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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Yes, really. That holiday where grocery store roses and teddy bears and terrible mail-order chocolates become all too prevalent in our lives. We’ve always found something fundamentally odd about giving a loved one cut flowers to commemorate an occasion. After all, the flowers die just a few weeks later. Why not a plant instead? After all, plants are supposed to last indefinitely — much like our love (in theory, anyway).

So we turned to the team at Exotic Angel, the largest producer of indoor foliage in the world, to ask just how to choose the perfect plants for ourselves or a loved one. What does this have to do with luxury, you ask? Exotic Angel doesn’t just stock your everyday ferns and cacti — they stock more than 420 unusual and specialty plants, with more added annually, including custom blends not found anywhere else.

Here’s what the team has to say:

Q: We love the idea of fresh plants in our home and office, but we will admit to a bit of a black thumb. Other than a cactus, what should we look for in a low maintenance houseplant? 
A: Happily, not all houseplants are created equal! One set of plants you can’t go wrong with is the Plants of Steel collection – we’ve put these plants to the test and found they’re the heartiest houseplants around. Plants of Steel varieties – including snake plant, ponytail palm, sago palm, Chinese evergreen, and ZZ plant – tolerate low light, infrequent watering, and a host of other challenges. Snake plant, in particular, is so tough you can enjoy it for decades.

Q: What are some key considerations when choosing a plant ?
A: Our first rule of gardening – indoors or out – is to put the right plant in the right place. So take a good look at the conditions your home, office, or dorm has and match those up with what the plant tag says the plant needs. It’s the first step to being successful with houseplants. Beyond that, look for plants that match your personality; you’re more likely to give them good care if you personify them.

Q: Dirt is so…messy. What other materials can we use to house a plant?
A: Aside from lucky bamboo, which grows in water, soil is the way to go. But it doesn’t have to be messy. I love adding cute pot toppers, such as shells, old pennies, or even colorful crushed glass over the soil as a clean and tidy mulch. There’s no reason to look at bare soil if you don’t want to!

Q: Exotic Angel is often called the  “Rolls Royce of house plants”… Do we need to use special water? Is there a key to watering house plants appropriately?
A: Happily, while Exotic Angel plants are premium, they don’t need premium care to thrive. You can use regular old tap water (or bottled water, if you feel like giving them a special treat from time to time). The key to watering most houseplants is to let the top inch or so of the potting mix dry before watering again. More houseplants actually kick the bucket from too much water rather than too little, so don’t overdo the watering. I’ve known people who let their plants just start to wilt and use that as a sign that it’s time to water. There are also some cool gadgets available on the market that can help tell you when your plants want water. Ultimately, watering isn’t that tough if you do it in moderation (like so many things) and just give your plants a little water when the soil dries.

Q: What are some health benefits of plants indoors?
A: An increasing number of scientific studies show there are a ton of benefits to having plants in the home or office. For example, a piece in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found having plants around helps lower our stress levels so we feel more relaxed. Studies from NASA show that plants clear the air of harmful VOC pollutants. And studies by the American Horticultural Therapy Association show plants help improve our focus, memory, and concentration, helping us get work done faster and learn more efficiently (who wouldn’t appreciate a little of that!?).

Q: Plants are relaxing. What do you suggest for the office? The kitchen? The bedroom?
A: All of the above! Actually, it’s best to grow plants where you’re most likely to notice them. Most of spend a lot of time at our desks, so that’s often a perfect place. If you eat at the dining room table every day, the dining room may be an ideal place. The bedroom may not be a great place if all you do is sleep because you’re less likely to notice – and enjoy the plant. The same might apply to the kitchen if you’re always in a rush preparing meals. Or the kitchen could be a great place if you take your time there.

Q: We are seeing more and more cool hybrids and exotic plants available in stores today. What are some of your favorite new blends and crosses?
A: Exotic red aglaonemas are some of our favorites. They’re colorful and some of the most bulletproof plants around — it can be a challenge to kill them.

Q: What are some 2015 plant trends?82-FernLemonButton
A: We’re seeing a lot of interest in small and miniature plants. They’re wonderfully charming and can fit just about anywhere. We’re excited to have a crop of mini gerbera daisies in the works; they’re an adorable twist on an all-time-favorite cut flower. Colorful plants are also hot. There’s been a ton of great feedback on our line of Desert Gems cacti that grow in jewel-like colors including ruby red, sapphire blue, and topaz yellow. Brightly colored plants are a fun way to punch up the color indoors; they’re like living works of art. People are also loving succulents, especially for cool DIY-type projects. It’s easy to get inspired by these no-fuss plants with their fun colors and textures!