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Gardening is one of those hobbies that becomes an identifier — once you get into plants, people may ask you about them, or start buying you gardening gifts. But you’re probably fine with that.
As with caring for any living thing, being a plant parent isn’t always easy, which means you’ll likely need some things to keep your indoor plants or outdoor garden thriving. Even though it doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, the plant-related tools, supplies, and accessories can add up, particularly in the case of well-made items that are built to last.
We asked an expert what high-quality, durable, and useful items a plant lover might actually want to receive as a gift.
What not to do when it comes to plant care
First up: There are a few things you should avoid when buying a gift for a plant lover. “A lot of the problems that I see around the plant community is that there’s just a bunch of garbage out there,” said Christopher Satch, a horticulturalist also known as the NYC Plant Doctor.
Along with his plant care and styling business, Satch teaches classes at the New York Botanical Gardens, which he highly recommends taking if you’re new to the gardening game. (They offer classes in everything from psychedelic mushrooms to DIY crafts and flower arranging, and yes, you can buy gift cards.)
There are some things he advises against, including self-water bulbs, water meters, and focusing too much on overwatering and humidity.
As pretty and effortless as they may be, self-watering bulbs don’t evenly saturate soil, which should be the goal.
“You want your soil to be evenly moist, just like after a rainstorm where everything gets fully saturated,” he said. “Now you’re probably wondering, what about overwatering? That’s another term that’s been thrown around way too much, and no one really quite knows what it means.”
People often worry about their plants getting too much water, and yes, letting them sit too long in standing water can cause the roots to rot. However, that’s generally not the true problem, Satch said. The real issue is that the soil is not drying out fast enough, which is usually because you don’t have enough light or heat, he said.
When it comes to moisture in the air, a common misconception he hears is that humidity is causing those brown tips you may have seen on the leaves of your houseplants.
“It’s not humidity at all,” Satch said. “It’s usually a fungus that’s affecting the plant.”
Most plants don’t require a humid environment “unless they are orchids or air plants or other embryophytes,” he said. (Embryophytes include plants like ferns.)
“Basic houseplants literally could care less if it’s super dry or super wet, as in the air is super humid,” Satch said. “They really don’t care, and they do just fine.”
That’s why some of his top suggestions include using a fungicide to stop fungi from invading, and an insecticide to prevent bugs from eating away at your precious plant babies.
Indoor and outdoor gardening essentials
Since heat and lights are so important, and Satch knows you may not be getting enough in your home or apartment, supplemental lighting can be a game changer. His favorites, like this panel light for growing herbs and vegetables indoors, are from a company called Waveform Lighting, but what you really want to be looking for is a high CRI value, or color rendering index. (The panel light Satch recommended was sold out at the time of publication, but you can get one of these options on Amazon from Vivosun or Barrina.)
“You want it to be about 92 or greater,” he said. “That number just means that the light that that bulb is producing is the closest to the sun that we could possibly make it, because 100 on the CRI is sunlight.”
Another factor to note in choosing artificial lighting is the lumens, or the actual quantity of light being emitted, since both quality and quantity are key.