“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy plants and that’s pretty much the same thing.” —Anonymous
I was pleasantly surprised that my Monstera plant had sprouted a new leaf. When I got my highly anticipated Monstera plant (Jordan’s Jungle had been sold out earlier in the pandemic), none of the leaves had those beautiful, classic splits yet. I looked forward to checking in on this new little uncurling and unraveling leaf after work. When it finally opened, it had splits! What an encouragement that was to my soul! With all of the hours spent working, it’s encouraging to know that my plants are still growing and thriving despite me not being able to be the perfect plant mom. It’s delightful to check in on my plants and to notice new growth. On rotations when I especially feel like I’m not home enough, new plant growth reminds me that as they are growing—I am too. I am growing in my medical knowledge, in my interpersonal skills, in my faith, and into the physician that I hoped to be to serve others. And as I’m misting my plants or spoiling them with a fancy new red-blue grow light, I’m caring for myself too.
I currently have a propagation station going on in a corner of my living room. Propagation is when you trim off the stem of a living plant and grow a new plant from that. Propagation is easy! There are 3 types of propagation: cuttings, offsets, and division. The most common one is cuttings, where you trim off a plant just distal to one of the leaves, stick the stem in water (making sure that at least one node is under water), and let it grow roots, after which you can plant it. This is incredibly easy, as you can see in the photos below with my Tradescantia Nanouk, monstera vine, and polka dot begonia. When you propagate by offsets, you are cutting or breaking off part of the plant and just sticking straight in the soil. That’s how I got my lovely cactus here (a propagation gift from a friend). Lastly, there is division propagation, which is what I did here with my Stromanthe ‘Triostar.’ In this type of propagation, you can see where the plant naturally grows in divisions. You uproot the plant, take a pair of scissors, and cut along that division all the way along to the root. Then you can replant both in separate pots. One more life hack is that you can propagate herbs that you buy from the store! We buy Thai Basil from our favorite Asian grocery store Good Fortune; it stays fresher for longer when you stick it in a bucket of water, but sometimes it grows roots and you can plant it. Plants are amazing things; I love their Harry-Potter-like names, their beautiful colors and liveliness that they bring to my living space, and their versatility and ability to keep growing.
My smallest plant is a friendship plant. It started out with just two leaves, but it’s growing: now ten leaves and counting. Its growth wasn’t immediate. I first kept it on our coffee table, where it quietly sat for weeks without changing. I realized it needed more sunlight, that I needed to find a place that suited it and not necessarily a place that suited me. And now, near a sunny window, it’s bigger every week.
Apart from its growth, I marvel at this little plant’s vitality. I enjoy watching it move, bending ever so slightly as the sun moves westward in the afternoons. Sometimes its crown bows, patiently reminding me to give it a drink. And the soil, now a shade lighter and less dense than it was just a few months ago, reminds me that the roots are active too. I know it will be ready for a bigger pot in the spring.
Sitting at the edge of a table by our living room window, my growing friendship plant is surrounded by other plants: a leafy bamboo given to us by our friend Mayra, a terracotta bowl of succulents from Hernan, a spider plant cutting from Chelsea. I like having a visible reminder of these friends here at home with me, aware that our connection changes slowly over time just like the plants’ growth. I think about each person as I tend to the plants, smiling as I remember that Chelsea’s birthday is coming up.
There are many reasons why houseplants are fantastic for self-care. Here are a few houseplant pearls:
- Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress and improve attention spans
- Greater levels of exposure to natural elements including indoor plants is associated with lower depressed mood, higher job satisfaction, and stronger commitment to organization
- Many common houseplants appear to remove toxins from the air, possibly as much as 90% in just 24 hours
- Using plants in interior spaces may decrease the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats, and dry coughs, and even appears to enhance health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery