If there’s one good thing about the pandemic-induced quarantine, is that it’s inspired a new healing practice of mine: caring for indoor plants.
My home, which was once a small port for me to come and go from work, frequent travel, and abundant activities, has now become my mothership. Thanks to COVID-19, I now eat, sleep, work, play, exercise, all in my city apartment. As a confined space with no yard or cuddly animal to hold, my home felt drab and dormant. Fortunately, I’ve found another life form to energize every corner of my apartment.
I’ve spent the last 9 months slowly filling empty spaces with green tendrils. The different hues layering a mosaic of round, jagged, or triangular leaves. A green rainbow leading to some promised treasure, one I’m realizing, may just be life itself.
Writing this article prompted me to finally count the number of sprouting life forms in my humble abode. Much to my surprise, it appears I’m up to 38 plants and counting. Some I’ve gathered through propagation, some I’ve received as gifts from loved ones, others I’ve bought from shops ranging from chain home improvement stores to local plant boutiques.
I’ve been trying to rack my brain for reasons behind my budding collection, and I think the most simplified answer is that caring for these indoor plants makes me feel good. As it turns out, there’s scientific reason behind it.
Studies show that indoor plants can alleviate stress and anxiety, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and prolong attention span. Horticulture therapy is used as a healing practice to improve psychological and physical wellness, where patients work with indoor or outdoor plants. One U.K health center incorporates horticulture therapy by bringing plants into patient’s rooms and offering opportunities for on-site or off-site gardening.
Something about taking care of indoor plants makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself. Giving love and energy to something and watching it grow, gives me hope that I can do the same.
My rising awareness of injustices and increased news consumption have filled my brain with fearful and anxious thoughts. Climate change, extreme wealth disparity, and racism, are just some of the heartaches that have not only left me doubting my country’s leadership, but the world’s future altogether. When all these fears pile high, to the point I can no longer see the light above it, I find hope in the plants growing around me. Observing a new branch budding on the tradescantia growing in my reading corner provides just a hint of the life that exists beyond what humans have created. That hint has provided the solace I need to stay grounded these days.
Regardless of political turmoil, they grow. Regardless of an upcoming work deadline, they grow. Regardless of what I look like today, they grow. They continue to grow and exist despite anything going on outside of my apartment. And I know I can too.
Plant care is my new favorite mindfulness practice. A zen moment for me after 10+ hours working in front of the computer. Watering, pruning, and misting these plants provides a positive distraction for me to focus on something so peaceful, fulfilling, and life-giving. At this point, it seems like they’re taking care of me more than I’m taking care of them.
I’m far from a master gardener, but these plants don’t hold it against me. I’ve made mistakes and some unfortunate plants have been lost in the process. My attempts at rehabbing a dying plant were not always successful, but when it was, I felt the shared rush of triumph and celebration between the plant and me.
My favorite plant care activity is placing pruned cuttings in water and watching them sprout roots inside refurbished spice jars. The pale roots emerge from stem nodes impossibly quickly and ask to be planted in soil to begin a new life, as its own plant. The growth is so tangible and easily observed by the human eye. It serves as a reminder that life energy is real. The beautiful moment of seeing that magic and wondering where the energy comes from, to build a new root, new branch, new leaf.
There’s no denying that magic when you can watch it unfold in front of your own eyes. Belief in that magic has kept me going through all the challenges, worries, and fears surfacing this year. Caring for indoor plants is a remembrance of my own life energy and that I too can grow, bud, and transform just the same.
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