On more than one occasion, friends have asked me if my plants have been christened with names. For the most part, I have not gone to the trouble to name all of my plants, mainly because I personally feel that it is unnecessary and silly for me to do so. I’m not knocking anyone who chooses to name all their plants, but the desire is, for the most part, absent in me.
So how do I discern between the close to 150 indoor plants which surround me at home? I tend to use certain descriptors when I scribble my plant watering notes each week (yes, I keep track of which plants get watered in a given week), and those descriptors are pretty straight forward. Usually, I will use the species name as a label, and if I have numerous specimens, I will write down the location of the plant. For example, I have two Hoya shepherdii, both of which are suspended over the two sinks in my master bath, so I refer to the one as “L shepherdii” and the other as “R shepherdii”. I realize these labels aren’t exciting, but they are effective in helping me to keep track of my plants when I am watering them.
However, there are three plants with bona fide names which I bestowed upon them, one of which was named the day I received it, one which was christened with a name about a month after it joined the plant brood, and one which earned its name after it exhibited an astonishing rate of growth. While two of the names are quite fitting for the characteristics the two plant babies possess, one name is reflective of the species of the plant, and quite honestly reveals how lazy I was about using a lengthy German name when I could truncate it and use a fun name.
Sid: Sid is a Ferocactus emoryi, “Emory’s barrel cactus”
My dear friend Blanche was at my house when I received Sid in the mail as a freebie which arrived along with a much-coveted monkey cactus I had ordered. As soon as I saw this spiky cactus, a name just popped into my head, and I exclaimed to Blanche, “For some reason, I really feel like this little guy needs a name!”, to which Blanche responded with, “I do too, and I’m thinking of a name too! If you say the same name I’m thinking of, I’ll freak!” The name which had popped into my head was Sid Vicious, so I revealed this to Blanche, who immediately squealed and said, “That’s the EXACT name I thought of too!” Later that day, I ordered a Sex Pistols mug to house the Emory’s barrel cactus.
Fred: Monstera adansonii ‘Friedrichsthalii’
This Monstera adansonii Friedrichsthalii very quickly became “Fred” after I needed to find a way to distinguish it from my other Monstera adansonii.
Rapunzel: Senecio radicans “String of Bananas”
This Senecio radicans was quite short when I bought it in June of last year, and it struggled for about two months before I changed its hang spot to an area right near a bathroom window, and essentially let it dry out completely between waterings. From that point, this plant just took off, and got so incredibly lacy and long that I decided it deserved the name Rapunzel. The longest tendril on this plant was measured on April 23rd at 46 inches from the edge of the pot to the end, which is three inches longer than it was a month prior. This radicans has aptly earned its descriptive and accurate name.
For comparison, the plant pictured above is another Senecio radicans which I purchased in January of this year. Both the radicans which I purchased in January and Rapunzel were at the level which you see marked in yellow when I brought them into my home. I look forward to seeing Rapunzel’s sister grow as long as Rapunzel.
Since plant people are increasingly more committed to their plants, often considering them to be pets or family members, it’s no surprise that more people are naming their houseplants. I like Nicoletta Richardson’s idea of naming plants after travel destinations from her bucket list, but for me, and if I had the energy to put into naming ALL of my plants, I could definitely see myself becoming a copycat and doing the very same thing. But I’d rather stick with the assigned scientific nomenclature because it appeals strongly to my scientific nerdiness, as well as to my propensity for properly classifying and labeling things.
The year 2020 seemed to blow the lid off plant addiction and hoarding. More people than ever before have developed an obsession for houseplants, which makes sense since we have all pretty much been going stir crazy since the beginning of COVID-19 and lockdown. It makes sense that we all turned to these beautiful, air-purifying, living things to enhance our home spaces and give us something to focus on besides our troubles.
There is a fascinating psychology behind collecting plants which differs from accumulation of inanimate collectible items. Houseplants can have an incredibly calming, stress-reducing effect on us, and they also nicely soften the look and feel of home environments while also cleaning the air. In addition, the rewards of watching a plant thriving under one’s care are considerable. I know that every time one of my plants pushes out new growth, I get almost giddy with excitement.
To be honest, I don’t even remember precisely how last year’s plant obsession really started. I remember seeing and ordering two Epipremnum cebu blues on May 27th, and two Zamioculcas zamiifolia ravens on Etsy on May 31st, two weeks after my father’s passing. After that, it’s kind of a green blur. My indoor plant count is now at 140. That’s enough for me, because I have run out of reasonable space.
I think my dad’s death, the lockdown and hysteria surrounding COVID, my two roommates suddenly bailing on me, the loss of work, the fact that my weekly in-person visits with my mom were halted for six months, all pushed me into a very specific nesting mode. I wanted to spruce up my place, and make it cozy and cool. I added an outdoor fountain which immediately attracted mosquitoes during the warmer months (lesson learned, but I still have the fountain). I added comfy pillows to all the seating in my living room and den, imparting a Bohemian vibe which I really enjoy.
After lockdown began, I had no desire to hoard things like clothing or little knick-knacks, though I know other people who began accumulating such items. Instead, I wanted all the plants which caught my eye, living things I could nurture and watch grow, which also helped to melt away my stress. Though I am not one of those people who talks to their plants or names them (a select few have names…more on this in another post), I am aware of every single plant in my home. I know if a leaf is turning yellow, if a specimen needs to be rotated to get more even sun exposure.
So how many plants would be considered overkill? Though I think the answer is quite subjective, there is an interesting Australian article which analyzes the optimal number of plants one should have in a room:
Plants not only clean the air, they have a relaxing and calming effect on humans, so why have a limit on the number of plants to pack into a space? My personal take on this is that I think it’s a mistake to allow one’s plant collection to overtake essential areas in a home, such as a kitchen counter, coffee table, floor space in a shower, stairs, and doorways, with the last two creating hazards since they would impede a speedy exit if a natural disaster were to occur. It’s also a bad idea to put plants in spots where they clearly wouldn’t survive, such as a very dark room with no grow lights added.
I have my plants placed so strategically in my home that no one ever guesses that I have 140 indoor plants. Although I fully address the light and humidity needs of all my plants, I also make sure they harmonize with the space they are in and look like they belong where they are. I will never be one to buy a massive shelving unit or glass cabinet in which to shove my plants, because I think it looks supremely unattractive, and also ironically doesn’t showcase the plants optimally. Whenever I see a plant person with a large shelving unit which is littered with plants, I know that the plant person is the only one who can fully appreciate all the specimens on the shelves, because they all tend to get lost in one big jumble.
I’ve heard some criticism from a couple of close friends about my plant collection, but I know that they don’t have the same mindset that someone who is into plants would have, so I’m not bothered by the snide remarks. Ultimately, what matters is how a plant person feels about their plant collection.
Here is the first houseplant video tour I shot, which I did last month. My indoor plant count was over 120, and now (I am writing this on March 23rd), I have exactly 140 indoor plants. Believe it or not (and many of my friends won’t believe me when I say this), I am for the most part done with searching for plants to add to my collection. As I ventured into more exotic, rare, and challenging plant species, and acquired the varieties which were on my wishlist, I felt that I could finally focus on admiring what I had instead of getting myself into trouble and looking for more plants.
Besides, I am out of room. I bet there are plant people reading that last sentence who are saying, “Nonsense! Just make room! Take over your bookcases! Take over your counters!” I simply can’t do that, because I have this strange built-in aversion to having anything encroaching upon functional areas of my living space. I have a kitchen counter which I would like to keep using (but check out what I did with my kitchen counter to accommodate plants), I have a desk which needs to remain functional, and I have no intention of getting rid of my beloved books to make room for green things.
If someone had told me at the end of 2019 that in 2020, I would surpass the level of plant of obsession I experienced in 2000-2002, I would have argued that it would never happen. Yet here I am, with over 100 indoor plants (119 at the time of writing this post, to be exact), still thinking about the next plant I intend to add to my wishlist. I am in good company too, because there is massive and ever growing community of plant fanatics which is knit together by countless social media plant influencers, Facebook groups, and online plant shops. As long as we continue to be sequestered in our homes and encouraged to continue to practice social distancing, the frenzy over hoarding plants is likely to intensify.
Plant people create plant communities inside their homes which serve as therapy and great comfort during the lockdown and social turmoil which has us roiled. There are times when I will walk around my home, surveying the lush environment I have created, noting the character of each plant, and I honestly appreciate them all. Then there’s the anticipation of ordering a plant online, which is akin to meeting a new potential love interest. I can honestly say that I have become giddy after finding a coveted plant and ordering it. And when a plant arrives in the mail, I want to open the parcel immediately, not only because I am concerned for the living thing inside the box, but I simply can’t wait to feast my eyes on the new addition to my plant collection.
Now that I am a “plant person” once again, I have picked up a tremendous amount of knowledge of nomenclature and plant care. I have encountered a number of other plant people who could definitely be accused of being plant snobs, using terms like “etiolated” or “pubescent leaves”, and showing disgust when someone doesn’t know what they are talking about. For the most part, though, plant people tend to be very positive, caring, and friendly.
For those of you who have plants in your home, have you noticed that your plants don’t look as healthy after you return home from a trip? I have consistently noticed in the past year that whenever I go on a trip, at least one of my plants is drooping, exhibiting brown leaf edges, or some other sign of less than optimal health. I didn’t mind it quite as much last winter, when I only had six plants inside my residence, but by my second out of town trip in September, I had over 30 plants, and wasn’t very pleased by the fact that I came home to see half a dozen droopy, sad plants. Four of my plants swung back to perfect health within three days, while two of them ended up in the houseplant graveyard. Thing is, I was only gone for four days, and I returned the day before my regular weekly plant watering day.
Then in November, I made another four-day trip, and by that time I had over 50 plants. I scheduled my trip so that I would once again return home the day before my weekly plant watering/assessment day, yet I once again returned to a number of plants which were not looking very happy. I’m thankful that they bounced back to health, but I still can’t figure out why this keeps happening.
I only devote one hour, one day per week, to assess the watering needs of my plants, water the ones which need a drink, spray orchid plant food on all my Hoyas (Hoyas love it), and rotate the pots by 90 degrees clockwise. I don’t fuss over my plants daily like some people do, not because I don’t care about my plants, but because my plate is always so full that I avoid plants which are fussy and require that type of attention.
Now that my indoor plant collection exceeds 100, I truly wonder what would happen if I were to take a short trip out of town. And though plants don’t have feelings per se, why is it that my plants are so much healthier and perkier when I spend more time at home? As weird as this may sound, I’m almost convinced that plants pick up on our energies, and since I admire my now sizeable plant collection and appreciate every single specimen, I believe my plants sense that. I know that in general, I have a very green thumb, and had discovered that talent about a quarter century ago, but my recent foray back into houseplant cultivation somehow seems different. I feel much more connected to the plants in my home, and though I don’t talk to them, simply looking at them makes me happy. I think they know how I feel.
I read this comment on a blog post about plants on The Smiling Gardener which I found quite interesting:
Feel free to check out the links below, both of which explore the idea of whether plants have feelings. At the very least, there is scientific evidence that plants send chemical signals to each other through the air or soil. Could my plants be chatting it up about how groovy my home is, how the humidity and the grow lights and natural light are (hopefully) just right?
There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the idea of having plants in the bedroom. Feng shui experts generally discourage the use of plants in the same room in which you sleep, since plants carry wood energy, a yang energy which may disrupt the sleep patterns of those who experience difficulties with slumber. Ironically, it is considered healing to have a view of plants and nature from a bedroom window. Just don’t bring those plants indoors and you’ll be fine.
Another concern with bringing greenery into the bedroom is that since plants need to be watered, they also bring in water energy, which is considered bad feng shui for bedrooms. Water energy clashes with fire energy, which brings in passion. Even paintings or photos which depict water scenes are considered a no-no for the boudoir, so I might need to remove three framed photographs from my bedroom which feature water!
Lastly, most plants release carbon dioxide after dark, which may increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood to very high levels, which then increases your breathing rate to bring in more oxygen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly feel comfortable knowing that plants in my bedroom might rob me of optimal sleep.
If you are really intent on bringing one or more live houseplants into your bedroom, make sure the room is large enough to offset the buildup of carbon dioxide, or choose plants which actually absorb carbon dioxide at night, including spider plants and orchids. Bring in only one plant in at a time so that you can determine whether the new additions have any negative effect on your sleep. I avoid any issues with houseplants in my bedroom by keeping them out entirely. There are plants in my master bathroom which is attached to my bedroom, but they are far enough from my bed, and I haven’t noticed any disruptions since adding the greenery in 2020.