

The Decorative Tray

A tray is a tray is a tray. You can use them for all sorts of things. I use a flat polka dot tray a friend was getting rid of years ago to turn my upholstered ottomon into a coffee table. Because I don’t need a whole table surface for coffee or cocktails. Just like… two feet of it. It keeps me from spilling drinks and protects my fabric from spills when they do happen. Also it’s pretty darn cute. But those trays aren’t just for drinks and food and… I guess the one in this pictures has seashells…

Photo by Emily Bauman on Unsplash

You can also use them to protect your surfaces from water, soil, and scuffing. Added bonus you can group plants with similar care needs together by trays to move them to more appropriate light or a dryer or more humid location. If the tray can hold water you can also fill it with rocks, place the pots on top of those rocks, and then keep the tray filled with water to provide a more humid area RIGHT THERE.

Unsightly Plastic & Decorative Basket

When I first started getting into plants, I was maybe more into the pots and planters. They’re like these amazing little pieces of art that you can fill with living greenery. That didn’t work out so well for me. I have a ton of amazing planters and pots that I then have to find just the right plant for. Also many of the plant casualties I’ve had over the years have been a result of repotting when I shouldn’t have or putting a healthy plant in a pot that didn’t work for it. I was completely resistant to the thought of putting those cheap plastic nursery pots into a basket or pot. Something told my brain that this was cheating and mean to the plants.

That is not true. As long as they’re in the right sized nursery pot for them they’re perfectly okay. Those things have great drainage and the nursery they came from probably put them in the right soil blend for the plant. So it is totally okay to leave those lil baby plants in their nursery pots. Just get something cute and/or functional to surround them. You can get baskets, fabric buckets, pots, and all sorts of other things to nestle those pots into and they look super cute and the plants will stay happy.

For a smaller plant that gets moved to the tub for watering, you probably don’t need anything else to keep your surface safe as long as you’re letting the plant drain well a little cloth basket like you see above will protect your surfaces from soil and scuffing. But if you’re dealing with something a little… bigger

Like my very big palm. This thing is taller than me by more than a foot. It’s in a big plastic nursery pot with pots of drainage and soil that it likes. Every time I try to move it around the poor thing gets its fronds snarled up on me and they whack everything in their path. That’s not good for the plant. It’s also not good for my back because it’s heavy. Also I’m clumsy so I’ve also dropped the poor thing. None of that was even while I was trying to water it. Just while I was trying to find the right place for it to live. My daughter refers to it as another member of the household because it takes up so much space. And she’s not wrong. It’s the tallest living thing in our home. I think… yeah I think it’s the tallest thing in our home. It’s taller than our 6ft ladder.

So let me give you a peek at what is going on inside of this unassuming basket around this giant plant….

If you look all the way down at the bottom of that photo you can kind of see a blurry clear plastic tray. That sits at the bottom of the basket and is about 2″ larger in diameter than the pot the plant is in. It catches all the water leakage from the bottom of the pot and keeps the shelf beneath it dry and scratch free.

Distressed Dishes

It is possible that when I most recently bought new dishes it was in part because there were several salad plates and saucers that had mysteriously gone missing from the kitchen and found themselves, through no fault of their own, beneath plants. You see not all pots come with drainage holes. Which means not all pots come with a pretty saucer. And you don’t always want one of those plastic liners I mentioned above because you may not want to tuck that cute little pot inside another decorative pot, basket, sack, or whatever. This all started honestly enough. I had a plate that was deeply chipped and I was going to get rid of it so no one cut their hand on it or got a flake of glaze or ceramic in their food. But I’d just drilled a hole in a planter that didn’t have one previously and I didn’t want to ruin the bookshelf where I put it. So I put the plate under it as a temporary fix. That fix was permanent. Now anytime a plate, saucer, shallow bowl, or other useful dish gets dinged it is set aside to live with the plant accouterments.

If you happen to be a person who enjoys yard sale-ing, thrifting, or antique shops you can take this a step further and pick up used saucers and plates to add a pop of interest to your collection. Or if you saw some cute new plates somewhere that weren’t too costly I suppose it would be okay to pick those up too.

The Decorative Planter

I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but that perfectly cute highly glazed or glass pot you picked up that has no holes in it… it’s not really meant for you to plant most plants in. I mean… you could use it to make a terrarium or something but it’s not generally going to be a healthy environment for a plant and it’s precious little root system. Throughout the years I’ve tried A LOT to try to bend these decorative planters to my will. But you know what? They almost always win. The only exception is when I fundamentally change the decorative pot into a planter by drilling a series of holes in the bottom. And we all know what happens when you do that. You create a whole new problem. The very problem we’re trying to solve with this post. You have to put something UNDER it.

So I propose to you that a decorative planter can just be the thing you put under the plant. Most of the time when we buy a new plant baby and bring it home it’s in a planters pot. Now sometimes that plant baby is root bound and needs to be potted up. But sometimes it’s just fine and it’s happy in it’s planters pot and you gain nothing at all by ripping it from its cozy little home.

Especially if you happen to bring that plant home in the winter. So I say use these decorative pots with no holes in the bottom to their best advantage and just nest the planters pot right inside. It won’t work every time but the fit is surprisingly perfect more often than one would think.

In fact there are some plants that you should ALWAYS do this with. The only one I have that I can say for certain I would be my orchids. They always come in a special little growers pot which fits neatly into a pretty little decorative pot. I’ve only managed to keep one orchid around long enough that it needed to be repotted and I repotted it into another special planters pot with allllll the drainage one could hope for and then nestled it into a new slightly larger decorative pot.

The All In One

This is just what it sounds like. It’s an all in one. There is both a planter, which has holes in it, and a saucer that is attached that catches the water that comes out of those holes. This is ideal for many many things. As long as you do things in an ideal way. Which… I don’t. It’s possible that I shorted out a cable box and a dvd player once with one of these all in ones that were sitting on a shelf above them and the water totally caught in the attached saucer… until there was more water than there was space in the saucer and then it did what water does. It flowed. All over the shelf. All over the electronics. All over the floor in front of the electronics. There was kind of this moment when I was afraid I was living next door to the Griswold family and an icicle had somehow been shot into my living room. But then I realized that the much more obvious was true and it was my own damn fault.

These all in ones were originally my go to for hanging plants as well but, same problem. They pee on everything when you water them. But we’ll talk about hanging planters another day.

Coasters, Of Course!

I almost published this post without mentioning coasters. How on earth did that happen. But coasters are absolutely the perfect thing to put between your plant and your surface. I have giant coasters that sit on the ground with plants on them, little coasters that sit on tables with little plants on them. Coasters were literally made for this function.

I mean… they were made to sit between a beverage and your surface but it’s pretty much the same thing. And it goes the same for trivets. Let’s be real… a trivet is just a really big coaster. So what that it was meant to protect a surface from something hot instead of something wet. It’s the same thing. And they’re fantastic. If you want something that’s just a nice barrier I am a huge fan of marble trivets and coasters. If you’re looking for something soft and absorbent to prevent scratching or water damage the incredible cost effective and available everywhere cork coaster is the way to go.

Is that all?

No. Probably not. I said a lot of things with a lot of words but I’m sure there are other solutions to protecting your surfaces from plants. If you do something else I’d love to hear about it. You know… in the comments.

orchids are my add-on plants…

At some point a couple of years ago I realized that I could add an orchid to my grocery order through one of the places I shop. I realized this pre-pandemic. It’s the reason I have so many orchids. I tend to order a new one anytime the life of the flowers on one plant comes to an end. Those blooms last for a surprising amount of time though, so I only wind up getting a couple each year.

I had always read that orchids were fickle and hard to care for, so way back at the beginning of my plant lady career I decided that I would be able to consider myself a “real plant person” once I was able to keep an orchid alive for a second bloom. I thought it was going to be a real challenge. Because Orchids are these mysterious exotic things that need constant care. You can’t even leave them alone in a room for 5 minutes without turning some mood music on because they’ll just die. Just like that. Poof. Dead plant.

Except that is totally and completely the furthest thing from the truth. They take patience, but they aren’t actually hard to deal with. The first orchids I had I most certainly killed. I killed them dead. By not understanding anything about them at all and not doing any research. At all. I just did what I thought I should do. And… well that never works out when I’m caring for plants.

As is pretty common with me, I got the watering all wrong. Yes. I know this is surprising to you. I mist things when they don’t need to be misted. I water things when they want to be dry. I overestimate the amount of liquid and care things need. It’s possible that I smother plants with love, water, care, and repotting so I can take a break from smothering and over communicating with my favorite humans. Plants are most certainly a coping mechanism for me. But part of why I love them as a coping mechanism, and just as what they are, is that there is so much you can learn. Both about them, and from them. So today I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned from and about orchids.

Currently I have five of them. One has some gorgeous blossoms going right now, one has little blossom pods all shiny and green and preparing to someday bloom, and three are just chilling out being green and healthy and not flowering at all. All are healthy. All are beautiful. All are well. And I have no doubt they’ll all bloom again at some point. But only when they’re ready to.

Orchids are a diverse plant family (Orchidaceae) that includes more than 700 genera and some 28,000 individual species. 

The Spruce

That’s a lot of freaking different kinds of orchids. Like… A lot. I have a friend whose mom breeds and splices and does mad science stuff with orchids. She fauns over them and creates new hybrids and wins awards (shout out to Alma Bannett!) and it’s amazing. And I happen to know someone who knows her. Like… who she gave birth to. And I don’t really know that many people. It would be a huge coincidence if I knew one of the only people birthed by an award winning orchid breeder. So are there really only 28,000 individual species? Are they really tracking what orchid enthusiasts the world over are doing in their at home green houses?

That was not a rhetorical question by the way. If you happen to be a person who does the orchid census and can tell me, please do. I’d love to know.

But unless you’re going out and looking for specialty orchids you’re probably getting something that was bred to live in your house. So let’s talk about what those orchids need, shall we?

Three of my orchids seem to be Phalaenopsis Orchids, which is often called Moth Orchid. They’re super common and made to be indoor plants. While they could live outside, they tend to struggle when you change their environment drastically. And outside they need to be in bright shade… Yep. Bright shade. No. It doesn’t make sense.


Bright shade is when the plant is in a shaded area and isn’t hit directly by the rays of the sun but the area is otherwise overall bright. It’s hard to make that work outside, so it’s a good thing I’m only keeping mine indoors.

Indoors they still crave bright indirect light, especially if you want them to grow up to blossom again. But indoors it’s a lot easier to control. Keep them in bright naturally well lit rooms out of the harsh rays of the sun. They also thrive with artificial plant lighting.

Then there’s the thing that kills them. Watering. Or not watering. Either thing will do it. What I know about orchids is that they are tropical plants. To me a tropical plant should need a lot of water. A lot. It’s like I thought they lived in swimming pools somewhere and now that they’re in my house they’re just always thirsty. In fact most orchids are air plants. Which means they need water but not in their soil. In fact most orchids don’t need soil at all. They prefer to grow on trees, other plants, and in some cases rocks. Which is why when you get an orchid from the store you’ll usually find it growing in what I can best describe as bark chips. Its roots are usually partially exposed, and much like a Cthulu, you’ll find they reach out like tentacles or tendrils stretching into the air and wrapping around things they come in contact with. So, you know. You can’t just pour water on them and expect it to take. And you can’t just fill up their pot with water or they’ll drown. They’re air plants, not water plants.

Once I got over needing to water them like a “normal” houseplant I got a couple of recommendations.

Ice it.

The first is the ice cube method. And it’s pretty much what it sounds like. Once every week to 10 days you set an ice cube over the roots and bark and you let it melt. Then your plant is watered. Some people swear by this method. I know my aunt is an ice-cuber. I tried this for a while but it didn’t seem to work for me. It could be for any number of reasons. Variables I can’t figure into the equation. But it just didn’t work for me.

(Photo by C MA on Unsplash)

Soak it.

This is my preferred method of orchid watering. Especially with orchids that are actively blooming or trying to bloom. Orchids should come in special little baskets, rather than your standard grower’s pot. That basket is then set into a decorative planter. With the soak method you water every 10-days to 2 weeks depending on the humidity of the area your orchids are in. I take all my orchids to the bathtub, leave them in both their growing basket and decorative pot and fill them all up to the top with water. Then I let them soak for 10-15 minutes before pulling the orchid baskets out of the decorative pots, dumping the excess water, and letting them drain for a couple of hours. This is incredibly similar to how many folks care for their air plants. I will never go back to the ice method.

Steam it.

Okay… there is a third method that no one has ever recommended to me but that I stumbled upon and that I tend to use with my dormant orchids. It’s the steam method. My blossoming orchids tend to be on display in the living room or in the bedroom so I can enjoy the flowers. Once they lose their blooms they’re significantly less showy. At some point after soaking one of my dormant orchids and draining it and putting it back in its pot I took it out of the bathtub but never really got around to taking it out of the bathroom. So it just sat in the windowsill of the frosted window next to the bathtub soaking up diffused light and steam from all the showers. And it just seemed… so… happy there.

So happy that when my next one lost its blooms I kept it in the bathroom. The healthy sheen on the orchid’s leaves and the plump curviness of their roots are just perfection. Those dormant plants get a lot less care from me. I probably only water them once a month. But they have gone through multiple blossom cycles each.

So that my friends is the tale of my orchids. They’re the plant I feel should be the most mysterious but somehow aside from ZZ plants they’re the ones I manage to keep the healthiest and happiest.

Have any orchid pointers? Orchid questions? Drop them in the comments.

Coming at you live while these baby plants are… well while they’re still alive.

If you’ve been following along you know that Spider plants don’t have a long life expectancy under my care. Which is weird because I remember growing up my mom had them for years and years and they just kind of lived and thrived and I seem to recall it being a nuisance to clip off the long springy things when they got too long and springy. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that those long springy things are, in fact, baby spider plants.

While I most certainly killed the last spider plant that came to stay with me in September of last year (and the one before that and the one before that) I managed to save a couple of the babies that were already boinging off of the plant when it first arrived. I didn’t clip them off as much as I accidentally broke them off when I was (unnecessarily) repotting the plant.

I should have taken a picture when I repotted it so you could see wound structure. At the time, doing no research, I thought the poor dear was root bound and needed to be repotted RIGHT AWAY. Some plants LOVE being snug in their pot.

What can I say? I was wrong. It turns out that spider plants are one of the types that kind of like being snug in their pot. It is, in fact, what causes them to shoot out those cute little baby plants.

The photo above is in fact the dead mama spider plant I killed late last year. And those little sticks springing off of her are the very baby sider plants you can see in that milk bottle above. I managed to keep them alive. I have remarkable luck with water propagation. Remarkable luck or it’s just so simple that even I do well with it. Let’s take a closer look at the picture from the top of the post, shall we?

That is the bitty little weeeeee root system on one of the baby spider plants that came from the late great mama spider plant I most recently failed to keep alive. That root is thriving in water but the baby spider plant is just kind of chilling out doing its thing. With the roots so clearly thriving it’s time to transplant this little dude and give it a tiny pot of its own.

And that’s where the live part comes in. I’m planning to pot this baby spider plant tomorrow and I thought… why not do that live? So tomorrow, Friday January 29 at 10am PST I’m going to go live from the My Fits & Starts Instagram account to pot this little plant and then, with the remaining 28 minutes show you some other plants sitting around my house, answer plant related questions, and chat.

If any of you show up that is.

If you want to check it out live you can follow @myfitsandstarts on Instagram.

This will be my first time going live there, and I’ve heard something about something with complications of recording it but I didn’t pay much attention at the time. So I’ll do my best to upload the content for later sharing as well, but on that I make no promises.

But what does that even mean: a plant glossary

As with any other interest, hobby, or indulgence loving plants comes with a whole list of words, phrases, terms, and jargon that we have to decode and decipher. In some of my recent blog posts I’ve been careful not to just throw out “industry terms” without also defining. I’m doing this in part because some of these words and phrases I still don’t fully understand and in part because I remember a few years ago when I didn’t understand any of these words or phrases. I walked into a plant store and asked, what I thought was a straightforward question and someone plant-splained at me in what seemed like another language. I asked for the English translation and thankfully he laughed and switched to use common language. But I still haven’t been able to shake that feeling that people are speaking in plant code that I’m not fully fluent in.

The more of these terms and phrases I sought to define as I was writing the more I realized that it can’t just be more so I was going to write a blog post to define all of these things. Brilliant idea, right?

But the more I dig into all this language the more I realize there’s a huge need for an easily accessible plant glossary. Something that comprehensive and that grows as my mastery of the plant language grows. Mostly for me because there are a lot of industry terms that it seems I’m just expected to understand. I can’t keep them all in my head. I’d love it if I could get a new plant and read its care instuctions without having to google multiple terms. Also I find myself looking up the same things over and over again. Types of light. Types of soil. What exactly a plant tag means when it says the soil should remain damp but not moist. So if you, dear friends and readers, can benefit from my research too, I want that for you.

And so I present to you the Plant Glossary Page!

It’s a little page all its own so I can be sure it doesn’t get buried in other content that I might not need to refer to so often. It’s still a work in process. As of this posting it has words and terms I need to define and I haven’t filled them in yet. Even the ones I know. There’s just space. Infinite space to define things. It’s like a clean slate but with a little bit of structure so you can see what is to come.

What will I be defining? Great questions. Lots of stuff. But I’m starting with some basics:


Every plant seems to need a different kind of light from Direct Light to Full Shade and everything in between. Some of them make some sort of sense but others… What exactly is medium light? And how many times have I looked it up to be sure I’m understanding exactly what it is that means for my plant? So to start off I will seek to define the types of light and shade required for indoor plants.

The Dirt

Next up I’ll be defining soil, soil mixes, elements of planting soil, and alternate planting mediums.

General Plant Terms

Things like fenestration, propagation, and alternate planting mediums are not words or phrases most of us use in everyday life. I’ll list out all of the words I’ve had to learn or apply an alternate meaning to.

What else?

I’m so glad you asked. I don’t know. Because I don’t know what I don’t know yet. And I don’t know what you don’t know. If there is a plant word or term you’d like to see more clearly defined let me know in the comments on this post and I will add it to my list of items to define.

I know it’s barren now, but I look forward to a weekend full of adding words, terms, jargons and their definitions. It’s just my idea of a good time.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Polly wanna humidifier?

Number three on my most killed plant list is the stunning Alocasia Polly, often called an African Mask Plant. Unlike the String of Pearls and Spider plants that I kill over and over again with no idea why, I suspect I know what I’ve done to wrong the stunning Polly. Too much light, either too much or not enough water, and I misted the poor dear. You see I knew that Polly wasn’t a “drought tolerant plant” and that it needed more moisture than some other tropicals. And I thought I could make do for her by watering regularly and misting. I also made sure she had plenty of light to keep rot from misting and watering at bay.

But you know I just had no clue what I was doing. The more I read the more I understand where I went wrong. I think. If I’m reading the signs and the posts about Alocasia Polly correctly I’ve been messing up almost everywhere.

Let there be light

Not too much light, Polly doesn’t thrive in bright light. But you can’t put Polly in the dark corner either. Polly thrives in medium light. What does that even mean, you may be asking yourself? Don’t worry, it’s not just you I certainly asked myself that. And then I did a little research. Medium light is any light that is diffused between its source (say a sunny window) and the plant. Putting Polly in a sunny windowsill would burn the leaves. But putting it in a shaded corner would keep it from getting the light it needs. So when a plant needs medium light it should get light from a shielded source. The most obvious example is a sheer curtain or frosted glass.

Water frequently but don’t overwater…

This plant likes its soil to stay moist. But not damp. Or wet. Or soggy. Or any of those other wet sounding words. So you should water frequently but don’t overwater it. Also even though it likes to stay moist it’s pretty forgiving when you forget to water it. As long as you water it frequently. But again not too much.

Did that makes sense to anyone? Because it didn’t make any sense to me. But let me parse that the best I can: This plant should be on a weekly watering schedule. You don’t have to wait for the soil to be fully dry and start to pull away from the sides of the pot or anything, but you don’t want to water it if it’s still wet when you touch the top of the soil. Keeping it too wet tends to lead to root rot and mold.

Speaking of rot and mold this plant loves humidity but it doesn’t necessarily like being wet. I know I know… it’s complicated. But from what I can tell you should not mist Polly, but you might want to place her near a humidifier. Or maybe in a bathroom that gets steam from a shower on the regular. I admit to having misted all of my late great Alocasia Pollys because I thought they’d like it. I was wrong.

Alternately you could try keeping Polly’s pot in a tray of rocks that is frequently refilled with water, keeping the air near her more humid without getting the plant wet.

Look out, she sheds.

More than other tropical plants, this variety is known to shed off old leaves. So if the old leaves seem to be dying off but the younger leaves seem to be in good shape and there’s no sign of mold, rotting, or burning you’re probably okay. Snip those old leaves off at their base and say bye-bye.

How am I taking care of Polly this time?

I’ll start this off by saying that if this plant starts to look sad I’m moving it to my bathroom where there is a frosted window and steam at least once a day… But I’m hoping not to relegate this beauty to the bathroom so first I will try setting up a new plant area. I have a few plants that need medium light and varying amounts of water. Now that I know what medium light is I think I have a place that will work well for them. Since that area already has an essential oil diffuser near it I will try running it with just water in it for a couple of hours each day and see how Polly does. I’m poised to pivot on her lighting, watering, and location the moment she seems to feel poorly though.


You may have noticed me struggling with my plant vocabulary… Or at least struggling to share what those words means in context in these posts. I’ve had to look up enough terminology over the past two weeks that it has become very clear that someone needs to do something to keep track of all this jargon. WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS. And since I happen to love words at least as much as I love plants, I’ll be sharing an exciting plant word related update tomorrow-ish.

Portland Plant Delivery: Hammer + Vine

Last week was not the first time I ordered from Hammer + Vine. They were also the second shop I ordered from for pandemic plant delivery. But to be honest, I don’t remember much from that experience. Not because it wasn’t a good experience. It probably was. If it was a bad experience I would have remembered and then I would have been super cranky and bitchy about it.Fact of the matter is I was in the midst of deep pandemic depression and I wanted some plants to cheer me up so I wasn’t really paying attention to anything except my on anxiety and depression. The only thing I remembered about the ordering experience was that the delivery windows were a little strange. I wasn’t sure when the plants were coming, but that wasn’t problematic. I mean… it’s a global pandemic and I’m on full lock down. It’s not like I’m going somewhere. I have to admit I got confused on the delivery day again this time but, again, it didn’t matter. It’s not like the plants had a party they needed to be at or something. And Hammer + Vine was incredibly communicative when I emailed to ask about delivery, so all is well.

What am I saying here?

My plants arrived healthy and happy. The person who packed them even reached out to let me know which plants had been freshly watered and how they care for the problematic Sting of Pearls that tends to rot more than any other succulent. If you need a same day or next day plant delivery, this probably isn’t the place to order from. But if you want a lovely selection, healthy plants, great customer service, and an assortment of other fun things you can add to your order –from candles to home goods– this is a great place to shop. Also, like all the other shops I’m writing up, it’s locally owned. And they have done the work to change their business model to function in these trying times. I have so much admiration for entrepreneurs who know when to change with the times.

Want to visit the shop?

Well you can’t right now. They’re closed for in person shopping but all of their products are available for delivery or pickup. I know this might be frustrating for some who still want to shop in person, but it makes me super happy. I’m really glad to see a business being completely responsible keeping themselves and others safe and healthy while still keeping things going.

Pickup times are Tuesday & Wednesday:  1:00 PM – 4:00 PM and Friday & Saturday:  1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

My next purchase from Hammer + Vine

I was beginning to regret having added this segment to the plant shop reviews, but then I pulled open their site –which I swear I looked at just yesterday– and noticed that they’d added a bunch of new stock. My eyes went wide with delight. There are a ton of plants I would happily add to my next order (among them an adorable Hoya in a locally made planter that I just can’t get out of my head) but the thing that most caught my eye that I wish I’d ordered with my plants is this cool houseplant fertilizer. Their site also made me realize that I’m a big girl now and it might be time to buy a moisture meter for my fickle plants instead of just guessing and hoping. Also… they have bags of soil you can add on and I am running low. So… new plants more soil, win win.


2190 W Burnside St. Suite B
Portland, OR 97210 

(503) 224-9678
Intagram: @hammerandvine

PS: This is definitely one of the shops that, when everyone is vaccinated and the world regains some semblance of “normalcy” I want to visit. There’s something about it that just feels like a home away from home, even just visiting it online.

Photo by Evelyn Bertrand on Unsplash

Sordid Tales of the String of Pearls

When I first started this plant blog nearly three years ago I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. Three year ago me and now me still have that in common. But I know now that I don’t want to do what I did then. One of my early posts here was about Sting of Pearls. Well kind of. There’s a lot of babble about my favorite purse, polka dots, and Jackie Kennedy in that post. I’m not really sure, looking back, what I was going for with all that. But I digress.

I’d been caring for this particular plant for a bout a month and I really thought I had everything figured out. I gave some care tips in between moments of pontification about bourbon and Kate Spade and polka dots. And those care tips are not… inaccurate. If you read about how to care for a Sting of Pearls most places on the internet you will probably read something very similar to what I said.

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…

And then I went on to explain how easy they are to propagate. Which is actually true.

But what I didn’t spend enough time on is how incredibly fickle this plant is and how easy it is to kill. I’ve said it before, I’m awful with succulents. TRULY terrible with them. But somehow I’m even worse at this particular variety. And so of course I’ve decided to try again. In my late Friday night plant ordering spree I decided to order one each of the plants from my most killed list and document how they’re doing.

New String of Pearls, I shall call you Lucy…

Enter the new Sting of Pearls and what I have not yet verified as the best advice ever, but what came in as a comment on Facebook in a thread in which the plant murder of succulents in general and String of Pearls in specific was being discussed. Emily F. says you have to water these little divas FROM THE BOTTOM UP. Yep. You read that right. So this new lil devil will be cared for using ONLY the bottom up watering method.

 Never put water on the top soil. Let them sit in a little bowl of water and it will soak it up from the bottom. But wait until it’s totally dried out before you water it. Like no moisture at all. If it’s say a 6 inch pot that would be around once a month

Emily F plant genius

Will it make a difference? Well I sure hope so.

But wait… there’s more. This String of Pearls and a few other plants we’ll discuss later were delivered by Hammer + Vine yesterday afternoon. They were the second of the orders I made late Friday evening last week. And totally the last plants I’m allowing myself to buy this month. Though I should note that I have a special planter and succulent on order from a cute creepy Etsy shop that has still yet to arrive so look for that good news soon. But that was actually the first plant I bought this year so, it doesn’t count?

Back to the String of Pearls and this plant delivery. Before the order arrived I received an email:

 I packed your order myself, the pearls and spider plant have been freshly watered. String of pearls are more prone to rotting than other succulents, at the shop we always hang them right in the window or keep them directly under our grow lights.

Janelle from Hammer + Vine

Now what is this? I had always thought they shouldn’t have the direct light shining right at them. Because, you know, I read it on the internet. But according to Janelle who I am suddenly willing to trust with my plant’s life and perhaps my own direct light is exactly what these fickle high-maintenance little suckers need to keep them from rotting and dying.

So armed with new information from two women who seem to know what they’re talking about I feel like I’m read to start this String of Pearls adventure again with some hope of keeping it alive for the long haul this time.

I mean given my track record here it’s not terribly likely, but anything is possible. Right?

Featured image by Kara Eads on Unsplash

Portland Plant Delivery: Solabee

Monday morning I was really taking my time diving into my day. My cat was fussing, I was feeling the stress of all that’s happening in our world, and I was listening to an awesome playlist shared by a woman named Naj on twitter curated on Spotify that’s based off the late James Baldwin’s record collection. I ignored a call from an unknown caller and sat down to drink some coffee and check in with friends. I also glanced at my email because it’s a habit. A bad habit. Even when it’s not a work day for me I still tend to keep one eye on my personal inbox. And thank goodness I did because there was an email from Solabee!

The awesome Olivia had tried to call me to let me know that two of the plants I ordered were actually out of stock and she wanted to know if they could swap them out with some other plants or if I would prefer a refund and just the rest of my order.

Now I don’t know about you, but to me the only thing better than getting new plants is SURPRISE new plants. So not only was I sitting here emailing back and forth getting great customer service –and over email instead of having to talk on the phone, I hate the phone– I was getting SURPRISE PLANTS.

Unfortunately one of the plants that was out of stock was the 6″ Curly Spider Plant that I ordered in an attempt to prove to myself and the world that I could keep a spider plant alive.

Perhaps this is for the best. Perhaps Solabee was being guided by the mysterious hand of the universe to keep me from killing another Spider Plant right out of the gates this year. No big deal, my other plant order is also scheduled to include a spider plant. I’ll try again. And again. And probably again.

My replacement for that plant was the gorgeous Monstera Adansonii that I wrote about earlier this week. It’s hanging where the poor sad dead spider plant was and so far it seems perfectly happy and content in the corner where it is getting plenty of indirect natural light.

Enough about plants that I may or may not kill. Let’s talk a little about Solabee, now shall we? As I briefly mentioned on Monday they seem to be a flower shop first and a plant shop second, but after a little looking into this Portland woman owned business I think I may have jumped to a conclusion there. They have two locations, one called Solabee – Flowers & Botanicals and the second called Solabee Northwest. I didn’t know about Solabee pre-pandemic so I’ve never been to their shop but they make the experience of buying plants from them pretty effortless and I really value the kindness and customer service they’ve brought to the experience.

As I mentioned above, they reached out directly, by phone and email, to resolve a problem as soon as it came up. They worked with me to make sure I would be happy with my order and were just so freaking nice in the process that I found myself delighted that the changes were happening. The order arrived on time with no further complication. The human who delivered it wore a mask, left the plants neatly at my door and knocked before wandering away. I also received an email notification that my delivery had been made.

The plants that arrived were happy and healthy and in good shape. And my favorite little touch was the notecards for each plant that arrived with the order. Not an illegible plant stake with tiny font that didn’t exactly print correctly. No hand scrawled note of what it was that I needed to try to decipher with special handwriting examination. Four neatly printed little cards, one for each plant, telling me what it is and how best to care for it.

What am I saying here? If you are in Portland and want some plants delivered by all means order from this awesome woman owned shop. I’d also highly recommend you check out their floral designs because wow. Stunning.

Want to visit their shop? 

Solabee North is located on the sunny corner of N. Albina and N. Killingsworth street. Our conservatory style shop contains a bounty of rare and unusual plants, a build-your-own terrarium station, and a collection of locally crafted wares and art. The shop also houses the Solabee floral design studio, where designers whip up inspiring bouquets daily. Walk in flower orders are welcome!

from solabeeflowers.com

My next purchase from Solabee? I don’t know. But I can tell you without a doubt that there will be a next purchase. Okay okay… if you force me to think about it I will probably get a Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma sometime soon because I’ve been wanting one for what feels like forever, and they have them. And if I order that… well I don’t want it to be a wasted trip with just the one plant so I’d be likely to also get myself a Philodendron Birkin too because just look at those stripes.

Site: https://www.solabeeflowers.com/
Twitter: @solabeeflowers
Instagram: @solabeeflowers
They have two locations:

SOLABEE – Flowers & Botanicals
801 N Killingsworth St., Portland, OR 97217
503-307-2758 | hello@solabeeflowers.com

SOLABEE – Northwest
1759 NW 24th Ave., Portland, OR 97210
503-278-9077 | nwstore@solabeeflowers.com

PS: upon further reflection I have just added like three more plants to the mental list of what I will order from them next time so I should definitely wait until next month when I have a refreshed plant budget and have finished moving the plants that are currently in my house around to make room for more leafy friends

Featured image taken from solabeeflowers.com

Say Swiss Cheese!

Today we’re going to talk about the Monstera Adansonii, commonly referred to as the Swiss Cheese plant or Swiss Cheese vine. When I first got back into all this planting goodness Monsteras of all kinds were alllll the rage. I went into a plant shop as a newby plant lover years ago and told the clerk what I was looking “Monstera Deliciosa” and described it and said I’d also heard it called the swiss cheese vine ands the overly self assured counter person corrected me rudely…

Like… have you ever seen the movie High Fidelity? I felt like I was talking to the plant shop version of Jack Black’s character. They had knowledge but no interest in sharing the plant l joy. It turns out they didn’t have the Monstera I was after, which is the one we’re going to talk about today. But they did have a different variety of monstera. I bought it quietly without exploring much more of the wonderful stock the shop had to offer, because while I have no problem being corrected, I don’t like being treated like I’m stupid. Especially when I’m new to something.

I digress. Back then I did get a plant that I did wind up liking. But it wasn’t THIS plant. And I didn’t want to go back to that shop for more than a year because I was so on edge about asking anyone there for help. I’ve since gotten over my fear of the shop and of looking like I don’t know anything when it comes to plants. When it comes to plant shopping I embrace my inner know-nothing and keep to shops that invite curiosity.

Back to the Monsteras… they were all the rage when I started my plant obsession. They seem to be still. And I get the appeal. Something about their deep green color and adorable fenestrations is delightful and alluring.

Wait a moment… what was that word I used?

Which one? Adorable? Delightful? Alluring?

No no no, none of those. The F word.

Ahhhhhh you mean fenestrations. Yeah. I just dropped that plant term in there like I’ve been using it for forever and like all of you totally know exactly what I was talking about. And who knows, maybe I have (I haven’t) and maybe you do? But I can tell you if you google the definition of “fenestration” the answer you most commonly get will not be applicable to plants. It will talk about windows and doors on the elevation of a building or a surgical procedure where a new hole is created.

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Monstera Adansonii from Solabee

But we’re going to take our notes from the botany term. After all this is the English language, since when should a word have only one definition? In the plant world a fenestration refers to “natural holes in the leaves of some species of plants.”

I want to take a moment and define natural too since “nature” can be considered a whole lot of things. It means that the leaves of the plant GREW with holes in it. Not that it was poked by a branch or nibbled by a creature. Simply put it means naturally occurring holes, or in some cases what looks like slices, in the leaves of certain species of plant. And Monsteras are the plant that most modern plant lovers seem to think of in this category.

So let’s welcome this lovely new plant to the house of Kaos.

It was almost a surprise. Two of the plants I ordered on Friday evening wound up being out of stock, this was one of the replacement options I was offered. I literally squealed with delight at the chance to add this hanging basket of swiss cheese goodness to my living room. I do already have one smaller Adansonii that I’m trying to train on a hoop of sorts. I’ve done nothing to harm that plant, which I’ve had for a few months, but it also isn’t growing prolifically either.

It’s living in the same area as my Monstera Deliciosa, since the same type of care is indicated for the two plants. Hopefully that means I’ll keep this new gorgeous plant alive.

Tips from the card that came with the plant:

Light: Thrives best in bright indirect light
Water: Let the topsoil dry 1-2″ on top, watering about once every 7-10 days depending on size and light.
Tips: Monsteras are tropical aroids and do best when they climb on a trellis or moss pole. Splits in the leaves occur when the plant reaches maturity and it’s growing in bright light.

Well you and I both know that when they say “splits” they really mean fenestrations 😉

Featured image by 王维家 on Unsplash is of a different variety of Monstera.

Portland Plant Delivery: Ecovibe

On an early December day way back before the global pandemic after a company holiday brunch I was wandering around NE Alberta Street. My partner wandered with me a while and then headed off for a meeting but I chose to stay and wander more. NE Alberta, in case you are unfamiliar, is full of some amazing food, art, and shops. I had a couple of bags in my arm containing some Christmas gifts after wandering into countless other great little places, but this one shop had caught my eye while I was walking with my partner. It caught my eye because aside from just looking soooooooooooo cool it also had plants. I could see plants from the door, plants from the windows. PLANTS PLANTS PLANTS. And also some cute home goods and gifts. I didn’t want to bore my partner to death by dragging him into a shop where I would totally ignore him for an hour while I drooled over green things.

So even though I was done with anything I needed to do I wandered back up the street to pop into this little shop I had never heard of: Ecovibe. Although it turns out I had heard about it, I just didn’t remember the name. My friend Courtney had told me all about it and I actually ran into her and her husband moments after I arrived.

I crouched down as soon as I walked in the door as there was a multi-tier cart full of cacti and succulents and I just thought they would make the cutest little stocking stuffers EVER. You know, for people who actually like plants. I didn’t pick any up because as I looked up the whole expanse of the store seemed to sparkle and my eyes got wide. WALL OF PLANTS. Fancy poofs. Tassel chandeliers. Pots. Rugs. Jewelry. Bar wear. Clever little gifts that would be perfect to stuff stockings with for my partner (who doesn’t care about plants past loving that I love something so much) and my daughter (who likes plants just fine and has some in her room but I’m supposed to take care of them for her which is totally fair) and for me because… Well there were these earrings I had to have. And then I found this clever cute little dusky pink beanie with a big pink furry pom on top that somehow magically turned into a scarf. My mind kept wandering back to those plants though. At some point a lovely woman came up to me and offered me a basket or something to hold all the little things I was clutching in my hands. Or maybe she offered to take them to the counter to free up my hands. I can’t remember. I just know that she made it possible then for me to head straight to the wall-o-plants and begin my careful selection process.

I can’t remember how many plants I got that day. But I remember I was taking Lyft home and the driver gave my box of plants side-eye as I got in. Here’s this lady with cute little shopping bags and a box full of green things and I’m sure he somehow knew I’m a bit clumsy and expected me to knock them all over in his car. I did not. But his concern was reasonable.

That was my long way of saying that Ecovibe is a wonderland of amazing carefully curated ethical products that make you feel the wonder and whimsy of the world. And on top of that they have plants. Just plants in growers pots. But also plant arrangements, terrariums, plant sculptures. Goods to care for your plants. Things to put your plants in. If your plant needs it I think they have it. Except soil. I don’t recall seeing any of that.

After that experience I wanted to know more about this cool little shop so I did some research. Which was easy because they share their story on their site

Established in 2010, EcoVibe is the collaboration of the combined visions of Leonard and Andrea Allen, aka “Len and Dre”.
ECO: Focused on the environment and sustainable, ethical practices.
VIBE: The feeling, the style, the look, the energy, and the experience.
We take time and care to consider where and how things are made, who makes them and what they are made out of. 
We support local designers, women, minority and family owned businesses and small makers and manufacturers.
We are a community-focused business that gives back to local environmental organizations through community-based events, classes and workshops.
We donate 1% of all of our online sales to local non-profit 1% For The Planet members, in order to ensure that we are always giving back to environmental causes.
We believe living a sustainable lifestyle shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be accessible to all. And it’s not just ONE THING.

from the Ecovibe about page

Not mentioned on their site, but of particular importance to me when deciding where to spend my money is that Ecovibe is both woman and Black owned.

Now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic… That changes everything from a shopping perspective. I’m not even going to the grocery store in person let alone shopping for plants in person. For any number of reasons my family is trying to do everything we can to remove ourselves from the possible infection cycle. Both to ensure we don’t get sick but also to ensure we’re not getting others sick. We’ve seriously been on lockdown since the beginning of March last year. For the first part of the year I managed to keep my need to get new plants at bay. I only ordered a plant if it happened to be available from the grocery store from which I was ordering. So… you know… I have a lot of orchids now.

But I saw at some point that Ecovibe had started doing delivery. And… I was just… OVERJOYED!

At the time I placed my order last year the site to order local delivery was a little hard to manage and I eventually had to call into the shop for help, but they were able to process everything from my existing cart and get my order set and ready to go. And they were ridiculously pleasant to deal with. Their customer service is not just good, it’s a delight. And I didn’t exactly make it easy for them. I ordered a palm (and several other plants) that is well over 6ft tall to be delivered to me across town. It was one of the owners who delivered the giant beauty and he could not have been more delightful and kind.

What am I saying here? If you are in Portland and want some plants delivered or that you can curbside pick up PLEASE GIVE THIS SHOP YOUR PLANT MONEY. It’s a mindful local business dedicated to giving back. They take awesome care of their plants. They curate the most amazing stuff and I’d like to see them stay open as long as they want to be.

Not in Portland? In this case you’re not really missing out. they don’t ship most plants but they do ship a ton of other amazing items anywhere you may be so check them out. I think you’ll love this shop as much as I do.

Want to visit their shop? They’re open 7-days a week and are limiting their store to 5 customers at a time. Masks are required.

My next purchase from Ecovibe? It will probably one of their terrarium kits or bits and pieces from their shop to build my own. I’ve never made a terrarium and it’s a goal of mine. Perhaps I’ll do a special terrarium project during my birthday vacation in March.

Site: https://ecovibestyle.com/
Address: 1906 NE Alberta Street
instagram: @ecovibestyle

PS: I checked their site, I was wrong. They even carry potting soil.

featured image from Ecovibe website