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.

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.