Meet Lorena Tiongco Garcia, a Colorado transplant from the Philippines.
Hi. I am Lorena. I was born in the tropical Island of Philippines where plant’s natural habitat is basically just anywhere outside all throughout the year. Moving from a tropical country to an equally wonderful but colder state like Colorado was a challenge I've had to overcome when it comes to my plants.
Starting out low and slow was the name of the game. I've had to adapt and learn about Colorado’s climate for my plants to reach their best potential. Long story short, it wasn't easy but it has definitely been worth it.
(Check out her Instagram after reading her interview!)
How did you get into plants?
My interest with plants started at a young age. I was influenced by my mom who used to have a lot of houseplants. I saw her grow plants and was fascinated by it. From then on I've been growing my own plants. When I moved to Colorado [from the Philippines], I brought my hobby with me and decided to grow my collection again.
What was your first plant?
My first plant when I moved here was a majesty palm. I placed it on the sunniest part of the house, which is by the window, where I used to do yoga. I really think the majesty palm provides a good aesthetic and tropical vibe. Here’s a picture of how my collection started vs. how it’s going!
How many plants do you have?
I am not really sure on the exact number but it should be around 300... and counting.
What makes plants so special?
Plants are very special to me as they kept me company during my early days [in CO] when I was new and missing home. Plants kept me busy and made my day go fast and be less stressful. And hey! Who would not love them? Free clean air and beautiful aesthetics!
Do you have any wishlist plants?
I think all plant collector's have them! I really wish to have a Philodendron Elsemanii land in my hands.
Which plant in your collection would you save from a fire?
It's actually hard to decide. I love and value them equally. But... maybe my rare boys. Ha!
On the flip side, do you have a plant that you kind of wish would just die? (Real talk.)
This is really funny because I have a love-hate relationship with Calatheas. I've already given up on them and accepted that we are not meant to be. LOL.
Are there any underrated plants? How about overrated?
I really think Hoyas are overrated. I know a lot of Hoya lovers would disagree on this and don’t get me wrong, I have few Hoyas. But sometimes I just can't understand why such very small and slow growing plant with a single shade of color can cost so much!
I think Syngoniums are underrated. I mean, they don't receive as much attention as Philodendrons do even though Syngoniums have some of the best leaf colors and shape of other plants.
Look at my big boy Syngonium Mojito. One of my pride and joys!
What is your advice for someone starting their plant journey?
To please don't get one if you can't commit on taking care of it. Or, at least make sure they will go to a good home if you decide to let it go.
Plants really are addictive. But in a good way! (They really are.) We, plant owners, can easily get carried away, especially during these times of the pandemic. During the pandemic plants have became a past time. As a result, I think a lot of us bought a lot of plants without thinking if we could take care of them long-term. I treat my plants like my babies. I give them love. Before purchasing a new plant, I make sure they have a place in my house and that I can provide the care and attention they need.
What plant tip do you swear by?
Never overwater! They hate overwatering. Most plants are better underwatered than overwatered.
Is there a plant myth that drives you nuts?
That leaves brown when you touch an unfurling leaf. Nope, they don't! They may brown for a lot of reasons but not by merely touching them when they unfurl.
What is your biggest plant fail or greatest accomplishment?
My biggest plant fail happened this last week actually. I ran out of space under my lights for my propagation bin so I was taking all of my propagations outside in the evening for some light. Well, we forgot them outside over night ... and the next day ... during a 99 degree day. It was a whole bin full of queen Anthurium, Philodendron verrucosum, various Piper (pepper) plants, and some new imports. They were just totally cooked to a crisp! It was painful.
What plant describes you best?
That's tough. Like people, plants have different characters. I happen to be flexible with my character depending on the situation.
Maybe the closest plant would be Syngonium 'Pink Splash.' They're not easy to find but definitely not hard to love! Full of color like my life. Feminine yet resilient. It's not that finicky but can also throw a tantrum if treated poorly. Here’s my Pink splash baby!
Tell us a plant story.
One of the best things about having plants is meeting new people in the plant community and making friends.
I remember when I was pregnant and was sort of having this "plant craving". (If that’s a thing. LOL!) [GLG interjects this interview to assure Lorena and readers that it is, in fact, "a thing." No scientific study necessary.] I saw a beautiful plant for sale on one of the local plant groups but I couldn't find a way to pick it up. I was so sad and heartbroken. I thought there is no way for me to get that plant. I posted [my dilemma] in the plant group. To my surprise there were so many people who commented and offered to pick up the plant for me without even asking me to pay them. I mean, what? Who will do that!?
The lady who offered to pickup the plant and bring it to me is my friend now. Because of plants, people are united, friendships are made, and a safe and friendly community is possible.
By the way, that plant was a Philodendron 'Florida Beauty.' I bought a cutting and here it is now! I'm am so proud of her. I really got a good deal on this back then. Today this is valued at $500, at least. I can’t deny that it was one of my best purchases.