How to Start Your Houseplant Hobby—On A Budget

Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, houseplants have steadily risen in popularity. “Since mid-March, we’ve seen a tremendous spike in online sales, especially for blooming plants. We can hardly keep up with fulfillment,” Eliza Blank, founder of The Sill said in a New York Post article. As Blank says, ”People need something to tend to, to nurture, to pull away from the computer.”

Of course, this boom in the houseplant industry comes as no surprise. While people were quarantined inside for so long, they sought out a little bit more life in their homes.

I moved into a new home at the beginning of this year during quarantine. I kept seeing plant mamas showing off their new babies of all shapes and sizes on Instagram. Naturally, as a Gen Z / Millennial household in Brooklyn, I hopped on the trend and started buying plants—I was obsessed! As I was healing my own mental health and working on learning self-care, I was able to also nourish another life. I loved caring for plant life because I didn’t have to worry about the increased pressure and responsibility of taking care of a pet.

However, at the same time, it’s important to work on living smart on a budget. It’s incredibly tempting to spend money on plants when you walk into the store with tons of the different options. Some of the bigger species can cost up to hundreds of dollars and the smaller ones costing anywhere from $30-$50. It all adds up quickly.

For advice from an expert, I got the wonderful opportunity to speak with Erin Marino, the Editorial Lead at The Sill, and talk more about all things houseplants! 

I feel like the phrase ‘I can’t keep a plant alive’ is so common amongst my peers – what would you say to a reluctant plant parent who is interested but worried about their ability to care for the plant? 

You got this! But really, sometimes we’re our own worst critic. Don’t be so hard on yourself, we’ve all accidentally killed plants before. But the more experience we have with them, the more attuned we become to their needs. 

My top tip I tell friends is to be careful not to overcare. Plants are hardier than we think. I have about 50+ now in my apartment so I’ve gotten in the habit of only watering them when I see signs of thirst (bone dry soil, wrinkling leaves, etc.) I still check on them daily because it’s a way for me to rest my eyes after a day on the computer, but I don’t pick up the watering can or pruners unless I need to. They’re thriving under less care. 

Why do you think there has been a resurgence of interest in plant parenting in the last few years? 

Great question! I think the interest has always been strong but it has reached a younger generation in the last few years. Being a millennial myself, I turned to plants because they were an accessible hobby that I could enjoy both solo and make friends through. One of my best friends is someone I met at a Plants 101 workshop at The Sill many moons ago. 

For someone interested in starting to own house plants, any advice on how to get started without breaking the bank? 

Find a friend or family member that has their own collection and ask for cuttings to propagate. One thing about plant people: they love to talk and share plants! 

You can also look for public plant swaps in your local area. Most are free or have a small ticket fee that’s usually a donation to a local organization. If you live near a Sill location, we’ll be hosting plant swaps later this summer and fall. 

With Erin’s advice in mind, here are some tips for the new plant parents out there on how to care for your houseplants on a budget.

houseplants on a budget

1. Set reminders

Many of us lead busy lives with many obligations, and it’s common to forget to care for your plants when your schedule fills up. For me, it’s been really helpful to set reminders on my phone to water or just check on my plants. It’s such an easy but simple way to hold yourself accountable! After all, one of the best ways to care for your houseplants on a budget is by keeping them alive in the first place, rather than neglecting them and spending money to replace them.

2. Every plant is different

Every plant is different in terms of what it requires to truly thrive, from sunlight and water to fertilizer, and humidity. When buying new species, do your research properly and familiarize yourself with the care each plant requires. You’ll save money in the long run if you buy houseplants that you know will work with your space and lifestyle, rather than shelling out for a trendy fiddle leaf fig that’s not suited to your north-facing windows. Here is a comprehensive houseplant resource to check out!

3. Be okay with yourself if they die at all 

We’ve all experienced the heart wrenching guilt and sadness of a plant baby dying—and it’s definitely a common experience for new plant lovers! If this occurs, please don’t beat yourself up for it. Instead, try and learn from the experience to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

4. Get plants that you can care for sustainably

Caring about the sustainability aspect may be a factor you’ve never thought about with plants. What does this mean? Well, buy plants that you love and will take care of, not just because they’re trendy! Make sure that you’re not exceeding your limits. This goes for all kinds of boundaries: money, time, and space commitments. Don’t buy more plants than what you know you’ll be able to provide for. My personal favorite plant species include the snake plant and spider plant. They can be bred and easily repotted, therefore making them sustainable choices.

5. Stick to your houseplants budget

As mentioned earlier in the article, the costs for plants can pile up quickly and cause stress financially. So, it’s a smart idea for you to set an amount you’re willing (and able) to spend on plants over a certain period. This could be a monthly or quarterly budget, or whatever works for you! Above all, having houseplants on a budget will help this remain a fun hobby, rather than a burden to your financial situation.

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About Nadya Okamoto

Nadya Okamoto is a 23-year-old Harvard student. In early 2020, Okamoto co-founded August, a lifestyle brand working to reimagine periods. As the Today Show describes, “August is a growing online community aiming to "re-imagine and redefine the period experience to be powerful and dignified," with members who engage in conversations about how to properly use menstrual cups or what it's like to be a transgender man having a period, for example.” Nadya Okamoto is also the Founder of PERIOD (period.org), an organization fighting to end period poverty and stigma that she founded at the age of 16. Under her leadership as Executive Director for five years, PERIOD addressed over 1.5 million periods and registered over 800 campus chapters in all 50 states and 50 other countries. In 2017, Nadya ran for public office in Cambridge, MA at age 19 — at the time, becoming the youngest Asian American to run. In 2018, Nadya published her debut book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement with publisher Simon & Schuster, which made the Kirkus Reviews list for Best Young Adult Nonfiction of 2018. Nadya is also the former Chief Brand Officer and current Board Member of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z marketing agency based in NYC. She has been recognized on the lists of Forbes 30 under 30, Bloomberg 50 “Ones to Watch” and People Magazine's Women Changing the World.

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