On the Job

Caring for Plants On Board

11 June 2021 By Hillary Hoffower
Sanlorenzo 62 Steel
Credit: Guillaume Plisson

As a stewardess, your resume will be pretty diverse from bartending to first aid and flower arranging. But were you ever taught how to care for plants?

Good plant care usually requires a green thumb, but when it comes to maintaining plants on board, that one green thumb most likely needs to turn into two. With too little light down below and too much light above deck, and on a vessel that is constantly traveling to different climates, it’s not always an easy feat to keep a plant alive. But that’s no excuse to omit flowers on board — they add a sense of hominess to the yacht. All they need is a bit of time, effort, and careful consideration when it comes to their setting.

When in an outdoor environment, extreme sunlight and bad weather can make it harder to healthily maintain the plants, says Eileen Chang of Yacht Flowers.

“Outdoor, mostly on the sun deck, the sun is harsh and the plant is also exposed to salt and a lot of wind,” says co-owner of Yacht Floral Design Julien Halimi, adding that the salt is corrosive and really bad for most plants, so outdoor plants require strong leaves.

Stella Maris
Credit: Guillaume Plisson

“Indoor, you usually have to deal with heavy airconditioning, draft air (lots of large windows and doors opening and closing all the time), and a lack of light (bathrooms, spas, beach clubs),” notes Halimi.

He says the right setting depends on where exactly you put the plant and what kind of plant it is. For example, zamioculcas in dark rooms need water just twice a month, and orchids in the main salon need water once a week and no direct air conditioning. He recommends both plants, along with beaucarnea and bonsais, as good choices for the interior.

Chang adds that for phalaenopsis/moth orchids, another great plant for the interior, the best area is under the shade but with bright light.“The phalaenopsis orchid is a classic long-lasting blooming plant, and it’s not hard to care [for] when you understand its character,” she says. “No direct sunlight — a few hours of morning light is always great, but not all day, of course. Don’t overwater it, and it’s golden.”

She also says zamiifolia and sansevieria trifasciata do well indoors, both of which have “beautiful foliage strong enough for full sunlight and bad weather.” And when it comes to succulents, most usually require the most sunlight; however, not all do well outdoors or need as much sunshine. Just look at bamboo, which usually does well indoors with minimum light.

In addition to succulents, Halimi says that yuccas and cycas are best for the sun deck and that you can use ficus bonsais on the aft deck, where they also get shade. “The best place for a plant would be in a corner of a room, full of light with people around,” says Halimi. “It sounds weird but the human factor is important.”

The Zen garden on board Ocean Paradise
Credit: Jeff Brown/Benetti

For example, if you put two orchid arrangements in two separate rooms with the same conditions (light, air conditioning, etc.), with one room always full of people and the other typically empty, after a month or two you‘ll see a difference — the orchids in the busy room will look much better, Halimi says.

Where you get your plants from also plays a factor in their health, he adds. They should come from a proper nursery, where they have already seen plenty of sun. “If you get plants from supermarkets, they will turn yellow and burn within two weeks because those come from greenhouses and are grown fast and fed with chemicals and have never seen a sunray. They are okay for inside only.”

So, with the right attention to your plant’s previous home and its new home at sea, you can create a little nursery right on board.


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