As you know, we generally tend to model our lives on Pinterest. Oh, and our jobs happen to see us touring some of the best houses and apartments in the world so it should come as no surprise that we take notes. Because, as many homes as we’ve visited and as different as they often are, there’s a few staples that we spot in every single one. Lots of light is a given, as is Instagram-ready furniture but the biggest commonality we’ve spotted recently? Plants – and everywhere. We’re talk small terrariums, medium cacti to sprawling heart-leaf philodendrons and fiddle-leaf fig trees.
If you’ve struggled to keep a plant a live (haven’t we all!), you’ll know that keeping house plants takes its fair share of skill and styling them to perfection requires a certain level of know-how too. Lucky for us, we spent the morning in the Brooklyn home and studio of plant designer and Leaf & June founder, Lisa Muñoz. The ex-producer is an expert in all things greenery and set to work schooling us on her fine art. She’s teamed up with the likes of Homepolish, Imaginary Forces (the production company behind Stranger Things) and Michelin star restaurant Rebelle on plant displays and was featured in American Vogue – she knows what she’s talking about. Read on to learn more about her journey and her comprehensive guide to making a green oasis in a city apartment and how to keep them happy.
LIFE BEFORE LEAF & JUNE: I’ve worked in the motion graphics/visual effects industry for about 10 years and happened upon it right after graduating college where I studied Radio, TV and Film with a concentration on Audio Production. I started working in radio for a morning show in Dallas, TX and when I moved to New York started worked for a PBS show doing music and copyright law briefly. Ultimately, I ended up producing animation for TV commercials, film and TV titles, and the occasional music video. I still work as a Freelance VFX Producer for part of the year but felt I wanted to do something that was more fulfilling to me and allowed me to be creative and get my hands dirty.
WHAT BEING AN INTERIOR PLANT DESIGNER ACTUALLY MEANS: I approach the process as an interior designer would only with plants and planters top of mind. I do an onsite visit, take measurements and photos, analyze the existing design aesthetic, take the indoor environment into consideration in terms of light, temperature, and humidity, and put together a custom design proposal based on those attributes. All of this informs plant and planter suggestions for what would work and thrive in the space. I then source, pot, deliver, and stage the plants in their new home and provide detailed plant care instructions.
ON LEAF & JUNE: In a city like New York that isn’t the most convenient in terms of schlepping large plants, planters, and potting soil home, Leaf and June eliminates those steps and brings the plants to you. It’s a simplified solution for aspiring plant owners and executed with a whole lot of love, thoughtfulness, and care. Granted, there are other companies that offer this type of service, but I wanted to bring a more curated approach that allows me to hand-pick high quality locally sourced plants and also work with local ceramicists too. I’ve always loved potted plants over flowers. Of course, cut flowers are beautiful but they just don’t have the same longevity. To me, plants are so fascinating to watch grow and even if they’re struggling, you learn what makes them thrive. My inspiration for clients largely comes from my travels and visiting gardens. Hawaii, Costa Rica, Joshua Tree, Italy, the Philippines, and Thailand are a few of the places I’ve been fortunate to visit that have allowed me to go on many regional plant explorations. Seeing plants in their natural habitat provides guidance on their ideal environments as well as what other plants might best accompany them.
SHE DIDN’T ALWAYS HAVE A KNACK FOR PLANTS, YOU KNOW: Both sets of grandparents had a love for gardening and while it was fun helping them in the garden as a child, that didn’t mean I was good at it on my own! When I moved to New York, my life was lacking in greenery and I struggled to keep plants alive in my apartment. I was perplexed and decided it was time to really learn and wrap my head around what it took for plants to survive indoors. I started reading up on it on my own and years later enrolled in a class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see what it was all about. I fell in love with the practice and science behind it and dove into the program to work toward a Certificate in Horticulture. My grandparents grew tons of fruits and vegetables in their backyard gardens – tomatoes, peppers, papaya, calamansi, bitter melon. You name it, it seemed they had it growing in their gardens. I spent a lot of my time growing up playing in their gardens, eating cherry tomatoes off the vine, and planting seedlings. At that young age, I don’t think I understood how incredible and fulfilling it can be to have all of that in your backyard. While I don’t have a garden like that here in New York, it’s fulfilling in a different way to bring plants into people’s homes, offices, and lives.
IN NEW YORK, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL: New York needs more plants. It has stunning parks and gardens but those aren’t necessarily something you see in your daily life while at the office or at home. It’s important to have that green element to enhance your quality of life. Plants remove toxins from the air, they improve creativity and focus, keep temperatures lower, enhance humidity, reduce noise levels, and keep you healthier mentally and physically. What’s not to love about that?
HOUSE PLANTS 101: Living in compact cities, not a lot of us have tons of light so start with something like a Snake or ZZ Plant. They do very well in low light conditions and are a good gauge for whether your space can take on additional plants. From there, you can begin to incorporate ferns, heart-leaf philodendrons, Rubber Trees, and Satin Pothos too. They’re all low maintenance and structurally offer a variety of shapes and heights that will help keep things interesting. It’s worth incorporating oversized plants too. A big open space can sometimes feel cold and sterile but adding a large plant brings warmth and life. They can be a real statement piece within a space.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT REPLOTTING AN OVERGROWN PLANT: Replot your plant to a pot that’s about 2” larger than the one it’s currently in. You want to be give the roots room to grow without stressing the plant with too much room. It’s all about finding a happy medium.
ON HOW TO SAVE A PLANT FROM IMEPNDING DOOM: Monitoring the water intake is the key. Often times, overwatering is the culprit so it’s important to check the soil to be sure it’s not still wet before the next watering. It’s also important to provide ample natural light for your plants. If the plant appears to be reaching toward the window, try moving it closer to the light. Plants are pretty good at communicating whether they’re happy or need some extra love.
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