Working at an agency requires grace under pressure.
It’s so easy for agency professionals to feel swamped with work and not all of us can still manage to stay calm, cool and collected as we deal with social media crisis, last minute client demands, and trying to get maximum results from every campaign investment.
However, there is one refuge that works for me – and which I would like to share with others. That refuge is nature, a guaranteed way to ease off the stresses we face in our agency lives – making all these work challenges a little more manageable.
The ability to be with nature is beneficial to us in many, many ways.
A long walk in the park or an afternoon stroll in the garden can improve our well-being. However, not everyone has access to outdoor space, especially people living in a city. Creating your own indoor garden is a wonderful way to connect with nature and plants without having a big backyard. Indoor gardening is as fulfilling as outdoor gardening because indoor plants not only make your space aesthetically pleasing but also provide a lot of great benefits.
An indoor garden can be your sanctuary away from the bustling and super hectic world outside. Plants can nurture you, bring you great joy and enhance your life, as they do mine.
The healing power of plants
Scientists have been studying humans’ connection with nature and living things for centuries. Studies show that indoor plants improve productivity by up to 15 percent. Seeing greenery and nature helps us feel more relaxed, and by touching plant foliage, we experience an unconscious calming reaction. Indoor plants can reduce stress, boost our everyday mood and creativity, and altogether help improve our quality of life.
Plants release oxygen during photosynthesis and absorb carbon dioxide. This purifies the air by eliminating harmful toxins. Research conducted by NASA revealed that houseplants and their associated microorganisms can reduce indoor air pollutants and remove air toxins.
Moreover, people find living with plants helps with loneliness and depression because plants become like friends or children to the people caring for them. One of the most rewarding moments of caring for plants is when you see them bloom and thrive, knowing that their beauty will remain the same wherever they are planted.
Like many others, I, too, find solace in my plants.
I started collecting plants to help with my anxiety during the COVID-19 lockdown. That was 2 years ago when most of the offices implemented their work-from-home policy. Thankfully, Vero has adopted a hybrid workplace model which gives me the ability to enjoy a break in my indoor garden every workday – something I wasn’t able to do back then when I had to be in the office all day.
Whenever I am stuck for ideas or have writer’s block, I do plant care. I often find myself feeling more refreshed and focusing on work better after admiring the new, slowly unfurling leaves of my philodendrons or the much-anticipated blooming cactus flowers. Spending at least 15 minutes cleaning or removing dead leaves can work wonders for my creativity—therapeutic yet productive.
How to become a plant parent? Adopt your first plant!
If you’re new to houseplants and indoor gardening, here is a selection of plants that will help you kick-start your plant parenting journey. They are easy to look after, provide lots of greenery and won’t break the bank.
- Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant): A staple plant in every home, monsteras are easy to find, not fuzzy, and hard to kill. One big monstera can transform your living space.
- Pachira Aquatica (money tree): This has braided stems and jade green leaves that remind many people of the magical mandrake tree in Harry Potter. A money tree is considered a symbol of luck and prosperity.
- Epipremnum aureum ‘N’Joy (‘N’Joy pothos): This pothos need a little bit more light than other types of pothos. It rarely has any issues with bugs and makes a great hanging plant.
- Zamioculcas zamiifolia (zz plant): Its name may be difficult to pronounce but this is a low-maintenance and easy-to-grow plant. A zz plant has naturally shiny leaves with rhizomes storing water under the soil. It’s a perfect plant for a new plant parent.
- Sansevieria moonshine (moonshine snake plant): A moonshine snake plant has pale silvery green upright leaves. A moonshine is drought-tolerant, so you can let the soil dry out between watering.
- Philodendron hederaceum (heartleaf philodendron): A heartleaf philodendron is also known as the sweetheart plant because of its heart-shaped, glossy green leaves. This is also a hard to kill plant that is easy to propagate and share with friends.
- Cacti: A cactus can tolerate our negligence. It is a resilient and forgiving plant. With proper care, a fully grown cactus can give you flowers!
If you want to level up your plant game, here are some of the “rare” houseplants that can make your collection stand out: philodendron gloriosum with its large velvety heart-shaped leaves and stunning white veins (my favorite!), several types of variegated monsteras (monstera deliciosa ‘Albo-Variegata’ or monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’) and the ultimate Instagram plant – the philodendron erubescens ‘Pink Princess.’ The variegated monsteras and philodendron pink princess are examples of variegated plants with leaves that are not entirely green. Variegated leaves do not have chlorophyll and have some variations in appearance such as color (pink, white, yellow), speckles, splashes or full. It’s all in the plant’s genetics. Rare and variegated plants are highly sought after and more expensive than other plants in the market because they are more difficult to care for and propagate.
The rules of thumb
To start living with plants, it’s worthwhile to spend a little time researching the plants and the environment that suit them. Nobody is born with a green thumb, so don’t be afraid. It’s okay if you don’t know how to keep your monstera alive. I occasionally kill my plants too – a lot of them died a horrible death.
Bringing your first plant home is always exciting and scary at the same time. Starting from the ground up, make sure that you get your potting media right. Most indoor plants need well-drained soil. You can grab your favorite brand of potting soil and mix it with a generous amount of perlite (natural organic glass), which can be easily found in your local nurseries to aerate the soil. This is because plant roots need oxygen for respiration, too!
For pots or containers, you would want to select pots with drainage holes to let the excess water come out when you water your plants. If you let the water sit within the pot for too long, it will limit the amount of oxygen the roots can take in and the soil will be too damped. It’s important to make sure your plant is never standing in water to prevent several causes that make your plants sick including root rot.
The essential ingredients for happy plants are water and light. Water helps the roots absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil to nourish the stems and the whole plant. You’ll need to water your plants thoroughly every time. Some plants are very thirsty, with a telltale sign of wilted leaves, but other plants don’t show any signs when they need to be watered. One of the simple methods I use is to stick a moisture meter or my finger into the soil to feel the moisture. If it’s dry, then get your watering can ready.
Plants will also need light to help them with photosynthesis – the process of making food, keeping them alive. But beware of too much sun as most indoor plants thrive in bright indirect light, which means they love bright light that has been filtered either by a window or sheer curtains. Too much light will burn their leaves while too little light will slowly kill them.
Occasionally, plants do get pests. Pests are destructive insects that feed on houseplants. Someday, you’ll find them crawling around the back of the leaves sucking the life out of our babies. Don’t panic. If you see one of those insects, remove them, spray your whole plant with insecticide and quarantine the plant so your other plants won’t get infected. Pests often come with a new plant you bring home so make sure to check for them before putting it close to other plants. It’s a lot easier to treat one plant than your entire collection.
If you love your plants like I do, be kind to them, notice their problems and meet their needs. These are all parts of the plant parenting job description. By understanding the essentials of what your plants need, you can keep them alive and thriving!
A guide to jazz up your living space with plants
Styling our plants to bring beauty and breathe life into our homes brings plant parents great joy and peace. Plants can soften and add texture to your home. Think about your space and play with different shapes of plants and pots.
Bookshelves make a good plant display. Using different shapes and colors plants can add depth and extra appeal to your shelves. Plant stands are also a great way to add multiple groups of plants as do trailing plants – a variety of lush green leaves tumble elegantly without taking up too much floor space.
For minimalists, a single plant of Peperomia Polybotrya (raindrop) or Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese money plant) in a terracotta pot will look stylish on a coffee table.
Some plants like Oxalis triangularis or purple shamrocks can bring a nice vibrant pop of color into your greenery collection. I always pair my dancing Oxalis with a white handmade ceramic pot, giving it a nice color contrast that’s beautiful to look at.
To take your styling game to the next level, Craig Miller-Randle, Australian’s renowned indoor plants expert has shared some styling secrets. Here are some of his tips: grouping plants in odd numbers – of threes, fives, or sevens to create a balanced effect that’s much more pleasing on the eyes. Another composition tip is a pyramid principle. Imagine a pyramid shape and then place pieces within it. Tall plants at the back, smaller to the sides and the front. When grouped together this way, the plants fill in the space in a way that adds height and depth but doesn’t feel cluttered.
Remember not to be too strict about the rules and kill the fun. I use my instinct and always swap plants and pots around to see if it feels right for me. Enjoy your plants and let them be your art.
Plants are always an amazing addition to our home and environment. These living things ask nothing of us other than to be cared for. Indoor gardening is a very important way for people living in urban environments to enjoy and connect with nature. In fact, I know if I hadn’t started growing plants, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the stress and anxiety brought by the pandemic and daily work challenges. Indoor gardening is my therapy, every bit of it is rewarding. Time spent with my plants is never wasted time.