budget. i hate that word. my financial methodology is more along the lines of “try to be sensible and then hope for the best.” i’m not a planner by any means. i don’t, for instance,  make lists when i go to the grocery store (that’s why all those tins of stuffed olives keep cropping up in the fridge.) but, i do keep the financial lessons learnt from my parents fresh in my mind – my mom still has her little notebooks where she wrote down every single thing they spent money on as a young couple starting out. they even made their own beer. how’s that for thrifty, eh?

the reason i’m talking about budgets is because i want to make my home look a little bit nicer. but how! right now i’m living with my two friends who are similarly budget minded, and we’re trying to deal with a dining room that is sparse and empty. “maybe we should put some art on the walls” – we muse. actually, that is a good idea (my bedroom already has nil wall space left due to this.) but you know what else is a good idea? PLANTS.

i am a bit obsessed with the idea of indoor plants right now. anyone have tips for venturing into this territory? nice plants that won’t die too easily… succulents? i do love the look of them, but also don’t want our place to look like a desert garden conservatory (or do i?) also we don’t get an awful lot of sunlight in most of the flat unfortunately, so i think our future plants would have to be okay with that.


botany factory


the selby


old brand new




old faithful shop


old chum


the brick house


  1. Ok. I should preface my comment by saying that my apartment DOES look like desert garden conservatory, and that’s the way I like it! I’m all over the succulent thing. And the terrarium thing. And sometimes I combine the two together.

    So, you know that you can propogate your own succulents really easily? I use the word propogate because I work in an office full of landscape architects, but that makes it sound much harder than it actually is. All you have to do is cut a ‘branch’ off the succulent and jam it in some soil. And it will turn into a new plant. I have a friend who just goes around taking cuttings from other peoples’ plants and doing this but I am not that cheap – I just buy a couple of plants and turn them into lots more.

    Also, I just went to a wedding where they had random cups, bowls and pots that they had thrifted and put succulents into and it looked SO good. And the guests got to take them home, which was even more awesome. It’s a good look. I like it. I’m usually into matching things and a uniform look too.

    Not all of my succulents get much natural light – some on the window sills do ok but the others are fine with artificial light. They have been going strong on compact fluorescent lamp diet for years.

    Anyway, that’s just a couple of my thoughts for plant decorating on the cheap. Let us know what you end up doing!

    • WHOOOOA belinda. thank you!

      funny you should say that about succulents at weddings / propagating them yourself. i was actually at a wedding just this weekend where the gifts to the guests were take-it-home potted succulents. there were also several cuttings strewn on the tables as decor, and my sister-in-law (a botanist) told me you can just stick them in some soil and they’ll grow.

      so weird your comment exactly mirrored my weekend!

      right, i am bearing all this in mind for my next trip to the nursery (this weekend)


  2. Don’t forget about herbs too. They grow like weeds, the seeds are cheap, they’re beautiful and you can eat them!

    • we actually have a ton of potted herbs all over our courtyard – my flatmate is a chef so she knows her stuff! and yes, they are delicious :)

  3. I love love love potted plants!
    Most of mine have been from the neglected discounted section, even from the grocery store on clearance – with a little love and some Miracle Grow fertilizer, they’re all huge now.

    Love succulents. They do need a special little bottle of liquid nutrition you can get easily.
    Also, one plant that has never failed for me is the umbrella plant (Schefflera). You can get them small and they grow really fast. You can also sprout roots off a cutting in a glass of water and plant them. When you prune them, they’ll branch off in 2 places making them bushier.

    Another easy and tropical jungle looking plant that gets huge is the Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa).

    • i think i will get a swiss cheese plant JUST for the name (AND the scientific name!)

      monstrously delicious swiss cheese is what i’m getting at…

  4. Love all the options you chose! I only recently posted on indoor gardens, but it was more about herbs, than plants… :)
    Especially like the hanging option!

  5. I am so intrigued by succulents. At the green market here, the farmers insist that the local succulents need to be outdoors – so I wonder if there are different kinds of succulents, some that are exclusively outdoor plants?
    The terrarium trend is also something I *really* want to try my hand at (imagine, one’s own melody of plants!), but again, the farmers said succulents need a lot of light, so I haven’t tried it out.
    I hope Belinda returns to help answer these questions!

    On another note, I have always wanted to stick to a budget, so related to that theme of this post, too, but take a more, er, “intuitive” approach to spending. I try to be reasonable, and share what I have :)

    • i think that if you take your plants outside during the day, or cycle them through the sunlight in your home (as someone else suggested) – they should be fine!

    • Oh hello!

      I made a terrarium with succulents and cacti (not the best combination due to their difference in water requirements – so I recommend that you stick to one of the other) in September 2009 (http://simpleprecious.blogspot.com/2009/09/succulent-terrarium.html) and it’s still going strong! It was in the window sill at my last place and that was the best light it ever got – and it was a really dark place. If you look at the photos I took of it you can see that there are trees blocking the light into the window.

      Now it is in the middle of my lounge room and sits under a lamp. So it hardly gets light during the day and then at night it gets light from the lamp. Occasionally it will look a bit sad and I will put it outside for a couple of days (that is about once every six months).

      Also, I almost never water it. Like, a few splashes once every six months. Make sure if you make a succulent or cacti terrarium that you don’t use a sealed vessel – they are not rainforest plants! I have other terrariums with rainforest plants and moss and they are sealed. They also require almost no watering because they are in a sealed environment.

      I hope that this helps!

  6. Being financially conscious (I hate the word budget too) and a serial plant killer, it’s taken me a while to find the right house plants. So far, philodendrons and ivy are a success.

    I keep mine on bookshelves or high places so the branches can hang. If you can find a cheap hanging basket, they look stunning in a bedroom. I’m dying to find an antique birdcage to grow one in too.

    And Belinda is right, once you buy one, you can get many more plants out of them if you propagate them yourself. Very budget friendly!

  7. I love love LOVE succulents, but I always kill them! (yeah… “hard to kill” my butt. I find ways!).
    The umbrella plant (Schefflera) mentioned above sounds like a great idea, or just print out your gorgeous images and paste those around!

    On another note, no light in my house + 2 kitties = fake plants! Too bad we don’t have the smartest cats (or really realistic plastic trees?) cause we totally caught them munching away!!!

  8. When I moved in a darker apartment, I really had to adjust plant-wise since, well, my plants didn’t and just died. Ferns, spider-plants (they make ‘babies’, so I’m getting close to having one in very room) and azaleas (they flower for at least 8 months a year) are working out well for me, hope this helps!

  9. I love your blog! It helps me start my morning on these grey Portland days! Some succulents like a lower light, but most will respond to flourescent light like mentioned above. All succulents are super easy to take a pinch of and start a new plant. Go visit pals for a pinch! You don’t need to buy them.

    Also I have some begonias that are loving a north facing window, some cute pothos (heart shaped leaves) dont mind shade either. But the easiest plant ever who can deal with almost total shade and not a lot of water is the snake plant (sanserveria). They have thick leaves and there are a few different varieties… some with yellow, some more mottled, some dark green. They can grow huge too. Bromeliads can sometimes work too. Again, super easy.

    Best of luck to you!

  10. It really is super easy to make a new plant from a succulent clipping. With jade plants, you can just break off a leaf and rest it on top of the soil, and it will do the rest. Isn’t that nuts? See if you have any friends who might be into giving you clippings, but they do take a while to grow so some established plants would be nice too!

    My first houseplant was a Jade plant/tree, it’s really easy to care for, it wants water approx once a month, and you can tell when it’s thirsty because the leaves (not sure if there is a more specific name for a succulent “leaf”) feel droopy, not firm and full. It does really well and I never give it any fertilizer or nutrients. The only thing is that I have to rotate it every couple months, because it grows out towards the light and if you don’t move it around, one side will end up being way heavier than the other and it will fall over! It lives in a North-facing window, so it gets light but no direct sunlight.

    You should look up this funny old record, Plant Talk by Molly Roth. It’s a recording of this lady just talking to random houseplants, you’re supposed to put it on if you’re leaving the house or whatever. It’s super weird!! I made a video out of it and my friend’s plants, with some audio distortion for extra plant weirdness, haha – http://vimeo.com/1720890

    • i’ve always been amazed by the fact that you can grow plants from clippings (and yes, the jade plant sounds pretty nuts. i just googled it… oh, it’s nice)

      i just listened to plant talk and laughed out loud in the office.

      it’s creeping me the hell out, though!

      “you’re from boston, aren’t you?”


  11. My goodness, so many extraordinary photos of plants in this post. This must be what heaven looks like!

  12. I LOVE the word budget.
    Because it means I can save money & always have enough for the things I want and need.
    Rather than wondering where it all went… so worth it.

  13. DITTO sister. i hate the word. i also like to decorate my living space with candy dishes. filled with candy of course.

  14. Plant composition in last photos look amazing! It’d be perfect for my dark bedroom!
    I guess succulents are almost foolproof :) But I can suggest also zamia and spatifilis. They are OK with the darkness and are pretty low maintenance plants.

  15. Googel how to make a moss terrarium – so easy, and low maintenance once you’ve made one. You only need to water it once every few weeks! And they look so pretty… like miniature gardens

  16. Oh try aloe vera. they are robust and if you burn yourself you can snap a bit off and rub the gel on the burn……that’s a plant and an ointment, super budget friendly!

  17. I work in a floral shop, and I often recommend bamboo stalks, in addition to succulents, for low-maintenance plant life. They can be bought in a variety of sizes and are very vase friendly. They do well in lots of indirect light, and their only special care they require is distilled water (tap water has too many impurities which can cause the stalk to yellow). We change the water and clean the vases in our shop once a week, and they do splendidly.

    From a cut-flower perspective, curly willow and eucalyptus bunches can be cut and trimmed down to any size and dry beautifully. It’s not necessarily green life, but it adds a long-term organic/earthy quality to a space at a ridiculously low price-point.

  18. I don’t know if your comments system likes links, but here I go anyway.


    When I moved into my current apartment in Yokohama two years ago, I realized quickly (and particularly since I was starting life living all alone in this tiny studio) that I needed some life around me. I happened to see the TED talk up there at that time and thought why not create an atmosphere in which the plants and I really interact (on an inanimate level, of course).

    Epipremnum aureum (Money plant or Pothos) removes formaldehydes and other chemicals from the air.

    Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in law’s tongue) converts CO2 into O2 at night.

    Dypsis lutescens (Areca palm) removes CO2 and makes O2. (Like most plants do.)

    So, I got two of the plants he suggests, the pothos and the pointy tongue one, since I found them the the most fascinating. They were easy to find at the garden shop here, but I don’t know if I would have chosen them myself in the first place. Now, though, they are my co-habitants, and I’m very pleased.

    Of course, I don’t know if I agree with the tendency of monoculture that arises from this, and I don’t have nearly enough of these plants to grow my own air, but I think they clean my air a little and make me some extra. I remember the very first night I put them in my room, the atmosphere changed and I could sleep better than before.

    Thank you for the opportunity to think about the wonder of plants again! If I could have my druthers, I would live in an old growth forest, but since I’m not willing to deal with forest rangers, that’s a bit impossible.


  19. Man, I am a plant murderer, even succulents that are apparently indestructible. But my yucca is a lovely big thing that thrives even when grossly neglected in a gloomy corner of my apartment, and after experimenting I’ve found that mint, peppermint, sage & rosemary grow beautifully (and the sage has gorgeous purple flowers right now).

  20. ugh, don’t get me started on the word “budget” right now. I’ve spent what savings I did have after donating money to Japan on my poor cat. It’s totally worth it and I would spend every penny I have on him, but it just means I’ll be thrifting it for the next few months. I tend to kill plants though, so my decorating will have to reside in looking at these beautiful images.

  21. Wonderful shots Ms Moss, I have very similar things happening in my back garden. As for indoor plants, Misha has a taste for them so most have to be put out of reach for now. Some nice inspiration here, I’ll post some pics up soon :)

  22. At the moment, I have a Love Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) in a pot on my office desk. It doesn’t get any sun, only gets water when I actually remember to water (or even takes some of my left over cold coffee) it and also doesn’t get fresh air, because we don’t have windows that are able to open. I have been working here for two years and this plant has survived! It grows, albeit slowly, a new leaf every six months and is never without leaves. I’ve had it since high school and it even survived my varsity years. So that’s a good investment.

    Further, a friend of mine gave me a Peacock plant (Calethea rufibarb) as a housewarming present. It’s lush and pretty to look at, but needs water about every second day. It also does not need a lot of sun, it’s actually very sensitive to the sun, but needs fresh air.

  23. i have a bit of a black thumb and tend to kill all plants that enter our house, but these pic’s are so inspiring, i am going to give some succulents a try. love your blog :)

  24. Thank you so much for the inspiration! My husband and I are going to be moving in May and I am feeling both excited and completely list about how we’re going to put everything together. We found a cute place but everything in my dreams is so expensive.

    I like the idea of collecting plants though. Instant charm.

  25. I am also a killer of succulents, the so-called easiest plants to grow, so reading a few comments above about other succulent killers has made me feel so much better!

    I also love having plants around, it does wonders for your decor! I recently bought 2 huge plants from ebay, I got lucky and found a super cheap seller who also delivered. I just hope I don’t kill them because they are quite big (a jade plant and a palm) and it would be awful to have to dispose of their huge dead bodies.

  26. If you can find a big greenhouse/garden store, they usually have really affordable prices for small plants. And there are some fun succulents that don’t need a whole lot of light and are easy to care for like string of pearls, echeveria or moon cactus. Prayer plants and basil are also easy to grow with minimal light, and planting them creatively is the best part! I spruced up our otherwise bare apartment with lots of budget plants, you can do it :) can’t wait to see what you find!

  27. I am SO making that framed succulent garden that you posted Erin! It is all sorts of awesome.

    I think that you kill succulents by watering them too much. I used to do it all the time and they look like they are dying of not enough water – which makes it so confusing!

    It took me a while to get the balance right. I was underwatering them for a bit. The guy at the plant nursery told me that it’s always better to underwater because if you overwater, they get rotten roots and then you can’t sav them. However, if you underwater them they can always be saved. If they start to look a bit shrivelled then you just give them a splash of water. It was seriously the best plant advice I have ever received!

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