insider goods

What to Buy to Look Like: A Plantfluencer

Photo: Courtesy of Darryl Cheng.

Status can be a funny thing. Of course it is most obviously expressed through shiny hardware and easily recognizable logos, but it gets far more interesting when you start to observe the more subtle signals — the way you tuck your shirt, or what you eat for breakfast, or your particular brand of notebook can mark you as in or out. And of course, what counts as a status item varies wildly across human tribes. In our series, Insider Goods, we’re talking to members of different tribes (some with their real names, some anonymously) to learn about the niche status items among art-gallery assistants, Broadway actors, or ballerinas.

Today, we hear from Darryl Cheng — the Canadian “plantfluencer” behind the House Plant Journal, who recently penned a book called New Plant Parent: Learn the Ways of Plant Parenthood — on the light meter, grow lights, and planters that are popular among serious plant enthusiasts.

Felco is well-known for being the fine pruners. When you’re dealing with houseplants, you don’t need to deal with something that will chop through an inch-thick branch. The good thing about the Falco brand is that it’s the kind of tool that you can buy for life because they sell the replacement parts of all their tools, and they also have instructions on how to sharpen blades. It’s maybe the lost art of the long-lasting tool.

I have this large Modernica case study planter, and it’s the original (there are a lot of copycats out there). When I first got it, I was seeing a lot of them on home-decor accounts. They’re not quite as popular with the crazy bohemian jungle style of decor, but are really more for a clean Scandinavian type of style. The ceramic itself is a really thick and good, heavy-duty ceramic. You have to like the mid-century look in order to buy it, unlike the Group Partner boob planter, which is something you want to make a bold statement with.

This has definitely become a thing in the Instagram community. It’s not so much a money thing as it is about knowledge. I first learned the trick of aerating soil with chopsticks from my friend’s parents. It loosens up compacted soil before you water, so the water can actually trickle though. I actually sell a watering can that comes with what is essentially a chopstick that has a holster on the back of the can so that it’s with you as you pour water. When you water the soil, you’re not just pouring water on there. You’re managing the whole soil system.

Haws is very famous in the horticulture community for the brass rose, which is the thing that goes on front of the spout. And that, when used correctly, can simulate a very gentle rain, which is great for if you’re starting seedlings. You don’t want a rush of water to wash away the seeds or move around a lot of soil. When it comes to watering regular house plants, you take off that rose because you don’t want to splash water everywhere, but the long spout and narrow opening is perfect for directing the stream of water between foliage, to keep things nice and neat when you’re watering stuff indoors.

There’s a very pervasive fascination with miniature things right now, and pruning tools to match. The Japanese have been doing the bonsai for centuries and have tools that specifically match that aesthetic, so often indoor gardeners who also want a certain look will turn to bonsai tools for indoor plants. I have two of these around my place that are based on a Japanese design. The fact that the shears are really long means you can snip deep into foliage and get a very precise cut.

Using a light meter, or illuminance meter, will help you understand where not to put plants. In the community, or horticultural world, the industry standard is something called PAR — photosynthetically active radiation, and that requires a special type of meter. It’s $300, which is kind of crazy. But if you need to be really precise, the PAR meter is the only way to be sure.