Our first guest EVER is Maria with Bloom and Grow Radio! Maria is a self-proclaimed plant killer turned plant lady on a mission to make the world a kinder and greener place by helping everyone successfully take care of houseplants.
Hey plant fam welcome to Wine Down the Week brought to you by SolTech Solutions. I’m your host Angie, owner of Steel City Plant Company right here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We’ll be talking with members of the plant community each week while enjoying a glass of wine or two. Our first guest ever is Maria with Bloom and Grow Radio. Maria is a self proclaimed plant killer turned plant lady on a mission to make the world a kinder and greener place by helping everyone successfully take care of houseplants. Let’s kick everything off with an icebreaker. Hi, Maria!
How’s it going?
Thank you so much for joining us today.
I’m thrilled to be here.
All right, we’re gonna kick it off with an icebreaker that we call petal and bud. So petal is something exciting that happened recently. And bud it’s something exciting that’s happening soon. So I’ll let you start.
Oh, I love this question. Something exciting that happened recently petal I, let’s see, oh, I met an alpaca. I went to an alpaca farm with my family on our family vacation last week. And I got to hug an alpaca and take a picture with it and feed a bunch of alpacas and it was so cool. And I feel like I talk a lot about biophilia and why and how humans are affected by plants, but they’re also really affected by animals. And it was really fun to see biophilia in a different through a different lens. So alpacas were definitely my bud, my petal, and then my bud. Something exciting coming. twofold. Number one, I’m finally getting married. I’m a COVID bride so I’m getting married very soon. And also I’m launching a really cool education and based garden society in the coming virtual garden society in the coming months that I can’t wait to hopefully tell your listeners about in the future.
Absolutely. Okay, one where is this alpaca farm?
Smithtown Lake, Virginia?
Wow. Okay, I’m adding that to my bucket list.
Apparently, I’ll pack with everything. You can Google alpaca farm near you, and I’m sure you’ll find.
Okay, who knew? I need to do that. That’s amazing. And congratulations on getting married. Finally. That’s so exciting. So I guess I’ll roll into mine. So something exciting that happened recently is I got engaged so we can commiserate. Thank you. We can commiserate on being COVID brides because it’s so much fun. You’ve had it. You’ve had it worse. I was looking at your Instagram. I know you’ve had a couple of rescheduling.
Yeah, third wedding date. So hopefully if you recently got engaged, yeah, the nice 2022 2023 date and not have to deal with anything that I’ve had to deal with. In wedding planning router.
Oh my gosh, well, I hope it’s amazing. I can’t wait to see all the pictures where you’re getting married.
It’s going to be very planty. And I’m doing a whole plan t wedding series on my podcast about it. So people will have to tune in and check out check it out. But we’re getting married at Tanglewood Music Center. My fiance and I met there when we were 15 at opera camp. And so we’re gonna get married on the stage that we used to sing together.
That’s amazing. Yeah, I was so excited. It’s gonna be Yeah, I could talk weddings all day, but we will keep rolling here and talking plants. So yeah, I covered something exciting having happened recently, something that I’m looking forward to is launching this podcast. So if I didn’t mention it earlier, this is our very first episode. So very, very excited to partner with SolTech and Lehigh Valley with Love and Tomasi on this, and we’ll have a lot more episodes that we’re cranking out. So thanks for being a part of the first one.
My pleasure. It’s an honor to be the first.
Okay, so what are you drinking over there?
So I know this is wine down Wednesday, but my wine of the summer is an appy spritz, otherwise known as an after all spritz. So I fixed myself a nice aperol spritz today I’ve been drinking them I drank them for like 60 days straight in the beginning of lockdown. But I’m Italian so I feel like I’m basic because I like aperol spritzes but I’m also tallied and I’ve been drinking after all spritzes long before they were popular so
I hear you I’m also Italian last name is delgrosso doesn’t get much more Italian than that. And we’ve just got back from Italy right before the shutdown. So we were living on aperol spritzes so I am jealous of your job over there.
Are you drinking?
I am drinking Franklin Hill Vineyards why it is here in Bethlehem right on Main Street. So a couple doors down from our shop that we have. And it’s pumpkin spice. So it’s called potion x. And they launch it limited series every fall just for Halloween. And it’s amazing. It’s great wine that’s naturally flavored with pumpkin spice. And my fiance is addicted to it. He bought two whole cases last year just to get us through October. So it is our favorite thing that we look forward to in the fall. So that’s Thank you, Franklin Hill Vineyard for being our first ever wine sponsor.
Salud! So tell me a little bit more about your podcast and all the amazing things that you do.
Um, yeah, so I’m the founder and host of the Bloom and Grow Radio Podcast. I think it was the first American houseplant podcast out there. It was when we started in 2017. And on the podcast, I learned alongside my listeners, I interview experts in every aspect of plant care you could ever want. So we have bonsai 101, succulent 101, begonias 101. We also have way more in depth, in depth episodes like soil science 101, how roots work, like basically everything that I’ve ever had a question about as a beginning plant parent, and now an advanced intermediate plant parent, I find an expert and I talked to them about it. Um, and also there is a through line on the podcast about cultivating more joy in your life through plants. I have many episodes where I talk about life lessons learned in the garden, and how plants can teach us to live happier lives. Lots of interesting episodes about like the plant person connection, studies behind why plants actually make us happy. Why self care and plant care is actually a thing and not just like a hashtag that’s circulating on social media, and a lot of other things in between. and it started as a podcast, it grew into a YouTube channel and a tick tock channel. It’s now kind of more of a media company. And I also have a private app, actually, it’s called the bloom and grow garden party. And it’s a private community platform for the listeners to connect and engage and grow together and learn together in a private safe space.
Wow. So you’re busy.
Awkward trying to plan a wedding in the middle of all of it.
Oh my god, I hear you on that. I know, I definitely want to dive more into all the new ventures that you’re starting in a little bit so that we can get all the details on how to be a part of all of those things, too. But let’s get back so I know your background is on Broadway. So how did that lead you to where you are now with plants? And how does that skill set transfer into what you’re doing now?
Yeah, you know, the interesting thing about plants is there’s no one cookie cutter type of plant parent, right? There are lawyers who are plant parents. There are you know, doctors who are plant parents. You don’t have to have your degree in horticulture to enjoy plants and enjoy the benefits from them. So I actually spent my life as a plant killer. I wasn’t gonna Tori’s plant killer. In my group of friends and with my family. I was a professional musical theater performer, a soprano. I used to travel the world doing different musicals. I was in cats on Broadway briefly I did the national tour of cats in 2019 I actually while I was on the tour of cats did live tapings all around the country and soltec was a brand part sponsor partner of a live taping we did in Philly which was really amazing. Um, so yeah, when I was in cats on Broadway, I was still a planning killer but I had just moved in with my now fiance and we had all of his furniture in our house and so I didn’t feel like I had like my stamp on his house and I really wanted to nest so i thought you know, I’ve killed every plant that I’ve ever brought home in like really embarrassing ways but like maybe I’ll give plants one more shot and this time I’ll actually like Google them and like ask for help and try and figure out how to keep plants alive. We also have this great nine square foot balcony garden that had like amazing southern exposure talk about southern exposure I’m sorry I’m like in a Sunday right now my video is very poor quality. And disclaimer we just moved in we’re not all set up yet but um, so I decided to give plants one more try and by doing that I’m brought started with a very small herb garden on our balcony and one tomato plant. And when the herbs started thriving I thought okay, well maybe I can have one house plan and you know, let’s try one house one and then all of a sudden I think I had an itch that a lot of grandparents had where I said okay, well if I did one house plan maybe I could have three house plans. Oh those three house plans for successful Okay, maybe 10 house plans so then okay. 20 house plans and then all of a sudden, I say I went from zero to six. Literally and figuratively in three months to the point that my sweet fiance so supportive but was so freaked out by my like obsession, he actually asked me to go on a plant pause, so I could kind of get my new obsession and addiction under, under, you know underway out of your control. And the difference with you know, that was wanting to educate myself, which is why I started believing grow radio. But yeah, it’s been really interesting having a full career as a musical theater performer, you know, putting on cats makeup and Yak wigs to be cats on stage and, you know, do all these amazing shows, and then transitioning into the gardening space. And it’s interesting, there’s some, there’s some overlap. You know, I was a performer on stage and now I’m a performer through my podcast and through my YouTube channel and, you know, have really interesting speaking opportunities and that kind of stuff. So it’s very interesting to see how everything overlaps, but it’s by no means a normal career path.
That’s such a fun. Okay, so you went from zero to 60. Really quick, how many are you at now, I’m almost afraid to ask.
My collection has fluctuated a lot, because I’ve moved in three times in the last year. So COVID. For a lot of people, most of my listeners COVID everybody’s plan count shot through the roof. Because everybody’s been home, you started a plant shop in the middle of COVID. Because of the demand that houseplants have had for me it was actually the inverse effect. And I have the most I had 160, houseplants and 500 square feet, that was my biggest number. Then I downsize my collection to about 60 on our first move, then I think it bumped up to 80 on our second move and then I think we’re back down to around 60 with my third move because I’m just I’m learning a lot about being in different houses I’m kind of in a different phase of life right now where I’m like actively pruning back by plants because I’m trying to figure out what’s sustainable for the next chapter of life. So my plant number has been very different and I highly encourage everyone to cut to pare down their plant collection at one point in their planned parenthood because you learn a lot you learn a lot about yourself as a plant parent you learn a lot about the habits that you’ve created. You make space for new plants that you might be interested in doing but you never could have when you were overwhelmed with all the plants that you you know have that you didn’t really like so it’s been a really interesting it’s been a really interesting experience a real surprise that I’ve actually enjoyed Yeah, what’s your question?
Oh god, it outgrew my apartment so quickly that I had to start a shop to house and shop we probably have 200 to 300 I would say which is freaky to think because we take care of them all it’s just my mom and my dad help out and me and my grandparents but really my mom is the one that is in charge of plant care for everything in shop and it takes her about four hours in one day every week to water every single plant because she does each one by hand and it’s a little different than a nursery where there’s routine watering and sprinklers go on and everything’s getting the same care ours is really specific so it takes a lot of time at my apartment I would say I’m at 50 and in a small space so yeah I hear you
You have a it’s not like you need a large collection – you probably want a break from the plan for me at home
My poor plants at home I know I just in the last month or so got really good at scheduling time to spend with them again because they were getting neglected for sure I mean they all survived it but they were feeling Miss not loved as much as the ones at the shop so I needed to step it up. Which of your plants what would you say is your staple plant that’s always in the collection no matter how many you’re at which ones make it through the moves the most durable, easy plants to take care of.
So I think it’s a really interesting question when we went from 160 plants to 80 or 60 or 80 plants whatever that first move, we walked around our apartment I’m very fortunate that I have a bunch of really fancy plants because I have awesome listeners who send me cuttings of their you know, their fancy plants or I’ve been you know, able to come to get a few and it wasn’t the fancy plants that we like needed to keep. It was the plants that had emotional ties and stories with them. The posts, the first posts I ever bought at a Home Depot. Like that plant was coming with me it’s probably $12 at the store, right? But that plant has been through so much with me over the last four years like that plant was coming. Um, you know, all of my monstera as I remember when I was first starting out bloom and grow, I was obsessed with monstera they were so they’re always so popular but I just knew I was going to get a monstera and I got my first monster in a very special way and then I ended up like I joke about like manifesting a second free one at that moment and it was just like a sign. I had a friend gift me 12 her plants because she had to move very early on I also like felt like that was a sign that I was doing the right thing was starting bloom and grow. So it was those like the Jade plant. The monstera was you know my tiny fiddly fig cutting that my fiancee gave me those that we call Figaro. Those were the plants that like absolutely had to come with us and get prioritized Rafi my Rafa dopher A Tetris phurba limy my my bears lime tree that we’ve almost killed so many times, but he’s hanging with us man. So those are our like steadfast plants I would say. Which is also ironic. I don’t name all of my plants that special plants get named. And I would say like lime either lime tree, Rafi the raffled off or a Tetris firma and figure out the fiddly fig are definitely three top and Gaga the monster the monstera they definitely have always had top priority when in all of our moves, which which means something for sure.
It does. It’s crazy to see how emotionally attached you can become to your plans. I i’ve shed tears. I’ve lost forests. So yeah, it’s about you get attached, living breathing things, it’s totally okay, any plants that you would recommend that beginners avoid, so that they don’t get because you went through this journey. So what would you recommend to maybe wait a little bit on so that you don’t get frustrated right off the bat.
So I actually don’t think that there are blanket beginner good plants or beginner bad plants. I am all about picking the right plants for your lifestyle. And I’ve learned this over and over again as I’ve moved many times this year and my lifestyle has really changed this year and some of the higher maintenance plants that used to work for me really well don’t work for me anymore. So on my website I actually have so I’ve talked about the concept of plant parent personalities for a long time. My COVID baby when I was in lockdown in New York City in March of 2020, I finally was able to make this plant parent personality test on my website. So you can actually take this plant parent personality test it’s free and at the end of it you get your plant parent personality and like a list of recommended plants for that lifestyle. So like if you are like a busy mom or like you travel a lot for work, or you really don’t want to like be engaging and like doting on your plants all the time. That’s a low maintenance plan parent that person is no matter how like good they want to do like they’re never going to do well with a fern because their ferns need like daily maintenance right? You want to recommend them hardier plants that can kind of survive being left alone for a while and coming back. So if you’re a low maintenance plant parent, I would definitely recommend like zz plant. Um, Snake plants are like my favorite plant in the entire universe. I think they’re totally underutilized and like the unsung hero of the house plant community. On the other side of the spectrum is like the mindful plant parent and that’s someone who really wants to engage in their with their plants every day. Maybe when they do kill their plants like they do shed some tears because they do feel that like really emotional like super emotional connection. Certain types of ferns would be great for that person orchids something that you could like spritz the roots of I always recommend like putting moss poles in your plants because you can like water your moss poles all day long and like not really worry about over watering your plant, but you can get that like connection. Um, maybe you’re like design based and you really are only going to take care of a plant if you think it looks really pretty and like looks really beautiful in your home. So maybe then like a fiddle leaf fig is like a great option or a Tetra fern or something with like a really interesting leaf shape. I will say though, plants may be that beginner shouldn’t try like this. I just have had so many people write me in about the fiddle leaf fig tree I’m sure you have to I think Oh yeah, I think it’s a very easy tree to take care of if you know how to take care of it. But I think a lot of beginners who don’t know anything about plants bring fiddle leaf fig trees home and then put them in dark corners and then they die or they lose all their leaves. So I would just say if you choose to bring home a fiddle leaf fig tree make sure you have lots and lots of sun and yet not a desire to move it around that much.
And if you don’t have the sun SolTech is here to help!
I have a story about my SolTech light – good connection. So Billy bought figure out my fiddly fig tree It was a tiny fiddle leaf stem like tip cutting, and it had very small leaves on it, but he bought it for $7 and he felt so excited like he got such a deal because he knew like the fiddle leaf victory was like a really fancy plan, you know, and he brought it home. And at that moment I totally was out of full sun real estate in my apartment I already have like 100 plants and so I actually ordered a second SolTech Solution light. I installed it and I put my fiddle leaf fig, I put Figaro under the SolTech light and I swear to you the leaves like tripled in size because I think the plant finally was getting the light that it needed. And so ever since then in two more homes we’ve always kept the fiddle leaf under a light and it’s been so happy and it grew so big that it actually got leaf burn because it grew so tall I didn’t raise the aspect. So some of the leaves have a little bit of leaf burn but that’s my fault. That’s a little grisly.
I just got two large cacti for my apartment and same thing was out of space in the window. So I bought I got the aspect with the wall hanging to hang right over and it looks beautiful but I’m just so excited because I’m finally allowing myself to personally have large cacti because for me I’m someone that wants to have that connection with plants. I want to love you I want to water you and I just succulents cacti. I tried too hard. So now with a flat chop, you know, he really learned so I know what I have to do now so it’s time
and I feel like and the other key I feel like with succulents a lot of people like struggle with is they just need more light than you usually have. So I feel like if you really want succulents or cacti to do well, unless you have like a sunroom, you know, putting them under a girl light is a really smart idea.
Definitely. What is let’s see, what would you say brought you towards plants in the first place? Was it more so the health benefits and self care plant care? Or was it the aesthetic of your home? So what’s your plant personality? Like when you take your test? What are the results? Well, it’s
interesting, I’ve been a mindful plan parent, my whole experience someone who really wants to engage, but in the last year, life has really gotten in the way and I’ve become much more of a low key planned parent. Um, which is interesting, just like kind of watching my personality shift and I always say you have a couple of these types within you like any personality tests you take, you know, um, but it’s interesting, I got into plants from a design perspective, looking at my apartment feeling like it didn’t feel homey feeling like it didn’t have any femininity in it, and saying, okay, plants will do this, like, I’m gonna bring plants to the space to like, bring life and make it look nice. And then I think the unbelievably wonderful surprise of this whole thing and like what I’ve now dedicated my life to doing is realizing that plants are so much more than living decor, like they are the most. For me, like the most instrumental wellness tool that I’ve ever had in my toolbox of self care and of you know, my ability to wrestle with depression and anxiety and everything that all of us millennials kind of struggle with, like plants have been it and I’ve been to yoga retreats and wellness retreats, and so I’ve read every self help book in the world, you know, really I do, I’m very into that kind of thing. I didn’t think plants were that. And the more that I engaged with plants, the more that I realized, like plants are really just a tool and vehicle for us to be able to disconnect with greens and reconnect with ourselves. In the mornings, like my biggest thing when I got first got into plants was I used to wake up with my phone and scroll Instagram immediately. And when I started caring for plants, I would wake up and I would leave my phone and I would go sit with my basil plant and like smell my basil and my herbs. And then I would water my plants and I would give myself like I kind of took myself back like I took time for myself back. I took alone time I took like space back because I think millennials Gen Z or is anybody under you know Millennials are under younger, I think we really are wrestling with an epidemic of social media addiction and screen addiction. And any way that we can kind of reclaim that lost agency that I think like our parents used to have when like they would get up because their alarm went off and then they like, wouldn’t look at the TV until the evening like, right, that’s crazy to think about because that’s just not who we are. We get up and we’re on Tick Tock like immediately. And so I feel like the biggest thing for me now and the reason why like I show up continually to the podcast, and I show up continually to this practice of Planned Parenthood is not just like the fact that they make my home look pretty, but the fact that they like make my brain feel,
you know, like it turned into so much more for you.
Totally. So I think there’s so many different layers and I think people come to play and care for one thing, and then it changes and then it changes again. And the beauty of plant care is it’s a lifelong hobby if you want it to be so you can go through many different seasons, the way our plants do.
That’s my favorite form of meditation for myself. I know not everyone’s into that. There’s so many different ways to do it. But for me, it’s very difficult for me to just sit and be with my eyes closed and focus. For me taking time just for myself, like you said, in solitude and taking care of something and interacting with it just for me feels like the best form of meditation.
Totally. And it’s so tactile, you’re watering you’re touching the earth, you’re feeling believes like, it really does bring you into the present, much more than a standard meditation can sometimes for sure, very grounding.
Yeah, totally. Well, that seems like a great transition. I want to hear more about this plant personality test. Where can people find it to take it? Go ahead and plug that because we I know we’re all intrigued.
Yeah, I’ll send you the link, you can put it in the show notes. But it’s bloomandgrowradio.com/personality. And if you just go to my info, I know it’s a mouthful. In retrospect, Bloom and grow radio was a real mouthful to name your podcast. I loved how it rhymed. But I’m like, Oh my God. Now everything is so long whenever I give any kind of URL for people. But bloomandgrowradio.com/personality. But if you just go to my website, it’s all over my website, so you won’t, you won’t be able to miss it. And if people take the test, I want to always know your personality results on Instagram, it’s so fun to see people share their results.
Oh, I can’t wait to take it. Yeah. And then you talked a little bit about this in the beginning your plant community platform and app of garden party. Tell us more about that, and what we can expect to see there.
Yeah, you know, I started the garden party community platform and app. Because I feel like there’s so much social media burnout, and there’s so much curation on the internet. And I think 2020 has been beautiful, because a lot of people have gotten into plant care. And I think a lot of people have gotten really into plants, and they’ve had a lot of time on their hands to like, become plant fluences, which is fantastic. or start plant accounts. It’s so fun to have people have a plant account and a plant, you know, and their normal account. Um, but I think that social media just has so much pressure of having a perfectly curated feed and using filters on everything. And, um, you know, having very thoughtful captions, and did this post get a lot of likes, or did it not. And I think the thing with plant people is like, we are very kind people, we want to share, we want to connect, I feel like there’s no better feeling. And I’m sure that you experienced this at your plant shop all the time, when like I’m in a plant shop, or I’m even not even in a plenty scenario, I’m at a party, and someone else mentioned their house plans. And I look at that person, and I’m like, Oh, you have house plans, I have house plans. And then all of a sudden, it’s like the two of you in the corner talking about house plans for 45 minutes. Like, it’s this. It’s this incredibly bonding experience to meet other people. And it’s an amazing way to make new friends. Like I made amazing friends in New York City, in the plant community from going to different events, and doing different things. I’ve connected with the most amazing people via my podcast. And so I wanted to create like a safe space off of social media. I mean, it’s technically an app. It’s technically a social media app, but it’s only social, there’s no algorithm to it. No one cares if you have likes or shares, you can subscribe to only the types of topics you want to talk about. So if you’re only here for houseplants, you can subscribe only to the house plant content. If you’re only here for gardening, you can subscribe only to the gardening content. There are cool features like you can find people in your area so you’re if you’re in Bethlehem and you want to find other plant parents in Bethlehem to connect with and maybe do plant swaps with or maybe meet up at a plant shop. You can you can allow the app to find plant friends near you can join regional groups. So it’s just like a safe space that people can connect with people in a really authentic way beyond filters, and it’s really like this I call it the planting system kindness corner of the internet. It’s really special seeing all of the different connections and like real honest plant parenthood talks like Hey, who’s ever sterilized their pruning shears like I don’t sterilize my pruning shears do you guys do this everybody’s talking on Instagram about how we all have to sterilize our pruning shears but like no one does it. That’s what I want the garden party to be like a real you know, authentic place for people to connect. And in the coming months, we’re launching a higher a higher tier of the platform that’s going to have a lot of really fun, exclusive educational content for people which is going to be unreal, unreal. We’re putting the final touches of it but it’s it’s a cool place and people can go check it out. You can go to join the garden party calm and you can join us right there.
Perfect. Thank you so much. We can’t wait to check it out and share it with everyone who’s tuning in. Be sure to visit those links that will plug in here for you.
It’s like it’s SolTech Solutions like love. Like everybody. I feel like people are always waxing poetic. Like I just got my SolTech Solutions. Like people all know because they’re a sponsor of my podcast that people all know this old tech. Yeah.
I love it. All right, we’re gonna end today’s podcast with a little riddle. So listeners, you can write down your guesses in the comments or the reviews. And we’ll pick a random person that gave the right answer, and we’ll give them a shout out in the next episode. So today’s riddle, I am a seed with three letters in my name. Take away the last two. And I still sound the same. What am I repeat that one more time? I’m a seed with three letters in my name. Take away the last two. And I still sound the same. What am I? So once everyone thinks on that, and drop your best guesses in the comments or your reviews, and we will let you know what the answer is next time that you tune in with us. So yeah, do you know like
I have to say, Yeah, I won’t say it. But I have to I have to think a little bit harder than on that. Yeah, for sure. That’s so fun. I love that.
Well, thank you so much for being here with us for our first ever podcast. What a special way to kick it off. We appreciate you.
Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited for you guys to be launching and I hope to come visit your plant shop in IRL in real life sometime soon.
Please do Is there anything else that you would want to touch upon or say to close us out?
No, just that I’m excited for you guys. I love SolTech Solutions. And I love wine so I can’t wait to keep listening and see who else you bring on the show and what other wines you drink.
Perfect. Well thank you to all of our listeners who tuned in. We can’t wait to keep the conversations and the wine flowing lots more to come. Wine Down The Week is created in partnership with SolTech Solutions, Steel City Plant Company, Tomasi Home and Lehigh Valley With Love. Thanks, everybody.