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The problem with plants is that one is never enough. Once you’ve got one, it suddenly looks lonely without a partner, so you add a second to the collection. Next you notice the bedroom sure looks nice with those leafy green things. Maybe you should add ’em to the living room, too? And the kitchen! You could grow some basil in there, pick it fresh for your meals. And then there’s the outside; you’ve gotta spruce up the front door and balcony with colorful flowers. Greet visitors the right way and all. Sooner or later you start to think, houseplants are pretty great.

Who’d have thought a jungle of houseplants could be so captivating? Why do they have this positive impact on our well-being and health?

For starters the air in your home is cleaner, purified by the plants inside. That’s no hyperbole; NASA performed a study back in ’89, and their findings suggest houseplants contribute to a cleaner, healthier indoor space. Plenty of evidence has been compiled to also suggest that keeping plants nearby and in our homes boosts mental and emotional health, too. Sources cite multiple reasons why houseplants have this effect but it’s very much up in the air. It’s funny to me that studies cite unique causes and correlations, just like every plant nut has their own unique reasoning for loving plants.

Me? I like plants for a million reasons, but I love them because they’re simple and fair to tend for and care. Give them some water, some light, and a bigger home every couple of years and in return you’re given purified air and a healthier indoor environment. Fair deal, right there. They don’t require much attention, just a few minutes. On top of that I have nothing but affection for the relationship between plant and person.

Working with houseplants develops and refines patience and understanding by necessitating mindfulness. Keeping a schedule of when to water your peace lily sounds like a good idea, except when you realize the plant does not drink on a set schedule. It needs water when it needs water. Give it too much and it’ll die, not enough and it’ll die. The only way to truly care for a plant is to get to know it, and that demands mindfulness. It seems like a chore at first, but it’s not so bad.

Checking the soil for moisture takes a few minutes a week, tops. You literally pop your finger into the top layer of soil; if it’s dry, you give it a drink; if it’s damp, you don’t. Before long you’ll start checking the leaves, too, to check its health. You’ve been putting time and effort into that bad boy, don’t want it to die from a preventable problem, right? After a few weeks you’ll say to yourself, “Damn, that sucker’s really growing!” and it is, it really is, because you put your time, effort, and (I dare say) a bit of love into it.

And then you’ll get a second, a third, a tenth. You’ll take cuttings, buy a bag of potting soil and some empty pots and start your own. Your home starts to feel alive and lived in, and your guests and visitors will remark how nice it is to see plants growing, even if they keep the thoughts to themselves. Even if a date doesn’t care for houseplants much, they’ll find it appealing to see that you’re capable of taking care of something beyond yourself.

That’s a damn-fine quality to have.

Head on out and pick up a houseplant. Go on, it’s alright. You can buy one at any of the Big Box stores, but help out a local business and buy from a smaller company, if you can. For less than $20 you can start growing your very own houseplant. If you’re afraid of killing it early, pick up a spider plant, snake plant, dracena, or pathos. They’re cheap and hardy and look as nice as anything else. Feeling up to more of a challenge? African violets, peace lilies, and palm trees require a bit more attention than the others, but they’re showier for that added effort.

Give it a shot. You’ve got nothing to lose (save that $20) and so much to gain. If you’re on the fence about it send me a message or leave a comment and we’ll figure it out together. Maybe it’s a gift for Valentine’s Day? Ever hear the phrase, “If you pick a flower it’ll only last an hour”? That’s true, so why not purchase a couple of flowers that keep on blooming, something like African violets or gerber daisies? They’re all suitable houseplants and will perk up just about any place they go.

Give it a go and let me know how it goes.

Matt Suwak
About the Author

Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in bird watching and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works during the day as a landscaper and gardener, and by night a freelance writer. He can throw a football ten miles from a stationary position and has grappled mountain lions and lived to tell about it. The lions cannot say the same.

His other writing can be found at www.heyplantguy.com

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