Sword ferns hung from the ceiling and massive monsteras crept into the frame when we caught up with Jenna Holmes in her lush Melbourne space. The green thumb and self-proclaimed Plant Mama makes a living dishing up stunning interior plant designs for an expansive Aussie clientele, and we got her on Skype to snag some of her top tips. Here are the highlights to help you start your own indoor jungle:
The best plants to start with—and gift.
If you're looking to add more greenery to a blank canvas, Holmes points to pothos as pretty, easy-to-maintain starter plants. Bonus: They make for really unique last-minute gifts, too. "They're really easy to propagate! For presents, I'll just cut a little bit off my pothos, repot it, and give it to a friend. You can really get a lot out of one plant," Holmes told us, pulling up a few bags filled with water and green cuttings. She says it's as easy as cutting off a leaf, sticking it in water until it grows new roots, and repotting it. She also points to the plant's design potential, explaining that it will actually grow faster when it's wrapped around something like a bed frame or table legs.
If you're looking to make more of a statement in your space, Holmes says a monstera is the way to go. "They grow really fast. I have a 15-year-old one, and the leaves are bigger than my torso. It's so beautiful and really easy to keep alive too."
The one tweak that makes planting way more fun.
Holmes cites her own mother as the original plant mama. She has fond memories of helping her mom maintain a house full of greenery to the melodies of Queen, Elton John, and ABBA playing in the background. "My mom was such a groover! She used to carry a Walkman around on her waistband as she was watering her plants—she'd turn taking care of plants into an activity. So when I started working with plants, I put music on too. It changes plant care from a monotonous, kind of boring thing into something that's quite enjoyable," Holmes said. These days, her plant playlist includes a lot of disco for a fun, playful energy. There's research to support the idea that sound influences the way greenery grows, so who knows, maybe a high-vibe song is the key to a happy plant pal.
The plant-care basic that a lot of people get wrong.
When it comes to keeping your plant happy, Holmes says housing it in the right container is key. She keeps her plants in the plastic containers they come in and then places those into a decorative ceramic. The holes in the plastic will help it drain easier so its roots won't become overwatered and rot. If you absolutely have to put a plant directly into a pot that doesn't have holes, she recommends placing it in a thin layer of activated charcoal at the bottom to absorb excess water. Genius.
Keeping your greenery in its original container also makes it easier to tell if it's time for a transplant. "Eventually your plant's roots will get so big and solid that when you press on the plastic container, it's stiff and hard to the touch. If that happens, it's ready to repot," Holmes explained. Most plants will need to be repotted every year or so, and it's best to do so in springtime when they naturally want to grow more shoots.
How to know when you've killed a plant.
Even if your plant looks like it's seen better days, don't toss it just yet! There might still be hope. "What a lot of people don't get is that it's a living thing—it will come back. The easiest way to know if it's alive is to check its root system." If you pull out your plant and its roots are soft and drenched in water, it has root rot and is too far gone. But if the root system looks intact, a good watering or location change may just bring your plant back to vibrant life. For Holmes, plant care—like most things in life—is all about patience and kindness: "If you put time and love into something, it will grow."
Inspired to head to the plant shop? Peep these 7 varieties that clear toxins out of the air first.