I knew I had made it as a successful human being the day I was given an indoor fiddle leaf fig tree. Throughout the chaos of my days – in the midst of toddler tantrums, sand all over the house, dirty dishes piled up amongst kitchen makeover projects, toys as far as the eye can see – when I catch a glimpse of my gorgeous indoor plants I feel like a rock star. Not some dried up old has-been rock star either but a bonifide Beyonce-meets-Adele type rock star. Why am I harping on about this? Because if you’re dirt-poor and up to your elbows in housework, I want you to feel like a rock star too dammit.
When I look at pretty pictures of beautiful homes they ALWAYS have indoor plants. Not just a cactus in a teacup but large, leafy indoor trees that make the room look effortlessly casual and yet expensive.
Studio McGee livens up a masculine office with a large fiddle leaf fig in a wicker basket.
Ballard Designs uses an olive tree (voted 2017’s indoor plant of the year) to fill an empty living room corner.
Emily Henderson’s iconic living room tree (which she eventually gave away as it was dropping sticky sap all over the floor, rug, couch, etc) was MAGNIFICENT!
Habitually Chic shows us a fabulous bird of paradise plant that’s almost as tall as the ceiling.
The Suburban B’s brought movement and interest to a corner nook of their stunning dining room makeover with my alltime favourite indoor plant – the mother in law tongue (aka snake plant).
I’m sure you appreciated all that gorgeous inspiration above, but the thing is, plants are expensive. The cost of a large plant, potting mix, decorative planter, etc will set you back well over $100 (well over $1000 if you buy a wanky designer one). I can’t afford indoor plants at that price but I want them so much.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Here’s how I’ve accumulated gorgeous indoor plants (for free):
First, you need a free plant. I had my heart set on a fiddle leaf fig so I dropped some heavy hints to my sister and then waited patiently for Christmas to roll around. But if you’re not likely to receive a present any time soon, you need to use some initiative. There are many different types of plants that are self-propagating (that is, they multiply all by themselves). Have a look in your garden for plants that could be divided up into pots. Failing that, ask your friends if any of their plants can be divided up. People with green thumbs are usually more than happy to share their self-propagating plants around.
(Cheryl wrote a great post about how to propagate fiddle leaf fig trees from a leaf. I’ve tried this technique twice already and both times were an epic fail. Due to my black thumbs I’m not ready to sacrifice any more leaves from my little tree but I did see a huge fiddle leaf fig at the zoo the other day … I’m sure it wouldn’t miss the odd leaf here and there …)
We have a side garden that I can see every day from the kitchen window, but I only go out into that garden a few times a year (since it doesn’t lead to the backyard now that we’ve extended the house). Due to the lack of traffic, the plants tend to grow wild in this part of the garden.
At the bottom of the steps I found some black-stemmed taro plants that have popped up along the walkway. Since they have to come out anyway, I’ve decided to put them in a pot and bring it indoors to try my luck at an indoor taro.
Free Plant Pots
Easy. People throw out plastic plant pots all the time. Trawl the verge.
Here’s a stack of used pots I was given recently.
I dug out the taro, put it in a pot and filled it with soil from the garden. The soil isn’t as rich in nutrients as potting mix so I’ll have to add some plant food too. (Mental note: I must google how to create free plant food. UPDATE: apparently green tea and epsom salt both make great indoor plant fertilizers.)
The key to having an indoor plant that doesn’t dribble puddles of dirty water all over your surfaces is to put it in a bucket. I keep all of our old laundry powder buckets for exactly this reason.
Free Decorative Planter
This is where things get fun. You can literally use any container as a decorative planter, as long as it’s big enough to hide the bucket. Baskets, vases, wooden boxes, tin cans, hessian sacks, deep bowls, cardboard boxes, laundry hampers,old kegs, knitted bags … your choices are endless. Your planter doesn’t have to be waterproof in the slightest (that’s what the bucket’s for). I’m always on the lookout for large containers that I can use as planters. It doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong colour; you can easily paint it or cover it with fabric. An old nappy box can become a decorative planter once it’s covered (contact, wrapping paper, fabric, faux leather, rope, spray paint, etc).
Here’s my black-stemmed taro in a basket woven from water hyacinth fibers. The taro stands about 50cm above the basket but in time it can grow 1.5m (5ft) tall. If you want large indoor plants for free, you have to start small and patiently wait for them to grow.
And here is my beloved fiddle leaf fig tree in a woven cane basket. (Disclaimer: it doesn’t really live on the floor like that because we have three kids who would DEMOLISH it within seconds. It currently lives up on the laundry bench out of harms way. Also, from this angle you can see that I never got around to staining the underside of my desktop – I was probably too busy taking selfies with my indoor plants.)
It’s taken me a couple of years to accumulate indoor plants for every room of the house without spending a fortune. As the kids get older (and less destructive) I plan to have even more indoor plants. The neighbours will all call me That Crazy Plant Lady as the fiddle leaf figs take over every surface of the house. And like a true rock star, I’ll give zero shits.