The “jungle apartment” aesthetic is super trendy right now, but it can’t be a reality for everyone. We’d all like to have every plant on our wishlist, and maybe it’ll happen someday! But for now, we have to be reasonable, which is why I’d like to share 10 ways to grow your plant collection sustainably.
Basically, this is how to avoid letting your plant obsession grow out of control or buying more than you can handle.
Plants should be fun and something that brings you joy, not something that’s overwhelming and a chore. Not saying that there aren’t still plant chores that aren’t super fun, but overall your plants should make you feel better, not worse. Otherwise, what’s the point in having them?
Benefits of keeping your plants under control
It gives you room to grow (literally)
It’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of plants to try and fill up your space right away. We’ve all seen the pictures on Pinterest or Instagram of the beautifully decorated living rooms full of plants. Who doesn’t want a monstera deliciosa the size of a small tree? I sure do!
But going overboard prevents two things: it doesn’t give you room for other plants when you find new ones that you want, and it doesn’t give your current plants much space to grow. Some plants are slow growers, but some will get significantly bigger over time. Take my rhaphidophora tetrasperma, for example. Here’s a before and after that shows how much taller it got in only six months!
Granted, this plant did grow vertically, but some plants will grow out horizontally as well.
Buying plants slowly also helps you spread out the cost over some time. Creating a jungle room in one afternoon would be a huge investment because large, mature plants can be quite expensive.
Confirm that you’re still interested
I don’t think having houseplants will ever go out of style, but maybe your obsession won’t always be as intense as it is right now. Having a smaller number of plants to start with makes it less to deal with if you become disinterested.
Maybe you move a lot and don’t want your plants to be a stressor when you’re moving to a new apartment. Maybe you decide that plants are too much work, and you’d rather just have fake plants or flowers to decorate your space. All of those things are perfectly valid reasons! By growing your collection slowly, it allows you to adjust and make sure that having a bunch of plants is really what you want.
If you decide it’s not for you, you can hopefully realize that before you have like a hundred plants. It’s fewer plants that you’ll have to sell or give away.
Or, maybe you fall more in love with plants with each new one you buy. That’s great! We’re in the same boat. I love buying new plants, but I’m always careful to not bring in more than I can handle.
If you’ve ever looked up some information about your plant, and then forgotten it immediately, this care sheet is for you. Plants all have different needs. Keep track of the various requirements for lighting, water, and other things; as well as any other notes you want to take.
Print out copies for each plant you have, and create your own plant care binder! All of your information will be easily accessible in one place.
With that being said, I think we’re ready to get started. Here are 10 ways to keep your plant collection growing at a reasonable pace!
10 Ways to grow your plant collection sustainably
1. Buy plants you love, not because they’re trendy
Just like with clothing or anything else, there are trends in the plant world. I’ve seen it happen where a certain plant gets really popular on Instagram and it seems like all of a sudden everyone has the same plant. One month the coolest plant is string of hearts, then the next month people are obsessed with variegated monstera deliciosa albo.
It’s tempting to go with the trends and get swept up in the hype. But sellers are aware of these trends and often mark up plants that everyone is looking for.
You could end up buying an overpriced plant that you realize you don’t actually like that much, and you only bought it because everyone else did. Now you’re stuck with a plant that you don’t love, and it leaves less space for other species you might like more.
Instead, take some time to figure out what types of plants you actually like. The ones that always catch your eye. The ones you think are special in some way, because of the color, leaf shape, variegation pattern, or anything else. Those are the plants you should buy, and the ones you’re less likely to regret.
2. Try plant swaps
Plant swaps are meetups for people looking to trade their plants. Or they can also be trading plants in the mail with online plant friends. Either way, you give up a plant and get a new one for free!
This is a great way to grow your collection sustainably. You still get a new plant, but the total number of plants you have isn’t changing. It’s a way to resolve the issue of buying a trendy plant that you’ve realized isn’t for you. You may also be able to get rare plants that you wouldn’t normally find in stores. People often have cuttings of their larger plants that you can trade for.
I’ve never done any plant swaps so I don’t have a ton of advice, but my best guess would be to ask a few of your plant friends and see if they’ve done swaps or are willing to trade with you. Always follow the rules of the people hosting the swap, but have fun! It’s an easy way to meet people with shared interests, on top of being a way to trade your least favorite plants for some new ones.
3. Don’t buy plants that look unhealthy
This is especially true when you’re a beginner and don’t have much experience with caring for more high-maintenance plants. Plants that are sick or damaged are probably discounted, which can be appealing when you’re trying to get the most plants for your money. But if you’re unfamiliar with the type of plant and its care, then it’s probably not worth the effort of trying to bring it back from the dead.
You could be setting yourself up for disappointment when a new plant dies shortly after you bring it home. Not to mention, it’s also a waste of money even if it was discounted.
I don’t think it’s worth the potential infestation if the damage on the plant is caused by pests. Bringing home a new infested plant can easily spread the pests to your other plants, and it can become a nasty situation. This is why it’s best to stick to buying plants that already look healthy, probably with new growth points or new leaves so you know it’s growing.
4. Set (and stick to) a plant budget
The plants you can find at Home Depot or Lowes are usually reasonably priced, but rare plants in some nurseries or online shops can easily cost even hundreds of dollars. It may make sense for you to set an amount you’re willing (and able) to spend on plants over a certain period. It could be a monthly budget, or quarterly, or whatever works for you.
The budget should include the plants themselves as well as pots, soil, fertilizer, and other supplies. Pots can be a hidden expense of owning plants! You can get cheap terra cotta pots or even leave plants in their plastic nursery pots, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But people often incorporate plants as a part of their home décor, so you may want stylish pots. The pottery is gorgeous, but it can easily get pricey, especially if you’re looking at handmade ceramics or large pots.
Some people also do ‘plant bans’ where they stop themselves from buying any plants for a set time. There are pros and cons to this, but I won’t go into the details here. Basically, you’ll save money by not buying plants for a while, but it can encourage you to go overboard and spend way too much when your ban is over.
Above all, having a budget will help your plants remain a fun hobby. It would be irresponsible to spend so much that it becomes a burden to your financial situation.
Having and sticking to a budget can stop you from buying rare or overpriced plants that you may regret later. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy an expensive plant, just make sure you can afford it first!
5. Appreciate the plants you have
Spend time with your existing plants, and really focus on what makes each one unique. Pay attention to what you like about it, and it can easily become a kind of meditative experience.
Seeing the growth over time and noticing when there’s a new leaf is part of what makes owning plants so rewarding. You’re helping this thing thrive and grow in your home! What’s cooler than that?
Having a plant wishlist is great. There are so many amazing plants out there that it’s hard not to want a bunch of them. But I think it might be a problem if you spend more time looking at plants you want than appreciating the ones you have. Your collection will also grow a lot faster if you’re always focused on the next plants that you want to buy.
Paying attention to what you have can limit how much time you spend looking at other plants that you want to buy. Slow down your collecting by practicing gratitude for your plants.
6. Know your limits
And don’t exceed those limits! This goes for all kinds of boundaries: money, time, and space commitments. This goes back to the idea that your plants shouldn’t be a source of stress, but they can become stressful if anything goes too far.
It’s extra true when you’re living with someone else and sharing your space. It would be unfair to allow your plants to consume any common areas unless your roommates are cool with it.
You can run into financial problems if you don’t have a plant budget, or if you do and consistently go over that budget anyway. (See tip number 4.)
Plants can also become a time-consuming hobby, especially if you have high-maintenance plants or a large collection. You may be exceeding your boundaries on time if your plant care starts to become a chore that you dread. Sure, there are parts of owning plants that aren’t super fun, but it should be a good experience overall.
7. Try propagating your plants
This is a great learning experience and a way to get free plants!
Take some cuttings from a plant you really like, and do some research on the best way to propagate it. Depending on the plant, you may need to be really patient. My pothos cuttings were growing roots within a week or two, but I also had ZZ plant cuttings were in water for 6 months before they did anything! It all depends on the type of plant you’re trying to grow.
Be aware that not every propagation will be successful, and you might have to throw out some cuttings if they rot instead of growing. Also, make sure that your cutting actually has a growth point (you may need to do some googling to see what that looks like). If you take a cutting with no growth point, roots won’t develop, and the cutting will just rot over time.
Propagating is a way to grow your collection slowly. You’re still getting new plants, but they’re most likely smaller than ones you would buy. They’ll be easier to care for because you’re already familiar with that species.
8. Don’t buy plants you know you’ll kill
I think everyone has at least one kind of plant that they just can’t keep alive no matter what. Mine is succulents. I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly wrong with my succulents, but they always die within a few months.
Now that I know this, I’ve stopped buying succulents. I know that it’s a waste of money to get a plant that I’m not good with. I still love the way they look, but I appreciate the succulents that other people own instead.
If you’ve owned plants for a while, you probably have a story like mine. Maybe you’ve killed every dieffenbachia, or alocasia, or peperomia that you’ve bought. If you do, stop buying that plant. It doesn’t mean that you can’t still appreciate it, but it will save you money and frustration in the long run.
9. Make time for plant maintenance
Gardeners spend a lot of time gardening, and house plant care is no different! On top of watering, you should also allocate time for plant maintenance like repotting, trimming old leaves, and dusting the leaves of your plants.
The goal is to keep all of the plants in your collection looking good. Inspecting your plants regularly will help you get in tune with what each individual plant needs. You’ll know when it’s outgrowing its pot, when it should be fertilized, and you can catch any sign of pests early.
Buying more plants and neglecting the ones you have is a lot like buying more clothes when your closet is already stuffed. You should be able to keep your existing plants in good shape before you start buying more, which will help stop everything from getting out of hand.
10. Avoid sources of plant-envy
I’m going to define ‘plant-envy’ as the desire to buy new plants after seeing what other people have on social media. It may make you feel like your collection isn’t good enough, or that you have to buy new and trendy plants to ‘keep up’ with what other people have. I enjoy video tours of plant nurseries. But I stopped watching them because they would just make me want to go shopping and buy more plants that I didn’t need.
It’s possible to enjoy other people’s photos without being jealous. But buying plants based on feelings of inferiority or jealousy isn’t healthy.
It’s not a competition. Everyone is on their own journey with their own unique life situations that we’ll probably never know about. Maybe that person has been collecting plants for years when you’re just getting started. It’s not fair to compare what you have (or don’t have) with someone else.
Do what makes you happy. Buy the plants that make you happy, and unfollow any person or plant store that makes you feel bad. (This applies to other aspects of life, too. Social media jealousy is not worth your time or energy.) Life is short, and we should enjoy the plants we have!
So there you have my 10 tips for collecting more plants sustainably without letting your hobby grow out of control. At the end of the day, plants are supposed to make our lives better.
My biggest plant regret is probably buying a bunch of new plants (like more than 5) all at once. It was so exciting, but some of them ended up dying because I didn’t pay attention to or research their individual needs. By the time I figured out that a plant wasn’t doing well and thought to look it up, there was nothing I could do, and a few of them died.
Of course, I would love to have more plants, but I’m happy with where I’m at right now. It’s a very manageable situation. If you’d like to hear more about my plants, I have a post about all the plants in my collection.
How do you keep your plant collection under control? Have you ever had more plants than you could handle? Let me know by leaving a comment!