Houseplant notes – care and mindfulness
What kind of plants will grow in your spaces
If you’re not sure, send the GardenAdvice team a photo of the area and we can suggest some plants.
Plants require different growing conditions so it’s important to know what type of conditions you have. Every position or room in your house or office has a suitable house plant.
- Humid bathroom
- Dark corner
- Sunny living room
How often do you need to water your plants
Plants require different levels of moisture, succulents for example with their juicy leaves require very little water, Peace lilies on the other hand are very thirsty and will wilt if not given enough water but they can recover very quickly. Often the key is an even water supply. Using Terracotta pots is an excellent way to achieve this, they soak up the water and release it over a couple of days.
How much light does your plant need
If your houseplant is sitting in direct sunlight or a dark corner, plants have different requirements for light and some can be more tolerant of darker positions than others, learning where your plant grows naturally will help you find the right position in your home.
House plants ideally need an environment that is constant, a plant on a windowsill above a radiator can struggle during the winter with the constant changing temperature. An environment that is too hot or too cold will also affect plants
Your plants need to be in a nice well ventilated space but without cold drafts, smoke and air pollution will affect the plant over time
Plants need feeding to help keep plants healthy. Different plants need different types of feeds. A good plant food to start with is liquid tomato feed which contains lots of potash.
Peat based composts are not good for the environment and commercial environmental composts tend to contain heavy metals which are not good for you or your plants. We recommend using a soil based compost called John Innes normally number 1 or 2.
Plants need friends and family
Plants grow better in groups they communicate, swap notes and support each other with nutrients and water. The key to all this is to develop mycorrhizal fungi within the compost which forms a network for the plants to make use of. This relationship between plants and fungi is symbiotic.
So growing plants together in a larger container is a good idea.
Using houseplants to develop your mindfulness
Caring for your houseplants provides the perfect focus for people to develop a habit of setting aside time to care for houseplants involving the discipline and habits of mindfulness.
House plant care mindfulness, variable heart rate and an apple watch
Caring for your house plant and your health a very simple guide
- Caring for your plants should put you in a focused state. When watering and cleaning your house plants it’s hard to think of anything else and that’s mindfulness.
- With an Apple watch and Iphone if it works you should be able to see the effects of being in a mindfulness state by measuring your variable heart rate if you have a reasonably healthy heart.
- In simple terms when your heart is working or stressed regardless of the number of beats per minute the period between beats is constant. When you are relaxed or in a mindful state regardless of your heart rate the period between your heart beats is variable showing you are relaxed. The variability of heart rate beats differs for every person
Mindfulness: It’s your ability to be present in the moment, aware of where you are, and conscious of the place and thing that you are doing. “Life is available only in the present moment,” says Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and respected writer about mindfulness.
This seems like a simple concept. Except that it’s not. Your phone’s insistent rings, dings, and alerts distract you. There’s work stress, relationship issues, politics—well, you know. So how do you center yourself, quiet your thoughts, breathe deeply, and live in the moment?
How about raising a houseplant
If you keep indoor plants in your home and office, you already know their power. In addition to looking great, they keep you connected to the great green world outside. And they remind you that the world is a place of growth. Plus, there are multiple studies that show that being in proximity to plants reduces stress, increases productivity, and even helps you heal and sleep better.
But what about becoming more mindful
When you are conscious of being in the present, you are more aware and thankful for the things that you have, the life that you lead. If you’ve taken yoga or meditation classes, you know that experiencing the now allows you to replace the stresses of the world with a deeper calm. So how can your houseplants help you be more mindful? Here are 6 ways.
Savor the “Plantness” of Your Houseplants.
Can we learn something from the way plants live? Because what is more “in-the-moment” than a houseplant? Houseplants react calmly and beautifully to their immediate surroundings— sunlight, air, water, temperature—and using those surroundings to thrive and grow. Mindfulness expert Joan D. Stamm (author of Heaven and Earth are Flowers: Reflections of Ikebana and Buddhism) says “We simultaneously contemplate how flowers mirror our own unique and life-affirming essence, and teach us the great lessons of patience, humility, and the beauty inherent in impermanence: cycles of beginning, maturing, ending, transforming.”
Mindfulness exercise: Set aside a time to appreciate your plants. Look at the growth habit and form of your plant—some plants grow up, others cascade down. Appreciate the texture, color, and shape of the leaves. Breathe in the scent of the soil.
Rejoice in New Growth.
What is more positive than the physical manifestation of growth? New leaves sprout, flower shoots emerge, the plant gets taller and wider. When you are mindful of your plant, you’ll discover little changes that let you know that things are going well—your plant is thriving! What an amazing feeling it is to nurture something and have it respond.
Mindful exercise: Look for signs of new growth in your plants once a week; observe how your plant develops new leaves. Each plant has its own artful way of producing new growth. New prayer plant leaves (left) emerge from the stem in a loose roll that elegantly unfurls. Spider plants produce baby plants at the end of long tendrils that can be plucked off and planted.
Did you know that houseplants clean the air? Sitting in the general proximity of houseplants means that you will benefit from their air cleansing talents. A NASA study shows that house plants remove toxins and indoor pollutants, such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia, from the air. NASA’s top air-cleansing picks include these plants.
Mindful exercise: Practice deep-breathing exercises in a room with houseplants.
Engage with Nature.
When you share your living spaces with plants, you bring the beautiful and diverse outside world into your home. You can engage with the glories of nature on a personal level in every room. Plants help remind you of different ecosystems on earth. And thanks to the adaptability of houseplants, you can recreate those environments. In fact, you can create plant groupings that remind you memorable trips and locations: a bowl of cacti or an earth star in gravel (left) evokes a desert landscape, a terrarium of ferns and mosses recalls the soft verdant floor of a forest in the Pacific Northwest, and a hanging tangle of pothos or philodendron feels like a jungle hike in Costa Rica.
Mindful exercise: Research where your plant comes from (for example, Norfolk Island Pines are originally from Norfolk Island, a small island 900 miles east of Brisbane, Australia). Reflect on the journey this plant species has made to share the indoor spaces of your home.
Connect with Another Living Thing.
Being mindful also means embracing relationships to other living things. Maybe you work long hours. Perhaps you travel 5 days a week. Sometimes you aren’t home long enough to own a cat or dog. Or even a goldfish. But that doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with life. A plant isn’t as demanding as a pet. All you must do is fulfill its basic needs (provide the right light and hydration) and you will be rewarded with a beautiful living thing. Adding plants to your living space helps you remember that you are a citizen of the world. Just one species hanging out with another species. It’s a nice feeling to walk into your home and be greeted by the spiky “welcome home” from a snake plant (left) or a “how-was-your-day?” from a majesty palm.
Mindful exercise: Relish the small acts of caring for your plant: watering, feeding, dusting leaves.
Discover Enjoyment in Doing Nothing.
In the teachings of Tao, learning wuwei, or doing nothing, is an important way to achieve a sense of balance. After you have provided everything you need to grow a plant (the right light, fertilizer when needed, water when the soil is dry, humidity if the species requires it), then everything else you do with your plant is the concept of wuwei—doing nothing but allowing the plant to exist, thrive, grow—all without your help.
Mindful exercise: Take a moment every day to slow down and enjoy the moment of having a plant. Then admire your plant’s ability to carry on in the world without your constant assistance.