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.