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Planning Your Vegetable Garden

Planning your vegetable garden can seem like a daunting task. What should you plant where? When should I start my seeds? How much sun do my veggies need? Vegetable gardening takes practice, but there are some basic tips to lay the foundation for a successful harvest.

Starting Your Seeds

If you want to start your vegetables from seeds, picking the right time to start them is key. Knowing your gardening zone is important.  Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which plants can grow in your location and when you can plant them. For example, I garden in zone 7a in New Jersey, so our last frost is usually sometime in April (although the current climate has certainly messed with that a bit).

Figuring out when to start your seeds can be as simple as reading the seed packet. It may sound obvious, but so many people ask me questions that could be found right on the packet. The packet should say when to plant your seeds based on temperature. So if it has been a mild winter like we had this year, you can get away with starting things earlier.

If you opt to start your seeds inside under a grow light, then you can start them even sooner. For example, you could be starting your tomato seeds at the beginning of March inside your home. Then when things warm up in the summer, you can harden off your seedlings and get a head start on the season.

I start my seeds in a cold frame outside, but they can easily be started indoors in a sunny window, or under grow lights. Seeds started inside will have a jump start on the season and speed up your first harvest.

Planning Your Garden

Deciding what to plant where can be stressful. If you only have one vegetable bed, it’s important to try and optimize that space. If you plan to plant tomatoes, try planting some leafy greens early in the season. That way you can have a harvest of cooler crops like spinach, bok choy, or lettuce while you are waiting for the weather to warm up.

When planting, you also need to think about crop rotation. This means that you don’t want to plant the same type of vegetable in the same place each season. In a perfect world, you would plant legumes –>brassicas—>fruiting vegetables—>and then root vegetables.

Legumes are your beans and peas. They put nitrogen into the soil, which is why they make such a fabulous cover crop. Brassicas – spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli- always follow your legumes because they are heavy nitrogen feeders. Fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and squash go next. And lastly, your root vegetables like carrots, onions, garlic, and beets because they are light feeders. Then you repeat the cycle and replenish the soil by planting legumes.

It might seem like a lot of hassle at first, but crop rotation is vital to healthy plants. For example, if you get onion worms one spring, they winter over in the soil. That means if you plant onions in that same bed next season, the worms will still be there waiting for their next oniony snack. I totally didn’t just make this mistake or anything…which is why I now write down what I plant in each bed.

I keep a journal of what I’ve planted where, so I don’t forget come next season. My notes are a bit of a mess!

Succession Sowing

This is something I am only finally getting the hang of. Last season I planted way too many tomato plants all at the same time. This resulted in a tomato explosion, and every person who came to my home left with giant bags of tomatoes. By planting a few and often, you can extend your harvest by weeks.

If you plant a row of spinach this week, plant another row in two weeks. When you finish harvesting your first row of spinach, your second row will follow it. If you follow this system with all of your vegetables, you will have a continuous harvest all season.

I harvest a few successions of radishes while I wait for my peas and beans to fill in and shade them out.


Utilizing the space in between your crops can easily more than double the size of your harvest. While you wait for your pole beans to grow, plant a few rows of radishes underneath them. You will harvest the radishes well before the climbing beans shade them out.

While you wait for your potatoes to start growing, plant a row of spinach or lettuce on their hills. You can enjoy a harvest or two before the potatoes eventually overtake the bed.

Onions can take months to grow. I’ve utilized the space between the rows by planting lettuce.

By combining the concepts of seed starting, crop rotation, succession planting, and interplanting, you will have a healthy and continuous harvest before you know it. I can’t believe how much of a difference interplanting and succession sowing has made in my garden. Seed starting is a process, not a one-time thing. I try to sow my next round of crops every 10-14 days. And so far this season we have been enjoying fresh-cooked meals every night!

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Gardening for Wildlife

When I first stuck my toe into the works of Douglas Tallamy, I immediately felt a burning urge to change everything about how my yard is landscaped. Why was so much of my garden stagnant and lifeless? I assumed that because my yard looked like everyone else’s, I must be doing something right. It wasn’t until I took a closer look at the wildlife in my own backyard that I realized how much of a difference I can make. It is a feeling that can be overwhelming at first, but ultimately leads to a sense of liberation and purpose.

While I wait for my morning tea to boil, my favorite thing to do is watch my bird bath. Standing from my kitchen window, I can watch a variety of bird and squirrel visitors enjoy a snack at the bird feeders and a drink. Some of the birds eat from the feeder perches, while others rummage and scratch around in the mulch. The squirrels act as amateur gymnasts, trying to grab on to anything they can so they can enjoy some black oil sunflower seeds.

Our bird bath outside the greenhouse in early spring

A year ago, this area of my yard didn’t exist, and I didn’t have this morning ritual with nature. While waiting for my morning tea or coffee, I was likely scrolling through one of my social media apps and paying no attention to what was outside of my window. In fact, these birds probably didn’t even know my yard existed.

It only took one reading of “Nature’s Best Hope” to inspire my husband and I to dig out some lawn and put in two new pollinator beds. We filled the beds with native asters, bee balm, rudbeckia, milkweed and a red maple tree. It quickly became my favorite part of the garden. I still needed to always have my phone with me, but now it was so I could take pictures of the weird insects and birds that I would spot. I downloaded the Picture Insect app so I could start identifying and tracking different species of butterflies – and the Merlin app for tracking species of birds.

A section of lawn before we put in the new pollinator beds

Any new visitor to the garden was suddenly the most exciting part of my day. We decided to expand our koi pond to allow for more wildlife by creating a bog area for frogs and dragonflies. We stopped fertilizing our lawn and spraying insecticides. We let the clovers come back, and happily seed with other species of micro clover.

Our primary business is growing and selling tropical houseplants. But I wanted to feel more connected to the natural world right outside my door. Of course, I still love houseplants and the joy they bring to my life inside. Especially during Covid when we were spending more time inside than ever, houseplants gave me a sense of purpose by taking care of something.  It is the act of growing and caring for things that makes me the happiest.

While we have a large greenhouse that is temperature controlled for our New Jersey climate, I try to offset its existence with an abundance of native species planted around it. I enjoy everything exotic, new, and collectable. But I also realize how much of a difference I can make to my local ecosystem by planting native in my own garden.

Ducks visiting our pond

It’s important that we try to give a portion of our yard back to nature, and to garden for the wildlife that surrounds us rather than trying to push it away. This year we’ve added an edible hedge of blueberries to share with the local birds. We’ve also added 2 even larger pollinator beds full of goldenrod, asters, milkweed and native grasses.

In our greenhouse we have been using beneficial insects to control aphids and spider mites. We have been releasing lacewing larvae and watching them hatch. I was especially delighted when a family of parasitic wasps moved in to help the battle against the aphids. Now I don’t spray in the greenhouse because I don’t want to hurt my population of beneficials. As time goes by, the population of aphids decreases, and a balance is restored.

Lacewings enjoying a snack

It’s exciting that my native plants outside of the tropical greenhouse have helped me with my houseplant growing. If we hadn’t planted those new pollinator beds, the parasitic wasps would not have found the greenhouse. And I’d still be spraying every other week with neem oil or insecticide. The more I develop my garden, the more I learn about the greenhouse, and vice versa.

As houseplant growers, we spend so much of our time trying to replicate nature. Whether it be with grow lights, fertilizer, insect control or humidity. It’s liberating to get outside and watch how nature just does it so easily.

I’ll be sharing more about my gardening journey soon, so stay tuned! If you have any questions on how to get started with creating a pollinator garden, or how to introduce beneficial insects to your greenhouse, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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How to Pollinate Anthuriums

Once you start collecting anthuriums you quickly begin to wonder how to pollinate them. By pollinating your own anthuriums, you can grow your collection and produce interesting hybrids. All of your pollinations probably won’t be successful, so don’t worry if you fail! The great thing about plants is that they are resilient and want to grow, so if you don’t succeed on your first try you will have many more chances.

I should probably start with a clarity statement that I am not using scientifically correct terms, but rather phrases like “rub them together” and “wait until it has little bumps.” I have gained my experience by trial and failure in my greenhouse, and these are the terms that work with my brain. With that said, let’s get to the facts!

Flowers and Inflorescences

Getting your anthuriums to flower might be one of the hardest steps of pollinating anthuriums. I find that they are more likely to “flower” or produce inflorescences, when they are slightly stressed. The temperature and humidity of our greenhouse fluctuates, and the plants really enjoy that change. It mimics the feeling of their natural habitat with warmer days and cooler nights.

When you are growing at home in a humidity tent or cabinet, it can be hard to replicate that temperature change. If you use heat mats or an external heater, try turning those off at night. Make sure to use a timer on your grow lights to create a light cycle. Use a fan to circulate fresh air constantly, it will help your plants grow stronger and healthier.

Once your anthurium flowers, you need to wait for it to open. It is super tempting to open it up manually, but don’t do it! Once it opens it is in its receptive phase, waiting for pollen. If you don’t have any pollen yet, don’t worry, you will soon! You will notice that it secretes a liquid and looks like it is sweaty. That is the inflorescence trying to find the pollen.

Collecting Pollen

When the receptive phase is over, the inflorescence will begin to produce pollen. The pollen will likely be an orange or yellow color and look like dust. You can collect the pollen with a paint or makeup brush into a small plastic container or piece of foil. I like to use small paint containers or the ziploc containers for salad dressings. If you don’t have a receptive flower yet for the pollen, you can store it in your freezer for a few weeks.

The easiest way to pollinate anthuriums is if you have two plants flowering at once, at different stages. Then you can simply rub them together, or even tie them together to pollinate on their own.

If you are using pollen that you previously collected, take a small brush or your fingers and rub the pollen on a receptive flower. You will know the flower is ready to pollinate when you see it producing liquid or sweating. Repeat this process for a few days.

Harvesting Berries

You will know your pollination was successful when the inflorescence begins to form little bumps, and becomes an infructescence!

These bumps will turn into berries. You will know the berries are ready to be harvested when they turn a juicy red or orange color and fall off easily. If you are worried about the berries falling off before you harvest them, try using organza bags to tie over them.

Once you have your anthurium berries, you simply “smush” them and out pop your seeds! If you are lucky, some of your berries will have more than one seed inside of them. I like to put the seeds in sphagnum moss inside of a humidity dome. I keep them moist, and not wet. I fertilize them every other week with fish fertilizer.

Before you know it your seeds will start sprouting! If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us via email or Instagram with any pics.

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The Importance of Native Plants

I’ve been doing a lot of research about native planting lately, and some of the facts that I’ve been learning are downright crazy. For example, if everyone converted half their lawn to native plants, we would create 20 MILLION acres of habitable space for native pollinators and animals. Over 70% of the forests on our eastern seaboard are gone as of 2006, and less than 5% of “wild” land is left in the United States (David Tallamy 2006). I am certainly no expert on this subject, but I’m on a personal journey to plant more native plants in my garden.

Adding native grasses and flowers to our front mulch beds

The best resource I’ve read so far about this is David Tallamy’s “Nature’s Best Hope.” It talks a lot about how we can repair some of the natural world in our own gardens by planting native plants. Apparently, plants that are non-native offer almost no benefits to native animals and pollinators. Their fruits are mostly filled with sugar instead of healthy fats, the leaves are not eaten by caterpillars, and birds don’t like to use them for nesting. I legitimately did not realize how much of a problem this was.

Certain plants are so invasive when they seed that they are wiping out natural varieties. Like certain non-native honey suckles, wisteria, and butterfly bushes. Now whenever I go to the garden center, I try to only buy native plants.

Removing turf grass in our lawn and replacing it with root mulch so we can plant more

We are currently in the process of transforming our own garden and lawn into a primarily native planting zone. And as it turns out, doing our part on our own properties actually makers a difference

Most of the land we encounter is privately owned. That means it’s really up to the owners to decide what to do with their gardens. There are apparently over 40 million acres of lawn in the lower 48 states, taking up about 2% of the entire available land (David Tallamy 2012). And when you think about how much of our environment is for agriculture, housing developments, and paved cities, the results become staggering.

Mulch beds we made just for pollinator plants

Long story short, it’s so important that we start being mindful of the plants that we grow in our own yards. Ever since I started planting more native pollinator plants, I’ve seen so many bees, bugs, birds, and butterflies. My yard is simply buzzing and it’s glorious.

Scattering wildflower seeds

I’m on a mission now to get rid of more turf grass, add more native pollinator plants, and stop using pesticides and fertilizers on my lawn. I will post updates on how it goes!

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Preparing Your Plants for Winter

If you’ve put together a large plant collection over the season, you may be wondering what to do with it in the winter. All of those trips to local garden centers, covering your porch and yard with beautiful tropical plants, and then suddenly, the first frost hits! Don’t panic. Here’s some tips to prepare your plants for winter.

Bring Your Plants In

When the first frost is near, it’s time to bring your plants in. We’ve all had those nights where we scramble to bring everything and anything inside, it’s simply part of the hobby. Try to designate an area to over-winter your plants. A spare bedroom or even a garage can work. You just want to make sure your plants aren’t experiencing freezing temperatures.

Cover Your Garden

If you have a veggie garden, mulching or covering your crops can go a long way. Mulching helps keeping the root ball from freezing, and also prevents weeds from stealing precious nutrients. If you still have some late summer crops that can handle a frost, cover them up with extra sheets or a blanket. Plants like broccoli like a little frost, so don’t concern yourself too much with the cole crops. I primarily focus on covering any lingering tomato and bean plants from the summer.

I like to use a mix of garden compost and Garden Straw to mulch my garden. You can also use landscape mulch or wood chips. If you do choose straw, make sure to use one without seeds!

Set up Grow Lights

If you are bringing in a large amount of tropical plants from outdoors, setting up grow lights is a great place to start. It’s important to minimize the shock of moving plants. And since these guys have been experiencing awesome summer sunlight, bringing in some supplemental lighting is a great way to ease the transition.

I am a big fan of Soltech Solutions grow lights, because they look good on display. I’ve also had good luck with MarsHydro lights.

Use a Portable Heater

Have an outdoor greenhouse? Try a portable electric heater. They can end up being costly to run, but saving your entire plant collection can be worth it. I ran a gas line and installed a heater in my hoop house. But on frosty nights, I often run an externsion chord to my Palram Greenhouse and set up a portable electric heater. If you can keep the greenhouse at a solid 50 degrees, and avoid any drafts, you are good to go.

If this is your first time wintering plants, don’t stress! Just make sure to cut back a bit on watering and fertilizing. Plants like to rest during the winter, and they likely won’t push out a huge amount of growth. As long as you keep them warm and happy, your collection will be fine.

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A Variegated Gloriosum is Breaking the Internet

UPDATE: Since originally writing this post there has been a lot of clarification. Kaylee Ellen purchased the plant from the Aroid show and Enid was looking after it for her until she got back to the states to transport it. It was confirmed that the false bids were entirely due to people trolling the auction, i.e. making fake accounts and driving the price up to ridiculous amounts.

So, I’m assuming some people have been following the auction today of the Variegated Gloriosum. From what started as a usual auction quickly became one of the most ridiculous plant auctions ever.


It started as a regular auction with no reserve price. It’s a very rare plant that literally no one has, so I was not surprised to see it quickly hit 15k two days before the auction even ended. But then things started getting weird…The price flew up to 200k in an instant, and then back down to 40k. So I assumed it was just trolls bidding. Then the price raised back up to well over $340,000. What the heck is going on?

So far the listing has been taken down, over a day before the auction was scheduled to end. I have yet to see any statement about it either. But people are quick to talk about it on Facebook.

Bids from the NSE website

Some are claiming that the entire auction was a publicity stunt. Others are claiming that the plant is a tissue culture and shouldn’t even be going for this much. While others are wondering where this mysterious plant even came from.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time trolls ruined an auction. But this price point is crazy.

Bids from the NSE website

It’s no secret that the plant came from the Youtuber Kaylee Ellen, and is now in the watchful hands of Enid over at NSE Tropicals. The auction was advertised as such. So why are people so curious about where Kaylee got it from?

Bids from the NSE website

So is the plant that rare? I definitely haven’t seen them in many personal collections. I haven’t seen any at all. But then again, there are apparently secretive private collections that we just don’t know about. Or at least, that’s what people on Instagram are saying.

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How to Fertilize Your Houseplants

When I first started collecting plants, I certainly was not thinking of all of the maintenance tasks I’d have to start doing. The biggest and scariest one for me was fertilizing.

There are just so many fertilizing options out there. Not only that, but there are soil conditioners, foliar sprays, root hormones, and pretty much every chemical you can think of to stimulate growth. So which one was I supposed to use and how often?

If you’ve looked at fertilizer, you’ve probably seen the letters NPK. NPK stands for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). So what do these things do? Nitrogen helps the leaves of a plant grow and is responsible for making plants greener. Phosphorus helps root growth, flowering, and fruiting. And Potassium helps with the overall health of the plant, helping prevent disease and strengthening the durability of the plant.

Your plants crave Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These last three come from the soil, so the health of your potting mix is vital for the health of your plants. Different fertilizers offer varying ratios of these nutrients. And you are going to need a different percentage depending on what you are growing.

For this blog, we are going to focus on houseplants. You’ve probably seen advertisements for soil conditioners like Superthrive, Liquidirt, and Noot. These are actually soil vitamin supplements and not fertilizers.

Soil conditioners alone are insufficient for a complete fertilizing regimen. That’s not to say that these products aren’t great. For reviving stressed plants or rooting cuttings, they can be awesome. But for a complete food source for your plants, they are just not enough.

For my personal collection and for the plants that I grow for sale, I use a mixture of long-term release fertilizer, fish fertilizer, and worm castings in my potting mix.

For a long-term release fertilizer, I use Tezula’s Nutricote time-release fertilizer. I like this option because it is something that is always in the soil of my plants. Every time you water, a little bit of the nutrients dissolves into the soil—an excellent option for those of us that tend to forget to fertilize regularly.

During the growing season, I supplement the long-term-release granules with fish fertilizer. I use Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish Fertilizer. Be warned that it can be a bit stinky if you apply it inside, but it is SO WORTH IT. My plants absolutely love it, and it comes with easy directions to follow.

earthworms on a persons hand
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In my potting mix, I use a mixture of worm castings to build my soil. I like the Wiggle Worm brand. For those that don’t know, worm castings is worm poop! I highly recommend adding some to your potting mix whenever you repot a houseplant.

Here is my fertilizer routine: I use fish fertilizer every two weeks. Each of my plants is topped with the nutricote slow release fertilizer, and my potting mix includes worm castings.

I would recommend figuring out a regimen that works for you and sticking to it. One of the most important parts about growing plants is soil health. Finding the right balance between overfeeding and underfeeding is key!

Feel free to reach out with any questions. We love getting your plant questions.

If you are looking for a full rundown of how fertilizer works, I highly recommend Summer Rayne Oakes’ video Houseplant 101: Complete Guide to Fertilizing Houseplants.

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How to Start a Backyard Greenhouse

If you are looking to start a greenhouse on your property, you’ve come to the right place! I’ll go over how we set up the greenhouses on our property and explain areas where we failed and others where we succeeded. A greenhouse is a fantastic investment for any gardener looking to expand their growing. And it turns out you don’t have to be a professional builder to get one started in your backyard.

We have two greenhouses on my property. One of them is a great kit you can get online from a company called Palram. We decided to go with Palram because they had the best reviews, and it looked like their product could hold a decent snow load. Since we live in New Jersey, it was essential for us to look for something that could handle our weather. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many horror stories of greenhouses collapsing under the weight of snow!

The Palram kits require a bit of finagling; they are certainly not the easiest to put together. Imagine Ikea furniture but with half the directions missing. However, as long as you have some patience and willpower, it is possible to put it together.

They do need some foundation, though. So we decided to use large 4×4 pieces of lumber to create the stable foundation for our greenhouse. Unfortunately, pouring concrete entails a permanent structure, which would require getting specific permits and other hassles. Plus, who wants to pour concrete? So we went with a much simpler foundation by using lumber.

I highly recommend getting one of the kits with windows that open. Greenhouses get REALLY HOT, and maintaining air circulation and temperature in the summer months will be a problem. So every little ventilation option will help you down the road.

I also recommend getting and installing shade cloth in your greenhouse. Direct sunlight will most likely burn your plants, especially if you are growing tropical houseplants out there! Shade cloth will also help with regulating the temperature. We do not heat or cool this greenhouse, and we currently use it for our non-tropical bonsai.

Our other greenhouse on our property is a high tunnel or hoop house structure. We found someone looking to sell their entire 60-foot high tunnel on Facebook marketplace, so naturally, we jumped on that opportunity. We disassembled and transported the whole thing onto our property but only ended up using 40 feet of it.

Hoop houses are primarily made from steel hoops that are staked into the ground and repeating intervals. The hoops are then connected with a structural pole that runs down the entire top of the structure.  Then you lay plastic on top of the whole structure and enclose it.

We decided to go with 6-millimeter plastic and double-layer it. When you double-layer it, you can run an insulation fan between the two sheets of plastic. Again, adding insulation in a greenhouse is excellent wherever you can because these things heat up fast in the summer and cool down fast in the winter.

Although initially, we were going to try an oil tank heating system for our hoop house, that was just a bit out of our comfort zone. Maybe it was the spilling of oil on our property on the first night or the challenge of moving a giant oil tank by ourselves, but we ended up deciding against it and going for natural gas.

At first, we ran the gas line ourselves, and we were super proud of it. I mean, what a triumphant feat for someone who knows nothing about gas lines! Well, it turns out we should have hired a professional because we ran the incorrect tube size. So after redoing it with an actual gas company, we finally had gas installed and a heater running. Unfortunately, it took us much longer than expected, so we had our heater up and running just in time for summer!

Now we are currently troubleshooting the summer heat in the greenhouse. We recently installed an evaporative cooling system that seems to be working awesomely so far. We also have a large exhaust fan to push hot air out of the greenhouse. And of course, lots and lots of shade cloth.

So whether you are looking to start with a greenhouse kit or go full throttle with a total DIY hoop house with heating and cooling, I hope this blog gives you the confidence to get started! It is definitely a project to feel proud of.

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Plants and Mental Health

green leafed plant beside books and mug

It’s no secret that plants can do wonders for mental health. Whether it’s the act of caretaking, the return to nature, or the escape from modern day stresses, taking care of plants makes us feel good. I thought it would be fun to delve into some of the reasons why plants can be so beneficial to mental health.

Let’s start with the act of caretaking. Taking care of something can make us feel fulfilled. Watching something thrive can make us feel satisfied. Feeling fulfilled and satisfied lays the foundation for positive mental health. Sometimes, just the act of taking care of a plant can tip the scales of feeling worthless to feeling useful.

green plant on white wooden table
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Being the reason that something is successful not only makes us feel good but helps us with our own success. We may not always feel self-worthy and proud, but we can look at our small accomplishments and feel good about ourselves. It really can be a model for how we live if we let it. A little bit of sunlight, some water, and the right conditions is what a plant needs to thrive. Similarly, we as people need simple constants and conditions to be healthy.

Nature makes us feel good. Whether it’s the feeling of sunshine on our skin, the sound of running water, or the presence of wildlife, being outdoors helps us feel better. I know that for me, the lockdown for COVID-19 was a wakeup call. Being isolated and stuck indoors did not feel good. I was able to realize how important it was for me to spend time outdoors. And how much better it made me feel when I took the time to do it.

person in blue denim jeans lying on brown wooden table
Photo by cottonbro on

Bringing a little piece of nature indoors with a houseplant can be so beneficial to the atmosphere of your space. For example, when our living space is full of clutter, it often reflects our mental state. I know that when my kitchen counter is messy I simply can’t focus. It just doesn’t feel comfortable. Likewise, putting plants in our living space can make us feel happy. It can create a moment of escape from our daily lives, or our jobs, and promote a return to nature. 

Sometimes we get so busy and focused with our jobs or daily chores that we simply forget to look up. There might be laundry to do, sheets to change, dinner to prepare, or just long days at work, navigating coworker relationships, and trying to make enough money to live comfortably. Whatever it is, it’s always nice to have a break. Plants can offer that escape. 

Taking time to water, inspect new growth, treat for pests, repot, prune or even just taking a moment to look at your plants gives your mind a break. It’s these moments from daily stresses that’s so important to your overall well-being. I know for me, that if I didn’t let myself take breaks I wouldn’t feel as accomplished about my day. It’s these little moments that houseplants create that are so beneficial to mental health.

photo of plants on the table
Photo by Designecologist on

So whatever is going on emotionally in my life, I can always turn to my gardening hobby for a moment of peace. That’s not to say that it’s all sunshine and daisies. I’ve had my fair share of plant losses, pest infestations, and other stresses that are created by having plants. Not to mention things that actually happen in my day to day life that are anything but plant related. But getting through these and creating small victories only helps me with everything else going on with my world. 

Today, I’m going to try to let myself take a moment and appreciate why I have plants and what they do for me. Tomorrow, if I see a spider mite or torn leaf I’ll probably freak out about it. But that’s okay too. 

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Plant Pest Guide

macro photography of a mealybug

Houseplant Pest Guide

Whether you are an advanced or beginner house plant collector, you will inevitably experience pests. My first big pest scare was with mealybugs on a big and lush monstera adansonii. I noticed these white fuzzy specs everywhere, and naturally, freaked out when I realized they were bugs. At the time, I didn’t take any pest precautions with my plants, and unfortunately, the plant was infested beyond repair.

This Houseplant Pest Guide will introduce you classic warning signs for a pest infestation. You will also find some favorite tricks and tips for regular bug maintenance at the end of this guide. I’ve found that regularly inspecting my plants is the best way to know what is going on with them. It sounds easy at first, but as your collection grows and life gets busy as usual, it gets harder and harder to stay on top of each leaf in your collection! Now, let’s get an idea of what bugs to look out for. 

Photo by Gilles San Martin


Scale is a super sneaky pest because it looks so much like dirt or regular foliage stains. When checking your plant for scale, check where the leaf meets the stem. If you see little brown stain-like specs, or if your plant looks sticky or moldy, it’s time to check for scale.

Luckily, scale are immobile bugs and lock themselves into place on your plant. So this type of pest infestation isn’t likely to spread to all of the plants in your collection. Regardless, it’s important to quarantine the infested plant – make sure it’s leaves are not in contact with anyone else!

To treat for scale, start by simply picking them off your plant. Their hard outer shell keeps them protective, so simply removing them is the best way to go. You can also wet a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol and dab them individually.

If you’d like to use a spray, I recommend insecticidal soap. Once you spray down the plant, the scale can be easily wiped off. Insecticidal soap is something every plant collector should have in their arsenal. I personally like the products by Garden Safe, Bonide, and Natria. You can also mix your own insecticidal soap at home with water and a bit of dish soap!

Photo from DepsoitPhotos


Aphids love spending their time sucking the delicious sap out of the foliage of your plants. All of this “drinking” can cause leaf discoloration and stunted growth. If your leaves have random patches of yellow on them, then it may be time to check for aphids.

The first step is to treating aphids is to get them off your plant! Use a cloth and wipe them off; they should come off quite easily. Then you want to start with insecticidal soap and completely wet the foliage. It’s likely that you will need to repeat this soap treatment, so check the plant regularly. Within a few treatments, the Aphids should be gone.

macro photography of a mealybug
Photo by Ravi Kant on


Mealybugs are some of the easier pests to spot. They are white, fuzzy, and like to hide out under the leaves. They are often found grouped together, so if you see a cottony object on your leaves, it’s likely mealybugs.

Like scale, mealybugs can be spot treated with rubbing alcohol and a q-tip. You can also try wiping them off with a moist paper towel. Insecticidal soap is always a good place to start. After the initial treatment, wipe the leaves down weekly with neem oil. Neem oil is a great natural pest preventative and also a fantastic way to keep your foliage clean!

Make sure to check any nearby plants for mealybugs, as they like to move. When you find a mealybug infestation, it’s best to treat all of the nearby plants.

close up photography of red spider mites
Photo by Egor Kamelev on

Spider Mites

If you see little webs on your plants, then it’s time to introduce yourself to the spider mite. Spider mites like to pierce the leaves and drink the juices, leaving little marks behind. Another telltale sign is speckled or dotted foliage. They are quite hard to see with the naked eye, so these guys require careful inspection.

Insecticidal soap and neem oil are always my first steps when I spot spider mites. I also make sure to wipe the leaves down completely, getting rid of any webbing or visible bugs. If you are vigilant and repeat these steps, you will be able to get rid of them.

Spider mites are notoriously hard to get rid of on the first try. So make sure to check your plant frequently and be prepared for repeat treatments.

small psychodidae on white surface
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Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are more annoying than anything else, and they are probably the most common houseplant pest. If you have plants that enjoy moist soil, you’ve probably experienced fungus gnats. Fungus gnats are usually found hanging around the soil of your plants. If you suddenly have little flies all around your plants, it’s time to treat for fungus gnats.

Fungicide spray (link) is a great way to manage a fungus gnat infestation. I like the one made by Garden Safe. Spraying the top of our soil weekly will do wonders. Another great way to manage an infestation is to put little saucers of apple cider vinegar around your plants. The gnats will be attracted to the sweet liquid rather than your plants, and so it’s an excellent way to catch quite a few without much labor. Another easy way to catch a lot of fungus gnats is to use sticky traps. On Amazon, you can find options for yellow plant sticky traps, even some in cute shapes!

Photo: Matthew Bertone


It’s safe to say that thrips are just the worst. Not only can they severely damage and disfigure plants, but they can also outright kill them if left untreated. To get rid of thrips, you have to be very persistent. If your plants have random yellow patches, little black dots (they like to leave behind their poo), and stunted new growth, it’s probably time to look for thrips.

Quickly remove and quarantine any infested plants; thrips can spread fast. Thrips are hard to see, and the larvae they leave behind are near impossible to spot, so you will likely notice the damage before you spot the bug. Attracted to the color blue, blue sticky traps can often work for controlling adult thrips. A thorough and regular treatment of insecticidal soap or neem oil is vital. Make sure to soak both the front and the back of all of the leaves.

I am currently in an ongoing battle with thrips (I’m finally winning!), and what’s worked best for me is the Bonide Systemic Granules. You simply sprinkle them on the tops of your plant and water regularly—this a great way to control infestations of pests that like to burrow and lay eggs in your soil. If you can’t find anything that works, using an insecticide might be your only way to go. I recommend Captain Jacks Dead Bug Brew.

How to Prevent Pests

Now that we’ve gone over the most common houseplant pests let’s introduce some regular maintenance that you can do to prevent any outbreaks.

Whenever you bring a new plant into your home, it’s tempting to put it on display right away. But it’s so important always to check any new plants. Most pests enter your home by hitching a ride, so it’s best to catch them at their source.

When you have an extensive plant collection, it’s essential to be vigilant and inspect the foliage. I like to dedicate one day a week to check all of the plants in my house for pests. It sounds annoying, but finding an infestation too late is much more painful, trust me!

It’s crucial to quarantine any infested plants. Certain bugs can spread fast, so separating them from the rest of your collection is vital.

Keep your leaves clean. A regular treatment of a damp cloth or neem oil on your foliage will do wonders in the long run. Bugs will be less likely to damage plants that are regularly treated with natural preventatives.

Now that you know the most common household pests and how to prevent them, you will be able to handle any infestation that comes your way. Many of these pest infestations seem overwhelming and unbeatable when they are happening, but don’t worry. We’ve all been there, and you can get through this with some willpower and elbow grease.