Indoor Plants with Hillary Coleman of 1991greenery

February 9, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why are the tips of my plant browning at the end?

This is a question with many answers! Tip browning can be the result of a few different things, some of which contradict each other. For plants that are fans of soils that are dry, brown or dropping leaves can be the result of overwatering. This can be confusing as the temptation when seeing brown leaves can be to water more, and with some plants that are heavy water feeders that might be the case, but don’t jump to that conclusion before understanding your plant’s need. The best tool is to check the soil moisture. If the soil is wet and leaves are dropping, let it dry out, or add dry soil on top to absorbs the moisture. If leaves are dropping and the soil is bone dry, it’s likely an indication the plant needs more water.  

Brown tips can also be an indication of a shock to the system. Are the leaves touching a cold window in winter, or have they grazed the grow light you’ve placed above? Did you recently apply a too heavily concentrated fertilizer? Sometimes brown leaves are an indicator of plant stress if you’ve rapidly changed conditions (like bringing a plant inside in the winter or outside at the start of summer) and it will recover with adaptation.

2. How do I keep my plants happy over the winter?

It’s important to remember that houseplants sometimes have a season of dormancy and rest, just like the rest of our outdoor pals. For most plants, accept a season of less growth due to shorter days and colder temperatures. It’s best to switch to a lower frequency watering schedule to avoid overwatering your plants. For plants that naturally prefer warmer temperatures, move them to warmer, sunnier parts of your apartment or house to prevent temperature shocks and help them stay thriving. 

3. How do I best control moisture for my plant!

Watering issues are one of the primary errors people make when caring for indoor plants. Make sure your pots have drainage in the bottom, or you use a nursery pot inside of a pot without a hole. Remember, no matter how attentive you are, you are not impervious to the laws of drainage! Hillary shared some great tips with us about how to monitor moisture. One option is get a moisture meter to adequately assess moisture levels of your plant (cheap ones run about $5.00). You can also test with your finger – If you stick your finger in the soil and no dirt comes out on your finger, it is likely time to water. This is a general test that does not consider that some plants need much less water, but can be a good tool for getting a feel for moisture in your soil and how much water your plants are taking up. For plants that require consistent watering, self watering bulbs (often called “aqua globes”) make sure moisture levels stay consistent. 


Video Transcript

All right, so we are going to get started and hopefully get up on Facebook Live shortly. For those of you on there. Welcome everybody to Cabin Fever Conversations 2022, we are Abby and Isabel. We are MSU extension educators coming to you from Lansing, which is predictably during this time of year as gray as always. And we're feeling a need to dream of plants to think about getting outside and to find ways to connect with you all. So we decided to bring Cabin Fever Conversation back for another year. We started this in 2020, shortly after the pandemic kind of broke. Thinking that it would be a onetime program that would just kind of keep us going through the few months of the start of the pandemic. And here we are two years later still coming to you remote, still seeking those opportunities to connect and more ways with others. So glad to be here with you. I'm sad that we're all still remote in the space and can't, can always connect in person. But hopefully this will provide an opportunity for you to feel a little more connected with other gardeners, with other like-minded folks throughout the state. We're excited to bring this back for one more year. These centered around light heard of conversations to get you feeling some joys, some enthusiasm, some connection over gardening. Each week we do this MOOC will be three times over the course of this ellipse. And I'm going to stop sharing, sorry, three times over the course of this year. We're going to have conversations with different folks in our community. They're all going to be sort of lighthearted, but related to some particular area that our presenter geeks out about. And we're also very excited to welcome Brenda was doing ASL interpretation for us as well This year. There is live captioning on the bottom of the screen. If you would like to adjust the location of the captions, you can drag that textbox around, can also turn them off using the carrier arrow next to the live transcript. That all allow you to kind of manager on viewing system. So Isabel, I'll pass it over to you. Thanks Abby. So I'm here to introduce our first guest of the series this year, which is Hillary Coleman. So Hillary, Thanks for being here. Hillary is the owner of 1991 Greenery. She's based out of Lansing, like Abby and I. Hillary sells house plants and uses all of her expertise to help diagnose many indoor plant problems. And I'm sure a lot of advice I'm sure you get a lot of questions. Who runs? Probably get a lot today too! So, thanks for being here, Hillary. And if there's anything you want to add to your intro, we're happy to hear it. Like you said, I'm Hillary Goleman, owner of 1991 greenery. I started 1991 Greenery almost two years ago. And I started off just selling plants but really got into, you know, sharing my expertise in diagnosing plant problems. So I just have people throw me an email and I'll look at the picture that are sent and I'll diagnose the problem. So yeah, that's that's what I do. Yeah. Hey, yeah, we are so so happy to have you here. I know you probably saw we have a lot of questions for you from mostly Abby's experience. I think I have three house plants and it's because that's the number I can manage it, but yeah, we're happy to have you here and we want to start off with wondering if you could introduce some of your favorite indoor plants. Some of my favorites are ZZ plant because you can, they thrive, wealth neglect. So one of my favorites, the all favorite Pothos. That's like the plant that, when a beginner comes to me, (I say) get a pathos. Because you can, you can have 1000 different plants off of it if you take care of it right. Monstera is one of my favorite because it just adds a little something different to your space. People think taking care of Monsteras are supposed to be hard, but it's not. And the snake plant because again, those thrive off neglect they're actually part of the succulent family so you barely have to water it. So those are my, my few favorite that I, that I let beginners know that they should buy. It's funny. You've named a couple of the ones I have and I know at the start of the pandemic when a lot of us were spending some more time in our home than previously. My plant forest grew 9 fold, mostly because I siphoned all of my office plants that I knew were going to be neglected and brought them home to care for. And I feel like you just named a lot of them. Pothos was the one that allowed me to kind of figure out how to manage something. living in an indoor is confined space, right? Yeah. So I know you introduced your favorite plants. Did you have a particular plant that got you into house plants or what was kind your intro gateway plant? What kind of gave you that passion about exploring this space? About nine years ago, I had went to Home Depot for a trip to get stuff from my outside garden. And I saw these little bitty succulents just chilling over there I think they're like three bucks... And I bought one and I killed it. I killed it honestly within less than a month because I was just like, Oh, water, water. And then I was like, maybe I should actually read the care card and take care of it. I bought another one, killed that one also. And I just kinda learn from my mistakes. And I was there and noticed. "I'm keeping it alive longer than a month" " OH! This has been alive for six months!" Okay. And I just started to incorporate different ones and just learning how to take care of them and just learning from trial and error. And that little bitty succulent was my gateway. Yeah. I know that shelf with all the tiny succulents. I feel like whenever I bought one, if I haven't killed them, I've left it in the same pot and it gets like crazy, laggy and windy. And I'm like, Maybe I should figure out how to structure it so it thrives, right? I remember being little and seeing like the stone plant like the Lithops, which are so .... I was like "No way That's a plant." Just so bizarre. They are. they are cute They are. Yeah. And so what's the next question? Why do indoor plants or houseplants bring you joy? Or how do they? I think houseplants bring me joy because they're just like a person. If you don't, if you don't put positivity into it, which is water...light... you know all that care into it. Just like a person if you don't put that positive energy and care, if you don't eat well, drink water. You won't thrive. So I just think they're a lot like humans. I always incorporate mental health into my plant journey as well. Because it's, it's, it's the same. If you don't have all the good stuff going into you, you won't thrive... your mental health won't thrive. So that's why they bring me joy. I think I love them.. Yeah, I love that analogy and I think it can be a reminder to take care of yourself too, right, watering your plants, and sometimes I'll have that "Oh! I haven't drank very much water today" Time to take care of us both at the same time ... It's good I've got my water bottle. So getting into some of the more technical things were curious. So a lot of folks I've dabbled in plants to various degrees of success. I know you've shared about your first adventures and killing a plant. I certainly have had my own. What do you think are some of the most common errors where people go wrong in caring for houseplants. I have a list of things, so lighting, bringing a house plant into your home and not given it the proper lighting. So you buy a high a high lighting plant and you don't have good lighting into your home is not going to thrive. Over watering. Just not having a watering schedule or watering too much or not enough. People struggle with that. Those are...that is a big question for me. Every time somebody brings a plant question to me is it's probably 90 percent of the time is going to be a watering problem. I think pots with no drainage. People buy pots with no drainage holes! But they always offer the cutest pots with nothing. So I'm always like "don't buy it." Or just buy it and put a nursery pot in the inside or if you had that drill that can put the hole into it, do it. Do it. Do not put your plant in there without it is not going to thrive. So I'll share that two years ago one of our guests, Rebecca Finneran an MSU person, talks about container gardening and said "the most important thing is the hole" and Isabel and I have this refrain about remembering the hole and yet somehow two years after that and with that echoing in my mind, every time I put something in a pot, I still think I'm impervious to the laws of drainage. Right? I'm like, I am the person that will remember exactly the last time I watered and be able to moderate this soil moisture to exactly the right level. I recently killed my Dracaena. my very lovely kind of palm frondsy thing. Because I was pretty convinced that like I was the one unique specimen who could surpass the laws of drainage. So don't overestimate the need for a hole... the need for drainage...for sure. Yes. And another thing is bringing the wrong plant into your home environment. So you just have to figure out what that lighting is like. How much are you home so you can take care of that plant properly. People bring, like I said in the beginning a high light plant into a low lighting environment or a low light plant into a high light environment. Or, you know, it might be too dry. You know. You just have to know what plant fits your environment, not every plant will. And lastly, not switching up your care into winter from summer to winter because your plant goes dormant. So it needs less watering. Not taking it away from that cold drafty window, or not taking your plants indoors during winter and not having enough lighting in switching up, sometimes you have to move your plants around. So that is very, very crucial. So there's a question about lighting that came in, but I'm wondering if maybe you can share because I think we all have that sensation of, you know, I really like this particular pretty plant and I want it at my house and not thinking about the factors that it might thrive in until you get home and realize you don't get enough. Do you have suggestions? I mean, I know there are artificial lighting setups. Do you use any of that for your own production or have any suggestions about how folks might navigate those challenges? Artificial lighting sometimes, yes. I do have that. I have a grow room in the basement. So just moving my high light plants to that artificial lighting to the basement. Just for the time being, like an example ... a fiddle fig needs so much lighting, and my house doesn't get enough lighting in the winter, so I need to move that to that artificial lighting during the winter for it to survive. So there are some cheap lighting on Amazon. And you can just have in a corner of your house if you don't have the basement and make a whole elaborate grow room situation, there are lights with multiple rounds where you can move them to your plant And there are some good brands. that I like. Pro Gro lighting is a good one. They're on Amazon and eBay. I believe. Their LED lighting is pretty good. So artificial light? Yes. If you don't have enough, I'm all for it. And then maybe just to follow up on some of the moisture issues you talked about. We have some questions about fungus gnats. I generally see those mostly as the indication that I've over water the plant and that there is stagnant water on top. But do you have any thoughts on moisture meters or how to kind of monitor whether or not you're over watering plants or are there other signs that you might have water too much. Moisture meter is a yes. I have this little cheap moisture meter that I like. I think I got it for like 5 bucks at Home Depot. I don't remember Amazon or Home Depot. These little cheapy things are a savior. You'll notice you're not killing your plants as much. So yes. Yes. to a moisture meter. They even have a chart on the back with different plants when you should and what level you should water it or should you let it go A 100 percent bone dry. I like that chart on the back. And just that finger method. I really, if you don't want one of these, use that finger method where you're looking your finger up to your second knuckle and if it pulls out with dirt on it,, it's super wet. So your soil is super wet and you don't have to water it at all. But if it comes out dry, That's how, you know, you should water your plants. So yes, that's a good trick of the trade . I didn't know that Isabel, you want to get into propagation? Yeah. Well, I just have one quick question. Just about a watering schedule. So I guess I'm just curious what your watering schedule kind of looks like. It just physically too, for my own purposes. Is it do you have like everything like the type of plant and like, you know, how often you should water written out? It's all up here... What I do is in the summer when it's spring and summer I try to go for every two weeks I'll kinda go around and with my moisture meter and just kind of test. Are you still moist? Should I be watering you? and just kind of go around and do that. And then in the winter, probably I try to go off by the look of the plant. If is looking droopy, That's how I know it needs water. Because if I don't look at those signs I will over water. And I'll just kind of go around again with my moisture meter every three to four weeks and test and see what needs watering, what does not. That's really all. That's a good tip... So you don't need to get a water meter for every pot. You just kind of move it and measure. You have it. Okay. That makes so much more sense that what I was thinking...that was a big investment for one for every pot. 80 moisture meters I was going to ask too. There were there were a couple of questions on pests. And maybe this is a good troubleshooting section. to get into those, but what do you do once you already have? So obviously avoiding fungus gnats by not over watering. But if you've got fungus gnats, what do you do about them once they're there? Fungus gnats are always going to be there. They're horrible. But putting a thin layer of sand on the top of your soil because they like to lay eggs in your soil. And so once those gnats hatch, they can't burrow up into that that sand. So put that there just to prevent those ones that are having a hatch yet. Those little sticky traps that you stick by your plant, those really work to capture those gnats. Cinnamon kind of sprinkling the cinnamon around. And that's the best of the best and prevent for those because you'll always have them. So those are just the best ways that I use that I actually like. I think I saw my first, this is a sidebar, but I'm pretty sure I saw my first fungus gnat larvae last, last spring when I was starting my seeds. And they're kind of terrifying. They're nasty, little wiggly worms, horrible. And they come in those bags of soil that you get from the store, it is a given even if you don't over water. Yeah. Those are just my favorite ways to prevent those and kinda stop them from going all around the house. Yeah, Very helpful. So now yeah, we're gonna get into propagation a little bit. And we first want to know if there's any sort of plants that you can recommend that are easy to propagate at home. Yeah, I have some examples actually by me. Yes, I like that. So right here I have a a snake plant propagating and I like to use sphagnum moss because it stays a little moist and it's not over. I feel fine when I am with some of the plants like snake plant, they get a little mushy at the bottom and your propagation doesn't work out a lot more. So I'll put it in this moist sphagnum moss. It really works. So I have like a little baby growing right here and it has a good amount of roots growing. So it just keeps it moist but not too moist. So yeah. Snake plant one of my favorites. Monstera. I have it in sphagnum, moss and pearlite. This was a node that I cut off. Then I just stuck in there and it's doing its thing is just doesn't keep it to y. So that's another one of my favorite to propagate. And the best, which is the pothos I am water propagating this one Yes. Old reliable. You see these like to be these are pathos cuttings. They do well in water, so you don't really have to worry about it getting mushy and gross. And I have some Pothos that's been in water for about three years and it still thrives. Yeah. Those are definitely this one is definitely my number one favorite. And I have Allocasia Ooh, which I like to propagate. Yeah, it's just that big ol bulb just propagating in water. Another one that I really, really like to propagate that I'm just a fan of. So when you propagate that one, what would you take off of that current plant in order to create another one? Is that where do I cut off a leaf essentially are kind of they're Allocasia is in a bulb. So splitting up those bulbs and then kind of you see this big, huge growth. I can just bust that off and stick it in water it in, and it will still continue to grow plants, as you can see right here. This plant growing right here. So it'll just continue to put off new plants. What that reminds me of one of my favorite parts of house plants, which is especially with pathos. I feel like I have populated my entire neighborhood with pathos because it always grows to the point that it's unruly or getting too long and you kind of have to trim it back. And I'm in my local "buy nothing" group and it feels like people are always so excited to get new pathos because they're easy to care for that kind of trellis and can cover spots on your wall where you maybe need to paint or whatever. And they're just so easy to take a couple of cuttings and grow really prolifically. So it helps to be able to share your obsession with others. Yes, I love it. I love. I always say, if you get a plant from me, I like you. Like we're automatically best friend's. So sharing plants? Definitely. That's a yes. Yeah, so you, you had mentioned that the word node. And so for beginner propagators, could you explain a little bit more about how to like find where a node is on a plant and maybe what a node is too. I have another awesome. So I have a monstera, this huge monstera growing in some water. So I'll show you a node. The node on here. Just saw it. Last night.... is a good example. Okay, I have my hand on it. If you can see it is going to,,, That's so you see this right here, that little bump right here. where my finger is Oh yeah. It's like a brown bump yeah. That brown little bump. So if you wanted to say I want to make another plant out of this, I will just cut right below that and stick it in water. And that's where it will root. Another root will grow out, and that's where you're cutting will thrive. So the same with a Pothos, Okay. You'll have those little nodes where you see where this little You want to cut right there and stick it in water or whatever growth medium that you want to stick your propagation in. And that's where that root will shoot off. And that's, that's if you want a successful propagation cut where that node is. Make sure you include that because that's where those little baby roots are most of the time. Yep. Correct? Correct. Especially if you're going to do a cutting propagation because some plants don't have that node. So like a plant like pepperomia you'll do the leaf cutting. Ok, Look, Just set it in there and they'll grow like that. So there's no node needed for that cutting. And that's similar for snake plants as well, isn't it? you can just stick the leaf. I had a friend who bought a bouquet of something and I had a few random snake leaves, snake plant leaves in it. And she just liked them, so she put them in water and then the roots system all grew from that. Now she's got herself a nice little plant from the bouquet yes, you don't always need the node, but, a lot of them you do. Well. We're getting a couple of questions. I don't know if it's time to kinda pivot into some of the audience questions but about winter care for flowering plants and how to ensure multiple rounds of flowers. So we got some questions about orchids in particular, I know I have a Christmas cactus, but I can't seem to get two blue more than once. Do you have any tips for encouraging like blooming phases in indoor plants? And I know somebody asked about one of the plants behind you and whether or not you've ever gotten it to bloom. I forget which one it was, but okay, So I'll answer the Flowering, Flowering and then we'll get back to the plant behind me. Oh, for flowering plants, they, they won't pushes much flowers out in the winter because it's kind of going dormant. But to ensure that, you know, they're still staying healthy and strong enough to bloom in the spring and summer. Keep it under a grow light. Always grow light for those just so it can continue to stay strong. And then fertilizing it with like a blooming fertilizer, which you can get from Home Depot or you can even use coffee. So just fertilizing it once it gets spring and summer, to just continue to stay strong, to push out those booms. I think, I think one of the things that people often forget myself included about indoor plants as they are in such a small medium that the nutrients that are in there kind of it right? It's not like it's tapping into this large system of dirt in a garden. So they need to fertilize is more significant in those small pots because once it uses up the nutrients in there, there are no more rate. Correct. And you said coffee grounds can be used for fertilizing to encourage blooms. Do you know why that is? Nitrogen it has okay. The big amount of nitrogen in it. Don't put coffee grounds right on the dirt because they'll start to mold. But they'll say You're, you're running a large pot of coffee and you're just done for the morning. Just run a lot of water through those grounds. Silicon, create a liquefied coffee. So make sure it's almost see-through like tea before you water your plants with it. Or you could just put some strong coffee into your watering pot and then water it that way. But that's been a huge part of my success with my plants especially during spring and summer. Because that fertilizer, I always, I mean, it's free. I drink the coffee, it's great. So definitely use that natural, your natural resources that you have at your home. It's a good justification for drinking more coffee. I'm not addicted to coffee... my plants need it right? There you go. I also think that what you mentioned about lighting to as important and because plants need that, that direct light to bloom, right? So when we think about our outdoor plants too, if there's no sunlight, they're not going to be producing fruit. They're not going to be producing what you need to eat. And it's the same for indoor. And when I am also shamefully thinking about the orchid I have in a dark corner of a room, but I've been wondering why it doesn't bloom and it's like, there you go. There you go. So so do you have any thoughts? We have a couple questions about oh, we talked about the plant behind you. Do you want to talk about that? What the big player here? That's the Bird of Paradise. Yeah. Yeah, I haven't gotten it to bloom because I live in Michigan. That's it. That's the whole reason why reality. If I lived in a warm place where I can have this outside 24/7 in warmth, it will bloom, butI have not gotten this the bloomed yet, I've had it for about two years. But if it bloomed, I would lose my mind. Well, that's good to know. And it's also a good reminder that we are products of the environments that we live. And if we're in Michigan, we're not going to be able to manufacturer a tropical climate unless we are very comfortable with high heating bills and humidified. And so oh yeah. Yes, that's the thing with that light in that heating in your growing environment and make sure that's not going all the way around because you will have a $500 bill. I've done it before, not fun. So there's quite a few questions about how to know when your plant is ready for a larger pot and getting root bound. Do you have any tips on indications that a plant might need, to be transplanted or thoughts about kind of getting root bound. Always, the first thing to notice is your plant is just looking sickly and whatever you do it, you're doing like watering, fertilizing your plants, not bouncing back. And so sometimes just kinda look at the bottom at that drainage hole. Sometimes the root is coming out of it and that's a good indication to get a new pot for it or if you can lift it, if you have time to just lift it, I'll just check the roots in most likely is root bound if it's not bouncing back. But always when it's time to repot it, just always go to one to two sizes bigger. So you just give it room so you don't have to repot every year or so. So. So another question was, what are your favorite types of propagation? So we talked a little bit about finding the node. Yes. What are your favorite types of propagation? There are methods of propagation. Well, just that plant cutting like the snake plant, that's my favorite one. I find I have a lot of success in that just depending on what medium I grow it in. That node cutting, sometimes you'll just it won't even have a leaf just like that little node. You just stick it in some sphagnum moss. In which was this, What I had with this was, this was just a node and I just stuck it in and it started to grow out. Or, you know, that leaf cutting, like I showed you with the wood that Pepperomia where it You just put in some sphagnum moss and I put like a plastic bag over it and it started to shoot out new growth. And those are my favorite,