Caitlin McGinniss from Coffee and Cactus gives us her tips for caring for your houseplants
More and more of us have been filling our homes with leafy companions, so we've asked Caitlin McGinniss from Belfast shop Coffee and Cactus for her advice on caring for them.
Have you seen an increase in people buying plants during the pandemic?
I think because people are spending so much time in their houses they’re buying plants and furniture. We’ve sold so many plants that for about three months we could not keep them in stock. People are just so keen on making their homes look lovely.
Have you had lots of first time house plant owners?
Definitely. And I think for a first timer, you just want to find them something lovely, easy to keep, and good for our environment. I refuse to sell people stuff that’s not good for our weather here. People do appreciate that service where they can speak to someone for 15 minutes about a plant, and feel confident that they’ll be able to keep the plant alive.
We also repot all our houseplants, so nothing will just come off the back of a boat and go to a customer. I look at the root of every plant, and I can catch things like soggy roots, which means I’m really confident that customers will get a good plant. I want people to love plants as much as I do, and if you just guide them in, the addiction is real. We have so many customers now who come every week and buy a plant, and they just didn’t do that before.
What are the most common mistakes you see people make with their houseplants?
Overwatering is a big one, although I think people understand that now, not to overwater your plants. Plants will usually tell you when they need water, and wait for that moment, wait for it to droop or wrinkle a little. You’d rather that than it be overwatered which creates problems with the root system.
I think one of the most common ones, is people move their houseplants around too much. They use it as an accessory, like you would use a cushion, or a lamp, or a throw that you would move from one sofa to the other. But plants are like children — imagine telling a two year old you’re going to move it. It’s going to cry, it’s going to take a while to get used to its new environment. You just really need to pick a spot in your house that’s the right lighting conditions, and just leave your plant there for a good year, till it’s a bit mature.
Also, putting your plants in the wrong lighting conditions. If you’re buying your plant from somewhere reputable, you can speak to them about where this plant will thrive. Those are the three things I’d probably encourage people to do the most.
Is Instagram a good place to learn more about houseplants?
Definitely. On our Instagram account @coffeeexcactus we’ve done 30 IGTV videos on how to care for your plants. So that’s quite a good resource that we have for our customers too. If we have a customer asking “how do I repot my Monstera” I can just send them a link. We’ve covered everything from keeping supermarket herbs alive to taking cuttings from your plants.
One of the difficult things though, is that you want to look for the Instagram accounts that have a similar climate to the one you live in, otherwise their advice about things like watering probably won’t apply.
Should we all be taking cuttings from our plants?
It’s really easy. We did a free cutting giveaway a while ago, and people were sending us pictures and videos of their plants, they absolutely loved it. It’s just an amazing feeling when your plant has a pup, or you grow another plant. It’s a very easy process to do, and I think that’s becoming more and more popular.
It also shows that plants don’t need to be expensive, and they’re such a lovely gift. I say to people that when you’re going to someone’s house for dinner, not that you can now, but instead of taking a bottle of wine, spend that £20 on a really nice plant and pot, most people would appreciate that much more, as it’s something that they can keep. Or if you’ve propagated one of your own plants, give them away to friends. I think people are really starting to get that, and appreciate plants as a gift.
This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of IMAGE magazine.