Houseplant Enthusiasts - Elizabeth Fierman
Eli: First question - How did you get into houseplants?Liz: Well, I grew up in a house that had a lot of plants. So I didn’t really think of them as houseplants, I just thought of them as things you have in your house. I guess I just grew up around them. And then… after college I was living in a shitty apartment and I realized it was missing some life so I got a plant. And then it just spiraled out! You get one plant and you realize how happy it makes you and how much it changes a room. Then you get another plant and you say, “well they need a third friend” and all of a sudden you have forty plants. Ya know?
Liz: We grew up in Ohio, so we had a lot of land and my mom always had big gardens, rolling gardens outside. So there were all kinds of plants that she took care of. There was a lot going on in the backyard. She would bring cut flowers inside and she taught me how to take care of both outdoor plants and indoor plants. But I didn’t really care about plants until after college. They require care and attention and I don’t think I had the care or attention to give plants in college.
Eli: Hahaha, yes… I can relate to that. Were your parents into plants? Who did the plant thing?
Eli: So, you got a plant. It livened up the apartment. The addiction… flourished if you will…Liz: It definitely flourished. One of the things about plants that I really like is that they mark time for you. If nothing else changes in a room or in your life, your plant gets bigger and you’re like “Oh my god, this thing is passing time in front of me.”
Eli: I like that. I think we’ve got our preview quote for this interview… So what does your plant setup look like?
Liz: My apartment collection has changed dramatically in the past couple of years for a couple of reasons. The first reason is I moved from a very sunny location to a very cave-like dwelling. So the first thing that changed was my light. So I had to refigure a lot. I had to give away some plants because I didn’t have enough window light in the apartment that would support some of the plants. So I had to give them or let people babysit them until I move. The other thing that changed getting a pet - my dog’s name is Violet. Some of my plants are very poisonous and I also like having some plants on the ground, some plants shelved and some plants hanging. But all of my ground plants or anything within the reaches of a little puppy - if it’s poisonous or even if it’s not poisonous I had to move it.
My current plant situation is mostly non-poisonous plants hugging the walls of my apartment very high up. But mostly I’ve got vining or creepers, some snake plants. I propagate plants a lot. There are three plants that I just keep propagating over and over again because they just do really well and make nice pups.
Eli: Nice. What are we talking about?
Liz: Ya got your Pancake plant - Pilea Peperomioides. My big mother has just lots and lots of pups constantly. So there are little propagated baby pancakes all over the house. Also, my Swedish Ivy grows like a weed. I think it might actually be a weed, but I’ve got a lot of Swedish Ivy propagating. I have also been propagating a number of Avocado plants because I love avocados. I recently learned how to grow avocados from my mom while home during covid.
Eli: That’s sweet. Do you have any that are bearing fruit yet? Can you do that outside of tropical climates?Liz: I haven’t gotten that far yet, but what I do is take the pit and stick toothpicks around the circumference of it and let it sit partially in water in a glass. You put the round end of the pit into the water and that side will start to produce roots first. Then the seed cracks and it begins to sprout out of the top. But that process takes like four to five months. So that just happened. Then they grow leaves. But I’m an urban gardener and don’t really have any outdoor planting space. So they stay pretty small living in water for now.
Eli: Got it - as an urban gardener without much space, how has adding the Plantfolio to your tool kit helped you manage?
Liz: One of my biggest challenges is that I have a lot of plants probably 40 or 50 and many of them have grown quickly and need to move into bigger pots. In my 550 square foot apartment and adding in my puppy Violet, I don’t have much space to begin with and don’t have space I can let just get messy. When I’m repotting, I’ve got dirt flying all over the place. With this potting station first and foremost right now, it gets my repotting off the ground. It gets it away from my puppy, which is pretty important given how curious she is. I can stick it right over the sink and I’ve got the silicone inserts that I can use for dry or wet work. So I have a whole little plant station right over my sink.
Eli: That’s great to hear. Do you have any special plant care tips or techniques that you’ve developed around repotting or propagation or anything else? Any nuggets of wisdom that could help other people?
Liz: Hmm. Yeah I do. The first thing I have to say is if your plant is giving you trouble and you go online and read what you’re supposed to do with that plant and say to yourself - “I’m already doing all of that.” Then it’s a good time to disregard what the internet has to say, because to me, every plant is unique has its own needs based on your home, your air, your light, vibrations. You just gotta figure out what it needs. My anecdote on that is my Pancake Plant - everything on the internet says they need this much light and this much water. My original plant almost died following that care routine and I needed to bring it back to life. How did I do it? I did nothing and now she’s super happy and has lots of babies. So don’t always listen to the internet.
The next thing I’m going to say is that I have this great book and I’m going to endorse it. It is called Terrific Garden Tonics by this guy named Jerry Baker. My mom has this book so I grew up with this book. This guy Jerry Baker has all of these recipes - 345 do-it-yourself-fix-em-formulas for the garden - maintaining a lush garden. He has lots of tips, some of which I didn’t realize my mom had been teaching me over the years. Things like using mouthwash or beer or cola or dish washing fluid, or ammonia, of tobacco or tea granules. All these different things you have in your house that you can make different cocktails and teas out of for your plants. If you have bugs in some of your plants there are different combinations of baby shampoo and whiskey and water that you can use to clear them. Or if you use a bit of chewing tobacco and put it in stockings and steep it in water, tobacco is so poisonous it’ll kill anything including bugs in your plant. SO if you just make this really dull tobacco tea and dump it in your dirt it’ll kill bugs.
Eli: That’s fascinating - it’s always cool to learn new home remedies for these commons issues - especially dealing with bugs. So, what’s next for you? Any special houseplant projects or plant goals?
Liz: All of my plants are smaller. None of them are standing trees. None of them take up the whole corner. One of my goals is to have a big beautiful Monstera or Fiddle Leaf Fig or one of those big guys that take up half the room. I want a plant you have to shake to simulate being in a storm so they feel like they’re outside. I want a high maintenance big plant!
Eli: Yes - I hear you on that. I’ve been enjoying that plant shaking meme going around. I’ll have to send it over if you haven’t seen it.
Liz, thanks so much for taking the time to share these plant tips and photos of your plant setup and puppy Violet. It’s been great speaking with you. Good luck on the quest for a big plant!