Healing by Houseplant

Allison Ross avatar

by Allison Ross |

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Summer mornings in my house are deliciously slow. Around 8 a.m., the dogs know our first task is to go outside and tend to the plants. I fill a watering can and make the rounds: vegetables, herb garden, succulents on the porch, and tea plants on the patio.

The better part of an hour slips by almost unnoticed, and I realize I’m awake and invigorated. I’ve felt the early breeze, heard cardinals and wrens trade melodies across the yard, and pitched a tennis ball for the dogs to stretch their legs. If it’s a sunny day, I’ve absorbed some vitamin D as the morning rays melted into my face and arms. Now, time to make tea and breakfast.

It started with just a pothos or two, and now I tend to nearly 40 different plants! Like many others, my houseplant obsession began around April 2020, when plenty of Americans succumbed to the lushness of some extra flora in their home during the pandemic months. With more time on my hands after school classes were suspended, and nowhere to go during lockdowns, I needed a hobby. One year later, I scan any room in my house and wonder how drab and bare my decorating scheme must have been without those splashes of verdant green.

Hibiscus blooms in summer. (Photo by Allison Ross)

Monstera, devil’s ivy, spider plant, succulents. A hibiscus with radiant orange blooms whom we dubbed “The Queen of the Front Porch.” Tea varietals like anise, lemon balm, pineapple sage, and three kinds of mint. These and more have blessed my living space with their freshness for a year now, and it has done wonders for my mental and physical health — starting with the push to immediately step outside each day.

I may not be alone in this houseplant trend, but I come at it from a unique perspective — that of someone with an autoimmune disorder. To me, an array of leaves isn’t just a cheerful frivolity, it is hope and joy and healing. If I tend to a plant with the right kind of care, it will reward me with life and beauty. That’s a guarantee we don’t even get with our own bodies, when they are taken over by the ravages of illness.

A few months ago, my husband and I bought a house. Suddenly all the excuses for not having a garden — we’re only renting, it would be impermanent, why invest all that time and energy into something that’s not mine — vanished as if in a wisp of smoke. I bought a few tomato and pepper seeds, and brought home some lovely perennials from the farmer’s market. Within weeks, my houseplant fixation had made its way outdoors into the raised-bed garden and overflowed into various locations all over the yard.

Plants provide a distraction from my own body and give me a reason to be active each day. It’s so easy to get trapped in a web of anxiety, focused on my physical limitations, that it’s a relief to think about something outside of my health for even a few minutes. Watching vines grow and creep their way across kitchen surfaces or bookshelves is delightful. They provide color, beauty, and a boost to my spirit when I’m feeling down after taking meds or seeing my doctor for the dozenth time.

Plus, I can share with friends when the propagated shoots send out roots and multiply. One of my favorite plants, an angel wing begonia, was originally a gift from a student who brought me a cutting from her great-grandmother’s original plant, sprouted from seed nearly a century ago!

The next step in this botanical adventure is self-sufficiency. My goal is to reach a point where I don’t have to go shopping for meals on any given day if I lack the spoons for it. A vegetable garden is a natural segue from an herb garden for a sustainable food source, keeping my kitchen easily stocked with nutrients in the summer and autumn seasons, and saving me time and stress at the grocery store.

Humans are spiritual as well as physical beings. For those of us who are sick, we need to find solace from constantly worrying about our imperfect bodies. Take it from me — if you’ve never tried a houseplant, you might be surprised how something so still and quiet can provide such joy. And anything that lifts our spirits when struggling with illness is something well worth the time to cultivate.

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Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.

Comments

Melody Phillips avatar

Melody Phillips

What a lovely, uplifting article which certainly brightened my day! Thank you for sharing and caring for others this way.

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Allison Ross avatar

Allison Ross

I'm so glad it did, Melody! That was my goal - to share the lift in spirits that my plants give me each morning. :)

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