life in a tiny apartment.

July 21, 2015
life in a tiny apartment: summertime plants | reading my tea leaves Tip #128: Indoor/Outdoor Houseplants. I’ve got a fickle relationship with my houseplants. On one hand, I want a house that’s filled up with green things. Life! Breath! Fresh air!  On the other hand, too many green things inside can start to make me feel hemmed in. If fact, while I often like photographs of plant-filled places, I know the reality is that I would feel claustraphobic with that much greenery. Then there’s the problem of plants growing. The nervy little buggers don’t stay tiny. They get bigger. They need repotting. A branch gets too heavy and it needs rerooting. If you’re like me, you might even find yourself married to a biologist who makes friends with the greenhouse keeper at the college where he works and suddenly you find yourself with a sill full of shoots and no where else to put them. For awhile I handled my plant phobia by bringing in only temporary fixes. But a well-placed plant or two? A delicate fern? A drapey string-of-hearts? A scultpural snake plant? They can do the trick to liven up a place. Especially when given a little breathing room to make an impact. In the summertime, I solve the plant encroachment problem by moving things around. No one ever said that a houseplant has to be housebound, so I embrace the idea of indoor/outdoor houseplants instead. Plants that can take the heat get moved out to the outdoor window ledge. Others find new homes on the estivating radiators. I’ve written before about thinking seasonally in a tiny apartment—advocating the idea of using a new season as an excuse to switch things up a bit—even if that only means moving a plant to a different perch. In our place, the extra inches we’ve gained on our indoor sill by letting our jasmine plant soak up some outside rays has made the whole place feel brighter. And the plant itself has been able to get some much needed fresh air and sunshine. (We’ll leave it out until the temperatures dip to encourage blooms in the winter!) Renewal all around. Right now I’ve got a few little crystals on our sill, just one houseplant, and a much-needed fan. When I return the plants to their sills come cooler weather, I’ll give them a good hose down in the kitchen sink first. And come winter, I’ll be ready again for the extra dose of green. For the curious: + The Sill is a favorite spot for plants that are already potted. Otherwise, check out your local nurseries for healthy looking plants. (I suspect that at least 75% of supposed-brown-thumb problems are related to starting with a less-than-healthy plant.) + The terracotta planters I used to pot my herbs are lovely indoors or out and they come already aged. + Connecticut’s Ben Wolff pots are some of my very favorites. The pot on our radiator started out white but has turned into the most beautiful sandy brown over time. + If you’re looking for a tiny planter, this white pot with built-in drip plate is simple and sweet for small plants. Tiny apartment survival tips #1-126, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply thebalconydresser July 21, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks for this post. I feel more or less the same about house plants as I also try to keep my plants outside as long as I can and when they are back inside for the winter, they remind me of the world outside the apartment and of seasons with green leaves. Therefore, most of my plants are not actual house plants but vegetables, herbs etc. But, well, sometimes the system fails: in one winter my passion fruit grew too big to fit on our small French balcony again. Now it freshens up our bedroom in a very non-house plant way (as it is not on a window sill, but sits on the floor, from where it climbs up the wall).

  • Reply Vanessa July 21, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Oh how interesting! I'm the opposite – for me a small space without a hearty smattering of plants feels sterile and temporary. In our 575 sq ft we have 13 pots (but some of the pots have 2-3 succulents in them so really we have about 18 plants). If it were up to me, I'd add another 5-10, but I'm afraid my boyfriend feels closer to your stance. Still, I take the opportunity to give my plants some fresh air on the patio in the summer – I also make sure I spray them with a dish soap/water mixture when I bring them back inside in the fall to discourage bugs from making our home theirs as well.

  • Reply joyce howden July 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I love plants and would probably would never be without them. But I have the problem of the rooting and growth as you do. I would love to give away some of the plants as they make me feel like a bad plant mom. Two of the plants were given to us after our mothers died so we have emotional attachment as well.

  • Reply Leo Sigh July 25, 2015 at 3:47 am

    I'm actually the opposite to you. My attempts at house plants always seem to end with them dying off 🙂 I even tried out on the balcony, as I'm in Thailand where it's hot and humidity and eternally sunny. Other than a massive cactus, which doesn't seem to die no matter what I do, it's been a lost cause. I do love plants. I'm just not good with them.

  • Reply Rosemary July 26, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    I love houseplants and have a few of them at home. When you have too much it start to get a bit messy. Just need to organize yourself and maintain the plants. I trim my plants so the don't grow too big. I always keep them near the window so they can get some sunlight and fresh air.

  • Reply Olivia July 11, 2016 at 9:37 am

    What kind of plant is in the picture? At first glance I thought it was a Vinca vine but I dont believe it is.

    • Reply Erin Boyle July 11, 2016 at 10:28 am

      It’s a plecanthrus!

  • Reply Michaela March 29, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Oh. My. God. Your comment about being married to a biologist and making friends with the greenhouse keeper at college, that mirrors my situation EXACTLY.

    My fella is currently getting his ph.d. in plant biology, and after befriending one of the greenhouse curators, we have been give a titan arum corm…. If you aren’t familiar with what that beast of a plant is, I implore you to do a google search. But my fella is soooo excited about it, I can’t say no to him. But dear god……

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