Here's What I Do When Life Kicks Me In The Plants

A 29-year-old guy's journey into becoming a "plant mom".

The first plant I ever bought for myself I named Betty. She was a stout little thing, a peperomia obtusifolia otherwise known as a baby rubber plant. She was a cute addition to the house, I loved to talk to her and check in with her and that was that.

A few years on and Betty has grown up to be a gangly, wild creature. Possibly in the midst of her adolescence, her discs of jade and speckled chartreuse have grown thick and wide as she explodes out of her pot, arms outstretched.

Sometimes I like to put my face close to Betty’s and, whispering, ask her about her day.

I am, unabashedly, a Plant Mom.

This week the LA Times published a piece titled: “They don’t own homes. They don’t have kids. Why millennials are plant addicts”. The article featured brief chats with five millennials who are all self-identified plant addicts.

I guess I’m still waiting for my call.

It’s a trend all over the world, and it’s wildly popluar across Instagram -- all you need to do is tap the #Plantstagram, #UrbanJungle or #PlantDad hashtags to see pic after pic of people proudly displaying their green babies.

Betty was soon joined by Pamela, a rescue plant saved from a ruthless housemate who attempted to kill a zanzibar gem. What neither of us realised at that time was that it’s near impossible to kill a zanzibar gem.

Betty and Pamela and I were a power trio for a while, but in late 2017 things began to escalate. After receiving a succulent as a gift, I found myself standing in a plant store near my home, casually purchasing a calathea. Her leaves are boldly striped like a tiger, when she needs watering they scroll up into crimson-green tubes.

I picked her up in the week between getting diagnosed with cancer and being made redundant, which I may have forgotten to mention.

A brief bit of backstory, for longer than I’d like to remember I’ve navigated the world struggling with anxiety and depression. I don’t say that to be particularly interesting or special, but rather to give you a bit of context.

Working online is difficult when you struggle with anxiety. The amount of content we’re constantly absorbing, the immediate updates, the rapidly refreshing timelines. Working online means we’ve seen that meme, we’ve read that article, we already know what Trump tweeted. Nowadays everything is problematic, everyone’s old jokes are coming back to haunt them. The world is growing more divided, more callous and often it’s a struggle to find peace to exhale.

If that wasn’t enough, millennials are being blamed for poor diamond sales.

Betty on her first day in her new home vs several months later. Image: supplied.

2017 wasn’t all about plants for me, it was more navigating a series of unfortunate events that, when listed in bullet points, seem debilitating but looking back I’d call myself lucky. Still, the second half of the year I felt like a spectator of my own life as the control I had on health, relationships and work all seemed to slip just out of reach.

During that time everything was turned on its head, I reevaluated friendships, my hobbies, my passions and, yes, my unabashed love of plants.

RMIT and the University of Melbourne did a study that found plants have a positive impact on the home, not just down to their ability to purify the air in our increasingly urban dwellings, but on mental health also.

The study found, especially when a big group of varied plants are introduced into the home, it fostered a sense of relaxation and assists in fighting stress.

An oxalis triangularis and a maidenhair fern. The oxalis opens and closes its butterfly-esque bulbs throughout the day. The maidenhair fern is an absolute drama queen and will drive you insane. Image: supplied.

In January I ordered a pilea peperomioides off a website that ships them across Australia, an insane act of desperation but they were peculiarly difficult to find and, after seeing them all over Instagram, I was obsessed. I fell in love with the almost extra terrestrial way the flat, circular leaves cascade off the stem.

When I talk about plants, or even think about them, there’s this sincere joy that washes over me, a calmness. Maybe that’s just what having a passion feels like? Something I had only previously ever felt toward gin.

I guess you could call it a little pathetic that I get so much joy out of the fact that just last week I propagated my pilea for the first time (the closest I will probably ever be to being a grandparent), or that my Instagram went from being a wash of selfies and blurred shots of my food to being a wash of selfies and blurred shots of my plants.

It's true what they say, from big things little things grow... Image: supplied.

The way I’m making it sound you’d think I have hundreds of plants around the place when I barely have 20 or so...

For now.

Main Image: Getty