With lockdown restrictions continuing across most of the country, many people are turning to indoor hobbies to stay sane and entertained. Around the time of brief but glorious sourdough craze, many Angelenos turned to the garden to soothe their nerves.
Studies suggest that the presence of houseplants can lower blood pressure, increase productivity, and contribute to a general feeling of wellness. Although many plants have been touted as air purifiers, they’re no replacement for an air purification system.
A much-hyped 1989 report by NASA found that plants can filter out harmful chemicals when they’re in a sealed, airtight environment. But since none of us live in a hermetically sealed bubble, they are not as effective at cleaning the air in your home or office. Drexel University engineering professor, Micahel Waring, explained that a small office would need 1,000 plants to be equivalent to a typical ventilation system.
Even though they’re not quite purification powerhouses, indoor plants can boost your mood and provide a new hobby during this anxiety-ridden time.
“As more people stay at home, the desire to beautify their living areas is definitely heightened,” said Meg Hashimoto, whose family owns one of the oldest nurseries in Los Angeles. “It feels good to have some greenery in the house to brighten up your day.”
Mag says Hashimoto Nursery has seen an increase in sales since March and adapted to the pandemic by offering curbside pickup to minimize person-to-person contact.
“Regardless of what type of home space you have, there is a plant that can do well in it. Whether it be low light or lots of sun, there are so many plants with different needs to fit the space,” Hashimoto said. “Even one small plant can lighten up an area and create a sense of warmth.”
In sunny Los Angeles, drought-tolerant plants are always popular. And, thanks to Instagram and Pinterest, succulents are having a moment. Not only are these fleshy plants low-maintenance, but they are also relatively affordable and extremely photogenic.
“Echeveria is what most people picture when they think of a succulent,” said Felix Navarro, owner of The Juicy Leaf. Navarro left the financial industry to open The Juicy Leaf and, since the pandemic, has been keeping busy with online succulent arranging classes.
“The zz plant [Zamioculcas zamiifolia] is also a succulent and it doesn’t require a lot of light or a lot of water,” Navarro said.
He also recommends the mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant as an easy-to-care-for option.
“I like that it’s so adaptable and resilient,” Navarro said. “I’m really impressed with it.”
Hashimoto agreed, adding that besides the snake plant, pothos and herbs are also popular choices for apartment gardens. One of her personal favorites is the dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola) which typically grows between four and eight feet tall.
Navarros says that many plants can thrive indoors but the most common mistakes he sees are related to watering and sunlight.
“Watering for succulents is a huge misconception. You don’t need to spray your succulent to water it, I recommend spraying just to keep it dust-free,” Navarro said.
Navarro explains that most people don’t correctly use grower pots, the green or terracotta colored pots with holes at the bottom. Instead of watering the plants over the sink and letting the moisture drip through the holes, he suggests placing the grower pot on a saucer or small dish and letting the plant sit for 30 minutes so the roots can absorb the water.
Even though succulents are sun tolerant, be mindful of how much sunlight plants require and where they’re placed in your apartment. While a windowsill may seem like an ideal home for potted plants, harsh sunlight magnified through a window can burn a plant’s leaves and dry its soil.
With the right care, succulents can thrive for many years. Navarro says some of his plants are 17-years-old.
“What I do is my absolute passion. This is a challenge and hard work,” Navarro said. “When I’m planting I feel alive. Plants give you purpose and make your life better. No matter what happens you can always get into your garden.”