Yesterday I read this article from the New York Post and it has been on my mind since. The article is called “Millennials say being a ‘plant parent’ is harder than they expected”. The first sentence reports that “seven in 10 millennials consider themselves “plant parents”. Yet, “67% of those polled said it was more of a challenge than they bargained for”. I say, who isn’t up for a good challenge? It also goes on to say that “20% would rather sit through a root canal than take care of a plant”. I would rather do just about anything than sit through a root canal and taking care of plants is way easier. Believe me! Who are these millennials? Where did they find the young people they polled? I haven’t met a millennial that doesn’t have, love, and want more houseplants. I want to help them all feel less anxious about caring for their “plant babies”. I’ve been caring for plants longer than most of them have been alive, so I feel I can help.
The article points out they are apprehensive about having plants because they’ve killed one in the past. The “average plant parent has killed seven plants they’ve brought home”, the article goes on to say. Big deal! If you haven’t killed a plant, you aren’t growing plants or you are a new houseplant owner and haven’t had time to kill one. It’s okay people. You learn from your “mistakes”. Maybe it wasn’t even a mistake. Sometimes plants aren’t grown well or have been damaged in transit from the grower. You never know. Try again and don’t give up. If I had given up growing plants when I was in my 20s I would have given up 30 years ago. Here I am now, with 100’s of houseplants in my house and I am writing my third houseplant book. Anyone can take care of a plant and be successful.
The key to success
What is the key to keeping a plant alive? Paying attention to the needs of your plant. I do know that these plant parents are just that -parents. They love their plants and are definitely paying attention to them. So, if you are paying attention to your plants, they will tell you what they need. Is your plant drooping? Put your finger in the potting medium. Is it dry up to your second knuckle? It probably needs water. I talk about watering in-depth here. Does your plant have yellowing leaves? Is it too wet or standing in water? Is it in a too cold or too hot room? Be a detective. Figure out what it needs. Ask questions. There is always a reason for the problem that is happening. Find out what it is and rectify the problem. (Being a parent is just like this. The baby is crying. Figure out why and fix the problem.)
This article states that “millennials’ desire to incorporate plants into their home despite the apprehension ……associated with plant care. Over 50% said they added plants to complement their decor and 47% because it was trendy”. Well, I can say that a lot of their plants’ deaths can be laid at the feet of design shows and Instagram staged photos. Fiddle leaf figs do NOT belong in the corner of a room far from windows because it “looks good’. Cacti and other succulents cannot live on shelves many feet from a window or light source. They are going to stretch for the light and probably eventually die. But it looked good for a #plantshelfie. It may look good on tv or social media, but that does not mean it will still look good or even be alive in a few months. These plants below were staged together and there are different types of plants with different needs, but they would all probably do fine here with the east window to the right. As it is to the left of the east window, the south sun shines in a bit in the late morning.
Figuring out how much light they have seems to give them some anxiety, as well. Let’s talk about light. You first need to figure out which way you window faces. Is it getting morning or east light? Sun in the middle of the day that is intense and hot or south light? Sun in the afternoon or west light or do you have no direct light at all or north? Pay attention on a sunny day how much light you are getting into your home. Look up the plant you want to buy and see if it needs high, low, or medium light. ( You can find a lot of good information in my books, which you can buy here.) If you fit the plant to the light you have, you will be one step ahead. If you find the plant you like needs high light and all you have is a north window, don’t buy it. Unless you can add some electric lights to the area, then you may be able to have a high light plant in a lower light area. If you have a medium-light plant, you can place it in your east or west window or back a few feet from a south window. Here is a blog post about helping your houseplant acclimate to different light levels.
There was some good news in the article. It states “81% added plants to have a positive effect on their mental and physical health. And having plants is addictive.” Don’t I know it. I’m addicted! I love caring for my plants and the life and beauty they add to my home. I want millennials and everyone for that matter, to be successful with houseplants. It really is about paying attention to your plants but first choosing one that is the right plant for the right place. You have to have the correct amount of light to support the plant that you want to place there.
I hope this helps dispell some anxiety for the new “plant parent’. It is okay to kill a plant. It wasn’t on purpose and it is going to happen to any plant parent. What did you learn from it? Now next time, you will be able to grow that plant better. Learn from your successes and failures. Pay attention to your plants and you will be able to tell what they need. Don’t give up millennials. The longer you care for plants, the more you learn. Plants are worth the trouble! There are too many amazing plants out there to not have a few in your home.