In this edition of Plantfluencer Stories – we hear from Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, who you might know as The Houseplant Guru.
Lisa, how did you get into plants?
I grew up in rural Michigan where my 3 brothers and I spent all our free time, which was most of the time, outdoors playing. Nature was our playground and trees were our jungle gym. We helped our parents in our huge veggie garden as there were 6 of us and not a lot of money. My grandma and grandpa lived on a farm less than a mile away and we rode our bikes there often to see them, where we gathered eggs in the henhouse and played in the barn, climbing the hay bales clear to the rafters.
My mom and grandma both had flower gardens, as well, and grandma always had huge bouquets of flowers on the dining room table. Dad would rototill the veggie and flower gardens and it was my job to hold back the plants, so they didn’t get damaged.
I used to read all the seed catalogs that came in the mail from cover to cover, learning as much about plants as I could. I have fond memories of the Gurney, Thompson and Morgan, and Jung catalogs and Flower and Garden magazine, which I had a subscription to, thanks to my mom. She also took me to the small-town library before Wednesday night church, so I could check out books; many of which were plant related. I tried to get a summer job at a local nursery/garden center, but in the 1980’s was told they didn’t hire “girls.”
All that nature, hands on gardening, and reading led me to horticulture classes in college. I was accepted to Michigan State University, but this “country” girl went to Lansing and thought it was too big. Consequently, I went to Ferris State College (now university), for a two-year horticulture technician degree.
I did not finish, but instead married a fellow horticulture student and moved to the big city, a suburb of Detroit. I then became a stay at home mom to two beautiful daughters and enjoyed working in my yard as well as taking care of houseplants. I worked part time at a nursery occasionally when they were young and later worked for an interior plant care company for a year. That was my dream job, but the work was too hard on my back. I then worked for my husband’s family’s garden center for 14 years before deciding to become a freelance writer.
Now I am surrounded by plants in my home and spend my time taking care of them and writing about them. I have a ponytail palm, Beaucarnea recurvata, that has been with me since I went to college. It started out in a 2” pot purchased at the local Kmart and now is large enough to be in a 14” pot standing over 5 feet tall. I also have a fern that is a piece of my mom’s which she received from my great grandma in 1957 at her bridal shower. These are special plants to me.
Now, as an empty nester, my daughter commented the other day that I have way more plants than I’ve ever had before. I guess I have more time to care for them now that my kids have left the house. Their bedroom windows have even been filled with plants. I consider myself a collector and just keep bringing plants home. I love them!
Can you share a little bit about your Instagram feed at @thehouseplantguru?
I started my Instagram feed to have a record of my plants and plants I see out and about.
What are some of your secret skills?
I can knit, crochet, embroider, and cross stitch and more. I love to sew, too. I don’t do much of that these days, but do still cross stitch-houseplants, of course!
What's the best present you've given or received?
My family is my greatest gift.
Best plant care tips you can share?
Best plant care tips you can share? Never water on a schedule. Check your plants on a schedule, but water WHEN your plants need it, not because it is a certain day of the week. Wash your windows and clean your plants so they can get as much light as possible.
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