By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

Francine Prieto is known for her roles in movies that range from drama to sexy thrillers. But there are many other aspects in her career that Prieto has focused on. Throughout the years, she also became a fashion model, radio DJ, and singer. 

Nowadays, she has turned her attention to gardening and managed to amass around 80 plants in her collection which she started growing as a result of being kept indoors for an extended period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

(Read how Francine Prieto began gardening and what are the species in her collection here)

When she began, Prieto admitted to killing several of her low-maintenance plants because of her lack of experience. But eventually, she became more familiar with how to properly care for her plants with some research and help from her husband, Frank Shotkoski, who was a farmer and molecular biologist.

Francine Prieto has amassed about 80 plants in her collection since she began taking her hobby seriously.

Here are some tips from Prieto that new plant enthusiasts can consider on their plants and their gardening journey. 

Look for the ideal spot–even if it’s not in your space!

According to Prieto, one sign that she looks for in her plants is sprouting as it signifies that it’s thriving in its current environment. 

“You will know when your plant is happy once it’s sprouting. Sometimes you just have to move them to a different area in your place for them to grow, maybe because they want the bright sun or they want in a shaded area,” she said. 

But some plants don’t adapt well to their environment no matter what the former actress does. In this case, Prieto summons the courage of letting her plants go.

“Instead of letting them die, I gave them away to a friend who has a better condition for them to thrive,” she shared. 

Don’t get disheartened and be patient 

When she started gardening, Prieto wasn’t always successful with her initial attempts. She faced challenges along the way but she didn’t allow these to get the better of her or keep her from doing what she loves. 

“If ever you kill a plant, do not get disheartened, just try again, there can be so many factors: aside from underwatering or overwatering, sometimes you just need to re-pot them and use a well-draining soil, fertilize them or add perlite. If there’s no growth maybe because the pot is too big for them or they need a climbing pole because they’re a trailing plant. You just have to observe them and be patient with them,” she said.

When she first began caring for plants, Prieto admitted to have killed some. Now, she has learned from her mistakes and experiences and managed to grow her plants.

Prieto finds joy and fulfillment in seeing her plants sprouting because it shows that she’s doing the right thing to make them thrive. To better promote growth in her plants, she invested in some equipment to make the process easier. 

“I bought one big humidifier and two small ones; they help the plants. When the humidity reaches at least 60% you’re good. So you need to buy a hygrometer and a three-in-one soil meter. I also have some grow lights to help with photosynthesis,” she said.

A  hygrometer is an instrument used to measure the amount of water vapor in the air, soil, or in confined spaces, such as Prieto’s condominium. 

Don’t hold back in buying plants 

Over the years, Prieto has bought one or two plants from time to time. But with more free time on her hands because of the pandemic, she dedicated her time and attention to cultivating them. Despite being a beginner, she didn’t let this keep her from buying the plants that interest her. 

To those who want to get plants or add more to their collection, Prieto encourages them to just do it and enjoy the many benefits of having plants around.

Some of Prieto’s plants in her collection. (Photo from Francine Prieto’s Instagram account)

“If you’re thinking of getting one, two, or ten, just go for it. It is good for our general well-being,  it boosts your mood, adds life and beauty to a boring space, it even helps clean indoor air by absorbing toxins,” she said. 

Prieto added that ornamental plants aren’t the only plants that aspiring home gardeners should consider having in their space. They should try to grow their produce since it’s an ideal way to become more sustainable at home. 

Learn from plants 

Aside from learning the basics of how to care for them, Prieto said that plants can teach a lot of life lessons to those who are willing to learn from them. 

“Plants can teach you a lot of life lessons. It helps you to remain grounded. It teaches you to be responsible, that we do have some control but sometimes we have to learn to let go. It teaches us that nothing thrives without dedication and hard work, that action matters, and adaptability is essential. Even when we fail, with positivity and a change in perspective, one day we will grow and bloom,” she said. 

From a humble start in gardening, Prieto has learned a great deal through research and experience. Her growing collection is proof that her efforts in gardening are just beginning to intensify and become an important part of her life. 

Check out Francine Prieto’s plant collection on her Instagram account (@norweirdgian).

Photos courtesy of Francine Prieto