A Basic Guide to Plant Troubleshooting

So you’re having trouble with your plant. Totally normal, it happens to all of us. But when you’re trying to figure out why your plant is being so weird, where do you start? We’re always here to help, but being a true plant person means learning how to ask the right questions and learning to read your plants. With a few simple things in mind, you can quickly learn how to infer what a plant needs, even if you’ve never seen the plant before.

When someone comes to us with plant questions, there are a few things we ask about off the bat: lighting, watering, and environment. How much light is your plant getting? How much are you watering it? How warm/humid is it where the plant in and what kind of pot is it in/how long has it been in that pot? Let’s look a little more closely at these questions.


All plants need at least some natural light. Plants will often change colors in some way if they’re getting too much or too little light. One thing to keep in mind, however, is it’s not always straightforward, so let’s look closely at the signs and what they could mean.

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Is your plant getting lots of direct sun and turning brown or crispy? This is likely too much light or sun burn. Mostly common houseplants are tropical plants and will not enjoy direct sun for extended periods of time. Plants that have delicate or papery leaves, or plump and tender leaves rarely like direct sun. Think ferns or string of pearls. While these plants like some light, they are quite delicate, and too much sun will burn them.

Remedying too much light is usually pretty simple. Move your plant away from or out of a window, or put up a sheer curtain or closely the blinds partially. Trim off any dead or dying foliage and (hopefully) watch your plant bounce back.

On the flip side of things, is your plant in low light (you have to turn a light on for most of the day or to read a book; the plant doesn’t cast even a soft shadow) and the leaves are turning yellow or squishy? This is likely a case of too low of light, which often goes hand in hand with overwatering. Gross.

Fixing a low light situation can be a little trickier, especially for those of us living in those lovely basement apartments or side-by-side buildings. The easiest solution is putting your plant in the brightest spot you can (without it being direct). Sometimes putting plants outside will do the trick, if you have an outdoor space. If none of these options are available, try getting a full spectrum light bulb or getting a pothos. (lol)

It’s important to note that most plants don’t like being moved often, so we don’t recommend putting your plant outside for part of the day, or moving it to a brighter spot for a few hours a day. Let your plant get accustomed to it’s environment and it’s more likely to adapt and survive than if it’s moved often.


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Watering can be a delicate situation, especially as seasons change. We recommend thinking of water in relation to how much light the plant is getting. Is it the middle of summer (long days and higher temps)? Your plant is going to need more water. If you’re thirstier, your plant is probably thirstier. Or is it the middle of winter (short days, cloudier skies, and cooler temps)? Your plant is going to need less water because it’s likely dormant (using less energy therefore needing less food) and is losing less water via evaporation.

So now let’s look at some water-related troubleshooting.

Is your plant droopy, yellowing, dropping soggy leaves? Is the soil wet or soggy? Your plant is getting too much water. Move it to a nice bright spot so the sunlight can help it dry out and don’t water it until it really needs it. In severe cases, you can repot the plant in new, dry soil. Sometimes an overwatered plant can be a goner, but your best bet is to put it in bright light and let the soil dry out.

Alternatively, are the edges of your plant’s leaves dry and brown, or dropping dry leaves? Your plant is likely not getting enough water. Check to make sure the soil is dry (we bet it’s pretty dry) and give it a good soak. Sometimes dry plants are getting too much light, or need to be repotted, but we’ll get to that in a sec.

Potting issues

Sometimes plants will act strange even though it seems like nothing has changed. It’s spring, nice and warm, you haven’t moved your plant for two years, but new growth is dying or is small, the plant is always drooping, or the soil is always dry. It’s probably time to repot!

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When plants have been in the same pot for a long time, their roots take up more space in the pot than the soil and they’re no longer able to retain moisture. Small pots can also stunt a plant, like bonsai.  A limited root system can’t support a large plant, so if you’d like your plant to continue growing normally, put it in a bigger pot! We recommend only increasing the pot size by no more than two inches in diameter for smallish plants, and a few inches for bigger plants. Never buy a big pot for a plant to “grow into” -- it’s an easy way to give your plant root rot!

Plants can also act inexplicably strange if they’re potted in a pot with no drainage hole. We never recommend pots without a drainage hole. There are too many variables. The surface of the soil may be dry but the bottom of the soil where you can’t see may still be wet. This makes for uneven watering, and it’s confusing and tricky for both you and your plant. If you have a plant in a pot without drainage and it’s dropping leaves, yellowing, or getting soggy regardless of good light and regular watering, drainage might be the issue.


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Another thing to keep in mind is air temperature and humidity. Most houseplants enjoy temperatures above 65 degrees. During the winter, we keep the heater on in the shop 24/7 to keep plants happy and perky. Calatheas are especially temperature sensitive and will look droopy and tired when they’re cold. While it can be difficult, keep a droopy and cold plant as warm as possible and away from drafty windows can help keep it perky. With that said, don’t put your plant right next to a heater! The air from heaters is warm but dry and will suck moisture out of your plant. Which leads to humidity…

Many houseplants also enjoy high humidity. Dry air can cause leaves to brown and crispy, much like sunburn. If the leaves on your plants are turning dry even though they’re out of direct sun, humidity may be the issue. As silly as it is, a humidifier will solve this problem. Misting can also help, but misting only increases the humidity while you’re spray the plant, not 24/7. Something to keep in mind.

Okay, last but not least…



One of the tell tale signs of pests is misshapen new growth. If your plant is acting odd despite good light and watering, and the new growth doesn’t match the old growth, inspect your plant carefully for pests. Look for fuzzy white spots along stems and where the stem and leaf meet, small raised brown dots on the leaves, raised or slightly imbedded spots like scars (small and skinny like scratches but on new growth), and tiny webs on the undersides of leaves. These are mealy bugs, scale, thrips, and spider mites. Ew, ew, and ew.

First off, get the infected plant away from your other plants! Pests can move from plant to plant, and then you’ve got a real situation on your hands.

The best way to get rid of pests is with a systemic pesticide. We like the Bayer 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, and Mite Control pellets, but the spray version will work too. You can either spray your plant weekly, or mix a bit of the liquid into water and water your plant with it. Sometimes plants are too far gone for the pesticide to save it, but with a close eye you can catch it early and eradicate pests before they destroy your plant.

While this is a pretty rough guideline to listening to your plants, we think it’s a good place to start. It can be nice to keep in mind that tending plants is a learning process. Every time you struggle with a plant, you’ll be that much better at plant tending next time.

Best of luck, and always ask us if you have any questions!



5 Great Plants for Gifting

Still looking for a perfect gift or set on gifting a plant but don’t know what to get? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. We’re all stocked up on popular plants and personal favorites, but to make things easier for you we’ve put together this handy guide. Below are some of our favorite plants to give as gifts.

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Cardboard Palm in a terracotta Wash Pot.

For the Plant Collector: Cardboard Palm

These oddities are always a people pleaser, with their fun silhouette and their unusually stiff leaves. Though they can be harder to find, they’re quite easy to care for. Give these plants bright but indirect light and water when their soil is halfway dry and they’re good to go. While they grow slowly, their new leaves are so fun to watch as they form, and the plant will mature over time to be a bush with long, attractive fronds.

A ‘Hairy Old Man’ Cactus in a Stephen Moellering cactus planter.

A ‘Hairy Old Man’ Cactus in a Stephen Moellering cactus planter.

For the Hostess: Cacti or Succulents

Who doesn’t love a cactus or succulent? With so much variety, a cactus or succulent popped into a handmade pot makes a perfect, go-to gift. Give cacti and succulents plenty of direct light and water occasionally and they’ll grow (and hopefully flower) for many years to come.

A (quite large) begonia.

A (quite large) begonia.

For Someone Who Loves Color: Begonias

If there was ever an “extra” plant, it would be the begonia. Begonias come in so many colors, shapes, and patterns; are easy to propagate; and flower incessantly with good light. We feel begonias have gotten a bad rap for being “finicky” plants — give they plenty of bright indirect light and only water them when their soil is dry or the plant begins to droop. Under those conditions, a begonia should flourish.

For the Black Thumb: Zamioculcas

(Below, Right)

We all have that friend or relative who wants plants but kills every one. Meet the Zamioculcas. These plants thrive on neglect. Stick them in a dark corner, a poorly lit office, or leave town for 2 months and they’ll be totally fine. A Zamioculcas will like bright indirect light to very little light, and only wants water when the soil is completely dry. We would expect watering to be once a season.

Left: Areca Palm, Right: Zamioculcas

Left: Areca Palm, Right: Zamioculcas

For the Minimalist: Palms

(Left, Above)

Nothing says “simple” like a palm. A staple in modern, minimalist interior decor, the palm adds a splash of green energy while not attracting too much attention. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and don’t need much more than bright indirect light and water when the soil is about half way dry, maybe e every week or two.

We’re currently loving the Areca palm with it’s classic silhouette and surprisingly simple leaves.

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Hope this helps! As always, feel free to contact us with any questions, or drop by the shop during our extended holiday hours.



5 Pet Safe Plants

Love pets and plants? Sadly, creating a safe oasis for you and your pets amongst your urban jungle can be a challenge. Here’s a guide to five common Crimson plants that are less likely to irritate your pets, making your urban jungle safe for all!


We always recommend doing some of your own research and double checking if you have an especially hungry animal!

Calathea Veitchiana Medallion

Calathea Veitchiana Medallion


Calatheas are beautiful, with stunning colors and leaf patterns, but can be a bit tricky. They enjoy very bright, indirect light, and to be watered often enough to keep the soil evenly moist without being soggy.

The true secret to maintaining a Calathea is monitoring temperature and humidity. Calatheas like to be in humid spaces above 65 degrees. Consider keeping Calatheas in the warmest part of your house on a pebble tray.



Ah Hoyas. So diverse. So easy.

There are many varieties of Hoya, though the most common ones (and the ones we often carry) are types of Hoya Carnosa. Other Hoyas to look out for a Hoya Obovata and Hoya Compacta (Hindu Rope), as well as many other more rare varieties.

Hoyas like very bright but indirect light, though they can take some passing direct light. Keep an eye on watering the brighter the light, and watch out for sunburn.

They like to dry out between waterings and are tolerant of being root bound, so long as they’re fertilized regularly to replenish soil nutrients.



Pileas are another variety of plant with infinite possibilities. Most Pileas are relatively easy, if you’re willing to water once or twice a week.

Pileas typically want bright indirect light, though some can tolerate lower or brighter light. Most of them want to be watered when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch.

Because of the variety of Pileas, we recommend researching your specific Pilea, or contacting us for more info.

Check out some of our favorite Pileas -- Pilea Peperomioides, Pilea Aquamarine, Pilea Cadierei, and Pilea Involucrata.



Often mistaken for Pileas, Peperomias are another diverse and easy to care for type of plant.

Requiring almost identical care to Pileas, most Peperomias want bright, indirect light, and to be watered when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. There are some Peperomias that like quite bright light, though, and can tolerate drying out. We recommend researching your specific Peperomia, or asking us for help.

Here are some of our favorite Peperomias -- Peperomia Rotundifolia ‘Hope’, Peperomia Puteolata ‘Parallel’, Peperomia Red Ripple, and Peperomia Argyreia ‘Watermelon.’


Maranta / Prayer Plant

With enough bright light, Marantas are almost as simple as a Pothos. (Pothos, on that note, are toxic to pets.)

A little less flashy than Peperomia, Marantas can bring color and structure to a space. Growing in a vining yet outward fashion, they can easily become a focal point on a bookshelf or side table.

Marantas prefer bright, indirect light and like to be watered when the top half of their soil is dry. Give them good conditions and they’ll reward you with near constant growth and, if you’re lucky, little white flowers.


While there are many other plants that will be safe for your pets, these are a few we carry often and enjoy. Feel free to ask us via email, phone, or in the shop for more recommendations. Best of luck, and happy growing!


Demystifying the Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair ferns -- so delicate, so beautiful, so difficult. If you’ve attempted to care for a maidenhair and come home one day to a crispy leaf pile, you’re not alone. Luckily, we have tips for you!

A lush, standard maidenhair fern in a fully glazed pot.

A lush, standard maidenhair fern in a fully glazed pot.


The biggest secret to caring for a maidenhair? Water. Always water. Since maidenhairs have such delicate leaves, they can’t retain much water on their own, so they need to be watered often. Commit to checking your maidenhair fern everyday, or put it somewhere you won’t forget it like by the bathroom or kitchen sink, or on your dresser. Treat it like a pet. If you’re feeding your dog or cat, you probably need to check on your fern.


Water your maidenhair whenever the top of the soil feels even slightly dry. Unlike many plants, which like to dry out a bit, the maidenhair never wants to dry out at all. We suggest thinking of a sponge to gauge how moist the soil should be. Water a maidenhair when the soil feels like a well wrung out sponge. Is it lightly moist but will probably be dry to the touch when you get home from work? Water it.

When watering your maidenhair, make sure to water thoroughly until water runs out the bottom of the pot. We also recommend keeping your maidenhair (or any other fern) on a pebble tray. Select a generous saucer, fill in with rocks, then place the pot on top of the rocks. Fill the tray with water. Ideally, the pot isn’t fully submerged in water. The pebble tray helps increase humidity immediately around the plant and acts as a reservoir in case your plant needs water throughout the day.

Once you’ve realized how much water the maidenhair needs, there are two other things to think of -- lighting and what to pot it in.

A rosy maidenhair in an unglazed pot.

A rosy maidenhair in an unglazed pot.


Maidenhairs want no direct light at all. This is one of those plants where medium light is perfect. Too little light and they’ll exist, but be thin and spindly. Too much light and they’ll burn and shrivel. Aim to put them somewhere where they can cast a gentle shadow in natural light.


To glaze or not to glaze... The type of pot your plant your maidenhair fern in can affect how often you water your plant. 

Many people recommend planting maidenhairs and other ferns into fully glazed pots. The glaze prevents the pot from stealing moisture from the soil and therefore the fern. It can be easier to maintain a maidenhair or a fern in a glazed pot because you have to water less since the soil stays wet longer.

However (prepare for personal note), I have six maidenhair ferns and they’re all in terra cotta pots. One of them has been in the same pot for two years. They’re in relatively lower light, and kept on pebbles trays. (More on that later.) If keeping a fern in an unglazed clay pot, I highly recommend soaking the whole pot when you repot it, then keeping the pebble tray full at all times.

Either route is acceptable, but a glazed pot may make your life a little easier.


Good luck, and happy growing! 

Winter Plant Care

Struggling with caring for your plants during the cooler months? You’re not alone. Winter is one of the hardest times to care for your houseplants. With cooler weather, shorter days, and softer light, plants can struggle. But don’t worry! You’re not a bad plant parent because your plants are dropping a few leaves and not growing much. There are a few main things to consider when caring for your houseplants during winter.

First things first, winter is a natural resting period for most plants. Even in the Bay Area where “seasons” is a loose term, plants are getting less light during the day, sending them into dormancy. During winter, you’ll likely notice you’re plants are growing slowly or not at all, maybe even dropping old leaves. This is okay! Winter is a time when plants slow down and prepare for their growing season. With that said, there are a few shifts to make in your plant care routine to help them get through winter.

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The main thing to keep in mind is to water less. Since plants are getting less light, they need less water. Cut down on watering to avoid root rot. Check how much water your plant already has by touching the soil. Only water when the soil is dry enough, depending on your plants’ water needs. Touching the soil is especially useful during the winter. Cooler weather means soil dries out a little differently and may still look dark when it’s actually dry!

If soil isn’t drying out within a reasonable timeline, move your plants to a brighter spot. Yes, you may have to rearrange your plants during the winter. They may not look as cute, but they’ll survive!

Even though it’s cold, don’t be tempted to heat up water for your plants. You want to water with room temperature water so you don’t shock your plants. You may enjoy a steamy hot shower, but your plants probably won’t!


Photo by  Jay Sia  . The pothos on the left is sad and droopy -- it needs water! The pothos on the right is nice and perky, and has plenty of water. 

Photo by Jay Sia . The pothos on the left is sad and droopy -- it needs water! The pothos on the right is nice and perky, and has plenty of water. 

Running the heater in your home means dry air and lower humidity. Monitor your plants extra carefully. Even though it’s cold and plants are getting less light, they may act differently if you’re running a heater frequently. While it’s more likely plants will stay damp longer, be extra careful if you’re someone who likes to keep the heat on, or if plants are near the heater.

Try using a humidifier to keep your plants happy. You can also put moisture loving plants in trays of water and rocks. Putting plants together can also help increase humidity by making microclimates. None of these are perfect options. You’re trying to grow plants in a season they don’t want to grow! It’s okay to see some change and leaf drop.

To mist or not to mist, that is the question. We don’t typically recommend misting. Misting only increases humidity briefly. It seems like a good idea, but it doesn’t do much unless you’re standing there misting all day. Great for your arm muscles, bad for your productivity. Misting won’t hurt your plants, but it might not do much for them. It’s ultimately up to you. 



Most plants like to be around 65 to 75 degrees F. Be aware of plants near cold windows or hot heaters. Some plants are more tolerant of cold or heat than others. Be aware of your plants needs.

You’ll likely notice leaves on calatheas especially drooping or even dropping. Calatheas are very picky about temperature. Keep them in a warm, humid room if possible. If you can’t, prepare for some leaf drop and fertilize them in the spring.

Other plants, such as begonias and maidenhair ferns are quite cold tolerant. If you need to shuffle plants to keep other plants warm, don’t be afraid to move some begonias and cold-loving ferns to the cooler areas.


Try to refrain from using fertilizer during the winter. This is the natural resting period of your plants. Let them do their thing, and wait until brighter light and warmer weather, when you’re plants are more active.

Only fertilize as a last ditch effort to save a struggling plant. If you think you’re about to lose a plant and have already tried everything you can, fertilize it. Otherwise, wait until spring.

Photo by  Jay Sia  

Photo by Jay Sia 


Winter can be a stressful time for plants, especially plants we’re already growing outside of their natural habitat, making them susceptible to pests. Look out for white or brown spots on your leaves or strange growth. If you do notice anything strange, we recommend isolating your plant and treating with Bayer Insect Spikes, which we carry in the shop.

The other big issue is mold. Overall mold isn’t likely harmful. It’s unsightly and annoying, but usually not a problem for your plant. And if your plant is happy and in the perfect spot receiving perfect care, the mold should go away with warmer, brighter weather.

To keep mold at bay, be careful not to overwater. Overly moist soil will encourage mold (and root rot). You can also put your plants in a brighter, warmer spot, or use grow lights. Keeping your plant active and happy will help soil dry out in a timely manner. And brighter light will discourage mold.

If you have mold on the surface of your soil, there are a few unofficial solutions you can try. Spray the moldy soil with diluted soap like Dr.Bronner’s baby soap. Use around 1:4 soap to water. You’ll have to respray but it keeps the mod away. You can also try sprinkling cinnamon on the soil. It’s an anti-fungal so might help. (We haven’t tried the cinnamon method.)

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And there you have it! This is by no means a perfect guide, only what we know from experience. Winter is a great time to get to know your plants and learn to read the signs better. Best of luck, and happy growing!

Some Fertilizer Guidelines

Why Do Plants Need Fertilizer? We have always been taught that plants need a few basic things to survive: Sunlight, Water, Air and Soil. Sunlight is the plant’s food. They use the energy from the sun’s rays to take air (CO2) and water to make sugar, which they then burn for energy. So if light, water and air are used to feed the plant, what does it need the soil for? The soil has 2 main roles to play; first it acts like a sponge to hold water for the plant’s roots to absorb. Second, the soil is often full of nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, which are essential for strong and healthy growth. These nutrients are necessary for the plant in the same way that we humans need certain vitamins and minerals. Without Light, water, and air, a plant will starve pretty quickly, which is why most plant care instructions pay special attention to each plant’s unique light and water requirements. Without the proper nutrients, a plant can live but it may not thrive and can be left susceptible to attack from pests.


Common signs that your plant is in need of fertilizer: When there are sharp differences between the older leaves and the newer leaves, your plant is most likely missing some key nutrients. Nutrient deficiency can affect the color, size and shape of leaves. It is usually most noticeable if:

     -Fully developed new leaves are smaller than fully developed older leaves.

     -Either all the old leaves are turning yellow or all the new leaves are.

      -The new leaves are a pale green, and stay pale green when fully developed (Many plants will have lighter green leaves as they are growing, but once fully developed they will darken. If they stay pale green and never darken this could indicate a nutrient deficiency that is preventing the leaf from making enough chlorophyll.

     -ALL the new leaves have an odd shape or texture that varies greatly from the older leaves. If only one or two new leaves are misshapen or odd textured that is usually due to some sort of physical damage that occurred as the leaf/leaves were developing.

Besides differences between old and new leaves, a sudden pest infestation that crops up with no known origin can often indicate nutrient deficiency. We’ll talk about pests and how to tackle them in a future post, but we often will start treating an infested plant by fertilizing it.



There are a few things to look for when buying fertilizer. Most all purpose fertilizers will work for your standard houseplants. These fertilizers usually have approximately even ratios of Nitrogen : Phosphorous : Potassium (NPK). These are the nutrients that plants need in higher concentrations, other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphur are equally important but needed in much lower concentrations. Whatever fertilizer you choose should contain all these elements and you should follow the instructions on the package for how to introduce them to your plant. In our shop we sell and use Maxsea All Purpose fertilizer as we have had the best results with it and it can be used in different concentrations for all the various plants we sell from tropicals to succulents to air plants, orchids and even carnivorous plants. For your standard tropical houseplants you can generally fertilize your plants every two weeks during the growing season. It is good to do a thorough watering in between fertilizer applications to rinse out any excess fertilizer before adding more.


Carnivorous plants: Most carnivorous plants don’t need fertilizer as they get their nutrients from the insects they trap. Some types of carnivorous plants can grow faster with very light and infrequent fertilization; often this leads to lots of healthy leaves but less impressive traps. If you choose to fertilize, use 1/10th the recommended amount of Maxsea. It is important to not fertilize the soil for these plants but instead to apply the fertilizer to their traps. For pitcher plants add it directly into the pitcher, for sticky plants lightly mist the sticky traps.


Cacti and Succulents: These plants generally do not need as much fertilizer as standard tropical house plants. During the growing season they will be happy with half the recommended concentration of Maxsea applied once a month. They don’t need any fertilizer in the winter months.


Tillandsia (Airplants): You can add your fertilizer directly to the water you soak your plants in every other time you water them during the growing season. If using all purpose Maxsea you should use a 1/10th dilution of the recommended amount. We have also had success with the fertilizer Epiphytes Delight which you can use as directed.


Orchids (most readily available species): Use ½ the recommended amount of Maxsea every third time you water during the growing season. Do not fertilize in the winter months. It is especially important to rinse the soil to remove excess fertilizer before adding more.



Succulents That Don't Need Your Prime Windowsill Real Estate

Everyone loves succulents. Their cute chubby leaves and their ability to thrive on neglect make them easy to love. The one thing that can turn this relationship sour is living in a space that just doesn’t receive enough light to keep them cute and happy! All succulents are adapted to live in areas that are dry, this usually means that they are accustomed to bright light as well. Most of the beloved cacti, echeveria, and sedums need at least a few hours of direct sun each day if not direct sun all day. Those of us without a South facing windowsill find ourselves trying and trying to keep these delightful little guys happy but always seem to end up with them losing their color, stretching for light, or at worst rotting away. If you are pining for the right succulent that can live with your bright indirect lighting we’ve got you covered. Here are a few of our favorite succulents that will thrive in your bright indirect light.





Haworthias and Gasterias: These adorable little succulents come in a variety of shapes and patterns. Most are green but there are a number of varieties with white dots or stripes that can be quite charming. All they need is bright indirect light, cactus mix, a pot with a drainage hole and to be watered only when the soil is dry at least an inch down.





Rhipsalis and Epiphyllum: These Jungle cacti are a wonderful indoor succulent. Natively growing in trees in the tropics these plants appreciate bright indirect light. They want to stay a little more moist than your average succulent but they can tolerate the occasional dry spell.





Senecio rowleyanus, most commonly known as the string of pearls plants is quite unique and perfect for even the most forgetful of plant waterers. Quite happy in bright indirect light this plant absolutely must dry out in between waterings. When in doubt, dry it out!

Senecio rowleyanus

Senecio rowleyanus

Sanseveria Species

Sanseveria Species

Sansevieria: Commonly known as the snake plant or mother-in-laws toungue, these plants may not have quite the same look as those tiny succulents you are craving but they are one of the most forgiving houseplants you will find. Happy with a wide range of light conditions the only rule with sansevierias is to let the soil get dry at least 2 inches down before watering. There are many different forms and colors available in this easy going genus so you are sure to find something that will tickle your fancy.


Everyone’s Favorite: The Fiddle Leaf Fig - Ficus lyrata

Ficus Lyrata, also known as the Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree have been an indoor plant standard for many decades. They have recently enjoyed a strong resurgence in popularity due to the elegance of their form and the lushness of their large leathery leaves. With this surging popularity we have found that there are a number of commonly asked questions and concerns. We will address many of these as we take a closer look at this indoor giant.

Ficus Lyratas are a tropical tree native to western Africa. They are closely related to other Ficus trees, many of which also make excellent indoor plants. When young they grow as skinny saplings with a single woody stalk that has leaves sprouting off from soil to tip. When mature they are often sold in the nursery standard form which consists of a thick trunk at least 3 feet high that branches out with leaves sprouting only from the branches. The leaves can get quite large and are rigid with a leathery feel. Young stems are bright green and may have dark splotches and some woody bumps. Older stems and the trunk have a thin woody bark. New leaves form at the tips of the sapling or at the tips of the branches of a mature plant. These leaves are covered by a protective papery bract that shrivels and dries once the leaf fully emerges.

Given that the Ficus lyrata is a tropical tree that grows below the forest canopy it is therefore looking for conditions that mimic life in the mid canopy of a tropical forest. To that end here are some guidelines for indoor growing to get your Ficus on the road to success.

Light: It is of primary importance to find the right place in your home where the tree will receive very bright, but indirect light all day; an hour or so of direct light will not harm the plant but it will need time to acclimate to it. Unfortunately Ficus lyratas are not very tolerant of low light conditions; if the space you want your Ficus to grow in does not have the proper light levels your Ficus will not survive there for the long term.

Placement: Once you have found a spot with adequate light the next step is to make sure that your tree will be protected from physical abuse. High traffic areas such as entry ways and hallways can cause bruises to the rigid leaves of the Ficus and will lead to an unattractive display.

Planter and Soil: As we recommend for all potted plants a pot with a drainage hole is best. If you need guidance on choosing the pot type or size see our previous post on repotting houseplants. As a tropical plant a Ficus lyrata doesn’t want to have it’s soil go completely dry but on the other hand they are susceptible to root rot; for this reason we suggest using a standard potting soil such as Edna’s Best mixed with a bit of pumice (5:1) for some extra drainage. 

Watering: As we mention in our post about watering houseplants, the watering schedule for any plant is entirely dependent on the light, temperature, and airflow it experiences in it’s current environment which varies from house to house and can also change throughout the year. When potted in the above recommended soil mixture you should be waiting to water your Ficus until the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry. This could be once every 5 days to once every 2 weeks depending on your conditions. When you do water it is best to give your Ficus a thorough watering as we describe in our plant watering post.

Fertilizing: Ficus lyrata can benefit from regular doses of a good fertilizer during the growing season (March-October) We recommend using Maxsea all purpose fertilizer (20-20-20) every other time you water at the recommended indoor dilution of a ½ tablespoon to 1 gallon of water.

Each plant has it’s own set of specific things to look out for in their care and maintenance. One of the biggest things to be aware of with a Ficus lyrata, and any other thick, rigid leaved plant is that their leaves are very easily bruised when bent. This leads to most Ficus lyratas developing large dark brown/black spots on their leaves and even dropping a number of leaves within the first 3-6 months after they are brought home. Many first time Ficus owners panic as the bruises develop slowly and the leaves drop and think that this is a sign of disease but it is a part of the trauma of a tree being moved and rigid vascular tissue breaking as a result. Given the proper care the Ficus will settle in over those 3-6 months and any new growth will be bruise free. As it is settling in any leaves that develop particularly large bruises can be trimmed off. It is best to leave leaves with minor damage on the tree to maximize it’s photosynthetic surfaces for a faster recovery.

Due to the unavoidable trauma that comes with moving these trees around, especially for the larger specimens, we highly recommend purchasing a Ficus lyrata in late winter or early Spring. In temperate areas such as ours the ficus pause their growth through the darker and colder periods of the year (October to February) and generally have their largest spurt of growth in the early spring (March-May). If you bring your plant home in February, as the older damaged leaves start showing bruises from the move, a large number of fresh new leaves are developing to keep things looking happy. If you bring your plant home in October chances are no new leaves will form until spring and you will be left looking at a large number of bruised leaves. Early spring is also the time to repot your ficus as it will be growing new roots quite readily at this time which will help it recover quickly from any transplant shock. We’ve found that pruning a Ficus is best done in mid to late winter; around early February is best here in the bay area. This allows your plant to use it’s many leaves to capture what little light is available in the winter months. If you wait too long into spring however you run the risk of cutting off developing growth points and setting back the spring flush of stem and leaves.

Once established in a good indoor environment the Ficus lyrata is a hardy and beautiful plant that will give many years of enjoyment. If you like indoor trees like this we suggest checking out it’s cousin the Ficus ‘Audrey’ (Ficus benghalensis), it has a similar look but with subtler coloring and velvety leaves.



Crimson's Guidelines for Watering Houseplants

One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at Crimson is “How often should I water my plant?”

Our answer is always “That Depends!” There are many factors that go into when and how you should water your potted houseplant and today we are going to cover the basics.

Here are the factors that affect how much water your plant is using: Sunlight, air temperature, air flow, type of soil mixture, type of planter, type of plant, day length and root mass. We covered the planter options and soil mixtures in our first post on how to repot your plant. Given that previous information we will assume you have a good pot and soil combo for your houseplant; this is really the key to setting up a successful watering regimen. Next up is sunlight: plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make sugar, this means that when the sun is shining your plant is using water to make sugar. Therefore the more light the more water your plant is using. More light also usually means warmer temperatures. When it is warmer water is lost from the soil by evaporation. Evaporation can be further increased if there is a lot of air movement. So in general if you have a lot of light, high temperatures and a lot of air flow your soil will be drying out quite quickly and you will need to check on your plant more often.

Exactly how often you should be checking your plant depends most on the type of plant that you have. Most houseplants fall into the following categories:

“Moisture Loving” check every 2-3 days: These plants are plants that want to stay WET. There are even some plants that fall into this category can be left sitting is a dish of water and thus all you need to do is refill the dish when dry. These plants you are checking frequently to ensure that the soil only ever becomes dry to the touch on the very top. For these plants it is best to keep them on moist side rather than letting them dry out. Some examples of plants in the this category are Bog carnivorous plants, maidenhair ferns, corkscrew rush, Aphelandras (zebra plants) and more.

“Evenly Moist” check every 4-7 days: These are the plants that are usually described as wanting to stay “evenly moist.” These plants generally want their soil to be moist but not saturated. The best way to achieve this is to water your plant thoroughly and then let it dry down over the course of about a week and when the top 1-2 inches of soil is nice and dry then it is time to water again. This cycle mimics a more temperate water cycle where it rains once or twice a week with time for the soil to dry a bit in between. Some examples of plants in the this category are most Ficuses, rabbits foot and blue star ferns, Diefenbachia, Aglonemas, and more.

”Dry Adapted” check every 7-14 days: These are the plants that are very susceptible to root rot and thus they want their soil to dry out very well between waterings. Most of these plants are from xeric habitats or seasonally dry habitats; thus it is very important that you are sure the soil is dry quite far down through the pot before you water them. Some examples of plants in the this category are cacti, succulents, euphorbia, sansevieria, ceropegia, senecios and more.

Now that you know when to water your houseplant the final question is how do you water your plant. Most houseplants prefer a thorough watering to ensure that all the soil is moistened and no dry spots are left behind. If you think of your soil like a sponge there is a finite amount of water that that sponge can hold at one time. This is why it is important to have a drainage hole in your pot. This allows to completely fill your “sponge” up knowing that any extra will drain out the bottom.

In order to accomplish a thorough watering we recommend the following steps:

1. Set your planter in a dish or saucer (it is advisable to do so in a sink or tub in case of saucer overflow).

2. Fill the pot to the brim with water and let it soak through. Repeat this 3-4 times until you havewater collecting in the dish.

3. Let your plant soak for 20-30 minutes (this ensures all dry patches inside the soil get a chance to fully moisten).

4. Empty the extra water from the saucer and let any other excess water drain from the pot.

For your dry adapted plants we recommend watering by a soil rinse. To accomplish this type of watering do everything you would for the thorough watering but skip step #3. This will allow your soil to remoisten and also rinse any excess salts or fertilizer out while not fully saturating all of your soil. Keep in mind that in the midst of a hot spell or a long succession of really sunny days even dry adapted plants may need a thorough watering to rehydrate and ensure that their soil doesn’t get so dry that it becomes hydrophobic.

A soil rinse is also a watering trick you can use on your evenly moist plants if you are growing them in the lower levels of their light tolerance or if your evenly moist plants are potted in a soil that stays too wet and you aren’t ready to repot them yet.


Finally, your watering schedule can change over time due to the final factors affecting your plant’s water use: day length and root mass. As seasons change so does the day length which leads to your plant receiving much less light on a daily basis, this means they are using much less water and you’ll have to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. You may find over time that your soil starts to dry out faster and faster even though the light, temperature and airflow seem to be the same; often times this is a sign that your plant has begun to outgrow it’s pot. The pot becomes so full of roots that the soil becomes compressed and can’t hold as much water as it used to. Essentially your sponge has gotten smaller. If you notice your plant is drying out much too quickly it is time to repot!

Crimson's Guidelines for Repotting Houseplants

If you’re like us when you bring home a beautiful new houseplant you will most likely want to put it in an equally beautiful planter. Today we are here to give you a few guidelines on how to repot your new houseplant.

Let’s start with choosing the correct pot. Most pots are made from plastic, ceramics or glazed ceramics. There are also more rare pots made from concrete, carved stone, wood, glass and even felt. Most of the houseplants you will find are tropical plants that will be happy in any of these containers so long as there is a drainage hole for excess water to escape. Possibly the most important factor about your planter is that it has at least one drainage hole. Planters that lack a drainage hole make watering very tricky in the long run. Pots made from porous materials (wood, unglazed ceramics, concrete, felt etc) will pull water from the soil helping the soil to dry out faster. This makes these types of pots a great choice for plants that like to dry out a bit or a lot between watering (e.g. orchids, epiphytes, succulents). Plants made from nonporous materials (glazed ceramics, glass, plastic) will not leach water from the soil maintaining a more moist soil environment. This means these types of pots are ideal for plants that like to stay moist or evenly moist such as many ferns, alocasias, aphelandras, calatheas and more.

Once you’ve chosen the type of planter you will use now you have to choose the correct size. In general it is recommended that you should never repot a plant into a container that is more than 2” larger in diameter than its current pot. This is especially true for smaller plants that come in 2”,4”, 6” and 8” pots. If your plant is of a type that likes to dry out considerably between watering then you should choose a pot that is similar in size to one it came in or that is only 1” larger in diameter.

With the correct planter chosen now it’s time to choose the correct soil. It is helpful to recognize that growing a plant in a pot is much different from growing a plant in the ground. Soil dug up from the ground does not generally make a good potting soil. The main purpose of a potting soil is to act as a sponge that holds the right amount of water, air and fertilizer that your plant requires. To this end the main component to most potting soils is a highly absorptive material such as peat moss or coco-fiber. This creates the spongy base material that will hold the water and fertilizer. Next many soil mixes add a light stone (like perlite or pumice) or bits of tree mulch. These additives create air pockets and allow for some water to drain through. For plants that like to stay moist there is generally more spongy material and less rocky material; for plants that like to dry out there is generally an even amount of spongy material to rocky material. For Xeric plants like cacti and many succulents there will be more rocky material than spongy material. Most tropical houseplants will be happy in a standard potting mix however we often recommend using better draining soils for houseplants. Since houseplants are generally kept in lower light then they would prefer, they do not use as much water. This makes it more difficult for their soil to dry, creating an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi.

Now that you have your plant, your pot and your soil it’s time to get down to business! First you want to prepare your pot. We like to use a small piece of drywall tape to cover the drainage hole as this will hold in the soil but allow water to pass easily through. You can also use a broken piece of pottery or a stone if they are at hand. Next put a small scoop of soil at the bottom of the pot and you are ready to prepare your plant.

Most tropical plants or other plants that like to have moist soil have fairly delicate roots. This is because beyond the roots that you can see with your naked eye they also have teeny tiny root hairs that sprout off into the soil to be able to reach every last corner of their pot. This means that even a little disturbance to the soil can damage these tiny delicate root hairs. For this reason we recommend gently squeezing the plastic pot your plant is in to loosen the soil then cradling the base of the plant in your hand and turning the pot on it’s side in order to slide the root ball out. If your plant is in a hard ceramic container you may want to slide a thin knife or trowel down between the soil and the inside of the pot to free the roots from the old pot.

Once your plant is unpotted take some time to look at the roots and smell the soil, yes I said smell the soil! You are looking for firm healthy roots snaking their way through the soil. If anything is mushy or smells like old produce left in your fridge then you are looking at a plant that has been over watered and is experiencing root rot. We will be writing soon with details on how to specifically deal with this issue. If your roots look healthy and your soil smells like soil ought to then we recommend gently dusting off any loose soil but leaving the root ball as intact as possible.

Now that your pot and your plant are ready gently set your plant in the pot on top of the soil. You want the top of the root ball to sit a half inch to an inch below the rim of the pot. If it’s too high you’ll need to remove some of the soil from the bottom of the pot; if it’s too low you’ll need to add more soil to bottom. Once your plant is at the right height then you can add soil to fill in along the sides of the pot. Be sure to gently tamp the soil into place to prevent any large pockets of air. Keep filling the sides until it is even with the top of the root ball then use just enough soil to lightly cover the top of the root ball. Do some final tamping to make sure everything is secure and you’re done! For most tropical plants it is advisable to gently water your plant to help it settle into it’s new soil. For many cacti and succulents it is advisable to wait a few days before watering to allow any damaged roots to heal before getting wet and inviting fungus or bacteria. If you have questions about how to water your houseplant see our next post that is about that very topic! 

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Crimson does Mother's Day Right

Get ready Mother's Day is right around the corner. 

We have just the thing for all you present seekers.
Kitchen Herb Boxes: Singles for $20 and a 4-pack for $65
Also we will be here for you Sunday May 11th from 11am-3pm to arrange Custom Crimson Mother's Day Bouquets!! Don't miss out on the perfect present. Herb boxes are first come first serve.

Flare for your Love

We are working hard today on some tiny bouquets to go with your valentines from our shop.