Houseplant Collecting as Self Care
Current events can make life seem a bit stressful and precarious. As I type this, many cities (including Los Angeles) are practicing social distancing and under self-quarantine due to Covid-19. Most of us may be staying in our homes for weeks, if not months. If the idea of isolating yourself from other human contact seems bleak, you're not alone. It's important to try and maintain connection through our digital devices - calling/texting to check up on your friends, livestream a netflix watch party, play games online, etc.
Digital communication only gets us so far, and sometimes what we need is the tranquility that houseplants can provide. Bringing nature indoors has a huge effect our mood and subconscious. Not only do plants filter the air in our homes, they can also bring us normalcy in turbulent times. We are comforted by the process of taking care of other living things.
We all need something to look forward to. In these uncertain times, we can take comfort in the small victories: a new unfurling leaf, a flower about to bloom, or roots emerging from a cutting. Creating a personal plant sanctuary for your well-being doesn't require hundreds of houseplants. It can be a few plants on your window sill or table top; a small corner or shelf. Whatever your space/budget allows, the benefits can be the same.
Having a plant care routine and watering schedule will help you keep track of your calendar and provide a sense of consistency. Don't stress too much about an imperfect leaf or the sight of a pest. Some internet research or asking help from a plant forum can yield solutions. I've personally tried several different ways to battle mealy bugs in the past, and finally have them under control after 3 tries. The experience taught me a lot of patience and persistence, and it was ultimately rewarding to see my plant thrive again.
It's important to know when a plant is worth saving and when it's time to let go. Remember that plants are supposed to be a relaxing hobby. If a problematic plant is causing you too much anxiety and stress, perhaps it's time to let it go. There's no shame in knowing your limits and even the best plant parents have killed or tossed plants.
Collecting houseplants require a certain amount of time and patience. If you start off with a small cutting or baby plant, don't get discouraged. Stop comparing your plant to the "perfect" looking large specimens on Instagram (remember that those plants also started small). You should be growing your plants for yourself, not for anyone else.
The plant community is large and welcoming. There are lots of opportunities to build your collection. Supporting small and local nurseries should come first (in LA there's Mickey's Plants, Folia Collective, Sunset Nursery, etc.), but some plants are difficult to find. There will always be online shops and auction sites that carry rare plants at premium prices, but plant swaps are a great way to collect hard-to-find plants. Many shops will host in-person plant swaps, and there are even mail swaps (just make sure to find a trust-worthy plant swapper). I was able to connect with other plant enthusiasts through Instagram and Facebook. There are Facebook groups such as the International Aroid Society with many helpful members.
As you start to make new friends in your plant journey, one way to share your plants is by propagating them. The most popular way is through cuttings, and it's a cheap way to trade for another plant you don't have! Spring is here and now is the perfect time to start propagating. When we all emerge from isolation, we can look forward to sharing them with friends once more.