Six life lessons from plants

Right before Christmas 2017, I started a new job in the marketing department at a greenhouse. Aside from an aloe plant and a snake plant that magically stayed alive through several moves and years of neglect at my mother’s house, I really wasn’t super experienced with plants. A boss once gave me potted purple shamrocks on Saint Patrick’s Day and I kept those alive pretty well, but I’d never been a “plant person.”

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Whoa, buddy. I am a certified card-carrying plant lady now. My new home is full of life, through colorful decorations and windowsills covered in potted plants. Yeah, I’ve lost a few. My Instagram feed will show you the “Plambulance” I made to quarantine the plants I accidentally baked in my car (rest in peace, ALL OF THEM). I keep overwatering succulents despite trying so so so hard to not do that. But I’ve found I have really good luck with foliage so I’m just a viney, leafy, tree-y person now.

My wardrobe consists mostly of floral patterns, and I rock about four different floral patterned bags on a daily basis (purse, backpack for work, lunch bag, gym bag). It’s pretty serious. The more I get to know plants, the more I love them and have learned to enjoy quiet time pruning, watering, and (yes, of course) talking to them. Mama’s little babies. Yes they are.

Here are six things I’ve learned about life through caring for my plants:

  1. Grow toward the sun: Some plants will start to bend and bow in search of more light. Do this. What gives you life, what feeds you emotionally? Bend toward it. Grow toward it.
  2. Prune old growth: Each leaf is beautiful and amazing as it grows, but sometimes (through lack of care or maybe just age and growing up), the leaf dies. Or the vine gets leggy. Or the stem stretches, or you get a pest, or whatever. You can’t sit there staring at your Fiddle Leaf Fig being sad you dropped a leaf – prune it off and grow what’s healthy.
  3. Hydrate: Go drink some water. Yes, right now. Unless you are a succulent.
  4. Speak softly: You know those social media experiments where they tell people to either insult or compliment a plant, and then show that the plant that received compliments and praise grows healthier, while the insulted and sad plant dies? Whether or not those are real, scientifically backed experiments or not, why not talk kindly and gently to yourself, given the choice? I wipe my plants leaves with a damp cloth, point out their new growth like it’s a personal victory, and say nice things to them about how pretty and nice they are. If I can do this to a plant on my windowsill, I should be able to do it to myself. When my flapjack succulent is a little droopy and I say, “Baby, what’s wrong, what do you need?” then I can ask myself the same when I am tired, or sore, or just a little droopy.
  5. Breathe: Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They reduce airborne toxins and fumes. They breathe. All the time. When their leaves are growing, they breathe. If their roots are overwatered and like “Lady wtf, too much water!!!” they breathe. They breathe while stressed. They breathe while growing. They just breathe.
  6. Get dirty: Playing in dirt is great for you. It builds your immune system, it connects you with nature, and it grounds and centers you in the here and now. Don’t be afraid to go get dirty, whether it’s with a potted plant, a garden, or a hike through your local nature trail.
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5 thoughts on “Six life lessons from plants

  1. Cindy says:

    I really loved this — especially grow towards the sun. What a beautiful way to express this thought. Thank you sharing this and for making me laugh about the watering. That is me, 100%. Overwater every. damn. time.

  2. nancy marie allen says:

    A fun blog about the mysteries of plants. A consummate plant lover myself, I tend gardens all spring, summer, and fall, but it isn’t until the winter months when the value of having plants around really sinks in. It’s a bit of a miracle to have beautiful green plants surround us when outside the world is gray and brown. My houseplants truly lift me up and sustain me through the darker months! Pot up and plant on, Caitlin!

      • nancy marie allen says:

        Yes, SAD is something many of us experience during the winter months. I believe surrounding ourselves with growing greenery definitely helps šŸ™‚

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