Tales of a plant hoarder: my new plant acquisitions

This is a tale of plant murder, heartbreak and moving on. My plant tally is up to 30 in my tiny ass apartment and I swore I would stop buying more because I don’t want to become some crazed plant lady—but let’s be real—it’s mostly because I’m running out of space. However, as a creature of self-enablement, when I discovered I killed my pin stripe calathea (RIP, I loved you for two years), I gave myself permission to indulge. Behold, derp faced Wei with one of the new plants.

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Yes, perhaps this was #toosoon in the plant grieving process and perhaps my sorrow drove me to “just check out” some shops I hadn’t visited in a while. MAYBE THESE WERE REBOUND PLANT PURCHASES BUT I’D LIKE TO THINK NOT.

As if the murder of my calathea wasn’t enough, I suffered from another heartbreak this week. The rare mini monstera (Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma) that I ordered from Thailand came in this state.

It simply took too long to get through customs and make it here. :/ I’m still hopeful I might be able to save parts of it but alas, *cue “Quit Playin’ Games with my Heart” by Backstreet Boys.* Such is the risk though when smuggling plants in illegally.

Reeling from my plant despair, I went to to Tula in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They have a great selection of rare plants at their airy warehouse location (I’ve been to their pop-ups and truck before which are also stellar). I had to tear myself away from getting the rarer $100+ plants while hoping to find a mini monstera.

Ultimately, I was drawn to this $25 Fernleaf Cactus (Selenicereus Chrysocardium) for its elegant, unique look. I’ve placed it temporarily here on the shelf above my bed but I’ll need to repot it.

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Next, I strolled to Greenery Unlimited (also in Greenpoint) but wasn’t too tempted by anything. Well…I was looking at a $40 hanging Philodendron Brazil to replace my long dead pitcher plant (THEY ARE FREAKIN’ HARD. They require distilled water, always moist and frequently sprayed due to their natural jungle/swamp/humid environment) but didn’t want to pay that much.

I thought that was the end of my plant excursion. I had walked past Peter Pan Donuts earlier and well, I fuckin’ love donuts—right up there with burritos and plants. I made sure to walk past it again since the L is a nightmare and I had to walk to the Lorimer Street Station anyway. I got two donuts, wolfed down one with my iced coffee and continued my journey back home. Then I walked past Screamer’s Pizzeria, did a double take and proceeded to self-enable again with a delicious slice (WHAT?! I ONLY ATE 1 OF THE 2 DONUTS. IT’S OK TO GET A SLICE OF PIZZA). I freakin’ swear to gawd, vegan pizza sounds whack but this place is amazing.

I walked past Xi’an Famous Noodles and ok, give me points for self control. I did NOT stop in (but ok, maybe I already had it a few days before).

Wow, getting off track. Anyway, on my way home with apparently an insatiable appetite, I passed by Soft Opening plant shop and decided to drop in—perhaps cos my brain immediately thought of soft serve and short-circuited. I’m glad I did though because unbeknownst to me, I was on a cactus kick. I got another plant in the same family as the Fernleaf Cactus. This lil Fishbone Cactus (Selenicereus Anthonyanus) with a mystery plant thing (I forgot the name—help me if you know) was already potted for $25!

Nearly to the subway stop, I passed by one of my favorite plant stores in NYC, Crest Hardware. I love this place so much. I found this adorable $8 Philodendron Brazil which was perfect cos I didn’t need the bigger $40 one I had seen earlier in Greenpoint. I dig the coloration of neon leaves. Here it is in a pot I already had (RIP, previous plant that lived in that pot).

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So yeah, perhaps I went on a plant spree out of disappointment. I’ll do what I can to not kill them—starting with avoiding pots without drainage despite putting rocks on the bottom. And hey, at least these new acquisitions weren’t smuggled into the country illegally.

My mental health journey: medication and seeking help

Welp, I can’t sleep so what better time to write this post than now?

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I’m fairly hesitant about writing on mental health since as I get older, the more wary I am about what I post online. I don’t want potential employers, peers, love interests (oh la laaaaa), etc to develop pre-conceived notions of me. I guess I’m writing this on the chance that it helps someone with similar struggles. These are things I wish I could’ve told myself earlier. Obligatory disclaimer, this is just my mental health journey and by no means a definitive guide cos lol I did not go to med school plz don’t sue me.

Don’t judge yourself for seeking help

I brushed off seeking help for years. As a very analytical, solution focused person, I figured that since I knew the causes of my discontent, I was capable of solving them myself and didn’t need help. I would also compare myself to others and think, “It’s not that bad. You just have to change this or accomplish this and then you’ll be happy.” There are a couple of issues with this approach. Of course it can always get worse. Of course compared to some other people, your life isn’t that bad but if you’re feeling a particular way, it’s valid. Judging yourself for feeling a certain way doesn’t solve anything. Secondly, seeking professional help should not be the last resort. Why wait until things are “bad enough” to seek help? Why make things harder than they need to be? Why wait until the house is burning down to start putting out the fire? It makes no sense. You don’t need to do it alone. You don’t need to feel guilty, self-indulgent, or weak for seeking help. You also don’t need to have a disorder to warrant seeking help—everyone can benefit with some perspective and skills for dealing with difficult situations. Self diagnosis or thinking you can solve your problems alone is often inaccurate. I discover things during therapy that would seem like common sense to most people but I never realized on my own.

Acknowledge the physical validity of mental health

Without getting into details, I’ve struggled with mental health most of my life. As a first generation immigrant, I’ve been in fight mode from an early age to overcome hurdles and succeed. Throughout adulthood, I’ve had to push through tribulations in succession. As a result, it’s very difficult for me to not fixate on the worst case scenarios (hello, catastrophizing) and turn off survival mode. Because I was able to pinpoint specific causes of my frazzled mental state, I denied that there were chemical causes to my mental health. It was only when I had “accomplished” and “fixed” my problems but was still crying everyday that I started to accept there may be chemical imbalances that contributed to my continued depression.

What I’m getting at is that mental health is physical as well. It’s complex and there are many contributors (trauma, genetics, environmental factors) but if you have a chemical imbalance, that is an actual physical thing. I resisted taking medication for the longest time because I thought my problems were cognitive or situational but you have to accept that sometimes there really is a physical issue. If you had other illnesses that were treatable with medication, why would you resist so much? Would you tell a diabetic to refrain from insulin shots? If you had a physical issue like not being able to see far away, would you go through life stumbling into things or would you get a freakin’ pair of glasses or contact lenses? If you’re sinking into an abyss for no reason and your neurotransmitters are strugglin’, help ’em out, ok? The way my psychiatrist explained it, medication and therapy go hand in hand. Imagine a water faucet with two handles—one representing medication and the other representing therapy. As you gradually re-wire your brain/behavior through therapy, you can start to turn down the other handle and vice versa. It’s a balance.

I’m not saying that medication is a cure all, but in my particular case, being medicated allowed me to feel “normal” for the first time in my life. Nothing else in my life had changed other than taking medication but my life was completely different because of it. With that said, don’t get discouraged if one medication doesn’t work out. If one pair of shoes don’t fit, it doesn’t make sense to swear off all shoes forever and let rocks cut up your feet. Sure, there were some drawbacks (dosage initially too high so I was falling asleep during the day) but it has improved my quality of life significantly.

I really wish I had sought professional help earlier and accepted the physical validity of mental health which brings me to the next item…

Prioritize your sanity

Don’t put off seeking help until you’re in full meltdown mode. Don’t tell yourself “It’s not that bad yet” or “I can’t afford therapy.” It’ll be harder to dig yourself out at that point and therapy can be more affordable than you think—many doctors take insurance and there are affordable options a Google search away.

It’s not fun to go through your insurance list, research, and call up a bunch of doctors especially when you’re already feeling overwhelmed but I promise you, you really just have to do it once and then you’ve gotten it over with.

Set aside one night after work to make the list and spend half an hour the next day during your lunch calling up places. You can even use apps like ZocDoc sometimes for scheduling appointments with zero to little fuss. If you really can’t handle it, tell a friend or family member and get them to help. I got to a point in high school when I was worried that I’d try to kill myself again. As much as I hated asking my parents for help and despite their cultural lack of exposure—and really, stigma against mental health (Asian cultures aren’t really the “let’s talk about our feelings” type), they recognized my plea and got me the medical attention I needed. If you can’t seek help yourself, it’s important to let your loved ones know.

Mental health is important and someone loves you even when you may not love yourself.

How to diagnose and save a dying plant

As someone that has murdered many plants, I shall impart my accidental wisdom. May you learn from my failures, my internet friends and foes. Or don’t, if you relish in being a serial plant murderer. I don’t know your life.

Like any potential murder, let’s start with an ~ investigation ~

EXAMINE THE SOIL

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Just go ahead and stick your finger in there—at least 2 or 3 inches into the soil. Feel if the soil is dry or wet. As someone that gets fancy manicures and grew up in an azn household, plz trust me when I say I freaking hate getting dirt under my fingernails but you just have to do it, ok? You want that $60 monstera you carried all the way back from Chinatown on the train and lugged up 4 flights of stairs to die? Just stick your finger in that soil.

OR top lazy tip—get a soil meter. If you truly hate gauging the moisture level with your fingers (lol hai it me), this nifty thing comes in handy. Also, it measures light and pH levels—without even requiring batteries. WOW IZ SCIENCE.

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In terms of soil moisture, consider the humidity in your space. If the plant is near a heater that runs most of winter, of course the soil is going to dry out. Try to avoid placing the plant near the heater/ac but if you must, keep the humidity in mind.

Are there tiny mites in your soil or plant leaves? O NOES you have an infestation (likely spider mites). This is why I recommend always keeping new plants away from old ones for a while in quarantine to make sure that any potential bugs don’t spread. There are a whole slew of sprays available—neem oil is a great organic solution. For a particularly bad infestation, I’d recommend getting rid of the dirt completely, washing the plant, roots, and pot in a water and soap solution and repotting with new soil.

Wtf, why is there a mushroom growing in the soil? There’s your cue to stop watering so gawd damn much. Fungus grows from moisture. You’re doing it wrong.

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EXAMINE THE ROOTS
O NOES IS THE SOIL SUPER WET even though you didn’t water it recently? I am very sorry to break it to you but more often than not, your plant has root rot.

What is root rot? Basically, it means you loved your plant too much and overwatered it to the point where the roots are mushy and can no longer absorb nutrients properly. Imagine what happens to your skin after sitting in the bath tub for a long time—not a good look, right? Or, another possible cause is that the pot that you have the plant in has poor drainage and the roots are sitting in water. Always get a pot with a hole on the bottom or make sure you have rocks on the bottom of a pot that doesn’t have drainage so that the water can seep through. You can find out definitively if you have root rot by taking the plant out of its pot to examine the roots. There’s not a lot you can do to recover from this but in the past, I’ve been able to save some plants by cutting the roots off completely and starting over again with propagation (more on that in a future post cos I am lazy, sarz). I would say that most of my plant fails have been due to overwatering/root rot.

Another possibility is that the roots have wrapped around the pot—it’s time to repot it in a bigger container.

EXAMINE THE LEAVES

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Are there dry, crispy, brown spots on the leaves? Are the leaves curling inward? Chances are you’re not watering the plant enough. I find that most plants need a good watering once a week and you’re set. Another cause is the light level—double check the recommended light exposure for your plant. It may be crisping because it’s not supposed to be in such strong, direct sunlight.

However, if your leaves are yellow, dude chill out. Now, the leaves can be yellow from either underwatering or overwatering but in my experience, it’s usually from overwatering. Again, repeat the first step of the investigation and check the soil.

Droopy leaves? You’re likely underwatering but this also may be related to the temperature or lack of light. I’ve noticed that my tropical plants (monstera) tend to get a bit droopy in the cold winters next to a window but once the weather gets warmer, it perks right up again.

Is there anything I’ve missed? Is your plant still dying? Sorry I have failed you with this post based on my personal failures. :’)

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Best plant stores in NYC according to Wei

It started 5 years ago. I moved to the concrete jungle from LA and something snapped in my head where I couldn’t stop purchasing (and killing) plants. Suffice to say, I’ve been to a lot of plant stores and nurseries in NYC.

If I’ve sent you this link it is because you are my friend and I am overjoyed to help you and maybe live vicariously through your plant purchases because my tiny ass apartment cannot fit any more plants for the love of gawd. Also, if you’re reading this and you’re my friend I am sorry I started this blog idk I am lazy ok and don’t feel like typing this out every time don’t @ me ok?

ALRIGHT HERE WE GO.

1. DA HING FLORIST – CHINATOWN, NYC

 

This is my #1 spot, y’all. Excellent selection and the best part? IT’S CHEAP. Chinatown is where it’s at. They’ve got fiddle leaf figs, monsteras and all that Instagram shit without the trendy price tag. It’s family owned which is pretty cute cos sometimes the grandma is there. I took all these photos during the winter so it doesn’t really do their outdoor area any justice. Usually the sidewalk is spilling over with more plants. Plus, they repot and deliver plants!

2. CREST HARDWARE STORE – EAST WILLIAMSBURG, NYC

 

Huge selection of plants in their greenhouse plus they have a big outdoor section. It is quite overwhelming in a good way walking through. Reasonable prices and I’ve been able to find rare plants here without an extreme mark up. This is also a great spot to find affordable gardening accessories, soil, auto watering spikes for soil, and plant pots. Make sure to say hai to the store parrot.

3. GREEN FINGERS MARKET – LOWER EAST SIDE, NYC

 

Curated, stylish, and so freakin cute. Under the direction of Satoshi Kawamoto (who has a few other locations in Tokyo), this charming spot has an unique selection of rare plants. It is a slightly pricier (hey, it’s not Chinatown or a hardware store) but the service is always so friendly and helpful. Plus, they have a clothing boutique in the back of the store!

4. W&W GROCERY STORE INC – CHINATOWN, NYC

 

This is up the street from my #1 spot and honestly, this family owned place has the best selection of affordable, simple plant pots in the back of the store. They also have a good selection of plants and will repot them for you when you purchase them if you don’t want to deal with the hassle. I bought a giant bird of paradise palm here and they even helped me carry it into a cab.

OTHER PLACES

The Sill – on the pricier side but very helpful/knowledgeable staff. Plus, you can purchase already potted plants which is a perk if you don’t want to repot plants yourself or find a pot separately!

Sprout – are you rich? If so, definitely go crazy here.

 

Very overpriced plants but their selection is excellent and they have beautiful plant pots, stands, and accessories. I love going to this place but my wallet weeps afterwards. PREMIUM PRICE TAGS, OK. However, sometimes you can find a good deal on smaller plant pots.

Home Depot – you’d be surprised at the cheap finds here—especially if you’re looking for a big palm or Dracaena.

IKEA – same. I found medium sized Fiddle Leaf Figs at the Red Hook location for around $20-$30 I believe. They got snatched up pretty quickly though.

Natty Garden – I haven’t been here in a while since it’s out of the way for me but I hear that it’s great. If you leave near Crown Heights, Brooklyn, check it out and let me know or like invite me with you, idk.