Rare Plant Fairy’s Jocelyn Ho Talks Caring for Exotic Plants

From proper watering to creating an ideal growing environment, here’s what you need to know
The living plant wall inside Rare Plant Fairy’s showroom in Detroit, which features anthuriums from South America and more.

When it comes to growing exotic houseplant species, Jocelyn Ho, owner of the thriving plant business Rare Plant Fairy in Detroit, knows a thing or two. If you’re in the market for a rare tropical plant of your own, here are some of Ho’s tips for taking care of them.

Don’t start off with a rare plant if you’re new to caring for plants.

“Start with a more basic plant to get into a routine first,” Ho says, adding that proper watering is the most difficult thing for people to remember. “Once you get the basics down, a rare plant is the same as [caring for] a common plant.”

Once you’re ready to care for a rare plant, a monstera is a good one to start with.

“Buy a healthy, established plant,” Ho recommends. While a baby or seedling will be cheaper, she says, they’re harder to take care of. Always look for plants with healthy roots and avoid cuttings.

Create an ideal growing environment for your rare plants.

Tropical plants need humidity, the amount depending on the plant. “If you’re growing tropicals, a lot of people make the greenhouses,” Ho says, referring to the popular DIY ones made using a glass cabinet from Ikea, a grow light, and a temperature and humidity monitor. “Some plants can tolerate lower humidity, but they would all mostly like thrive in higher humidity.”

Pay attention to the water you use.

Don’t use water straight out the tap, especially if it’s coming out ice cold. Ho advises folks to let the water sit overnight. “If you’re more advanced, you would test your water for pollutants and things like that because plants need macronutrients and micronutrients, like sodium and potassium,” she says. If your plant is missing out on those nutrients, Ho suggests buying a fertilizer with the ideal NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) rating for your plant. “Calcium and magnesium are something that our water lacks, specifically here in Michigan, so you can buy Cal-Mag supplements and dose it in your water, about a teaspoon per gallon.”

Your rare plants need some extra TLC during the colder months.

“You have to be mindful in the winter, if you do have your plants by the window, that the windowsills aren’t too cold and getting a draft,” Ho says, adding that there could be a 20-degree difference between the temperature by the window and the overall temperature in the room. And since the days are shorter, she recommends using grow lights to supplement that missing daylight.