The difference between a house and a home is how much you love living there. LaunchPad explores the innovative technologies that help you care for your space more effectively.
A recent viral tweet wonders: “how many innocent succulents have been brutally killed by people trying to cure their depression”? We all want to believe we’re capable of keeping something other than ourselves alive — and though plants seem like they should be the easiest way to do this, in fact, they can be more challenging than animals.
Aside from going brown and desiccated, plants are pretty uncommunicative, and unlike pets and children, they don’t necessarily have specialty doctors available for when they come down with a weird rash (unless there’s a good nursery in your neighborhood, in which case, lucky you!)
So the first thing you have to do is read up on the particular species you’ve got potted. Orchids want an ice cube a week, which provides a slow, steady drip of water to their soil, but that temperature might scare the sensitive roots of a more tropical plant. Succulents are hardier and require less maintenance — but they also want a lot of sun, and they’re easy to over-water. Here are some low-key suggestions to get you started.
There are two ways to moisturize a plant, just like there are two ways to moisturize your person. The first is the part we’re all familiar with: watering its soil, which allows plants to drink water (the person equivalent, of course, would come in a cold glass).
But some varieties also want to be damp on their leaves and stems, which can be tough when A/C and heaters keep our living spaces bone-dry year round. If you don’t have a humidifier going and don’t want to invest in one, a spray bottle — this one from Muji is an inexpensive but still stylish option — will help keep your plant as dewy and glowy as a mid-day Evian spritz to the face.
Lifehacker has a few tips on how to DIY yourself something that will provide potted houseplants with a steady supply of water, so you don’t have to remember to tend them every single day. (Listen, sometimes feeding myself is a challenge — forget about something that can’t ask, or at least whine persistently, for breakfast.) If you’re working with an actual garden space, drip tape will save you time spent wielding a hose, and you’ll stop worrying that the neighbor kid you paid to tend them while you’re away is drowning your hydrangeas.
They’ve also got ideas about how to create a device that actually monitors soil moisture, so you’re no longer just guessing how wet it is down there. Their version will Tweet at you when your plant babies are thirsty, but that doesn’t do you much good if you’re out of the house when the alert comes.
Instead, try to checking on them as part of your morning routine. And if that doesn’t work, set a daily calendar reminder in your phone. Sure, you’re supposed to be communing with nature and putting down technology, but sometimes… well, we need the technology to remind us when it’s time to do that.
But it’s always easier to create a habit when we actually enjoy its ritual. To that end, consider a watering can that doesn’t look out-of-place in your well-designed home. Ikea’s Bittergurka is Ikea-priced at just under $10, but its sleek, slender design will make you feel like an Instagram influencer doing a photo shoot instead of a regular person doing a chore. Pots also matter — not just for the plant’s health, but also for how much you’ll want to spend time with those little green guys, even when they aren’t begging for your attention by getting yellow at the edges.
And if all else fails, there are some plants that are almost (almost) immortal.
Zan Romanoff is a freelance writer and the author of the novels A SONG TO TAKE THE WORLD APART and GRACE AND THE FEVER. She lives and works in Los Angeles.