Editor’s note: We’ve been fans of “the Jungalow lady,” also known as Justina Blakeney, an L.A. mom, plant and home décor extraordinaire and cultural trendsetter, for years. Her vibrant Instagram feeds and books have encouraged even those of us with “brown thumbs” to risk bringing live plants into our homes and to be more daring when mixing up patterns in textiles, throw pillows and rugs. And we’re also going to go out on a limb and say it is Blakeney, founder of the home décor brand Jungalow, who has brought bold wallpapers back into vogue.
In this column, Blakeney offers some fantastic tips for anyone who wants to become a better plant parent. In no time at all, you’ll be calling your plants “plant babies,” too. “Houseplants require care, but they reward their caretakers with a wide range of joyous sensual qualities — not only visual beauty, but also the scent of their flowers and the taste of their fruits and leaves. They are colorful, patterned and textured, and literally add life to any space,” Blakeney writes in her latest book, “Jungalow: Decorate Wild.”
Using plants to decorate is a great way to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside — and to bring vibrant colors and patterns into a space. I love having plants at all levels. I’ll have some on consoles, tables, on the floor or high on shelves. However, you, of course, need to keep their needs in mind (sunlight, water, etc.), as they are fellow living beings.
Here are some tips on caring for specific types of plants:
The spider plant is great because it can tolerate a range of light conditions. It’s on NASA’s list of air purifier plants and is nontoxic to pets. A few care tips to keep in mind:
- Plant in a pot with good drainage, water when the top half of soil is dry to the touch, and be sure to drain any excess water from saucers or cache pots.
- Spider plants prefer bright, indirect light. They can tolerate lower light, but the leaves will lose some of their color.
- Spider plants look best as a hanging plant with room to spread out but can also work on top of a tall shelf or other piece of furniture.
While I have many favorite plants, the zebra plant is definitely toward the top of the list! The zebra plant is not easy to care for, but the dramatic foliage and flowers are worth the extra attention this plant requires. A few care tips to keep in mind:
- Plant in a pot with good drainage, keep the soil moist to the touch, but not soggy. After watering, drain any excess water from saucers or cache pots to prevent root rot. Provide high humidity levels to avoid leaf drop/browning.
- Zebra plants like very bright, indirect light and will not tolerate direct sun.
- Zebra plants need humidity, so any space in your home that’s extra humid is ideal — kitchens and bathrooms are good spots. Avoid sticking them where heat or air conditioning will blow on the plant.
- Bonus: Zebra plants are nontoxic to cats and dogs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA.
Bird of paradise
Often confused for palm trees and banana plants, the Bird of Paradise is commonly used in landscaping in warmer climates and can also be grown indoors. For outdoor use, plant them directly in the ground in warm climates; in a container in climates with cold winters. Just be prepared to transition them to an indoor spot for the winter. No matter where you plant them, a bird of paradise is sure to bring on major tropical vacay vibes! A few tips to keep in mind:
- Very bright indirect, to some direct sun will keep these tropical beauties happy and healthy.
- For climates with colder winters or indoor use, plant in a pot with good drainage. In containers, keep the soil moist, but not wet or soggy in the summer and spring, and allow it to dry at least halfway down in the fall and winter. For outdoor plantings, water liberally in the warm months and slightly less in cooler months. Older, more established plants can tolerate periods of drought and may not require as much water.
- According to the ASPCA, these plants are toxic to cats and dogs. You should always use caution whenever bringing a new plant into your home and consult your veterinarian.
We have a designated Tupperware in our kitchen that we use for composting. We toss in any food waste that otherwise would’ve gone in the trash (apple cores, banana peels, etc.) and once a week, we empty out the Tupperware in our compost, which we then use to create soil for our plants!
For more from Justina, visit justinablakeney.com.