What you’ll need to start your own urban jungle
Especially if you live in an urban environment without a backyard, the winter months can be dull and gray, and it can seem like forever until you get to see a glimpse of nature again. Houseplants offer tons of benefits like beautiful home décor, improved air quality, reduced stress, and overall improved sense of well-being. Luckily, it is easier than you think to bring nature inside and start your own indoor garden.
Even if you don’t have a so-called green thumb. We’ve put together the basics – what you’ll need to start your own urban jungle.
Potting Soil Mix
We definitely suggest hitting up your local plant store or nursey (even Home Depot has great plants) and picking up a plant type that speaks to you. Even if you buy a pre-potted plant, it’s still recommended to keep potting mix on hand to repot or refill any soil down the line. Most indoor plants will thrive in a mix of soil, peat, and perlite which you can buy on Amazon. We like Epsoma Organic Potting Soil Mix.
If you’re growing succulents, like a cactus or an aloe vera plant, I’d go with a chunkier mix. Hoffman Organic Cactus & Succulent Soil Mix is also available on Amazon. Cactus and succulent-specific soil mix is usually specially formulated to improve aeration and drainage and is a pretty safe bet for your plants that like their dirt a little drier.
When you pick up a plant from a garden store, they usually come in nursery pots which are plastic and have holes on the bottom for drainage. For first-time plant parents, there is no need to take your plant baby out of that nursery pot. You can simply place the plastic pot your plant came in into a more decorative plastic or ceramic pot to match your home. The Sill offers a ton of different styles and sizes of planters to choose from.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to repot your plant, terracotta pots are great for beginners. Terracotta planters (besides being very cute and natural looking) are porous, which allows air and water to reach the roots of your plants. Whatever planter you choose, make sure it has drainage holes! We like terracotta because water can evaporate through the walls of the pot, which helps plants avoid overwatering and root rot.
If you have one good window, you can have indoor plants. A good rule of thumb is that you want to place your plants such that the leaves can “see the sky.” This is because plants use their leaves to photosynthesize the sun and gain nutrients. We know that there aren’t many apartments with great window set ups, so if you need a little help in the sun department you can use artificial light.
There are so many artificial light options these days, and some that you can screw into existing light sockets. The GE Grow Light LED Flood Light Bulb uses full spectrum LED light and advanced red spectrum light to help grow flowers and fruit year-round. We like this one because it uses only 9 watts of energy, generates low heat, and does not emit harsh light to the rest of your house. Another good option if you have a ton of plants to keep lit, the VIVOSUM Grow Light Fluorescent Tubes are cost-effective and energy efficient!
Speaking of watering your plants…If your thumb is not so green and you forget to water your houseplants often, there is a solution. Self-watering Globes on Amazon (or even these cute ones that look like plant life support) can be filled with water and stuck right into the soil of your most forgettable plants. The soil and roots will soak up water as needed so they never dry out. Water bulbs are a good solution if you travel or are out of the house a lot. Just set it and forget it.
Some indoor plants like to grow tall, such as the monstera family of evergreen tropical vines. Monsteras are so easy to take care of and can grow tall and viney with the right support. Traditionally, people purchase moss poles to mimick the trees that these plants would climb in the wild, but personally I think they’re a bit of an eyesore. If you want to provide stylish support for your lovely indoor garden, try these Mini Metal Plant Trellis for Potted Plants – under $10 on Amazon!
If we’re being honest, you don’t neeeeeed to buy a plant food to keep your indoor garden healthy. A good plant food will help them grow when conditions are not ideal (if there’s no sun or they get minimal water). Our favorite organic plant fertilizer is Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer on Amazon – you can mix it into the soil before potting, or set up a drip line to administer fertilizer over time.
There are also free plant foods that you probably have right in your own kitchen right now! And stay tuned for a mini science lesson, too. Used coffee grounds acidify and fertilize the soil and even have antimicrobial properties. When you’re done with your brew, spread the grounds on the soil just before you water your plants for maximum benefit.
You can also use clean, dried, and crushed eggshells to fertilize your plants. Crushed eggshells are high in calcium carbonate, which plants use to strengthen their cell walls. Over time they’ll break down in the soil and nourish your indoor garden.
Lastly – my favorite homemade fertilizer – banana peel water. After eating a banana, place the peel in a glass of water and leave it in the fridge overnight to steep. In the morning, toss the peel in the trash and use the remaining water for your houseplants. The minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium seeped into the water overnight and are fantastic for good plant growth.