Welcome to our exclusive interview series featuring houseplant professionals! In this series, we dive deep into the world of indoor plants and gain insights from experts who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in caring for and cultivating houseplants.
Get ready to be inspired, informed, and enriched as we uncover the secrets and expertise of these passionate individuals who have made houseplants their specialty!
Today, we have the pleasure of introducing Sarah, "The Plant Rescuer," whose amazing passion for houseplants and unwavering commitment to caring for and loving each plant has earned her widespread recognition.
It was a tremendous honour to partner with Sarah at RHS Chelsea, where her expertise and love for plants played a leading role in the concept and design securing a prestigious RHS Gold Medal. Today, we are delighted to offer you an intimate glimpse into her journey as she shares her extensive knowledge and experience in the world of houseplants.
Sarah has also led the worldwide rescuer box initiative, encouraging plant retailers to reduce waste and give healthy plant a second chance.
Could you share the journey of how you started rescuing plants?
I was at a local DIY shop looking for paint when I saw members of staff in the houseplant area binning Orchids which had finished flowering. It struck me as really sad that these healthy plants were being thrown away simply because they’d stopped flowering so I asked if I could take them home. I followed some basic care instructions and the Orchids eventually flowered again. Seeing them flower again inspired me to go out looking for more plants which needed rescuing. I visit supermarkets, DIY shops and garden centres looking for sad plants which I can save. I’ve even found plants thrown away in bins and on pavements.
Can you describe your creative process for developing content and engaging with your audience as the plant rescuer? How do you inspire and educate others to adopt sustainable practices?
I post content that I hope is helpful and inspires others to take better care of their own plants. There is an awful lot of misinformation online so I make sure and deliver content that is based on practical experience not gimmicks. My advice always puts environmental concerns at the forefront and offers alternatives to harmful practices and products within the industry.
Are there any specific moments or milestones in your career as a plant rescuer that you are particularly proud of or that have had a significant impact on you?
I am so proud of the collaboration with Happy Houseplant at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Our Gold Award winning houseplant studio The Plant Clinic was one of the highlights of my career. This success has led on to many other opportunities such as becoming a writer for Gardeners’ World Magazine and doing talks at other RHS events. Writing my book of course was another major highlight and there might be another one on the way!
The book is divided into three main parts: Nurture and Grow, Houseplants for Your Home, and How to Rescue and Propagate. I wrote it as a complete guide on how to care for houseplants and importantly what to do when things don’t go to plan. Throwing a plant away because it no longer looks perfect is an easy option, but in doing so you are just perpetuating the cycle of buying and killing plants – if you understand the symptoms you’ll break that cycle. I wrote this book because I want everyone to enjoy houseplants and for them not to be a cause of frustration and disappointment when they seemingly die for no reason. This book will help everyone understand their plant’s needs, keep them alive and most importantly enjoy them.
How do you hope readers will be impacted or affected by your book? What do you want them to take away from it?
Woven throughout The Plant Rescuer is a message of sustainability and being less wasteful when it comes to our plant habits. I explain why we should be buying plants which don’t look perfect and why we should care about so many that get thrown away. Plant production is a multi-billion-pound industry and with it comes all the environmental costs associated with mass production: energy and water consumption, peat consumption, chemical use, emissions from air and freight travel, not to mention the amount of non-biodegradable plastic used.
Those of us who buy houseplants like to think of our hobby as being ‘green’, but houseplant production has a large environmental footprint, made even greater by our unwillingness to accept anything but absolute perfection. When a plant gets thrown away because it’s no longer perfect everything that has gone into growing that plant is wasted. Like the wonky veg, this needless and senseless waste needs to stop.
- The most important thing you can do is give your plant enough light so it can photosynthesis. It might look nice in the corner of your room but it won’t look nice for long. I get really annoyed when I see interior design programs which use houseplants as decoration and put them in places where they won’t survive – this is sending out the wrong message. Plants are more than decoration, they need light to make food, if they can’t make food they will starve. So move all your plants closer to a window. This is very important in winter when the light levels are much lower than in summer. Shove all your plants to the brightest window in winter.
- Don’t water without checking the soil for moisture. You can do this by lifting up the pot and weighing it in your hands if it’s small. If the pot feels light it probably needs water. Or use your finger, push it into the soil and feel if it’s damp or dry. Plants in winter don’t need as much water as they do in summer so don’t water on a schedule as the plants needs change throughout the seasons based on light and temperature. Always check if it needs water first.
- Make sure your pot has drainage holes so excess water can escape. If you have the pot inside a decorative cover pot make sure to take it out when you water it, let the water drain out and then put it back into the cover pot so the water doesn’t collect at the bottom and cause the roots to rot.
- Check your plants for pests once a week. A few bugs are far easier to tackle than an infestation. There are many ways to tackle different pest from biological control to sticky tape, I talk about all the ways to deal with pests in my book. I never use pesticides, I always suggest remedies which aren’t harmful to other insects like bees or animals.
- Buy plants which are suitable for your home. If your house doesn’t get much light don’t buy a plant that requires bright light. Buy one that’s more suited to low light. If you don’t know which plants to buy, take a look at my book and see which plants are suitable for your home. Match the plant to the room and it will stand a better chance of surviving.
What are your biggest dreams for the year ahead? Or the next five years? (personal or business).
I’m excited for my next book and I’d love to see the Plant Rescue Boxes in even more stores and countries worldwide.
What is the greatest life hack for rescuing and caring for plants effectively?
Do your research. Find out the name of your plant and where it comes from in the wild. This will give you all the information you need to care for it effectively.
What’s your favourite DIY plant project that you enjoy working on?
I’m obsessed with an Ikea cabinet that I converted to house my rarer plants. It has grow lights and fans to circulate the air.
Which botanical gardens have inspired you the most?
If there was a house fire (after ensuring the safety of family and pets), what plant would you save first?
My 25 year old Clesitocactus strausii (a white hairy cactus).
Do you have a favourite plant-themed cocktail or drink?
Does Gin count?
If you were stranded on a desert island, what plant-related luxury item would you take with you?
I’d take a small cactus to sunbathe with me.
In our houseplant blog, we share our passion for indoor plants and everything you need to know about keeping your house plants healthy and beautiful. Make sure to read some of our most popular posts, such as this houseplant care guide, and browse our collections of trending, easy care and best selling houseplants!