Live plants and nice furniture--can they co-exist?

camlanFebruary 21, 2011

I've been adding a few plants to my home. I really like the look they give the rooms and I want to keep them.

The problem is that I've also inherited some family "heirlooms." My concern is that in putting plants on top of the nice tables and bookcases that I'm running the risk of water damage if I overwater a plant and water spills out.

Does anyone have any tips on how to protect wood furniture from water? Or types of plant pots that will not leak? This furniture is all old enough that it for sure doesn't have polyurethane on it; most likely the finish is varnish or shellac, in some cases with wax over that.

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Yes, they can co-exist, and yes I have a tip. Don't do your plant watering near the furniture!

I take my plants into the kitchen sink, water them well, and let them drain in the sink before returning them to their cachepots.

There are always attractive ways to protect your furniture and floors. We don't need to resort to those plastic saucers and cork thingies they try to sell us at garden centers. Use what you have & add to the heirloom look! Place a pretty plate, a silver-plated tray, a vintage-looking textile, or crystal dish under your plants instead!

Above all, water all plants in the kitchen, bathroom, or if weather-permitting, outdoors, & let them drain well before returning them to the living room!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:30PM
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An old school solution is to have glass tops cut to fit for the furniture you want to protect.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Here are a few plants mingling with my heirlooms:

The plant on the floor sits on a Lenox china desert plate rimmed in platinum. The orchid on the secretary lives in a pot that sits in a mint julep cup, that perches on a few books!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 4:04PM
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"Yes, they can co-exist, and yes I have a tip. Don't do your plant watering near the furniture!

I take my plants into the kitchen sink, water them well, and let them drain in the sink before returning them to their cachepots. "

That's what I do too... I have had live plants for, oh, almost 40 years now. I have not damaged ANY furniture.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 5:52PM
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Most houseplants don't need a lot of water. I water mine every Saturday AM and have never had a problem. I usually keep a plate of some sort under mine...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 6:33PM
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Another tip that I use is to double pot my plants. I have the pot with the hole in the bottom, sitting in a pot with no hole. I have used ordinary pots, sitting in crystal bowls. Also I have found with good/antique furniture that it is better if your plant pot has air under it for the sake of the wood. I have taken a round peice of wood, painted it, and glued little feet on it. Also for those of you who hate the little plastic saucers....some of them can be spray painted...Black or the color of your pot or the accent color in your room.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 1:12PM
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I've always had houseplants. My mom started me on them when I was little (thanks mom!). I'm lazy so the set up is very simple. I keep them in saucers on/over impermeable surfaces. As you can see, other folks do put them on wooden furniture with no problem. I only water with pond water/rain/melted snow and skip the fertilizers. I water them as infrequently as possible in winter. The best way to tell is to poke your finger down a couple inches,if it's dry, water. Basically, over watering is bad and not really soaking the plant when it needs to be watered is bad. Water logged plants rot, ruin furniture with condensation and leaching, create unwanted humidity, encourage fungus gnats, mosquitoes or other pests. Not soaking the plant thoroughly in a basin or sink will dry out the root ball and build up toxic salts causing the demise of the plant.

Basically, water the plant when it's dry down 1 1/2-2 inches, water it thoroughly in a sink or basin, go easy on the fertilizers or use natural water sources, and keep a saucer under it (or double pot the plant with a hole less pot after it has drained off). Never allow a plant to sit in water.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 1:42PM
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Definitely yes! I cannot imagine not having houseplants. I second the suggestions of watering over a sink and/or the double pots.

I'll tell on myself. I have an orchid that I have been babying along - hoping it would rebloom. It has done so well and for WEEKS has had 6 buds on one stalk. The other stalk has no buds at all, but I do have a new stalk starting to sprout out. Daily I check that orchid to see how the buds are progressing. I am so impatient for blooms!!! The orchid is in our sunroom. The other day I was fluffing out a blanket for my pup (she lays on it on the loveseat) and HIT THE ORCHID. Of course I hit the stalk with the buds and it snapped just a ways below the buds. I taped it up and clipped it back to the support and am wondering if I will see blooms or if they will die. :( The buds have not died, but I can't tell that they are progressing either. Time will tell . . .


    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 1:48PM
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I like to double pot and use ice cubes instead of water.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Oh, my, yes! I have plants all over my nice furniture, on my piano, and on our wood floors. I have far too many plants to take them to the sink, and a lot of them are waaay too big or hanging! In more than 40 years and three houses, I haven't made a single water mark anywhere. Just keep old plates under the pots and carry a terry towel around to wipe up any drips, just in case.

Plants are a beautiful addition to any decor. Don't be afraid of them.

Tina, my orchid is in the same boat but I haven't hit the stalk - yet! I am sentimental about plants, my favorite being a plain old philodendron that was given to us as a wedding present 43 years ago. It's been knocked over, over-and-under-watered, and had its cuttings given away a million times over the years, but it is still huge and beautiful. I figure if it goes, we might not be far behind!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 3:36PM
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I also double pot large, floor standing plants. We've had wood floors in our various homes over the last 20 years and this is the way to go. I agree with previous poster on carrying a towel, to mop up any inadvertant spills when watering, which should be when the top inch of soil is dry!

I love the idea of using nice plates and crystal for tabletop plants, such a good idea and will look so attractive!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 4:46PM
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I'm a slob.

The water rebounds off a low leaf and spills on the woodwork when I water, even when I try to be careful, the saucers on some are just too shallow, and then things spill... I'm always trying to do better, and buy better pots, but even with 7 years of practice as a garden nut and 40 years as just a nut- I still spilled today.

I have too many to carry around to the kitchen- some are bigger than I am.

It's better when they are on the floor not the wood furniture or a wood sill.
I'm trying to think of a better option than wood for my sills.
My vote is no- not stacked on ea. other

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 11:30PM
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It is all about the time investment I would say. In my experience back in the day when I had plants I would say NO they cannot co-exist. All it takes is one hurried watering....many of my under plates still would leave a sweat ring..When I got kids I threw the plants outside. I haven't gone back. Too many memories of ruined wood, dirt on carpet, crumpled leaves laying around for me to go back. It is all in the lifestyle you live, I guess.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 6:26AM
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After some time, you will know how much water to give the plants, so you can learn from trial & error.

I have many houseplants, and part of my watering routine includes walking my path when I'm done to check for overflow.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 6:35AM
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lori, if I watered my plants one day a week, they'd all be dead. lol. Some need more water, some less, so I walk around the house a couple of times a week to feel the leaves. When they start to soften just a tad, that's when I water. Especially the succulents.

Houseplants is a time consuming hobby but well worth it. My large plants go to the sink to be watered, the smaller one's I can get away with watering in the room where they're at, but I stand there and water slowly so they won't be sitting in water more than a day or so.

What I started to do is invest in plant stands for the home and outside. I've been buying the "old fashioned" kind.

Here's some pictures. The two stands here on the front porch come inside at times when I have no space in the winter when I bring some plants indoors.

This one is perfect for the window, it's iron but light enough to move when I want to open the window.

This is an old picture of the plants in my utility room. I've since taken out the shelf because my plants got HUGE.

Not a good picture and a big ivy is in there now, but this is by far my favorite stand made of wicker and is my favorite color of green. It has curved legs on it and a bottom shelf.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:05AM
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My house was purchased full of antiques......with water stains on them from the 124 plants that also came with the house.

I kept just a few (one is as old as the house) but most went away because I hated seeing all of the damage.

The few I have sit on little feet, no large plates contacting wood or they are in double pots. I think plants are pretty but not at the expense of a beautiful table, dresser or amoire.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 10:45AM
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I figured out a way to water large tree-sized plants. Personally I prune them to dwarf size now, but it did work. Use light weight soil and a plant dolly. You're going to want the plant higher than the ground for this. I put a large ficus on a plant dolly,with a LARGE saucer (4" deep and bigger than the pot) and 3 bricks between the saucer and the pot. (Bricks can be painted.)The pot was on risers(bricks) above the saucer, not sitting in it. Instead of drawing the water to the plant,like normal wicking, I'd wick the water off from the saucer to a catch basin on the floor. I used a cleaning towel as a wick. I watered slowly so the water had time to travel from the saucer to the basin. Then I'd just toss the used water out back. The basin has to be short and wide for stability holding water. I used a new cat box for a basin. Water travels down hill so the basin has to be shorter than the saucer. That's probably really confusing. I wish I could explain it better!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 11:09AM
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At Lowes today I saw a plant stand called "Furniture plant stand". It was one of those plastic saucers attached (probaly glued) to a wrought iron looking stand. For those who don't like the plastic saucers, I would think you could paint it, but did like the idea of the little stand underneath. IMHO you do need something under a plate or saucer on fine furniture....something that will let the air get to the wood. Plate will catch the water, but it all will be damp underneath. I grow lots of ferns, both Boston and Maidenhair and they need lots of water. I have most in saucers and some are in pots without holes. Since our house is heated in the winter these have to be watered carefully but all are doing beautifully.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:10PM
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I always over water and have marks on various pieces of furniture. When we move, my plants will not be allowed on any of our new nice furniture unless there's a glass top on it.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:18PM
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