Aroid talk #4 with Ahmad – @rootedleaves
Today we move form Netherlands to…Kuwait! Meet Ahmad from @rootedleaves who created an Aroid fairy tale on his rooftop. I mean it, check that plant room – it is so mystical, I could sit there all day and just watch the mist go around in between the leaves, gently waving in the breeze.
Ahmad loves the Aroid family but not only. He has no heart though when it comes to...Calatheas (any Calathea haters here? ;). When he travels, he travels alone and wanders rather in the mountains than by the sea. No wonder, when he actually competed in Ironman 70.3 and 100m sprints!
His tender side are plants and music, and may I add this: his view through the lens of a camera…I find very unique.
We talk not only about his plant room filled with rarities form the Aroid family, but also building terrariums, keeping Begonias alive and about Monster obliqua from a sad plant corner….;)).
Check the interview below!
@leafy_jungle: Did you always grew plants? Tell me how it all started. What was your connection to plants? And how one end up with car racing and growing plants?
@rootedleaves: I’m from Kuwait. I grow my plants in a cabin I’ve built on the roof of my house. My day to day occupation has nothing to do with plants, haha. I’m a personal trainer and entrepreneur.
I started my plant growing journey in 2012 when I had a collection of reptiles that needed tropical habitats. For as far as I remember I’ve always been connected to nature and animals. I was that kid you’d find in the bushes looking for insects and living organisms whilst other kids are playing soccer, lol. As for car racing; I’m merely just a sports car fanatic that enjoys an engine roar with a soft spot for Corvettes.
@leafy_jungle: Hah, I think that it is a cool mix. You are able to keep the balance between the so called artificial and the natural world. So, we will talk about the natural part ;), but before we move to plants, can you tell me what are approximate weather conditions in your area, so we can have a bit more discernment here…
@rootedleaves: Kuwait is super hot during summer so it’s challenging keeping plants near a window. To avoid overheating in the cabin and burning of the plant leaves, I cover all of the windows with a sun insulator material throughout the whole summer ( April to November ). Keeping the place covered and maintaining the ideal humidity and temperature helps with growing every tropical and exotic plant I wish to have.
Recently, with the huge demand for plants, plant shops here in Kuwait have been importing a lot of the trendy plants and even order by demand of any plant we wish to have (of course depending on availability).
@leafy_jungle: Wow, that sounds like a dream, in Luxembourg I can mostly get my hands on a money tree x) and from Aroid family: Monstera borsigiana – it is a treat ;)(I’m exaggerating a bit). What was your first Aroid and why did you start to grow them?
@rootedleaves: My first Aroid was a devil’s ivy. I liked how they can be shaped in any way to fill and greenify a space. They’re also easy to propagate and cared for.
@leafy_jungle: As to other species – how do you choose the next plant that is going to end up in your space – do you have a wishlist?
@rootedleaves: New plants choose me. I have no list but when I’m in a plant shopping frenzy I visit the plant shops looking for the next plant that speaks to me. It’s when I can instantly visualize it sitting in the cabin.
It also depends on my mood, haha. It’s mentally challenging when having a complicated relationship with certain hard plants in the cabin…so naturally I would go for easy plants.
@leafy_jungle: I guess you are talking about Begonias, am I right ;)? Is growing Begonias similar to growing Aroids, in your opinion?
@rootedleaves: In my opinion they’re both different and similar in some ways. It really depends on which plant in the Aroid family or Begonia. I’d advice reading about the next Aroid or Begonia one would want to purchase before getting one or two.
Most of my Begonias are in closed terrariums, except the maculata and benigo pink. I do open the glass door during morning time only for the purpose of providing airflow and to avoid overheating. As for the soil mix, since all plants are tropical, I do use the same mix for each one of them.
I would say, from a personal experience, both Begonias and Aroids are similar in care. Both need humidity, filtered sun and a pole to climb.
@leafy_jungle: Is it hard to make a terrarium?
@rootedleaves: It’s very simple and basic. Make sure the terrarium is closed from all sides ( if it has a mesh top, I’d recommend covering it with a plastic wrap to keep the humidity in). First, layer up the base with pebbles/rocks to avoid excess water from sitting at the bottom and rotting the roots.
Second is applying the soil mix to the desired level…and it should be ready to plant.
One more thing to keep in mind is placing the terrarium in a place were it gets heat from the sun. That way the terrarium will heat, and humidity would water the space without the need of exterior watering. My terrariums get watered only on the same day of the setup and get misted once a week.
@leafy_jungle: Wow, that is a valuable information, thanks a lot! Let’s move to the bigger picture x). Can you tell me about your plant room? What are the conditions inside? I imagine that it is a heaven not only for the Aroid family.
@rootedleaves: As I mentioned at the beginning, the cabin is located on the roof of the house. It’s an “A” shape inspired design that I have not build by myself but I’ve designed and supervised from A to Z. Since I live in the Middle East it was very important to add a layer of insulation to protect the plants from the heat and control the atmosphere inside. With a split air conditioning installed and a humidifier, I’m able to maintain the temperature between 20-24 (68-72 F) degrees Celsius and humidity in the range of 70-80% during summer when it’s 40+ (104 F) degrees Celsius outside.
@leafy_jungle: How many plants do you grow there. Is the humidifier working non stop? 😉 it looks sooooo eery, I love it.
@rootedleaves: I stopped counting a couple of years back but I would estimate it around 80 in the cabin plus the terrariums. As for the humidifier, I fill it every morning and let it run till dusk.
@leafy_jungle: What is the oldest and biggest plant in your collection? Is it an Aroid?
@rootedleaves: That’ll be the Monstera deliciosa. It has been under my care for about 5 years now.
I got it a bit shorter from what it is now and it has a super slow growth rate now with much smaller leaves with no fenestration. It recently started pushing fenestrated leaves. Thankfully, I never had any issues with it.
@leafy_jungle: In what medium do you grow your Aroids and what sort of additives (like for example fertilisers) do you use?
@rootedleaves: I keep it basic when it comes to soil mediums. I use a ready mix and add either compost, wormcast or fish fertilizer for nutrition. As for pest control I only use neem oil.
Oh, also, I water my plants with filtered water and take all my ferns out when Kuwait gifts us with rain.
@leafy_jungle: Wow, that is a very minimalistic approach, and the hardest plant to keep alive with those conditions and care?
@rootedleaves: Begonias! I love them but they either love me back or they don’t.
@leafy_jungle: Oh, which ones are the most fussy then?
@rootedleaves: My worse experience with a Begonia would be with any of the rexes. They just don’t seem to like being in my place, no matter what I do. It is also the case with Begonia luxurians; they as well don’t seem to like me a lot. I had given it three chances and im currently on my 3rd and it’s barely alive, haha. On the good weeks it would push out several leaves at once, but then…drops almost all of them once they reach their full growth size. I’m still hopeful and experimenting with it by relocating. Any other of my cane Begonias, wether in the terrarium, or sitting on the tables, are doing just perfect.
@leafy_jungle: Haha I see, I kinda can’t grow some of the species either, so I know what you mean. But you surely can give some tips on growing those Monsteras to be monsters?
@rootedleaves: From my experience regular Monsteras are pretty easy to care for. Use a ready mix medium and feed it with organic fish fertilizer every 2 weeks during the summer (growth season). As for its placement in the house; they prefer filtered sun as its leaf can easily show burn marks when it gets too much direct sun . Oh, and give them a pole to climb and place a humidifier next to them and they’ll love you for it.
@leafy_jungle: Do you have any tips for a beginner plant grower? You know, sombedoby who doesn’t know yet what M. obliqua is…
@rootedleaves: Plant growing is a fun journey that teaches a person a lot about patience and appreciation. With that being said it also needs a lot of commitment, so make sure you are ready for a long term investment and read about every plant you wish to purchase. Also, don’t bum yourself too hard when a plant dies on your watch. It happens to the best of us. Not all plants are suitable to live in our spaces and that realization only happens with trial and error.
@leafy_jungle: What your friends and family think about your passion for plants? Do they help with the plant room maintenance?
@rootedleaves: I am blessed with good people around me that support my passions and hobbies. I do all the maintenance by myself but when I’m out of the country or away, my family takes care of the watering for me.
@leafy_jungle: Your kids help as well?
@rootedleaves: In my opinion kids enjoy scientific experiments. I still have my first memory in kindergarten when we had to take back home a seed to grow in a wet napkin as homework. Im pretty sure that impacted me in a way that made me aware of plants around me. Being aware of plants and greenery is important because we humans can get used to our surroundings without noticing or appreciating them. Getting kids involved with plants and gardening at a young age would widen their eyes and perspective.
@leafy_jungle: Do you have a plant that needs body guarding? What would be your most precious plant?
@rootedleaves: That’ll be my Monstera obliqua. I got it from a friend whom I had helped establish his plant selling business. It was almost dying in his place from neglection and spider mite infestation. Aside from it being a special plant, I had it 3 years ago with only two leaves and pests and now it’s over 170 cm and it has huuuge leaves.
@leafy_jungle: Lucky plant, lucky you! Thanks for the conversation, I really enjoyed it!