Monday, June 27, 2016

Skull Pot and Black Thumb Gardening

 How to Repot a Plant
Step 1: Sorely neglect plant for years.

Step 2: Marvel at plant's tenacious will to survive.

Step 3: Purchase terra cotta pot, saucer and proper soil.

Step 4: Spend infinitely more time painting pot than ever spent on caring for plant.

Step 5: Actually take time to read up on repotting plant.

Step 6: Discover new pot is way too big.

Step 7: Get smaller pot.

Step 8: Quickly sponge paint smaller pot due to mounting guilt over taking too long to repot.

Step 9: Repot plant. 

To paint this pot I used painter's tape as I've done on previous projects.  This was a really simple design that was quick to cut out by hand. If you have a fancy machine, a repositionable vinyl might be the way to go, but I've never used it. For this pot I've spray painted a base coat and layered on acrylics, but I've also done just acrylics with equal results. For the record I went all out with metallics but in the pictures the gold looks yellow, the copper looks red and the silver looks white.  Also I couldn't decide which side I liked best, so you get to see them all whether you like it or not.

At first I wasn't sure about the paint durability, what with watering and all but I have a couple pots that I did years ago and don't seem any worse for wear. All the pots I've done are indoors and out of direct sunlight, so not sure how they would fare under other conditions. 

My grandmother had house plants everywhere. Crowded along window sills, set on small tables, hanging down, on plant stands, and anyplace else you could put a plant. I never really paid attention to them. I couldn't even tell you what they were except for the spider and bleeding heart plants, which fascinated me both in name and appearance. But I realize now they were working a subtle magic in the background, bringing a little life, a little color, and a bit of serenity with their presence. Anyplace populated with plants has that affect on me and I wanted that in my home, except for as long as I can remember I've had a black thumb.  In retrospect my biggest crime has been overwatering.  In my cruel ignorance as I watched them turn yellow, assuming it was from lack of water because plants must need water like I needed air, I watered them more, oblivious to their silent screams.  I was once gifted a big beautiful jade plant, I can't even speak of it.  

The important thing now is that I no longer overwater. But that alone isn't enough to curtail the body count. It's not that I don't have a green thumb it's just that I'm terribly lazy and forgetful when it comes to plants.  I found the key to successfully cohabiting with vegetation is to know thyself. If you are like me, there are tons of plants that more than happy to be neglected by you.   Search on "easy care" or "hard to kill" (Also good qualities to have in a life partner).  As a bonus most of these plants are also some of the highest rated air purifiers (Life partners not so much.  See "dutch oven")

I forget to water, so plants that need to dry out between waterings are good. Also good for me are plants that will tolerate being root bound since it'll be awhile before I repot anything.  Also when I say a plant will put up with abuse, that doesn't mean it will flourish and be the loveliest plant ever.  Although some will, what I mean here is that they will merely stay alive long enough for you to get your shit together. 
Besides being generally neglectful there are a few things I actually do.  When I finally get around to watering, I use filtered water.  I also like clay pots because they dry out faster.  Although slapping a bunch of paint on a clay pot is going to make it less porous, I still have better success with them than a plastic pot. I've also been adding perlite to my potting soil. I originally got the perlite to grow snake plant leaf cuttings, which has been a complete fail even though it's supposed to be so easy. Nonetheless I'm glad I had it on hand to amend my crappy (ahem Miracle Gro) soil. There is some great information at Plants Are The Strangest People about soil that I wish I had read before I ever owned a plant. There is a wealth of knowledge in all things house plant related there and it's also highly entertaining, which is not something I thought I'd ever say about a plant blog, so most of the plant links here lead there.

With the exception of the spider plant which I just got, here are a few plants that I've had over a year and haven't killed:

Snake Plant - It's all those things I listed above and does fine in any lighting.  PATSP delivers the best article I've read on this plant.  I would probably say that about any plant article that managed to reference Gremlins and Kiss but it has loads of good information too. 

African Violet - Another good read at PATSP.  Seems some people take their African Violets very seriously. I should probably keep an eye out for angry mobs with pitchforks and torches after I post this.  There are many complex ways to water them.  I just use a thin spout watering can and water the soil underneath the leaves (you're not supposed to get the leaves wet) until the water runs out the drain holes.  Then I don't water again until the soil is dry, sometimes too dry. Actually this is pretty much the way I water everything. I have forgotten to water them until they were bone dry and wilted and they came right back after watering.  I've had them in areas too shady or too cold.  I recently split my two plants into a half dozen crowns each, like this video, because they were so overgrown. I did buy African Violet potting soil, so I'm not a complete monster.

Pothos - It would probably like better lighting or more water than I give it, but it hasn't complained. When I was a kid everyone had this and spider plants and now I know why, hard to kill and easy to propagate.  Everyone also always had a few slips in water rooting to make new plants, either for themselves or to give away.
Peace Lily - This one needs water more frequently than my other plants, but it's nice enough to go limp when it gets thirsty as a visual reminder.  Even if you forget about it until it's so wilted it looks dead, it's very forgiving and perks right up after watering.  I've since learned that for me plants that need more water have to be either in the kitchen or close to it. Try drinking a glass of water while they are guilting you with their thirsty eyeless stare. Also after the flower dies you have these awesome caterpillar looking things that are definitely going in a potion bottle after I come up with a better name than Awesome Caterpillar Looking Things.


Spider Plant - I haven't had mine long enough to claim that I can't kill it, but I have faith it will survive. I got mine the old fashioned way as a piece off my friend's plant. 

Christmas Cactus - This is the plant I had to repot and it's looking much happier.  I used cactus potting soil this time around, with some extra perlite. It's put up with a lot of hardship and it would definitely be much fuller if I properly cared for it.  From this point forward I will try to be a better plant person.

Besides low maintenance plants, it's also helped me to only get a couple at a time, adding to my brood when I was pretty confident with what I had.

I also have a calathea, which I'm not listing as hard to kill because everything I've read says its a fussy plant, but I've had a gorgeous one for a few years now. I only mention it because it doesn't hurt, (well maybe the plant, but not you) to try something outside your comfort zone once in awhile.

I'm not any better about watering stuff outside either, so I only have a small area for annuals, in the ground not in pots.  That's important because outside pots need regular watering.  "Drought tolerant" annuals are great for those such as myself. Drought tolerant flowers generally need a couple weeks to get established, which happens to be the exact length of my outdoor watering attention span. Marigolds are fabulous at not dying if you are looking for a hardy flower. I have never killed a marigold, they have plant balls of steel. 

Real quick, one more painting method.  Gunmetal base coat.  Silver paint slapped on leaves. Press leaves to pot.  Sponge metallic black on top of leaves to define the edges a bit more. While the paint is still wet peel off leaves. 

The middle one looks more like a flower print than leaves, but it's not.  That's sweet woodruff. Pictured on the left are segmented pieces of one stem. Do be warned this can be an invasive plant. In the plant world invasive means Level 3 Zombie hard to kill. I have it growing in isolated rocked off area.