This Malaysian Mum's Condo Is The Perfect Plant Paradise

It's like entering into another world!

Cover image via Jessy Christopher-Tham (Provided to SAYS)

If you thought you love plants, wait till you see this plant mama's sanctuary!

Meet Jessy Christopher-Tham whose love for plants goes deep... or should I say grows deep :p

The 40-year-old, who lives in PJ, is a mum of two and a freelance scrapbook designer to a well-known sister company of American Crafts.

When Jessy moved into her new condominium unit in 2016, she noticed there was plenty of light and felt inspired to add plants to their home.

"I knew very basic plant knowledge back then but all I knew they needed a good amount of light to thrive," she shared with SAYS.

It began as a small collection in early 2017 but eventually grew to what she has now, which is around 200 different plant species!

She started by getting several houseplants from IKEA and Sungai Buloh nurseries. By March 2017, she ventured into succulents and went all out by placing them into pallets later that year.

Jessy shared that some of the main genera she looks after include succulents, monstera, philodendron, alocasia, anthurium, and such, adding that most of her houseplants are bought from local nurseries.

"Some [plants] are through importers who brought them in from Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, South America, and the Netherlands. While a good amount was purchased from private collectors. 

"Most of my succulents are from local farms at Cameron Highlands and a small amount are from China, Korea, and the Netherlands."

If I was a plant, I definitely wouldn't mind living here

Although the hobby isn't extremely difficult, the mum admits that she had to go through a lot of trial and error – especially when it came to figuring out correct soil mixtures

"There's no one soil formula fits all as different plants need different nutrients."

She once tried to grow a chilli plant but explained that it had failed miserably because of the wrong conditions.

"I do read up on them a little if they can work for Malaysian climate and humidity. I would rather buy one that has already acclimatise to our climate [because it'll have] higher chances of surviving.

"And of course, I do feel sad when I can't salvage a plant or when I can't easily find them anymore."

People say there's no favouritism among 'children' but if Jessy had to pick, these are her favourites:

- Philodendron Melanochrysum
- Monstera Deliciosa
- Anthurium Clarinervium
- Alocasia Chantrieri
- Monstera Thai Constellation
- Philodendron Giganteum 'Blizzard'
- Monadenium stapelioides f. variegata

When it comes to managing the plants, she places them in different sections around the condo (mostly on her balcony) to look after their needs, especially their watering schedule

"I have two corners where both receive different lighting conditions on my balcony. One will receive direct morning sunlight for about four to five hours (succulents) and the other corner receives some dapple morning sunlight (one to two hours) plus it's shaded all the way in (alocasia, philodendron, anthurium + other species)."

"Generally [we] just need to understand the basic needs of a plant i.e: lighting, water, air, nutrients, and space to grow.

"Also bear in mind different gardens have different humidity, lighting condition (comparing between high rise and landed property), and aeration too.

"And of course buy according to what you can afford as there are some hardcore collectors who wouldn't mind spending above RM10,000 for a 'rare plant'."

If you're an aspiring gardener, Jessy shares some other tips on how she decides which type of plants to buy

Firstlook out for plants that suit the amount of light your home or garden has.

"Personally for myself, when I visit a nursery, I will just look for the plants in the shade because my balcony is only suitable for plants that need shade but a bright area. 

"The ones that are under the sun or need very bright light throughout the day, I won't consider them cause I know I won't be able to provide such settings for these plants. So do look out for what is suitable for your balcony."

Second, take note that nursery staff usually give advice based on their settings and it may not be the same as your home environment. 

"Most of the time when you ask the nursery staff [for tips], you'll hear them say that, 'This pot can be watered daily [but] if it's a very hot day, please water twice a day'."

She explained that staff or owners often share according to their experience in the nursery setting.

"They may not know that you are living in a high rise and don't receive the same amount of light as theirs. Take note that nursery plants are exposed to heat far greater than your balcony. So do not take their advice as it is."

In addition, some plants get sold really fast, which doesn't allow staff the opportunity to understand how to care for them.

"They [may] take instructions from the lorry driver who delivers the plants to them. [And] place the plants accordingly under the sun or shade.

"The general rule is to water when your topsoil is drier. And water it until it drains out."

Her third tip is to look out for a plastic lining under your pots.

"If you're unaware of that, it will cause the water to be stuck at the bottom and roots will rot, even though you feel the topsoil is drier. Be sure to take a peek at the bottom before you place it in your garden or indoor space."

To see more of Jessy's gorgeous plants, follow her on Instagram!

Despite having a small balcony, here's someone who was able to create her own edible garden:

Meanwhile, this former graphic designer dropped everything to become a farmer:

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