5 Surprising Benefits of Growing Plants🪴: My Plant Journey
Updated: Apr 16
My First Plant
In my freshman year, I bought a small cactus with a red head. It was the first plant I ever bought. I forgot to water it, and it quickly withered away. I came to the conclusion that I'm just bad at caring for plants.
My First Pilea
Fast forward to 9 years later. One day, I stumbled across the Pilea peperomiodes (aka "Chinese Money Plant", "UFO Plant" or "Friendship Plant"). Its adorable pan-cake-shaped foliage immediately drew my attention. I was fascinated by nature's ability to produce such perfect shapes! It also went well with our home's minimalist modern design. Then I noticed it everywhere: restaurants, stores, online...
I couldn't resist it any longer and decided to buy one online. However, when I opened it from the box, it was already wilting and leggy! The poor pilea must have been searching for the light in the box for quite some time...
(Photo of my second-oldest pilea baby, who is now an adult.)
I was worried about my pilea because I'd had bad success with plants in the past. I was particularly concerned because pilea required bright light, and all of our windows faced north.
So I headed to a nearby plant shop for some professional advice.
After hearing my concern, the store owner (a plant expert) told me that the direction your window faces does not necessarily determine the level of brightness. He explained that you could have a south-facing window directly next to a tall building that blocks all the light, resulting in a low light situation; similarly, you could have a north-facing window that gets medium to bright light if it is not blocked by anything.
I was fortunate that our lighting situation was the latter: even though the windows faced north, we were on the fourth story and there was no building in front of us, so there was plenty of bright indirect light! He also kindly demonstrated how to water the pileas using the bottom-watering technique, soaking the bottom of the pot into water to allow the soil to soak up water into its roots from the drainage holes.
I got some confidence after speaking with the plant expert. I placed my pilea in front of our home's brightest spot, directly next to the north-facing window in our living room. I only watered it when the soil was completely dry, rotated it every few days to keep it from becoming lopsided (since it grows towards the light), and observed how each leaf magically unfolded day by day...
After all the love and care I gave it, my pilea not only survived, it thrived!
In the first year, it doubled in size and produced 5 baby pileas! The two eldest children of the mother pilea now grew to the same size as their mother pilea when I first got it! This year, another 5 pups are popping out of its stem!
(Photo of my eldest pilea pup, now looking like an adult.)
Given my success with pileas over the last two years, I've begun to expand my plant collection and have become increasingly passionate (obsessed) with them! Every time I get a new plant, I take the time to learn about its needs by reading articles online and watching YouTube videos, and I figure out where to best position it around the house so that it is the happiest.
Over the past 2 years, my plants have not only contributed to cleaner air, beautified my space but also had the unexpected effect of improving my mental, physical and social well-being! I've also learnt a ton from them (I will be sharing more in a future article!).
Five Ways Growing Plants Have Improved My Well-being:
1. Promote Mindfulness, Calmness & Meaningfulness
Observing the plant's color, texture, and how it has changed since the previous day allows me to concentrate on the present and forget about my problems: A fresh leaf has appeared! What's the deal with the dark spot on that leaf? Ah, the sun must have burned it; let's relocate it to a north-facing window with no direct sunlight! Oh, that leaf is wilting; it's time to cut it off!
Simply looking at my plants immediately calms me down. Thinking about the first time I bought it home, all the times I've watered it, re-potted it, and watched it grow makes me feel particularly connected to it!
2. Motivate Me to Get Up In the Morning
Because I want my plants to have the most possible exposure to sunshine throughout the day, I always jump out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off to open the blinds for them!
3. Gave Me a Sense of Accomplishment
I'm someone who thrives on feelings of achievement. Growing plants as a hobby has made me feel very accomplished! I enjoy watching my plants thrive under my care every day. It makes me proud to think that they are here because of me!
4. Encourages Me to Move Around
Before having plants, I used to be someone who can be stuck in front my computer for 3 hours straight. No wonder I constantly suffered from neck, shoulder and wrist pain!
Nowadays, working from home with my plants around me, I have motivation to get up and take a break now and then to just walk around to see how each of my plants are doing.
I especially love to "pet" my pileas (my favorite plant!) by tapping each leaf and counting the leaves to track progress of their growth. They are adorable when they bounce as I pat them!
5. Nurture My Relationships
I've recently begun to exchange plants with my friends. It is my way for me to show my friends love and nurture my relationships. In return, my plant-loving friends have shared their baby plants with me!
Growing a healthy plant, like painting, takes a lot of time and care. So receiving a plant that my friends grew is always a very special and meaningful present to me! Every time I see a friend's plant, I think of them and feel connected with them in a special way!
So now that you heard about all the amazing benefits plants can have on your well-being, do you also want to try it out for yourself?
Here are some tips and resources to get started!
A Few Tips on How to Get Started
1. Pick a Plant that Sparks Joy Every-Time You See It!
Choosing a plant you love will ignite your curiosity and motivate you to learn more about plant care, which will increase the chances of success, and this will then boost your confidence for growing more plants! And so your plant journey begins! :)
2. Understand the Needs of the Plant & Your Space
Once you picked a plant you like, research how much light (low/medium/bright, indirect or direct sunlight), water, temperature and humidity level it requires. Then assess whether your space can accommodate such conditions.
For example, for plants like Pilea peperomiodes (aka "Chinese Money Plant", "UFO Plant" or "Friendship Plant") that require indirect bright light, the best is to put it in a north-facing window where it will get plenty of indirect light but no direct sunlight that can burn its leaves!
For a plant like the polka dot plant, it prefers bright or medium-light spot, and can tolerate some direct sunlight, so it is perfectly fine to place it by an east-facing window.
For a plant like the Calathea Ornata (aka "Pin-Stripe Plant") that thrives under high humidity conditions, you may want to put it in your bathroom, get humidifier and/or put it on a pebble tray filled with water.
Also highly recommend checking out these amazing videos on plant care pro-tips for beginners:
Happy planting!!! :)
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