How Houseplants Improved My Mental Health

Written by Sara Qualley

April 2020 is a date I imagine most people don’t look back on too fondly. The world had entered lockdown phase due to the pandemic. Although we found ways to connect virtually or at a distance with loved ones, doubt, fear, and worry plagued many minds. Mine was no exception. While I had college classes to keep me busy, these feelings clung to the corners of my mind even while I fought to keep myself distracted. At the time, there was no end in sight for COVID-19. We were all sitting ducks waiting to learn more about this deadly disease and when a vaccine would be developed to return to normalcy.

For the time being, there was no normal. We did, however, adapt to a “new normal.” This new normal was a way to carry on with our ordinary lives while abiding by COVID-19 guidelines – ordering take-out, organizing Zoom calls with friends and family, and using Netflix Party to have movie nights. Adapting to this new normal gave me hope and eased my stress. However, I still found myself lacking something – a hobby. That’s where houseplants came in.

In 2019, I had a small collection of cacti and succulents. With only a few survivors of this original collection, I figured all my newfound time at home would be the optimal opportunity to learn about additional plants to care for. When I tell you I fell in head first, this isn’t an exaggeration. Since April, plants have been one of the main things on my mind and one of my top internet searches. From Philodendrons to Monsteras, I’ve wanted to learn everything plant-related and add to my ever-growing collection of houseplants. My room is slowly converting into a small jungle.

I’ve discovered there are entire plant communities online, notably on Facebook. I’m part of several houseplant groups, which are excellent resources for learning care tips, asking questions, getting set up inspiration, and discovering new plants. Some of these groups have thousands of members. Each group is like a massive gardening club but for houseplants, with people from all over the world and with different backgrounds. During a time when connection was limited, having these online communities to learn from was a welcome reprieve.

As with many new hobbies, caring for houseplants comes with a learning curve I still haven’t figured out. Plants will wilt, be invaded by pests, and even die no matter how much research you conduct and follow to a tee. It can be devastating to see a once vibrant plant’s health go downhill. Frustrating yet, you may not know for sure why a plant dies in your care. I’ve often found myself questioning if I should just give up on owning real plants and opt for the trendy artificial ones. However, I keep reminding myself that this hobby is no different from any other one. There will be times you mess up, but you learn and improve with time. I may lose a plant here and there as I continue to expand my collection, but I also know I’ll continue to learn how to care for them as time goes on.

While the people in my life might be a bit sick of me rambling about plants, it’s a hobby that’s brought me so much peace and happiness. My regular routine of inspecting, rotating, and watering my plants gives me time to process thoughts or just enjoy the simplicity of the work at hand. It also gives me time to see my own growth as a plant keeper. Each person’s hobby looks different, but what all hobbies should all have in common is improving someone’s wellbeing. Hobbies form a part of our identities, promote growth and learning, and help us meet others with the same interests. They even help us through difficult times. Caring for my plants made me realize how important it is to evaluate my own needs, adapt to new challenges, and be patient with myself.

If you’ve ever considered owning a houseplant, I’d highly encourage jumping on the bandwagon. There are guides online about beginner-friendly houseplants, and many local nurseries, greenhouses, and shops are great places to reach out to for care tips. Caring for my own houseplants made me appreciate how resilient and fun they can be. Some plants are fussier than others, but that’s all part of the learning process. Few things can replicate the pride of seeing a purchased plant flourishing in your care. Pretty soon, they’ll be taking over your entire house and social media feed.

Featured image courtesy of Pexels. Image license found here. No changes have been made to this image.

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