Crazy plant stories
Aroid talk # 3 with Annika  – @plantlifedk
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Aroid talk # 3 with Annika – @plantlifedk

Today’s Aroid talk is with the founder of Facebook group Rare and exotic plant sale – Europe Annika Mathiasen. Annika started her instagram account @plantlifedk approximately the time that I started mine. I was no Aroid collector back then, but I already was drawn to some specific shapes and textures of plants. And Annika collected all of them really fast. My wishlist was bursting back then ;).

Now we talk about not only how to become an Aroid collector but also about downsizing the collection that is too big to manage. We cover the pest prevention and after-shipping maintenance of plants. Is transferring Aroids to PON hard? Check out the details below.

Interview

@leafy_jungle: So, Annika, did you always grew plants? Tell me how it all started. What was your connection to plants when you were a little girl?

@plantlifedk: I haven’t always grown plants, but I have always had an interest in nature. I come from the countryside, and I mean – countryside, where even the birds bring lunch boxes.

My mum used to take me out on walks along the road and collect flowers so we could press them in the telephone book. Also, she would bring me out to catch insects – I was particularly interested in catching spiders, slugs and butterflies haha!

During the summertime, I would locate the different types of flowers down the road and dig them out. At the end of summer, I would bring back some of the flowers to different places and plant the propagated ones, hoping they would grow in more than one place the next year. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t. There were years, when in the next season I was able to collect even more beautiful flowers.

@leafy_jungle: So you are a propagation geek, that explains a lot ;). Aroids are perfect for that. What was your first Aroid and why did you start to grow them?

@plantlifedk: My very first aroid was a Philodendron hederaceum. I didn’t start growing particularly Aroids at that time, but I was very intrigued by the beauty of the Philodendron Pink Princess. I started buying and growing plants in January 2019. It took around two months to find a Philodendron Pink Princess (I’ve found it on Etsy). I paid 110 Euros for it at the time. It was the largest sum of money, that I have ever had paid for a plant. So, to summ up: My first Aroid wasn’t the main reason I started to grow them; the Pink Princess was. 

@leafy_jungle: And has your University major [biotechnology and chemistry] helped you with aroid cultivation? If yes, how, if no, where did you learn from?

@plantlifedk: Not really. My previous education from college, where I had biology at a high level, taught me more than the things that I’ve learned from UNI. I had the best biology teacher one could ever wish for. She made me very motivated, and, as everything is part of a larger system I did continue to learn, understand, respect and preserve the small things in nature.

@leafy_jungle: Is it hard to take care of so many plants, how did you manage to reconcile this with the University?

@plantlifedk: At the beginning it wasn’t very difficult as I didn’t have that many plants. However, as COVID-19 came, and I’ve gained a lot more spare (remote lectures etc.), I’ve started getting more plants. At one point I had just under 200 plants whilst studying at the same time. I could easily manage the plants because caring for them was my way to rest and relax my brain. However, as the UNI opened up again, and we had go for classes, I felt overwhelmed by the amount. Then, as they no longer brought me joy, I sold a lot of them very cheap. I knew that keeping them would eventually mean some of them would die. 

@leafy_jungle: I understand, simply the space is not always enough to have a lot of plants. But you have a grow tent. That makes things a bit easier, no?

@plantlifedk: Oh yeah… My tent. Well, it is 240cm long, 120cm deep and 200cm tall. It’s located in my living room as it’s the only place where it can be, hahaha!

My experience showed that lowering the amount of LUX gives darker foliage, which I really love. Therefore I wanted some lights that don’t have the crazy high LUX and I use two Philips Hue LED strips for outdoor usage.

There are also a few IKEA LED lights and a single fan to keep the airflow going. I also have an old humidifier from way back when I had tortoises. But even though I haven’t used it for a while, the humidity still doesn’t go below 65-70 percent.

I have no idea how many plants I have in there, but I would guess somewhere around eighty.

@leafy_jungle: Eighty is a good amount, they have space! And in what medium do you grow them?

@plantlifedk: I grow my Aroids in a mixture which I customize depending on the plant and the size of a plant. It contains of a large number of ingredients. They’re definitely not all required, but I use the following substrates: perlite, activated charcoal, orchid bark (both small and large sizes),tree fern substrate, Bio Bizz potting soil (a very small amount), LECA/clay pellets.

Sometimes, if I know it’s a plant I tend to forget, or if it is placed in an easily overseen location, I use a tiny bit of moss.

I rarely use fertilizer, even though my plants are obviously hating me for it. I use the BioBizz Fish mix, CALMAG and Acti-Vera. 

@leafy_jungle: Do you get pests in the tent? How do you treat an infestation on an Aroid?

@plantlifedk: For pest prevention I actually do not use any kind of chemicals. Pesticides and chemicals need to be used only when there is an actual infestation, as the insects tend to become resistant to the various active substances in the chemical remedies. As far as I recall, and I might be wrong, so please do not hang me up on this, neem oil is recommended for prevention rather than solution once an infestation has occurred. The only thing that I actually use as a preventive measure are sticky traps. 

However…I take a lot of preventive measures when I get a new plant:

I remove the plant from its current medium, check the plant for any dead roots and under the leaves for any possible pests. Then I remove the dead leaves and put them in the trash bag. Once I’ve done this, I shower the plant at a somewhat high flow rate: usually as high as I can (without damaging the plant).

If there are pests, I make a solution of pesticide and water and leave the plant under the water for a few hours depending on the infestation and number of pests. Then I wash the plant again to remove any pesticide and leave it with the roots in water overnight. I keep it in my bathroom or bedroom, but always away from my collection. If it is a small plant, then I usually isolate it in a plastic container as well.

@leafy_jungle: Would you say that pests are the reason for which you switched from soil to hydro?

@plantlifedk: I’m far from “switched to hydro”, but I’ve found that Anthuriums are easier to convert to PON than Philodendrons. I just rinse the roots as well as I can, plant them in PON, water them a bit and wait a few days to fill up the reservoir. I really want to use only PON since my plants – especially my Anthuriums – loved it.

And although I really love the Lechuza planters, my plants grew so fast, I would need around 10-20 of the very large size ones. That would be way too expensive, so I try using tree fern substrate instead. And, I have to tell you, that is absolutely amazing. I can leave my plants completely alone for 14 days. They are thirsty but not dying or struggling, which is something I absolutely love.

@leafy_jungle: Is it hard to grow Anthuriums in hydro, can you give some tips on how to do it?

@plantlifedk: Not really haha! I just rinse their roots and use the Lechuza – the easiest thing I’ve ever come across. As to pH and the parameters, I do not measure them. It’s really that simple. I don’t care any differently for my Anthuriums and Philodendrons, I never really have as it wasn’t necessary. 

@leafy_jungle: Lucky you, you have to have some good conditions in your tent if the plants grow by themselves.

@plantlifedk: The temperature there is at 20.5 degrees Celsius and the humidity never goes below 70%. The light works from 6 am to 22 pm.

@leafy_jungle: I remember that you had a moss wall in your tent. How is it doing and what are your plans for it? 

@plantlifedk: Oh gosh hahaha! My moss wall is doing shit. My original plan was to have some plants growing on it, and my humidifier was keeping it moist. However since I haven’t used my humidifier in a long time, the poor plants on the wall are barely getting by. I haven’t had a lot of time to care for the wall, but hopefully I’ll have more time at hand soon. 

@leafy_jungle: Ok, so besides the plant in the tent and on the wall do you have also some other ones that grow outside? How many are there in total?

@plantlifedk: A quick approximation would be somewhere between 100 and 120. Currently I’m planning to downsize my collection. I’ve realised having a large collection isn’t something that I can do at this point in my life. I dream of some sort of a greenhouse connected to my house, filled with my collection, eventually, when I will be able to afford it. Until then, I need to downsize and be realistic with regards to how much time I have. 

@leafy_jungle: What is the fastest growing plant in your collection?

@plantlifedk: That has to be my Epipremnum pinnatum ‘cebu blue’. It is currently located in my living room. It gets indirect sunlight from a south facing window and evening sun and it really likes it. 

@leafy_jungle: Is it also your biggest plant?

@plantlifedk: No, my biggest and oldest Aroid is my Philodendron gloriosum. I would become very upset if I were to lose it, as we’ve been through a lot together. It’s one of my most beloved plants as it has been with me since I began to be “independent”. I got it just before I moved away from my parents. I guess I see it as a symbol of my independence in some way. 

@leafy_jungle: Do you have any tips for a beginner Aroid collector on how not to go bankrupt while collecting plants?

@plantlifedk: Connect, connect and connect some more. If you’re new you’re always welcome to write me a message. I am more than happy, if I can, to help new collectors. Both with connecting to others and answering questions based on my own experience. Sometimes I can help with finding wish list plants for a reasonable price. 

@leafy_jungle: Do you do hang with plant people quite a lot then I guess. What do your friends and family think about your passion for plants?

@plantlifedk: Initially, my family thought that I was crazy. I had fifty plants on ten square meters and 90% humidity WITHOUT using a humidifier. Now they understand it’s an actual passion and sincere hobby of mine, they respect it and look up to it.

I hang out with plant people when I get the opportunity to do so! Over the years that I’ve been collecting, I’ve met a few plant friends and we became very close. We chat every day and occasionally have zoom meetings. We talk then about plants and have a cup of coffee with our webcams on.

Now I’m actually looking into attending the orchid show in Budapest in April to meet a very dear friend of mine.

@leafy_jungle: So I guess you are into plantstagram, especially the Aroid part?

@plantlifedk: I love plantstagram – without it I probably would own half the collection I do today. It isn’t just because of the plants being shared, but also the people in the entire plantstagram community. Connecting and finding friends is so valuable when you wish to collect plants and learn. 

I understand why some people see it as a beauty contest, but I see it as so much more than that. I, personally, love to show people when I manage to do something right. When I get the care right or manage to get a new leaf on a plant which I’ve had serious trouble figuring out. Sharing my failures etc. is something I mostly do through my stories though. I want my feed to be a place where people can come when they search for possible ways to care for a plant. 

@leafy_jungle: Hmm, I agree. For me it is very important to talk with other collectors via Instagram about their experience. I know that you want to downsize, but do you have any wishlist plants?

@plantlifedk: Yeees! Some of them are definitely WISH list plants hahaha! First of all: Philodendron gloriosum variegata (I WISH), then Philodendron pedatum variegataAnthuriums: ace of spades, queen of hearts, gymnopus, papilliaminum, cirinoi. And Monstera adansonii variegata!

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