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Work From Home is a new vertical dedicated to life and culture in the strange and unprecedented situation of self-quarantine that many of us are dealing with right now. From what to watch to how to get a fit off and how to not think about anything, this is our guide to the great indoors. For updates on the spread of Covid-19 and how to keep yourself safe and informed, consult WHO and the CDC.

It’s easy to become demotivated, lazy, or even depressed when stuck at home during coronavirus lockdown. Every day is a struggle against going stir crazy, but it’s also a chance to get to know yourself on a deeper level, discover new hobbies or callings and — in extreme cases — reinvent yourself.

Following our coverage of the runnaissance during coronavirus (the phenomenon of everybody and their grandma taking up jogging), we’re going to focus on bringing mother nature — and her gifts — into your home. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a saved folder full of Instagram posts of peoples’ plants. One of my main goals during lockdown was to outfit my new apartment with easy house plants, mostly for aesthetic reasons but also because having plants in an apartment is beneficial in many different ways.

I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know where to start. I’d had plants before but none lasted longer than six months. Well, none except for my cacti, which seem to be indestructible and kind of scares me. In my quest to find out which plants work best for my apartment and how to take care of them properly, I spoke to Bosque Plants co-founder and official plant whisperer, Marie Henze. Bosque is a German startup that sells sustainably sourced and grown plants and tells you exactly how to take care of them after they arrive in your home via Facebook Messenger Bot.

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“The whole plant hype you see on social media is funny because, for me, plants have always been cool,” says Henze. “I think there are several reasons for this. It’s a bit of a status symbol to be able to say ‘hey look at all the plants in my apartment.’ But at the same time our society is much more aware of  climate change and caring for plants is an easy way to stay woke. Lastly, in terms of interior design, minimalism is trending, and plants add a sort of living, changing art aspect to a home.”

Marie also tells me that historically, collecting plants was an activity enjoyed by the rich — usually nobles or royals. So if you’re wanting to elevate your interior design, freshen up the air in your apartment, and feel like a king or queen while doing so, here are five easy house plants to get your stay-at-home jungle started.

Devil’s Ivy

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Scientific Name: Epipremnum aureum
Natural Habitat: Tropical forests in South East Asia and Australia.
Care: This plant enjoys high humidity, so spraying the plant with water droplets daily is recommended. Water the plant around once a week, making sure that the soil is never completely dried out but also not too wet, as mold can form.

Notes: Devil’s Ivy is probably one of the most popular easy house plants because it’s so easy to care for and — given room to grow — spreads itself out at a rapid rate. It is a type of Epipremnum, which is a genus of evergreen perennial vines that climb thanks to aerial roots and are usually found in South East Asia. Devil’s Ivy is perfect for beginners just starting out with their stay-at-home jungle and isn’t too fussy about where it sits — taking well to sunny or more shady areas of the house (remember though: all plants need some form of natural light). If you’ve got pets or small kids, you can even hang Devil’s Ivy out of reach, as they make for great hanging plants. Another benefit of Devil’s Ivy is that it drastically improves the air quality in apartments.

Snake Plant

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Scientific Name: Sansevieria
Natural Habitat: Africa, Madagascar, and Southern Asia.
Care: Water these plants every two to three weeks depending on how warm it is and the humidity in your apartment (less in winter).

Notes: Sansevieria are extremely robust desert plants that don’t need a lot of care and are perfect for beginners. The most popular Sansevieria is the Snake Plant (pictured above). If you want low maintenance plants, these are for you, as you’ll only need to water them every few weeks. Sansevieria love sunny spots and can deal with very dry air better than most plants. It’s important to note, though, they are poisonous for pets.

Cast-Iron-Plant

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Scientific Name: Aspidistra elatior
Natural Habitat: Japan and Taiwan.
Care: Water around once per week and remove dust from leaves once a month.

Notes: Henze describes the Cast-Iron-Plant as “Cozy, easy to care for, yet still elegant” and it’s easy to see why. The plant grows to be quite tall (around 60cm) and can survive in shady or sunny spots, while only needing water once a week. The Cast-Iron-Plant is very forgiving should you accidentally water the plant too much or too little. Perfect for beginners still figuring it all out, while big enough to impress guests and look good on social media.

Calathea

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Scientific Name: Calathea
Natural Habitat: the tropical Americas
Care: Enjoys high humidity and slightly shaded spot in your apartment. The soil should always be kept slightly damp.

Notes: The Calathea is one of the more challenging plants on this list and probably best reserved for people who want to invest time and effort into their home jungle. The effort is well worth it though, as Calathea are known for their colorful, decorative leaves. A tropical plant, Calathea love it when you “shower” them, which is exactly what it sounds like. “A shower functions like rain, in that it lets the plants drink but also clears their leaves of mud, dust, and other parasites,” says Marie.

Giant White Bird of Paradise

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Scientific Name: Strelitzia nicolai
Natural Habitat: Evergreen coastal forests of South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Care: A generous weekly watering is enough for this plant, while a sunny spot (avoiding direct sunlight) is best.

Notes: “This plant is perfect for the living room and sunny spots by the window, though you can put her into the cooler bedroom during the winter should you want to,” says Henze. This plant, when cared for properly, grows very quickly and can take up a lot of space, so make sure you take that into account when picking out a spot in your apartment.

Frequently asked questions

Why does it matter if plants are sustainable or not?

Henze’s Bosque prides itself on working with certified sustainable plant distributors from Holland. She tells me that a sustainable plant is one that has been given time to naturally grow and is not pumped with pesticides or other harmful chemicals that make them appear brighter and bigger than they might naturally be. “I don’t like using this comparison but it’s very similar to the food industry, where a lot of meat is pumped with chemicals to make it look bigger and juicier,” she says. “If you wouldn’t necessarily buy processed foods, why would you do the same for your plants?”

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How do you properly water a plant?

Watering plants sounds so straightforward — and most of the time it is — but how to effectively nourish your plant depends on the plant itself. First you need to know how often a plant needs water, whether it prefers drier, more arid environments or high humidity. “That’s why it’s important to know where your plants come from,” says Henze. If a plant comes from a more tropical environment, it stands to reason that you’ll need to water it more than a desert plant and that the occasional shower or misting session may be a good idea.

When watering your plant, give it a little bit of water to begin with, so that the soil becomes moist and ready to soak up the water. Wait a little bit before you properly water the plant. Water the plant until you see water coming out of the bottom of the plant pot. Let the plant soak up the water for a little bit, and then remove the water from the saucer, so that the plant doesn’t sit in the water and mold.

What kind of water should I use to water my plants?

Usually, you’re fine just using tap water to water your plants. Depending on where you live and how high the lime levels in the water are, you may need to de-calcify the water. Do this by either boiling a pot of water and letting it cool to room temperature before using it to water your plants or by letting tap water sit for a week. This removes most of the lime, which plants are not huge fans of.

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What are the benefits of having plants at home?

Plants do a lot of good but first and foremost they clean the air through photosynthesis. Plants need carbon dioxide, water, and light to live, and “breathe out” oxygen as a result. Oxygen, of course, is vital for us humans to survive, and plants help keep the air we breathe full of oxygen. Plants do breathe out carbon dioxide during the night, though Marie tells me the amount is insignificant and dispels the myths that having too many plants in the bedroom means you’ll run out of oxygen at night.

Plants are also aesthetically pleasing, and can replace or complement a panting, sculpture or other parts of your interior design. Unlike paintings or sculptures, though, plants are alive, growing, and ever-changing, meaning you won’t get bored of looking at your plant.

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