How to manage a large plant collection
How many plants do you have at home? Whether it's 10, 50 or 100, you have to take care of them. Today, two social network superstars, known for their passion for plants and the beautiful photos of their jungles on Instagram share their tips and tricks for maintaining a large collection of plants. With nearly 170 plants for one and over 260 plants for the other, Jonathan Lefrançois and Miriam Schmid, aka Mee Schmid Plantlady, are what you might call professional plant collectors.
Jonathan Lefrançois is a graphic designer from Montreal. You can see his work here and buy design merchandise for plant lovers here. If you want to admire the jungle, we go here instead. Jonathan developed a passion for indoor plants almost 3 years ago. Today, he estimates that he owns between 150 and 170 specimens.
Miriam Schmid, better known as Instagram, Mee Schmid Plantlady, lives in Alfalfa, Switzerland. She has more than 260 plants at home (in fact, she stopped counting them after 250). Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., she works as an online shop manager for a company specializing in the wholesale of plants, accessories and flowers. Thus, she is responsible for the websites of e.c.fischer and trendboerse_luzern. Subscribe to receive Mee's newsletters (in German) and see the different content she creates for the social networks of these two companies. And don't forget to visit her own online shop.
All you need to know about managing a large plant collection
You both have a lot of plants. Have you set a limit after a certain number of plants?
Over time, I understand which plants won't look as good in my home and I end up giving them to my friends or family members. When I first started, I thought having more would be cool, but at some point it became difficult to take care of them. It goes against the idea of having plants if you end up killing them.
At one point, I would come home with 3 or more plants every day! After accumulating 200 plants, I took a short break. Today, if I find a plant that is on my wishlist, I can't help but buy it. But I have made a rule for myself. I can only buy a new plant if one of my plants at home dies.
Where do you get most of your plants?
I'm fortunate to work in the field. So I get my plants from where I work (a wholesale plant, decoration and flower company). Here are their websites: www.ec-fischer.ch and www.trendboerse.ch.
The majority of my plants have been exchanged or cut. I would say about 60% of my collection comes from cuttings or exchanges (I did the count at some point last year). Otherwise when I buy, it is often in shops in my neighbourhood.
If not, a friend showed me how to propagate succulent plant leaves and I was completely captivated. I started asking everyone for plant cuttings to try his tricks. It became a passion pretty quickly.
Also, I recommend to divide his rare plants as soon as possible. That way, you can quickly exchange with other people at a lower cost. I was able to find a lot of rarer plants by cutting mine. It takes a little more patience afterwards, but it's worth it and it costs less.
What system do you use to water your plants? Quarantine them? Treat them? Give them fertilizer?
As far as watering is concerned, I plan a time each week to go around my plants and water them. During the summer, I water them every 3 days instead. As for my fat plants and my cacti, I water them every 3 weeks. I have quarantined a plant only once! I put it in the bathroom. Every week, I go around my plants and clean them to remove the dust and cut the yellow leaves. Finally, I use fertilizer sticks every 3 weeks.
I water a little here and there, otherwise I try to do everything on the same day (give a shower, clean). My space is open, so I can't really quarantine. When I bring in a new plant, I dig it up, I clean its roots thoroughly, I rinse it out and sometimes I let it soak in a little insecticidal soap. Sometimes I also spray them with a rubbing alcohol solution (for spider mites). Diluted peroxide for watering the soil also helps with midge larvae and eggs. A ratio of 1 to 10 of peroxide in water is what is recommended from what I have read.
So I do a thorough cleaning as a prevention, and then I keep my fingers crossed. Then all I have to do is inspect every time I water - I check the plant, the potting soil, the saucers, the pots, and try to clean everything. As a fertilizer, I use Marphyl every 2 weeks or so (during the growing season).
When did you first notice that a system was needed for the maintenance of your plants?
When I started collecting plants, I brought in several at once. Let's just say that the surprises came with... After that, I started to do more prevention and to inspect my plants regularly. Now, as soon as I detect something wrong, I take care of it immediately. I haven't had any problems so far with this way of doing things.
After accumulating 80 plants (after one year), I developed a system to regulate the watering and maintenance of my plants. I chose a particular day to water my plants. On the other hand, if I notice that a plant seems to be thirsty, I do not hesitate and I water it immediately. Taking care of my plants makes me happy. It's not work for me, it's a pleasure. I feel relaxed when I take care of my collection. The only thing I don't like is preparing the filtered water for watering. It takes a lot of time to make sure that the water is lime-free. So when it rains, I take advantage of it to collect rainwater.
How much time do you spend per week taking care of your plants?
It takes me about 5 hours a week to take care of my plants. I spend time with them every day.
A few hours in all and everywhere. Some weeks it's less if I'm overwhelmed, but I usually regret it. I always regret it when I notice problems that I could have avoided if I had continued to do more regular maintenance. I think that once the collection is too big and it's stressful, we should cut back and only keep the plants that make us happy.
What do you do when you travel?
I have a good friend with a green thumb who takes care of my plants when we go on a trip.
It's rare that I leave for long periods of time (self-employed people will know why!). Otherwise, I hire a friend to water them.
Jonathan, you have a cat and Mee, a little girl. Do you do anything in particular to prevent them from destroying your plants?
I adopted my cat before plants so I knew a little bit what to expect. I definitely keep everything high. My cat doesn't climb everywhere and isn't interested in plants so I'm lucky in that respect. On the other hand, it's always a risk to have poisonous plants around animals and young children, even if everything goes well. You never know.
My little girl is very careful with plants. She learned at a very early age that plants are living things and that they are good for us. She respects mother nature. Sometimes we water the plants and remove the yellow leaves together. However, she needs my help to do this. I have never lost any plants because of her. She knows many of their names. She is very interested in plants and seems open to learning more about them, but I don't actively promote them. Since I have many plants, it is my responsibility. Children are curious and when you have plants, they automatically learn a lot about them. My daughter knows how to cut plants and finds it very exciting to look at their roots. I like being able to make my daughter aware of nature and the importance of taking care of it. After all, they are living things.
What are your favourite plants (and plant varieties) and why?
In my first apartment, my first plant was a monstera deliciosa. It is one of the first ones I bought almost 3 years ago when I started to take a serious interest in plants. Today, it is my monstera thai constellation (variegated) that I bought by accident believe it or not.
I also love the leashes! There are a lot of cool varieties and they are quite easy to care for. It's also an easy plant to share because it often grows runners.
I like all plants, but monsteras and sansevières are among my favourites. My monstera deliciosa is the biggest plant in my jungle. It really makes my house look like a jungle and I love the shape of its leaves. It is in the middle of my living room and overlooks all my plants.
I also really like the strapworm, which is a sturdy plant. You can place this greasy plant all over the house. It also cleans the air by producing a lot of oxygen.
Have you ever had problems with infestation? If so, what have you done to deal with the problem?
Yes! At first I had trouble with mealy bugs on my heart chain. It was in the middle of winter and this plant is quite difficult to manage when it is very long. I threw it away because I didn't have the knowledge to treat it. Even today I don't know if I would have had the patience to treat this type of plant with many small leaves. I had thrips at some point and this was the worst nightmare honestly. They spread super fast and lay their eggs everywhere. Luckily I was able to get rid of them with an insecticide I was given.
Mealy bugs are the worst! I'm lucky I've only had one plant with this problem in the past. I gave the plant a shower and used insecticides to get rid of it. I tried everything... but only strong treatments help. The miraculous brand for me was Maag. It was the only solution that worked. Neem oil and alcohol weren't enough.
Would you like to mention anything else on the subject for the readers? Resources (books, articles, Facebook groups, etc.)?
I have some books in German on green plants and succulents. If I need to know something specific, I search on Google or I ask questions to gardeners at my work.
I think that joining communities and groups (such as https://www.facebook.com/groups/montrealplants/) is very helpful for information sharing, identification, diagnosis, cutting sharing and more). I highly recommend it!
How about you? How many plants do you have at home? How much time do you spend on them per week? Tell us in the comments!
Shop here for Jonathan and Mee's favorite plants:
Discover also a brand new product on the eboutique, the serum for plants. Composed of fractioned coconut oil and neem oil, it will give brightness to your magnificent foliage while preventing undesirable effects.