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So you want to be a plantito/plantita

By MARIA CRISTINA S. GARCIA Published Sep 24, 2020 1:34 pm Updated Dec 17, 2020 1:47 pm

Turn your black thumb to green with these tips for beginners.

I used to have a black thumb.

My mom would say I must have it because plants withered and died when I touched them. I like plants but I’m not an expert in taking care of them yet.

Having plants around the house exudes a relaxing vibe and livelier ambiance. It’s a different kind of stress relief and brings a sense of pride when you see your plants growing and your surroundings getting greener and gorgeous.

During these pandemic times, growing plants is more than just a hobby to keep you busy. Plants help calm the nerves and contribute to a better mental health. For others, it’s a source of food security.

No surprise then that plantitos and plantitas (or plant dads and moms) have sprouted all over the city.

Check your lifestyle, your schedule before buying plants because they need attention

You can grow a green thumb!

Like me, you can always learn how to grow plants. I discovered that when I took care of my first pair of Fortune trees. I adopted them from my neighbors who left them behind when they moved away.

It is a durable plant that just kept growing its leaves even when I neglected to take care of them. With enough natural sunlight and rainwater, they grew into tall bushes.

Another neighbor who is a gardener told me that I should take care of these trees for they bring good luck to your household. So I took another look at them and decided to do what needs to be done.

The soil in the pots have eroded over time so we had to fill in the pots with fresh soil and covered them with pebbles (to minimize erosion and as added protection from heat).

Gardening teaches you a lot about patience and discipline. Set a specific date and time to form the habit.

Then the trees need to be trimmed just like humans need a haircut. The gardener advised that cutting away the dead branches encouraged new growth and will make the trees healthier. I had it trimmed down to my height, which makes it easier for me to maintain it.

With a little guidance, the trees grew and flourished and my cursed black thumb turned to green! Ten potted plants later, I’m proud to say I have turned into a plantita.

You too can become a plantito/plantita! Here’s how to begin:

1. Assess your surroundings

Before you purchase your new plant baby, take a good look at where you will plant them. Remember that plants need the basic elements to survive — sunlight, water, soil, and air.

Even the tiny cactus on your office desk needs some sunshine and water once a week. Some plants need a lot of sun to fully bloom and reach their potential. While others may need very little sun, they instead require a lot of water even without soil.

Do you live in a house with a huge lawn or pocket garden with lots of sun exposure? Or in a high-rise condo with a covered balcony? Or in a tiny shared room with just a window for natural air and light?

By defining your space and where you will put the plants, it will be easier to narrow down the type of plants you need and the gardening method you will use.

2. Check your lifestyle

Are you the type who will have the time and patience to water the plants every day? Or do you live on a tight work schedule that you can only attend to your plants every weekend?

Ask yourself these questions to help determine the kind of plants that suits your personality and lifestyle. For people who are always on the go, plants like cacti or succulents may be the perfect fit for them.

These types are not too demanding for water or sunlight or the perennial pruning required by other plants. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty with soil, then try hydroponics (planting using just water) or tillandsia (air planting using hanging pots).

Gardening teaches you a lot about patience and discipline. Setting a specific date and time to attend to your plants will let you form the habit. When you incorporate it into your daily routine you will be surprised with the results.

Share your experience — nothing beats the advice of a professional gardener or a very experienced plantito/plantita

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for gardening tips

Though we have YouTube to provide us with gardening tips, nothing beats the advice of a professional gardener or a very experienced plantito/plantita.

Simply posting a picture of your plant on Facebook and sending a shoutout for help will give you loads of information. Like you, everyone has gone through some successes and failures in gardening.

The nuggets of wisdom they share from their own experiences are very important in your development as a plantito/plantita so listen very well.

You will even be surprised that you have friends who are very good gardeners but are just being very secretive about it. You can also join some gardening clubs where you can exchange plants and tips among people with the same interests.

Remember that plants need the basic elements to survive — sunlight, water, soil, and air

4. Always remember that there are other living beings to consider

In maintaining your garden, you must remember that there are other creatures sharing the space. Your plants may attract all sorts of bugs and worms that may or may not be helpful for their growth.

You might one day wake up and all the leaves of your plants have been eaten away by big fat caterpillars (just like what happened to mine). You have the choice of getting rid of the caterpillars or let them stay on until they transform into butterflies.

It was quite a dilemma for me because I was really curious about their evolution that I didn’t want to use any kind of insect killer to get rid of them.

I was advised, however, that these critters will end up eating all my other plants. I was still dilly-dallying with what to do when my neighbor got rid of the caterpillars for me. I honestly felt sad.

Always remember that there are other living beings to consider — critters that eat leaves and pets that may get poisoned from toxic plants.

But then I came to realize that there are animals that do depend on our plants to live. So before you use that insecticide on your plants, you may want to think about switching to something safer or organic-based.

Some indoor plants can be toxic to your pet dogs or cats (like snake plants and some cactus varieties). Dogs and cats tend to chew on leaves when they have tummy trouble. To avoid accidents, you may want to keep your pots out of reach by hanging them high up from the ceiling or placing them outdoors.

You do have to be flexible and creative with your gardening strategies to keep your environment safe for your entire family and that includes pets.

Keep these tips in mind and enjoy your journey in becoming a fully bloomed plantito/ plantita. It’s never too late to learn new things and gardening will definitely help you grow.