How these plant parents are prioritising self-care through houseplants

Since the start of lockdown back in March, there’s been a significant uptick in challenges and trends that we couldn’t get enough of (we see you, whipped coffee).

There’s been one trend in particular that has had more staying power than the others. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or deleted all your social media accounts, you may have noticed more people becoming plant moms and dads. While on the surface it may seem like just another fad, cultivating and caring for plants has had a major impact on a lot of people.

Whether you’re looking for something low maintenance like a snake plant, want some colourful ornamentals or succulent plants, there’s something about caring for something outside of ourselves, that has provided some a sense of comfort, normalcy, and above all else, a form of self-care.

We spoke with two plant parents who explained to us how they started their plant journeys and how it’s played a large role in their self-care.


Let’s meet the parents


Bre


A polyglot in training, Bre is a Caribbean lifestyle curator. As a budding social entrepreneur, she is also the founder of Bre Romeo Experiences and Mama Doudou Tobago. Follow Bre at @iambreromeo.


Keylon


Keylon “Keyz” is an entrepreneur and director at Keyz Studios, a creative agency based in Tobago that specialises in Creative Direction, Fashion Styling, Brand Consultation and creative studio rentals. Follow him at @keylonwhitlock.


How many plants do you currently have?


Bre: To be honest, I lost count but I can guess around 90 which includes ornamentals, veggies, two kinds of ginger lilies and fruits.

Keylon: A LOT. I have actually never counted. Let me explain, I have plants at home, plants at the homes of friends (because I have no more practical space at my home) plants at the studio, and I also co-parent plants with my partner in Trinidad as well. So yeah…. a lot (laugh).


How long have you been a plant parent? What inspired your start?


Bre: You know that meme where you started off with a few plants prior to COVID then you blinked and it’s wham! A set of plants during COVID? Yea that’s me. So I’ve been a crazy plant lady for less than 6 months. It’s a funny story, I started because I was looking for some fake plants as props for a backdrop. I saw the prices and said hell no. I wasn’t aware that fake plants were so expensive, so I told myself if I could grow them myself they would be way cheaper and I’d have an endless supply.

Keylon: Officially it has been two years. When I started Keyz Studios and acquired the space, I knew I wanted to get plants just to add to the decor. That fueled my obsession: I bought one plant then…fast forward two years later and I’m pulling to the side on the road to salvage wild plants that I could add to the collection.


What, do you think, has sucked you into the plant world?


Bre: I think it’s part social media, and seeing so many other crazy plant moms and dads and also the reality that I have a green thumb so I was curious to see whether it would grow or not. And they did…a lot.

Keylon: I feel like this obsession was always present but I’m now only fully aware of the love I’ve always had for plants. I grew up with a grandmother who had and still has an impressive collection of local plants and I feel like that had a major part to play.


How has caring for your plants become a form of self-care for you, especially during these times?


Bre: My green babies have helped tremendously to take my mind off of what was going around me. I’ve been home since March so I went through most of the phases: stress eating, binge-watching shows and movies, waking up and thinking this is a dream. I think the only phase I didn’t have was the baking phase.

So the plants allowed me to focus my energies on something other me. They need the care to grow and I had an epiphany that has changed my mind about a lot of things in my life. “Growth takes time”, so if you want to flourish and bloom, you have to be consistent, use the right tools and most importantly patient!

Keylon: One major lesson I’ve learned from taking care of plants is that we have to give ourselves the things we need at the right time. Just as I have to water, ensure the plants get sufficient light, (the ideal conditions) we too need to give that to ourselves. We need to give ourselves what’s right for us.

It’s also the thrill of being able to “successfully” take care of something else and see it thrive and grow and blossom. It’s the many lessons in patience, the lessons that things do die (because not all my plants make it) plus I also enjoy bringing the outdoors inside with my potted beauties.


Favourite plant and why?

Bre: This has to be the hardest question. I love all my plant babies but I’ve gravitated to coloured plants so I’m currently obsessed with my triangularis oxalis or false shamrock. It’s a beautiful deep burgundy triangular shaped leaf and the white flowers are shaped like bells. It’s so dainty but I love how every night the leaves close and open during the day. I also want to get a Hawaiian Ti locally known as a bound flower for its deep red/ maroon colouring.


Keylon: So I don’t have a favourite plant. I’m still getting to know all my babies, from my bigger beauties to my tiny tiny succulents… I love all of them. 


Where do you get your plants/supplies and why would you recommend them?

Bre: At the beginning of COVID, I’d go to plant nurseries such as Tobago Blooms, Sealy’s and Richardson’s and sometimes the Scarborough Market but this can get very expensive.

So I started befriending older plant ladies in my neighbourhood and older family members who take pride in their collections, love to talk about their plants and don’t mind setting a plant or gifting me with a plant. It has definitely worked. Hence the size in my collection and propagating them.

Keylon: I have two highly recommended plant spots: Tobago Blooms and Eden’s Garden because you can get everything you need there from plants to pots, soil and gardening equipment and great plant advice.

I am now a staple at most of the local plant shops in Tobago. The staff no longer ask me if I’m getting through or need help, they just allow me to have my way. So I do buy a lot of plants, yes, but I also do a lot of plant swaps with plant friends I’ve made along the way and I do my regular (nature haul) if I see something growing wild. I state my intentions to the plant and offer them a new home.



What tips would you share with plant newbies?

Bre: Do your research, some plants cannot take full direct sunlight, nor a lot of water. Allocate time to inspect leaves and watch for signs of change. It’s not just about watering and go. Plants need attention and care if they are to thrive. Smaller plants are a lot cheaper than their mature counterparts.

Keylon: ️Start with varieties of plants that are “easy to care for” or “easier to grow” for example snake plants, evergreen or pothos. Be patient and look, listen and talk to your plants. It’s an actual relationship. Give them what they need and they will, in turn, bless you with healthy flourishing foliage…win-win.

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