Kris, my best Swede friend, asked me what is helping me stay sane during this lockdown, and my answer is plants! From growing plants for food, my interest has branched to gardening for pleasure.
It helps me focus and gives me joy. I attend to my plants every day and do the big jobs on weekends. It is a healthy, and worthy, addiction. Case in point: Below are stuff I have learned from growing my houseplants, well, so far.
1. Growth takes time.
I am so in love with this gang of golden pothos that trails down our staircase. Do I want it to look like Rapunzel’s hair? Yes. Is it happening? Not yet. But it will. I just have to give it time.
2. Accidents happen.
My father’s neighbor gave me this pot of gorgeous whale’s fin sansevieria but I accidentally kicked the tip of one leaf and it split! I obsessed about it for a day, but I cannot take it back – sigh – and had to let it go. I am still too nervous to repot and divide it though. But hey, I have a new leaf!
3. Bigger is not always better.
I have a pink aglaonema, also from father’s neighbor – she is so nice – that I placed inside this massive pot because I hoped to have a giant, lush, pink piece of nature on my balcony. Great plan.
Problem is, my pot was too big, with too much soil, that I overwater my plant. I lost leaves from rot! I decided to keep it there though and just adapted the plant care. It is thriving now.
4. Try – but be prepared to fail.
Propagating plants is incredibly rewarding for me (even if I only grew four lemons out of hundreds of seeds I tried germinating). I particularly enjoy propagating from cuttings. It is just like the plot of your favorite series:
It begins with tension, you are uncertain, terrified of the repercussions of taking a cutting from your plant (the story with my pink syngonium). Then, you chuck the cuttings in water and weeks pass by with nothing happening, except for some cuttings wilting and dying (looking at you rosemary). You hang on, never give up as the days go, and finally, when you least expect it, a root! Success is imminent.
But as you transplant in soil, you will have wins and losses. After waiting for a month and dedicating your life to this cutting, it dies (some of my persian shield, unfortunately). But that is okay, it is hard to win them all, so take lots of cuttings and do not take losses personally. Most of your propagations will live (I just had 100% success in my golden pothos soil propagation!) – just try.
5. Surround yourself with plants that make you smile.
It is a wonder, how long until our daybed becomes a plant table. I started with four plants in the corner to make the space cozy, but one rustic bench turned plant stand later, the number has shot up to 14 in three weeks. These are plants I propagated and being around them makes me feel happy, and capable. I loved spending time in our daybed (before photo here) but more so now.
6. Keep learning.
I binge watch Planterina because Amanda is a joy, but also to learn how to look after my plants correctly. Watching her videos is like attending an AA meeting, except we all encourage the plant addiction instead of curbing it.
Plants are alive! Each has particular requirements to thrive. Fortunately, it takes very little to show them love and they respond so well. Markus helps me a lot, too. He even installed this plant identifier app to stop me from whining and gives me a hand with gardening sometimes.
7. Overcaring is not caring.
You may have guessed that I am a heavy-waterer, but I am fixing it to keep my house plants alive. Markus tells me that not watering my plants is caring for them. It is sinking in and my house plants are happier. The ones on the garden are doing great, too. They need daily watering though because it is blistering where we live.
8. Difficult decisions must be made.
It is not fun to hack a plant back, do root division, or accept that you cannot take a particular plant inside your house. But these decisions must be made to propagate and keep the plants healthy.
9. Do not give up.
My sister’s boyfriend gave us a bay plant that looks sad and dead. I wanted to pull it out but father pointed out miniscule growth sprouting from its sad stem. It takes forever to grow these leaves but we are hanging in there and hoping for the best.
A week ago, we also planted hibiscus cuttings all around the property. We must have planted close to 100. Father said they grow if they decide to grow. I was staring at dead plants everywhere for days but now most of them are starting to produce new leaves!
Like us, plants react to the environment. Pay attention! If it is a fit for them, they will grow like crazy and be happy, lush plants. Otherwise, they will die, or at best, stay alive stunted. I had seen massive improvements in sad plants once I moved them.
This is the simplest thing to do if the plants are in pots, but I feel uneasy when I have to uproot them, as in the case of my pink syngoniums in the garden. But I will get to it the moment I have pots. Calling my sisters for donations.
Because of the quarantine, I have not been to any greenhouse but I get plants from neighbors and even strangers. Just ask! I found that plant people like giving plants to other people. Even I was able to share plants during this pandemic. It adds to the joy of growing houseplants and gardening in general. The more green in this world, the better off we will all be!