I‘ve been putting this post together over a couple of months and thought it would make an interesting and hopefully useful piece to celebrate Earth Day, which falls on Sunday 22nd April (today) and is all about raising awareness about recycling, with a view to end plastic pollution. Coming from an arts background, I have always kept hold of an array of things people might normally throw away, ‘just in case’ they would come in useful for an art or craft project. I’m talking about things like… milk bottle tops, tin foil, old plastic bags, bits of wood, wire and netting that comes around fruit… Anyway, I’ve always advocated recycling where possible and have noticed that I also am a bit of a recycler/re-user when it comes to things that could be termed ‘houseplant hacks’. I’m going to share some of my hacks with you today to offer some inspiration and hopefully encourage you to reuse where possible items for houseplant related use.
For more information on Earth Day 2018 visit the website here.
Perhaps the main group of items I repurpose for houseplant related use are containers – old jars make really useful plant pots, and glassware offers a whole variety of potential propagation vessels!
My favourite jars are the combination of this stoneware cheese pot I have had for years (above) and a la fermiere yoghurt pot, which both offer new (free) homes to some of my cacti. I was struggling to find a pot small enough for the tiny cacti in the photo, so used the top of a hairspray bottle and used a kitchen skewer to puncture some holes in the bottom. Glassware comes in all shapes and sizes, and I will admit I was very pleased to finish this bottle of gin so that I could use if for propagating cuttings, the blue is so bright and cheerful! My new bottle of gin below has a lovely botanical themed label, so I will certainly be recycling this when it’s empty for more water propagation experiments.
Go thrift store rummaging…
Alternatively, if you do want to expand your collection a little, great places to look for vases and plant display ideas are at the thrift store, charity shop or car boot sale. This bud vase (below) is currently being used to propagate my most delicate saxifraga runners; the narrow stem is just perfect for this. The photo below left shows two of my favourite vases that I found in different charity shops, but they look lovely as a pair. Aside from using them for cut flowers, I propagated my silver pothos cuttings in these, using the lip of the vase for support.
Have a look around your home for things you could repurpose…
This copper container above was just sitting in my kitchen cupboard, until I realised it was a pretty good fit for my ponytail palm (beaucarnea recurvata)… It’s a little small but it saved my buying a cache pot. This domed cloche was covering one of my candles on my sideboard, until I saw it’s potential as an individual mini greenhouse for a little cutting I am trying to get established into soil. The candle above right will also be used as a plant pot when empty… it also has a botanical label and I bought it because it smells exactly like tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.
TINY TIP – If you are dusting your plants or have got potting mix on your cacti or delicate foliage plants, the best way I have found to clean them is with a dry paintbrush – less risk of getting pricked!
Cache pot ‘hack’
As many of you who love pretty pots will know, finding the right plastic pot to fit inside can occasionally be a testing process! I always pot in this way because the majority of these decorative vessels have no drainage holes which is a no-no for 99% of plants. If you can find a pot of the right diameter, there is sometimes an issue in the height not matching up. To raise up the plastic pots inside, I have a number of supplies in my ‘houseplant hacks’ arsenal to solve the problem! Below shows my cork cacti cases that lift up my silver pothos to exactly the right height.
The photos below show that jar lids are another great way of elevating the plastic plant pot up inside the cache pot if the height difference is minimal – my echeveria sits inside the white pot on the left. Another advantage of this is that after watering, there is a gap which can allow the roots to breathe more easily and any excess water can drain away instead of leaving the roots nearest the bottom of the pot sitting in it. Oh yes, and paper clips can also come in useful for water propagation to suspend the cutting over water – just semi open the clip to ‘hold’ the stem.
Tiny tip – other bits and bobs that are useful for recycling into plant pot spacers/risers are bottle tops, lids and tea light holders. Sometimes a combination can give the perfect height (one of my most awkward pots has a jam jar lid, a tealight case and then a milk bottle top!) If I ever have a plant shop in the future (the dream) I would be sure to make pots that fit perfectly!
For houseplant care, general garden tools can be too large, so I use couple of different sized spoons for potting. I make up my own potting mix and store in the dark in a cereal dispenser – I keep the big bags of perlite, compost, coco coir and horticultural grit in my hall cupboard… next to the vacuum cleaner. To aerate the soil, I like to use chopsticks and wiggle them around before watering.
Whilst this post has offered some ideas surrounding recycling and repurposing as a way of offering some ‘houseplant hacks’, the focus of Earth Day is to eliminate plastic waste. So to conclude this post, I wanted to focus specifically on plastics. This year I have been trying to buy less packaged fresh food, but the majority of stores use a lot of plastic; particularly when it comes to fruit and vegetable packaging. For years I have grown tomatoes and chilli’s in yogurt pots, using the lids to make mini propagators, but last spring, I started using boxes from grapes as places to grow seeds. The most compact solution I have found so far is Tesco medjool date packaging, which has little ‘pods’ that the dates sit in – I filled these with soil and started my chilli’s off in here this year! In the photo below, you can see this packaging from Borders biscuits will make an excellent seed tray, I’m going to plant the rest of my cactus seeds in here I think.
On a final, more planty recycling note, if you have any cuttings you are looking to trade head on over to www.houseplantswap.com and upload some photos with a description and see what you could swap with other users. It’s free and can be used in a number of countries, plus, it’s great to share the plant love a little!
I hope this post inspired you to repurpose, recycle and reuse some everyday household items to create your own houseplant hacks. If you have any of your own hacks, I’d love to see them, so send me a DM on Instagram, or use our new hashtag: #therealhouseplanthacks
Thanks for reading!