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Top 5 Houseplant Ideas for Your New Year’s Resolution

Getting and caring for a houseplant is a great New Year’s resolution in general. It’s realistic, sustainable, and provides long-lasting rewards. Even still, it will only work out if the resolution speaks to you on a personal level. Whether you’re already a houseplant enthusiast or just starting out, here are our top 5 houseplant ideas for the New Year.

  1. Overcome your reputation for having a black thumb.

If you tend to forget to water your houseplant, get one that thrives on neglect. Some houseplants are also better than others at telling you they need water. These are the big reasons why succulents are such a popular category of houseplant. Maybe what you need to do different is match the houseplant with the lighting conditions. You can’t put a low-light plant in an unfiltered window with southern exposure. You can’t put a sun-loving plant in the middle of a room with windows that have northern exposure. Be sure to use a potting mix that is formulated for your houseplant and a pot with good drainage, especially holes in the bottom and a saucer or catchment pot.

  1. Learn How to Compost Your Own Potting Soil.

It’s good for the environment and good for houseplants. Composting soil is similar to using a slow cooker in the kitchen. You can do things to activate and accelerate the composting process, but it still takes several months to go from food and lawn scraps to ready-to-use compost. You’ll also need to add some soil amendments and aerators to turn the compost into a potting mix for houseplants. This is one time we recommend testing the compost and final potting mix for relative acidity and alkalinity levels. You can use peat moss as aerator to increase the acidity level of the soil. Perlite or vermiculite are better choices to make the compost more alkaline.

  1. Propagate a New Houseplant from an Existing Plant.

Stop paying for every one of your houseplants. Get the extra sense of belonging and bonding that comes from propagating your own new houseplant. Expand your basic skill set with caring for houseplants. Start creating gift plants from the new cuttings, or trade with your friends and family who share your love of houseplants but have different types in their home. One of the easiest methods of propagation, you can also learn how to grow houseplants in water.

  1. Use a Houseplant for a Practical Household Chore.

Depending on the type, houseplants can be used for fragrance, medicine, or in the kitchen. There’s a good chance you already have at least one houseplant that fits into one of these categories. Aloe vera is a common ingredient in skin lotions. Jasmine, gardenias, and heliotropes are all popular choices for fragrance. Basil, rosemary, sage, and even dwarf citrus trees can all be cultivated as potted plants. Just be sure you know what you’re doing. Creating aloe vera gel on your own isn’t that difficult, but the outside part of the plant is actually a skin irritant that can make the problem worse.

  1. Get a Houseplant to Flower for the First Time.

There are lots of houseplants that are resilient enough to survive in challenging conditions but need extra help to blossom and show their flowers. Many low-light houseplants will have fine-looking foliage but won’t flower until they’re given a brighter spot. Other plants, like the Christmas cactus, require long periods without light to reset their growth cycle and produce flowers. The first idea some people have is to use fertilizer. This can help when done right, but if you use the wrong kind, the wrong amount, or at the wrong time, you could end up doing more harm than good. It may also simply be time to repot or add some fresh potting mix. Good houseplant care is essential, and this includes the watering schedule, but more often the culprit is sunlight—either too much or too little. As with so many things, you need to know what that particular type of houseplant wants.

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How Indoor Plants Increase Health and Happiness

You’ve probably heard the idea that houseplants can improve your health and productivity, but how much of this hype is real? Overall, a robust set of reputable studies suggest that indoor plants can increase mental health and cognitive performance in various ways. These positive effects are closely correlated with those observed by immersing people in natural settings. The great outdoors is good for you—as is the effort to bring a bit of this nature indoors with you.

Education is one of the best ways to get yourself to buy into indoor plants for health and productivity. Houseplants aren’t a cure for everything. Learn what is mostly hype and what it is about houseplants that seems to offer these benefits in study after study. Then, you can choose indoor plants that make the most sense for your home or office, while gaining new insights about how to optimize these spaces for health and productivity.

Productivity and Performance

Being outside—or even just the feeling of being outside—can cultivate that elusive quality of relaxed concentration, of effortless effort, of sustained productivity. Nowadays, office plants are almost universal fixtures or at least highly encouraged among the company’s workforce. This literature review from Psychology Today shows that there are widespread psychological benefits to natural settings and indoor plants. This includes better memory retention, concentration, and creativity, while reducing levels of stress, depression, and cognitive impairment.

The Truth about Plants and Indoor Air Quality

You don’t need to literally recreate a natural setting to get the health benefits of indoor plants—unless you’re trying to improve the indoor air quality. This is one area where the hype doesn’t live up to the science—in part because of a misunderstood NASA study that looked at the effect of plants on air quality in a closed environment like the international space station. Even in modern buildings, there is so much ventilation that you need to fill almost every square foot of space with plants to make a noticeable difference in indoor air quality.

Don’t Overlook Ornamental Value

People like things that look pretty. As part of their literature review on the benefits of houseplants, the Texas A&M Agriculture Extension found multiple studies that looked specifically at the benefits of having flowers in the home and office. Flowers were found to improve mood and reduce the risk of depression by helping people feel more secure and relaxed. You can achieve these benefits by replenishing cut flowers, but there’s a particular joy reserved for cultivating your own flowering houseplants, such as begonias. The blooms may not last forever, but some houseplants, like the prayer plant, have foliage with great ornamental value.

Staying Connected and Grounded

Decorating your home and workspace already provides many of these benefits, but the opportunity to care for houseplants offers its own rewards. It may not be quite the same as tending to an outdoor garden, but there is still something to be said for testing houseplant soil for moisture and pH levels. And don’t be afraid to take a moment and come up with some creative names for your plants. A connection to your indoor plants still won’t fix what’s wrong with your day, but it can soften the emotional consequences. And during times of self-isolation, caring for indoor plants can be a true life-saver.

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Alternate Names for the Wandering Jew Houseplant

Have you heard the news? The houseplant tradescantia zebrina is no longer called the Wandering Jew. A lot of people are still using this popular nickname, but there is also a groundswell of houseplant enthusiasts advocating for a different name. Not sure what the controversy is about? Not sure where you stand on the issue. Here is what you need to know about calling this popular houseplant a Wandering Jew and what alternate names you can use instead.

Why Do We Need a Different Name for the Wandering Jew Plant?

Some people don’t like using groups of people as mascots. They consider the very idea offensive, another way of objectifying people. The most common counterargument is that these mascots celebrate and/or remind us of peoples’ heritage and our shared humanity. So long as these mascots don’t denigrate the communities they claim to honor, what’s the harm? In our opinion, these factors must be considered on a case-by-case basis. More to this point, it’s a great opportunity to understand the history and myth of the Wandering Jew.

The Wandering Jew is NOT Moses: If you haven’t studied Jewish history, you might assume that the Wandering Jew is Moses and the other Jewish people who wandered in the desert for all those years. Don’t make this mistake. Not anymore. If nothing else, save yourself the embarrassment of being corrected by someone who knows the actual myth and history.

The Wandering Jew has Become a Deicidal Myth: All too commonly, the Wandering Jew is depicted as someone who taunted Jesus during the crucifixion and was then cursed to wander the earth until the Second Coming. The myth of the Wandering Jew was first popularized in 13th Century Europe. Since that time, the story has been used as justification for violence and as part of a larger antisemitic trope in which people of Jewish faith and heritage are blamed for Jesus’ death. In fact, there is no historical evidence to support this myth. In 2011, the pope concurred that Jews were not responsible for the crucifixion.

Isaac was the Original Wandering Jew: Jewish scholars point to a different within their faith that could serve as the original Wandering Jew. Specifically, Isaac, the son of Abraham, became wealthy by raising crops in the land of the Philistines, who then cast Isaac out of their lands for his riches. In this version, Isaac started digging wells on his travels and increased his wealth even more. The Philistine lords then apologized and welcomed Isaac back in the hopes of currying favor.

Thus, if you’re going to continue to call your houseplant a Wandering Jew, then we recommend you help reclaim the nickname by framing the choice within the Jewish tradition.

Other Names for the Wandering Jew

  • Inch Plant: This is our favorite alternative. It keeps the relevance of a nickname that describes the plant’s rapid, sprawling growth. Typically, the leaf nodes and purple flowers are spaced an inch apart. It’s also sometimes said that during the growing season tradescantia zebrina can grow an inch and new leaf node every single week. Which is an exaggeration but not by much.
  • Wandering Dude: A simple variant of Wandering Jew, this nickname makes us wonder whether dude doesn’t indicate a type of person and makes for a poor mascot. Plus, we’re just not crazy about how it sounds. Still, it’s a common alternative.
  • Spiderwort: Tradescantia zebrina is, in fact, a spiderwort plant. The only problem is that there are several kinds of tradescantia, or spiderwort, plants. But if you’re looking for a polite way to describe this houseplant, you can say, “It’s a special kind of spiderwort plant.” Other popular types include the Amethyst Kiss, Concord Grape, Red Grape, and Sweet Kate.
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Is Your Succulent Getting Enough Light? Look for ‘Leggy’ Growth

I planted these succulents at the same time from the same local plant shop. I believe they are Eve’s Pin Cactus or sometimes called Eve’s Needle Cactus. I planted one of them in a miniature pot and placed it directly in the middle or a narrow windowsill. The other succulent I placed in the middle of the room in a desert-themed terrarium on my dining room table. The cactus on the windowsill has grown full, dense foliage but only a little vertically. The cactus in the terrarium has shot up but with only small and sparsely spaced leaves. That’s because this succulent isn’t getting enough light. Or at least less light exposure than is ideal. This plant can likely survive in this way for a long time, but it must compensate to do so leaving it vulnerable to other stressors in its environment. I’ll have to keep an eye on this houseplant.

What to Do about Leggy Growth

The most obvious solution is to move the plant to a sunny spot in your home and/or replace the plant with one that does better in low-light conditions. You may notice that the leggy growth is concentrated on the side of the plant facing away from the sun. In this case, the answer may be as simple as rotating the plant every month or at least a few times a year. Another thing that can help to some degree is pinching the plant and removing the growth that’s most affected by the leggy growth. That said, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says you have to do anything about leggy growth. Give the plant a second look, and you may decide you like the stretched look.

Other Houseplants that Reach for Light or Show Leggy Growth

Lots of houseplants will exhibit leggy growth when they aren’t getting enough light. Some houseplants have naturally bigger leaves than others, but in most every case leggy growth can be characterized by elongated stems and stunted leaves compared to the plant’s normal growth pattern. Knowing the type of houseplant you’re dealing with makes it a lot easier to recognize the difference between healthy growth and leggy growth patterns. Here is a photo series that shows a leggy begonia plant being nursed back to full health.

Other Signs a Succulent isn’t Getting Enough Light

Before leggy growth occurs, there is often an initial compensation the plant will make by tilting their leaves to maximize its exposure to light. Consider this an early warning sign. Many succulents are slow-growing, but if the leaves themselves show lackluster growth, this could be another sign. Some plants, like the Spanish bluebell hyacinth, also have yellowish leaves when lacking sunlight. If it’s getting just a little less than the ideal amount of sunlight, some houseplants will compensate by conserving energy. It may have full foliage and stay healthy for many years but will not flower unless it’s moved to a sunnier spot.