Houseplants teach kids about the miracle of life—and other reasons why this mom of 3 loves them in her home

Everyday Homes

May 7, 2020

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Keeping plants alive and flourishing in your home can be a challenge — and doing it while caring for three children, even more so. Today, we’ve invited Emily Ripperger of @therootedmom to share her tips on how she’s balancing all of this — while working through home renovations, too! 

EM: You renovated almost every inch of your home. What were some of the biggest goals for your family that you had in mind as you renovated?

Honestly, our home renovations started out of pure necessity. When our second child was about six weeks old, we woke to a dripping noise in the office, which is attached to our master bedroom: the whole ceiling was drooping in about two feet. Turns out, the whole house needed to be replumbed. We have a fairly new home, so this was a total shock. And there was a ripple effect. We had mold in the master bath, so that also needed to be redone. But somewhere in the chaos of it all, my husband found a passion for being a handyman and I found out I loved making spaces special. I think the doing is as important as the stuff you get at the end. 

EM: What inspired you most as you renovated your home? 

Pinterest! And plants. My children and plants dictate approximately 85% of all “design” decisions in our home 😉

EM: What was your very first house plant? 

One of my first houseplants was a Prayer Plant. It took me about 2 years to get it to grow at all. I was just happy to keep it alive…it got sketchy, but she pulled through and it is now thriving! The leaves rise at night like it is praying and open up to soak up the Sun’s glory all day. 

EM: Why do you like having living plants in your home? 

Five years ago I would have laughed in your face if you told me I would have dozens of houseplants at this point in my life. I killed everything that did not have a heartbeat (and even one of those: R.I.P. Leo the Beta Fish).

What I have found in the process of learning to care for my photosynthesizing friends is that there is virtue to be had. The beauty of watching a succulent bloom for the first time, a sunflower seed turn into a 6 foot tall plant or vegetables you can actually feed your family with is such a genuine miracle. God has unveiled the strength and necessity of patience, time, and proper support. The parallels to my own life have been so vast!

EM: What are some of the plants that you would recommend for a beginner, and why? 

My number one plant that I recommend to everyone is a Sansevieria. They are super trendy, yes, but they are also hardy! They like sunlight, but they can tolerate extremely dark spaces and many different watering conditions. There are several kinds; my favorite right now is the moonshine variety.

My next pick would be Pothos. It is a beautiful choice as a hanging plant or to put on a high shelf. Whatever plant you want to start with, I would begin by deciding what the light level is where you want it to be in your home. Watering levels and container size can always change, but unless you want to have grow lights all over, the light cannot be adjusted as easily.

EM: Do you have any plants that you’re particularly proud of growing — because it’s done so well, it’s hard to grow, it came back from the dead, etc? 

I rescued a fiddle leaf fig from the Home Depot plant graveyard a few years ago. It was among my first plants, which was totally a horrible idea. I persevered and my fiddley friend is now green and growing strong. No matter how “in” this plant may be, I would definitely not recommend it until you have successfully cared for some other plants. It got it’s namesake for good reason!

EM: What are some of your plant growing aspirations— any particular types on your horizon? 

I have been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to start growing string plants. I have killed a few String of Pearls and am currently in the process of murdering my second String of Hearts. They are both stunning, albeit, picky plants. This too shall pass. One day I will have a Pinterest worthy string of something that will make my heart sing! 

EM: How do you make time for your plants with little ones around? What is your best tip for moms trying to care for many living things? 🙂

This is a hard one! Here is where I stand, ultimately: plants are a hobby. They bring beauty and life into our home and I believe they have served my children as well because they get to see these little miracles, too.

That being said, do not beat yourself up if you kill a plant or two. Take advantage of sprinklers whenever humanly possible. And give yourself grace. You do not need to create an urban jungle in your home if that is not the hobby you want to spend your precious time on! Have ONE plant. Enjoy watching it over the years. Get more if you want, or don’t. 

EM: You mentioned earlier that you’ve spent some time renovating your home. Do you have any advice you could share with readers on this front? How did you stick to a budget and not get stuck in the infamous Pinterest pipe-dreams? And as a larger, related question—how do you stay rooted and peaceful in the space that you have, when social media and the rest of the world is constantly pushing us to want more?  

Oh, what a bulldozer question. In the best way. 

We are huge Dave Ramsey believers. We baby-stepped our way to financial freedom, for sure. When that ceiling bowed in (followed quickly by a bathroom wall, I should add), we found out our insurance did not cover the replumbing.

We had just finished putting together our long-term emergency fund after paying off our debt and decided it was not worth depleting it again…so, we sold a car to pay for the repairs. My husband got a downgrade. He actually hates when I say that, because he says he loves his old Toyota now. The freedom it gave us to stay out of debt is worth every old-car-nuance. Long story short–yes, we budget and do our very best to stick to it. We deal in cash with all our contractors and all but one time have been given a discount when we tell them and ask for one! 

As far as the more mentality goes, I think that is harder. It is something that I am constantly having to keep in check. My neighbor and I actually decided we would become contentment prayer partners and lift each other up when we feel tempted for “more.” That has helped! My little sacrifice for her family makes the no’s a little easier. Having a cash budget also helps keep me rooted in reality. Doing things ourselves, whenever humanly possible, also means that things naturally take a slower pace. I do not always love that last part, but I see God in it. He has used it to serve our family and realign our goals and priorities time and time again. 

EM: Buying vintage clothes is also important to you — were you able to incorporate used, vintage or thrifted items into your home as well? If so, what tips would you offer for someone who doesn’t have much experience? 

Yes! In general, I buy used as often as I can. Not only does it make a space feel cozy and warm, it is also better for the earth and her inhabitants. Buying used means less waste and since I am buying from Suzie Q down the road, I am not contributing to sweatshops or unfair labor practices. Those price tags have already been paid whether I buy the item or not.

My main tip for someone that does not have much thrifting experience would be to try an estate sale. Unlike a traditional yard sale, the prices are generally marked and haggling is less common (which may be a down side for some). Try and remember that most sales do 50% off on the final day!

EM: Anything else you’d like to share about making home yours — and beautiful and functional at the same time? 

The way my family functions and utilizes our whole home makes me so glad. Over the years, we have tried to ditch traditional ideals and just do what works for us. It is freeing! One of the things I did early on in our home was just buy things I like. While that is great for some pieces, I have found that what I like tends to change, so staples should be selected with a little more long term thought.

I prefer to buy neutral with big furniture pieces and paint colors and buy the fun stuff for other things that I change more often because of use. You may love to paint, so that may be the area that you are just fine changing often. 

For me, though, change is full of pillows, rugs, art, and my plants, of course. Go room by room and put whatever decorating energy you have into one area at a time: decide what will tie the spaces together (paint, rugs, an accent color, lighting, etc.), then finish one space. One shelf. One whole entire something, because that feels so good! Most of all, have a blast. Make it what your family needs and what brings you joy!

Find out more about Emily by following her on Instagram.

To read the other articles in our house plants series, check out:

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