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.

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.

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

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.

(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…


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…