If like us, you’ve added new indoor plants to your home in the last few months, you’ve likely started to ask questions about plant care. For this next feature of our “At Home With” series, we speak with Brooklyn-based plant enthusiast, photographer, and cat mom Phoebe Cheong of @welcometothejunglehome!
You may recognize Phoebe from her Apartment Therapy feature or perhaps you were lucky to snag one of her sold out plant tarps. Read on for our interview with Phoebe below for endless plant inspiration and the answers to some of the most popular plant care questions.
Well Woven: How did you get started in the plant space?
Phoebe: I'm originally from Malaysia, a tropical country where you’re surrounded by greenery all the time, and while growing up, I always watched my grandmother garden.
When I moved to New York, I experienced the total opposite in its urban landscape. Bringing life and inspiration into my own space is very important to me, so I created my own lush green oasis. My grandma actually wanted to gift me a plant when I moved to New York, but I couldn’t take any agriculture with me, of course.
Every birthday, I count how many plants I have, and this year upon starting my annual count, I’ve already counted 42 plants just in my bedroom…and that’s not yet counting all the plants in my living room! It’s gotten a little out of control! (Laughs)
How did you grow your online presence as a plant expert?
Be sure to follow Phoebe on her page @welcometothejunglehome for stunning plant photography, how-to plant tips, and more.
Welcome to the Jungle Home started as a personal account where I showcased my personal plant journey through photography and shared all my successes and failures. Living in NYC, I was trying to fit more plants into my apartment, so I was taking advantage of the vertical spaces in my home and sharing how to style plants in small spaces.
I saw that it started to receive a positive response amongst the plant community, and so I continued to create a plantform where I’m able to offer plant care and styling tips. Most importantly, I share the benefits of having plants at home.
What is your goal or vision for your home style?
Phoebe's living room featuring the Silvie Ivory Nomadic Stripes Shag Rug
Everywhere I have moved and travelled to since young, it was very important to me to create a space into a home which I wanted to live in. Nesting was something I noticed I do every time we moved!
Currently, my partner and I are trying to compromise and fuse our aesthetics together to come up with a space we can both appreciate at the same time. We are combining both our styles into our home, where he brings the modern contemporary and techy side of his personality together with my warm, quirky and earthy side.
Warm and earthy elements in Phoebe's bedroom and wall decor.
Where are your favorite places to shop or find home decor pieces?
Most of our core furniture are from West Elm, CB2, and Pottery Barn, and IKEA. I love styling our home with pieces collected from our travels, thrifted from vintage shops and supporting local artists. I have a collection from small/local ceramicists such as Franca, Strange Rock Ceramics, and Ivy Weinglass.
Phoebe's String of Pearls plant in a terracotta pot by Strange Rock Ceramics
Recently, my partner got me a painting by Alina Fassakhova and that’s my new favorite item at home. Seeing it hung up honestly looked like it was made to fit in our home. The colours in the painting pair so well with the warm tones matching my wooden furniture and shelves and the cool tones matching the couch. I just love the way it looks in my home.
Phoebe with her painting by Alina Fassakhova
Your fashion seems reflective of your passion for plants. How would you describe your style?
I love anything with playful designs, exotic prints, and feminine silhouettes! I would consider my fashion inspired by the colours, culture and nature growing up in Malaysia, which is also similar to my mom’s fabulous sense of style.
Phoebe pictured with her style inspiration, her mom (Left), and blending in with the flowers (Right)
Do you prefer more colorful plants or green plants?
I love both. I believe having both colorful and green plants at home adds the unique touch to create the perfect Jungle Home! I have a designated pink plant corner, and my plant shelf displays a variation of green shades and textured plants.
When shopping for plants, I am always drawn to how it looks, colors or textures, just like in my fashion. I love to see and touch things, so if I see something online, I’ll think, ‘Ooh, it’s pretty’ but, if I see it in person, I’m like, ‘I have to have it!’”
Tell us about the plant tarps you just released:
Phoebe and her custom waterproof plant tarps in Green and Limited Edition Rainbow color.
It started as a side project during my COVID quarantine. I had a makeshift tarp I made out of plastic and clips and decided to add buttons to it to make it more functional. I posted it on my account one day and it sparked a huge interest from people who wanted to purchase one from me, so gained momentum from there.
I’ve had customers tell me they have also been using it in their kitchens when cutting up their vegetables! While they sell out quickly, I’m hoping to drop more Plant Tarps every month.
Now, on to plant advice. What are some simple ways to start with plant ownership?
Phoebe in her element caring for plants at home. For individual plant questions, Phoebe also offers virtual consultations.
1. Do your research before buying. Rule out factors to find the perfect plant. It’s almost like a puzzle.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you live in a low-light apartment? Where are you going to put it? Where does the window face? Is it humid or a dry space? There are so many factors that go into bringing a new plant home. Snake plants, pothos, and monstera deliciosa are some of the easiest starter plans to start out with.
2. If you have a pet (cat, dog, hamster, lizard) make sure to compromise, especially when they have the type of personality to bite or chew on anything. There are many ways to prevent your pets from eating/biting the plants.
I always recommend to do your research prior and bring home non-toxic plants for your fur babies. A majority of cats will just play with plants - the Pony Tail Palm tree is the ultimate cat toy! You can move your plants on a shelf or hang them up to prevent any accidents or damage. If they love eating them, giving them cat grass, catnip, or wheat grass will distract them from chewing on toxic plants at home.
Phoebe's cat, Pixel, lounging in the jungle
My cat Pixel was always surrounded by plants ever since we got him as a kitten. It took a little bit of training and research, but now he knows that, “plants are friends, not food” to quote Dory from Finding Nemo!
The most effective way to train my cat was with a spray bottle with strong water pressure to spray on him when he was biting a plant. Another method is to squeeze lemon juice/citrus juice against the plant pot. Cats don’t like citrus at all. It’ll scent your apartment nicely, too. Win, win!
3. Lots of plants are toxic to pets (+ humans) -- Sometimes it's not about forcing your fur babies to adapt in your space, you just need to work with them to create the perfect and safe environment together.
Finish this sentence:
- A cozy rug in the home goes together like: finding the perfect pot for your plant. (You need the right height/color/diameter, it’s sometimes a struggle!)
- The #1 tip for loving your space is making it a space you really want to live in.
- When I begin with a project, I always start with a plant!
- Faux plants are a last-minute resort. (Well, they’re “OK…” I’m not against them!)