How Plants Fuel My Self-Care

For the longest time, I was convinced that I hated flowers. With a passion. Truth is, I never learned how to care for them, so they inevitably died every time I received them. I would tell anyone listening–”Please don’t get me flowers!” When we were dating, my husband’s father told him to get me flowers. My husband knew that I hated flowers, but his dad insisted that I would love it. I awkwardly accepted the flowers and my husband shot his dad an ‘I told you so’ look.

But years later, during a particularly hard period, one of my friends told me about how her plants lifted her spirits. I was nervous–me, take care of plants? The self-proclaimed hater of flowers? “Just try it!” she begged. So I took her suggestion of a peace lily as my first plant. What was the worst that could happen? Sure, I would probably kill it, but the plant wasn’t that expensive. I headed to the grocery store and sure enough, there were tons of beautiful peace lily plants. I had no idea how to pick one, so I just chose the first one I saw.

During those first few months, I had no idea what I was doing. But I clinged to the thought that taking care of this plant could somehow make me feel better. I desperately needed it. Like I thought, I almost killed that plant. I had no idea how to take care of it. Luckily, a few loved ones were able to offer advice about sunlight, watering, and placement. I eventually purchased two more plants at a farmer’s market. (Again–no idea what I was doing.) I picked the plants that were the prettiest. It wasn’t until this year that I would learn that hey, you should probably put a little more thought into what plants you bring home.

Fast forward a year later. My green thumb hadn’t necessarily developed. I did end up killing one of my plants–turns out that the right amount of sunlight is kind of important. Taking care of the plants didn’t lift my spirits the way I wanted it to. I almost gave up on plants entirely. I’m so glad my friend suggested the peace lily as my first plant. It’s hearty, resilient and very forgiving. It’s stuck by my side through so much, even coming back from the dead after I ruined its roots by overwatering it.

Once Covid happened, I decided to focus on gardening. My son randomly asked if I would purchase him a plant while visiting a farm (turns out he had been watching my love of plants flourish), and we ended up buying a tomato plant. I ignored it for awhile until my son gently reminded me that we needed to take care of it. It was like a switch went off. Overnight, I became obsessed with gardening. I spent hours on YouTube learning about gardening. I decided that I would start with containers and then eventually added a DIY raised garden bed. I was more than surprised to learn that I actually enjoyed getting my hands dirty. Covid ended my monthly nail appointment (a new habit I had picked up only a few months before), so I embraced digging my hands into soil while planting. As a die-hard city girl, it was like an out of body experience. Who was I?!

My son with his new tomato plant
Beginning of the raised bed garden

It’s been months now, and I am still loving my garden. In the stillness brought on by Covid, I promised myself that I would pick up a hobby––something I’d never really done before. I needed something that would take my mind off constantly being in the house. What better than a hobby that placed me outside? I began looking forward to watering both my indoor and outdoor plants. I instantly feel at peace visiting nurseries. I’m surprising myself even more–I can now identify so many different kinds of plants, and I catch myself paying more attention now to my neighbors’ landscaping for inspiration.

There are so many lessons that I’ve learned from gardening. It gives me an assignment that is bigger than me. I am responsible for caring for these plants. When I am feeling anxious or slipping into a depressive episode, the quiet of my garden centers me. I love the routine of watering my plants. Routines have been key during Covid, as there is very little that I can depend on. But I know that my plants will continue to need watering, and as the seasons change, I need to pay attention to what needs to be planted or removed. During a particularly rough week, I planted several seeds in pots. I didn’t know what would happen, but I hoped that it would yield beautiful plants and a bountiful harvest. It was an amazing and humbling experience to see these seeds grow into plants and blossom once I planted them in the raised bed. My husband and I built the raised bed ourselves–an inexpensive and satisfying project. I take pride in the raised bed and in the containers lining my patio. I now have indoor plants lining my kitchen counter.

Some of my indoor plants
I grew both the corn (far left) and the watermelon (big bushy plant) from seeds. The watermelon got attacked by pests and I had to pull it out.
My son’s tomato plant as it bore fruit!

I now understand why my friend recommended taking care of plants. Being connected to nature in this way has been so healing for my spirit. I love seeing my plants grow and flourish. I am in awe that I am slowly growing food that my family and I can consume. In the quiet of the morning or at the end of the day, taking a few minutes to water my plants is also my way of practicing mindfulness. I have to be intentional as a plant mama. I know what can happen if I am neglectful. But my plants have been so strong, so resilient and they persevere in all kinds of conditions. They remind me that I can be just like them. All I need is sunlight, water and love and I can blossom and grow beautifully as well.

I came to San Antonio by way of North Carolina, but I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. My husband and I have a proud kindergartner and we recently welcomed a baby girl. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies and am also an adjunct college professor. Although I live in Cibolo, you can always find me exploring something new in San Antonio. I love trying new coffee shops, restaurants, and the many San Antonio festivals. I try to turn as many events as possible into kid-friendly spaces!