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A Pandemic Handbook: 5 indoor plants for beginners

By Fashila Kanakka 21 September 2020

Header image courtesy of @katya (via Unsplash)

Since the pandemic, students and academic staff have been pushed to stay home as a social distancing measure to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Although it may have seemed like fun and games for some to work from the comfort of their homes, we have all since felt stressed out at some point. The pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health, to say the least, which is why we’re bringing you an inexpensive and worthwhile way to de-stress (other than binging on our favourite comfort foods)! Here are five hard-to-kill green pals to get you started in becoming a plant parent.

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1

Snake plant

This low-maintenance houseplant is the first plant I got as a beginner and believe me, this one is pretty darn hard to kill! The leaves are thick and very sturdy (not to mention gorgeous!), and this plant can thrive in low light conditions. It is a rather slow grower so repotting isn’t required often. Be careful not to water it too much as very moist soil can lead to mushrooms—they’re not harmful but they’re not pleasant either!

Light: Low light/indirect sunlight
Water
: Every 10 days
Temperature
: Not suitable below 10 degree Celcius
Pet-friendly
: No
Benefits
: Removes toxins in air, filters out carbon dioxide, converting it to oxygen even at night!

2

ZZ plant

Also known as the Zanzibar Gem, the ZZ plant instantly adds more character to any room. Its beautiful deep green, oval-shaped leaves don’t require much commitment. This is one plant that will survive even if you forget to water it on schedule, as they are drought-resistant (they store water in the soil). Just be careful not to over-water this gem as mould tends to form, and this leads to rapid growth of the stems which can get tricky to maintain—repotting may then be required.

Light
: Bright to low indirect light
Water
: Once a week
Temperature
: Not suitable below seven degree Celcius
Pet-friendly
: No
Benefits
: Removes toxins in air, filters out carbon dioxide, converting it to oxygen even at night!

3

Lily plant

Poised and elegant, one might be fooled into thinking this plant is for advanced planters! This flowering plant is a favourite amongst many for its delicate off-white blooms, glossy green leaves, and its easy-going nature. Unlike the other plants on this list, Peace Lilies will need frequent watering or they’ll become unhappily sloppy. Typical blooming season is in spring and the flower stalks last for weeks!

Light: Plenty of filtered light
Water
: Water and mist every alternate day
Temperature
: Not suitable below 12 degree Celcius
Pet-friendly
: No
Benefits
: Great air purifier; removes mould spores from the air (great for people with asthma
or chronic lung illnesses); and absorbs electromagnetic radiation from electronic devices

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list👇

4

Aloe Vera

You had me at Aloe! (Free pick-up line to entice the plant lover; you’re welcome.) But really, what’s not to loe-ve (sorry, last pun!) about this succulent that’s a great houseplant and is also soothing for your skin! Aloe Vera’s gel has plenty of benefits and you don’t have to break your back or bank to grow one in your crib! Generally, Aloe Vera plants don’t flower and it could take years for one to grow a flower stalk.

Light
: Keep near bright-lit window
Water
: Every three weeks
Temperature
: Not suitable below 15 degree Celcius
Pet-friendly
: No
Benefits
: Its clear gel is good for soothing burns, moisturising skin, and helps to clear skin of acne

5

Lucky Bamboo

According to feng shui, the Lucky Bamboo plant is believed to bring good luck and fortune into the household, especially if given as gifts. These plants can flourish in a vase with clean water or in a pot with moist soil. Bamboos are laughably inexpensive—the Flower Market in Mong Kok sells them for $5 per stalk!—and they are a tough one to kill. Healthy bamboo roots should be a red shade, displaying a vibrant contrast when put in a glass vase.

Do note that bamboos are very sensitive to chlorine, so be sure to let tap water sit for at least a day before watering your plant, or simply use distilled water.

Light
: Keep in bright-lit space
Water
: Keep roots covered and add water as needed
Temperature
: Not suitable below 18 degree Celcius
Pet-friendly
: No
Benefits
: Believed to attract positive energy, bringing good health, happiness, and prosperity to one’s
home

Planting tips you should know

Store-bought fertilisers are necessary for plant growth but the chemicals present in these fertilisers may have some side effects on the soil. Long-term usage of such fertilisers may harden the soil, eventually making them infertile, and over-fertilising your plant can actually kill seedlings and damage roots and leaves.

Amazing alternatives to store-bought fertilisers are home-made, natural ones! Here are three natural fertilisers that give your plants an extra boost of minerals and nutrients, which can be easily made by recycling food waste! 

Rice water: Save the water used to rinse rice before cooking, making sure the water isn’t salted, and use this to water your plants. The starch content in rice water will add beneficial vitamins and minerals to the soil and help balance soil bacteria. It also keeps away plant pests, acting as an organic pesticide!

Banana peels: Add in strips or small bits of banana peel to your soil. These will gradually decompose and release plenty of potassium into the soil, along with small amounts of nitrogen and magnesium, which are all key to keeping your plant healthy.

Eggshells: You can either dry off the eggshells completely and then powder them to add in the soil, or crush the shells, bring it to a boil, and add the solution to the soil after it cools overnight. Eggshells release calcium which is important for strong cellular structure in plants.

More tips!

  • Keep an eye on dried or dying leaves and cut them off
  • Place a humidifier near your houseplants during the drier seasons as low humidity leads to browning of leaves
  • Read or sing to your plants—the carbon dioxide we release boosts their growth!
Photo credit: @ling_gigi (Unsplash)

Where to buy plants in Hong Kong

The Flower Market in Mong Kok is home to numerous plant shops where you’ll find endless varieties of plants for a great bargain. However, if crowded places don’t tickle your fancy, here are some individual shops around Hong Kong with door delivery available.

Wah King Garden Arts, multiple locations including 24 Flower Market Road, Mong Kok | (+852) 2459 8900

Ovo Garden, G/F, 1 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2529 2599

Garden Plus, Lot 715 DD 316, Lo Wai Village, Pui O, Lantau Island | (+852) 2980 2233

Flower Delivery Hong Kong, Flat B4, 9/F, Jone Mult Factory Building, 169 Wai Yip Street, Kwun Tong | (+852) 3590 5123

Greenfingers Florist Co. Ltd, G/F, Tung Tze Terrace, 6 Aberdeen Street, Central | (+852) 2827 8280

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Fashila Kanakka

Contributor

Fashila was born in India but raised in Hong Kong and shares a strong bond with both her home and birth land. She loves hunting for hidden gems and finding the road less travelled. When she’s not breaking her back from educating and shaping little earthlings, you can find her loading up on succulents at the Flower Market, buying yet another book to rest on the shelf, or making calories come to life by baking.

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