how to live with plants

If you’ve been paying attention on social media lately, you may have noticed an explosion of houseplants on nearly every platform. From the endless scroll of cozy, plant-filled homes on Instagram, to Reddit forums solely dedicated to indoor gardening, you can’t go far without coming across houseplant enthusiasts sharing images, asking for advice, and inspiring others to join the trend.

Although houseplants are nothing new, this current level of plant-craziness seems to be at an all-time high, driven largely by Millennials and Gen Z. Why? Houseplants are not only an easy way to bring the outdoors in, but they also satisfy our need to nurture without the commitment of, say, kids or pets. Plus, taking care of plants can be a form of self-care; providing both a relaxing activity and a creative outlet.

And, who among us doesn’t talk to their plants? In this time of social isolation and limited interaction with others, interacting with and tending to houseplants can be good for our mental, emotional, and physical health.

Expert Advice for Living with Plants

We recently sat down with self-professed “plant lady” Heather Barnes from @ourbarnesyard to talk about her healthy obsession with plants and to get some expert advice on living with and caring for houseplants.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Heather and I have many different titles. Wife, mother, and teacher in my day to day living, but enthusiastic plant lover, DIYer, and home decor enthusiast in my online space at OurBarnesYard. I love creating beautiful, cozy, plant-filled spaces for my audience to derive inspiration from, and I love sharing all my plant care tips so others can experience the joy of plants in their homes as well.

How did you become a plant lady? How did it start and where are you now in terms of number of plants and level of plant-madness?
I'm not sure how the madness started, but it really just snowballed when we moved into our current home about four years ago. We bought our current home because we loved the amount of natural light, and as we began to learn, my plants loved the natural light too! Once I had a few plants (my LARGE Bird of Paradise was one of my first), I just started to add new ones to my collection. It's such a slippery slope because you really just want to have them ALL. I think I have around 75 right now.

What would you say to the “plant killers” out there? Can anyone become a successful plant parent?
I love this question because my social media is all about empowering aspiring plant lovers to "turn their black thumb into a green thumb."

A common mistake I see most beginner plant owners make is overwatering (or the other end of the spectrum; total neglect). They want so desperately to keep their new plant alive that they water it constantly and end up drowning it! Becoming a plant parent is all about being in tune with your plant's needs, educating yourself on some basic plant care, and being okay with a few failures along the way.

Are there any plants that you recommend for a beginner? How about someone who has been living with plants for a while and wants to expand their plant family?
My top beginner plant is a snake plant because not only is it visually striking, it’s also very easy to care for. It doesn't require a lot of light and only needs to be watered about once a month! A few other easy care plants include pothos, zz (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), and spider plant.

If you're looking for more of a challenge, I recommend an olive tree (which likes a lot of water, high sun, and doesn't like being moved), or an asparagus fern which grows quickly if given plenty of water via bottom watering.

Where do you recommend people purchase their plants? Is there anything to look for or avoid?
There are various places for people to purchase their plants and each have their pros and cons. Greenhouses are a great option as they often have a great range of plants, very knowledgeable staff, and a beautiful shopping experience. The downside is often the prices can be higher.

Big box hardware stores are another option and can have very affordable plants. The downside here is that availability is more unpredictable, and staff may not be able to help guide you in your purchasing process.

When buying at either option, be sure to inspect your new plant for any signs of pests, etc. A good rule of thumb is to quarantine your plant for a month or two after bringing it home to ensure no pests spread to any of your current plant babies.

Can you share your top tips for someone who is thinking about bringing home their first plant(s)?
Be sure that your home will be able to support the light needs that your plant requires. Do a bit of research prior to bringing it home.

When you bring home your new plant baby, resist the urge to repot for a month or two at least. A new plant can be shocked by the transition and repotting early or in winter is a common mistake.

What are some other mistakes you see both beginner and seasoned plant people making?
The top mistakes that beginners make are overwatering—not letting the plant dry out well between waterings—and improper repotting. Repotting without proper drainage or potting into too large of a pot often cause issues for plants.

Even seasoned plant people make mistakes, too—it's all part of the learning process! If you’re struggling with overwatering, I have found a moisture meter is an awesome tool to help determine if the plant needs water.

What are some fun or unexpected ways to decorate with plants?
I love styling shelves with plants; a gorgeous full pothos cascading off a high shelf is always a dramatic moment. I also love adding two hanging plants at different heights to a corner. They really can add interest and allow you to add more plants to your home, if you have run out of flat surfaces. Creating a living wall is also a fun and unexpected way to add more green to your space and adds intention to a forgotten wall.

All of these options are great for adding some green to your home if you are worried about children and pets getting into the pots or damaging the leaves. 

These are all such great ideas! Where can people go for more plant care tips?
I share many more plant tips on my Instagram feed at @ourbarnesyard as well as on my blog

Beautiful Ways to Make Room for Plants

If Heather’s tips have left you feeling inspired and excited to start or expand your plant collection, here are some great display pieces for every room in your home.

Add a touch of industrial chic to your living room or home office with the Gilesgrove bookcase in edgy black metal. Four solid wood shelves provide ample room for potted plants and the open sides and back ensure unobstructed light and airflow.

Curved sides, a warm gunmetal finish, and natural, knotty wood shelves give the Flintley plenty of character. This unit is only 32” high and could be placed under a window for plants that need a lot of light.

Finished on both sides, the open-back Frankwell bookcase can be placed against a wall or used as a room divider to create an intimate space. Five staggered shelves allow you to display plants of various heights.

The Jadenly table nests to save space or can be expanded to accommodate a growing plant collection. This flexible piece features a distressed wood top with a beautiful herringbone design.

You’ll spend many happy moments potting and repotting your plants on the wood top of the Abramsland Table. Pretty enough to be a part of your living space, this versatile table has open storage below for spare pots and supplies.

No room for bags of soil and plant care supplies in your small space? The Naffenburg coffee table has a clever secret—its top lifts to provide storage for items that you’d like to keep hidden, but need easy access to.

We'd love to see how you incorporate plants into your living spaces! Tag us on Instagram and TikTok and show us your @dufresnestyle.