ACE Garden Center on St. Simons Island is the place to be on a bright sunny morning. Shoppers mill around the indoor-outdoor shop, searching for that special bloom or greenery to add something extra to their space.
And while the store has always been popular, owner Dawn Hart says it’s been even busier since the pandemic took hold.
“We’ve been kind of slammed,” she says, masked inside the garden center. “But that’s a good thing.”
With more people staying home, they’ve clearly decided to make their space more appealing by working in their gardens. But they’ve also spruced up their indoor space. Hart says it’s a part of an ongoing trend.
“Indoor plants have been gaining popularity for a while, over the last couple of years for sure,” she says.
Of course, creating that indoor oasis requires a bit of forethought. When it comes to choosing the perfect plant to bring home, one should first consider how much time one’s willing to put in to care.
“Some plants need more than others,” Hart says with a nod.
The basics, however, are simple. First, those with animals at home should make sure that what they’re considering won’t harm pets.
“Some plants can be toxic to pets,” Hart notes. “You can just do a quick Google search to see if that’s true for a a particular plant.”
In addition, one should always think about lighting, water requirements, and fertilization needs. Orchids, for instance, don’t require much water or a ton of sunlight. They will, however, need some fertilization after they’ve finished blooming.
“They can bloom for three to six months. Then, you’ll need to put them in brighter light and fertilize them to get them going again. Humidity helps too, so a bathroom with bright light would be perfect,” she says.
As far as other options, there are several low-maintenance plants. Those include Chinese evergreen, spider plants, snake plants, bamboo and areca palms, peace lilies, dracaena, fiddle leaf figs and rubber plants (classified as ficus), aloe vera, and pothos.
“Succulents are still popular. Air plants and terrariums too,” Hart says. “Herbs are great, especially in a sunny kitchen. Some that tolerate growing inside are basil, bay, chives, dill, tarragon, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.”
When picking the plant, Hart suggests scouting out the spot that will be its new home prior to investing. Checking in on the area at various times of day is always helpful when discerning just how much light a space truly receives.
“You do need to check it at different times because it changes. And of course, if anyone needs help, they can take photos and bring them into us,” she says.
Hart and her team can offer guidance in the realm of watering as well. That can be the most difficult piece of the puzzle.
“Most indoor plants need weekly watering with few exceptions. For example, ferns are not forgiving and need to be kept evenly moist but succulents need to stay on the dry side,” she says. “A plant that is pot-bound and overly dry can be submerged in water for 30 minutes so the moisture will permeate the rootball, which can become like a hard sponge. Also keep in mind the size of your plant when deciding how much water it needs. Half a cup of water a week is not sufficient for a tall palm. The best practice is to feel the potting mix with your fingers and water only if it is dry to the touch.”
But, Hart adds, it’s important not to let the plants sit in water. Instead, emptying the saucer is always a good idea.
“Speaking of saucers, they help protect your furniture and floors ... do not use terracotta as it will sweat moisture,” she says. “If you want to use a decorative pot with no drainage holes or saucer, use an insert so that the plant isn’t subject to root rot.”
Taking these extra steps may require a bit more time but Hart feels it’s worth the while. That’s because they also do their part to keep homeowners healthy.
“Not only are they a great stress reliever, house plants also help absorb the impurities in the air,” she says.