What Houseplants Can Teach You About Self Care

I mentioned in the last post that I’ve started having fun with houseplants. Which doesn’t really do justice to the kind of enthusiasm I’m feeling for all things green and growing.

I spend a lot of time on Instagram, drooling over pretty pictures and planning what I’m going to try next. I’m taking cuttings and researching propagation techniques. Researching what plants do best with the light conditions in my apartment. Surveying my plants to make sure they’re all surviving (so far, so good!)

One of the points that comes up again and again as the more experienced gardeners give advice to the newbies is to keep checking in with your plants. They advise against watering on  a schedule and suggest instead to check what the soil is doing. Water if it’s dried out, hold back if it’s still moist.

See what the leaves are doing. If they’re turning brown, your plant might be getting too much light. If they’re yellowing and droopy, you should move your friend a little closer to the window.

Things change over time. The plant that needs watering a couple times a week in its growth phase will need less as it goes dormant. As it gets close to being pot-bound, the soil will dry out faster than one that has lots of room for its roots. The humidity and light levels in your home change through the year and that will have an effect on the plant life. So sticking to an arbitrary “on Saturday we water the plants” schedule will lead to a lot of disappointment and failure.

As it happens, I decided with the new year to redouble my efforts at looking after myself. My healthy diet and occasional bouts of yoga have been helping me to get past the inflammatory arthritis. I noticed that this year I can stamp the snow off my boots, something that was impossible last winter. I’m getting better, but I’m not all better and I really, really want to be all better.

So I set a schedule. A list of things I would do every day and a few times a week to move this thing along. Daily meditation and gratitude. Yoga. Gentle exercise as my strength was able. All good things, right?

And I stuck to it for a good three weeks. And then I rebelled. Because that’s what I do.

And I felt bad about myself for not sticking to it, because that’s also what I do.

And then I started reading about how to look after houseplants and I realized.

Self care is lovely and a good thing to do. But if we set up arbitrary schedules for ourselves, we are bound for disappointment and failure.

We need to check our own soil. We need to look at our own leaves and determine what they’re telling us. Because some days our self care will involve doing the yoga and meditating and making gratitude lists. And some days it will look more like long naps and zoning out with Netflix. And too much of either is not going to get us to where we want to be.

It’s a lot more complicated to do it this way. We have to learn to trust our own instincts. To learn to determine when the voice that’s calling for Netflix is the one that will allow us to rest and when it’s the one that just wants to be lazy. When a brisk walk will do us some actual good and when it’s just bullying us into action.

It’s so much easier to believe the experts, to live according to some arbitrary schedule or list of things you must do or avoid.

But we are all of us completely different. And our needs change according to the conditions around us. And we will be much happier and healthier if we accept that and learn to respond to those ever-varying conditions.

I’m learning. Bit by bit, I’m learning.

How about you? Any insights you’d like to share? Because I always love hearing from you!


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1 Response to What Houseplants Can Teach You About Self Care

  1. Anu says:

    What an apt analogy, Barb! You are a wise plantswoman (and wonderful writer).

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