This is the advice of a 33-year-old art director based in Singapore who only wants to be known by her Instagram name (@missjoshbelljar).
“Do not baby your plants. Leave it alone. If it looks like it’s thirsty, that’s the only time you water it. I know it’s hard to stop yourself touching the leaves but stop touching them, especially succulents,” @missjoshbelljar said. “Most of what’s easily available has farina on them and, trust me, they’re prettier without your fingerprints on them.”
Farina is defined as the epicuticular wax that makes a white or bluish silver film on succulents. She grows mostly succulents because they are slow growers, which are perfect for her limited space.
She has used her extra time during the lockdowns to research on plants. She scoured online shopping apps for seeds, plants and succulents. So it was just a matter of time before she propagated them.
This passion started when she succeeded in rooting an avocado pit.
“If you have ever tried rooting one, you’ll understand the frustration,” she said. “They usually fail or take forever to crack. There’s also the feeling of success once you see roots sprouting. I thought that if I’ve always killed plants before but I succeeded this time, maybe it was time to give it a try again. Thank you, avocado!”
For those who have no confidence in growing plants, she suggested starting with mint. It’s easy to get a hold of herb cuttings from the grocery or palengke and they are easy to root in water.
“They grow fast. They are hard to kill, and they can take over your garden if you’re not careful. So keep it in its own pot,” she said. “Mine is just in a glass jar with water and perlite.”
She added that perlites are unnecessary for mint because they grow in just water anyway. Perlites are mined volcanic rocks that keep the ground loose and aerated.
Following a trend
Colleen Mallada regularly posts on the Facebook group Iloilo Plant Exchange. She asks members to ID her plants or trade an extra plant for another. Yes, she is a newbie in exotic plants.
However, Mallada has been gardening since she was in high school. She grew vegetables, but when plantitas and plantitos started the philodendrons and monsteras trend, she took an interest.
“Nakiuso na rin,” she said. Mallada doesn’t mind the high prices others put on the plants they sell. At the end of the day, she said, it’s up to the buyers if they want to buy at those prices.
“Buy only within your limits,” she advised.
But Mallada sees beyond the price tag. She sees the sellers’ time, effort, money and care in each pot that they sell.
This is why she finds those who steal plants for profit to be unforgivable.
From hater to lover
Abigail Canaria’s proud husband regularly posts the current obsession of his wife. He even drives her to Bulacan so she can buy her plant pots.
Canaria jokingly said that she started growing plants during the enhanced community quarantine on her own free will.
“Planting was a breath of fresh air, amid all the worrisome news of the pandemic,” she said. “Every new growth from seeds and every unfurling of a new leaf is a sign of life. To me, it is hope-giving that everything will be better soon.”
She did not always love plants. In fact, she downright hated them. Her mom was a plantita before the term was even invented.
“Our house and garden were like a preserved nature park,” she said. They would tease her mom about bringing her job home as an employee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Canaria’s task as a child included wiping the leaves of their indoor plants. She had to keep them shiny and free of dust. She also had to give them a sunbath every morning, which meant carrying them back inside when it got too hot outside.
“I thought caring for the plants took away a lot of my playtime and time reading my pocketbooks,” she said.
Canaria’s advice for would-be gardeners is to know the basic care for the plants they want to buy. It will increase the chances of keeping them alive.
“I think it’s very apt how they call us plantitas or hala-moms because it really is like taking care of a baby. It helps to be prepared before they come, and when they do, treat each as unique as they would have different caring requirements,” she said.
Canaria sees that the law of supply and demand is a big factor in the prices of the plants. People are finding ways to earn money due to unemployment. She hopes that sellers do not take advantage of this.
“Nature should be free and available for everyone to enjoy,” she said.
Like Mallada, she keeps plants in a place where the dogs can’t reach them. She sometimes brings her small dog with her when she’s planting. She hopes that her pet will understand that plants are not something he can mess around with. She’s thankful he does not seem to care about them at all.