Q&A: Becoming a Green Thumb with @bloomandgrowradio
Maria Failla (@bloomandgrowradio) is a NYC-based former succulent killer turned crazy plant lady with a passion to help others love plants as much as she does (or at least help you not kill them). To achieve this, Maria created the popular plant podcast Bloom and Grow Radio, where she covers a variety of plant-related topics with various guests and experts. Read on for Maria's black thumb origins and how she overcame them, as well as some observations she's made throughout her plant care journey!
Many thanks to our interviewer, Elise!
I started the podcast because it was something I was looking for. I was a plant killer who was giving myself one last shot at becoming a plant lady. I was overwhelmed with the amount of information on the internet about plant care and loved listening to podcasts, but couldn’t find one that was exclusively about houseplant care… so I started one! I decided to do 10 episodes, where I, from the viewpoint of a novice, would interview experts in plant care to better myself and those listening. My mission is to have everyone successfully care for at least one plant in their life. I think it is the most rewarding and empowering experience and one of my proudest accomplishments.
For my first 5 years living in NYC, I’d bring a succulent home, stick it 10 feet from a window (wrong), and water it with a spritzer (wrong). I didn’t even know the names of the plants I brought home! To be honest, at that phase in life, I didn’t yet have the motivation to learn them. When I moved in with my boyfriend (now fiancé!), we had a gorgeous little balcony with lots of sun so I decided to try growing herbs. My mom is an amazing gardener, so she taught me a lot of what I now know when it comes to outdoor gardening. Once those herbs started to thrive, I gave myself permission to try indoor plants again (even though I had about 20 dead houseplants in my ‘plant graveyard’ at this point). I took to the internet, found some great accounts to follow and blogs to read, and slowly but surely educated myself to have a basic understanding of indoor plant care. From there, I decided to start Bloom and Grow Radio to further enrich my learning process and help empower other former plant killers like me to have the urban jungles of their dreams!
I think a big thing that new plant parents don't understand is that this hobby requires PATIENCE. When you start to look for information to educate yourself, you quickly realize there is so much to learn and there is no way to just learn it all on your first try. Committing to this passion means committing to giving yourself the grace to fail occasionally, to learn from your mistakes, to know better next time. I’ve learned so much about life from my plants.
The biggest trend I’ve loved seeing is that people who first interacted with the plant space through the internet are now meeting in real life and forming real friendships. It was so fun to meet people IRL who told me they met online and are now plant shopping buddies, or couples who have taken up the hobby of plant parenthood together and feel like it enriches their relationships.
Thanks so much! It really is my passion to offer a little something for everyone. I truly view myself as a listener. I created the show because, as a beginner plant parent, I couldn't find the show I wanted to listen to. Now I say I “learn with my listeners” because I feel like I’m honored to have the platform to be their advocate, and to help empower everyone to care successfully for plants. So when choosing topics, I often ask myself “what do I want to learn about?” because I know if I’m wondering about it, so are lots of other people in our community. I also survey my community through my email lists and garden clubs to hear what they want and need and what their pain points are. When I got 100 different DMs, emails, and messages about wanting to know more about the composition of soil, I knew that was a topic to dive into in Season 4.
I’ve also noticed that as my knowledge has grown, show topics also change a bit. My beginning episodes were “how to not kill your succulents” and lots of care guides on specific plants. I just spent a year on the road away from my plants, and noticed that while I was away, my questions I asked myself about plant care became a lot broader - instead of wondering “why is this one leaf on my money tree yellow?” I was thinking more broadly like “how do roots actually work?” You see that reflected in Season 4, and the earlier seasons offer tons of beginner episodes as well!
I am so fortunate to have the most unbelievable community of listeners who support me in so many ways. At points, it was very challenging to publish the show while on the road this year: recording in noisy hotel rooms, having little time to record or edit due to lots of rehearsals, and just general exhaustion from the year of traveling. However, it’s this community of plant friends who are so hungry to learn and so invested in this hobby that keeps me going. The “Patreon Plant Friends” are people who listen to the show and feel moved to support the show monetarily. Their contributions come from this wonderful altruistic place and help keep the show growing dynamically from creation to production, and I could not be more thankful for their support. When you become a Patreon Plant Friend of the show, you also get the password to my private Facebook group for our listeners. I call this the “plantiest corner of the internet” where our community can actually coach each other on problems they are having or humble brag about their latest plant wins. I frequently am brought to tears when I read the posts in this group, because they are all just so supportive of each other. In a world where people are so quick to go negative, it’s remarkably special to see people so supportive.
My “Garden Club” is my mailing list - people can subscribe on my website for free, and they’ll be kept up-to-date on episodes, giveaways, and discounts my sponsors are providing, and they are the first people I go to when asking for suggestions for the show topics and direction. This is an easy, free way for people to join the community and get lots of resources to help grow their passion for plants.
Go for it, but don’t go for all of it at once! There are so many things to learn about caring for them, and the process of learning can be really fun, as long as you give yourself time and grace. Start with one or two plants, learn everything you can about them, see how they react to your environment, and once you’re feeling good about those few, then grow your space. Don’t start with a million plants - it’s too easy to get overwhelmed quickly. Enjoy the process of getting to know the plants you have, tracking how they grow, enjoying their first bloom, or new leaves. Once you feel settled there, then start challenging yourself with more. Also… listen to the podcast! You can start at the beginning and learn alongside me.This show is for you, and I hope you enjoy!
For a one-year growth check-in with Maria’s own Wally Eco living wall, check out this video!
Thanks to Maria for sharing her story and her methods with us! See her work on social media:
YouTube: Bloom and Grow Radio