I know there must be a whole slew of you who have jumped aboard the plant-obsessed bandwagon, and who treasure your new jungles as much as if they were your children. Trust me, I can relate, though this isn’t the first time in my life that I have gone plant crazy and filled my home with living green things.
The first time I went overboard with buying and maintaining plants was back in 2000, when I amassed a collection of over 70 indoor plants in a 2 bedroom cottage-style apartment, and I loved it. The idea of being surrounded by lush greenery was incredibly appealing, and I was swept off my feet until I went through a divorce which shifted my priorities and pulled me away from my plant hobby.
I took such a sharp about-face that I only had six indoor plants for many, many years, leading into the spring of 2020. Then shortly after lockdown hit, I found myself at a plant nursery in May and purchased three lovely plants. Little did I know that I was about to fall deep into plant obsession. By July, I had over 40 indoor plants, and now, I have about 60 indoor plants. Some were purchased through Etsy, many were purchased from a local supplier (@Brandontheplantguy on IG), and I even bought some from eBay and Amazon.
Though I feel a certain amount of embarrassment over the fact that my home now declares to everyone that I am a crazy plant lady, I take great comfort in knowing that such an obsession is almost trendy these days. The truth is, houseplants are more popular than ever, especially in millennials who are pushing against the idea of having children, and who are instead opting for a collection of Hoya or Senecio plants which will never demand that the plant parent pony up for a college education. That being said, having a plant habit can set one back quite a bit, not only in the cost of the plants, but also the planters, spring water, plant food, insecticides, etc.
Those of you who aren’t captured by the idea of collecting a bunch of potted living things might be scratching your heads and wondering why people have suddenly gone plant crazy. The COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns forced us all to stay at home, which meant that suddenly, our home environments took on a greater significance. This is why there was a surge in home improvement projects which kept the big box home improvement stores packed during a time when many other businesses were floundering. Plants certainly can beautify a home, and they also clean the air, but probably the most compelling feature about houseplants which appeals to most folks is the fact that they are living things, and with a bit of nurturing, they will grow and thrive.
That being said, plants don’t always thrive, and when they start to droop or otherwise show that they aren’t happy, plant owners may find themselves dealing with a lot of frustration. Another thing I have noticed about now being responsible for a brood of 60 indoor plants is that I often get pissy when a plant decides to become finicky. It can make a plant parent downright neurotic to try to determine what a failing plant needs. Maybe there’s too much sunlight and the leaves are getting scorched. Or maybe there isn’t enough sunlight. Could it be that the plant needs more/less humidity? Is the plant getting too much/not enough water? Are there pests on the plant which need to be eradicated? What, what, WHAT does this plant want or need?
Even the task of taking care of the plants which are doing well (thankfully, 99% of my plants are doing extremely well) is a daunting one. The one day per week when I look at all my plants and determine which need to be watered is a day I have begun to dread, because it takes a full hour or more for me to complete the task, all the while lugging jugs of spring water, plant fertilizer, orchid plant food spray, neem oil, my watering can, my plant log, and a stepladder all throughout the second and third floors of my home. It’s exhausting.
I know that plant people can relate to what I am about to say regarding plants which stubbornly refuse to do well despite everything, especially popular plants which are supposedly “easy care” plants. When a plant begins to show that it isn’t happy, I honestly feel like I have failed the plant. I get frustrated and want to figure out the solution to the plant’s woes. If the plant refuses to rebound, and is close to its demise, I adopt a very “fed up” attitude, and will very abruptly dump a plant in the trash or banish it outside. It’s the best way for me to disconnect from that irksome creature and get on with my life.
I now have a trusted list of plants I gravitate towards so that I don’t tear my hair out in frustration. Here are the plants which I truly do enjoy, because they are all doing well in my home:
- all my Zamioculcas zamiifolias (including zenzi, raven)
- all but one of my Hoyas (incuding shepherdii, pubicalyx, retusa, australis, multiflora, tricolor, carnosa compacta, lacunosa, and obovata)
- my Monstera adansoniis
- my Philodendron brasils
- the one Scindapsus pictus which didn’t die
- my Sansevieria starfish
- my Pachira aquatica
- my Beaucarnea recurvata
- my large Senecio rowleyanus, my Senecio herrianus, and my Senecio radicans
In stark contrast, there are plants which I have had little to no success with despite all my efforts. The plants which have stirred up a great deal of frustration include ALL peperomias, n’joy pothos, Tradescantia multiflora (quite possibly the messiest plant ever), Othonna capensis (tried two of these plants and finally gave up), and Begonia maculata. I now avoid those plants in the same way I would avoid a person I didn’t like, and certainly would never welcome them into my home again.
In conclusion, the healthiest way to approach plant ownership is to educate yourself on the particular needs of the plants you have, and if a plant begins to falter, just let it go instead of beating yourself up for not being able to save it. I actually found out that many nurseries will keep stocking certain plants because they know that the plants will be fussy. Since many people are stubborn about trying to succeed in nurturing a plant, they will often purchase the same type of plant repeatedly in hopes of somehow figuring out its needs. I know I did this with Scindapsus, Begonia maculata, Pilea peperomioides, Hoya wayettii, and every time one of these plants would die, I would take the loss personally, as if I was totally responsible. I’ve learned that it is not worth the heartache, not to mention the financial expense, to keep buying those plants.