Tend to Your Garden: Our resident plant lover draws parallels between plant care and self care

Six months ago, I started taking care of indoor plants for my mental health, only to discover it quickly began to hurt me. I was enamored with each new growth, new species and new green goddess that erupted from the soil. I started buying more and more plants. In six months, I went from three plants to 90-plus, some of which were expensive and rare species. These 90 plants also brought with them 90 potentials for mental disaster. With each yellow leaf, spider mite, moldy dirt pile, mealy bug, mushed succulent and fungus gnat, my spirits worsened.

Plant people, I know you have been there. These beautiful beauties that began with such hope left me full of despair. Every failure hurt my soul. But from it, I grew. And over time, I learned to accept a few rules for my plants and for myself.

1) You CAN care too much. Overwatering and overpotting happen. Sit back a little and watch. Be patient with your plants and yourself. Live in the present.

2) New and different do not equal happiness. Some of my favorite plants are run-of-the-mill pothos. Get something because it inspires joy, not because you’ve developed plant envy. That’s a sure way to get stuck with plants you end up despising, or as I call them “future compost.”

3) It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t need a million plants. We plant lovers all want to live in a jungle of our own making. Before you go for that, make sure you’re tending to your own garden. Did you drink enough water? Did you eat a healthy meal? Did you take time to grow?  

4) You have not failed if your plant dies, your kid rips off every petal or the cat pees on the soil. So what?! Cry a tear or two if you need to, but keep in mind that you are learning. Sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something. 

5) We’re all in this together. There is a beautiful network of people to go to for advice. Facebook is full of plant friendly groups, the National Gardening Association has a forum for help, and there is a plethora of articles available online about each species. You are not alone. There is always a trellis to support you.

6) Knowledge is power. Pick a few plants at a time. I’d say at max three. Learn them, name them if you want and make sure you’re able to fully give them what they need before moving on to more.

I hope these rules help people struggling with plants, obsessed over plants in an unhealthy way or beating themselves up for not being good enough, in general. You are not alone. Keep reaching for light.