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GROW INSPIRED: ADVICE FROM A 'GREEN THUMB' HOUSEPLANT COLLECTOR

Our #GrowInspired series features our innovative and creative garden partners. Whether they’re working with two acres or 200 square feet, we are constantly in awe of their hard work and kick-ass gardens. These are some of our favorite gardens and gardeners who inspire us to get out and play in the dirt.

Amanda Willen, known as @AmandaAndThePlants on Instagram, has garnered a huge following for her vibrant photos, plant stories, and information on indoor plants. From familiar Monstera to hard-to-grow String Of Hearts, Amanda tends to each of her plants with love and in the process has garnered helpful tips for those who may not have the green thumb for indoor gardening like she does. 

We decided to talk with Amanda about her indoor plants because as the outdoor growing season comes to an end in some parts of the country, many gardeners are looking indoors to continue their hobby. We've seen many indoor growers use C-BITEs to help stake up their indoor plants — whether it be ornamental or medicinal plants. Located in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Amanda's outdoor growing season is short but she makes up for it (and more) with her indoor garden. We chatted with Amanda about her background in gardening, both her indoor and outdoor plants, and advice she has for being successful with houseplants. 

First Things First: How Many Indoor Plants Does Amanda Have?

It’s funny you ask this because I counted them a few nights ago, curious about the answer myself. I have 76 houseplants. That number includes cuttings currently propagating in water.

On How Amanda Got Started Growing

I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in plants. My mom had a garden and some houseplants and I always helped out with caring for them. When my husband and I got our first home, I added some plants to the kitchen and we tried growing tomatoes in a container in the backyard.

On Why She Loves Gardening

I love watching plants grow. It’s amazing watching a tiny cucumber seed turn into a long sprawling vine. Or a one leaf plant cutting turning into a full, lush plant. Getting my hands dirty in some soil and potting plants up is so soothing to me.

On Her Most Challenging Plants

I’m most proud of my variegated String of Hearts aka Ceropegia Woodii Variegata. It’s a plant that a lot of people struggle with and I’ve somehow managed to grow a big healthy one. I’m genuinely proud of it. My most challenging plant currently is my small variegated Hoya Carnosa Compacta. It just does not want to grow new leaves and keeps losing them instead.

Where She Finds Her Plants

I have quite a few plants that would be considered “hard to find” and I’ve found them all at one of my local grocery stores. I just have a lot of luck with finding great plants at this store! I’ve also noticed recently that the majority of my indoor plants have come from plant swaps. Local plant swaps and swapping with people through the mail. I treasure those plants so much because they came from friends.

Advice For Indoor Gardeners 

You’ve got to put the watering can down and walk away from your plants. They don’t need water or attention as often as new plant parents think they do. Let your plants tell you when they need water instead of guessing and watering too often.

On Her Biggest Frustration In the Garden

Pests. Spider mites drive me crazy and seem to be very prolific where I live. I’m constantly doing preventative treatments to combat them. Pests can be such a pain but they can be managed if you're proactive. I check the fronts and backs of the leaves and the stems anytime I'm watering. I rinse the leaves and stems off and wipe the big leaves down. I use bonide insecticidal soap both as a preventative measure and to treat any pests I do find. I like the soap because it doesn't burn your plants even if they're in bright sun.

A Tour Of Amanda’s Indoor & Outdoor Gardens

Indoors. I don’t think I have a theme, but I definitely don’t collect plants that require high humidity. I don’t run any humidifiers and it gets very dry in my area during the winter with the heater on. My biggest goal for my indoor collection is to have plants that I think are beautiful. I try not to get swept away in any current houseplant trends and just enjoy the ones I have.

Outdoors. My garden outside is filled with yellow. I love yellow so much and it makes me happy to see it all through my garden. Yellow flowers, yellow Daylilies, yellow striped Hostas and a huge limelight Hydrangea tree are among the many plants I have outside in my front garden. Our vegetable garden has always consisted of food we love to eat, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs that are big favorites around my house.

On Trying New Things This Year

Previous years, we have always tried to grow our vegetables and herbs in the ground in our backyard. The first few years were very successful and then we had multiple years in a row of terrible luck with them. This year, I put everything in containers and we had such a big successful harvest that we were having to give tomatoes away because we couldn’t eat then fast enough. I was so happy to have figured out how to have a successful veggies garden again after a few unsuccessful years in a row.

How Amanda Has Used C-BITEs In Her Garden

I used my C-BITEs to hold up this year’s favorite tomato plant: A Brandywine variety I bought from a local grower. As it happens, my cucumbers were growing next to that plant’s C-BITEs support cage and connected itself to the C-BITEs support pole! I said it must have been jealous of the Brandywine’s special treatment. My favorite part of using the C-BITEs was the adjustability. Regular tomato cages are one size fits all and that doesn’t seem to fit the local organic plants I plant. The plant gets huge and out-grows the cage quickly. The C-BITEs allowed me to adjust the size of the support as the plant grew in height and width.

Amanda’s ‘Dream Plant’ She’s Still Searching For 

I dream of having a big variegated ZZ plant someday. I love that plant and currently have the raven, zenzi and green one.

You can find Amanda on Instagram at @AmandaAndThePlants. 


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