Updated: Aug 15, 2021
For many, plants were a magic little green pill that helped us get through lockdown in 2020. So, you bought a plant, or two, or three, during the pandemic, and now what? I was off the grid—or should I say gram—for a few months during the pandemic. I went back online a few months later and was shocked, really shocked, at the number of new plant accounts created on Instagram during COVID-19. One account, @pandemic_plant_parent_ got me through some rough days during COVID-19 with her fun plant puns and videos.
For many, plants were a way to deal with the isolation of lockdown. Plants are scientifically proven to help improve our mental health. It's no surprise that people turned to plants to help cope with pandemic stress. Also, during the early days of lockdown, only grocery stores and home improvement stores were open. Plant sales surged at big box stores, and growers couldn't keep up with demand; online sales also sky-rocketed. The plant industry experienced Black Friday type demand.
I wondered if people realized the responsibility of being a plant parent. Are we going to see plants in the trash once COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted? Is it going to be like when people release their exotic iguanas or snakes lose after realizing they have gotten too big or can't care for them?
Many pandemic plant parents are now concerned about going on vacation and leaving their plant babies behind. The responsibility of caring for a plant can feel overwhelmingly big, like a new puppy big!
5 Tips for Dealing with Pandemic Plant Parent Anxiety
If caring for your new plant baby begins to overwhelm you, don't fret. Below are five tips to help you with your new parenting anxiety.
1. Quarantine your new plant baby when you bring it home
The plant may look healthy and beautiful, but you don't know what's crawling in the potting medium. It could be a fun little tropical friend like a lizard from Florida.
2. Check your plants weekly or bi-weekly to see if they need watering
Depending on the species and location in your home, some plants may need more water than others. For example, a plant in a south-facing window will probably need more water than the same plant in your bathroom.
3. Don't overwater. Don't do it
Some people water their plants with bottled water. I say you keep that bottle for yourself and drink up every time you get the urge to water your plant. Overwatering is the leading cause of plant death in the US. Many aroids and hoyas can go a week or two without water depending on where you keep them.
Check the soil or medium using the finger test or a moisture meter; make sure the medium is completely dry at least 3-4 inches before you water. I prefer to let many of my Aroids dry out completely.
4. Don't be a helicopter plant parent
It's ok to check on your plants and admire them daily. But don't pull them out of the nursery pot, constantly checking the roots.
New plants need to acclimate to their environment, and taking them out of the nursery pot after arriving in their new home is like waking up a baby early from their nap.
5. Don't repot
Your plant has been on a long journey—unless you live in a tropical climate—from the jungle to your home. It may experience some shipping stress from being in a box and exposed to fluctuating temperatures and lighting or no light at all. Taking it out of its nursery pot (it's home where it has been growing) can add even more stress. The same goes for plants purchased at big-box retailers. They have been picked, staged in a packing facility, put on a dark truck, and shipped often miles from your home to the store. Most plants can grow comfortably in their pot for years.
How to Care for Your Plants When Going on Vacation:
1. Provide Plenty of Humidity
Make sure to check the thermostat before you leave, and don’t set it to cold or hot (75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.)
Group your plants together
Create a pebble tray by placing your potted plant on a water-filled tray or saucer with pebbles. Set your plants on top of the rocks making sure the water is just below the top of the pebbles.
Fill your bathtub with 1-2inches of water and set your plants in the tub. Make sure your plants have plenty of light or at least the same amount of light they were getting before.
2. Use Plant Wicks
Use any type of string about 1-2inches wide; shoelaces will even do the trick. You can either stick the string into the plant and let it hang out of the nursery pot into a water-filled saucer or pot with a reservoir.