Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Plant saga - success!

Finished, winter 2017

When I did a minor bathroom renovation, 2 years ago, my intention was to bring some of the outdoors - inside. Because cleaning a bathroom, can be mundane work! I love gardens though, and everything green in them. So what better, than to introduce a green feature-wall to the bathroom? Once complete, the next challenge was to introduce a living element to the bathroom. Anything, has to be better than mould, right?

Former attempts with plants, didn't go very well. I eventually had to take them outside, and some even died, in the end. The first attempt, was my favourite, and one I wish succeeded...

Baby Panda (2017)

Unfortunately, the bamboo grass, didn't love the low-light levels, in the bathroom. The result was swift defoliation. I lost all those lovely, light green leaves. I REALLY wanted a plant with light green leaves - to accentuate the painting I made for the bathroom.

I needed to carry that green, from the feature wall, over to the other side of the bathroom. Otherwise it looked unbalanced. So I illustrated the silhouette of a plant, with the same paint as the feature wall.

Not a living plant, but still served a purpose

Here's what the painting looks like, today. Hasn't it lasted well? No mould issues, or insect damage. But the point for it being here at all, was about that colour. It was key to the aesthetic. But now I had an empty corner shelf, to fill. Where would I find a LIVING plant, to tie the feature wall and painting, together?

So began my experimentation with ferns, next...

Maidenhair Fern #1


Maidenhair fern #2 (Lady Moxam)


In some cases, the leaves just fell off. In others (like the last attempt) the leaves turned into a version of kale chips. Baked on the plant during our airless, hot summers. So ferns were a, no-go, in the bathroom. Although strictly speaking, there was more I needed to learn about the container I had chosen too.

I was soon to realise, the container was key. Not just in it's capacity to help the plant survive, but also in the aesthetic I was after. Because my final attempt, to introduce a living element to the bathroom, came with success! Only, the leaves of this particular plant, was a drab, dark green.

Plant...with bling

As recommended by Jane Allen, and Meg Hopeful, in the comments section of my original plant-saga post, I did eventually go with the Spathophilum (or Spath) Madonna Lily. My mother had also mentioned this particular plant to me, on several occasions.

My words echo back, from my comment to Jane..."I will seriously consider one, if I don't have any luck with my preferred choices." Well, that's what I did, and it worked! Mostly...

Leaf tip damage 
white haze, is foliar spray for nutrients

There was a point, during the last summer, I forgot to water my Spath. I'm kicking myself, I didn't check more often. But I was still learning about the indicators, of when a Peace Lily required watering. As too much water, was worse for a Spath, than too little. I learned, when the leaves start to droop (instead of being upright) is when to water. Unfortunately, my tardy observations were too late to save the tips. Their burnt offerings remind me to be more vigilant.

I've also discovered the best potting mix for indoor plants, is heavily barked. Very little soil. This maintains moisture at the plant roots, without causing fungal issues. As long as it's not sitting in water, indefinitely. Also the bark mix, cannot be allowed to dry-out completely either.

Which brings me back to the container...

 Tilted slightly, to show the water
potted plant, sits on the rack

I went searching for a container at Bunnings (Australian hardware store), with three objectives:

  • A lighter shade of green
  • Light weight, for the shelf
  • Self watering

As an added bonus, this particular self-watering planter, was missing an overflow. Perfect for the shelf, as I didn't want water spilling on it. When the plants' leaves are wilting now, I fill the container with water (1" above the plastic rack) so the roots can soak it up. Leave a day (or two - depending on the season) then remove most of the water.

I always like to leave a little sitting underneath the plastic rack, as this creates humidity for the plant. But it doesn't mean the roots are constantly sitting in water, either. The Peace Lily seems to like this arrangement.

Photo-bombing, in my house-cleaning clothes

In the end, the solution for bringing a living element to the bathroom, came with many different considerations. The plant had to be suitable, for it's low light situation. Which meant dark coloured leaves, better adapted to photosynthesizing in those conditions. The leaves also had to be large, instead of small and fragile - which lose their moisture, much quicker.

Finally, the container had to be functional, on so many levels:

  • Not exceed the shelf's carrying capacity
  • Not overflow onto the shelf
  • Meet the plants, preferred growing conditions.
  • A form of decoration, to tie into the original renovation

The container, was the make-or-break factor, in this particular design. Which was interesting to learn. Obvious, really. It tied the plant, to life (hallelujah!) as well as tying the renovation together. Did I meet the objectives, I originally set out to achieve with this bathroom renovation, overall though?

Find out, in the next post. As there's much more to share.


  1. It's hard to grow plants inside, I struggle. Our office gets sun all day and is too hot, the sitting room is shady all day and not enough light. The downstaris bathroom is good, but you can't put too many plants there, and it's the same on the kitchen window sill. But still I try to grow inside.

    1. I know, it's addictive! Looking for that sweet spot in the house, for something to thrive. I'm coming to appreciate the inside of the house, should be treated like the outside. Plants need their niche to succeed. Finding the right one, is a challenge though. :)

  2. I've gotten behind in blog reading and commenting again. I remember your first attempts at plants in the bathroom! I don't think I would have figured out it was all about the container! I sometimes think we don't give containers a thought, but you've proved how key they are. I also thought it was interesting about the soil. Now that we've got a chipper, I really see soil benefits to small bits of wood in the soil. It makes the soil organisms so happy! But that's another challenge with potted plants, isn't it? Such a nice victory, Chris. Now you've got me thinking about a small plant for our bathroom!

    1. Yep, that's so true, Leigh. The difference between regular soil and that mixed with wood chips, is a higher population of micro-organisms. This is especially beneficial for any indoors plants, which don't have the benefit of worms millepedes or other insect larve, which find their way into it. But wood chips can culture microorganisms, given the right conditions. As long as they've been aged first, or they can deplete the plant of nutrients.

      It would be great to bring some a plant into your bathroom. I'm constantly dreaming of more! Whether I will add another, is yet to be determined, lol.

  3. Chris, I'm glad you finally found a plant that grows well in your bathroom. Our new bathroom is too small to put any plants unfortunately. I like the green touches.

    1. Thanks Chel. Now I do so admire your green splashback in your new kitchen though. That would perk up my face, no end, when cooking and cleaning. I don't know what it is about the colour green. It just makes me so happy!

  4. Now I see your comments about the soil, I'm encouraged to try again with a potting mix to which I've added some of this biochar I'm making. It's supposed to retain moisture and nutrients in the porous structure. Worth a try. But I'll consult the indoor plant book beforehand, then see what Bunnings have on offer.

    1. Biochar is actually great for springtails, which can add minute traces of nutrients, as well as add another layer of life to a normally, sterile potting mix. Springtails can be found in the home, normally where it's moist. Or in the compost heap, and in leaf litter. But definitely give the biochar a try!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love reading what you have to share. Gully Grove is a Spam free environment though, so new commenter’s only leaving hyperlinks, will be promptly composted.