APARTMENT AND VINE

These Low-Maintenance Plants from UrbanStems Instantly Made My Space Feel More Welcoming

My new friends — a succulent, orchid, and ZZ plant — require minimal care, and keep my spirits up during longer-than-long days.
UrbanStems The Bosco ZZ Plant on a purple and blue graphic background
Bella Geraci/Allure

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Welcome to "Personal Space," a new series that invites you into the homes of Allure editors to see the products we're trying and using to bring joy to our daily lives and beyond. We'll be testing out the best organizing products, air-purifying plants, bidets, and so much more to give you our honest reviews. This week, senior commerce writer Sarah Han brings three plants into her workspace as a greenery newbie. 

Despite growing up with many plants sprinkled around the house, I never found myself particularly drawn to them. But after I moved to New York City and began to make friends who I'd refer to as "plant people," I couldn't help but notice that their greenery really brightened up and "cute-fied" their spaces. Aside from adding extra green to my apartment, studies suggest that interacting with indoor plants can help lessen stress and increase happiness. As an oftentimes depressed and anxious person who has been in and out of therapy, this spoke to me. 

Now that I'm at home more than ever, it felt like a very appropriate time to dig my heels into plant life. Plus, tending to something other than myself seemed very compelling. Since most stores were closed at the time I looked into getting plants — and even now, with reopenings in New York City, I don't feel super comfortable venturing far from home and visiting stores in-person — ordering online seemed like the best option. But as most people would probably agree, my biggest concern about ordering plants online is making sure they come delivered safely and in one piece — with no damage, nor missing leaves. 

I decided to check out UrbanStems, an online plant delivery site with an extensive collection of flowers and plants to choose from, along with a variety of subscription plans and gift bundles (including special collaborations with Sugarfina and Brooklyn Roasting Company) as well.

I ordered three different sizes of plants to test out how well they'd be packaged and shipped. I forgot to take photos of the smallest one, The Phoebe (which didn't incur any damage), but here's how the larger plants, The Bosco and The Madonna, were packaged inside their respective boxes:

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Sarah Han/Allure

Each plant, unsurprisingly, were tightly housed in many layers of bubble wrap, and I loved that the orchid petals had a little bonnet-type cap over them, though, I had to be extra careful while removing it. All in all, there was no visible damage to the pots or plants themselves, and the larger plants had a stake to keep them upright (which I removed for the following photos). So far, so good.

Now, I'll take you on a deeper dive into every plant:

The Bosco

Sarah Han/Allure

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I love the thick, waxy leaves on The Bosco — they feel welcoming, like the big, leafy plants I saw around the house growing up. One of the big benefits of ordering from UrbanStems is that all plants come with lovely pots, like this black-and-white marbled ceramic option, which I just adore. 

Side note: You aren't able to choose from other planter options, but the default pairing still saves you the trouble of finding a good-looking pot that goes with the rest of your room's decor. With each plant, however, you are able to buy add-on items, like a copper mister, candle, and various treats, if that suits your fancy.

Marc Hachadourian, the director of glasshouse horticulture and senior curator of orchids at New York Botanical Garden, says Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ) plants, like The Bosco, are "wonderful houseplants because of their tolerance to drying out and the ability to grow in very low light conditions" — however, medium to bright indirect light is still best. Hachadourian also notes that ZZ plants' soil should be nearly dry before watering again, since over-watering leads to rotting stems and roots. 

So far, The Bosco has been the easiest plant to take care of. If you have to manage more than one plant with varying watering schedules (an art I'm still getting the hang of), my recommendation is to set alarms or reminders on your phone. The care instructions are always available online, but also come printed on a card like this: 

Sarah Han/Allure

UrbanStems The Bosco

$75
UrbanStems

The Phoebe

Sarah Han/Allure

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First off, how cute is The Phoebe's unicorn planter? Immensely, I tell you. It makes me smile everything I see my little, newfound friend. Hachadourian says they do best in bright locations that have access to sunlight for most of the day. "Strong light is important for many succulents to retain their growth shapes and health," he says. Succulents are known for being able to survive in super dry, arid environments — The Pheobe is an Echeveria Blue Bird, which stores water in its leaves — so allow the soil mix to dry before wetting it again and water sparingly, especially in the cooler and darker days of winter.

Despite what the above photo shows, I ended up moving this adorable plant to my windowsill for more direct light. This is definitely a great option if you're super pressed for space, but still want to fit in a plant. And, if not for yourself, it'd be a great gift for loved ones. (Friends, keep an eye out.)

UrbanStems The Phoebe

$55
UrbanStems

The Madonna

Sarah Han/Allure

I was most worried about The Madonna, which is a moth (or phalaenopsis) orchid, since the petals are delicate, which makes the diva-like name on par. I did lose one or two petals during the shipping process, but overall, I'm impressed. The Madonna looks sophisticated, especially paired with the hexagonal gold metal planter, and it definitely elevates my somewhat chaotic room setup. I'm a little more motivated to give the rest of my space a bit more upkeep and add more decor.

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Hachadourian, who is also the author of Orchid Modern, says orchids prefer bright, filtered light — but not direct sunlight — and warm temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. They're very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, which includes the journey from a greenhouse to your home. The sphagnum moss it's potted in "acts almost like a sponge holding large amounts of water," Hachadourian tells Allure, so he says to check up on your orchid frequently and add tepid water once the moss has almost dried out.

It's a little more finicky than the other plants and a few petals have fallen off after the first few weeks, but if you stay away from overwatering, overdrying, strong sunlight, and cold drafts — basically any extreme conditions — then Hachadourian says that "happy orchids with long-lasting blooms, such as [The Madonna], can have blooms last up to six weeks or even longer." That's much longer than any bodega flowers will last.

UrbanStems The Madonna

$85
UrbanStems

And if you're really invested in your newfound plant-parent life, here are a few other things you might find useful and aesthetically pleasing, including a side table (that's cooler than mine) to show off your babies:

Drew Barrymore Flower Home Multi-Tier Metal Accent Table

$50
Walmart

Terrain Beech Wood Handle Watering Can

$22
Terrain

Modern Sprout Brass & Glass Mister

$30
Food52

Ars 7-Inch Ideal Light Pruner

$30
Amazon

The Bottom Line

I never felt like I was "on top of things" enough to bring plants into my apartment, but I feel like I've taken the first steps to decorate my space with this trio of relatively low-maintenance UrbanStems plants. Just be careful not to overwater! They certainly make my workdays brighter when I glance over from my desk, which is set up beside my side table and window, and I hope they sow some secondhand effects from me while I'm chatting away with friends or coworkers on Zoom. 

Taking care of plants during this time has also made me feel a little less overwhelmed and a bit more in control. Maybe if I can keep these three alive, I'll consider getting a pet next. 

You can shop for some new leafy buds at urbanstems.com, starting at $35 for plants and $48 for flowers


Still curious about plants and flowers? Read on:


Now, watch Grace VanderWaal try nine things she's never done before, including singing to plants to help them grow: