Crazy plant stories
Aroid talk with Joep – @curiousplantguy
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Aroid talk with Joep – @curiousplantguy

The first Aroid talk is here! Planty Folks! I had this in mind from the beginning of Leafy Jungle journey and finally my wish came true. Thanks to this project we will be able to know a little bit more about the plant community, and hopefully, grow better our plants.

This is the first episode of the series of Crazy Plant Talks. We will start with Aroid growers. My first guest is Joep aka @curiousplantguy. Just like lots of Aroids, in his free time, Joep likes to climb. Although he’s been growing Anthuriums for a while now, and, in my opinion, with a great success, he always seeks new knowledge and is concerned that he is not really that good at growing plants (imposter syndrome hello!).

We discuss Joep’s plant room, it’s equipment as well as learning about Anthuriums and their possible hybrids and most of all – how it all started! By the way, these plants are watered with rain water – look at the outcome -phew. Details below!

“I bought Dracaena marginata, these are those dentist waiting room plants…and it lived!(…) So when I made them live and happy I was like wo-hooo! I can do this! And I went crazy. ..

— Joep Willemsen


@leafy_jungle: Hi Joep, it is good to have you as my guest! Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what was your connection to plants…

@curiousplantuy: I grew up in Duiven which is a Dutch word for pigeons actually. My connection to plants when I was young was basically only that my mother used to love being in the garden and there were a lots of flowers and everything, but I didn’t really care for them a lot back then. So I hadn’t really have a connection with plants until I was older.

@leafy_jungle: So when did you become seriously interested with plant cultivation?

@curiousplantguy: When I first moved into a dorm I got a few plants and they died. Even my cactus died, because I’ve put it in the cabinet five meters from a  window and I thought that it will be fine. I’d also read: „when in doubt, don’t water your cactus”. I took it a bit too literally and I didn’t water it for like a year.
So that died… Then I bought new plants and I was determined to keep them alive.
My scientific background was basically that I was going to search the hell out of this plant and how it grows in nature and I’m gonna do this.

I bought Dracaena marginata, these are those dentist waiting room plants…and it lived. I’ve found out that even thought they are sold as a shade plant they do way better in the sunny spot. They are just called the shade plants because they die slower when you put them in the shade. So when I made them live and happy I was like wo-hooo! I can do this! And I went crazy. ..

So, about five, six years ago, in my 3×4 meter dorm room I had around 25 plants. Then I’ve bought my current apartment and suddenly I had 80 square meters to fill up with plants. That soon became a hundred and now I have around four hundred plants.

@leafy_jungle: Wow, that is quite a number. And what attracted you specifically to the Araceae family?

@curiousplantguy: It was a few things that I liked in general about plants, more than other things.

That is, one: big leaves, two: weirdly shaped leaves and three: weird textures on petioles and leaf surfaces. You can go to Begonias and they have weird shapes and textures, but they are not big, usually. Some get quite big, but not like (note.ed. Anthurium) veitchii big. You have some plants that tick some of the boxes (note.ed. mentioned above), but not all of them. Aroids do get weird-shaped leaves like (note. ed. Anthurium) pedatum or Monstera of course, Anthurium podophyllum, Philodendron florida, and they also get big. And if you think about Anthurium luxurians for example: they get these great textures. And there is of course a whole group of Aroids with velvety textures. That is why I’ve chosen this family.

@leafy_jungle: From your instagram pictures it seems like you have a whole room dedicated to plants. Where is it situated?

@curiousplantguy: I have two bedrooms, one has no plants and this is where I sleep. The other one has a few hundred. Lots of seedlings though. This is the room where I have more of my “diva” plants that require hight temperature and high humidity. 

@leafy_jungle: And do you use any special equipment in your “diva room”? (:

@curiousplantguy: On the ceiling I have a 100 watts LED panel which is crazy bright and that gives a lot of light to all the plants that are there. For the top shelves of the racks that is enough light, and for the bottom shelves which are two meters away from that light – it is a bit far away, so I have some additional small LED tubes. They are just a cheap 10 €‎ 6500 K lights. They are 15 watts I think. Some are too bright for the plants that are half a meter below or grew upwards towards it. I actually put some toilet paper in front of the lights to make it more diffused and weaker. I also have a fan on its lowest setting. Just one of those desk fans 24/7.

I also do this thing with my heating: The radiators in my living room and the kitchen are only slightly open and the one in the plant room is open all the way so when the sensor measures that the set temperature is higher than the current temperature in the living room, the heating turns on and my plant room gets a lot of extra heat and my living room and the kitchen goes slowly into the temperature. Consequently the plant room is always a few degrees warmer than the rest o the house. Usually, there is about 23-24 degrees in my plant room. I also do need this extra light, because the room is north-west facing so it doesn’t have a lot of light. It has only a small window that starts waist-high.

The humidifier is set to 70%, which is high for not a greenhouse – but a room. So sometimes I have to get mould off from the walls.

@leafy_jungle: This set-up seems kind of self-perserving. How many hours do you spend on plant care per day? 

@curiousplantguy: Because I have a lot of seeds and seedlings, that is quite more than when I didn’t have them. When I had to water and check for pests I will be probably done in 15-30 mins a day, but now, I think I spend an hour a day. When I have to repot seedlings I can spend even two hours on that.

I usually start my day off with a coffee in my plant room. But it can also be just staring at the plants for 15 mins and checking on them, which is also caring basically. Is there any new growth? Is there any new flowers coming? Or is there any pest damage? It is also important…and fun. It is the most fun – just looking at your plants. 

@leafy_jungle: Yes, it is the most fun, I agree. But how do you know what you are looking at with over four hundred plants in the room? For example: how do you keep track of your Anthurium flowers and pollination? Do you have like a digital database?

@curiousplantguy: I don’t. I do have a list (note.ed. notepad app) of possible hybrids that I came across over the internet. So when I see that Anthurium cupulispathum can cross with pedatum, then I write that down in my little tab that says „hybrids”. Then, when I see one of them for sale and I don’t have it yet, and I want to make a hybrid, I buy it.

But for what I’ve pollinated: I just put an adhesive label on the peduncle (so on the petiole of the flower). For example, if I pollinate my crystallinum with warrocqueanum pollen, then I put a little sticker with the date that I’ve pollinated it. I can then know that it  took five or six months, or in case of veitchii, fourteen months. So I don’t have a real database. Only for the hybrids that I did not yet make and I do want to make. 

@leafy_jungle: And where did you learn to grow Anthuriums?

@curiousplantguy: From the internet basically. I read a lot. When I like something, I read and read and read about it a lot. And trial end error of course. Some (note.ed. Anthuriums) are very different than the others, so when you apply A. clarinervium care to A. regale for example it won’t work. I keep my regale quite moist all the time and the clarinervium goes almost bone dry, so very different. Yes, I use trial and error a lot – to get to know my plants. By the way, some of them I still don’t understand.

@leafy_jungle: Anthuriums are tricky and complicated to grow indoors. Do you have any tips for beginner growers?

@curiousplantguy: Yes, don’t pot your Anthuriums in big pots. Go for a substrate that has a decent amount of bark and perlite/pumice in it so it drains well and dries out every few days in your conditions. Fertilize weekly, weakly (diluted). Lower light will give darker leaves, higher light will give faster growth but lighter colored leaves. Make sure there is air flow but also air exchange (!). Just circulating the same air is not enough, this is especially important for small greenhouses like Ikea green house cabinets. Open that door regularly. 

For pollination, don’t let the substrate get too dry, I feel they skip/end the female stage when that happens. And CHECK.FOR.PESTS. All the time. Catch them early, so they don’t catch you off guard.

Also, very important – don’t buy too expensive plants. Try with the cheaper ones to get the care under control, and then maybe buy a more expensive one. Don’t start with luxurians or some expensive Ace of Spades. I know that it looks nice, but don’t. It would be a shame if it dies. I don’t find Anthurium rehab the easiest. So yeah…

@leafy_jungle: I saw on your stories that you use a microscope. My question is what kind and what do you use it for?

@curiousplantguy: Im curious by nature so I like to really see the detail of the stuff. One day, when I got on instagram these push commercials popped like: „you will probably like this”, and they were right . There was this drop-ship company that had digital wi-fi microscopes up to 1000 times. As I’ve found out that it is a drop-shipping company, I just went to Ali-express and I’ve found one. It’s quite easy to work with, but the resolution of the photos that it makes is quite poor. It is I think 720p. I’m looking for a better one, but for now it’s pretty cool to just point at your inflorescence for example when it has pollen.

You turn on the zoom, then change the focus points until you have the sharp vision. Then on your phone you can take a picture or make a video. It really works nice. To get like not super cool, super clear sharp images, but to see what is happening. It won’t be the World Press Photo kind of quality, but it is ok. I post them on my instagram, they are good enough-ish for that purpose. Not really, they are on the edge – instagram feature allows you to sharpen the photo and it helps them a lot. Otherwise they look rather – meh. 

@leafy_jungle: What is the biggest or oldest plant in your collection? How would you feel if it suddenly had root rot and died?

@curiousplantguy: It is not the plant that I had the longest, but my huge veitchii with almost one meter leaves is 25-30 years old. I would be devastated if that died. But actually I take more pride in buying a plant small and growing it big, that buying it big and keeping it as big as I got it. It is much more fulfilling.

My warrocqueanum – I bought it with 11 cm leaves and now they have 70 cm and multiple inflorescence. That gives me much more satisfaction than the huge veitchii that I just bought…ok I bought it kind of crooked and dying…or well, it was in a bad condition. The leaves where crisping but at alarming rate, and it basically had one good leaf left and the stem was bent in a ninety degree angle.

I gave it a moss pole and took some good care of it and it lived, but it is not as rewarding or fulfilling as getting a plant super small and growing it. Or even a plant from a seed! That is even cooler – get a plant from a seed and then turn it into a plant that has a 50 cm leaves. That is cool. And I would be more devastated if that died than if the plant that I’ve bought big died.

But (also) because the big plants are expensive, that is more the financial loss (ouch!). And the fact that a thirty year old plant would die, that would hurt me most, I think. The fact that it is such a rare specimen.

@leafy_jungle: Hah, I feel you, but what do your friends and family think about your passion for plants?

@curiousplantguy: Well they tell me it is all nice that I have something that I really like. But I also think that they consider me kinda crazy. 

@leafy_jungle: And do you hang out with plant people?

I do hang out with plant people. Not a lot though, it is more like a friend anyway who is also into plants. When people come to buy plants, they sometimes stay for like an hour talking about plants and checking out my plants. That is nice. But I don’t hang out regularly with people that I’ve met trough the plant community.

@leafy_jungle: And what do you think about plant people? Is plantstagram a good field for research and learning or a beauty contest?

@curiousplantguy: Uh, that differs a lot on the account…there’s some people that I chat a lot with, who are also real plant nerds. They are growing them and have all the knowledge that there is to find about plants. But some accounts are mostly beauty contest, yeah definitely.

I also post a nice leaf of course, so I also add to that, but I think it is good. I like to scroll around to see the plants that I didn’t have yet or plants in pots that I see and think “yeah it is a cool combination, maybe I can try that too”.

Especially if you are like me and like hybrids, cross pollinating Anthuriums – instagram is a good place to find possible crosses, because there is very little info about that online.  There is no “list of”. Some lists are starting now – Best Buds (note. ed. tropical plant shop) are creating one. Some other pages are starting to do it.

Instagram is a good source of information, but you have to know where to look. I’m old. I’m 35, so I’m not really the instagram generation. I don’t use the hashtag search, I’m a grandpa. But sometimes I see cool hybrids and then I take a note and try to look for the plants that made the hybrid. For example this is why I’ve bought A. radicans and crystallinum – to be able to cross them. It is why I’ve bought A. rugulosum to be able to cross it with warrocqueanum ( I didn’t yet, because it doesn’t have inflorescence). These possible hybrids I’ve found trough instagram posts.

So, a beauty contest or a good field for learning – both, and it is fine. I think that if it would be only one or the other, it wouldn’t be as popular.

@leafy_jungle: Definitely! The beauty contest part makes me save a lot of species that I would like to have. Do you have any wishlist plants?

@curiousplantguy: A. papillilaminum and also A. dreslerri – really love those. The are the highest on my list…and hundreds of more that I won’t name now. 

Thanks for the talk!

That is all Folks!

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