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Plant Parenting as Plant Therapy

The state of my garden is certainly a reflection of where my mental health is at in that time of my life; recently, I’ve noticed that my garden is flourishing more consistently than before.

I have short, sweet memories of leaning in to smell flowers as a child that end on notes of laughter from my parents and grandparents with tissues in hand, walking over to wipe off yellow pollen smudged on the tip of my nose. For as long as I can remember, interacting with plants has brought me great joy: whether it be touching a fuzzy leaf as I walk by, literally stopping to smell roses, or growing sprouts on my own from seed, I always find something to appreciate. The state of my garden is certainly a reflection of where my mental health is at in that time of my life; recently, I’ve noticed that my garden is flourishing more consistently than before. I think it’s because I’ve taken more time to learn from my plants during this abundance of time at home—here are a few things they’ve taught me.

Spider Plant: You can keep giving—if you have what you need first!

This plant is a monster. If you ever want a resilient plant that refuses to give up, get yourself a spider plant because they are t o u g h. I call mine “Mom” because she CONSTANTLY GIVES OUT BABIES and I really can’t keep up with the sheer volume of spider plant children I’ve accumulated (lmk if you want one or three). But! I can tell that she’s only this happy because she gets a great view of the sky (exposure to direct sunlight varies, but she’s always got indirect sunlight here), has a great diet (mmm, bokashi liquid), and stays hydrated. These things are all important to a human too—no comment on the baby production part but you know what I mean.

Maidenhair Fern: It happens—and you can bounce back when you’re ready.

My maidenhair fern probably hates me… They’ve resurrected themself like four times and we always have these scares in very specific weather: windy, dry days that steal the moisture from their delicate leaves. I should probably know better by now—if this is about to happen, protect the fern!—and the same goes for my own life experiences. Even when I see the signs of something difficult on the horizon, I want to be better about taking care of myself both in crisis and after; for now, at least, I know I’ll be able to build back better when things pass and I have what I need to thrive again.

Fiddle Leaf Fig: Growth must be maintained.

I took this tree home from my grandparents’ house a little over a year and a half ago because I noticed it only ever had like three leaves—after helping my dad repot him with fresh soil and compost, oh my goodness the new growth did not stop coming! My mom named him Mr. Fig and he moved to my new house where I gushed over his new leaves on a daily basis. Come winter, however, Mr. Fig started dropping leaves ): For a bit, I was like hello how could you??? But after a while, I realized I was probably not giving him what he needed to keep up with his new growth. Yes, growth is to be celebrated!—however, growth sometimes requires more energy to be maintained, so it’s important to check in with yourself (or your tree) regularly to see what’s needed at that time.

Of course, gardening and plant parenting aren’t for everyone—however, I still want to advocate for giving yourself time in green spaces because they make such a significant impact on public health! I picked up this tendency to pay close attention to the greenery around me from my grandma and mom, which might be another thing at the back of my mind that helps me feel calm when I spend time with plants: recognizing a flower they taught me about in my childhood calls back those warm memories of pollen smudges, laughter, and a family’s shared love for new growth.

If you’re looking for local nurseries to support in West LA, check out Hashimoto Nursery and Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery on Sawtelle! You’ll usually catch me there grabbing new plants and colorful pots. ☺

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Article featured in this issue:
On Wellness
April 30, 2021

May is mental health month. From therapy to plants and pets, this issue shares the stories, practices, and explores the many forms for being well.

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