‘A forest of information’: how TikTok helped me grow my plant family

·4-min read

I’ve always loved the idea of having a home full of exotic-looking plants and a matching hoard in the garden. But sadly, everything from orchids to citrus plants have had a habit of falling prey to my inability to keep them alive.

Last year, I used the first national lockdown to finally take control of my garden and, by summer, I’d produced an array of tomatoes, chillies and strawberries. These gave me the confidence to try my newly-greenish hands at indoor botany.

Taking extremely small baby steps, I acquired a range of indoor plants, ranging from spider plants to cacti and fragrant kitchen herbs. To be honest, the main selection criteria is the description: “Easy to care for”. And, amid the detritus associated with having a husband and two kids, they’ve taken pride of place in whatever safe space I can find in our small flat.

The trouble is, when things go wrong with indoor plants it’s much harder to ignore as the problem is staring you right in the face, morning, noon and night – especially when you’re stuck at home during lockdown.

While I’m all for learning through mistakes and gradual discovery, sometimes it’s useful to get a quick heads-up about problems and fixes. Not to mention the peace of mind that I’m not going to kill the aloe vera plant placed in my care by my younger sister, because she has cats and they’re allergic to it.

So the suggestion to use tutorial videos on TikTok immediately appealed to me.

I must admit, I’m fairly new to TikTok and usually use it as a lighthearted break away from the humdrum of everyday life. But once I opened up to the idea of using it to help my plant babies flourish, it was like wandering through an endless but pleasing forest of useful information.

My main peeve with indoor plants is the insects they attract, so advice from @cleanfreak_cleaningco to put matchsticks in the soil to deter those annoying little black flies was definitely one quick fix I needed. The post had 106,000 views so it was obvious there were other plant lovers out there looking for similar advice. Not strictly a plant account, but I was brought to the page by the hashtags #plants and #plantlovers.

The short and snappy format of TikTok videos allows advice to be given swiftly and to the point – and normally with a smiley face. I found that using subtitles worked best for me as I usually swipe through while doing the bedtime routine with my three-year-old. The variance in “experts” is another interesting aspect of the app, because TikTok quite simply gives everyone a voice.

Clicking on the hashtag #planttok results in a wider set of videos and TikTok creators, such as @bgrowin_with_bhood (Brian Hood). Hood offers an insight into his entire lifestyle and not just a love of plants – he also raises baby chicks. There’s tips on beginner plants such as Monstera deliciosa and devil’s ivy on his page while he lip-syncs to upbeat tracks. His jungle-themed bedroom packed full of plants is truly inspirational. The secret to Hood’s haul? He shows you how he propagates new plants from old by putting cuttings in small test tubes of water.

Other TikTok creators I’ve encountered are equally as informative. Zaira, who posts videos under the handle @plantrantz, is all smiles as she offers advice using the duet mode (a function that allows users to occupy a split screen). One of her most useful lessons is about how keeping your plants next to the window could be giving your plants sunburn, resulting in those yellow- and brown-tipped edges.

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Zaira is also very hands-on, and her “get on with it” attitude would make anyone feel at ease repotting their plants in their living room. My biggest fear is that I’ll damage a plant’s roots, but she gave me the confidence as well as know-how to just get on with it.

My favourite to watch has been @botanicalbabee, usually broadcasting her short, snappy videos from her plant shop in north Wales. I always come away with a wealth of information after watching one of her 60-second videos and I’m truly thankful for her constant warnings about overwatering your plants. Despite popular opinion (read: my own belief), water is not always your friend when it comes to sustaining your plants. She says that if you’re unsure whether your plant needs watering, stick your finger in the soil – if it comes away clean, it needs a drink.

Like so many others I encounter on TikTok, her videos are clear and inspiring. And, thanks to them, I now have a list of potential plant babies to join my family.

Why not try something new? Discover the benefits of just having a go #LearnOnTikTok