There’s something inherently calming about a home filled with living, breathing greenery. Not only do houseplants freshen up your space, they’re also known to improve productivity, creativity, and general well-being through their natural air purifying properties. All the more reason to make sure our plant companions are happy and healthy. By following a few simple steps, you can set your plant parent journey up for success. We turned to local lifestyle brand and plant shop, EcoVibe Home, for some care tips.
Photo by Christopher Dibble
Dedicated to providing sustainable and ethical products, EcoVibe was founded in 2010 by Leonard (Len) and Andrea (Dre) Allen. From dreamy pileas to ornamental aloes, walking into their light-filled shop instantly inspires. But beyond the interior, what we admire most is their commitment to the community. The decision to open up shop in Northeast Portland - the very neighborhood where Len grew up - is a true testament to their ethos. Whether you're looking for home goods, plants, or apparel, EcoVibe provides products with principles in a warm and welcoming setting. We spent some time with certified gardener and EcoVibe manager, Alyssa Wildrick, to hear more about their story and learn some simple tips for a happy houseplant.
Could you share a little bit about EcoVibe and how it started?
EcoVibe is the manifestation of the owners, Len & Dre Allen, coming together and combining their passions. Len spent years working in the fashion industry while Dre worked in the wellness industry. They decided to start their clothing store in 2010 and knew that they wanted to incorporate a focus on natural and sustainable products as the guiding mission for the brand.
Eco: Focused on the environment and sustainable, ethical practices. Vibe: The feeling, the style, the look, the energy, and the experience.
They opened EcoVibe Apparel 10 years ago in the Pearl District and since then have made their way to Northeast Portland. In 2019, we had the opportunity to open a 2nd store on NE Alberta Street. When they saw the light-filled space, they knew it would be the perfect spot for plants! Dre’s family in California owns DIG Gardens, two beautiful shops filled with plants, gifts, and home decor. They asked them for help to create a similar store in Portland, and that’s how EcoVibe Home was born!
How did you get into the industry? Have you always been drawn to plant care?
It’s always fun to reflect on how I got into plants because it’s truly a winding road. Looking back, I can’t see myself doing anything else with my life. My main introduction to plants started during my Clinical Herbalism training back in 2014. The course covered a lot of material, but what really stood out to me was the ethical cultivation and propagation of plants. I loved the idea of being a steward of the earth and growing beautiful plants for people to enjoy. I even moved to Hawaii for a bit to be a full-time farmer and basically was just covered in soil and sweat the entire time - it was amazing. Upon my return to Portland, I worked at a few nurseries around town while studying permaculture, sustainable agriculture, and also obtained my Master Gardener’s certification all before landing my job at EcoVibe Home.
When should I repot my plant?
There are a few things to consider when repotting indoor plants. First, try to limit your repotting projects to early spring, when roots are becoming active again after the dormancy of winter. Root health is of the utmost importance when it comes to establishing itself in its new home. If you just brought a plant home and are unsure if it’s ready for its annual pot up, there are a few signs you can look for:
Roots growing out of the bottom of the planter is a telltale sign, and you might also notice that your plant is drying out very quickly in between watering.
If your plant is tipping over in the pot and unable to support itself, it’s likely ready for a new home.
Although some plants like to wait a bit longer before being potted up, repotting once a year, every year is a good practice.
As a general rule of thumb, how much larger should my pot be in comparison to my plant?
It’s best not to go more than 2” larger than the pot your plant is currently inhabiting when potting up your plants. Plants do not want to have to search too much for the edge of the container, and if they are unable to establish a solid root structure in their new home, they’ll likely drown in the dirt. It also prohibits the soil from drying out adequately since there isn’t enough root structure to drink up the water. I’ve encountered folks who buy a plant and are so excited to see it flourish into a big, beautiful beast. Remember that the root structure is integral to the success of the plant, so pot up slow - this will ensure a healthy, vibrant plant.
What kind of soil do I need?
This can be subjective based on the type of plant you’re working with. Different varieties of plants want different mediums based on how they grow in their natural habitat. Researching your specific plant will help in the long run for knowing what environment to provide! In a general sense, the top factor to consider when purchasing potting soil is drainage. Plants in pottery dry out differently than plants outdoors. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that your indoor potting mix is full of organic materials that will aid in the absorption of moisture. Look for soil that contains various types of moss and bark to increase drainage and stimulate aeration on the roots! When in doubt, add some Perlite to your soil mix to optimize drainage.
Could you walk us through a few simple steps on how to repot?
I suggest starting when the soil is dry, as it’ll be easier to slide the plant out of its current pot vs. being wet and compacted. If it’s still in the nursery liner, squeeze the sides of the pot to make it easier to remove. If it’s in a ceramic or Terracotta planter, take a butter knife and run it around the inside of the pot to try to loosen the soil.
Once the plant slides freely from the container, pull it out completely to expose the roots. It’s important to massage the roots just a bit to break up some of the root structure. Think of the root as an organism with muscle memory that has been growing in circles for months. By breaking up that muscle memory, it will adjust to its new home that much faster. Also, removing some of the old soil is beneficial so that new, nutrient-dense soil can take its place.
Fill the pot about halfway with soil, and create a well. Place the plant into its new home and make sure it’s centered. Then, set it down low, leaving some space from the top of the pot and the soil line (about an inch). Slowly begin adding soil to the pot to fill in any gaps. You want to add enough soil to fill the pot, but be sure not to compress the soil down so hard that water cannot move through.
Lastly, I encourage folks to water their plant into its new home, which will help the new soil adhere to the plant and knock out any air bubbles that might be sitting on the roots. This will also help the soil settle a bit, and you can see where additional soil might be needed. Let your plant rest in a shadier location for a day or two before returning it to its sunny spot in your home.
Is all-purpose plant food and/or fertilizer effective?
Absolutely! In the wild, plants adapt to the nutrients readily available to them. When we bring them indoors and keep them in pots, it’s in our best interest to mimic that environment as closely as possible. There’s a ton of options on the market, but when in doubt, I suggest an all-purpose, low dose indoor plant food in liquid form. I prefer liquid plant food rather than slow-release granules as I feel that it gives me the most control over what my plants are receiving.
EcoVibe's Top 5 Tips For A Happy Plant
1. Ask Questions
Try to engage the folks you are purchasing your plants from and ask as many questions as possible! It’s likely that they love their job and want to geek out on plants with you. Then, commit to ongoing research.
2. Be Flexible
Let go of any idea of "scheduling" when it comes to watering! How much moisture your plant needs varies on any given day. Factors like humidity, lighting, and temperature can all change a plant's behavior. Check the moisture level of your soil every 5-7 days.
3. Stay Calm
Don’t freak out about a few yellow leaves, especially during season changes when plants are adjusting to a new lighting schedule. Some yellow and/or dead leaves are just a part of plant parenthood. Try to examine the plant as a whole rather than focus on one or two sad leaves.
4. Have Fun
Plants bring so much joy to people and come in so many different colors and varieties. It’s a really fun community to be a part of. Don't get too bummed if you lose a plant or two along the way - I’ve certainly killed my fair share of plants in the process. It’s just part of learning and growing. You got this!
5. Ask For Help
When in doubt, you can always schedule a plant care consultation with myself or any of our plant specialists at EcoVibe, and we’ll gladly answer any questions you might have.
Photography by EcoVibe & Schoolhouse