Plant care is self-care

From killing every plant to growing a thriving garden

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

I grew up hearing stories about my mom’s childhood, which she spent on a farm in the Philippines.

She would talk about selling the fruits and vegetables her family grew on that farm. I guess you could say having a green thumb is in my blood.

Despite this lineage, I didn’t have the easiest time on my own plant-growing journey.

When I first moved out, I lived in a basement apartment with little to no sun, and the chances of plants surviving were slim. However, this didn’t stop my friends from giving me three plants as gifts for Christmas.

Plants are a big responsibility. Each one needs the right amount of water, sunlight and sometimes food. These gifts made me want to step up to the plant-parenting plate.

My friends reassured me that the plants would grow in low-light areas and that I wouldn’t have to water them often, because they were all succulents.

I’d had succulents in the past, and they had all died pretty quickly, so I wasn’t sure if I could do it again. But my friends had found ones specifically catered to me, so I felt obliged to try. I didn’t want to let them down.

Having gone from those three plants to 15, I guess I can say that I have some plant care know-how. But I’m not here to brag about my new knowledge (even though I can now successfully identify plants without the tags at the nursery).

Plants unexpectedly gave me a pick-meup during the long pandemic restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

During the first round of restrictions, my whole routine was thrown out the window. With school shutting down, my job canceling shifts and being stuck in a basement apartment for days on end, there was no structure in my life anymore. The only constant I had was feeding my cat breakfast and dinner.

After getting my plants, it was like a new breath of energy surged through me. I got an app on my phone that told me when to water my plants and prompted me to complete progress updates about how they’re doing. Every Saturday, I would go around my apartment and check for pests, new growth and anything out of the ordinary.

My leafy friends gave me a task to look forward to every day – yet another reason to get up instead of mope in bed and let myself slip into a depressive episode.

Taking care of plants has also introduced me to new communities and similar interests. I started following Instagram accounts like @wpgfreeplants that built a close-knit plant community in Winnipeg during the first quarantine. Many people in this community are also interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables, which has made me want to become more sustainable and do the same this upcoming summer.

Growing and caring for plants isn’t the most glamorous self-care routine, but it is fulfilling. So if you’re looking to pick up a new hobby this year why not introduce a little bit of greenery into your life?

Kim Uduman is finishing up her bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications at the University of Winnipeg. In her downtime, she loves caring for her plants, cuddling her orang

Published in Volume 76, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 27, 2022)