"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." - C.S. Lewis
Today is a bittersweet day. We're thrilled to share our plant wisdom here with you, and at the same time, it marks the last pop-up at our current location. The last three years in this little garden oasis has been a true gift, and yet, the premise of hygge is that it is with you wherever you go. As any plant parent knows, life goes in phases: sometimes you're blooming, sometimes you're resting and with a little bit of sunlight and water, something even more beautiful than you imagined is bound to happen.
Ahead of today's event, Emily Hinners of Cast & Grey Botanical, sat down with me to talk all things green and I peppered her with questions that you submitted via Instagram a few weeks ago. Emily started her own plant journey at a garden center in Raleigh, North Carolina. She had access to the plentiful State Farmer's Market, garden centers and greenhouses, and spent her hours talking to people about their house plants. When she and her husband, Nate, relocated to Savannah in 2018, she first worked at a garden center, and then realized she wanted to be a resource for house plants. Originally, the Hinners came up with the name, "Cast and Grey", with the intention of it including a housewares line with homemade products. Though the housewares part didn't stick, the name did, which is fitting, because the words represent strength and steadfastness.
Shortly after Emily launched Cast & Grey's Instagram page, with the goal of doing plant consultations, she met Cristina at Hygge, and they talked about what it means to start a small business. When Emily reached 100 followers, she did a giveaway and Cristina won! Cristina asked if she'd want to do a pop-up for her one-year anniversary of Hygge. Emily said yes, ran home, looked at her plants and asked, "which one of you could I sell", and ultimately brought 20-25 of her own to the pop-up because she wasn't quite ready. Turns out, great things happen before we're ready.
After you adopt a new plant friend at the pop-up, grab your watering can and revisit this entry for Emily's plant care recommendations and other fun facts.
How did house plants come to be and why do you think they've become so popular?
EH: It dates all the way back to Victorian times when people started bringing their plants inside. Of course, people have had house plants forever, long before it was “cool”. The popularity in light of the last few years has something to do with spending more time at home, and also with our economic situation. Growing things at home can be an easy and cheap way to decorate, and we’re seeing more people wanting to cultivate not just their house plants, but their communities as well.
MF: There’s a lady in my neighborhood that has transformed an otherwise trash-ridden street corner into a beautiful little flower garden. I haven’t seen any trash in or around that area since. People tend to respect things that look beautifully put together. Ron Finley, the self-described “gangster gardener”, lives in South Central Los Angeles, advocates for gardening and growing food in even the lowest income communities. He believes it’s more sustainable and gets people involved in their communities in an impactful way.
EH: I think house plant popularity is a great way to make friends and build community. You’re going to have questions, you’re going to want to ask the hive-mind, “what is wrong with my plant?” It encourages reaching out to other people. Personally, I’ve made so many friends through plants that I never would’ve met otherwise, especially as a small business owner.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to the new plant grower?
EH: Do not be afraid. Don’t be afraid of killing anything. Don’t be afraid that something wants to die. Ultimately, like any other living thing, plants have a will to live and they will do what they can to keep going. Don’t be afraid to work with it. If you lose it, you’ll try again. There's a misconception that some have a “green thumb” and others do not. It’s a myth and I don’t believe it. Fake news. It’s a skill like any other and you have to learn by trial and error.
What is your favorite house plant?
EH: I love snake plants, they are great purifiers. They have tons of different varieties and I’m ‘trying to catch ‘em all’.
MF: I love my fiddle-leaf fig tree like it’s a child, but I have to say my favorites are pothos. They’re so easy to care for, propagate and they look so gorgeous hanging from any mantle or shelf. True story, I thought I completely killed my pothos a few years back (the roots were charred), but I cut it back, and it has made a full recovery!
Lime Green Pothos (Epipremnum) purchased originally as a kokedama (potted in a yarn ball) at Hygge in August 2020. Visit the shop to get your own kokedama (a new delivery just came in!).
Your least favorites?
EH: I don’t have a lot of luck with aloe plants. I can keep them alive but they never look great. They seem to do better outside, and actually don’t need to be watered often. In terms of my customers, peace lilies are the least popular plant I’ve seen. I’ve only ever sold three.
And finally, my finicky friends, the prayer plant family (calatheas, for example) don’t like tap water. Rain water is ideal, but if that’s not attainable, filtered water is the way to go.
How do we know when it’s time to re-pot a plant?
EH: You can tell from the foliage for the most part. If your new growth is really small, turning yellow or losing a lot of old leaves, it might be time to re-pot. Check the roots and see if they’re on the top of the soil. When you can see them emerging from the top of the soil or the bottom of the pot, it’s time to move to something larger.
On that note, if you take only ONE thing away from this, ALWAYS have a drainage hole in your planters and pots. Some people put rocks at the bottom to avoid having to have a drainage hole, but I personally don’t believe in that. All that does is raises your water table. Because the water doesn’t evaporate, it sits there and can cause soggy soil and root rot. Putting smaller pots inside a slightly bigger pot is a perfect way to use your decorative pot without having to drill a hole in it. Those plastic pots that come with plants when you buy them can be repurposed for this! And add in a drainage saucer, of course.
Rubber Tree (Ficus Elastica)
Let’s talk about the dark side. Have you ever killed plants? What do you do when something doesn’t look right?
EH: We all have a bunch of dead plants in our wake, myself included. I have killed plants this year. You’ve gotta keep going and that’s how you learn. You figure out what went wrong and try not to repeat it. Not every plant is going to thrive in every environment (something we could all take note of). Maybe it’s simply the location or your house itself that the plant doesn’t like.
MF: I like to practice the skill of observation with my plants, another thing that certainly benefits my day to day life. Figuring out what your plant is communicating is half the battle.
EH: Google Lens can identify plants to give you a ballpark idea of what it is. Being the plant lover that I am, I also bookmark website catalogs of different sorts of plants. A cactus website is already bookmarked, so I can quickly reference it when I need to know why something is happening with my plant.
Painted Nettle (Coleus Scutellarioides)
What can I use to get rid of those annoying little gnats in my plants?
EH: You can make a fungus gnat treatment for the soil. Make a mixture of one-part hydrogen peroxide and four-five parts water. Put the mixture in the soil and fluff the soil. Having some diatomaceous earth on-hand is also helpful.
What can we use as fertilizers that we might already have in our kitchen?
EH: Old banana peels give your plants a nice potassium boost. Steep the banana peel in a jar of water overnight or for a few days. Pour the infused water onto your plants. Ground up eggshells are a great source of calcium for your plants. Leftover diluted coffee to mix into your pot increases the acidity of the soil. I love the SUPERthrive product, which is algae-based. I get it from our local garden center, Hester & Zipperer.
Do you recommend rainwater collection for indoor plants?
I do, and I’m saving up for a rain barrel but I also recommend looking up any restrictions in your region (ie: drought areas). My current system is a Lowe’s five-gallon bucket that I let fill with water. I filter that before I put it into jugs to bring indoors, purely because mosquitoes breed in standing water.
A really easy way to start is to set bowls out whenever it rains. Rain water is pretty great for your plants because it’s not chemically treated like tap water, though most plants do fine with tap.
Let’s talk propagation.
Before you get rid of a perfectly good leaf or stem that came off your plant, take note. You can cleanly cut pothos and many types of indoor plants just below a node (avoiding an area where a new leaf is growing), and plop it in water. Once it starts to grow roots that are almost an inch or so, you can re-pot in soil.
Cacti plants are a bit different—you’ll want to let the leaf callous for a couple days before you replant it. Once it has a callous on the stem, you can put it right into some soil.
Peperomias are cool because you can propagate these buddies from even half a leaf. The trickiest option for propagation, but one with great results is to split the plant at the root level. This requires a little digging than the other options, but is best for birds of paradise, calatheas, Chinese evergreen’s and the like.
Emily admits her weakness is forgetting about a propagated plant before it’s too late. She doesn’t do it often because she forgets about them. She says, “I can’t do everything. I suppose an intern would be good for this.”
Propagated Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree (Ficus Lyrata)
What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned from your house plants?
EH: Patience. Good things take time, effort and attention. Often, I haven’t noticed the progress a plant is slowly making but when I think about how far it’s come and how much it’s grown, I’m amazed. It’s the gradual growth that’s so beautiful. We are all constantly changing.
Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa)
Cast and Grey’s Recommended Plant Types for Newbies
Monstera (for something bigger)
Hoyas (rope plant)