Crazy plant stories
Aroid talk with Tom – @t0mmj
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Aroid talk with Tom – @t0mmj

I’m very glad that you liked the first Aroid talk, Planty Folks! I can tell you now that we will continue digging into Aroid care in the next ten episodes, at least. My guest today is Tom aka @t0mmj.

We talk about the greenhouse which he keeps indoors (my dream!), the story of his Philodendron joepii and…getting rid of the Philodendron collection.

Tom has a greenhouse and a 7 month-old pup (a Belgian Malinois) in his house and Puma always comes first! When he feels like he has too many plants and getting overwhelmed by them, he knows that it’s time to say goodbye to some of them (or put them into PON, so they become less “high maintenance”). If you have to walk your dog about 40-50km every week, you kinda have to make the the time ;).

Meet the guy who prefers dark beer over lager and has only two tattoos (which is curious, because I only know people who either have one or a hundred ;)).

One has a compass, arrow and tree circles. The compass stands for guidance, the arrow for protection and the three circles for family, friends and the third one is for that special person in my life (no idea who though, still have to find her). The other one doesnt have a “deep meaning”.

— Tom van Bemmel



@leafy_jungle: Tom, tell me where you are from and how did you become a crazy plant person?

@t0mmj: Well, I’m 32 years old and I’m from the Netherlands: born and raised in Vorden. As a child, I didn’t really have any connection to plants in general, but looking back I did have a connection with nature. Loved to be outdoors, in the woods, at the beach, on and in the water. 

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

@t0mmj: My interest in plants started late 2018. My home needed some more green so I ordered a few plants like, for example, a Bromelia, Pilea and an Alocasia zebrina. That’s when it started. I came across a new website which sold Cacti and Succulents and well… before I knew my window sills were filled with those.

@leafy_jungle: Why did you choose the Araceae family then?

@t0mmj: As mentioned in my previous answer it mainly started with Cacti and Succulents, but after a while I came across a facebook post about a Philodendron gloriosum. Right at that moment I knew I needed to get one of those. So maybe the Araceae family chose me?

@leafy_jungle: Your plants are quite big and look flawless. I know that part of it is just the instagram appearance, but you seem to be good at making them really lush. Where did you learn to grow Aroids?

@t0mmj: Where did I learn to grow them… Google, Facebook, Instagram I guess. This and trial and error.

@leafy_jungle:  Do you have any tips for beginner growers? Maybe it is crucial to start with Cacti ;)?

@t0mmj: What works for somebody else doesn’t guarantee that it will work for you. Maybe it’s the most shitty advice ever but it’s true, sorry.

But also, remember to invest in a proper soil-mix. A nice and chunky one: for your Aroids. Or if you’re lazy, like me, put them in PON and a self-watering planter. 
Also, give your climbers a proper moss pole. If you want to see some success stories… check out @sydneyplantguy on Instagram. I think it’s fair to say, that he’s mastered it. 

@leafy_jungle: So are all of your plants in PON now? How did the transfer go?

@t0mmj: All plants in my greenhouse are in PON (except for some Anthurium seeds and Alocasia bulbs -I keep those in sphagnum moss). 

Except for my (forever sad) Philodendron el choco red, my plants took the transfer from Aroid mix to PON without any problems. The plants in my living room are still mostly in the Aroid mix, not for any specific reason… just lazy, I guess.

@leafy_jungle: And what was the formula of your Aroid mix?

@t0mmj: Coco coir, perlite, charcoal, bark and worm castings. That’s it!

@leafy_jungle: From what I saw on you feed, you have a huge greenhouse inside your house. Where is it situated and is it hard to keep up with all of the plants that you are growing?

@t0mmj: My plant room is on the first floor, that is where my greenhouse is located. And yes, I have an outdoor greenhouse inside my house. I use one grow light from Secret Jardin – it is the 90cm one. The greenhouse plants also get some natural light from the big window. Other equipment I use are fans for airflow that are also from Secret Jardin. There is also a humidifier from Elechomes, and a heater with thermostat from BioGreen. I use a heater, because it can get quite cold upstairs in winter, about 14-15 degrees Celsius (57-59 F). Thanks to that, the temperature inside the greenhouse is constant at about 21-25 degrees Celsius (70-77 F).

@leafy_jungle: Any other places that we can find plants in your house?

@t0mmj: Totally! I started with the two Ikea greenhouses in my new home. But shortly after, these weren’t big enough anymore. Since I live on my own and had two spare rooms, I’ve decided to put a greenhouse in one of them.

I have two Ikea greenhouses (Milsbo) in my living room . They are in need of an upgrade but for now they are equipped with a LED panel with bright white light (6000 Kelvin) and an Ikea grow light – Vaxer,

@leafy_jungle: Vaxer? Wow, I thought they don’t sell these anymore. I’ve been hunting for one for ages now.

@t0mmj: Yeah, me too! But I’ve managed to get one. The shelves in the cabinets are from @ietsmetplantjes. I’ve also used weather strips, so the humidity stays in. I used to have fans in the cabinets, but they kept dying, so now I’m looking for some new ones that will last longer. Currently I’m also looking for some heating cables in order to keep the temperatures up during winter days and for the days that I’m not home. 

@leafy_jungle: With this amount of plants, how many hours per day do you spend on plant care ?

@t0mmj: I don’t spend that much time on my plants since I got my dog – Puma. The last few months I’ve spent maybe 3 hours a week on them. 

I use Liquid Gold Leaf as fertilizer and every once in a while I use beneficial bugs. Luckily, my greenhouse has been pest-free since I got it. But I have had some pests from time to time in my living room… thrips and those annoying little flies. But I can happily say that I’m pest-free at this moment. Let’s hope that I can keep it this way.

@leafy_jungle: Fingers crossed! Maybe Philodendrons are less prone to infestation? I saw man of them on your feed. Would you say that Philodendron species is your favourite form the Araceae family?

@t0mmj: Oh, I can’t say that, no. I recently sold a lot of my Philodendron because I wanted to focus more on Anthurium and Alocasia. I still have a few Philodendron though: joepii, gloriosum, pastazanum, splendid, glorious, sharoniae, Dean McDowell and a melanochrysum (big one on the way at the time of writing). So I think, I have to say, that at this moment Anthurium and Alocasia are my favourites. I switched to those, because they aren’t as fast growing (and space is always limited) as Philodendron and a lot of Philodendron need a moss pole, which I don’t find pleasing to the eye.

And of course, it would be awesome to make some Anthurium hybrids. I’m currently waiting on the result of my luxurians which is pollinated with pollen from an Anthurium magnificum x (thanks to Joep, @curiousplantguy).

@leafy_jungle: I want to stop a bit at your most funky plant – Philodendron joepii. What’s its story? Why is it so close to your heart?

@t0mmj: Ohh…ooh… joepii, the one that stole my heart even more than the gloriosum! I saw it and immediately fell in love with those oddly-shaped leaves. I think this was in August 2019.

Shortly after that I saw a baby cutting for sale on Facebook, but I wasn’t really used to spending more than a 100 euro on a plant. I also already bought a lot that summer so I didn’t go for it. It sold for (if I remember correctly) 400-500 euros.

Joepii was in my mind for months afterwards, of course. I started looking, but couldn’t find it anywhere until I came across a Dutch guy living in Thailand that said he had them. This was probably September 2020 or so. I was a bit frightened because it wasn’t cheap…as you can imagine, and then … I had a horrible experience with a shipment from Indonesia. I’ve decided to order from Indonesia, because I sold a lot of plants that summer and had the money…so – worst case scenario, I would lose my “profits”. My order contained several plants: Philodendron gloriosum, Jose Buono, billitiae and Alocasia watsoniana (the only one that died) and a few others which I can’t recall.  Plants were held at customs for 12 days and cost me an extra 400 euro to get them released.

Joepii needed some more time and was ready for shipment early November… so I thought: maybe it will be here just in time for my birthday… then the cold came and shipping route changed, which meant postpone, postpone, postpone. In the end I received it in February 2021, close to a year ago at the time of writing. The Joepii came from Thailand and shipment took only three or four days from door to door 🙂 .

@leafy_jungle: What is you biggest plant, is it also some fancy Aroid?

@t0mmj: My biggest and oldest plant is my Ficus lyrata. It used to be my parents plant but my mom didn’t like it anymore and since I was moving to my own place back then, I said I wanted it. So, I have absolutely no idea how old it is, but I have had it for 6 years now and my parents had it for at least 6 as well. I would feel bad if it died on me. Not because it belonged to my parents but it’s a pretty nice eyecatcher. 

@leafy_jungle: If your parents didn’t like the Ficus, what do they think about your passion for plants? Are your friends ok with this side of you?

@t0mmj: Some call me crazy, which I can understand because who tf has a greenhouse in his house!? Okay, okay I know, the plant community doesn’t think this is crazy: HA HA. My family think it’s pretty cool though…except for some of the plant prices *wink. I haven’t told my grandma how much the joepii was, because she already couldn’t believe someone would spend 100 euro on a plant. I think I’d kill her if I tell her how much it cost. 

@leafy_jungle: Do you hang out with other plant people?
@t0mmj: I don’t hang out that much with plant people. I talk to a few though, and from time to time, I go to a plant sale.

@leafy_jungle: Your thoughts about plantstagram. A good field for research and learning or a beauty contest?

@t0mmj: Pantstagram…mostly a beauty contest in which I participate as well!

@leafy_jungle: Thanks Tom, to close up I will ask you – do you have any wishlist plants?

@t0mmj: Yes… Anthurium queen of hearts!

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