Every memory I have is adorned with the plants that grew alongside it. The hibiscus-lined driveway of my childhood home, beaming with cotton candy pinks, sprightly reds, and buttery yellows. The orange tree in my grandparents’ backyard, heaving and laden with fruit. The waft of sweet basil and rosemary, rushing past the open door of our first apartment during wedding preparations.
And now, plants are where I am drawn to again and again, where I feel most at home. My family and I spend late summer afternoons picking plump San Marzano tomatoes, watching our youngest daughter squash them in her tiny fist. We carefully survey the Sugar Baby watermelons, waiting impatiently for the vine to brown. Unsurprisingly so, our house is also a space where plants frolic and play, where greenery isn’t merely limited to the outdoors. And I know that we are not the only ones for whom the line between home and wilderness blurs and intermingles. It’s common for interior spaces now to bloom with plants of all shapes and sizes. What once required land, space, and ownership, roots in the bare bones of the earth if you will, has now found its way into our indoor sanctuaries. And we humans tend to not take this arrangement lightly.
Sliding open the front door, I am greeted by snake plants, succulents, and a Monstera slowly taking over the kitchen. Each room has at least one such companion, peeking out and being present in the background of my family’s life. Although they cannot speak or interact, the plants are always simply there, and for that we love them. They have become, in some ways, mysterious companions with an other-worldly presence. We enjoy living amongst them.
Sharing our home with so many plants isn’t merely a reflection of impulsive choices at the gardening store; these green beings are an integral part of the space. The carefully curated arrangements of houseplants exist not only as an outlet for us to lovingly care for something silent and still, but also as a calming window away from the bustle beyond the front door. My plants, whether they are cobbled together and competing for small shreds of sunlight on the corner of my kitchen bench or daintily placed on top of my dresser, each have an inherent connection with the place I call home.
While choosing the plants themselves or receiving them as a thoughtful gift is a moment to be treasured, finding the most fitting way to arrange them within my indoor space is just as meaningful. After all, my home is where I feel safest to be my fullest self. It holds my vulnerabilities, my insecurities, and everything I love. Inviting in a new facet, whether it’s art, furniture, or a simple houseplant, forms an intimate connection with the new sense of our space. Thus, how we allow a houseplant to coexist with us speaks volumes about who we find ourselves to be on any particular day.
The walls and surfaces are bursting with not only the many rich shades of green, from emerald and seaweed to tea and pistachio, but also with the vibrancy of the vessels in which the plants reside. Terra cotta pots stand out, bold against the forests that surround them. My living room wall is host to a pot the shape of a peaceful, sleeping face, and a string of pearls cascades down the jawline. Nestled along the partition are various vintage cups and jugs, each with holes I painstakingly drilled into the base. There is something rather sweet about the juxtaposition of seeing a cactus snug in a teapot or an aloe vera spurting out of a coffee mug. Choosing a vessel for each houseplant is, in a way, similar to designing and arranging my home. I can move the couch, push the table against the other wall, and swap the rug with that of the bedroom. In doing so, I create the space that I seek out from the world. Choosing a pot that matches a particular plant is as comforting as putting fresh linen on the bed, topping pancakes with lemon curd, or being given a bag of fresh Granny Smiths from my mother’s garden.
The vessels in which our houseplants reside are only the beginning of the choices we make surrounding them. Once they are safely transplanted, what do we let them rest upon? My spider plant takes center stage on the island bench, spiky and rich in its oceanic blue pot. It watches carefully as I chop onions and pack lunchboxes; a calming, almost meditative companion. The shelves in the living room are carefully adorned with philodendron, pothos, and agave, balancing overhead as the sky turns pink in the evenings. A single parlor palm sits atop a wooden stand in our entrance way, beaming over shoes and guests that come through the door. It’s safe to say that there isn’t a part of my home that is without plants; they have well and truly burrowed in.
It’s easy to tell when my husband and I need to retreat from the outside world, for this is when we begin pottering. All of a sudden, the quiet needs of the plants become apparent and pressing. My husband carefully checks each one and I diligently consult Google – how do I know if my peace Lily is rootbound? How much sun does a ponytail palm need? How do I keep my maidenhair alive?
Then we take their rejuvenating into our own hands. Plants are watered, diagnosed, repotted, and shifted. Dead leaves are trimmed, pots are dusted to refresh the shiny ceramic, and stakes are pushed deep into the soil. I chat to each one as we do our rounds – how are you today? You’re looking so much bigger now. Would you rather be in the sun?
Once each one is settled, a sense of peace enters our home. I feel as though I have made something better in this sometimes dark, messy world. We have tended and loved, and if you look around, there is a whole ecosystem around us. Vines sweep off shelves, burly succulents burst from vibrant pots, and empty corners are filled with life. We have made the world, at least within the walls of our home, a space of calm.
It hasn’t always been this easy, however, to let my love of houseplants be unbridled and free. In our previous homes – tiny, dim studio apartments, and meticulously handled rentals – there were rules and regulations to follow. The walls were to be kept bare and untarnished, there were to be no pots touching the tiled floor, and in most, we only had shreds of both space and light to work with. Since moving into our family home, it is only now that our love of all that is green has really evolved. I no longer have to quickly shift plants out of sight, nor worry about the lack of sunlight through the one tiny window. In our suburban home, the indoor wilderness knows none of these previous constraints. Thus, greenery is everywhere. What is within our four walls is thriving just as much as the garden outside the front door. It is just the way I like it.
As the night comes to rest, blanketing the sky in deep blue, I look around at the plants that surround me. They are tranquil and steady, some swaying softly in the breeze from the open window. Wherever I go, they are there. Whatever today holds in my home, they are there. They perch by the bathroom sink and crowd the fruit bowl on the kitchen bench. They envelop the entranceway, gently brushing me as I walk by. I am so glad that this is a space we can share.
Essay/Article commissioned by: TDLM Editorial
Graphics/Art/Illustration by: TDLM Design Team
‘Houseplants – Art of caring for something silent and still’ First Published in The Daily Life Magazine on November 07, 2022