Yesterday, after 5 weeks, I returned back to my house – and plants. It was an amazing experience walking into a green home and my eyes feasted on every inch of every corner, taking in the status of each green child. It was also exhilarating to see the progress of all my plants. Most plant parents will agree, there is no better feeling than seeing something you’ve cared for doing well.

That being said, there is a downside coming back to an indoor jungle. And for a while I couldn’t work out the unsettled feeling I had being back, but I think I’ve pinned it down now: owning a plant is a great responsibility and it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.

The first plants I saw when I got out of the car are those in my sick bay because they’re located in the garage, away from all my other plants. This definitely set the tone for me as most of my ‘sick’ plants were not doing any better. The first thing my brain jumped to was to strategise on new methods to help these plants further – even though some of them have been in that area for at least 6 months and have had multiple interventions. Then walking around my house I immediately started noting other things that were going wrong with some of my greenies: “Why are those leaves wilting- were they watered too much, has it been too hot? Or have they been infected by a bug? Perhaps I can move the plant to a brighter area or maybe I need to spray it with some Neem oil or does it need more feeding?”. This can be an exhausting process to go through if you’re seeing more problems than blessings and it’s led me to work out some new rules for my plant hoarding hobby.

Rule 1: Remember, it’s a hobby not a job

The moment you start associating words such as ‘burden’ ‘sacrifice’ or ‘effort’ with your hobby you know you’re doing it wrong. What you actually have is a job without pay. A hobby is something that should spark joy and reinvigorate you to experiment with your techniques and methods. If you enjoy nursing your plants from their sickbays, then that’s great. I had to identify that this is not something I enjoy or am actually good at. Comparatively I love styling plants and propagating them. You don’t have to be great at every aspect of growing plants to be a great plant parent or to get joy from them.

Rule 2: Spend your time wisely

Declutter and rethink what’s important to you. There’s no point in keeping a plant for the simple fact that it’s green and alive when it’s irritating the hell out of you. As I recently found out, people are more than willing to swap plants or take in your sick plants if they enjoy the challenge of nursing them or if they find value in that specific plant.

Often when you spend time on something you can see that your input equals your output. For example, good test results are usually the result from time spent studying or a clean house is due to the time put in cleaning it. Unfortunately, growing plants and the correlation of time spent on them is not as black and white. For instance, if you try and repot your succulents every now and then, water them and feed them, you’re likely to kill them. Or you might spend ages humidifying your plant and wiping down it’s leaves but it won’t necessarily result in a better growing plant. It’s here where you have to again, try and be careful with your time. Make sure you’re aware of the effort you’re putting in to a certain plant and be at peace that it might not have the intended results that you’re looking for.

Rule 3: Be kind to yourself and your plants

A plant is as imperfect as it is perfect- as are you. In our Instagram and Pinterest run world where everything is portrayed as it’s best self, it’s important to realise that in reality even nature has a difficult time sometimes and that’s ok. A burnt leaf or the odd mealybug shouldn’t be the end of the world. It might also help to know that even the best horticulturists kill the odd plant now and then and that’s ok.

Plants are great and they’ll always be my number one hobby. This journey I’m on will probably include many more revelations about how to play at this hobby smarter, faster and better. For the moment I’m just grateful that I have the groundwork to make sure I’m getting the maximum joy out of my green friends.