An Annotated Guide to Houseplants

Find the ideal plant for the ideal you.


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Of all the design choices to consider when personalizing your home/apartment/space, few have quite the transformative effect that the choice to add a houseplant does. Because plants are not static objects or decorations, though, you must fully understand their needs and requirements before deciding to actually acquire one. Equally important is compatibility—does your personality agree with that of the plant you've just purchased? If not, the consequences might be disastrous. This guide aims to navigate you through your decision to ensure only the best possible results.


Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata)

Personality: You bought this too–big shrub as a joke at the Fresh Grocer, but now you really like the way it looks in your living room. You’re a morning person and fry an egg over toast every day before 8:00 a.m., leaving the yolk just runny enough. You often worry about where you might end up in the future, but people still naturally go to you for advice. You hide your emotions under a dry sense of humor.

Care: Keep your fiddle leaf in bright, indirect sunlight. Water only when the top layer of soil is clearly dry. Every so often, massage the leaves (oh so gently) to remove accumulated dust.


Bonsai, any variety

Personality: You’re annoyed that everyone now seems to be copying your gold wire–framed glasses and generally neutral aesthetic. Your apartment is sparsely decorated and smells fresh like a rainstorm. You criticize Wharton but secretly wish you were a real estate concentrator. You tell people your favorite book is Pale Fire by Nabokov but really you’ve only watched the Jeremy Irons remake of Lolita.

Care: Bonsai is an art that you’re not qualified for. Though your cheap Home Depot imitation will probably die soon, you can keep it alive as long as possible with some anticipatory care. Pay attention to the water and light needs of whatever specific plant your bonsai is. Every so often it will need to be repotted or have its roots pruned. Perform the latter only with disinfected scissors.


Split leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)

Personality: You’re majoring in Visual Studies because Fine Arts wasn’t interdisciplinary enough for you. You’re quiet and mysterious and give off a “too good for you” vibe that you’re proud of because you know it’s usually true. You describe a lot of things as "sculptural" and you submit your poetry to the Penn Review under a pseudonym. People are jealous of how well–adjusted you are.

Care: Place in moderate light and water heavily whenever the soil looks dry. Plants grown in low light tend to produce small leaves without holes or splits. They do not like being moved.


Wildflowers of Wyoming Seed Kit, unopened

Personality: You bring your vegan snacks (roasted seaweed, quinoa, etc.) to your Geology 100 lecture and spill them on the ground and all over yourself. You home-brew kombucha and yearn to learn how to properly make kimchi. You hate the sound of someone biting into a crisp apple, love niche cookbooks and dream of one day escaping into the Parisian catacombs. People who don’t know your name wish they did.

Care: Keep it on the kitchen table and whenever you see it, think about how you’re going to buy a nice little pot to start your own wildflower garden. Never do this.


Air plant (Tillandsia)

Personality: You’re a Communications major and managed to get a paid NYC internship after your freshman year. You are #RawTillFour and dine on avocado toast on Sundays with your brunch squad. Your favorite color is eggplant, or maybe hunter green, but you say it’s black because that’s the color of your soul. You laugh this off and go home every night to the chinchilla named Miss Piggy that you keep in your dorm against the rules. Your vice is rainbow goldfish.

Care: Spray and spritz with water, but don’t overspray or it will rot. It’s best to do this three to four times a week and your air plant should be able to dry out within four hours of being watered.


Basil, potted

Personality: An ISFP on the Myers–Briggs Index and a self–described gourmand, you love a nice, full–bodied wine to “take the edge off.” You’re always smiling and friendly but people can’t seem to make the jump from acquaintances to friends with you. You season your home–cooked meals with either sea salt or Himalayan pink rock salt (freshly ground) because yes, you can taste the difference.

Care: Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh picked basil leaves
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (pref. infused w truffle)
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

To Prepare:
1. Pluck every leaf from your basil plant.
2. Blend all ingredients
3. Spend a little while weeping over the death of the Russian pine forests that you’ve enabled by consuming imported pine nuts.
4. Wipe your bougie tears and put on your damn bib. Bon appétit.


Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)

Personality: You bought this at Ikea after learning that the NASA Clean Air Study found that it filters the air of benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and other toxic substances. You’re exceedingly health–conscious and spend two hours every Sunday meal prepping. You’re too good for Pottruck. You always cry during Sex and the City 2.

Care: Peace lilies love shade, and yellow leaves are an indication that your plant is getting too much light. They also like to be watered a lot at once; drooping leaves are a sign that your plant needs water.


Assorted cacti and succulents

Personality: Of the words bumble, patter and sequester, your favorite is patter. You fall asleep every night to an ocean sounds playlist.

Care: Cacti and succulents represent an incredible number of plants and the fact that they're sold under these general names does not mean they all have the same needs. Because of this, it's a smart idea to research your specific cactus or succulent. Some general rules to follow though, are the following: 1. Plant your specimen in well–draining soil. 2. Allow it a lot of light but pay attention to discoloration. This is a sign of too much light exposure. 3. It's not true that cacti and succulents never need to be watered. During their growing season (spring to fall for most), they actually thrive with regular waterings. 


Flowers, dried

Personality: You possess an air of tragic beauty and when you reflect on your past, your eyes get misty thinking of the innocent summers you’ve spent on Lake Geneva. You can speak four languages. Though you hardly contribute in class discussions, your professors never give you anything below a 95 when they grade you for participation.

Care: Think about death and dying.


Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

Personality: Whenever you have to participate in an ice–breaker and share a quirky fact about yourself, you mention something that makes everyone else feel uncomfortable. If humans ever establish a colony on Mars, you think to yourself, you would definitely volunteer to leave Earth. You have an encyclopedic knowledge of pasta.

Care: Ample drainage is a must for a happy Venus flytrap. They do best in bright light but can handle partial shade. Though they can go long periods without eating insects, they must eventually be fed (though that's part of the reason you bought it, isn't it?).


Garlic, sprouting (Allium sativum)

Personality: You’re double–majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science and you do not have time for anyone’s antics. You decided not to buy a meal plan this semester which is a fact that now fills you with constant terror and anxiety. You’re living off of stale cheerios and are enrolled in 6.5 credits (hoping to take 7 in the spring). Your friends love you but they’re worried about you.

Care: Just leave it there on top of the refrigerator, growing slowly, spurting little green tendrils. Look at it every day before you leave for 8:00 a.m. class and let out a sigh.


10-27-16, arts, design, entertainment, essentials, front, front page, frontpage, home, home page, homepage, houseplants, latest-, latest-issue, latestissue, plants, top, top stories, top-news, topnews, topstories

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