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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

No green thumb required for these beneficial plants

Sep 27, 2021 12:20PM ● By Colleen Mock
Three green easy indoor plants, or plants of steel

Easy indoor plants offer physical and mental health benefits

When the pandemic caused people to spend more time at home, turning an indoor space into an area dedicated to plant life brought many a sense of relief. Besides the benefit of making an indoor space more aesthetically pleasing, there are other perks to taking up plants as a hobby. 

Plants of steel

Indoor plants improve air quality, reduce allergens and minimize stress by providing a warmer and more inviting environment. Many also consider plant care (repotting, watering, fertilizing and pruning) soothing. 

Taking care of living plants can reduce stress more than having artificial plants. Although the thought of keeping a plant alive and well may be overwhelming to some, there are ways to ensure that all are able to benefit from living houseplants.

If you’re prone to overwatering, consider trying water-based plants such as a Marimo moss ball or propagating a pothos plant in water. With water propagations, you can view two areas of plant growth simultaneously. While in the water, the plant will begin to develop visible roots and eventually new leaf growth. 

Once the roots are longer and more established, you can move the plant into soil, or keep the plant in the water where it will continue to grow and, depending on the type of plant, even bloom!

If you’re prone to underwatering your plant, consider trying a “plant of steel.” The nickname applies to plants that are drought resilient, do not require direct sun, and are very difficult to kill. Such plants include snake plants and ZZ plants because they can sustain more neglect than the average plant.

Talking to plants

The skills developed and used for caring for plants may also help improve one’s interpersonal communication. For instance, new plant owners may feel as though they’re having to guess what’s wrong with a plant. Like infants, plants can’t verbalize their needs to their caretakers. However, over time, people can begin to understand a plant and its needs based off of its limited communication style. 

For example, a common indication that a plant is in distress is yellowing and floppy leaves. This can be a sign of either too much or too little water. Your next step would be to check the soil and identify if a change in the watering routine is needed based on how dry or wet it is. 

Although the plant didn’t suddenly begin to verbalize its needs, you were able to identify and listen to the needs of the plant based off of the communication it provided. Learning how to identify and remedy a plant in distress requires observation, interpretation and a response to the needs being expressed, even if the communication is not always easily understood. 

Plant keeping may also increase your attention to your surroundings. You may find you notice plants more when you’re out and about. The plant at the doctor’s office that you ignored for years may now suddenly be of great interest to you. This spark of curiosity and attention to detail is beneficial to all, but especially older adults.

A beneficial hobby

The cultivation of plants is a relatively easy hobby for all, but especially for those who may have limited mobility or indoor living space. Caring for plants may also foster friendships with other plant enthusiasts. Community plant swaps are common, or could easily be coordinated within an assisted living facility or neighborhood. 

Regularly caring for a plant may also help develop a more meaningful daily routine, especially in times of isolation. If it isn’t possible for residents at a long-term care facility to keep plants in their rooms, facilities may consider adding plants to common areas and assigning residents to care for the plants. Having residents take part in the upkeep of their community may help them develop a sense of purpose. 

Colleen Mock is a clinical psychology doctoral student at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and a psychology trainee at the UCCS Aging Center. Colleen is an avid plant enthusiast and comes from many generations of gardeners. Email her at [email protected] or call 719-255-8002.