Life Video·Houseplanted

Inside an Ontario home that doubles as a houseplant rehab

Cheryl of The Modern Monstera shows us how to add character to our homes with plants.

Cheryl of The Modern Monstera shows us how to add character to our homes with plants

Houseplanted is a bi-weekly series where folks with extraordinary houseplant collections invite us inside their homes for a tour of their verdant spaces and to share tips and inspiration for keeping nature alive inside.  

"The foliage, the textures, the variegation, the colouring — there are just so many ways to add character to your space with plants," says Cheryl, aka The Modern Monstera. After initially getting into houseplants as an affordable way to decorate her first home, the Aurora, Ont. resident has since parlayed her passion into plant rehab and styling.

In this episode of Houseplanted, Cheryl gives us a tour of her personal "plant playground," shares her favourite varieties for low light and making a statement and offers practical advice on how to bring a space to life with greenery.    

Check out the video, then scroll down to learn more about Cheryl and her collection.

​​This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How many plants are in your collection and how long have you been at it?

I actually have no idea how many plants I have. I am always propagating and have a lot of my clients' plants mixed with my own collection. If I were to estimate, at least 150? I've been a plant owner since 2013. 

What was your very first plant?

My very first plant was the Monstera Deliciosa (hence my business name, The Modern Monstera) which I almost killed, by the way. I recently just added a Philodendron Variegated Jose Bueno to my collection and it keeps pushing out the most stunning leaves. My all-time favourite plant is my Monstera Thai Constellation because it has grown way too big for my home — and it's fantastic.

Explain your overall relationship to your plant collection.

Over the years, I have become a lot more disciplined when it comes to plant care and self-care. This means that I try not to become overwhelmed with my plants and [remember to] prioritize my needs first. Plants add life to my home, but there are many other positive contributors to my life and my house that also bring me joy, such as my family, knitting, baking and outdoor gardening. Everything is about balance. So when it comes to my plant collection, it provides me happiness when I need it. I recognize my boundaries and don't need my plants to look perfect all the time. 

Describe the emotional connection you have with your plants. How do they make you feel?

Every plant in my home has a story or something memorable about them, so I do feel that it makes my house feel like home. One of my oldest plants is my Fiddle Leaf Fig, and I remember buying it when I first moved into this house and it was a huge milestone. Seeing pictures of when it was tiny, and seeing how much my home has changed since then is very special.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own houseplant collection?

Evaluate your space first, especially how much light you have. Consider your lifestyle and how much time you want to invest in your plant collection. What you see on social media is a tiny portion of what real plant parenthood looks like, so don't compare your plants to someone else's. 

What's the most important rule or practice you follow when caring for your plants?

Try not to expect linear growth from your plants. Just like humans, plants will have highs and lows and that's normal. They might be thriving at some point, only to be hit with pests and have to be chopped down and propagated. Sometimes plants have to start all over. Setting realistic expectations makes growing plants much less stressful. 

Have you developed any unconventional methods or techniques for growing and nurturing your plants?

I'm an avid underwaterer, which really means that I water thoroughly but infrequently. I try to set up my plants for success at the foundational level, which is the soil structure. With the right soil mix, I can water very deeply, not have to worry about overwatering and let the soil mix dry out almost completely before the next watering schedule. Most plants that I own actually appreciate some drought just like they normally experience in tropical forests. 

Where do you see your plant collection heading in the future? Are there any specific goals or aspirations you have for it?

I'm fairly satisfied with the range of different plants that I have and don't have a wish list. I do see myself having to chop, prune, trim and propagate my plants as they continuously grow, and I look forward to sharing them with friends and loved ones. 

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