10 Gardening and Plant Care Books Recommended by These Experts
Longtime gardener, tomato expert, and author, Craig LeHoullier said he still gets nervous at times when reading reviews for his book, “Epic Tomatoes.” Despite his concern, he usually ends up happy that the book got great reviews and helped people.
“What I wanted my book to do is really showcase those things that I have particularly developed expertise in, which is knowledge of many types of tomatoes and the ability to tell the stories and honor the families that sent them to me through these stories,” LeHoullier said.
LeHoullier knows the value of a good book in educating people, and he credits author James Underwood Crockett’s books as major influences on his interest in gardening. It made us think of other books that might be good choices for gardeners. We asked LeHoullier and three other book experts to recommend some of their favorite gardening reads.
We spoke with several gardening experts: LeHoullier, author and member of the Dwarf Tomato Project; Danae Horst, author of “Houseplants for All” and owner of Eagle Rock-based plant store Folia Collective; Andrew Wilcox, professor of landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona and active member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and Ana Buckley, houseplant enthusiast and manager of Lost Books (the store specializes in books and houseplants).
Some are new and some are vintage, but as a prized heirloom cultivated over decades, our experts say they’re just as good now.
Craig LeHoullier recommends:
Books: “Crockett’s Victory Garden” and “Crockett’s Flower Garden”
LeHoullier, based in North Carolina, joined the Seed Savers Exchange in 1986, helped introduce gardeners to the popular Cherokee Purple heritage, and is one of the people behind the volunteer-run Dwarf Tomato Project that produced dozens of new varieties of dwarf tomatoes.
These two books, “Crockett’s Victory Garden” and “Crockett’s Flower Garden”, published in 1977 and 1981 respectively, are by James Underwood Crockett, the original host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS. They give monthly tips to gardeners on things like when to transplant and how to care for particular plants.
Why you should read them: LeHoullier said the books are just as relevant today as they were 40 years ago and are written in an intimate, non-condescending way.
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Books: Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection: This online collection includes 200,000 historic U.S. and foreign seed catalogs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Why you should read it: Although not technically a book, LeHoullier said the collection is worth checking out because it’s free and readers can learn a lot from it. “If anything adds to my current upbringing of trying to better understand the history of gardening in the country, I just take half an hour each night and leaf through, trying to figure out what my grandfather grew in the years 1900. Or my great-grandfather – what was he growing in the late 1800s?And the answer is in all those wonderful digitized seed catalogs.
Danae Horst recommends:
Horst is a photographer, author, and owner of Eagle Rock-based plant shop Folia, which offers a wide assortment of indoor plants and gifts.
“Botany for Gardeners: An Introduction to Plant Science”: Several editions of this book by Brian Capon have been published since its initial release in 1990. A fourth expanded edition will be published in August 2022. The book teaches non-botanists about complex plant processes in simple terms.
Why you should read it: Horst said the book is useful for picking up terminology a gardener might come across in gardening books or articles.
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“Success with indoor plants”: This Reader’s Digest book was originally published in 1985, but offers information on many types of plants and their specific care needs. The second half of the book takes a more comprehensive look at plant care.
Why you should read it: Horst said the thick book covers topics ranging from pruning to fertilizer. Although the photos are dated, Horst said there were actually a lot of inspiring photos of capped plants in homes in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
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“Houseplants for All: How to Fill Any Home with Happy Plants”: Horst’s own book came out in 2020 and offers readers information on how to choose indoor plants that are right for their spaces. It includes information on lighting (with a quiz designed to help readers determine what kind of light they have in their home), which plants are suitable for that light, how to style plants, and practical advice on things like repotting, pruning and watering. .
Why should you read it: Horst said the book and its content stemmed from his daily interactions with Folia customers and the questions they brought to him. She said her book aims to have something for everyone, from beginners to more experienced plant owners.
Andrew Wilcox recommends:
Wilcox is a professor of landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona and is also active with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
“Native Plants for Southern California Flashcards Gardens”: These flashcards are available for sale through Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley, California. The foundation operates a native plant nursery. The flashcards identify particular types of native plants and also contain notes on how to care for them, Wilcox said.
Why should you read this: “It’s a super handy tool to not only help identify plants when walking around the nursery or visitor center on the weekend, but it’s also bilingual,” Wilcox wrote in an email.
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“Wild Suburbia: Learning to Garden with Native Plants”: This 2016 reading by Barbara Eisenstein details how gardeners can transform water-intensive suburban gardens into spaces filled with native, climate-adapted California plants.
Why you should read it: Wilcox told newbies, “It’s a great place to start with practical tips and success stories.”
Buckley is a manager at Lost Books in Montrose, which offers a wide selection of indoor plants in addition to his books. Buckley is a houseplant enthusiast herself.
“Planted House: Choosing, Growing, and Styling the Perfect Plants for Your Space”: This 2021 read by author Lisa Muñoz has lots of great tips for beginners on how to care for plants and ward off pests and includes lots of photographs as visual aids.
Why you should read it: “My favorite thing is that it’s about decoration,” Buckley said. “It will give you ideas of where the plants will thrive and where to display them.”
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“Green: plants for small spaces indoors and outdoors:” This 2020 book by Jason Chonge shares tips and tricks for growing not only houseplants, but also fruits and vegetables in small containers.
Why you should read it: Buckley said the book’s focus on container and small patio gardening is indispensable for people living in a small place like an LA apartment.